The Beatitudes and genunine discipleship

by Mike Ratliff

3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:3-13 (NKJV) 

Back in the mid-1980’s, about 18 months after God saved me, I heard a wonderful lesson at a men’s retreat on Matthew 5:1-12. My Bible knowledge at that time was spotty. I had heard of The Beatitudes, but really hadn’t studied them. I had actually heard others teach that these statements are not possible for Christians until Jesus comes in His glory. I also heard that this is what Christians will be like during the Millennium. Both of these teachings came out of another teaching that said that there were two types of Christians, Disciples and Carnal Christians. At that time, being such a new believer, I thought that was Biblical. I look back on that period of time now and can see clearly why God moved me away from those who taught that.

Jesus said something very different about who were His and who weren’t. Continue reading

Put on the new man

by Mike Ratliff

17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. Ephesians 4:17-19 (NKJV) 

The vast majority of professing Christians in the United States and in other countries, whose churches are patterned after American churches, are enslaved to their flesh. Why? The trend that I have witnessed in our churches for at least the last 35 years or so is a de-emphasis of discipleship. Evangelism or outreach has crowded out in-reach and Bible study. Why? Church growth has become the golden calf of the new evangelism. Because of that, church leaders strive to be culturally relevant even if it means dummying down the Gospel and no longer putting any resources into biblical discipleship. Continue reading

Christian authenticity is radical Christianity

by Mike Ratliff

28 Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”
29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
But after that no one dared question Him. Mark 12:28-34 (NKJV) 

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

Great is the mystery of godliness

by Mike Ratliff

14 These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; 15 but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory. 1 Timothy 3:14-16 (NKJV) 

The best place for a Christian to be is at the Cross, before the Saviour, in complete agreement with God that without His saving Grace he or she would be on their way to Hell, and without His sustaining Grace he or she would lose all ability or desire for His godliness. In fact, Christians are in a great deal of trouble when they think otherwise. Yes, we are commanded to obey God and to seek His Holiness, but we are completely unable to obey Him; neither are we able to seek His Holiness unless He first gives us the Grace to do these things in the Spirit. In fact, if we try to do either in our own abilities, i.e. according to the flesh, we will fail miserably and find ourselves in an impossible situation of trying to attain favor with God by our own efforts in our own ability. This is a form of legalism, which leads only to frustration and disillusionment.  Continue reading

Enjoying Christ’s fullness as mine

by Mike Ratliff

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ”
16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. John 1:14-16 (NKJV) 

There is a certain hysteria currently amongst many of our 21st Century Puritans. While I gladly count myself as a Puritan, I also know that our enemy desires to shackle and nullify our witness and divert our focus, by feeding our heightened perceptions as to what is godly and what is false with misleading and derogatory information that cause us to turn on one another. Having experienced this against my own ministry since its inception I can say that it is very frustrating and eye opening. Continue reading

The Doctrine of Original Sin and the Wrath of God

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 were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:1-5 (NKJV) 

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

Works righteousness is man’s default religion

by Mike Ratliff

13 πορευθέντες δὲ μάθετε τί ἐστιν· ἔλεος θέλω καὶ οὐ θυσίαν· οὐ γὰρ ἦλθον καλέσαι δικαίους ἀλλʼ ἁμαρτωλούς. Matthew 9:13 (NA28)

13 But go and learn what is the meaning of this; I desire mercy and not sacrifice, for I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Matthew 9:13 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Works righteousness is man’s default religion. The Jews mostly misunderstood the Old Testament sacrificial system. The point of the sacrifice was the taking away of sin and the pointing to the perfect sacrifice that would come in Christ, but most had turned it into a form of works righteousness. Continue reading

Believers’ Faithfulness vs Religion

by Mike Ratliff

28 And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him. 1 John 2:28-29 (NKJV) 

All who are truly in Christ must admit that this walk is fraught with doubt as well as pressure to conform to a form of godliness that has no power to conform them to the expected standards of doing church, as well as to live up to the idea that this lost and dying world has what a Christian must be. As many of you know, I grew up as a Southern Baptist. While I am grateful for the deep Bible knowledge that I gained through being in Church every Sunday, I have also learned that much of the focus of organized religion is geared more to creating religious faithfulness rather than to disciple believers to abide in Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Continue reading

Have you been apprehended by God?

by Mike Ratliff

12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12 (KJV) 

The Apostle Paul often used the analogy of a runner to describe our spiritual growth. Unlike a race that has an ending with one runner reaching the goal and attaining the prize of victory, our spiritual race will continue as long as we live. We will never reach the goal of Christlikeness, but like the runner in a race we must continue to pursue that goal.

Even though the current crop of evangelicals disdain discipleship, Bible study, and spiritual growth calling them “unnecessary” since their sole goal is numerical growth through their evangelical ministries, we must not give in to this lie. Paul tells us that God’s will for each of His children is their sanctification. (1 Thessalonians 4:3) That means His desire for each of us is that we be holy. Continue reading

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

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

Self-Righteousness vs Inward Cleanliness

by Mike Ratliff

24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Matthew 23:24 (NASB) 

A huge trap that Christians can fall into is self-righteousness. It is a form of idolatry and that always causes spiritual blindness (Romans 1:24-25). Self-righteousness puts all effort towards godliness in the wrong place. It creates a form of piety that is all about outward appearances while putting little or no priority on matters of the heart. It is all about being concerned about appearances and what others think rather than being totally committed to abiding in Christ from within first. The self-righteous are consciously holy. However, that is not what we are called to be. Christians must be consciously repentant and unconsciously holy. The difference is huge for these are totally opposite walks. Continue reading

My brethren, do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good

by Mike Ratliff

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. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NASB) 

In our daily Christian walk it is a rare day in which we take every thought captive and, through our active repentance, successfully deny ourselves through every circumstance. I don’t think I could claim that I have successfully done this the majority of the time. However, our God is wise and omniscient. It should be a matter of great rejoicing on our part that our perseverance is in His hands and is based on the work of the Holy Trinity on our behalf, not on our will power. 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