Correct doctrine conforms to godliness and is a means of great contentment, but false doctrines do neither


by Mike Ratliff

1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NASB) 

Life is a continual hunt or search for circumstances that will result in contentment. That is the focus for the natural man. When societal norms become relaxed from the “bonds” that restrict certain forms of self-expression” we witness rising levels of aberrant behavior that are simply attempts by seekers of this “contentment” to find, experience, and practice them hoping to finally reach some level of passion or peace or whatever that will last and leave them in that “contented” state. We see this in Christianity as well. What we understand as Orthodox Christianity is not very satisfying to the unregenerate. However, religiosity is an integral part of the human makeup, therefore, with this volatile combination, we witness increasing levels of bizarre forms of “Christianity” as those desperately seeking what “satisfies” go after the “feelings” as they vainly try to fill that hole in their soul that demands fulfillment. Continue reading

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me


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. 14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction. Philippians 4:12-14 (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 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

Spiritual growth comes through humility under the lash


by Mike Ratliff

9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:9-10 (NASB) 

There is a form of Christianity prevalent in post-modern America that has an incredible hold on some people to the point their conception of God is that He is little more than a vending machine or a kindly grandfather who would never hurt anyone. I speak, of course, of all forms of Christianity that are man-based. Man-based “Christianity” that looks at God this way is held by people who have no patience for theology. Instead, they rely on their own conception of God based within the limits of their ability to reason. For instance, their conception of God is that He is too good to be unfair. Then, of course, their conception of what is fair and unfair enters into their reasoning. The end result is that, since God does not seem to come through the same for all people, then the problem must be with the people themselves. If one person is not healed while some are then those who are not healed must not have enough faith because God is fair and would not leave anyone in sickness while healing others. Continue reading

Timidity and boldness


by Mike Ratliff

7 For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 (NASB) 

I remember a preacher who filled in for our Pastor one Sunday for some reason. I was about 15 or so at the time. He was an older gentleman with a big booming voice and a head full of white hair. He was so different from our preacher that I actually listened to what he said. I believe that the person from the Bible he was talking about was Isaac. I remember him commenting on the fact that he was timid or shy or fearful. In my mind I thought of that person as shy or bashful by the way he described him. Then he said something I will never forget. He said, “Folks, timidity is not of God.” He then preached a sermon on how God calls His people to be bold and to fear not. Those who are fearful are those of little faith who make decisions that reflect their fear instead of reflecting a trust of God through their faith. He said that those who walk in fear and timidity are actually not in obedience to God and are therefore operating from pride. Their fear was the product of their pride as it did all it could do to protect self. However, those who walk in boldness are the truly humble believers because they lay aside self-protection while obeying God for His glory. Continue reading

Love of the world


by Mike Ratliff

1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)

One of the markers of Christian genuineness is separation from the World. This isn’t a physical removal from planet Earth or a disintegration of the body of a Christian. A genuine Christian’s character should be in a continual upgrade unto Christlikeness. That means that as he or she cooperates with God in their sanctification, working out their salvation with fear and trembling, their character will take on more and more of Christ’s character. They will love what He loves and hate what he hates. God is love, but He hates a certain type of love. Continue reading

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

19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 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 10:19-22 (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 to 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

If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all 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) 

God’s truth is knowable. Also, His truth is as His attributes and character. He is immutable. His truth is never changing. He is Holy. His truth is Holy, separate from the corruption of the world. His truth, the Word of God, is precise. It supernaturally divides man’s “truth” and understanding from God’s genuine truth. It is sharper than a two edged sword. Continue reading

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

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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Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself


by Mike Ratliff

14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:14-18 (NASB) 

The passage I placed at the beginning of this article is one the most abused and misunderstood passages that I know of. If it is read casually, it can be easily misunderstood. If it is exposited by someone possessing a faulty hermeneutic, it can be twisted to say what no other part of the Bible teaches, that faith plus works is required for salvation. Continue reading

Growth in Christian virtue


by Mike Ratliff

1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 2 Peter 1:1-4 (NASB) 

Is it possible to know whether we are genuine partakers of the divine nature and not simply religious converts? Let us look at the Apostle Peter’s understanding of this. If anyone would understand that our own efforts to please God are a total waste of time, Peter would be the man. He declared to our Lord on the night of His arrest that he would rather die with Him than desert Him. However, we all know that Peter not only deserted our Lord that night, he denied Him three times. From that failure and his later restoration by our Lord after He was resurrected, we know that we cannot please God with our own efforts. Any work that we do that is outside of His Grace is just works of the flesh and totally worthless. Continue reading

Purging the old man


by Mike Ratliff

17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Ephesians 4:17-24 (NASB) 

God allowed me to teach in church this morning. It was the pastor’s class. There are 4 teachers and they rotate. One of the four had to be out of town so I was asked to fill in for him. We are working our way through Romans. When my turn came it was time to cover Chapter 12. I was asked to do this a week ago so I guess you know now why so many of my posts lately have been about what it means for Christians to be a living sacrifice acceptable to God which is our reasonable service. However, this morning we covered vv1-21. This is first time I have stood in front of a group in church to teach since 2013. I have led our small group Bible studies when we have met in our home, but that is not the same thing, at least not for me. I knew all the elders in the class and there were several people I knew and have known since the 1980’s, but there were also several people I did not know. I spent a great deal of time preparing for this class both in the Word and in prayer.

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