Is the Great Commission best fulfilled by preaching the Gospel or by Christians ‘being the Gospel?’


by Mike Ratliff

16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 (NASB) 

The passage above (Matthew 28:16-20) is best known as our Lord Jesus’ Great Commission to the Church. This is what we are to be about. I heard a survey taken at a Christian bookseller’s convention a few years ago in which one of the questions asked was something like, “Is the Great Commission best fulfilled by preaching the Gospel or by Christians ‘being the Gospel?’” Well over half of the answers given were affirmative for the latter rather than the former. That was not surprising after the rest of the survey results were revealed though. The overall lack of depth of real Bible knowledge and doctrine in that group was indeed telling. From that discussion it became apparent that most of those responding to the survey actually believed that their performance as Christians had more to do with evangelism than actually preaching the Gospel itself.  Continue reading

What does it mean when the Bible says that the Son is the Express Image of God?


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. John 1:1-2 (NASB) 

I heard a sermon a long time ago in which the preacher defined a cult as any religious group that called itself Christian but denied the orthodox view of our Triune God. That means that those who deny the Doctrine of the Trinity, according to that definition, are not Christians, but heretics. The man-centered part of each of us, that is the flesh, rebels from such a strict “legalistic” view, but as our faith becomes more and more God Centered in all its aspects, that view becomes entirely justified in our hearts because as we come to know God as He reveals Himself to His children, we will not doubt His Word nor will we attempt to overlay His truth with “altered” truth nor will we add to it nor subtract from it nor take it out of context in order to make it more man-centered. If we compromised and did those things we would do so in order to become more acceptable to the majority and not be excluded and hated by the world and those who call themselves Christians, but who are really just part of the world system. Continue reading

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me


by Mike Ratliff

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:24-26 (NASB)

The Church is in the midst of a Truth War. That is nothing new is it? We have been talking about this for quite some time; however, we must remain diligent while not surrendering the fight over what is Truth and what is not to the enemies of God’s Truth. The reason the visible church is being eaten alive by the world right now is that it has long ago forsaken God’s Word as His infallible Truth. The result is the compromised mess we see all around us now. Why is it that Rick Warren and his followers have such a hold on the visible church? Their paper-thin, worldly theology is geared to be man-pleasing and non-offensive by being sanitized with the removal of those things like the doctrines of the Total Depravity of Man, Justification by Faith, and then there is that bloody cross of Christ and why our Lord deliberately laid down His life there. You will not hear about any of that in those compromised churches because that might offend someone. What about those people comfortable in their religiosity, we couldn’t have them suddenly come under conviction that they are filthy sinners in need of a Saviour and the only way to be Justified by Faith is through that bloody Cross, taking it up and following Jesus Christ as Lord. Oh, no we cannot have that, let us sanitize it up and make it easy so people can come to us and be comfortable in their religiosity so our churches can be large and growing.  Continue reading

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it


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) 

When we look at the Moon in its phases what we are actually seeing is part of that created body orbiting the Earth facing the Sun and so reflecting its light back to us while the part not facing it being in shadow, appears dark. The dividing line between the two is called the Terminator. On one side is day and on the other is night. One side is light, one side is dark. However, we must remember that the Moon simply reflects light back to us, it has no light of its own, no brightness or luminosity generated that makes up its nature unlike the Sun. Also, if we look at our Lord’s Transfiguration, we see that the glory in which Moses and Elijah saw was actually the glory being manifested from our Lord. It was His glory or δόξα which awakened Peter, James, and John to their astonishment. As the passage above, from John 1, states, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” What is this light and what is this darkness? What is this life? What has this to do with the dividing line between God Centeredness and Man Centeredness?

Continue reading

Are Christians supposed to preach the Gospel or be the Gospel?


by Mike Ratliff

16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 (NASB) 

The passage above (Matthew 28:16-20) is best known as our Lord Jesus’ Great Commission to the Church. This is what we are to be about. I heard a survey taken at a Christian bookseller’s convention not very long ago in which one of the questions asked was something like, “Is the Great Commission best fulfilled by preaching the Gospel or by Christians ‘being the Gospel?’” Well over half of the answers given were affirmative for the latter rather than the former. That was not surprising after the rest of the survey results were revealed though. The overall lack of depth of real Bible knowledge and doctrine in that group was indeed telling. From that discussion it became apparent that most of those responding to the survey actually believed that their performance as Christians had more to do with evangelism than actually preaching the Gospel itself.  Continue reading

So how did you learn Christ?


by Mike Ratliff

17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, Ephesians 4:17-20 (NASB) 

