God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart


by Mike Ratliff

30 This same Hezekiah closed the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them down to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all his works. 31 And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart. (2 Chronicles 32:30-31 ESV)

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, therefore, become more usable in the Kingdom.  Continue reading

The Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints


by Mike Ratliff

 

37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never 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 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:37-40 ESV)

28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will 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 the Father’s hand. (John 10:28-29 ESV)

The Doctrines of Grace are a tremendous blessing 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 cherished. 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

The Christian’s Final Victory


by Mike Ratliff

17 αποκριθεισ δε ο ιησουσ ειπεν αυτω· μακαριοσ ει, σιμων βαριωνα, οτι σαρξ και αιμα ουκ απεκαλυψεν σοι αλλ ο πατηρ μου ο εν τοισ ουρανοισ (Matthew 16:17 NA28)

17 And Jesus answered him saying, “Blessed are Simon son of John for flesh and blood did not not reveal this to you, but my Father in Heaven.”  (Matthew 16:17 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

My discussions with several of you over the past few weeks has centered on our puzzlement over the seemingly strange mixture of theology in some people who appear to be very genuine in their faith while holding to obviously heretical doctrines or following false teachers with joy. We must never forget my brethren that just because someone expresses that they have faith and believe does not mean that he or she actually does. One’s genuiness in Christ is not revealed by confession. The Bible teaches of only one way to know if one is truly in Christ. That is perseverance in the faith to the end. Christians are not saved through the good works in their walk or even by the fact that they do persevere, but  their Christian authenticity is proven through these things. Faithfulness is a mark of genuineness. When professing Christians wander off the path for whatever reason, this does not mean that God will forsake them, refusing to have mercy on them and bring them back. In John Bunyan’s monumental work, The Pilgrim’s Progress, we see how easy it is for pilgrims to be deceived by all sorts of things, to become distracted; and this blinds them spiritually so that they lose sight of the spiritual and, therefore, see things through eyes of flesh. Then they find themselves off the path in all sorts of deception and trouble. God is good. He will draw His genuine believers back to the narrow path, but those who are not truly His will reside in their spiritual blindness and remain deceived in their fleshly pursuits or false doctrines. I’ve been a Christian a long time and have seen examples over and over of former faithful members of our church who have fallen away.  Continue reading

What is Apostasy?


by Mike Ratliff

11 Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.  (Hebrews 5:11-14 NASB)

Apostasy: [Middle English apostasie, from Old French, from Late Latin apostasia, defection, from Late Greek apostasi, from Greek apostasis, revolt, from aphistanai, aposta-, to revolt : apo-, apo- + histanai, to stand, place; see st- in Indo-European roots.]  Noun pl -sies abandonment of one’s religious faith, political party, or cause [Greek apostasis desertion] from: Collins Essential English Dictionary 2nd Edition 2006 © HarperCollins Publishers 2004, 2006

Another good way to understand apostasy and what causes one to abandon his or her religious faith is “to forget.” In the history of civilization, the battle between intellectual honesty and intellectual barbarity is one that has cycled back a forth for millennia. When intellectual honesty is on top, truth is seen as succinct and knowable and authoritative. When intellectual barbarity is on top, truth is seen as relative and completely unknowable.  In case you weren’t sure, we are now in an intellectual barbarian stage in the early 21st Century. Continue reading

Preserving Grace


by Mike Ratliff

28 κἀγὼ δίδωμι αὐτοῖς ζωὴν αἰώνιον καὶ οὐ μὴ ἀπόλωνται εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα καὶ οὐχ ἁρπάσει τις αὐτὰ ἐκ τῆς χειρός μου. 29 ὁ πατήρ μου ὃ δέδωκέν μοι πάντων μεῖζόν ἐστιν, καὶ οὐδεὶς δύναται ἁρπάζειν ἐκ τῆς χειρὸς τοῦ πατρός. 30 ἐγὼ καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ἕν ἐσμεν. (John 10:28-30 NA27)

28 And I give to them eternal life and they will never perish into the age, and no one will 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 the hand of the Father. 30 I and the Father are one. (John 10:28-30 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)

I have always been puzzled why some become so angry when we declare the doctrine of eternal security of God’s people. Of course, those who do are the very same ones whose theology is man-centered and, therefore, based on the “Free-Will” of man, which is found nowhere in the Bible. When the will of man is discussed in God’s Word it talks of it being enslaved to his sinful nature and how the washing of regeneration at the working of God in man’s salvation, his will becomes free from that bondage. In any case, when we do declare the doctrine of the eternal security of God’s people, it is perhaps clearer to speak of their preservation rather than their perseverance. Perseverance means continued adherence to a belief despite discouragement and opposition. However, the reason believers persevere in faith and obedience is not the strength of their own commitment, but that Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit preserves them through Preserving Grace. Continue reading

Do Not Give Up


by Mike Ratliff

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

In January 5, 2011 we looked at The Right Attitudes Concerning Prayer using Ephesians 3:12 as our primary focus. Now let us look at another important word from v13 which many Bible translations render as ‘faint,’ ‘discouraged, ‘ or ‘lose heart.’ Here is v13 from the Westcott and Hort Greek New Testament.

