Grow in Grace


by Mike Ratliff

17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:17-18 (NASB) 

I have been praying a lot lately for healing not just for this nasty head cold I picked up just before Christmas, but also for my wife’s healing after her shoulder surgery which really put her into a very painful condition with the use of only one arm. The surgery was about a week before Christmas. I was preparing to leave work as my retirement date approached and suddenly both of us were smacked with these things, but we were still expected to participate in family Christmas events. She cannot even lie down to sleep. I wake up at night every couple of hours not being able to breath. Our enemy has really been working on me trying to get me to despair. Here we are now with no job and seemingly at the mercy of Medicare and the V.A. Then I was contacted by my sister who told me that my brother has Covid and is in the hospital. He is on oxygen and not doing well and his wife has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Do we despair? No! Why? We have the throne of grace and prayer. Continue reading

Talkative


by Mike Ratliff

One of my favorite books is The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. This book was published in 1678 after Bunyan had been in prison from 1661 to 1672 then again for six months in 1677. He worked on the manuscript for The Pilgrim’s Progress during the second half of his first imprisonment and finished it during his second imprisonment. Why was he in jail? He was a non-conformist Baptist preacher. He would not submit to the Church of England. He could have been freed after the first three months of his first imprisonment if he would agree to stop preaching. However, he would not do so.

This book has had a huge impact on Christians all over the world. It has been in print constantly since it was first published. It’s success and impact are directly related to the suffering of Bunyan, which leaks through every page of this book. His suffering authenticates the message. Continue reading

They go from strength to strength


by Mike Ratliff

4 Blessed are they that dwell in thy house:
they will be still praising thee. Selah.
5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee;
in whose heart are the ways of them.
6 Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well;
the rain also filleth the pools.
7 They go from strength to strength,
every one of them in Zion appeareth before God. Psalms 84:4-7 (KJV) 

As many of you know, I turned 70 this last October. As my wife and I enter this decade of our 70’s together we are discovering that there is indeed many things unanticipated about our health that neither of us saw coming. However, the most frustrating thing for both of us is how difficult it is for us to deal with the bureaucracy of health care. We both know others in our age group who have worse health problems than us and also many older than us who really would need assistance trying to understand the maze of rules, regulations, and other pressures put on us that I for one never saw my parents having to deal with until they both were in their 80’s and had to be housed in an assisted living center because they could no longer take care of themselves. We are a long way from that, but honestly, the healthcare jungle for people in our age group is treacherous and has over that last several months elevated my anxiety way beyond anything I have been dealing with at work. As I was putting that post together last night about worship I was actually worshipping our Lord as I did so and while I did I knew I had to write something about how we deal with these health and healthcare issues and other pressures that God is using as tests and trials so that we come to Him for our strength. It is through this going from strength to strength that my faith not only remains strong, but I continue to mature as a disciple of Christ. Continue reading

Efficacious Faith vs. Man-made Faith


by Mike Ratliff

13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14 (NASB) 

Efficacious adj. producing the desired effect – from The Oxford New Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus Third Edition.

Christian faith has appeared to many an easy thing; nay, not a few even reckon it among the social virtues, as it were; and this they do because they have not made proof of it experimentally, and have never tasted of what efficacy it is. For it is not possible for any man to write well about it, or to understand well what is rightly written, who has not at some time tasted of its spirit, under the pressure of tribulation; while he who has tasted of it, even to a very small extent, can never write, speak, think, or hear about it sufficiently. For it is a living fountain, springing up into eternal life, as Christ calls it in John iv.1

