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

The Plumbline


by Mike Ratliff

7 Thus He showed me, and behold, the Lord was standing by a vertical wall with a plumb line in His hand. Amos 7:7 (NASB) 

In John Bunyan’s classic The Pilgrim’s Progress, the characters’ names usually define their character. For instance there is Ignorance. He refuses to believe Christian and Hopeful when they tell him that unless he goes through the narrow gate to begin his pilgrimage, he will not be allowed into the gate of the Celestial City. Then there is Talkative who equates making a fuss about one’s sin with actual repentance. Early in Christian’s pilgrimage, he comes across two other pilgrims named Formalist and Hypocrisy who come from a country called Vain-Glory. They tell Christian that the shortcut that they took to the path, bypassing the narrow gate, was necessary because it was too far to travel from Vain-Glory to it. All were revealed to be counterfeit Pilgrims and none of them made it into the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ save Christian, Hopeful and Faithful. Continue reading

The Cross is Not Proof of Our Worth But of God’s Grace


by Mike Ratliff

13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ Luke 18:13 (NASB) 

In our day it is not unusual to hear a man-centered version of the Gospel message that has everything turned around backward and is presented in such a way that is meant to appeal emotionally to unbelievers with a statement such as, “Christ’s crucifixion is proof of our worth to God!” The appeal is meant to show that if Christ was willing to go to Cross to save sinners like us then that proves we are of value to God. I have even heard one version of this that says that Jesus would have gone to that Cross even if it was for just one unrepentant sinner. Is that found anywhere in God’s Word? I have never found it. Instead, what I see clearly presented there is that all of us are undeserving sinners and even dead (Ephesians 2:1-3). Until God regenerated us, we are spiritual corpses, that is, without spiritual life. Therefore, grace that is not all grace is no grace. Grace that saves means that God has done everything; if He does not do everything, then it is not grace.  Continue reading

Joy in Trials


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 works endurance; 4 let endurance work to fulfillment, that you be mature and complete lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The word joy in my translation is the Greek noun χαρὰν, which is the Accusative, Singular of χαρά (chara), “is an antonym of grief and sorrow. It denotes ‘joy, happiness, and gladness.’” In other words, James, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is telling Christians to not grieve or be sorrowful, but to be glad and full of joy when they “fall into various trials.” The words “you fall” translates the verb περιπέσητε, which is the Aorist tense, Subjunctive mood, and Active voice of περιπίπτω (peripiptō), which is a compound of περί (peri), “properly through (all over), that is, around” and πίπτω (piptō), “fail, fall (down), light on” with the result coming to mean, “to fall into something that is all around, that is, light among or upon, be surrounded with: – fall among (into).” Doesn’t that “figuratively” describe how we so often have found ourselves in the midst of something that seems “overwhelming?” The word trials translates the noun πειρασμοῖς, which is the Dative, Plural of πειρασμός (peirasmos), “refers either to a testing or a temptation to do something wrong.” Continue reading

Drawing Near Unto God


by Mike Ratliff

7 You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:
8 ‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
9 ‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’” Matthew 15:7-9 (NASB)

What does it mean biblically to draw near to God? Obviously, the Jews our Lord confronted as Matthew recorded in the passage above were not doing so. However Hebrews 10:22 says to those who are truly born again:

22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:22 (NASB) 

Here is Hebrews 10:22 from the NA28 Greek text, “προσερχώμεθα μετὰ ἀληθινῆς καρδίας ἐν πληροφορίᾳ πίστεως ῥεραντισμένοι τὰς καρδίας ἀπὸ συνειδήσεως πονηρᾶς καὶ λελουσμένοι τὸ σῶμα ὕδατι καθαρῷ·”

The words “let us draw near” translates the verb προσερχώμεθα, which is the Present tense, Subjunctive mood, Middle voice, 1st person, plural of προσέρχομαι (proserchomai), “to approach, accede to.” This verb structure refers to continuous or repeated action, regardless of when the action took place. The subjunctive mood suggests that the action is subject so some condition and the present subjunctive can be used to give exhortation, which is exactly what the writer of Hebrews is doing here.  Continue reading

It is Finished!


by Mike Ratliff

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, *said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. 30 Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. John 19:28-30 (NASB) 

Sometimes God brings things into our lives that seem devastating. Others may also see these things in our lives and question that God even exists. They cannot conceive of a loving God who would cause or allow debilitating diseases that are always fatal into the fragile bodies of those who profess faith in the Saviour. However, I am always amazed at the deep, rock hard faith displayed by those in the center of these things, whether it is the one suffering or a close family member. As I attempt to minister to these folks, feeling 100% inadequate to do so, I am the one who is encouraged by their attitude and Christlike spirit that seeks to build me up in our Lord. It is then that I view my own walk and am ashamed.  Continue reading

