The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 13 – The Discerning Heart


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)

A couple of decades ago, I was sent to training by the bank I was working for. It was a Microsoft NT Networking class. The teacher was great. I learned many new skills and honed old ones. I became part of the network rollout team after I came back from training. One of the things the teacher taught us was how to get under the covers of the operating system. He called it looking under the hood. He made it clear it was impossible to do proper diagnostics without digging into what was happening under the covers. Continue reading

The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 12 – The Disciple’s Heart


by Mike Ratliff

25 Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.
34 “Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? 35 It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Luke 14:25-35 (NASB)

During all my Flesh-bound years as a born again believer, I read the passage above (Luke 14:25-35) innumerable times. I had an understanding of it, but I have found since I became Spirit-led that I was wrong all along. I had assumed someday I would learn to enjoy church enough and develop a deeper love and devotion to the Lord through that. Boy was that stupid! Continue reading

The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 10 – The Enduring Heart


by Mike Ratliff

2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 (NASB)

My natural inclination is to resent uncomfortable circumstances. I want them to end and end now! Believers are spiritual, but their natural man, their flesh, is still within. My natural man does not understand how anything constructive can come out of sorrow and suffering. If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit we are all uncomfortable with things not working out the way we want them to. Our problem is we want good things to be the norm in our lives because we love the Lord and are living for Him. When bad things happen or things do not work out the way we want, we hunker down in our self-pity. We ask God and others, “Why is this happening to me?” That is not the response of the Enduring heart. That is the response of the self-focused heart. Continue reading

The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 6 – The Selfless Heart


by Mike Ratliff

18 And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?” 19 They answered and said, “John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again.” 20 And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” 21 But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, 22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.”
23 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 24 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25 For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27 But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:18-27 (NASB)

There are times it is easy to be selfless. I wake up on those mornings and have a wonderful quiet time with the Lord. I go to work not letting anyone get me into a circumstance where the enemy steals my joy. It all flows together as I keep my focus on the Lord instead of on me. As I do that I treat those that I work with as far more important than me. I am so full of peace and joy that I start to believe I will never be self-focused again. Wrong! Then reality sets in. Some circumstance that I perceive as unfair and affects me personally slips up on me and I become my old self again. I absolutely hate it when this happens. Continue reading

The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 2 – Back to Fundamentals


by Mike Ratliff

1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 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. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
12 Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. 13 I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind. 2 Peter 1:1-15 (NASB) 

In the 1960s, the premier football team in the NFL was the Green Bay Packers. They won the NFL title in 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966 and 1967. They also won the first two Super Bowls. Their coach through all of these winning seasons was Vince Lombardi. Continue reading

The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 1 – Introduction


by Mike Ratliff

One of my favorite books outside of the Bible is John Bunyan’s allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan wrote this wonderful book while in prison for preaching without license from the Church of England. He was a 17th Century Baptist non-conformist preacher who was counted among the Puritans. The continuing appeal of this book, even into the 21st Century, is its inherent Christian authenticity. Through this authenticity we learn what real Christianity is and what it isn’t. Continue reading

The Compromised Church and Humanism


by Mike Ratliff

13 “But He is unique and who can turn Him?
And what His soul desires, that He does. Job 23:13 (NASB) 

2 “I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Job 42:2 (NASB) 

5 For I know that the Lord is great
And that our Lord is above all gods.
6 Whatever the Lord pleases, He does,
In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps. Psalms 135:5-6 (NASB) 

9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written,
“There is none righteous, not even one;
11 There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood,
16 Destruction and misery are in their paths,
17 And the path of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Romans 3:9-18 (NASB) 

8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9 (NASB) 

12 There is a way which seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12 (NASB) 

Humanism: A system of thought that centers on humans and their values, capacities, and worth; the doctrine emphasizing a person’s capacity for self-realization through reason

Reformed Theology – the theological system which emphasizes the omnipotence of God and salvation by grace alone

If you haven’t done so already, please prayerfully read the scripture I have placed at the beginning of this chapter as well as the definitions for “Humanism” and “Reformed Theology.”

