The fruit of proper Christian ministry devotion


by Mike Ratliff

13 ἕως ἔρχομαι πρόσεχε τῇ ἀναγνώσει, τῇ παρακλήσει, τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ. 1 Timothy 4:13 (NA28)

13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 1 Timothy 4:13 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

As the passage above (1 Timothy 4:13) makes clear, to the Apostle Paul the centrality of preaching in Christian ministry was critical. He knew that the fruit of that was the working of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ producing godliness. However, its neglect produces its own fruit. I am not exaggerating when I state that most ministries today are built on entertainment, personality, crowd-gathering events, gimmicks, programs, and anything entrepreneurs can come up with to draw people together that simply appeals to the flesh. However, that was not nor has it ever been the Biblical model of a Christian ministry.  Continue reading

Did Jesus preach the gospel?


By Mike Ratliff

1 When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. (Mark 2:1-2 NASB) 

A few weeks ago a friend contacted me with a question that came up because of a theological disagreement between him and his pastor. The disagreement centered on the necessity of repentance as part of our salvation and as the discussion continued the pastor insisted that Jesus never taught that nor did he preach the gospel because He had not yet gone to the cross. Here is part of the quote from our conversation.

“He asserted that he (Jesus) did not preach the gospel because he had not yet died or had been raised from the dead so therefore there was no gospel to preach at that point. I then asked him from what then and why did Jesus asked them to repent and why and what did he ask them to believe in. He did not really answer this question but went on another line of thought.

He is heavily influenced by the writings and teaching of Tim Keller and NT Wright CS Lewis. He told me to reread the gospel and that I would never witness Jesus preaching the gospel.”

I must admit that this took me by surprise so I am sure my response was not adequate for my friend.  However, this has been bothering me since then. Today at church our interim pastor preached on Mark 2:1-12 and he actually spent some time on v2 which is what this post is going to be about. Continue reading

What does it mean to preach the Word?


by Mike Ratliff

1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:1-4 NASB)

About 7 years ago or so we were dealing with the Emergent or Emerging “Church” replacing Christian liberalism or at least morphing into the same role. That means that it assumed a Gospel stance of universalism. At the same time, we were hearing of a certain group of Christian leaders who called themselves “New Calvinists.” For many years, it was assumed that if one was reformed in his theology, like me, that it was a sure deal that that Christian was not going to fall into the cesspool of liberalism. However, the New Calvinists appear to lean towards mysticism and heavily toward compromise. I am one who simply cannot wrap my mind around how one who confesses to believe that God is Sovereign over all things and that man is incapable of saving Himself can seek to make the compromises in their ministry that would line themselves up with the Emergents. Universalism and Calvinism are polar opposites in my understanding of things and that means that Calvinists should have a proper understanding of what it means that Jesus Christ is Lord. It means that we do not call the shots. We do not design new and more popular ways to serve and worship Him. No, we must worship and serve as directed by Him. Continue reading

Teaching Doctrine


by Mike Ratliff

ἕως ἔρχομαι πρόσεχε τῇ ἀναγνώσει, τῇ παρακλήσει, τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ. (1 Timothy 4:13 NA27)

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. (a personal translation of 1 Timothy 4:13 from the NA27 Greek text)

I witnessed the changing of the guard this morning at our church. The pastor who planted it about 10 years ago participated in the ordination of the service of his replacement. The pastor whom God sent to plant our church is moving into a ministry to the sick and dying as a hospital chaplain. I love him. I love all the elders at our church. I was sitting there last Sunday in a lot of pain just a few days before my shoulder surgery and one of them came up and just conversationally asked me what was going on and as I shared that he immediately had me added to the prayer ministry. I sat in a strategic place this morning so I could see the whole ordination service take place and I thought no one would really notice me off to the side yet I was approached by elders and friends all wanting to know how it all went and how I was doing. However, my favorite part of this morning was that, before any of that, I got about 30 seconds of my new pastor’s time to give him a hug after he asked me about the surgery as I walked through the front door. I told him that I came there this morning for two things, to hear him preach the word and see him ordained. Then I got another hug.  Continue reading

The Fruit of Devotion


by Mike Ratliff

ἕως ἔρχομαι πρόσεχε τῇ ἀναγνώσει, τῇ παρακλήσει, τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ. (1 Timothy 4:13 NA27)

