Poor in Spirit


by Mike Ratliff

3 “ Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3 (NASB) 

One the most disturbing aspects of the churches who practice Christianity “lite” is the nearly total abandonment of a call for personal holiness. Even more discouraging is the fact that they preach a version of the gospel that has had any mention of repentance severed from it. The reasoning behind this, of course, is that they are building bridges to the unchurched. If they preach the whole gospel they will drive them away not draw them to join their churches. The problem with that sort of reasoning is that it is all pragmatism. It is based on fleshly reasoning and the ways of the world. It is actually unbelief in the form of ministry. The architects of Christianity “lite” do not believe that God is still building His Church, therefore, they will do it themselves using marketing techniques constructed around “relevancy.” They reason that if they build cool churches that it will draw people who hate traditional “church.” They may not go to the old Baptist Church on main street, but they might go to a gathering that is more of an entertainment venue than a church.

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He was Wounded for Our Transgressions


by Mike Ratliff

13 Behold, My servant will prosper,
He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted.
14 Just as many were astonished at you, My people,
So His appearance was marred more than any man
And His form more than the sons of men.
15 Thus He will sprinkle many nations,
Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him;
For what had not been told them they will see,
And what they had not heard they will understand. Isaiah 52:13-15 (NASB) 

In his fine book Escape from Reason, Francis Schaeffer analyzed 20th Century philosophy, science, art, and popular culture to get to the “cause,” if you will, of the decline of reason, which was and is still shaping our society. Modern thought in our time, it seems, has been diverted from an eternal, heavenly focus to one that is entirely geared to the temporal. Part of his thesis is that the advent of humanistic philosophy and reason began with Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). He contends that prior to Aquinas, the heavenly things were all-important, but since his teaching and discussion of “nature and grace,” the focus of human thought has made the temporal all-important with the heavenly becoming only an abstract “unreality.” Continue reading

For God So Loved the World


by Mike Ratliff

16 οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλʼ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον. John 3:16 (NA28)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only son that everyone believing in Him should not perish but have life eternal. John 3:16 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The first verse I memorized in Sunday School as a child was John 3:16 from the King James Bible. This must have been sometime around 1956-1957 since I did not learn to read until the 1st grade. My mother even had a plaque made with that verse on it and put it on the wall over my bed. I still have the little white New Testament I got for memorizing the most verses in my class that year. So what? When I look back on my life from that point to the time God had mercy on me in 1986, I am truly amazed that He did at all. Since the time I came to know Christ, I have known much of both of the tender mercies of our Lord as well as His flail of tribulation. My brethren, the school of the cross is the school of light, it discovers the world’s vanity, baseness, and wickedness, and lets us see more of God’s mind. Out of dark affliction comes a spiritual light. With that, let us look at John 3:16-21.  Continue reading

The Necessity of Preaching Repentance


by Mike Ratliff

29 Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. 30 Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” Acts 17:29-31 (NASB) 

You don’t have to look very hard to find Christians who disagree with our commitment to preach the genuine gospel that the Apostles and our Saviour preached. One of the points of contention in this debate is the necessity or preaching repentance. Many who are opposed to repentance being a necessary component of salvation see it as “works.”

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Peace with God Through Faith


by Mike Ratliff

29 His disciples *said, “Lo, now You are speaking plainly and are not using a figure of speech. 30 Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:29-33 (NASB) 

Not that I am a war monger, nor do I even like war or conflict at all, but I do get upset when I hear people say things about Jesus being the Prince of Peace that, according to them, Christians should never be in conflict with anyone. After all, Jesus is the Prince of Peace! Jesus is the Prince of Peace, but that means that through Him and Him alone, people can find peace with God. Any who seek that peace in any way other than through Him will never find it. Continue reading

Be Strong in Grace


by Mike Ratliff

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12 (NASB) 

One of my favorite things to do is study my Bible, and then write about what God has shown me from His Word. Currently our temporal world is going through plague called COVID-19. However, as a student of history, I know that this sort of thing has happened countless times in the past all over the world. As Christians, how are to respond? What if we too are suffering in some way? While I do not have the disease, this is Springtime in Oklahoma and that means my seasonal allergies are hitting hard right now. My doctor has me on steroids this year along with a very strong anti-histamine. On top of that my wife and I are following the rules about sheltering in place. I work from home so my job as a Database Administrator for a large Healthcare company is not affected except that what I am supporting at work sure has changed. My wife and I are trying to be wise about our consumables and not to hoard. We sure miss seeing our grandchildren and daughter right now. Our church is meeting online as well as our small group. We are praying with each other online. We are being the Church while not resembling the “religious church” the world thinks we are.

