Christian 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 and ἐλπίδι, 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

Genuine Christian Behavior


by Mike Ratliff

1 Ἡ φιλαδελφία μενέτω. Hebrews 13:1 (NA28)

1 Let brotherly love continue. Hebrews 13:1 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

As we mature in Christ it is imperative that we practice our Christian liberty completely within the discernment and wisdom given to us by God. As we do this we must not abandon our common fellowship and that we not be part of some perceived legalistic religiosity. We cannot read the New Testament without seeing that believers are the ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia), “the called-out ones of God.” In the New Testament, the noun ekklēsia is found only in the Gospels in Matthew 16:18 and 18:17. Luke uses it in Acts several times, but Paul uses it throughout his epistles. More than half of its usage in the New Testament is in Paul’s epistles. In them, we see that he never thinks of the ekklēsia as a physical structure or man-made organization but as a dedicated group of disciples of Jesus Christ whom he has purchased with his blood. In light of these truths, we must seek to line ourselves up with God’s will in our obedience under the spiritual authority He has set over us. Continue reading

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled


by Mike Ratliff

[27] Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27 ESV)

My Dad died in 2009 in the Assisted Living Center where he was forced to live because he had Alzheimer’s Disease. It is a horrible disease. I told everyone close to me at that time that we lost our Dad 10 years earlier when that disease took hold of him. My mother suffered a heart attack during that time before they had to go live there and while in the hospital she had a stroke which caused her to lose the ability to drive, to communicate clearly, and so, we as a family had both of them moved to that Assisted Living Center. If Dad had not been there who knows what would have happened to him? He did not know where he was most of the time. He even started forgetting who most of us were. As I said, He died in 2009 while asleep at the age of 86. My mother was then moved to an apartment in the same Assisted Living Center. She lived there for many years until she got to be about 90 then we moved her to be closer to my sister in Houston. It was there that her health started going down pretty fast. She died in 2018 just after turning 91.  Continue reading

The Deceit of Human Reason


by Mike Ratliff

1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 6 For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. 2 Timothy 3:1-8 (NASB) 

Genuine Christianity is not a world religion. Instead, it is a fellowship of believers who have been justified by Faith. There are many professing Christians who would not fit that definition. They may be religious. They may have made a “profession of faith,” but they are not regenerate nor do they have The Holy Spirit. Why? They have not repented and submitted to the Lordship of Christ. They are not New Creations through the washing of Regeneration, which quickens believers from being spiritually dead to spiritually alive in Christ. (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13) Continue reading

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 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

Being a Living Sacrifice


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Romans 12:1-3 (NASB)

All of the things that true Christians should be doing for the glory of God, drinking from the cup of Christ’s suffering, wrestling the correct opponent, loving your enemies, and behaving like a Christian are possible only for the believer who is in the process of taking on Christ’s character. No one can do these things naturally. No one is able to attain this level of spirituality by trying to do those things. Instead, these behaviors flow from a Christlike heart. No believer will ever become Christlike in their character unless they also become Spirit-led. If a believer is controlled by their emotions then they are not Spirit-led. Neither are they who have not learned to walk in the Spirit. If sin runs rampant through a believer’s life then they are not Spirit-led. In addition, if a believer is constantly consumed by anger, bitterness, envy, and self-protection then they are not Spirit-led. Continue reading

Belief vs Unbelief


by Mike Ratliff

21 Therefore the LORD heard and was full of wrath;
And a fire was kindled against Jacob
And anger also mounted against Israel,
22 Because they did not believe in God
And did not trust in His salvation. Psalms 78:21-22 (NASB) 

There are only two groups of people in the world. There are Christians, the elect, and everyone else, the non-elect. What separates them? What is the difference? It is not different streams of faith, as new agers and the liberals” say, which are all equal and going to the same place and color people in different ways. No, that is what universalists of every variety are selling, but that is most definitely not what God’s Word explicitly says. No, the difference between those in Christ and everyone else is that the former are possessors of faith, which is the Greek word πιστις, which is transliterated as pistes. It and it’s many grammatical forms are translated as “assurance,” “faith,” ”belief,” et cetera throughout the New Testament. Before we define “unbelief,” let us define biblical faith, πιστις, so that we can see very clearly what marks the true believer from the false professor. Continue reading

Saving Faith is a Gift From God by His Grace


by Mike Ratliff

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB) 

Back in the late 1980’s I enlisted in our church’s Evangelism Explosion program. It required a great deal of scripture memorization, a lot more than I was actually prepared for. Those of us who were trainees were teamed up with a trainer and after learning to share the Gospel in class the day came when we were taken out to make visits to people who had checked a box on some form somewhere that they would be interested in “a visit” from someone from our church. In any case, one of the first passages I memorized in this training was the one I placed at the top of this post. In chapter 1 of Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesian Church he gives us one, long elegant sentence in Greek showing that the triune God initiated and accomplished cosmic reconciliation and redemption for the praise of his glory. He also speaks of the Church’s divine election prior to the foundation of the world in v4. In vv15-23 we Have Paul’s Prayer of thanksgiving, also one long sentence in Greek. This is a prayer that the Ephesian church will gain deep insight into the Lord’s powerful working and rich gifts in Christ. Then we come to chapter 2. We will look at Ephesians 2:1-10 in this post to keep things in context, but our focus will be vv8-9 for I want to look at three key words and what they mean to our faith. They are translated in our English Bibles as “faith,” “grace,” and “gift.”  Continue reading

