What Is That to You?


by Mike Ratliff

20 Peter, turning around, *saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” 21 So Peter seeing him *said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” 22 Jesus *said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” John 21:20-22 (NASB)

Part of my makeup that God molded into my character is the ability to observe, take note, and analyze as part of Him directing what I study and pray about in order to obediently minister in my writing and teaching. What do I observe? Everything! I take note of my fellow Christians when they interact on this blog and others. I see the patterns of what is hot and what is not. I have seen people come at me or one of my friends with vehement viciousness over doctrinal differences. What have I learned? I have learned that humans have a huge problem in wanting to control other people.

Those of us who write for CRN are often called “Watchbloggers” by those who believe that we go too far in comparing what is really going on doctrinally in the church in our time to what should be going on. Much of what is “wrong” in the Church in our time is a drive to reform it into “man-centered” relevancy. When we reveal the very words of those leaders doing this then out come those accusing us of being “over the top” or “arrogant” or “backward” or “legalistic” even “heretical” because we obediently reveal what is said in comparison with what the Bible says.

Since the adherents of “relevancy” are mired in their man-centered worldview, they insist that Biblical truth to that level is unknowable. For instance, they say that the Doctrines of Grace are heretical. For us to say that God is Sovereign in election and saves His people whom He chose before the foundation of the world, then we are heretics even though we teach exactly what the Bible says. Continue reading

Godly Discernment vs Hypocritical Judging


by Mike Ratliff

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:11-12 (NASB) 

Christian apologetics and discernment are very serious things. It is very easy to incorporate the ways of the world into method and focus in this. When this happens then attacks on professing Christians come from an impure motive. This then causes the ones making the accusations to use slander, speaking evil against their target falsely. They revile the Christian, persecuting him and his ministry using innuendo. They have no real evidence that their accusations are true. Guilt by association is their bludgeon and their usage is meant to deceive many into believing their false report. How are we to balance this? We must continue to stand firm and, using the discernment given to us by God, expose false shepherds. It must begin with godliness.  Continue reading

The Sermon on the Mount Part 15


by Mike Ratliff

1 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3 The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. 7 For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 8 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. 10 But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written, “AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.” 12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. 14 I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. 20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. 21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. 22 The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin. (Romans 14 1-23 NASB)

When God caused all things to work out so that I became Reformed in my theology and so the precision of my teaching in my Bible classes at my old Church caused me to not only discard the SBC material I was given from which to teach my class, but also when I was asked to explain certain passages such as John 6:22-59 or Romans 1 & 2 and there would arise such acrimony that it became nearly impossible for me to continue there. However, along with that commitment to never compromise came with a deepening discernment for which I prayed along with wisdom every day. When the leadership began the process of going Purpose Driven I detected it very early and began asking very direct questions and received deceptive answers and was actually lied to many times about what was going on. So when I was finally asked to come on board I had been working with Ken Silva quite some time on the old Slice of Laodicea web site in dealing with apostasy that is the “Seeker Sensitive” movement. My stance against it made it impossible for my wife and I to remain there so we left. Continue reading

The Straw Man Fallacy


by Mike Ratliff

The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person’s actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. This sort of “reasoning” has the following pattern:

1. Person A has position X.
2. Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X).
3. Person B attacks position Y.
4. Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.

Straw Man “reasoning” is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself. The Straw Man Fallacy is a favorite weapon our enemy. It is always fallacious, but it can cause much confusion and, therefore, can be foundational in the development and support of heresies because it is a form of deception. Those professing Christians who use this from of argument may believe they are serving God with their attacks, but if a person’s argument contains this sort of fallacy then it is not of God. God does not need this sort of thing nor would He ever lead any of His people to use it. Continue reading

Judge Not Part 16 – Conclusion


by Mike Ratliff

Jesus’ command for His disciples to “judge not,” has caused much confusion. Some twist His words to say believers should never judge anyone at any time. However, as we have seen, our Lord was speaking of hypocrisy. In this study, I have endeavored to present a case for the only realistic cure for hypocrisy, which is humility. Christlikeness is unattainable for anyone who is not humble. The journey each believer takes in becoming humble is unique to him or her. However, each will consist of God-designed tests and trials whose purpose is to strengthen faith, destroy pride, and cultivate humility. Continue reading

Judge Not Part 15 – Letting the Word of Christ Dwell in You Richly


by Mike Ratliff

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.(Colossians 3:12-17)

Before I became a Christian, I was a Christian in name only. In other words, I was a religious Christian instead of a genuine Christian. I went to Church. I tried to be good. I was supremely unsuccessful at both being good, and being a good Christian. I thought that someday I would start to like church and get good at it. I simply thought that good Christians tired harder than the rest of us. Then God saved me. Continue reading

Judge Not Part 14 – Being a Living Sacrifice


by Mike Ratliff

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. 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. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (Romans 12:1-3)