17 Τοῦτο οὖν λέγω καὶ μαρτύρομαι ἐν κυρίῳ, μηκέτι ὑμᾶς περιπατεῖν, καθὼς καὶ τὰ ἔθνη περιπατεῖ ἐν ματαιότητι τοῦ νοὸς αὐτῶν, 18 ἐσκοτωμένοι τῇ διανοίᾳ ὄντες, ἀπηλλοτριωμένοι τῆς ζωῆς τοῦ θεοῦ διὰ τὴν ἄγνοιαν τὴν οὖσαν ἐν αὐτοῖς, διὰ τὴν πώρωσιν τῆς καρδίας αὐτῶν, 19 οἵτινες ἀπηλγηκότες ἑαυτοὺς παρέδωκαν τῇ ἀσελγείᾳ εἰς ἐργασίαν ἀκαθαρσίας πάσης ἐν πλεονεξίᾳ.
20 Ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐχ οὕτως ἐμάθετε τὸν Χριστόν,  Ephesians 4:17-20 (NA28)

In the passage I placed at the top of this post (Ephesians 4:17-20) there are two Greek words which we will focus on in this post. They are ματαιότητι, which is translated in the NASB as “futility” in v17 and ἄγνοιαν, which is translated as “ignorance” in v18. That mindset which looks at what we call “Orthodox Christianity” and our completely firm stance of non compromise on any of it with a jaw dropping arrogant, bullying attitude stance is what we are encountering more and more throughout the visible church because most of it has been given over to the darkness it loved more than the light of truth. Those with this mindset simply cannot comprehend God’s truth nor do they love Him or those who belong to Him and follow the Son. Continue reading

The Laodicean Church


by Mike Ratliff

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:
15 ‘ I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. (Revelation 3:14-16 NASB)

14 Καὶ τῷ ἀγγέλῳ τῆς ἐν Λαοδικείᾳ ἐκκλησίας γράψον·
Τάδε λέγει ὁ ἀμήν, ὁ μάρτυς ὁ πιστὸς καὶ ἀληθινός, ἡ ἀρχὴ τῆς κτίσεως τοῦ θεοῦ· 15 οἶδά σου τὰ ἔργα ὅτι οὔτε ψυχρὸς εἶ οὔτε ζεστός. ὄφελον ψυχρὸς ἦς ἢ ζεστός. 16 οὕτως ὅτι χλιαρὸς εἶ καὶ οὔτε ζεστὸς οὔτε ψυχρός, μέλλω σε ἐμέσαι ἐκ τοῦ στόματός μου. (Revelation 3:14-16 NA28)

All Christians should study the Old Testament book of Jeremiah. Why? Jeremiah was a prophet of God. What he was called to do was be the prophet to warn of God’s coming judgment to apostate Judah. They were still very religious. They still offered their sacrifices and held their festivals, but they also mixed in worship of other “gods” that called for the sacrifice of their own children. Jeremiah was threatened. He was beaten by the priests and told to shut up. He was put into stocks. When the Babylonians did come and fulfill the judgment he had prophesied, he was still despised by the apostates. The point is that God would not allow him to quit. He had to continue to preach. He had to continue to tell the truth. Even if only a few listened, he had to remain faithful. The religion that he preached against was the religion the people wanted. It was man-centered. Now keep that in mind as we look at the four Greek words that are key to understanding Revelation 3:14-22. Continue reading

Striving together


by Mike Ratliff

27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me. (Philippians 1:27-30 NASB)

Notice in the passage above that Paul’s call for believers to stand firm together in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. Notice that those who do this are to do so with no fear of anything that opponents of God’s truth try to do so say against them and the message of the Gospel, that is, the real Gospel, not the Laodicean gospel or social gospel. In any case let us look at the Greek word the NASB translates as “striving” in v27 above, which is συναθλουντες a present, active, participle version of συναθλέω or sunathleō, which is a compound word made up of ἀθλέω or athleō from which we get our English word athlete and athletics and means to strive or contend, to be a champion in the public games, such as wrestling, boxing, et cetera. This word pictures a completely dedicated, single-minded striving that would equal that of committed athlete. Continue reading

Christians’ true status in this lost and dying world


by Mike Ratliff

17 And HE came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:17-22 NASB)

11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11-12 NASB)

When a Christian is born of God into His Kingdom he or she also undergoes a change in status not only there, but in the kingdom of darkness, the world, from which they came. Carefully read the two passages I placed at the top of this post from the Apostles Paul and Peter. Sadly so much of what we hear in what pretends to be Christianity these days emphasizes the exact opposite focus. They push agendas of political reform and social change rather than in truly discipling their flocks to prepare them to be aliens and strangers (pilgrims) just passing through a very hostile world on the way to their real home.  Continue reading

What is light and what is darkness?


