What is genuine Christian behavior?


by Mike Ratliff

1 Ἡ φιλαδελφία μενέτω. Hebrews 13:1 (NA28)

1 Let brotherly love continue. Hebrews 13:1 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

We cannot read the New Testament without seeing that believers are the ἐκκλησία or ekklēsia, “the called-out ones of God.” In the New Testament, the noun ἐκκλησία is found only in the Gospels in Matthew 16:18 and 18:17. Luke uses it in Acts several times, but Paul uses it throughout his epistles. More than half of its usage in the New Testament is in Paul’s epistles. In them, we see that he never thinks of the ἐκκλησία as a physical structure or man-made organization but as a dedicated group of disciples of Jesus Christ whom He has purchased with His blood. In light of these truths, we must seek to line ourselves up with God’s will in our obedience under the spiritual authority He has set over us.  Continue reading

Just doing church is nothing but the fruit of blind hypocrisy


by Mike Ratliff

25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-34 (NASB) 

To be honest, I never thought that I would ever end up in the part of the battle that I have found myself. For the first 19 or so years after my salvation, I was just your typical church member who “occasionally” found my faith peeking through into my work week. As I matured, I became a Bible teacher and a Deacon. I did participate in Evangelism Explosion training and used that training as a counselor on Sunday mornings at the altar. However, the rest of the time I was not exactly giving God much of my time. That changed in 2004. Continue reading

Warnings about heresy is not the same thing as being a “hater”


by Mike Ratliff

25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 21:25 (NASB) 

We live in an evil time. There are large numbers of “Christian” leaders who claim to be ministers of God, but prove by their words and actions to have thrown off the authority of God. They do what is right in their own eyes while claiming that they are only following the leading of the Holy Spirit. The fact that what they say or do is unbiblical seems to trouble very few. When some point out the truth to them, they claim that God has lead them to do what they do so it must be okay and those who protest are just legalistic.

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Obedience in sharing God’s truth causes division and separation rather than drawing multitudes together


by Mike Ratliff

6 Seek the Lord while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the Lord,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:6-9 (NASB) 

The emergent movement and actually all forms of “Christianity” that has a problem with preaching the whole Gospel and the Law in order to “remain relevant” and to “not offend” seekers are, in fact, repeating a very old error. A study of Genesis 11 shows that the gathering together of all people into one group by the settlers of Babel was disobedience to God who had commanded Noah and his family to spread out, multiply, and populate the Earth. This is a parallel with today’s apostate forms of Christianity. How? Instead of obeying God to spread and populate the Earth these people gathered together saying, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4). This was not what God had commanded. God’s plan for man was to continue to spread over the face of the Earth, not come together in one city and defy Him. There are obvious similarities and parallels with the emergents and the purpose driven and seeker sensitive folks with this rebellion, and, in fact, any of those cultic type forms of Christianity that seek to gather a people together in as large a group as possible in order to “make a name for themselves.”  Continue reading

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ


by Mike Ratliff

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 5:18-21 (NASB) 

The proper worship of our Lord is done by Spirit-filled Christians and no others. We have looked at what being Spirit-filled is and what it isn’t in the last couple of posts. Perhaps the number one attribute that is evidence of being truly Spirit-filled is the submission of our will to the will of God, proper submission, as He has defined it. Our God is all about order, not chaos. Those who we would call antinomians may agree with us that we are saved by Grace through faith alone apart from works, however, we depart ways from them when it comes to obedience. They would have a huge problem with the subject of this post possibly even seeing it as an attempt to put believers into “religious bondage.” Well, let the Word of God speak.

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What commandment is the foremost of all?


by Mike Ratliff

28 One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; 33 and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions. Mark 12:28-34 (NASB) 

The rabbis of Jesus’ day engaged in an ongoing debate to determine which commandments of the Law were “light” and which were “weighty” (Matthew 23:23). It reminds me of the debate in certain circles of the visible Church today in which some are concerned with how far they can push their “Christian Liberty.” This concept is no more biblical than that of the rabbis attempting to compartmentalize their religion. Does our Lord’s answer to the Pharisee in Mark 12, Matthew 22, and Luke 10 have any significance to the Christian? Continue reading

Reproving the works of darkness


by Mike Ratliff

 9 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (NASB)

It has been put forth that the apologists for the Seeker-Sensitive movement in the visible church insist that they are justified in what they do because God is blessing their ministries with explosive growth and so it is wrong for us to oppose them. They cite Acts 5:33-39 to support this thesis. Carefully read the following passage. The bold section contains Gamaliel’s advice, which the Purpose Driven, Missional, Seeker Sensitive, and/or Emergent folks cite.

