Great is the mystery of godliness


by Mike Ratliff

14 These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; 15 but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory. 1 Timothy 3:14-16 (NKJV) 

The best place for a Christian to be is at the Cross, before the Saviour, in complete agreement with God that without His saving Grace he or she would be on their way to Hell, and without His sustaining Grace he or she 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; neither are we able to seek His Holiness unless He first gives us the Grace to do these things in the Spirit. In fact, if we try to do either in our own abilities, i.e. according to the flesh, 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

But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us


by Mike Ratliff

4 ὁ δὲ θεὸς πλούσιος ὢν ἐν ἐλέει, διὰ τὴν πολλὴν ἀγάπην αὐτοῦ ἣν ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς, 5 καὶ ὄντας ἡμᾶς νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτώμασιν συνεζωοποίησεν τῷ Χριστῷ , — χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι — 6 καὶ συνήγειρεν καὶ συνεκάθισεν ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, 7 ἵνα ἐνδείξηται ἐν τοῖς αἰῶσιν τοῖς ἐπερχομένοις τὸ ὑπερβάλλον πλοῦτος τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ ἐν χρηστότητι ἐφʼ ἡμᾶς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. Ephesians 2:4-7 (NA28)

4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in the trespasses, he made us alive with Christ — by grace you have been saved — 6 and he raised us with him and seated us with him in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus 7 that he might display in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of his grace in his kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-7 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In this post we will focus on our wonderful God with worshipful, grateful hearts. Back several years ago when I was confronted with Reformation Theology, I was amazed that the passages that the Holy Spirit used to “nail it” firmly in my heart were not only those that best lined up with the Bible in all areas of reformed doctrine, but were also many if not all of the same passages that I had taught from, memorized in Evangelism Explosion training, and read every day during my devotions. They were all very dear to me because they spoke of the saving work of God on my behalf. Of course, I must confess, I was never a “theological Arminian,” just a default one since that is what most SBC churches teach. It was as this confrontation took place over each point of doctrine I was amazed that in every case it really came down to whether our salvation is work of cooperation between us and God (Synergism) or if it is all of God (Monergism). It was as I did some serious study on the Sovereignty of God throughout the Bible that the last thread of synergism I held on to finally broke away.  Continue reading

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen


by Mike Ratliff

1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.
3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. Hebrews 11:1-3 (NKJV) 

A friend once, a few years ago, sent me a link to a webpage that contained Purpose Driven devotionals. He wanted me to read one specifically and address it at that time, which I did. The devotion was titled, “Faith: Doing Exactly What Jesus Says to Do.” Let that title sink in for a bit. The devotion never wavered from that theme. My brethren, that is not a biblical definition of faith. On the other hand it is a description of one who is faithful and obedient. In fact, the focus of that devotion led one to believe that our faith is “works based.” This is rampant in our time my brethren. There is a huge push in our churches for people to have the right world view, the right value system, the right diet and workout plan, the right way to raise their kids, their right way to manage their finances and the right way to be faithful in church and that makes them right with God. Again, wait a moment and let all that sink in for a bit and do a self check. Are you attempting to become righteous in God’s eyes by producing your own faith by doing those things because that is what I just described. Doing those things makes a person right in one’s own eyes and, therefore, dependant upon one’s own righteousness not the righteousness of Christ. All of that is stuff any of us can do, but I assure you that the salvation that those truly in Christ have is something bought at a price that none of us could pay because the debt was far more than most of us realize. What is true faith if isn’t what the Purpose Driven folks say it is?  Continue reading

Preaching the Gospel vs being Missional


by Mike Ratliff

2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?
5 Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. Galatians 3:2-7 (NKJV) 

When we study and teach on Justification by God of His people, shouldn’t the clutter be removed and the rubbish swept away? All aspects of our salvation should be clarified and those things that are only meant to cause confusion or misdirection (showing those with discernment their true source) should be shown for what they really are and cast aside. Then, with a sharp focus, we must look at the truth, which means we go to the source; i.e. The Word of God not some emergent or missional guru. Therefore, in this post we will look at part of Romans 10, in which the Apostle Paul, showing that God has provided a way to justification in His eyes to both Jews and Gentiles, further nails down from where salvation comes, who possesses it, and how they got it. What could be more important than that?

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Justification and its fruits


by Mike Ratliff

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29 (NKJV) 

In my younger days when I was working on my undergraduate degree, I had a professor who used to work in a major manufacturing company in the US. He used his experiences there in analogies pertaining to the management topics we were studying. He used one of his former co-workers there as an example, a bad example, as he taught us how we should work together toward our common goals, et cetera. This fellow’s nickname at that company was ‘Yeah-but.’ He told us that it never failed that in meetings when someone had a solution to an issue or a concept of a better way to do things, this fellow would always interrupt and start his diatribe against it with the words, “Yeah, but…!” In the many years this blog has been online I have had many encounters with “religious yeah-buts.” Most of those had to do with posts on our Justification by faith alone. Their responses usually went something like this,  “Yeah, but what about those sins you have committed since God saved you?” It did not matter how I replied to them, they were convinced that, yes they were saved by grace through faith, but it was their obedience, et cetera, that kept them there. If they sinned, they lost their salvation and had to be re-justified I suppose. Is this “justification restart” biblical?  Continue reading

The Doctrine of Original Sin and the Wrath 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. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:1-5 (NKJV) 

