Let us devote ourselves to running the race God has set before us


by Mike Ratliff

1 To You I lift up my eyes,
O You who are enthroned in the heavens!
2 Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,
As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to the Lord our God,
Until He is gracious to us.
3 Be gracious to us, O Lord, be gracious to us,
For we are greatly filled with contempt.
4 Our soul is greatly filled
With the scoffing of those who are at ease,
And with the contempt of the proud. Psalms 123 (NASB) 

The vast majority of people on planet Earth want nothing to do with the real Jesus. Many love and hold dear another Jesus, but he is one made up by people who don’t know the one who is real. Tragically, the numbers of professing Christians are growing continually who are also following another Jesus who does not resemble in the least the one found in Sacred Scripture. Those who hold dear the real Jesus are those who are entirely reliant upon the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Undoubtedly there are baby Christians who are not spiritually mature and whose faith is not strong. However, there are also huge numbers of “religious” Christians who live as if their “decision for Christ” many years ago is their fire insurance. Some of these are quite religious while others are simply calling themselves Christian as if it is some sort of family trait. Those who are completely reliant upon God, whose focus is His glory in all things are those who know the real Jesus and are known by Him. These are the believers whose eyes look to the Lord our God. They look unto God because this brings them knowledge of His countenance. Christians know God by interacting with Him in prayer, Bible Study, obedience and repentance. They are able to do these things with Him as they look unto Him, fully trusting Him to work out the details for His glory. Continue reading

The righteous will live by faith


by Mike Ratliff

16 Οὐ γὰρ ἐπαισχύνομαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, δύναμις γὰρ θεοῦ ἐστιν εἰς σωτηρίαν παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι, Ἰουδαίῳ τε πρῶτον καὶ Ἕλληνι. 17 δικαιοσύνη γὰρ θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ ἀποκαλύπτεται ἐκ πίστεως εἰς πίστιν, καθὼς γέγραπται· ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται. Romans 1:16-17 (NA28)

16 For I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone believing, both to Jew first and to Greek. 17 For the righteousness of God is revealed in it from faith to faith as it has been written, “But the righteous man will live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

After Saul the Pharisee was knocked off his horse on his way to persecute Christians, blinded by the power of God, and saved becoming the Apostle Paul (Acts 9:1-9), a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ in Damascus named Ananias was sent to lay hands on a “man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying” (Acts 9:11). When Ananias expressed fear and doubt, knowing whom Saul was, our Lord said, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:15-16).  Continue reading

The cost of sin


by Mike Ratliff

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:1-5 (NASB) 

Those who have a problem with the Doctrine of Original Sin and the Wrath of God against all sin attempt to paint the God of Reformation Theology as some sort of ogre full of anger with very little love manifest except in the case of a chosen few. In their examples of how God operates in saving people, sin is never the issue. They portray God as loving everyone to the maximum and even if their sin amounted open rebellion against Him on their part. In their theology He just looks the other way and attempts to save everyone, but the point of contention is that the God in their example is unable to save anyone. The salvation of people is only made a possibility with those actually being saved being those who hear the Gospel and respond by exercising their sovereign Free Will. On the other hand, the God of the Bible is not anything like this. He is Sovereign. He saves those whom He has elected or chosen unto eternal life. No one limits Him in any way. Man’s will is in no way a barrier to God fulfilling His Will. From these two vastly different understandings of theology comes to very different understandings of sin.  Let’s look at a biblical view of sin and I invite you to compare your own understanding of it to what we unpack here. If your’s is different, I suggest to you that the Bible is not in error…  Continue reading

Oppose our enemy firm in the faith


by Mike Ratliff

3 Ἐν σαρκὶ γὰρ περιπατοῦντες οὐ κατὰ σάρκα στρατευόμεθα, 4 τὰ γὰρ ὅπλα τῆς στρατείας ἡμῶν οὐ σαρκικὰ ἀλλὰ δυνατὰ τῷ θεῷ πρὸς καθαίρεσιν ὀχυρωμάτων, λογισμοὺς καθαιροῦντες 5 καὶ πᾶν ὕψωμα ἐπαιρόμενον κατὰ τῆς γνώσεως τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ αἰχμαλωτίζοντες πᾶν νόημα εἰς τὴν ὑπακοὴν τοῦ Χριστοῦ, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NA28)

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not warring according do the to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but powerful through God to the overthrow of strongholds overthrowing reasonings 5 and every high thing rising up against the knowledge of God and leading captive every thought into the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

