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.

Continue reading

The Believer’s Supreme Act of Spiritual Worship


by Mike Ratliff

1 Παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ παραστῆσαι τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν θυσίαν ζῶσαν ἁγίαν εὐάρεστον τῷ θεῷ, τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν ὑμῶν· 2 καὶ μὴ συσχηματίζεσθε τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, ἀλλὰ μεταμορφοῦσθε τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοὸς εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τί τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ εὐάρεστον καὶ τέλειον. Romans 12:1-2 (NA28)

1 Therefore, I urge you brothers through the compassions of God to present your bodies as living, holy sacrifices, well pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service. 2 And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may discern the will of God, that which is good and well pleasing and perfect.Romans 12:1-2 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The vast majority of people in this age of Evangelical churches are by-and-large spiritually immature, Biblically ignorant, and self-centered, therefore, these people are also no threat to our enemy and his kingdom because they fall for every wind of doctrine, are prey to the wolves who have invaded the church at every level and they believe the lies such as, “God wants all of you to be rich and healthy and to have your best life now.” There are also the lies subverting the Gospel to make it into a social gospel all about “social justice” or making the world a better place. I could fill this post up with examples of these and countless other subversions that derail God’s people and move them to be focused on the temporal rather than on the eternal. Those who are suffering under these delusions are self-focused rather than God-focused. Continue reading

Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble


by Mike Ratliff

5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:5-7 (NASB) 

Humility was not considered a virtue in the ancient world any more than it is in our day and time. Oh, it is given lip service here and there, but what I have seen get the most attention from people is arrogance that is rooted in pride. When this is rampant in the world it is understandable, but when so-called Christian leaders become so puffed up with their own importance that they refuse to listen to any constructive criticism whatsoever nor will they change the course of their ministries in case they may damage their public image, well, those are men living according to the flesh not in the Spirit. The imperative in the passage above is not just for leaders. It is for all of us. We know this since it is in the context of being subject to our elders. Let’s look at it a bit closer. Continue reading

Living for God’s glory


by Mike Ratliff

8 “I am the Lord, that is My name;
I will not give My glory to another,
Nor My praise to graven images. Isaiah 42:8 (NASB) 

3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the Lord spoke, saying,
‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy,
And before all the people I will be honored.’”
So Aaron, therefore, kept silent. Leviticus 10:3 (NASB) 

God is far more serious about His glory than anyone else. Does it feel wrong to you that our God demands that we be humble before Him while also demanding that His creation exist solely to glorify Him? (Isaiah 43:7; Colossians 1:10; 2 Timothy 2:4; John 8:29; Romans 8:8; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; Ephesians 4:1; 2 Corinthians 5:9) If that concept rankles within your soul then it is imperative for you do some self-examination. Don’t feel too bad about that because all of us who are in Christ are in the process of becoming conformed unto the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:29-30; Philippians 2:12-13) That process is called sanctification. (Romans 6:19-23; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Thessalonians 4:3;1 Peter 1:2) Continue reading

The righteous will live by faith


by Mike Ratliff

16 Οὐ γὰρ ἐπαισχύνομαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, δύναμις γὰρ θεοῦ ἐστιν εἰς σωτηρίαν παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι, Ἰουδαίῳ τε πρῶτον καὶ Ἕλληνι. 17 δικαιοσύνη γὰρ θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ ἀποκαλύπτεται ἐκ πίστεως εἰς πίστιν, καθὼς γέγραπται· ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται. Romans 1:16-17 (NA28)

16 For I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone believing, both to Jew first and to Greek. 17 For the righteousness of God is revealed in it from faith to faith as it has been written, “But the righteous man will live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

After Saul the Pharisee was knocked off his horse on his way to persecute Christians, blinded by the power of God, and saved becoming the Apostle Paul (Acts 9:1-9), a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ in Damascus named Ananias was sent to lay hands on a “man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying” (Acts 9:11). When Ananias expressed fear and doubt, knowing whom Saul was, our Lord said, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:15-16).  Continue reading

The cost of sin


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 came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:1-5 (NASB) 

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 and even if their sin amounted 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 to 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

God’s disipline


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)

