Fallacious obedience and discernment


by Mike Ratliff

13 You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. John 13:13-17 (NASB) 

The heart of Man is deceitful beyond our understanding. I find it incredible that God would desire to save any of us. Even after regeneration there is an element in each of our hearts that falls for the wicked appeal of our enemy to believe those things that have an affinity to our pride and flesh. One of the things that I must do in order to write these posts is to do research into the ministries of certain people who are suspected of some form of apostasy or heresy. I find it amazing how I can listen to one of these fellows preach or teach and find something within my heart having an affinity to what is being said. Of course this shows us the level of deception within these things. It is very interesting to then analyze what is being taught and compare it to Scripture. It is then that part of me which liked what it heard runs for cover because I am seeking to kill it. Continue reading

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return


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. 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

Are you a good soldier of Christ Jesus?


by Mike Ratliff

3 Συγκακοπάθησον ὡς καλὸς στρατιώτης Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ. 2 Timothy 2:3 (NA28)

3 Take your part in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:3 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

One of the examples God continually uses in my walk to draw me away from being self-focused into being Christ-focused, repentant, and, therefore, usable in His Kingdom is John Bunyan. Why? I have a tendency to focus inward and with that comes a  sense of my sinfulness and unworthiness to even be called a Christian. I look at those whom God uses to feed me spiritually and I see how small I am. How can God use one such as me? God has helped me through this by showing me through the life of men like John Bunyan that His ways are not man’s ways and we are much better off being in the center of His will than where our flesh wants us to be. What do I mean? The well educated and those with large ministries are more often then not the ones who are on the road to apostasy just as in Bunyan’s day. Bunyan was barely educated and his only education in theology was from the Word of God and sitting at the feet of his pastor. God raised him up to do a mighty work in the Church, but it was one that involved much suffering. Has God changed how He does things? Continue reading

Do not be drunk with wine in which is dissipation but be filled with the Spirit


by Mike Ratliff

15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God. Ephesians 5:15-21 (NKJV) 

In Ephesians 5:18 Paul commands, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit“. At first glance that may read or sound like Paul is saying, “instead of getting drunk, do these religious things,” which he lists in vv19-21. However, as we know, the proper way to interpret Sacred Scripture is by keeping what we are studying in context foremost. Here, the context tells us that the Apostle Paul is making a contrast that the Ephesians would have understood perfectly. Let’s go deeper. Continue reading

Redeeming your time because the days evil


by Mike Ratliff

12 So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalms 90:12 (NKJV) 

It seemed that the moment I posted Walking Circumspectly that the pressure came to bear upon me from nearly every direction in an effort to distract me from doing that very thing. To walk circumspectly is to walk in light of the gifts of wisdom and discernment from God. However, we all have people and circumstances in our lives that are the sources of fiery tests and trials that are allowed by God to buffet us so that we will see clearly our dire need of His grace and cause us to draw closer to Him in repentance. Lay on top of that circumstances that are clear affronts to our concepts of what is “fair” and “right” and given no recourse then our emotions can certainly take over. As I reflected on these things before I prayed and sought God’s will for this post I actually “felt” completely unworthy to do this. How can I teach from God’s Word when I have been struggling so much with my own battles over these very things?  Continue reading

The fear of God and its fruit


by Mike Ratliff

13 The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. 14 For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 (NASB) 

The total lack of the fear of God is what marks the ungodly. (Romans 3:18) On the other hand, genuine believers in scripture are described as those who do fear Him. Tragically, when moral issues between professing Christians and the unchurched are compared there is very little difference. There is the same level of divorce, adultery, pornography, dishonesty, etc.; in both groups. This should not be so. Continue reading

All things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account


by Mike Ratliff

7 For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice,
8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
As in the day of Massah in the wilderness,
9 “When your fathers tested Me,
They tried Me, though they had seen My work.
10 “For forty years I loathed that generation,
And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.
11 “Therefore I swore in My anger,
Truly they shall not enter into My rest.” Psalms 95:7-11 (NASB)

Preaching or teaching from God’s Word is nothing to trifle with. The responsibility that goes with each is eternal. Those who minister through the Word will be held accountable. We must ask each time we preach or teach, “Did I treat what is Holy as it deserved? Have I fallen into doing my ministry perfunctorily?” Those of us who teach must never do so in way that is in any way motivated by anything other than our love and devotion for our Lord. Yes, there will be circumstances that we respond to and use as inspiration or input, but, even in that, we do a tremendous disservice to our Lord if we don’t go to Him in prayer first before we respond, write, preach, or teach. While the leader has a huge responsibility to minister by the Spirit, those who hear the truth from God’s Word will also be held accountable. Continue reading

He laid down His life for us so what should we be doing?


by Mike Ratliff

16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 1 John 3:16 (NASB) 

What differentiates a genuine Christian from one whose religion is only skin-deep? Jesus said that He knows those who are His. He calls them His sheep who hear His voice and follow Him. (John 10:27) He also called them His disciples. He gave us the requirements for being His disciple in Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34 and Luke 9:23 where he said that if anyone desires to follow Him they must deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him. If we combine these two views then we learn that our Lord’s sheep, His disciples, are those who hear His voice, deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him. This is telling us that genuine Christians are those who humble themselves before their Lord, die to self, submit to Him as Lord, obey Him, and emulate Him as He leads. Continue reading

Why did Jesus come?


by Mike Ratliff

32 “ Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it. Deuteronomy 12:32 (NASB) 

We live in a very strange time. Perhaps earlier men lived in times that were just as perilous and even as spiritually dark as ours, but to me, being in my mid-sixties and a Christian for over 31 years, what is happening to the Church seems unprecedented. I know this is nothing new, and the Church has gone through apostasy before and that is why God wrought the Protestant Reformation. However, since the latter part of the 19th Century, liberalism and its various forms have invaded the Church in many ways. If we read the Reformers such as Tyndale, Luther, and Calvin, etc. and the Puritans such as Owen, Bunyan, Watson, Love, and Brooks, etc. up to Spurgeon and Broadus, etc. then compare their understanding of the Gospel and how it is preached and why that is what we are to be about then compare that to what we have now with the likes of Joel Osteen or Stephen Furtick then we must understand that a great downgrade has taken place.