All believers who are still in this life also live and walk in the flesh in a physical sense, but the goal must be to grow into maturity and no longer walk that way in a moral sense (Romans 8:4). Christians who are obediently doing this must actively war according to the spirit, never the flesh, in the battle to free souls from the forces of darkness and bring them to maturity in Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:17-25; 2:1-4). Therefore, those whose ministries are based around appealing to the flesh are actually warring according to the flesh and that does not work, at least not in an eternal sense. What is done in the flesh may look impressive to those who walk in the flesh in a moral sense, but they are impotent and powerless to free souls from the forces of darkness and bring them to maturity in Christ. Why? They cannot successfully oppose satanic assaults on the gospel or any of God’s truths.  Continue reading

Christian faith and hope


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 (NASB) 

What is the difference between faith and hope? Are they the same thing? They are not the same, but, so-to-speak, they are two sides of the same coin. If I want my old college to win in football against our biggest rival that is hope. On the other hand, if I believe it will happen then it is faith. With this faith, my hope is enhanced. It becomes active. On the other hand, if I have little faith that it will happen then my hope becomes simply wishful thinking. What about our faith through which we are saved by grace? Is this faith simply working up enough belief so that our hope becomes strong, or is there more to it than that?
Continue reading

What is your role in the Truth War?


by Mike Ratliff

15 Βλέπετε οὖν ἀκριβῶς πῶς περιπατεῖτε μὴ ὡς ἄσοφοι ἀλλʼ ὡς σοφοί, 16 ἐξαγοραζόμενοι τὸν καιρόν, ὅτι αἱ ἡμέραι πονηραί εἰσιν. Ephesians 5:15-16 (NA28)

15 See therefore how carefully you walk not as unwise but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

There is a great deal going on in the visible church, much of it having little to do with genuine Christianity, that most of us can do little about. Yes, we can pray, which is very powerful. We can also obey God and expose the evil to other believers. However, the older I get in the faith the outrage over much of what people like Stephen Furtick or Rick Warren say or write I no longer allow to consume me. I know what my role is in the Truth War. Do you know what yours is? Shouldn’t it be to obey what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian church in Ephesians 5:1-21.  Continue reading

Christians must walk in the light of God’s truth regardless of the rest of the world loving and living in deception and darkness


by Mike Ratliff

9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.
13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14 (NASB)

We live in a time of deep deception. Even genuine Christians can be deceived if they are not exceedingly careful. It is imperative that, even though we must remain in the world for a time, we must not be of it. The Church has been under heavy attack since Acts 2. It is a wise and discerning thing for us to understand that God uses this to purify, cleanse, and teach the Church. It is as we address heresy that doctrine is developed or our understanding of God and His ways becomes more defined for us. Continue reading

Friendship with the world and its ways is hostility toward God


by Mike Ratliff

1 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:1-4 (NASB) 

The Church since its inception in the 1st Century AD has been plagued by quarrels, disagreements, feuds, splits, et cetera. According to God, the problem is not with the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ or His doctrines, but with the fact that people in the Church are not submitted properly to Him or to each other. Pride is behind most disagreements just as it is behind those who break away from the truth to lead their followers with false doctrines and a focus that is on self rather than on God and His glory. Instead, those who cause these problems are in love with self and, therefore, in love with the world, its ways, and the things of the world.  Continue reading

Rekindle the Gift of God


by Mike Ratliff

13 Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. 14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. 15 Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. 16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you. 1 Timothy 4:13-16 (NASB) 

The way the gospel is presented in our time is backward. It is focused incorrectly. Instead of focusing on what God has done for us who have nothing in and of ourselves to warrant it; the way the gospel is given ever since I can remember is to attempt to make it appealing as if people should decide to try Jesus for 30 or 60 days to see if He makes a difference. What a joke! What blasphemy! To be honest, the closer I get to the front lines in serving my Lord, the more our enemy attacks me. The more I suffer. The more problems I have. However, I do not serve my Lord to get away from that stuff. I serve Him for His glory and my Lord went to the Cross for me so how can I seek the easy way out here and now?  Continue reading

Are You a Child of God?


by Mike Ratliff

28 Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.  (1 John 2:28-29 NASB)

There are two types of people in the world. There are God’s children and everyone else. One of the reasons I love to read the Gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John and Revelation is that John, the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 21:7), wrote very profound words that have no gray areas. Of course he wrote as the Spirit breathed these words through him, but God used this man’s entire makeup in that process. John was very pastoral, but he was also a Christian apologist of the highest order. He was one the three Apostles who made up the inner circle closest to our Lord during His earthly ministry. Before Jesus called him to be his disciple, he was a disciple of John the Baptist along with Andrew, Peter’s brother. Jesus called him and his brother James, the Sons of Thunder. He had great faith, but like most of us, he could get full of himself and focus inward instead of humble and lined up with our Lord’s will alone. Continue reading

