The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 10 – The Enduring Heart


by Mike Ratliff

2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 (NASB)

My natural inclination is to resent uncomfortable circumstances. I want them to end and end now! Believers are spiritual, but their natural man, their flesh, is still within. My natural man does not understand how anything constructive can come out of sorrow and suffering. If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit we are all uncomfortable with things not working out the way we want them to. Our problem is we want good things to be the norm in our lives because we love the Lord and are living for Him. When bad things happen or things do not work out the way we want, we hunker down in our self-pity. We ask God and others, “Why is this happening to me?” That is not the response of the Enduring heart. That is the response of the self-focused heart. Continue reading

The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 9 – The Winsome Heart


by Mike Ratliff

16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; Matthew 10:16-17 (NASB)

Winsome: generally pleasing and engaging often because of a childlike charm and innocence.

Sometimes I feel like I am walking a tightrope. The Spirit-led walk is truly balanced; however, it is hard work to stay balanced. On one hand we are told we must be wise and discerning because men are evil, but at the same time we must stay harmless, winsome and engaging. Jesus said we must not strike back. Instead, we are to turn the other cheek. (Matthew 5:39) We are to be that winsome person who reflects Christ’s character to everyone. Continue reading

The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 8 – The Spirit-filled Heart


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
3 But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; 4 and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light 9 (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; 12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. 14 For this reason it says,
“Awake, sleeper,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.”
15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Ephesians 5:1-21 (NASB)

There is much confusion about what it means to be Spirit-filled. Some will say the filling of the Spirit is the culmination of “Baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Others will say it is a miraculous work of God to empower believers to do miracles. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of false teaching about this. The truth, however, is right in front of us. It is in the Word of God, the Bible, in plain sight. Before we take a closer look at what the term Spirit-filled, means let us remember what we are studying. We are attempting to learn all about becoming Mature Christians. We are trying to learn our role in this process. Let us not stray down any unfruitful bunny trails. Continue reading

The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 4 – The Undivided Heart


by Mike Ratliff

1 Incline Your ear, O Lord, and answer me;
For I am afflicted and needy.
2 Preserve my soul, for I am a godly man;
O You my God, save Your servant who trusts in You.
3 Be gracious to me, O Lord,
For to You I cry all day long.
4 Make glad the soul of Your servant,
For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
5 For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.
6 Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
And give heed to the voice of my supplications!
7 In the day of my trouble I shall call upon You,
For You will answer me.
8 There is no one like You among the gods, O Lord,
Nor are there any works like Yours.
9 All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord,
And they shall glorify Your name.
10 For You are great and do wondrous deeds;
You alone are God.
11 Teach me Your way, O Lord;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.
12 I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And will glorify Your name forever.
13 For Your lovingkindness toward me is great,
And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
14 O God, arrogant men have risen up against me,
And a band of violent men have sought my life,
And they have not set You before them.
15 But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.
16 Turn to me, and be gracious to me;
Oh grant Your strength to Your servant,
And save the son of Your handmaid.
17 Show me a sign for good,
That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,
Because You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me. Psalms 86 (NASB)

The pre-Christian era of the Roman Empire (prior to Constantine), was made up of many diverse ethnic groups. Each had its own religious beliefs. The Romans were good at allowing those they conquered to keep their gods as long as they paid homage to Caesar or the Emperor as lord. In most of those cultures, that was no big deal. However, for the Christians who lived within the Roman Empire it was a very big deal. Why? Jesus Christ is Lord! It does not matter who else claims to be lord. It does not matter who or what we elevate to lordship status. Jesus Christ is Lord of all no matter the circumstances. The Roman Empire sent many Christians to their martyrdom because they refused to bow to Caesar’s statue and call him lord. Those who would try to hang on to their beliefs, but save their lives by worshipping Caesar were compromising. I would hate to have been them when they stood before the Lord after they died. Continue reading

The Compromised Church is a Friend of the World


by Mike Ratliff

1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
6 Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7 but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9 but just as it is written,
“Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2 (NASB)

One of the most subtle aspects of the Compromised Church is its friendship with the world. All through the Bible we are told that we are not to love the things of this world, nor are we to be conformed to this world, nor are we to see this world as our home, but we are to have our treasure in Heaven rather than in the world. We are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We are to live this life with eternity in mind.  Continue reading

Love your enemies


by Mike Ratliff

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41 Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:38-48 (NASB) 

I remember the first time I read the passage above (Matthew 5:38-48). 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. In my own conception of salvation, 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

Personal Holiness, Christlikeness and the Doctrine of Imputation


by Mike Ratliff

18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:18 (NASB) 

21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;
22 For you will heap burning coals on his head,
And the Lord will reward you. Proverbs 25:21-22 (NASB) 

