Even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness you are blessed


by Mike Ratliff

12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12 (NASB)

What is Christian suffering? I doubt if most Christians in the United States have a clear understanding of real persecution for their faith that is going on daily in other parts of the world. There are dear saints dying for their faith daily in parts of the world and those of us in the U.S. believe we are being persecuted if someone passes a law or ordinance restricting their religious liberties. Well, one of the reasons Christianity is not persecuted to the extent is in other parts of the world is that the ‘visible church’ here has been compromised to a great extent. What does that mean? It means that leaders within it have made friends with the world and have invited it in. There is little separation. However, this writer contends that if anyone reading this, including myself, would actually become separate from the world and its values in their daily lives and withdraw from institutions that are ungodly and not participate in any activities that are blasphemous then that persecution that is talked about in 2 Timothy 3:12 would become a reality just as it has in China, North Korea, Pakistan, and all Muslim countries.

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But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves


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

Sanctification – deliverance from bondage


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

Sanctification – though Christians are justified and released from the law their sin nature remains


by Mike Ratliff

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 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 ESV)

When I first started this ministry those who opposed it very heavily were emergents. That was in 2006-2010 or so. To prepare for their onslaught I would listen to their “sermons” or read their articles, which was painful.  It is so interesting to listen to their reasoning for how they arrived at their theology of unbelief. Most of them were 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 the Free 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 heard Jay Bakker in one of the sermon reviews I listened to say 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

Sanctification – triumph of grace over the power of sin


by Mike Ratliff

1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Romans 6:1-2 (NASB)

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? Romans 6:15-16 (NASB) 

As I stated in yesterday’s post, if the Gospel is preached correctly, that is, with justification by faith alone being central with absolutely no merit or work by the believer having any bearing on it, then the two rhetorical questions Paul raised in the two passages above should be on the forefront of the minds of all hearing it. Justification by faith as a gift from God, not by our doing in any part (Ephesians 2:8,9) leaves us open bare before God. We have no religiosity to hide behind. We have no steps to perform. We have no decisional thing we can perform that we can point back to that is our lynchpin that is our point of “our decision for Christ.” No, Justification as Paul preached it is foreign to all of that. So where does all that come from? It comes in from people confusing their justification with their sanctification in many cases.  Continue reading

Justification by faith – the blessings of righteousness


by Mike Ratliff

22 Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness. 23 Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, 24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification. Romans 4:22-25 (NASB) 

We have completed Paul’s case that God justifies sinners on the basis of faith alone. In the passage above (Romans 4:22-25) we have his concluding remarks to that part of his dissertation. He has made it clear that those truly in Christ did not get there according to merit or works, but on the basis of faith alone, but now we begin the section of Romans that if not taken in context can cause much confusion. I will not move quickly through it. I have found it amazing to study God’s Word in context as we are doing and come across a passage that has been used by “proof texters” to teach a pet theology, but when kept in its proper context, it does no such thing. Carefully read again the passage I placed at the top of this post then read the passage below because, as you will see, it begins with the word “therefore.”  Continue reading

Justification by faith – Abraham’s example


by Mike Ratliff

27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.
31 Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law. Romans 3:27-31 (NASB) 

In our last post we ended with the passage above in which Paul makes it very clear that genuine salvation is by the law of faith not by a law of works. In v28 he says, “ For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.Justification is by faith alone and does not depend at all on doing any works of the law. In vv29,30 he tells us that since God is the Lord of all, whether Jews or Gentiles, there can only be one way of justification, which is by faith alone. What does it mean that believers uphold the law rather than overthrow it by our faith? Justification by faith alone does not denigrate the law, but, instead, underscores its true importance by providing a payment for the penalty of death, which the law required for failing to keep it; by fulfilling the law’s original purpose, which is to serve as a tutor to show mankind’s utter inability to obey God’s righteous demands and to drive people to Christ (Galatians 3:24); and by giving believers the capacity to obey it (Romans 8:3,4). Then Paul moves into the obvious objection to these arguments by using the Old Testament Patriarch Abraham whom God declared righteous in Genesis 15:6.  Continue reading

Unbelief and Its Consequences


by Mike Ratliff

9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written,
“There is none righteous, not even one;
11 There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood,
16 Destruction and misery are in their paths,
17 And the path of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Romans 3:9-18 (NASB) 

