A Rest for the People of God


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) 

Those who insist that we are in a ‘post-evangelical era’ and must, therefore, radically alter not only how we do church in order to reach unbelieving people in our time, also insist that this must be accompanied by a toning down of one’s Christian convictions about the truth. We are told that the culture we are in now will not respond to those who are militant, aggressive, preachy, and extremely sure of their convictions. I ask, since when has pragmatism become how the Gospel works? Also, did our Lord ever elevate social justice above the Gospel? Did Jesus preach and teach pragmatically or did what He taught cause a huge division between those who believed and those who didn’t? You know the answer to these questions. He pulled no punches. The reality of His ministry was the epitome of God’s ways not being man’s ways. All we are told to do until our Lord returns is make disciples, teaching them all that He has taught us. In the meantime we are to abide in Christ, love one another, deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus. We are to be the antithesis of world and its ways, not conforming to it in how we minister. Continue reading

Do Not Give Up


by Mike Ratliff

12 ἐν ᾧ ἔχομεν τὴν παρρησίαν καὶ προσαγωγὴν ἐν πεποιθήσει διὰ τῆς πίστεως αὐτοῦ. 13 διὸ αἰτοῦμαι μὴ ἐγκακεῖν ἐν ταῖς θλίψεσίν μου ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, ἥτις ἐστὶν δόξα ὑμῶν. Ephesians 3:12-13 (NA28)

12 in whom we have the boldness and access in confidence through our faith in Him. 13 Therefore, I ask you not to give up over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory Ephesians 3:12-13 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In this post let us look at an important word from Ephesians 13 which many Bible translations render as ‘faint,’ ‘discouraged, ‘ or ‘lose heart.’ The words “not to give up” above translate μὴ ἐγκακεῖν. Μη (mē) expresses absolute denial. Paul is expressing his desire to the Ephesians that they DO NOT do something. That something is ἐγκακεῖν that is the Present tense, Infinitive mood, Active voice form of ἐκκακέω (ekkakeō), which literally means, “to turn out to be a coward, to lose one’s courage, to faint or despond in view of trial or to be utterly spiritless.” So perhaps my translation of “do not give up” seems insufficient in light of this, but what we must see is that the verb structure Paul used here is speaking of a way of life not a one-time action. Continue reading

What Happens When God Leaves Us to Ourselves?


by Mike Ratliff

30 It was Hezekiah who stopped the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all that he did. 31 Even in the matter of the envoys of the rulers of Babylon, who sent to him to inquire of the wonder that had happened in the land, God left him alone only to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart. 2 Chronicles 32:30-31 (NASB) 

I doubt if any professing Christian who is a genuine child of God has not come to that sobering and often devastating realization in which God has taken His hand away just enough so that decisions are made and actions are taken apart from His wise counsel. The consequences of our going it alone are humbling to say the least. God tests us in these circumstances to show us what is really in our hearts. We are placed in circumstances in which the wise and Christian thing to do would be to seek God’s face and move only as He leads, but if we are honest we must confess that in these circumstances our self-righteousness comes to the fore or we operate from pride or instead of mortifying our sin, we indulge our flesh. These are not marks of the unregenerate my brethren, but of the children of God. I am convinced that God uses these things to show us what we are really made of and, therefore, we are humbled and become more usable in the Kingdom.  Continue reading

How the Gospel Shapes Pastors to Oppose False Teaching


by Mike Ratliff

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits. Matthew 7:15-20 (NASB) 

When I began studying Theology as part of my spiritual renewal back in 2004-2006 it never occurred to be at that time that I would end up as a Calvinist, but that is what happened. How? It was through the study of God’s Word and taking what it said about our Salvation then comparing that with how I had been taught in church for years upon years. From that it became obvious that something was amiss. This caused me to dig deeper. I then discovered that there was indeed a difference between Arminianism (I actually had never heard of that term before) and Calvinism. From that study I concluded that what I had been taught was actually a mishmash of the two. The Southern Baptist Churches I had attended as a child preached the gospel much like John Wesley except there was that “once saved, always, saved” part that true Arminians hate. From my study of several weeks I came through it as a 5 point Calvinist and have never looked back. Continue reading

Why Saints Persevere


by Mike Ratliff

4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 (NASB) 

Several years ago during some research for a piece I was working on, I found myself on a blog that was most definitely not a friendly place for anyone who holds that God’s Truth is absolute and we can know it by studying His Word. The search that landed me there had to do with Penal Substitution. I never did find out why Google linked to that site, however, as I read the comments in the discussion of the post in question, one seemed to sear itself into my memory. The person who wrote came across as young and angry. He had a huge problem with Paul Washer of Heart Cry Missionary Society. Why? He did not like the fact that when he heard him he felt like Paul was simply manipulating his emotions to make him believe that he was not really saved. He then began ranting about Reformation Theology, calling it “works theology.” Why? Because we teach that proof of the veracity of one’s salvation is proven when the believer perseveres to the end. I asked myself, “How that could possibly be seen as works because we do not teach that the believer’s perseverance is accomplished by self-effort.” Continue reading

Stand Firm as the Day of The Lord Approacheth


by Mike Ratliff

15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. 2 Thessalonians 2:15 (NASB) 

Genuine Christianity is vastly different than the religiosity and Churchianity all around us. I remember as a much younger Christian as I studied eschatology, that we always assumed that the attacks on Christians during the close of the end of this age would come from the secular, from the evil that is opposed to everything about our faith. However, over the last several years as I have battled in the truth war and studied the writings of the reformers, Puritans, and men such as C.H. Spurgeon, it has become clear that the visible church is mostly anti-Christian. On the other hand, God has His saints in the invisible Church kept secure and is continually growing them in maturity, transforming them through continual mind renewal through immersion into His Word. Continue reading

Do not lose heart


by Mike Ratliff

11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. 13 Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory. Ephesians 3:11-13 (NASB) 

Let us look at an important word from v13 which many Bible translations render as ‘faint,’ ‘discouraged, ‘ or ‘lose heart.’ Here is v13 from the NA28 Greek text.