Walking by Faith


by Mike Ratliff

1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. 4 For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.
6 Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight— 8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. 9 Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 (NASB) 

If we read this passage phrase by phrase, we see that Paul is telling the Corinthian Church that “we know” things. What things? We know that our bodies will die, but at that moment we have a body “made not with hands” that is eternal. Knowing this, we “walk by faith” instead of by sight. What does Paul mean by this? Continue reading

Firm in Your 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 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

The Holiness of the Ekklesia


by Mike Ratliff

9 But you are A chosen race, A royal priesthood, A holy nation, A people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10 (NASB) 

The Church is not a building. No, in the New Testament, written in Koine Greek, our English translations of it where we find the the word “church,” it is a translation of  a form of ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia). For example, in Acts 5:11, “καὶ ἐγένετο φόβος μέγας ἐφʼ ὅλην τὴν ἐκκλησίαν καὶ ἐπὶ πάντας τοὺς ἀκούοντας ταῦτα,” which the NASB translates as, “And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things,” contains ἐκκλησίαν (ekklēsian),  which is the accusative, singular, feminine case of ἐκκλησίαAll that means is that ἐκκλησίαν is the direct object of the main verb in that sentence. However notice that there is just one ἐκκλησία“This word literally means, “the called out ones.” It’s usage in scripture denotes the New Testament community of the redeemed in a two-fold aspect, the first referring to all those called by and to Christ in the fellowship of His salvation, which is the “Church” worldwide at all times. The second aspect, rarely used, refers to a local body of believers.

Continue reading

God Will Judge the Ungodly


by Mike Ratliff

Ayin.
121 I have done justice and righteousness;
Do not leave me to my oppressors.
122 Be surety for Your servant for good;
Do not let the arrogant oppress me.
123 My eyes fail with longing for Your salvation
And for Your righteous word.
124 Deal with Your servant according to Your lovingkindness
And teach me Your statutes.
125 I am Your servant; give me understanding,
That I may know Your testimonies.
126 It is time for the Lord to act,
For they have broken Your law.
127 Therefore I love Your commandments
Above gold, yes, above fine gold.
128 Therefore I esteem right all Your precepts concerning everything,
I hate every false way. Psalms 119:121-128 (NASB) 

There are times I deeply desire for God to hurry up and bring judgment upon the wicked people in this world. I love the Lord. I live for His glory. When people belittle Him with their inane jokes, my blood boils. A fellow told me once that he understood the gospel just fine, but it was meaningless because he did not believe in God. The spiritual gift of prophecy God gave me at my rebirth kicked in and I told him that only a fool would say something like that. That probably was not the wisest thing to say, but I became righteously indignant since he was attempting to amuse himself with angering me by attacking my faith. Of course, my response was wrong. I did not respond with winsomeness, gentleness, or self-control. Then he told me everything was relative then attempted to say there were no absolutes and he could prove it. I responded by telling him that he used an absolute statement by saying, “There are no absolutes.” Then he stalked off. That was not very productive was it? Continue reading

Spiritual Truth comes from God not by Intellectual Reasoning


by Mike Ratliff

15 Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” 18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her. Ruth 1:15-18 (NASB) 

God’s ways are not our ways. His ways are higher than ours. Those who have moved on into God’s stride have learned to view their circumstances in light of who God is. On the other hand, all of us have made the huge mistake of viewing God in light of our circumstances. This is 180 degrees in the wrong direction. When we view God in light of our circumstances we are self-focused and see God as either impotent to help us or aloof and not caring that we suffer. However, when we become focused on God and His glory we step away from the realm of intellectual reasoning into that of faith. It is as we draw near unto God that He draws near unto us. If we surrender to His will in our lives fully believing that His will is always right then we have turned around and are viewing our circumstances in light of who God is. For us to reach this level of spiritual maturity requires for God to work in our hearts. It is not something that we can do ourselves, it is a gift from God. Continue reading

Living Holy in the World


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 1 Peter 4:1-2 (NASB) 

Even though genuine Christians are new creations and have been purchased out of the world through the redemptive work of Christ on the Cross, as they attempt to live godly lives in the temporal, they will come under tremendous pressure to compromise by reverting back to the fleshly way of dealing with life. This way of reacting to circumstances, both good and bad, has emotions as its catalyst motivated by a form of self-righteousness that is manifested through self-exaltation and self-protection. Here we witness ourselves reacting to the good and bad in a way that is little different than we did prior to our salvation. We may even attempt to justify our actions by proclaiming that we are only seeking justice. Pride is the culprit behind this and when we stumble into these sins it is because we are not spirit-filled and, therefore, not humble. Continue reading