Saving or efficacious faith is not the same thing as the best faith man can muster through the exercise of the will. According to our Lord Jesus in John 4:13-14 (above), efficacious faith is that which is given to the believer by God and this same faith will become in the believer a spring of water welling up to eternal life. This is not belief that is the product of reason or intellectual assent. It is not a belief that the believer must generate and desperately hold onto lest it be diminished and be lost. In the excerpt from Martin Luther’s letter to Pope Leo X, Concerning Christian Liberty, we read that those who conceive of faith as something done by the believer count it as simply a social virtue and that is an easy thing. Luther says that those with this concept of faith believe as they do because they have not experienced efficacious faith and have never tasted the great strength there is in it. I contend that the purveyors of the Seeker-Sensitive, NAR, and WOKE forms of “Christianity” are of the same sort of faith Luther is contrasting in this letter with genuine believers who are so because they have drunk of the water given to them by the Lord that has become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. These of the New Type of Christianity have a faith consisting of works-righteousness. This is a man-made faith not the efficacious faith that is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:1-10).  Continue reading

To whom be glory for ever


by Mike Ratliff

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? 35 Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:33-36 (NASB)

All of the mature Christians I have known were not focused in any way on themselves except where it came to self-examination, repentance, prayer and service. We all have to live in this sin soaked, evil world, which God uses as part of our sanctification so that means we must not do what the monks do, that is, escape from the world in an attempt to earn God’s favor through asceticism. No, we are to be in the world, but be not part of it.

13 But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. John 17:13-19 (NASB) 

So, our Lord clearly tells us that we are actually “sent into the world,” however if we are in Him then we have already been spiritually removed from it though we are physically still here. Therefore, our focus as believers needs to be eternal rather than temporal. We need to take our Lord’s command on how to pray.

9 “Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’] Matthew 6:9-13 (NASB) 

Carefully read v10. That is a prayer about God’s sovereignty. It places it and His kingdom above all our needs. We put Him and His kingdom first and our needs will be met, but more importantly, we will be used by Him in the furtherance of His kingdom. Continue reading

Do I really love the Lord?


by Mike Ratliff

37 ὁ δὲ ἔφη αὐτῷ· ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ καρδίᾳ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχῇ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ διανοίᾳ σου· 38 αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ μεγάλη καὶ πρώτη ἐντολή. Matthew 22:37-38 (NA28)

37 And He said to Him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your understanding. 38 This is the great and first commandment.” Matthew 22:37-38 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In v37 (above) the word “heart” translates the Greek noun καρδίᾳ (kardia). It is from this word which, of course, is derived the medical terms such as cardiac and cardiologist. Its significance is enormous.It was used in secular Greek both in the literal and figurative sense, but the figurative was the most profound, picturing the heart as the seat of emotions and spirituality. In Homer’s time (eighth century BC) and onward, however, it took on the even more significant meaning of both spiritual and intellectual life, including man’s will and decision-making. Continue reading

Are Christians Saved by Making Decisions for Christ?


by Mike Ratliff

11 For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”
14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”
16 However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Romans 10:11-17 (NASB) 

Look at the passage at the top of this post (Romans 10:11-17). I remember memorizing v13 several years ago when I was in Evangelism Explosion training. We pulled that verse out of Romans 10 and used in part of our gospel presentations. Does this passage show us the human side of the order of salvation? Start in v15. Preachers of the Gospel must be sent. Then from v14 we see that the preachers are to preach the Gospel. Then people hear the Gospel. As they hear the Gospel they believe. Then they call on the name of the Lord and are saved. It is very important that we see that belief comes before a person calls on the name of the Lord. Now let’s compare this with another passage. Continue reading

Are All Christians Called to Be Holy?


by Mike Ratliff

33 “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
35 “ Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. 36 Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Luke 12:33-36 (NASB)

One recurring warning throughout the New Testament is that Christians should live in such a way that they will be ready when their Lord returns. What would that life look like? How should we live in order to be ready when He comes and knocks? I doubt that it would look like the self-indulgent, pop-culture oriented, heavily marketed, so-called Christian lifestyle that waters down the gospel and breeds “Christians” who are both theologically and scripturally ignorant. They follow “another Jesus” whose creators have designed to fit the image that draws the crowd they want. The “followers” of this “other Jesus” resent any call to live lives of repentance before a Holy God who is to be feared. What does the life look like that is prepared for our Lord’s return?  Continue reading