13 διὸ αἰτοῦμαι μὴ ἐγκακεῖν ἐν ταῖς θλίψεσίν μου ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, ἥτις ἐστὶν δόξα ὑμῶν. Ephesians 3:13 (NA28)
Continue reading

Who will separate us from the love of Christ?


by Mike Ratliff

35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
WE were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39 (NASB) 

Probably the number one thing that I have learned while presenting the doctrines of grace is that there are people who simply will not believe nor back away from their own conception of Soteriology. For instance, I have friends, acquaintances, and relatives who smirk and roll their eyes back when the topic of Persevering Grace comes up. I heard one fellow say once that God writes those who are saved in the Lamb’s Book of Life in pencil and that pencil has an eraser. Where in the Bible is that one?

Continue reading

Lord God, please do not take your sustaining grace from us!


by Mike Ratliff

30 It was Hezekiah who stopped the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all that he did. 31 Even in the matter of the envoys of the rulers of Babylon, who sent to him to inquire of the wonder that had happened in the land, God left him alone only to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart. 2 Chronicles 32:30-31 (NASB) 

I doubt if any professing Christian who is a genuine child of God has not come to that sobering and often devastating realization in which God has taken His hand away just enough so that decisions are made and actions are taken apart from His wise counsel. The consequences of our going it alone are humbling to say the least. God tests us in these circumstances to show us what is really in our hearts. We are placed in circumstances in which the wise and Christian thing to do would be to seek God’s face and move only as He leads, but if we are honest we must confess that in these circumstances our self-righteousness comes to the fore or we operate from pride or instead of mortifying our sin, we indulge our flesh. These are not marks of the unregenerate my brethren, but of the children of God. I am convinced that God uses these things to show us what we are really made of and, therefore, we are humbled and become more usable in the Kingdom.  Continue reading

Why genuine Christians persevere


by Mike Ratliff

37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:37-40 (NKJV) 

28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.John 10:28-29 (NKJV) 

The Doctrines of Grace are all tremendous blessings to the believer since they teach us that our salvation is God’s Work from beginning to end, top to bottom, and side to side. However, each of us from time to time, since we are only vessels of clay and a vapor that is here one day and then gone the next, will experience  a loss of joy born from life’s disappointments. We suffer this way because our focus is not perfectly fixed on God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as the source of our fulfillment. God, in His omniscient wisdom, prunes us as He takes things out of our lives that our hearts cherish. It is as we struggle through these times that it is a good thing to review who we are in Christ and what He has done, and what He is doing for us. One such precious promise is the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints. Continue reading

Forgiveness and perseverance


by Mike Ratliff

17 One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing. 18 And some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him. 19 But not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. 20 Seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” Luke 5:17-21 (NASB) 

I have known many people over the years who professed to be Christians, but who held to doctrines that placed the burden and veracity of their salvation on themselves. For the first 20 or so years of my walk with the Lord, I was a member in 5 different Southern Baptist churches in two states. The SBC is not a denomination of churches that are consistent across the board on doctrine. There are Reformed and Arminian Churches in the convention along with everything in between. In fact, until God woke me up and drew me into the light in 2004 I really had no idea what the difference was. I had never heard of Arminianism. I had only heard of Calvinism in World History classes.  However, as I studied doctrine I found to my great surprise that my own personal doctrine of salvation was a mishmash of Calvinism and Arminianism. Most non-Reformed Southern Baptists believe in a ‘doctrine’ of ‘Once Saved, Always Saved.’ It is not the same thing as the Reformed doctrine of ‘The Perseverance of the Saints.’ The former appears to be a holdover from the old days of the Baptist churches that were predominately Reformed in their doctrine. Continue reading

Why do authentic Christians persevere?


by Mike Ratliff

4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 (NASB) 

Why do authentic Christians persevere? Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post. Genuine Christians persevere to the end because God is faithful. The faithfulness of man is at best unreliable. Also, notice that Paul did not say that Christians persevere because of faithful ministers to lead and guide them. No, God would never trust His children’s perseverance to mere men. Instead, the whole burden of our salvation must rest on the faithfulness of our covenant God.

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The Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints / Persevering Grace


by Mike Ratliff

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39 ESV)

Probably the number one thing that I have learned while presenting the doctrines of grace is that there are people who simply will not believe nor back away from their own conception of Soteriology. For instance, I have friends, acquaintances, and relatives who smirk and roll their eyes back when the topic of Persevering Grace comes up. I heard one fellow say once that God writes those who are saved in the Lamb’s Book of Life in pencil and that pencil has an eraser. Where in the Bible is that one?

Continue reading

Why do the Saints persevere?


by Mike Ratliff

4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 (NASB) 

Why do authentic Christians persevere? Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post. Genuine Christians persevere to the end because God is faithful. The faithfulness of man is at best unreliable. Also, notice that Paul did not say that Christians persevere because of faithful ministers to lead and guide them. No, God would never trust His children’s perseverance to mere men. Instead, the whole burden of our salvation must rest on the faithfulness of our covenant God.

Continue reading