Continue reading

Why does God desire that all in Christ be filled with the Spirit?


by Mike Ratliff

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 5:15-21 (NASB) 

What is God’s purpose for the Christian to be filled with the Spirit? I am going to start by simply posting some scripture first. Continue reading

Shame and a tender conscience


by Mike Ratliff

31 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 33 But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and *said, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
34 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37 For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:31-38 (NASB) 

One of the major weapons of our enemy is attacks centered on provoking our pride, to incite us to be deeply concerned about what others think of us in relation to our profession of faith and how we walk the narrow path set before us by God. Our Lord warned us that this sort of attack would be coming our way and it causes professing Christians to lose their boldness as they actually seek to preserve “their life” for their own sake. When we are more concerned with our image and standing before men rather than for Christ and His gospel then we compromise because we have set our minds on the things of man rather than the things of God. Continue reading

Christians worship the Lord by being Spirit-filled


by Mike Ratliff

16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterances. 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil.
23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (NASB) 

16 Πάντοτε χαίρετε,
17 ἀδιαλείπτως προσεύχεσθε,
18 ἐν παντὶ εὐχαριστεῖτε· τοῦτο γὰρ θέλημα θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ εἰς ὑμᾶς.
19 τὸ πνεῦμα μὴ σβέννυτε,
20 προφητείας μὴ ἐξουθενεῖτε,
21 πάντα δὲ δοκιμάζετε, τὸ καλὸν κατέχετε,
22 ἀπὸ παντὸς εἴδους πονηροῦ ἀπέχεσθε.
23 Αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης ἁγιάσαι ὑμᾶς ὁλοτελεῖς, καὶ ὁλόκληρον ὑμῶν τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ ἡ ψυχὴ καὶ τὸ σῶμα ἀμέμπτως ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τηρηθείη. 24 πιστὸς ὁ καλῶν ὑμᾶς, ὃς καὶ ποιήσει. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (NA28)

The Christian walk that John Bunyan set before us in his masterpiece The Pilgrim’s Progress is not one of “having your best life now” nor is it having all of your problems suddenly replaced with “opportunities.” No, Bunyan understood, and we need to as well, that no where in God’s Word are we promised that all we have to do is “come to Jesus and all our problems are over.” No, in fact, the opposite may very well be true. Jesus was not exaggerating when he said in John 15:18-19, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” Why does the world hate real Christians? They are not of the world, but have been chosen by Christ out of the world, regenerated and made part of His Kingdom. This change is radical. This salvation is by grace through faith not according to merit or works, but, according to Ephesians 2:10, good works are part of what this Christian walk is all about, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” In fact, our Lord Jesus went so far as to say it very plainly in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Therefore, genuine Christians will be evident to the world because they will serve their Lord with their lives in obedience walking in the good works set before them by God Himself. That means also that they will not be those compromising all over the place with false religions seeking unity with false brethren and obvious wolves in sheep’s clothing for the sake of a friendly, false peace. Doesn’t this explain why the world hates us?  Continue reading

Why should we be partakers of the very thing that leads to eternal death in those who do not know the Lord?


by Mike Ratliff

8 And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), “Let us do evil that good may come”? Their condemnation is just. Romans 3:8 (NASB) 

The debate in the visible Church in our time concerning the need for Christians to walk in Repentance is actually quite perplexing to those of us whose hearts and consciences are bound to the Word of God. It clearly exhorts us all to repent and walk in righteousness. I had a conversation with a Pastor several years ago at lunch following his sermon that Sunday morning. We discussed the dreadful condition in the visible Church in which most professing Christians appeared to be very immature and in bondage to their flesh. I asked for his opinion of why that was so. His response was that it was the result of the Church not being the Church God designed. There was little or no Church discipline. There was little preaching of the Law and the Gospel together. There was hardly ever a mention of walking in repentance before our Holy God. I agreed completely with his analysis. He also shared that he did not believe that a very large percentage of professing Christians were genuine. Continue reading

How should Christians communicate with apostates?


by Mike Ratliff

8 To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9 not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. 10 For,
“The one who desires life, to love and see good days,
Must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.
11 “He must turn away from evil and do good;
He must seek peace and pursue it.
12 “For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous,
And His ears attend to their prayer,
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:8-12 (NASB) 

This era of the Church is one of extreme deception due to compromise with the standards and focus of the world. Separation between the Church and the world is not being kept. Instead, the holy barrier between the two has been breached as false prophets have welcomed in not only the world and its ways into their churches, but have also embraced the mysticism of the Eastern religions. Syncretism is the new byword. On the other hand, God is good. He keeps His promises. The Lord told Peter that He is the one building His Church and no evil will ever be able to destroy it. (Matthew 16:18) If this is true, and it is because our Lord spoke it, then how do we reconcile the rapid apostasy of so much of the visible Church with what He said? God always keeps a remnant during times of rampant apostasy. These Christians are the small group whom God has reserved who have not bowed the knee to Baal. These are also the ones in whom God is developing Christlikeness and through the fires of persecution by those in the visible Church who have succumbed to the heresies and ungodliness going on in it, He is teaching them how to stand firm and never compromise with evil. In this they learn the difference between debate and dialogue and know that the former actually clarifies the truth and why they hold to it while the latter is only a conversation which has the intent of compromising the truth. Continue reading