Law and Faith


By Mike Ratliff

14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Romans 6:14-15 (NASB) 

Most of the formative years of my Christian walk were spent in one church from February 1987 through February 2000.  During that time we had three pastors.  I was in some form of teaching for most of that time. One of the things that always came up when we studied the Old Testament was Romans 6:14-15. It was as if someone always had to make sure that we were not being legalistic. They cast the law as far from them and our church as the East is from the West. Is that how we are to treat God’s Law? Continue reading

Have mercy upon me, O God!


by Mike Ratliff

1 Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin. Psalms 51:1-2 (NKJV) 

One of the most abhorrent things I encounter in my walk is a professing Christian who believes they are in Christ because they deserve it. These same people will always want us to look at their works. They want us to see them in their religiosity. In the following devotional by Charles Spurgeon he uses William Carey as the example for whom we should be our model of humility. Continue reading

A Rest for the People of God


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) 

Those who insist that we are in a ‘post-evangelical era’ and must, therefore, radically alter not only how we do church in order to reach unbelieving people in our time, also insist that this must be accompanied by a toning down of one’s Christian convictions about the truth. We are told that the culture we are in now will not respond to those who are militant, aggressive, preachy, and extremely sure of their convictions. I ask, since when has pragmatism become how the Gospel works? Also, did our Lord ever elevate social justice above the Gospel? Did Jesus preach and teach pragmatically or did what He taught cause a huge division between those who believed and those who didn’t? You know the answer to these questions. He pulled no punches. The reality of His ministry was the epitome of God’s ways not being man’s ways. All we are told to do until our Lord returns is make disciples, teaching them all that He has taught us. In the meantime we are to abide in Christ, love one another, deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus. We are to be the antithesis of world and its ways, not conforming to it in how we minister. Continue reading

The Mystery of Godliness


by Mike Ratliff

14 I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; 15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. 16 By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:
He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory. 1 Timothy 3:14-16 (NASB) 

The best place for Christians to be is at the Cross, before the Savior, in complete agreement with God that without His saving Grace they would be on their way to Hell, and without His sustaining Grace they would lose all ability or desire for His godliness. In fact, Christians are in a great deal of trouble when they think otherwise. Yes, we are commanded to obey God and to seek His Holiness, but we are completely unable to obey Him in the Spirit; neither are we able to seek His Holiness unless He first gives us the Grace to do these things. In fact, if we try to do either in our own abilities, we will fail miserably and find ourselves in an impossible situation of trying to attain favor with God by our own efforts in our own ability. This is a form of legalism, which leads only to frustration and disillusionment.  Continue reading

Hearing and Doing the Word


by Mike Ratliff

22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. James 1:22 (NASB) 

The visible Church in our time has been compromised for the most part by human philosophy and has succumbed to the pressure from the world to not emphasize God’s truth as absolute. Professing Christians who discount the Word of God as absolute truth are actually placing their intellect, their beliefs, and the counsel of their own hearts above the Word of God as it relates to authority and truth. It is one thing for an atheist to denigrate Christians, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the God the Holy Spirit. That is almost expected and should not surprise us. However, when the majority of professing Christians demand the right to behave contrary to what the Word teaches about Christian behavior can God’s judgment be far behind? Continue reading

God’s Grace Draws us to Christ


by Mike Ratliff

41 Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:41-44 (NASB) 

One of the aspects of our Christian faith that we lose sight of sometimes, and it gets us in trouble when we do, is how vital it is that we remain totally amazed that we ever got saved at all. We make a huge error when we forget this because that path leads to self-righteousness, self-absorption, and an ungrateful heart towards God. Even though we may not be fully aware that we are in that place of self-focus, we cannot be Spirit-led when we are full of self. Continue reading