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By Grace Through Faith


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. 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 2:8-10 (NASB) 

What is it that causes God to justify believers? What is justification? I heard a definition a long time ago where the preacher said something like this, “Justification is what happens when we are born again, it is ‘Just as if I had never sinned’” Of course, those of us who are Reformed in our Theology believe that our regeneration, our quickening, our New Birth takes place prior to belief because that is what enables ungodly, spiritually dead people to repent and believe. Justification follows that. Let’s look at an example.
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He Was Numbered With The Transgressors


by Mike Ratliff

12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:12 (NASB) 

When this blog first came online in 2006 and then when I became associated with Christian Research Network in 2007 the number one topic that seemed to consume my time was debating a group of people called the “Emergents.” One of their leaders was Brian McLaren. Debating the defenders of writers such as Brian McLaren was a very eye opening thing. I found it very interesting that they used the very same methods as Liberal Christians and atheists. The Straw Man fallacy was the most prevalent tool they used. They were the defenders of relativism and universalism. Our resistance to any compromise caused them to refer to us as “backward” and “legalistic.” They made the false assumption that all holders of relativism make, which is declaring absolute truth to be a myth. When proof was given from the Bible they declared that was only our interpretation. It took awhile, but we learned from this to see the logical end of a debate fast approach when that argument was given. Why? It is a total waste of time at that point to continue. Continue reading

Invitation to Come to Jesus


by Mike Ratliff

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. John 6:35-37 (NASB) 

In the last post, Clip the Wings of Wisdom, we looked at how Human reason, which is worldly wisdom, is useless for anyone to rely on in order to be saved. We saw where our salvation is a work by all three persons in the Holy Trinity. God the Father chose his people before the foundation of the world. He set into motion all of the circumstances that would result in all of them becoming part of the Family of God. The Son, Jesus Christ, became the God-Man. He became flesh and dwelt among us. He lived a perfect, sinless life then was murdered by wicked men, dying a horrible death by crucifixion. While dying on the cross, the Father poured out His wrath upon the Son. This wrath was against the sin of those whom He elected. Jesus became sin on their behalf. He knew no sin, but He became separate from the Father because of their sin. His death paid the price for their sin. Jesus was three days and nights in His tomb, but rose from the dead. His resurrection paved the way for all who believe on Him as Lord and Saviour for their future resurrection. Continue reading

Clip the Wings of Wisdom


by Mike Ratliff

1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. 2 Peter 2:1-3 (NASB) 

I worked for many years as a computer programmer. There are many developers who are team guys who are not very creative, but their proficiency at coding makes them very useful in working on very large applications where the work is divided up along functional lines. Then there are the very creative developers who are confined by a highly structured programming environment, which seems, to them, to stifle their creativity. I must confess that I am of the second type. If I can’t be creative, I lose interest. The creative process is what I thrive on. Continue reading

The Letter Kills but the Spirit Gives Life


by Mike Ratliff

25 For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law? 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. Romans 2:25-29 (NASB) 

I often receive requests from dear brethren who are desperate for assurance, but as I attempt to “dig into” their spiritual background, so to speak, those with the most dire sense of that desperation also seem to be mired in a works righteousness type of understanding of salvation. It’s not their fault and we cannot help them if we approach the solution from that angle. Whenever I get a request like this, and they are all different, I think of Luther. He was a monk who was desperate to be right with God, but no matter how hard he worked at being righteous, he was continually confessing his sins to his confessor. It was only as God opened his heart to the wonderful truth of justification by faith alone as he studied the book of Romans that Sola Fide became a reality in his heart and so the spark of the Protestant Reformation was ignited. Continue reading

The Letter of Paul to the Philippians Chapter 3


by Mike Ratliff

7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:7-11 (NASB) 

From where does the righteousness of the Christian come? If you think that is an unimportant question or one that we do not need to spend much time on, then you could quite possibly be one who is either the next victim of a deceiver or have already been deceived. If we look at the opposition to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by professing Christians, in other words, either apostates or the religious who believe they are Christian through their religion, they claim righteousness comes from some other way beyond what the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ says. Many of these were like I was growing up as a Southern Baptist. My understanding of salvation was that one had to be religious, but it all started with that profession of faith that was followed by Baptism, which I did in the 4th grade (1960). I was not regenerate. I was religious and since it was all works of the flesh in order to please God (law), I could not do a very good job of it nor did I like nor did I keep it up very long. However, my heart goes out to all those like me who grew up like me and did that same thing. I pray that God has mercy on you and draw you into His light and obedience to the Gospel as He did me in 1986.  Continue reading

Preaching the Word Out of Season


by Mike Ratliff

1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 2 Timothy 4:1-2 (NASB) 

Without a doubt the culture in the 21st Century is “out of season” for the Gospel. Resistance to the truth of God’s Word is strong because our society has rejected absolute truth. Along with this is the downgrade in morals. I was a teenager in the 1960’s. Even in that “free love” culture there would never be the filth allowed on TV that we see in prime time shows in our time. However, our Lord Jesus Christ preached the exclusivity of the Gospel. He confronted sin head on, but in our time it seems that the majority of preachers water down the message so they won’t offend people by preaching against sin. Continue reading

Not Peace, but a Sword


by Mike Ratliff

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. Matthew 10:34 (NASB) 

The character and the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ is not well understood by the majority of people on planet Earth. In fact, many professing “Christians” have an image of Him in their understanding that is based upon fleshly reasoning. This “other” Jesus is not Biblical for the most part. They have given their Jesus a whole new set of values and traits that conflict sharply with the Jesus presented in the Gospels in His own words. Continue reading