διο αιτουμαι μη εγκακειν εν ταις θλιψεσιν μου υπερ υμων ητις εστιν δοξα υμων  Continue reading

Saving Faith vs. False Faith


by Mike Ratliff

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge– even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you– so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:4-9 ESV)

Being a refugee from the SBC, I began this ministry with a great deal of spiritual baggage that stubbornly clung to me until God subjected me to the cleansing fires of His truth through dealing with tribulation, crises of dealing with bad doctrine within supposed brethren, and outright persecution from people I thought were friends. It was through these fires of tribulation that, even though very painful, I got my focus off of self and onto the Lord. His will became paramount in my heart. His glory became my focus. I am nothing; He is everything. He is my κύριος (Lord); I am His δοῦλος (slave, bondservant). I had a test today and I was not only surprised by my reaction to it, but I also rejoiced when it was over as I looked back on the journey God has thus far taken me as He has peeled away the heretical, self-focused, bad theology, and me-ism that was standard fare in the SBC churches from which I came. Continue reading

A Rest for the People of God


by Mike Ratliff

For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.” (Psalms 95:7-11 ESV)

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? 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 that. 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

Kept by God


Jehovah God,

Thou Creator, Upholder, Proprietor of all things, I cannot escape from thy presence or control, nor do I desire to do so. My privilege is to be under the agency of omnipotence, righteousness, wisdom, patience, mercy, grace. Thou art love with more than parental affection; I admire thy heart, adore thy wisdom, stand in awe of thy power, abase myself before thy purity. It is the discovery of thy goodness alone that can banish my fear, allure me into thy presence, help me to bewail and confess my sins. When I review my past guilt and am conscious of my present unworthiness I tremble to come to thee, I whose foundation is in the dust, I who have condemned thy goodness, defied thy power, trampled upon thy love, rendered myself worthy of eternal death.

But my recovery cannot spring from any cause in me, I can destroy but cannot save myself. Yet thou hast laid help on One that is mighty, for there is mercy with thee, and exceeding riches in thy kindness through Jesus. May I always feel my need of him. Let thy restored joy be my strength; May it keep me from lusting after the world, bear up heart and mind in loss of comforts, enliven me in the valley of death, work in me the image of the heavenly, and give me to enjoy the first fruits of spirituality, such as angels and departed saints know. – from The Valley of Vision A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions edited by Arthur Bennett


What Happens When God Leaves Us to Ourselves?


by Mike Ratliff

This same Hezekiah closed the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them down to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all his works. And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart. (2 Chronicles 32:30-31 ESV)

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 Saints Persevere


by Mike Ratliff

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge– even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you– so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:4-9 ESV)

Not long 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

Perseverance of the Saints


by Mike Ratliff

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:37-40 ESV)

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (John 10:28-29 ESV)

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 cherished. 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

How the Gospel Shapes Pastors to Oppose False Teaching


by Mike Ratliff

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-20 ESV)

I received an email today from John Hendryx at Monergism.com in which he posted the link to an interview he had given on the Exiled Preacher blog. The last question he was asked during the interview was, “What is the biggest problem facing Evangelical Reformed Christianity at this time and how should we respond?” John’s response is below.

I believe one of the biggest problems facing Evangelicals is the false teaching that Christianity is primarily about what we do for Jesus, not about what He has done for us. This has profoundly negative implications for everything else we exegete in the Bible. Ethics, in this case, has trumped salvation. This error really strikes at the heart of the gospel and there is no doubt the problem has reached crisis levels in our local churches. In the 1980s, some in the church had issue with receiving Christ as Lord, but today the difficulty seems to be with receiving Christ as Savior. It is pretty horrifying. Jesus and Paul seemed to have no difficulty confronting heresy but oddly the spirit of the age drives many Christians to have an aversion to it. Yes, we must respond to the crisis with humility, that is, with personal and corporate repentance and prayer before we boldly confront the heresy.

Continue reading

Spurgeon on Persevering Grace


I have always be puzzled over why some reject the Doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints. The evidence of the veracity of this doctrine in the Word of God is overwhelming. Of course the culprit in that resistance is the same as that which opposes each of the doctrines of grace. The Sovereignty of God is the issue. How far does it extend? Is there a limit to it? To what extent does Man have autonomy? I pray that our study of the doctrines of grace has helped you in seeing that God is Sovereign and Man, being a creature in His creation, is under His sovereignty even as all other creatures. Let us end this study with Charles Spurgeon’s take on the Doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints.