Talkative


by Mike Ratliff

One of my favorite books is The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. This book was published in 1678 after Bunyan had been in prison from 1661 to 1672 then again for six months in 1677. He worked on the manuscript for The Pilgrim’s Progress during the second half of his first imprisonment and finished it during his second imprisonment. Why was he in jail? He was a non-conformist Baptist preacher. He would not submit to the Church of England. He could have been freed after the first three months of his first imprisonment if he would agree to stop preaching. However, he would not do so.

This book has had a huge impact on Christians all over the world. It has been in print constantly since it was first published. It’s success and impact are directly related to the suffering of Bunyan, which leaks through every page of this book. His suffering authenticates the message. Continue reading

To whom be glory for ever


by Mike Ratliff

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? 35 Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:33-36 (NASB)

All of the mature Christians I have known were not focused in any way on themselves except where it came to self-examination, repentance, prayer and service. We all have to live in this sin soaked, evil world, which God uses as part of our sanctification so that means we must not do what the monks do, that is, escape from the world in an attempt to earn God’s favor through asceticism. No, we are to be in the world, but be not part of it.

13 But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. John 17:13-19 (NASB) 

So, our Lord clearly tells us that we are actually “sent into the world,” however if we are in Him then we have already been spiritually removed from it though we are physically still here. Therefore, our focus as believers needs to be eternal rather than temporal. We need to take our Lord’s command on how to pray.

9 “Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’] Matthew 6:9-13 (NASB) 

Carefully read v10. That is a prayer about God’s sovereignty. It places it and His kingdom above all our needs. We put Him and His kingdom first and our needs will be met, but more importantly, we will be used by Him in the furtherance of His kingdom. Continue reading

Do I really love the Lord?


by Mike Ratliff

37 ὁ δὲ ἔφη αὐτῷ· ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ καρδίᾳ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχῇ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ διανοίᾳ σου· 38 αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ μεγάλη καὶ πρώτη ἐντολή. Matthew 22:37-38 (NA28)

37 And He said to Him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your understanding. 38 This is the great and first commandment.” Matthew 22:37-38 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In v37 (above) the word “heart” translates the Greek noun καρδίᾳ (kardia). It is from this word which, of course, is derived the medical terms such as cardiac and cardiologist. Its significance is enormous.It was used in secular Greek both in the literal and figurative sense, but the figurative was the most profound, picturing the heart as the seat of emotions and spirituality. In Homer’s time (eighth century BC) and onward, however, it took on the even more significant meaning of both spiritual and intellectual life, including man’s will and decision-making. Continue reading

Perfectionism and the Second Blessing


by Mike Ratliff

50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 1 Corinthians 15:50 (NASB) 

It is a very dangerous thing to interpret things extra-biblically that occur in our spiritual growth. For instance, in my own walk I was in a very stagnant spiritual state for over a decade from around 1990 until 2004. I had some growth spurts during that time, but they were always followed by years of mediocrity. Then in 2004 God took me through about 8 months of spiritual boot camp. I emerged a changed man. I really thought that I had come across some sort of ‘second blessing’ in which I had entered into a new level of spirituality that was easily accomplished simply following some sort of plan or formula. Continue reading

The Holiness of the Church


by Mike Ratliff

9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. 1 Peter 2:9-10 (NASB) 

The Church is not a building. No, in the New Testament, written in Koine Greek, the English word translated as “church” is the word ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia). This word literally means, “the called out ones.” It’s usage in scripture denotes the New Testament community of the redeemed in a two-fold aspect, the first referring to all those called by and to Christ in the fellowship of His salvation, which is the “Church” worldwide at all times. The second aspect, rarely used, refers to a local body of believers.  Continue reading

Are All Christians Called to Be Holy?


by Mike Ratliff

33 “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
35 “ Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. 36 Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Luke 12:33-36 (NASB)

One recurring warning throughout the New Testament is that Christians should live in such a way that they will be ready when their Lord returns. What would that life look like? How should we live in order to be ready when He comes and knocks? I doubt that it would look like the self-indulgent, pop-culture oriented, heavily marketed, so-called Christian lifestyle that waters down the gospel and breeds “Christians” who are both theologically and scripturally ignorant. They follow “another Jesus” whose creators have designed to fit the image that draws the crowd they want. The “followers” of this “other Jesus” resent any call to live lives of repentance before a Holy God who is to be feared. What does the life look like that is prepared for our Lord’s return?  Continue reading

The Discipline of God


By Mike Ratliff

2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 2 Peter 1:2-4 (NASB) 

When I was a new Christian I heard a sermon by Chuck Swindoll in which he stated that before God can use a man for His purposes He must hurt him and sometimes rather severely. That was a quite startling to me at that time since that was so alien to the ‘doctrine’ I was exposed to in the church I belonged to. The focus there was that God was love and that He loved each of just the way we were. If that was so then what Swindoll was teaching wrong. However, as I studied my Bible I found that he was right and what I was hearing in church was wrong. Continue reading

God Wills Us to be Holy


by Mike Ratliff

1 Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. 2 For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. 8 So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 (NASB) 

Holiness is commanded by God. He wills it. Our Lord Jesus Christ requires it and the Word of God calls for it. The goal of our redemption is that we become Holy as God is Holy. Our Lord died on the cross in order that all of His people would be justified. This justification is God’s declaration that we are righteous having Christ’s righteousness imputed to our account. This had to come first in order that we may be sanctified and made Holy. Continue reading

Law and Faith


By Mike Ratliff

14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Romans 6:14-15 (NASB) 

Most of the formative years of my Christian walk were spent in one church from February 1987 through February 2000.  During that time we had three pastors.  I was in some form of teaching for most of that time. One of the things that always came up when we studied the Old Testament was Romans 6:14-15. It was as if someone always had to make sure that we were not being legalistic. They cast the law as far from them and our church as the East is from the West. Is that how we are to treat God’s Law? Continue reading

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

The Mystery of Godliness


by Mike Ratliff

14 I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; 15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. 16 By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:
He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory. 1 Timothy 3:14-16 (NASB) 

The best place for Christians to be is at the Cross, before the Savior, in complete agreement with God that without His saving Grace they would be on their way to Hell, and without His sustaining Grace they 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 in the Spirit; neither are we able to seek His Holiness unless He first gives us the Grace to do these things. In fact, if we try to do either in our own abilities, 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

Hearing and Doing the Word


by Mike Ratliff

22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. James 1:22 (NASB) 

The visible Church in our time has been compromised for the most part by human philosophy and has succumbed to the pressure from the world to not emphasize God’s truth as absolute. Professing Christians who discount the Word of God as absolute truth are actually placing their intellect, their beliefs, and the counsel of their own hearts above the Word of God as it relates to authority and truth. It is one thing for an atheist to denigrate Christians, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the God the Holy Spirit. That is almost expected and should not surprise us. However, when the majority of professing Christians demand the right to behave contrary to what the Word teaches about Christian behavior can God’s judgment be far behind? Continue reading

That You May Know


by Mike Ratliff

13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:13 (NASB) 

As the scandals within the SBC have gotten worse and worse along with the continual pressures from those who are demanding that we all become “Woke” I have come under conviction that I should point out those corruptions as warnings, but focus primarily to true believers that our real battle as we remain in this hostile environment is against discouragement and to remain focused on personal holiness as we walk by faith.  Continue reading

A Biblical View of Sin


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 came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:1-5 (NASB) 

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 and even if their sin amounted 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 to 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