The Source of True Joy


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. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Matthew 7:21-25 (NASB) 

Most Christians are seeking joy and are, perhaps, perplexed because their circumstances are anything but joyful. Our Lord gave us the example through the way He walked throughout His earthly ministry in which we are given what true joy is and how we must live in order to obtain it. The following passage is right in the middle of that part of John’s Gospel dealing with the Samaritan woman at the well.  Continue reading

The Enemy Within


by Mike Ratliff

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. Matthew 7:15 (NASB) 

False prophets have infiltrated the Church since the very beginning. Also, disingenuous professors have always plagued churches. There has not been a time when the church has been free from enemies within. However, in our time the church is the sickest it has ever been. False prophets beget false doctrine, the doctrine of demons, for the false believers that flock to them. Sound Doctrine is no longer tolerated. Expository preaching and teaching is ignored or shouted down. This is happening not between Christians and non-Christians, but between professing Christians in the “name” of Christ. The Church has become polluted with the ways of the world, which demands no offense to anyone. If doctrinal disagreements happen, the resultant “debate” soon resembles some sort of all out gang war. Those holding sound doctrine will often be condemned and threatened and pressured to abjure to their opponents view using every imaginable tactic. When he or she refuses to give in to the onslaught then those on attack will escalate it to something like this, “either you ‘repent’ and apologize publicly for this (not giving in) or I will ruin you. I will warn everyone about you.” Of course those other ravenous wolves demanding that he or she give in are chiming in with all sorts of threats such as, “either you … or I will pull my support for your ministry” Again, what was their crime? They held a doctrine and presented it as the truth. Those in disagreement did all they could to silence the offender for good. They did not try to understand the point of the accused even when it was given plainly. The fact that he or she would not cave in to the pressure made them a target. Interestingly, the only and best way to end this is to simply do the Christlike thing, end the discussion and walk away. Of course, then they will be accused of being spiritually proud, etc. However, didn’t our Lord get accused of much worse than that? Continue reading

What is Sweet as Honey yet Causes Bitterness in the Heat of the Spirit?


by Mike Ratliff

Believers are called to role of reconciliation, forgiveness, loving our enemies, and turning the other cheek by being humble and Spirit-filled. Also, the genuinely humble believer will not be timid, but bold.

Part of being bold because of the moving of the Holy Spirit within us is to proclaim the truth even if it takes the form of a rebuke. We are told to love our enemies, but we must not have unity with professing believers who are mired in heresy. On the other hand, those in apostasy must be rebuked in love with the goal of restoring them to fellowship and unity within God’s truth.

Much of the Bible is prophetic in nature. A large part of those prophecies take the form of God rebuking His people for their apostasy as well as declaring His coming judgment upon the world for their rebellion against Him and His ways.

One such prophet was Ezekiel. His book opens with him witnessing the glory of God in a magnificent vision. His account of it in Ezekiel 1 is utterly amazing. It is obvious that when he wrote it that he was struggling to describe the indescribable. In v26-28 Ezekiel describes his reaction to seeing this. Continue reading

Our Eyes Look to the Lord Our God


by Mike Ratliff

1 To You I lift up my eyes,
O You who are enthroned in the heavens!
2 Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,
As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to the Lord our God,
Until He is gracious to us.
3 Be gracious to us, O Lord, be gracious to us,
For we are greatly filled with contempt.
4 Our soul is greatly filled
With the scoffing of those who are at ease,
And with the contempt of the proud. Psalms 123 (NASB) 

The vast majority of people on planet Earth want nothing to do with the real Jesus. Many love and hold dear another Jesus, but he is one made up by people who don’t know the one who is real. Tragically, the numbers of professing Christians are growing continually who are also following another Jesus who does not resemble in the least the one found in scripture. Those who hold dear the real Jesus are those who are entirely reliant upon the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Undoubtedly there are baby Christians who are not spiritually mature and whose faith is not strong. However, there are also huge numbers of “religious” Christians who live as if their “decision for Christ” many years ago is their fire insurance. Some of these are quite religious while others are simply calling themselves Christian as if it is some sort of family trait. Those who are completely reliant upon God, whose focus is His glory in all things are those who know the real Jesus and are known by Him. These are the believers whose eyes look to the Lord our God. They look unto God because this brings them knowledge of His countenance. Christians know God by interacting with Him in prayer, Bible Study, obedience and repentance. They are able to do these things with Him as they look unto Him, fully trusting Him to work out the details for His glory. Continue reading

True Christianity vs Subjective Religiosity


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NASB) 

There is a form of religion in the world today that calls itself by many names and in each of those forms it is seen as a type of Christianity, but is, in fact, nothing more than a man-made facsimile of true Christianity. Its foundation is not the same. True Christianity is built upon the foundations of Christ, Him Crucified, God’s Eternal Word, The Holy Trinity, and the Sovereignty of God. On the other hand, the man-made, subjective form of it (no matter what it is called) has an entirely different foundation. Its foundation is accommodation, fairness, equality, the nobility of man, the rights of man, the free will of man, Critical Race Theory, Social Justice, and experientialism. Even though both true Christianity and the subjectivism reference many of the same things, the focus will be entirely different with the former being primarily on the glory of God through the exposition of His truth from His Word with the latter being on the accommodation of man with the inclusion of people’s experiences as the primary focus and means of knowing God and His truth.