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. (a personal translation of 1 Timothy 4:13 from the NA27 Greek text)

As the passage above (1 Timothy 4:13) makes clear, to the Apostle Paul the centrality of preaching in Christian ministry was critical. He knew that the fruit of that was the working of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ producing godliness. However, its neglect produces its own fruit. I am not exaggerating when I state that most ministries today are built on entertainment, personality, crowd-gathering events, gimmicks, programs, and any thing entrepreneurs can come up with to draw people together that simply appeal to the flesh. However, that was not nor has it ever been the Biblical model of a Christian ministry.  Continue reading

Soft Preaching Produces Hard Hearts While Hard Preaching Shatters then Produces Soft Hearts Towards God and His Righteousness


by Mike Ratliff

For being ignorant of the righteousness of God and seeking to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to the righteousness of God. (Romans 10:3 a direct translation from the NA27 Greek text)

The institutional church or visible church in our time is a mess. It has lost its focus. This has come about over many decades of bad theology overtaking mediocre theology so that the focus of so much of what we see in any given church is not God and His glory, but on people with the man behind the pulpit in the spotlight as if he is either some sort of CEO or a Rock Star. In the seeker-sensitive church model, all things are geared to be inoffensive to everyone so sermons are short and pragmatic with so-called worship being all about entertainment. In those churches subscribed to that model there are no expository sermons preached about the Holiness and Righteousness of God in light of the sinfulness of man and thus his need of a Saviour. No, that would be considered “hard preaching” and offensive. Instead, the order of the day is “soft words.”  Continue reading

A Salvation That Really Saves


by Mike Ratliff

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)

In yesterday’s post, Grace of Acceptation With God, we saw that our salvation was far more than simply justification by faith, which in and of itself is incredible, but also includes the imputation of the actual active righteousness of Christ, His good works or keeping of the Law, which is required for our complete acceptation by God into His Kingdom. I know that many reading this may not see the point of this or have no idea what I am talking about. However, please understand, I am praying that you will understand the truth of this because this is a huge missing piece from the gospel in the church in our time. Without this teaching, the church is plagued with professing Christians who are in a form of self-salvation. They did the religious thing “to get saved” at church. They were sincere, but there is no real change in their lives. However, the Bible is very clear as in the passage above that we are saved “not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Therefore, there is a huge problem with a lack of assurance in these people. The issue is not their lack of sincerity or their lack of obedience since their religious experience, but that they have believed a false, man-made gospel that has no spiritual power to really save or regenerate anyone.  Continue reading

Preach the Word!


by Mike Ratliff

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:1-4 ESV)

I read the other day that the Emergent or Emerging “Church” was replacing Christian liberalism or at least morphing into the same role. That means that it assumed a Gospel stance of universalism. For many years, it was assumed that if one was reformed in his or theology, like me, that it was a sure deal that that Christian was not going to fall into the cesspool of this nonsense. However, now we have a new term to deal with called New Calvinism or a reference to a certain group of Christian leaders called New Calvinists. Those we have looked at in this group appears to lean towards mysticism and compromise. I am one who simply cannot wrap my mind around how one who confesses to believe that God is Sovereign over all things and that man is incapable of saving Himself can seek to make the compromises in their ministry that would line themselves up with the Emergents. Universalism and Calvinism are polar opposites in my understanding of things and that means that Calvinists should have a proper understanding of what it means that Jesus Christ is Lord. It means that we do not call the shots. We do not design new and more popular ways to serve and worship Him. No, we must worship and serve as directed by Him. Continue reading

The Preaching Which Delights Itching Ears


by Mike Ratliff

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV)

Much of what I read online about what is going on in the visible Church that is nothing more than a form of entertainment is foreign to most of my own experience. I have visited one church in our area that is a first class example of the seeker-sensitive model and a few others that were blends of orthodoxy and attempts at cultural relevancy, but I have never been to one of those “churches” that are attempting to fill their pews with series on sex and sexuality. I have never been in a church where the Pastor dressed like a biker and talked like a drunken sailor, but I have seen the video of Mark Driscoll’s “sermon” on the Song of Solomon. I confess that I only watched the first few minutes of it though. It was obvious that Pastor Driscoll’s “sermon” was not based on serious exegesis of that wonderful book in God’s Word. I had several people contact me after that video went online who were aghast after comparing what he preached with what the text of the Song of Solomon actually said. Continue reading