If you have ever listened to or read any defense made by those who claim to be Christians, but also “Gay” then you know that they are very loose with how they handle doctrine and very vital words within those doctrines. One of those key words is “love.” The Biblical definition of love from a Christian perspective is one of self-denial under the sanctifying hand of God. However, for those who are attempting to invade Christianity with their “Gay Agenda,” they redefine “love” from a self-focused, narcissistic bent that is all about seeking self-fulfillment above all no matter who else has to pay the cost. On the other hand, the genuine believer, is regenerate, saved by grace through faith according to the mercy of God, and is on the path or way of learning to deny self even to the point of loving their enemies as Christ commanded.
Continue reading

Do works have anything to do with Everlasting Life?


by Mike Ratliff

28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” John 6:28 (NASB) 

The flesh is still with us all, even those who have been born again unto eternal life. The flesh does not understand grace. The flesh does not understand the relationship to the Christian being born again unto good works (Ephesians 2:10). Therefore, the visible church is ripe with false teaching at this time that emphasizes all the wrong things, and, coupled with rampant Biblical illiteracy, most professing Christians are like those Jesus was confronting in John 6 who could not conceive what our Lord boldly told them in vv35-40 that belief and salvation is a gift from God not something earned or deserved.  Continue reading

True contentment


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 at all 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

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NASB) 

My father died in 2010 at the age of 86. My mother will be 91 in October of this year if she makes it, but only God knows that. She seems to be nearing the end of her journey to the Celestial City.  I have reflected much on this lately and, in light of this, my own priorities.  Have I been wasting much of the valuable time and energy given to me by our Lord in building on His foundation with wood, hay, and straw? Have I been focusing on the things of this world, seeking the pleasures of this world to the exclusion of walking close with my Lord, living in His Word and prayer? Have I been putting self ahead of the needs of others? You see, what marks a true Christian over a false Christian is whether Christ’s character is being developed in theirs or not. This character development results in the believer’s perseverance.  Continue reading

Biblical unity, humility, and obedience


by Mike Ratliff

12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Colossians 3:12-17 (NASB) 

The number one accusation thrown at those who take up the armor of God and use it in the battle as they are called to do, is that they are full of pride. Those who use this fiery dart are equating certainty with pride. Extra-biblical revelation should not be used in the battle by God’s warriors. Instead, the source of truth that is used is the sword of the Spirit itself, the Word of God. Experience is extra-biblical. Man’s teachings, if contrary to the Word of God, are extra-biblical. One’s own private interpretation of Scripture and/or experience is extra-biblical. These battles may appear to cause disunity in the Body, but unity that is held together through compromise is false. Christians should never seek to be yoked up with those who hold doctrine or beliefs that are contrary to the truth from God’s Word or are based solely on extra-biblical sources. Unity in the Body of Christ is commanded in God’s Word, but that unity is not based in compromise, but love and humility within those who are obedient to the truth. Continue reading

God’s Plumbline


by Mike Ratliff

7 Thus He showed me, and behold, the Lord was standing by a vertical wall with a plumb line in His hand. Amos 7:7 (NASB) 

In John Bunyan’s classic The Pilgrim’s Progress, the characters’ names usually define their character. For instance there is Ignorance. He refuses to believe Christian and Hopeful when they tell him that unless he goes through the narrow gate to begin his pilgrimage, he will not be allowed into the gate of the Celestial City. Then there is Talkative who equates making a fuss about one’s sin with actual repentance. Early in Christian’s pilgrimage, he comes across two other pilgrims named Formalist and Hypocrisy who come from a country called Vain-Glory. They tell Christian that the shortcut that they took to the path, bypassing the narrow gate, was necessary because it was too far to travel from Vain-Glory to it. All were revealed to be counterfeit Pilgrims and none of them made it into the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ save Christian, Hopeful and Faithful. Continue reading

Fear not!


by Mike Ratliff

4 “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. Luke 12:4-7 (NASB) 

We are told not to fear earthly things or other people no matter how evil or violent they are. However, we are told to fear God. Much of the fear Christians have, however, is not based in their fear of God, but in the fear of their own failures being exposed or their own spiritual deficiencies being exploited by the devil’s seed. Of course some of that fear comes from the spirit of fear that dominates some Christians. When we are obedient in telling the truth in the face of those who hate the truth and love the darkness, our enemy attacks us with things like fear. God creates these points of contention and everyone who reads what we write or hears what we preach or teach are brought to that point. How they respond to these truths is of eternal consequence. Many respond in anger and unbelief. Many respond in repentance and faith by obeying the truth. How should we respond when the fear grows and we see that our obedience will certainly bring conflict? Continue reading

Those who truly have fellowship with Christ


by Mike Ratliff

14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 (NASB) 

Contrary to what most believe about Christianity, what one’s own framework is of their conception of salvation and having fellowship with Jesus Christ is irrelevant. Unless this ‘understanding’ is totally submitted to the Word of God and the authority of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit then it will be according to the counsel of the individual’s own conscience. This counsel is according to the value system of the individual not according to what God has revealed. It creates its own image of God and holds that image accountable to the individual’s value system. Continue reading