Abundant Pardon


by Mike Ratliff

4 “Behold, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
A leader and commander for the peoples.
5 “Behold, you will call a nation you do not know,
And a nation which knows you not will run to you,
Because of the Lord your God, even the Holy One of Israel;
For He has glorified you.”
6 Seek the Lord while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the Lord,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 55:4-8 (NASB) 

We have been looking long and hard at the narrowness of the Gospel and how it it is not editable. It is not open to change. No matter how much a person wants it to be otherwise, it is unchangeable. It is God’s Good News to fallen man. This good news is the proclamation that there is a way, only one way, for sinful people to be reconciled to God. It is good news because all people suffer from the same condition. They are born dead in trespasses and sins and are not morally able to do anything about it. This separates all of us from God because He is Holy and must judge all sin. The Gospel declares that Jesus Christ went to the cross and became sin on our behalf. God judged our sin in Him. This “atoned” for our sins. Now let us look at the pardon available to all who believe. Continue reading

The Difference Between Justification and Sanctification


by Mike Ratliff

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Romans 8:28-30 (NASB) 

12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13 (NASB)

justify

Function: verb

Inflected Form(s): jus·ti·fied; jus·ti·fy·ing

Etymology: Middle English justifien, from Anglo-French or Late Latin; Anglo-French justifier, from Late Latin justificare, from Latin justus

Date: 14th century

transitive verb

1 a: to prove or show to be just, right, or reasonable b (1): to show to have had a sufficient legal reason (2): to qualify (oneself) as a surety by taking oath to the ownership of sufficient property

sanctify

Function: transitive verb

Inflected Form(s): sanc·ti·fied; sanc·ti·fy·ing

Etymology: Middle English seintefien, sanctifien, from Anglo-French seintefier, sanctifier, from Late Latin sanctificare, from Latin sanctus sacred — more at saint

Date:14th century

1: to set apart to a sacred purpose or to religious use : consecrate

2: to free from sin : purify

3 a: to impart or impute sacredness, inviolability, or respect to b: to give moral or social sanction to

4: to make productive of holiness or piety <observe the day of the sabbath, to sanctify it — Deuteronomy 5:12(Douay Version)>

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2008. Merriam-Webster Online. 29 May 2008

The theological climate in the Church today  has taken on the characteristics of a free-for-all. Most professing believers’ Bible knowledge is extremely shallow. On top of that we are also in a period of intellectual barbarianism which is marked by relativism. This causes the truth to be perceived as unknowable. Those holding this form of thinking refuse to believe that there is such a thing as absolute truth. In this intellectual climate it is little wonder that false prophets and false teachers can lead so many astray simply by saying what people want to hear.  Continue reading

The Christian’s Incompatibility With Sin


by Mike Ratliff

1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 1 John 3:1-3 (NASB) 

It is imperative that Christians have a correct and viable theology of suffering. These health, wealth, and prosperity preachers in our time will disagree of course, but let them. We have God’s Truth, His Word, held in objective context up against their subjective, ear-tickling smoke and mirrors false religion. Oh, there may indeed be some “spirituality” going on in there, but to proclaim, “God is here!” or “God is in this!” or “We are having a Revival, come and join us!” is the very act of man elevating himself above God, telling Him what to do and when. However, I digress; God has always used suffering in the lives of His people to sanctify them, to draw them to prayer, to purify them, to grow them spiritually, and to direct their paths. I am convinced that this Covid-19 Pandemic and how it is affecting all our lives is being used by God to do that very thing. Paul called some of his suffering a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan (2 Corinthians 12), but allowed by God to keep him from exalting himself because of his great knowledge. When we learn to view the seriousness of our sin as Paul did and God’s glory as imperative then we will begin to understand that sin in the life of a Christian is an anathema in a realistic, daily sense rather than in some sort of abstract give and take.  Continue reading

Persevering Grace


by Mike Ratliff

24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. John 5:24 (NASB) 

As one who adheres to the Doctrines of Grace, I believe firmly in the what is referred to as “the security of the believer.” Our confessions refer to it as the Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints. R.C. Sproul liked to use the term “Persevering Grace” instead because he believed it put the emphasis on God and His grace preserving His saints rather than His saints working to be preserved.

Continue reading

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

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

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

The Letter of Paul to the Philippians Chapter 4


by Mike Ratliff

12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:12-13 (NASB) 

The enemy of our souls, Satan, does not attack believers in such a way that we should recognize him as being who he is. Instead, he comes disguised as the voice behind the theologian from the best seminary who may be the leader with a huge church empire and also be the author of many best-selling books. How does he attack what we call the Orthodox Christian faith? You know, the preaching of the gospel, the weekly opening of the Word of God, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper, et cetera. He attacks that by putting people in place that both insist on and those who promise to deliver “more.” You know, taking emphasis away from all that stuff above and giving people “what they really want!” Sometimes the leaders doing this think this is what the people really want, but it is not. That is when the sheep go to their pastors and ask to be fed rather than be entertained. What happens most of the time nowadays when that takes place?  Continue reading