The Source of True 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) 

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

The Sower and the Soils


by Mike Ratliff

1 That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. 2 And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach.
3 And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4 and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 6 But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8 And others fell on the good soil and *yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.” Matthew 13:1-9 (NASB) 

There’s something about Jesus’ parables that has always fascinated me. I have heard “stories” from others that were designed to drive home some relevant point, however, our Lord’s parables are succinct and not only drive home His point, but reveal mighty truths straight from God to our hearts. The parable of the sower is not only important and relevant, it is vital for our post-modern Church to understand. Our complacent society has infiltrated the Church. No one seems to have an attention span longer than a few seconds. If some entertainment feature isn’t before our eyes or pounding into our ears, then panic sets in because our hearts are desperate for fulfillment, yet we are lazy and addicted to media, games, or music which tie directly into our flesh bound souls. Continue reading

A Better Rest


by Mike Ratliff

7 For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice,
8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
As in the day of Massah in the wilderness,
9 “When your fathers tested Me,
They tried Me, though they had seen My work.
10 “For forty years I loathed that generation,
And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.
11 “Therefore I swore in My anger,
Truly they shall not enter into My rest.” Psalms 95:7-11 (NASB) 

I placed Psalm 95:7-11 at the top of this post. This part of Psalms 95, a song of praise, is a call for professors of faith to not harden their hearts like the Israelites in the Exodus, but to believe and obey God and, therefore, enter into His rest. In my post Pragmatism and Mustard Seed Faith a few nights ago, we looked at faith, belief, and unbelief. Those with faith that saves, πίστις, believe God and obey Him. These will enter into God’s rest. On the other hand, those in unbelief, ἄπιστος, do not believe God and, therefore, disobey Him. I used this contrast in an attempt to show how “liberal Christianity,” no matter what form it takes, is not Christianity at all because it is based entirely in ἄπιστος. This is true because its leaders attack God’s Truth as absolute truth. In fact, they elevate uncertainty about everything as a virtue and attempt to say that certainty about anything is arrogance in action.  Continue reading

It’s All of Grace


by Mike Ratliff

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-10 (NASB)

As many of you know Tom Ascol collapsed Sunday at his church. He was rushed to the hospital and is still there. I have been following this as much as I can and I have prayed for him, his family and his ministry as many of you have. I rejoiced today as I read that Tom is responding verbally to those around him. Continue reading

Our Eyes Look to the Lord Our God


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 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

Pragmatism and Mustard Seed Faith


by Mike Ratliff

1 He said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3 Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you. Luke 17:1-6 (NASB) 

There are many parallels between what is going on the visible church at this time with what Charles Spurgeon called “the Down-Grade Controversy” in his time. In the latter part of the 19th Century, he began addressing the growing apostasy in the Baptist Union in Great Britain. This apostasy was fueled by those leaders who wished to move Christianity from its historical focus, i.e. preaching the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit with emphasis on sin and the need of a Saviour, to one that was more in line with “Modernism.” He compared Biblical truth to the pinnacle of a steep, slippery mountain. The margin for error is very precise because one step away, and you find yourself on the downgrade. The following excerpt is from one of his sermons preached at the height of this controversy.

Doth that man love his Lord who would be willing to see Jesus wearing a crown of thorns, while for himself he craves a chaplet of laurel? Shall Jesus ascend to his throne by the cross, and do we expect to be carried there on the shoulders of applauding crowds? Be not so vain in your imagination. Count you the cost, and if you are not willing to bear Christ’s cross, go away to your farm and to your merchandise, and make the most of them; only let me whisper this in your ear; “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? 1

Spurgeon preached the sermon from which this excerpt is taken just after he was censured by the Baptist Union for his stance against the majority’s efforts to “modernize” their churches with de-emphasis of the biblical gospel in favor of being more open to those who would be offended by the cross and the insistence that they were sinners in need of a Saviour.  Continue reading

Boasting is Excluded


by Mike Ratliff

21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Romans 3:21-28 (NASB) 

Our pastor has been preaching through the first several chapters of Acts. In our small groups we have been taking a deeper look at the passages from which he gets his sermons. Last night was interesting because we talked a great deal about how each of us came to faith. Some of us had false starts, that is, we made a profession of faith as a child or teenager that was emotional not based on faith. Others were members of churches that did not preach the gospel, but they were baptized there. Since then we all have come to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ at various ages, but, interestingly, none of them were the same, not even close. In my own case I sat there and listened to everyone sharing while God took me through the labyrinth of time and circumstances in my life which culminated in me repenting and believing on my Lord Jesus Christ. But, it didn’t stop there. I also reflected on my journey since then. For many years, even as a Bible teacher and Deacon, I confess to you all that my understanding of salvation and the doctrines that have been developed, which explain it, was very fuzzy compared to my understanding now. During those years of doctrinal “confusion” I based my salvation on something I had done. I based my assurance on things I did. When I witnessed to others during that time the emphasis was on bringing people to make a decision followed by them reciting a sinner’s prayer. As well meaning as all of that was, I see it now as the fruit of utter spiritual immaturity.