In yesterday’s post, For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “ But the righteous man shall live by faith”, we looked at Romans 1:15-17, which gives us Paul’s theme for this Epistle. which is The Gospel of the Righteousness of God. My intent for this post is to cover a lot of ground, Romans 1:18-3:20. Why? Remember my brethren, Paul didn’t write Romans with chapters and verses. In any case, that section of Romans is what Paul uses to build his case against all mankind in that they are born dead in trespasses and sin without exception. God is Holy, Righteous, and Just and there is not anything any person can do to become justified or declared righteous on their own merit. No, there must be another solution that does not compromise God’s perfect Righteousness. In any case, in this post we will look at the airtight case Paul builds against all mankind that shows the utter wretchedness of the natural man. Continue reading

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “ But the righteous man shall live by faith.”


by Mike Ratliff

1 I will stand on my guard post
And station myself on the rampart;
And I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me,
And how I may reply when I am reproved.
2 Then the Lord answered me and said,
“Record the vision
And inscribe it on tablets,
That the one who reads it may run.
3 “For the vision is yet for the appointed time;
It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
For it will certainly come, it will not delay.
4 “Behold, as for the proud one,
His soul is not right within him;
But the righteous will live by his faith. Habakkuk 2:1-4 (NASB) 

Just a few days ago I had a conversation with a young man who was interested in talking to me about my camera gear and how I approached all that went into setting it up and what I used in certain situations, et cetera. We were at a gym where I was taking pictures of children as they celebrated a birthday party. I had one camera on a tripod that I was using to shoot video and the other one I held with a flash that I was using to take facial shots. In any case, I asked him which kids were his and he pointed them out to me and I recognized one of them and so we talked about all sorts of things and eventually I asked him where he went to church. I was very surprised by his response. He just gave me a nervous grin and said he could not find a church that suited him. In Oklahoma that’s unusual. I understand someone saying that in place like Kansas City, but here there are churches everywhere. He then told me that all the churches that I mentioned as possibilities for him were too judgmental. That’s when I decided to ask him what his church background was. He said he grew up Catholic, but he was not real religious. We quit talking about church after that because I got too busy with my photoshoot. What do you think he meant by all those churches I mentioned as possibilities for him and his family being too judgmental? I had to think on that for awhile. Continue reading

It is the ungodly whom God justifies


by Mike Ratliff

1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven,
And whose sins have been covered.
8 “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.” Romans 4:1-8 (NASB) 

I was in a discussion once where the person with whom I was conversing was very upset because he felt that when we raise the standard high in our churches that it can be very discouraging to those who are not as spiritually mature as others. He believed that churches need to be more easy going and less demanding. He also believed that all we have been saying against seeker-sensitive church models, for instance, is unfair because in those churches those who may not be very mature can feel comfortable and welcome. My heart broke while reading his comments because I understood exactly what he was talking about and I began to see that there is another group of Christians out there that are drawn to churches that are not so demanding on doctrinal issues as in a typical Reformed church. They are the ones who feel that they will never measure up. They feel inadequate to the apparent “Holiness” seen in the more mature members in those churches. Continue reading

Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight


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 held 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. 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.

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Christian good works are by the grace of God


by Mike Ratliff

10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 1 Corinthians 15:10 (NASB) 

There are two extremes that Christians must avoid at all costs. The first is over confidence in one’s own ability, which is pride in its positive form. This causes believers to rely on their own abilities to do “good works.” The other extreme is to become paralyzed into inactivity because of pride working in its negative form. It tries to resemble humility by proclaiming things such as, “I’m not sanctified enough to do that sort of work.” Both are attitudes of pride and are in rebellion against God.

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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) 

Human reason is nothing more than worldly wisdom which is useless for anyone to rely on in order to be saved. On the other hand, 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

Do not be afraid of those killing the body, but are unable to kill the soul


by Mike Ratliff

 8 καὶ μὴ φοβεῖσθε ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποκτεννόντων τὸ σῶμα, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν μὴ δυναμένων ἀποκτεῖναι· φοβεῖσθε δὲ μᾶλλον τὸν δυνάμενον καὶ ψυχὴν καὶ σῶμα ἀπολέσαι ἐν γεέννῃ. Matthew 10:28 (NA28)

8 And do not be afraid of those killing the body, but are unable to kill the soul, but fear instead the one who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In this post we will look at Matthew 10:16-33 which is part of our Lord’s instructions to His disciples as He prepared them for what was coming when they were eventually sent on their worldwide mission to the Gentiles. They had to understand that persecution would inevitably accompany their mission wherever God sent them. Continue reading