Continue reading

Being A Good Servant of Jesus Christ in the Midst of Apostasy


by Mike Ratliff

1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. 4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. 1 John 4:1-6 (NASB) 

It is one thing to confess Christ or profess to be a Christian and quite another to live and walk before the face of God within that confession or profession in obedience to God and His Word. There are so many in our time who claim to be Christians, but whose lives are marked by them speaking and living according to the world and its ways. I, like many of you, have become very perplexed when certain Christian leaders who profess all the right things are then seen to fellowship with those who are obvious apostates. If we are not careful and properly focused in our devotion, which is the definition of godliness, we can become discouraged because we are looking to men rather than our Saviour for the proper way to walk, minister, and confront false doctrine.  Continue reading

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

Faith without Works is Dead


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 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

The Real Christ of God


by Mike Ratliff

18 And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?” 19 They answered and said, “John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again.” 20 And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” Luke 9:18-20 (NASB) 

Since this blog has existed (2006) we have looked at the growing apostasy that appears to be consuming the Church. This has caused many of us anguish and grief along with some growing excitement in anticipation of the soon return of our Lord Jesus Christ. However, let us not forget that there are many who claim to be “christian” who view what we have been discussing and exploring as the very thing they are trying to accomplish. They view our exposition of it as “interference” and “over reaction.” Over the years, among the comments I did not post and ping backs that I refused were some who described our study as a growing train wreck or a study in delusion. Continue reading

Is the life you are living well pleasing to God?


by Mike Ratliff

22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. Ephesians 5:22-27 (NASB) 

The main argument that I run into in debates these days after scripture is used to nullify opponents’ arguments is that they “do not agree” with whatever doctrinal position I am defending. In other words, the veracity of a truth is determined by their belief in it or not. That is a completely invalid argument. The qualities of a truth that make it true are not dependent upon whether people believe it to be true. Our enemy, a liar from the beginning, is hard at work selling compromise as something vital in our relationships and all dealings with others. Continue reading

Do not let your hearts be troubled


My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We must all be honest and admit that we are in very troubling times. I am not speaking of the political situations all across this globe, but am referring to the growing apostasy in the visible church. It seems that for every pocket of genuine believers I run across who are standing on the promises of God and not compromising their faith by buying into pragmatism or mysticism or outright heresy there is another “Christian leader” falling into the ranks of the apostate. Our error is allowing this to drive us to despair and doubt. When we do this we have lost focus. We are looking at the situation rather than keeping our eyes on our Saviour. I pray that the following devotional from Martin Luther will encourage you and help you to not allow our enemy to distract you from the truth. – Mike Ratliff Continue reading

What do we do to become Spirit-Filled?


by Mike Ratliff

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. Romans 6:12-13 (NASB)

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Romans 12:1 (NASB) 

There are many requirements for the Christian to become Spirit-filled, but there is one thing that is truly the key to that filling. We find the Greek word that exemplifies this in Romans 6:13 and Romans 12:1 (above). The NASB translates this word as “present” in both cases. While these translations describe the action Paul intended, I think it would have been more descriptive and more theologically correct for them to have used forms of the the word “yield” here instead of “present.” Why? I believe we are talking about self-sacrifice here, a form of worship, in our daily walk. In this, we are not only growing in Christian maturity, but God is using our surrender to His will by our yielding in obedience to Him as living sacrifices, to mold us unto Christlikeness. Hence, we are Spirit-filled and are able to walk unto the works laid before us by our Father. In John 15:5 Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” He’s not saying we cannot obey God and do good works. He is saying that we cannot do them unless we abide in Him and are, therefore, Spirit-filled. Just a a bit earlier he also told his disciples in John 14:14-17, “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” Yieldedness to obey God’s Word before we even know what it says is the key.  Continue reading

God is the knower of hearts


by Mike Ratliff

8 καὶ ὁ καρδιογνώστης θεὸς ἐμαρτύρησεν αὐτοῖς δοὺς τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον καθὼς καὶ ἡμῖν 9 καὶ οὐθὲν διέκρινεν μεταξὺ ἡμῶν τε καὶ αὐτῶν τῇ πίστει καθαρίσας τὰς καρδίας αὐτῶν. Acts 15:8-9 (NA28)

8 And the knower of hearts, God, bore witness to them having given to them the Holy Spirit just as to us, 9 and He differentiated nothing between them, and us having cleansed their hearts by faith. Acts 15:8-9 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

God is omniscient, which mean that He knows all things. What is puzzling to me at times is that so many who profess to be Christians either do not understand what this really means or, their hearts are so hard in their unbelief that the “god” of their “faith” is one of their own making, hence, they live and “do their religion” in ways that are “of the world” and in no way could be called Biblical Christianity. Within that paradigm are all forms of man-focused religiosity that came into being, at least in the U.S. about the time of the Second Great Awakening. It was at that time that preaching the Gospel, coming together as a local body of believers to worship, pray together, and hear the Word of God opened and rightly divided was hijacked and made to be seen as something “old fashioned” or “boring.” Instead, so-called Christian leaders sought the tent revivals and continual crusade atmosphere that was much more conducive to large numbers of “conversions.” Forget the fact that very few of those “conversions” actually “stuck.”  Continue reading

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