Continue reading

Belief and 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 that different streams of faith, which are all equal and going to the same place. Nor can Christianity be broken down into different racial groups like some are doing now with the Social Justice Gospel, which is not the Biblical Gospel at all. No, that is what the liberals 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 noun πίστις (pistis). 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, πίστις, so that we can see very clearly what marks the true believer from the false professor. Continue reading

True Christianity vs Subjective Religiosity


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NASB) 

There is a form of religion in the world today that calls itself by many names and in each of those forms it is seen as a type of Christianity, but is, in fact, nothing more than a man-made facsimile of true Christianity. Its foundation is not the same. True Christianity is built upon the foundations of Christ, Him Crucified, God’s Eternal Word, The Holy Trinity, and the Sovereignty of God. On the other hand, the man-made, subjective form of it (no matter what it is called) has an entirely different foundation. Its foundation is accommodation, fairness, equality, the nobility of man, the rights of man, the free will of man, Critical Race Theory, Social Justice, and experientialism. Even though both true Christianity and the subjectivism reference many of the same things, the focus will be entirely different with the former being primarily on the glory of God through the exposition of His truth from His Word with the latter being on the accommodation of man with the inclusion of people’s experiences as the primary focus and means of knowing God and His truth.

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Fiery Darts


by Mike Ratliff

11 Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.” Revelation 22:11 (NASB) 

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan is an allegory of the journey of one man, Christian, who is saved and makes the journey to escape his home town, The City of Destruction. The journey takes him to the cross by him entering the narrow way by way of the narrow gate that few find. After the burden of sin is taken away at the cross he journeys until he reaches the Celestial City.

One of the most interesting places he must travel through is called The Valley of Humiliation. It is the place where all Christians must travel through in order to reach Heaven. In the Valley their pride is attacked while their humility is cultivated. They are taught to rely solely on the Lord instead of their own wits or reason or abilities. In the book, Christian finds Apollyon there who is enraged that he had lost one of his subjects, who of course is Christian. A battle ensues. Apollyon does Christian much damage, but Christian uses his armor, sword and shield to fight to save his life. One of the main weapons of our enemy is his fiery darts. What are they?

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Fear of Man Destroyed by Trust in God


by Mike Ratliff

25 The fear of man brings a snare,
But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted. Proverbs 29:25 (NASB) 

Our enemy is pretty smart. He has been around long enough that he believes he knows us. He knows that lost people are enslaved to him via their sin nature. He knows that the little flock, our Lord’s sheep, may be new creations via the washing of regeneration, but they still have their flesh and a deep, overwhelming need to be fulfilled. Their salvation has changed them so they now have the ability to be fulfilled in God the more they take on Christ’s character. Our enemy, on the other hand, does all he can to neutralize those sheep by attacking them in innumerable ways so that they walk according their flesh instead of according to the Spirit.

Satan has always wanted to be God. He caused a war in Heaven by attempting to usurp God’s throne for himself. Ever since, he has been hard at work attempting to fool people into believing that he is God or at least driving a wedge between people and the Living God by enticing them to be gods unto themselves through their self-will. Continue reading

Faith Comes from God


by Mike Ratliff

28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God? John 6:28 (NASB)

Genuine Christians will be very interested in getting the answer to the question posed to Jesus from John 6:28. If a professing Christian is not interested in that answer then there’s a problem. On the other hand, there are many professing Christians who have answered that question without reading Jesus’ response to it. Instead, they have jumped head foremost into “religous” work that they believe pleases God and is earning them bonus points in eternity. Their “works” may look good to most people, including non-Christians, but are they what Jesus tells us are the genuine works of God? Let’s look at this passage in context. Continue reading

Children 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, “Sons of Thunder.” John had great faith, but like most of us, he could get full of himself and focus inward instead of being humble and lining up with our Lord’s will alone. Continue reading

Faith Grace and Certainty


by Mike Ratliff

16 For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 (as it is written, “A father of many nations have I made you”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. 18 In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “SO shall your descendants be.” 19 Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; 20 yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. Romans 4:16-21 (NASB) 

Several years ago I wrote a post about Liberal Theology. That post produced a very long and protracted discussion in the comment section of this blog. I remember it very well. The discussion became quite heated at times. One person insisted that scholarship and critical analysis of the Bible far outweighed faith when it comes to theology. In fact, he tried very hard to make us see that the Bible is unreliable and cannot be understood or held by Christians to be the infallible, inerrant Word of God.As some of my friends from around the blogosphere joined the battle, he soon “tired” and left when it became obvious that we would not accept what he was “preaching.” He gave some parting shots that were intended to do some damage to our faith. The one that stood out to me was, “No, I encourage you to continue in your faith. Hold tight. Don’t let go. But I think that over time you will find that it is kinda like trying to hold on real tight to a handful of sand.Continue reading