33 But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” Acts 5:33-39 (NASB) 

If we blindly follow this reasoning then it would appear that it was wrong for Jesus to oppose the Pharisees, Paul to oppose the Judiazers, the early Church to oppose Gnosticism, Athanasius to stand firm against Arianism, and Augustine to oppose Pelagianism. We are not being told in Acts 5:33-39 that the right way for the Church to deal with apostasy within the Church is to tolerate it hoping God will stop it as we silently observe. No, we are given plenty of commands in the New Testament on how to deal with judging those inside the Church who are guilty of things that are not to be named amongst the Brethren.  Continue reading

Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it


by Mike Ratliff

 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Matthew 7:21 (NASB)

There are many false teachings in our time within the visible Church. What we must never forget is that there is nothing new under the Sun. The heresies we encounter now are actually very old. Some have been around a long time in their current form while others are recycled versions of an older heresy that was dealt with hundreds of years ago. Why should our enemy and his seed come up with new attacks when the old ones wreak havoc, deepen spiritual blindness, and keep people mired in man-made religiosity instead of becoming spirit-filled, obedient Christians? Continue reading

Pride, worldliness, and strife


by Mike Ratliff

1 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:1-4 (NASB) 

The Church since its inception in the 1st Century AD has been plagued by quarrels, disagreements, feuds, splits, et cetera. According to God, the problem is not with the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ or His doctrines, but with the fact that people in the Church are not submitted properly to Him or to each other. Pride is behind most disagreements just as it is behind those who break away from the truth to lead their followers with false doctrines and a focus that is on self rather than on God and His glory. Instead, those who cause these problems are in love with self and, therefore, in love with the world, its ways, and the things of the world.  Continue reading

The Great Mystery


by Mike Ratliff

19 Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.” 2 Timothy 2:19 (NASB)

As many of you know, I took these last two weeks off in order to spend time with family and friends and that “taking time off” included staying out of theological discussion online as much as possible, etc. However, the last few days have been utterly amazing, at least to me. About 3 years ago or so I became part of a discussion group on Facebook in which I tagged team with some friends who stood up and defended the truths of Reformation Theology against those who hate it. It was not a pleasant experience and I soon tired of it and dropped out.  Why? The moderator of the group allowed people in who were obviously abject heretics who had absolutely no ability to debate. After one really long ugly discussion with one fellow who finally called me some horrible names and went away I was contacted by a pastor who ran a very well-known ministry who suggested that what we were doing was a total waste of time.  Why? All we were doing was arguing with goats who had absolutely no inkling of God’s truth. No, they were spiritually dead people who believed they knew the truth better than we did because it was their own truth while all we had was that exegetical interpretation of the Scripture to go by. In any case, just yesterday I got drawn into a discussion with that very same fellow I mentioned above. Nothing has changed. He still won’t listen to the truth. He still has “his own truth,” which is found nowhere in scripture. At the same time, I started receiving email from a fellow who I had not heard from since August 2016. He is a Rick Warren fan and had been demanding from me a detailed explanation of why I have so many posts on my blog against the Purpose Driven Paradigm, Seeker Sensitive church models in general, and Rick Warren’s approach to ministry. I gave him a short history back in August and forgot about it.  Yesterday right in middle of that little debate I got an email from him. He accused me of hypocrisy and picking on his favorite two pastors, Rick Warren and John Piper. He accused those of us who do discernment work of placing ourselves above them. I told him in a return email that none of what he was saying was true, I was not wasting any more time on him, and that I was sorry that he was blinded by his idols.  I sent the email then blocked his email from by blog and my email provider. Continue reading

Manna from Heaven


by Mike Ratliff

4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction. Exodus 16:4 (NASB) 

Most Christians I know do not walk by faith. They may claim that they do, but when their circumstances evolve so as to put them in a corner with a clear black and white choice to trust God or play it safe, they rarely step out on faith trusting God. Instead, they choose the easy way out which is always the wrong choice because it does not lead to the blessings of God or the peace of God or into His light. Continue reading

The relationship between being poor in spirit and attaining personal holiness


by Mike Ratliff

3 “ Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3 (NASB) 

One the most disturbing aspects of the churches who practice Christianity “lite” is the nearly total abandonment of a call for personal holiness. Even more discouraging is the fact that they preach a version of the gospel that has had any mention of repentance severed from it. The reasoning behind this, of course, is that they are building bridges to the unchurched. If they preach the whole gospel they will drive them away not draw them to join their churches. The problem with that sort of reasoning is that it is all pragmatism. It is based on fleshly reasoning and the ways of the world. It is actually unbelief in the form of ministry. The architects of Christianity “lite” do not believe that God is still building His Church, therefore, they will do it themselves using marketing techniques constructed around “relevancy.” They reason that if they build cool churches that it will draw people who hate traditional “church.” They may not go to the old Baptist Church on Main Street, but they might go to a gathering that is more of an entertainment venue than a church.

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God’s view 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 even if their sin amounted to 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 two 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

Are those who are not doers of the Word, but are only hearers really Christians?


by Mike Ratliff

22 Γίνεσθε δὲ ποιηταὶ λόγου καὶ μὴ μόνον ἀκροαταὶ παραλογιζόμενοι ἑαυτούς. James 1:22 (NA28)

22 Now be doers of the Word and not only hearers deceiving yourselves. James 1:22 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In 1997, about three years before God moved my wife and I from the OKC area to Tulsa, our Pastor contacted me during the week and told me that he wanted me to fill in for him on Wednesday night after our weekly meal. That meant I would conduct a short Bible study and then have a question and answer period in which adults present could ask anything they wanted about doctrine or the Church or the Bible and I would attempt to answer it. The Bible study part was not a problem since I planned on simply using one I had prepared for another study that I had not yet taught. However, the Q & A was a bit unsettling. I had seen how that went. It was a bit like “Stump the Pastor.”  Continue reading