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)

When we look at the Moon in its phases what we are actually seeing is part of that created body orbiting the Earth facing the Sun and so reflecting its light back to us while the part not facing it being in shadow, appears dark. The dividing line between the two is called the Terminator. On one side is day and on the other is night. One side is light, one side is dark. However, we must remember that the Moon simply reflects light back to us, it has no light of its own, no brightness or luminosity generated that makes up its nature unlike the Sun. In our Lord’s Transfiguration the glory in which Moses and Elijah were seeing was actually the glory being manifested from our Lord. It was His glory or δόξα which awakened Peter, James, and John to their astonishment. As the passage above, from John 1, states, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” What is this light and what is this darkness? What is this life? What has this to do with the dividing line between God Centeredness and Man Centeredness? Let’s see. Continue reading

Jesus Christ, the express image of God


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. (John 1:1-2 NASB)

I heard a sermon once a long time ago in which the preacher defined a cult as any religious group that called itself Christian but denied the orthodox view our Triune God. That means that those who deny the Doctrine of the Trinity, according to that definition, are not Christians, but heretics. The man-centered part of each of us, that is the flesh, rebels from such a strict “legalistic” view, but as our faith becomes more and more God Centered in all its aspects, that view becomes entirely justified in our hearts because as we come to know God as He reveals Himself to His children, we will not doubt His Word nor will we attempt to overlay His truth with “altered” truth nor will we add to it nor subtract from it nor take it out of context in order to make it more man centered. If we compromised and did those things we would do so in order to become more acceptable to the majority and not be excluded and hated by the world and those who call themselves Christians, but who are really just part of the world system. Continue reading

Standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel


by Mike Ratliff

27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me. (Philippians 1:27-30 NASB)

The growing apostasy of the visible church all around us can be alarming at times. In fact, there are times that those leading the way into that apostasy seem to “raising the bar,” so to speak, at a quickening pace with their efforts to turn their followers away from Biblical Christianity. They are not living a life worthy of the gospel of Christ. They are not standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. No, they are going after all sorts of extra-biblical religious manifestations and trying to intermix them with their “Laodicean version of Christianity,” which is not Christian at all.

Continue reading

God must be the focus of all our worship and praise


by Mike Ratliff

28 Some eight days after these sayings, He took along Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. 30 And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, 31 who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him. (Luke 9:28-32 NASB)

Much of this ministry is focused on exposing the makeup of the dividing line between genuine Christianity, that which is God centered, and counterfeit Christianity, that which is man centered. We will now look at the vast difference in how each side understands the concepts of God’s glory and the praise that is His due. The word most often translated as praise in the New Testament is δόξα or doxa. It is also translated even more often as glory. However, in secular Greek, δόξα means opinion or conjecture, especially favorable human opinion, which then includes an evaluation placed by others, such as fame, repute, honor, or praise. Is this what is meant in God’s Word when δόξα is used in reference to God’s glory and the praise that His due? I submit that that definition exactly defines most professing Christians’ understanding of praise and worship, but is not in any way shape or form Biblical δόξα. Continue reading

Bearing much fruit


by Mike Ratliff

1 “ I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. (John 15:1-8 NASB)

Are Christians commanded to be fruitful? Are we to be productive in the Kingdom of God? Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post. In v1 our Lord Jesus tells us that He is the vine and that His Father is the vinedresser. In v2 He makes it clear that there will always be professing Christians who are not genuine. How do we know this? They bear no fruit at all. They are lifeless branches that are taken away and burned. A person who does not bear fruit is not a true believer and will one day be taken away to an eternity in Hell. Here is v2 from the Greek: πᾶν κλῆμα ἐν ἐμοὶ μὴ φέρον καρπόν, αἴρει αὐτό, καὶ πᾶν τὸ καρπὸν φέρον, καθαίρει αὐτὸ, ἵνα πλείονα καρπὸν φέρῃ. The word used here that is translated as “bear” is φέρον the present active participle version of φέρω or pherō̄. In other words this is talking about continuous or repeated action. Branches who bear no fruit (μὴ φέρον καρπόν), are so as a way of life. On the other hand, our Lord says that genuine branches in the vine who do bear fruit (καρπὸν φέρον) do so as a way of life and he adds that the Father prunes them in order to make them even more fruitful. Then, in vv5 and 8 we read that some branches will bear “much fruit.” In other words, some believers will be exceptionally more fruitful than others, but all genuine believers will be fruitful. How can we reach this “much more fruitful” level? Continue reading