All of the things we have looked at so far in this study about doing all for the glory of God, drinking from the cup of Christ’s suffering, wrestling the correct opponent, loving your enemies, and behaving like a Christian are possible only for the believer who is in the process of taking on Christ’s character. No one can do these things naturally. No one is able to attain this level of spirituality by trying to do those things. Instead, these behaviors flow from a Christlike heart. No believer will ever become Christlike in their character unless they also become Spirit-led. If a believer is controlled by their emotions then they are not Spirit-led. Neither are they who have not learned to walk in the Spirit. If sin runs rampant through a believer’s life then they are not Spirit-led. In addition, if a believer is constantly consumed by anger, bitterness, envy, and self-protection then they are not Spirit-led. Continue reading

Judge Not Part 13 – Behaving like a Christian


by Mike Ratliff

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21)

When I began working on this book, I was intent on presenting to all who read this the facts about the tremendous damage hypocritical judging does within the body of Christ as well as to those who practice it. However, the more I studied and wrote the more I became convinced that Christians judging others is a symptom of something much more dreadful. Just as bitterness and resentment have their roots in pride, judging hypocritically has its roots in spiritual immaturity. The spiritually immature believer’s biggest problem is a lack of humility. The believer’s level of Christlikeness is directly related to how successful he or she is in uprooting pride while cultivating humility in the heart. Continue reading

Judge Not Part 12 – Loving your Enemies


by Mike Ratliff

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:38-48)

I remember the first time I read the passage I placed at the beginning of this chapter. I simply could not believe that it was possible for anyone to love one’s enemies or pray for them. I read in the Gospels that Jesus did those things, but He is God. How could any mortal person ever do this? At the time of that reading, I was not a regenerate believer. I was definitely in the process of being called, but God’s effectual call had not touched my heart yet. I still had the idea that one had to be able to do Christian things in order to become a Christian. I had to learn and believe the right things and do the right things so that I could possibly “grow into” a good Christian. Continue reading

Judge Not Part 11 – Wrestling the Correct Opponent


by Mike Ratliff

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:10-12)

When I was in Junior High, I wrestled for a couple of years. I was never very good, but I did learn many things about the importance of leverage, quickness, and flexibility. When I had to wrestle some kid who had long arms and who was physically bigger than I was, I knew I was going to have a tough time. I usually won the match if I used my speed and upper body strength to leverage my opponent onto the bottom. I usually lost if the kid I was wrestling had similar quickness to mine and who knew how to counter my upper body strength by going after my legs. Wrestling is simply body against body. It is strength and quickness against strength and quickness. It helps if the wrestler knows the right techniques for takedowns and pins; however, it is still muscle against muscle. Continue reading

Judge Not Part 10 – Drinking from Christ’s Cup of Suffering


by Mike Ratliff

But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. (Acts 5:34-42 Emphasis Mine)

I am sure you have heard some preacher somewhere at sometime say something like, “Come to Jesus so He can bless you and make your life better.” Every time I hear or read something like that, I want to grab them and ask them if they have ever seriously read their Bibles. Yes, a life in Christ is far superior to life outside of God’s grace; however, people who preach a gospel of health, wealth, and prosperity are guilty of misleading the gullible. The walk of a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ is one of self-denial, humility, obedience, and devotion to God’s glory. Continue reading

Judge not Part 9 – Doing all for the Glory of God


by Mike Ratliff

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Some have said that God’s demand that He be glorified above all things (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) while commanding that His people remain humble, puts Him in a bad light. The scriptures tell us that God created humankind for His glory. Doesn’t this make God selfish, vain, and overly proud? That viewpoint comes from a distorted view of God and Man. That viewpoint is at the core of Humanism. Continue reading

Judge Not Part 8 – The Invaluable Treasure of a Clear Conscience


by Mike Ratliff

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:1-7)

People are such illogical creatures. The fallen nature we all inherited from Adam reveals itself at the most maddening of times. Our Christian scholars, ministers, and theologians are not immune. It seems that our lack of humility is Satan’s most valuable tool in defeating us. I have a Blog as part of my writing ministry. I also participate in theological discussions on other Blogs. Some of those discussions can become chaotic situations at times. There are times when the ones contending in these “discussions” become so adamant about their polarized positions that the situation becomes ripe for frustration, anger, and bitterness. Continue reading

Judge Not Part 7 – The Balm of Hope


by Mike Ratliff

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:1-6 ESV)

I have heard it both ways. I have heard that this Christian walk is one of balance between legality and grace. I have also heard that that view is a fallacy. My own observation, however, is somewhat different. I do believe we must be balanced. We are not to judge others in hypocrisy, and we are also to carry out God’s righteous judgments according to His will. However, I believe our walk of balance is one of enduring the harsh realities of this life in the power of God’s grace. This walk defies the logic of the natural mind. However, at the same time that we endure our tests and trials by the grace of God, we reflect Christ to those around us. This walk of balance is what the believer inherits as part of the suffering Church. It is enabled by God’s grace as He applies His balm of hope in our hearts. Continue reading