The source of Christian joy


by Mike Ratliff

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Matthew 7:21-25 (NASB) 

One of my first posts, What is Joy?, which I wrote on January 10, 2006, is the 2nd most read post on this blog. As of a few minutes ago it has been read 48,485 times. This is obviously because it is returned in search engines to people seeking some truth about Biblical Joy, which is a constant theme throughout God’s Word. This tells us that most Christians are seeking joy and are, perhaps, perplexed because their circumstances are anything but joyful. Our Lord gave us the example through the way He walked throughout His earthly ministry in which we are given what true joy is and how we must live in order to obtain it. The following passage is right in the middle of that part of John’s Gospel dealing with the Samaritan woman at the well.  Continue reading

What is the basis for your hope?


by Mike Ratliff

13 Ὁ δὲ θεὸς τῆς ἐλπίδος πληρώσαι ὑμᾶς πάσης χαρᾶς καὶ εἰρήνης ἐν τῷ πιστεύειν, εἰς τὸ περισσεύειν ὑμᾶς ἐν τῇ ἐλπίδι ἐν δυνάμει πνεύματος ἁγίου. Romans 15:13 (NA28)

13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing for you to abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The concept of “hope” as it is viewed in the world today, and, sadly, by much of what calls itself “Christian” is an expression of a wish or a want, such as, “I sure do hope I get…,” or “I sure hope I do not get…” In this, there is no certainty in the usage of the word “hope.” However, in the passage above (Romans 15:13) for example, the Greek noun which is the lexical root for both ἐλπίδος (elpidos) and ἐλπίδι (elpidi), which is ἐλπίς (elpis) speaks of a “desire of some good with expectation of obtaining it.” The Christian concept of our hope in Christ, our blessed hope, is exactly this. We are not hoping, as the world does like football fans that our favorite team will win a game or even the title of conference or whatever. That is not what we base our hope upon. No, our hope is based upon certainty.  Continue reading

The testing of your faith produces endurance


by Mike Ratliff

2 Πᾶσαν χαρὰν ἡγήσασθε, ἀδελφοί μου, ὅταν πειρασμοῖς περιπέσητε ποικίλοις, 3 γινώσκοντες ὅτι τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως κατεργάζεται ὑπομονήν. 4 ἡ δὲ ὑπομονὴ ἔργον τέλειον ἐχέτω, ἵνα ἦτε τέλειοι καὶ ὁλόκληροι ἐν μηδενὶ λειπόμενοι.James 1:2-4 (NA28)

2 Consider it all joy my brothers whenever you fall into various trials 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its full effect that you may be mature and complete lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 (translated from the NA28 Greek text) 

The man-centered religions that claim to be “Christian” in our time could never take James 1:2-4 literally. No, instead, they must demand from their own man-made Jesus that they have their best life now and that the Sun stand still so that they can fulfill the vision that they claim to have received from him. This whole idea of a faith that is self-renouncing while submitting to Christ as Lord in all things, taking up our crosses, bearing his reproach outside the gates because he bore our reproach to pay the price to atone for our sins is totally alien to those “so-called Christians” in those “religions.” Add to that the fiery trials of sanctification and they claim that we are taking the Bible too literally and that since God is love, he would never do that to anyone.  Continue reading

A valley of dry bones


by Mike Ratliff

1 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. 2 He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. 3 He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, You know.” Ezekiel 37:1-3 (NASB) 

As Christians walk through their days that turn into weeks that turn into months that turn into years that turn into decades that turn into the length and breadth of their lives, they are continually put into circumstances where they must either believe and obey God or disbelieve and disobey Him. Most believers I know have a horrible habit of limiting God by their lack of faith (unbelief). Tragically, these decisions can result in walls of spiritual blindness to become erected in their hearts. With this spiritual blindness can come apathy or, worse, apostasy. Their decision to limit God with their lack of bold brokenness is based in idolatry. This idolatry consists of self-protection that, at least in the beginning, seems to alleviate the fear that comes from their timidity that keeps them from believing God and obeying Him. Timidity is a product of pride that masquerades as humility. The world sees a timid person and believes he or she is humble when, in fact, they are full of pride and will not take risks that could involve them to suffer from some perceived threat if they did indeed obey God.

Continue reading