Last night I posted a short piece titled Be Anxious for Nothing which is about how Christians are not immune from suffering, but are called to not be anxious about anything since God is Sovereign and is using our tests and trials for His own purposes. Also, our main weapon in this battle is prayer. After I posted it I received several emails and some comments from readers requesting prayer and thanking me for that post. I take no credit for that. I wrote it as one of you since I am going through pretty much the same trials and tribulations as the rest of the Body of Christ. In this post we will look at another aspect of Christian suffering. What do I mean? I keep hearing certain “New Evangelism” types say things on Christian radio and other places that really raises red flags in my heart. They say things like, “God loves you just the way you are!” Or something like, “You are unique, God made you like no one else, quit feeling inferior, you are one of God’s favorites, so start acting like it.” You get the idea. These same people are the ones whose “god” just loves everyone and would do nothing to hurt anyone nor judge anyone’s sin. Continue reading

But love your enemies


by Mike Ratliff

35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:35-36 (NASB) 

Probably the command from our Lord that is the most difficult for us to obey is found in Luke 6:35 (above). That is, it is hard or difficult if we are full of pride and are self-focused. However, as the master vinedresser prunes us as we abide in the True Vine and the refiner burns away the fleshly dross from us in the refiner’s fire, we will be humbled as we surrender to the potter, as the clay should. This humbling is what is required for Christlikeness to become manifest in and through us. Why? If we are being driven by pride then we will be self-focused and operate as if we are the center of our universe, much like a new-born or toddler. However, the humble believer is one who has given that up as something that hinders their walk with the Lord. He or she sees the things of this world, the very things the world runs after, as nothing but dung in comparison to what they have in Christ. He becomes their all-in-all. Their love for Him spills over into all parts of their lives and for the Saviour’s sake they love their enemies and are merciful to all just as He was and is. Our Lord demonstrates the epitome of this as He was crucified.  Continue reading

God-pleasing sacrifices


by Mike Ratliff

1 Παρακαλῶοὖν ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰτῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦθεοῦπαραστῆσαι τὰσώματα ὑμῶν θυσίαν ζῶσαν ἁγίαν εὐάρεστον τῷθεῷ, τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν ὑμῶν· 2 καὶ μὴσυσχηματίζεσθε τῷαἰῶνι τούτῳ, ἀλλὰμεταμορφοῦσθε τῇἀνακαινώσει τοῦνοὸς εἰς τὸδοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τίτὸθέλημα τοῦθεοῦ, τὸἀγαθὸν καὶεὐάρεστον καὶτέλειον. Romans 12:1-2 (NA28)

1 Therefore, I urge you brothers through the compassions of God to present your bodies as living, holy sacrifices, well pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service. 2 And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may discern the will of God, that which is good and well pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Several years ago, I wrote a post about how God is not pleased with our religiosity, but is, instead, well pleased in His people when they become living sacrifices who have left their dead works behind and are living out their faith daily walking before their Lord in repentance and obedience. Those “church builders” don’t like this topic very much. They want to have their people submissive to them and feeling guilty when they slip up on their religiosity duties they have been given. Let’s look at a passage that talks about this and has been misused by many to force church-goers to become overburdened with religiosity and churchianity. Continue reading

Do not be conformed to this age


by Mike Ratliff

1 Παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ παραστῆσαι τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν θυσίαν ζῶσαν ἁγίαν εὐάρεστον τῷ θεῷ, τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν ὑμῶν· 2 καὶ μὴ συσχηματίζεσθε τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, ἀλλὰ μεταμορφοῦσθε τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοὸς εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τί τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ εὐάρεστον καὶ τέλειον. Romans 12:1-2 (NA28)

1 Therefore, I urge you brothers through the compassions of God to present your bodies as living, holy sacrifices, well pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service. 2 And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may discern the will of God, that which is good and well pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

One of the markers of genuineness in a Christian 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

Faith and works


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 because, 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

What is your role in the Truth War?


by Mike Ratliff

15 Βλέπετε οὖν ἀκριβῶς πῶς περιπατεῖτε μὴ ὡς ἄσοφοι ἀλλʼ ὡς σοφοί, 16 ἐξαγοραζόμενοι τὸν καιρόν, ὅτι αἱ ἡμέραι πονηραί εἰσιν. Ephesians 5:15-16 (NA28)

15 See therefore how carefully you walk not as unwise but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

There is a great deal going on in the visible church, much of it having little to do with genuine Christianity, that most of us can do little about. Yes, we can pray, which is very powerful. We can also obey God and expose the evil to other believers. However, the older I get in the faith the outrage over much of what people like Stephen Furtick or Rick Warren say or write I no longer allow to consume me. I know what my role is in the Truth War. Do you know what yours is? Shouldn’t it be to obey what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian church in Ephesians 5:1-21.  Continue reading