Those who have a problem with the Doctrine of Original Sin and the Wrath of God against all sin attempt to paint the God of Reformation Theology as some sort of ogre full of anger with very little love manifest except in the case of a chosen few. In their examples of how God operates in saving people, sin is never the issue. They portray God as loving everyone to the maximum even if their sin amounted to open rebellion against Him on their part. In their theology He just looks the other way and attempts to save everyone, but the point of contention is that the God in their example is unable to save anyone. The salvation of people is only made a possibility with those actually being saved being those who hear the Gospel and respond by exercising their sovereign Free Will. On the other hand, the God of the Bible is not anything like this. He is Sovereign. He saves those whom He has elected or chosen unto eternal life. No one limits Him in any way. Man’s will is in no way a barrier to God fulfilling His Will. From these two vastly different understandings of theology comes two very different understandings of sin.  Let’s look at a biblical view of sin and I invite you to compare your own understanding of it to what we unpack here. If your’s is different, I suggest to you that the Bible is not in error.  Continue reading

Believers’ Faithfulness vs Religion


by Mike Ratliff

28 And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him. 1 John 2:28-29 (NKJV) 

All who are truly in Christ must admit that this walk is fraught with doubt as well as pressure to conform to a form of godliness that has no power to conform them to the expected standards of doing church, as well as to live up to the idea that this lost and dying world has what a Christian must be. As many of you know, I grew up as a Southern Baptist. While I am grateful for the deep Bible knowledge that I gained through being in Church every Sunday, I have also learned that much of the focus of organized religion is geared more to creating religious faithfulness rather than to disciple believers to abide in Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Continue reading

The Cross is proof of God’s grace


by Mike Ratliff

13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ Luke 18:13 (NKJV) 

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 the 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

There are only two groups of people in the world; there are Christians, the elect, and everyone else


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. No, that is what the Emergents 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 word πίστις, which is transliterated as 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, πιστις, so that we can see very clearly what marks the true believer from the false professor. Continue reading

God is our Sovereign Lord


by Mike Ratliff

19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20 for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 21 When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened; 22 for the man was more than forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.
23 When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said,
‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
And the peoples devise futile things?
26 ‘The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the Lord and against His Christ.’
27 For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. Acts 4:19-28 (NASB)

When we make statements like, “God is sovereign.” we sometimes include a qualifier in that statement like this, “God is sovereign over ‘something.” That is a fallacious statement though meant well. God is sovereign. There is no need to add any qualifier to that statement. I have heard many well meaning people say, “God is sovereign over salvation.” Well, He is, but He is also sovereign over all of creation. There is nothing over which He is not sovereign.
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Redeeming your time because the days evil


by Mike Ratliff

12 So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalms 90:12 (NKJV) 

It seemed that the moment I posted Walking Circumspectly that the pressure came to bear upon me from nearly every direction in an effort to distract me from doing that very thing. To walk circumspectly is to walk in light of the gifts of wisdom and discernment from God. However, we all have people and circumstances in our lives that are the sources of fiery tests and trials that are allowed by God to buffet us so that we will see clearly our dire need of His grace and cause us to draw closer to Him in repentance. Lay on top of that circumstances that are clear affronts to our concepts of what is “fair” and “right” and given no recourse then our emotions can certainly take over. As I reflected on these things before I prayed and sought God’s will for this post I actually “felt” completely unworthy to do this. How can I teach from God’s Word when I have been struggling so much with my own battles over these very things?  Continue reading

Joy within 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 (above) is the Greek noun χαρὰν, which is the Accusative, Singular of χαρά or 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 or peripiptō, which is a compound of περί or peri, “properly through (all over), that is, around” and πίπτω or 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 or peirasmos, “refers either to a testing or a temptation to do something wrong.” Continue reading

The Law of the Spirit


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 (NASB) 

In this post we will look at Paul’s “therefore” he placed in the passage above. In other words, in Romans 8:1 Paul begins an important summary and conclusion which is related to his preceding arguments. We normally find that argument in the passages directly preceding the “therefore.” However, this “therefore” introduces the staggering results of all Paul’s teachings in the first seven chapters of Romans, which would include justification by faith alone on the basis of God’s overwhelming grace.  Continue reading

Though the Justified are Released From the Law The Sin Nature Remains


by Mike Ratliff

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:20-23 (NASB) 

For the several years of this ministry I did almost daily battle against the emergent movement. That meant I had to know what they were “all about.” To do that I had to listen to their sermons and read their articles and whatever else I could get my hands on. To this day I am still amazed at their reasoning for how they arrived at their theology of unbelief. Most of them are confessed refugees from some form of pietistic or American Evangelicalism that leaned heavily towards semi-pelagianism and legalism. That mix in whatever proportions is intellectually veneer thin. When the leadership within those groups move at all away from being centered on God’s Word and His grace then all that is left is the legalism that only leads those in unbelief to despair for without the preaching of the Good News according to Grace of God, all that is left is simply manmade religiosity. These emergents who fled from that now look at all who they view as dogmatic in any way about their theology as simply “fundamentalist” even though there is a vast difference between what we preach and teach from what they fled from. I have always resisted that label of “fundamentalist” for that very reason. No, I am most definitely not a Christian liberal like the emergents, but neither am I mired in spiritually dead legalism. No, I work very hard at being Biblically centered. That means that it is God’s Word, which He gave us that gives us the hard answers and God’s very doctrines, which we must learn and follow. However, as we have been learning, this is not in any way legalism, but is only possible for those who have been baptized into Christ by God. They have the Holy Spirit and by God’s grace they can obey Him and live for Him. They believe and obey God. I remember hearing one emergent sermon where the speaker said that the only way to grow spiritually is to get rid of belief and move into doubt. So, the theology of the “emergent church” is actually founded on the sand of unbelief. These emergents are refugees from bad theological systems, which they fled from in despair, but have created something that is probably just as bad, if not worse. In the latter part of Romans 7 Paul gives a window of what this despair can look like. We will look at that and what the right solution is to it.  Continue reading