God is sovereign. He is omnipotent. He is perfect. He is Holy. He is Just. He is immutable. That means He does not change. He spoke His truth at the beginning of creation and that truth is still the truth now and will be for all eternity. God said in Isaiah 55:8-9 that His thoughts and ways are not as ours are. In fact His thoughts and ways are infinitely higher than ours. When I say “ours” I am speaking of all mankind. There are no exceptions. God said this to Isaiah and Isaiah wrote it down. It is given to us in the Bible which is the perfect Word of God. Continue reading

Sovereign election and evangelism


by Mike Ratliff

14 I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. John 10:14-16 (NASB) 

When those of us who came from an Arminian or Free Will background come to grips with the reality of God’s Sovereignty, it is amazing how we struggle with letting go of the responsibility to “earn” our salvation. Of course, part of that struggle is rooted in the misconception that “election” happens at salvation. Ephesians 1 makes it clear, however, that God chose His elect before the foundation of the world. An honest reading of that wonderful letter by the Apostle Paul shows us that God’s people are His in completion even though many of them have not yet believed and repented. They are our Lord’s sheep. 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

Jesus’ Parable of the Sower and the Soils


by Mike Ratliff

1 That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. 2 And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach.
3 And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4 and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 6 But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8 And others fell on the good soil and *yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:1-9 NASB)

There’s something about Jesus’ parables that has always fascinated me. I have heard “stories” from others that were designed to drive home some relevant point, however, His parables are succinct and not only drive home His point, but reveal mighty truths straight from God to our hearts. That, of course, is the work of the Holy Spirit. The parable of the sower and the soils is not only important and relevant, it is vital for our post-modern Church to understand. Our complacent society has infiltrated the Church. No one seems to have an attention span longer than a few seconds. If some entertainment feature isn’t before our eyes or pounding into our ears, then panic sets in because our hearts are desperate for fulfillment, yet we are lazy and addicted to media, games, or music which tie directly into our flesh bound souls. Continue reading

The “visible church” is under the curse of mediocrity


by Mike Ratliff

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 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 8:28-39 NASB)

Relativism has enslaved this post-modern 21st Century. The push to equalize everything continues unabated even though it has become apparent to continue down this path is bordering on insanity. Unfortunately, evangelical Christianity has succumbed to the madness as well. Continue reading

Concern for the souls of men is not prevented by a belief in what we call the Doctrines of Grace


by Mike Ratliff

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ ( by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10 NASB)

I am in no way backing off of the fact that I am a Calvinist. God is Sovereign. He is perfect. He is omniscient, omnipresent, and immutable. He is Holy, Righteous, and Just. Did I mention that he is Sovereign? Yes, he most certainly is that and if you study, honestly study, Holy Sacred Scripture with the goal of finding God’s truth not an excuse to justify your own belief system, you have to come away from an exclusive, totally exegetical study of it grounded in the presupposition that God is righteous and just and man is His creation to do with as He pleases. Also, any attempt to place the Free Will of man over and above the Sovereign Will of God is an act of rebellion and causes men to interpret scripture from an alien hermeneutic leading them to totally misunderstand God and His will. As I have posted several articles lately about Reformation Theology I have also received many “communications” from certain people who find it “offensive.” I have been doing this a long time and I hope you have noticed that I no longer allow “arguing” of any kind on this blog. Debate and arguing are not the same thing. No one in the offended camp wants to debate…

Continue reading

There is only one true Gospel


by Mike Ratliff

6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond- servant of Christ.
11 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:8-12 NASB)

The title of this article may surprise many. There are many professing Christians in our time time who take the stance that no one can know everything about the gospel. They say that we must be tolerant of others views of salvation because the gospel is inherently unknowable. Several years ago, I may have become confused by that argument, but not anymore. Our God is very precise and He does things His way in His timing and always for His glory. Continue reading

Unless you repent you will perish


by Mike Ratliff

27 After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.” 28 And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him. 29 And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them. 30 The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered and said to them, “ It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:27-32 NASB)

I have been asked many times how our salvation could be totally by Grace alone through faith alone, totally God’s work alone if it involved our repentance. My response has always been that the repentance part is our response to our Lord’s call, ἀκολούθει μοι, “Follow me.” However, the washing of regeneration, the gift of faith had been given as part of this effectual call. That is why we turned as Levi did, leaving everything, rising, and following our Lord. There are two calls of the gospel, the general call and the effectual call. The general call goes to everyone so there is no excuse. The effectual call, as the one above to Levi, which the Pharisees and the scribes objected to, always leads to repentance and goes only to God’s elect.  Continue reading