Born Again or Born from Above?


by Mike Ratliff

3 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, ἐὰν μή τις γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν, οὐ δύναται ἰδεῖν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ. John 3:3 (NA28)

3 Jesus answered and said to him, amen amen I say to you, except one is born again, he is not able to see the Kingdom of God. John 3:3 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In John 3:3 (above) is a term that is unique to Christianity and is not well understood even by those have been γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν. The word translated above as “again” is  ἄνωθεν or anōthen, which is comprised of ἄνω or anō, “above, upwards,” and the suffix θεν or then, which denotes “from.”  Continue reading

False Religion


by Mike Ratliff

16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Wait, and let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” And he said to him, “Speak!”
17 Samuel said, “Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of Israel? And the Lord anointed you king over Israel, 18 and the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.’ 19 Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord?”
20 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I did obey the voice of the Lord, and went on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 1 Samuel 15:16-20 (NASB) 

The Reformers and Puritans would not recognize as genuine most of what we call Christianity today. Of course one of the main thrusts of the Protestant Reformation was to make the Word of God accessible to all people. Why? It is from God’s Word that we learn the truth. We learn what genuine worship is and what it isn’t. We learn that genuine Christianity will always have the requirement of obedience to God as what marks a true disciple of Christ. False versions of Christianity will always be marked by a version of the truth to obey that is not the complete truth from God’s Word. Instead, men’s rules are used.

False professions abound in false churches. Instead of complete obedience being the standard for believers, obedience to man’s version of God’s standard suffices. Just as Saul said he was obedient when he partially carried out God’s mission to destroy the Amalekites, false churches propagate this sort of thing in believer’s day-to-day obedience. It is all relative. There are no absolutes and only someone eaten up with legalism would insist on complete obedience to God.

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The Word of God makes us clean


by Mike Ratliff

3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. John 15:3 (NASB) 

All people are born dead in their trespasses and sins. (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13) This condition of spiritual death also means that each person, though desperate for fulfillment that can only be satisfied in God, cannot come to God, know God, or even seek Him. Because of this, they pursue fulfillment from everything around them. The number one method of doing this is via the flesh. The flesh is all about self and self-gratification. The problem with this is that nothing works for very long, including religiosity. Continue reading

It is a lie that religion is the answer for our sin problem


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 (NASB)

Not everyone who claims the name of “Christian” is truly part of the genuine Church. Many of those claimants see Christianity as simply a religion and their religiosity within it as that which assuages their guilty consciences that condemn them for their fleshly lifestyles. Others strive with their entire being to do good and not sin while being very active in their churches. In this they believe that they are in the “group” that God will accept and proclaim righteous. There are others who believe that they are Christians because at some point in the past they “asked Jesus to come into their life or heart.” However, they were taught that that “act of faith” is all that Jesus requires of them. They are now “saved” and should not doubt their salvation. In the late 15th and early 16th Centuries Martin Luther was a very well educated monk in an Augustinian order in Germany. He deeply desired to have assurance of his salvation, but all that he was taught told him to be religious, to be obedient to the demands of the Church in Rome, to obey the Pope and that was all he needed. However, he had a problem. Continue reading

We are his masterpiece, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God previously prepared that we should walk in them


by Mike Ratliff

10 αὐτοῦ γάρ ἐσμεν ποίημα, κτισθέντες ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ ἐπὶ ἔργοις ἀγαθοῖς οἷς προητοίμασεν ὁ θεός, ἵνα ἐν αὐτοῖς περιπατήσωμεν. Ephesians 2:10 (NA28)

10 We are his masterpiece, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God previously prepared that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (translated from the NA28 Greek text) 

The last few weeks on social media has been quite interesting for me. I left a couple of discussions groups I have been part of for years. I left because I could no longer bear the trollish behavior being allowed to dominate them. Also, late in the week I saw a strange post on a discussion group that I am part of that I hardly ever visit. It is run by a “friend” who has friended and unfriended me several times over the past few years so the word “friend” hardly defines our relationship. In any case the post pertained to a tweet made by radical Social Justice Warrior Jackie Hill Perry that said, “The ones who believe that Christianity is “The White Mans Religion” have actually believed the “White Mans” narrative. Christianity didn’t start in Europe nor did all black folk get introduced to Jesus for the first time on a plantation. Stop believing Massa & calling it history.” J.D. Hall at Pulpit and Pen responded with a tweet of his own, “Christianity is also not a religion belonging to militant, butch, black women. What’s your point?”

Now, on my “friend’s” group everyone was piling on to her outrage over J.D. Hall’s blunt response while ignoring the blatant heresy proclaimed in Jackie Hill Perry’s tweet. Me being me posted a comment that said pretty much that. Heresy is heresy. I didn’t know what J.D. Hall was trying to say with some of his language in his tweet at that time, but I knew and agreed with him that what Perry was saying was not to be defended by orthodox Christians. I was unfriended again about 5 minutes later. Later that evening J.D. Hall went online and explained everything, which made everything very plain for me at least. Here is a link to that.

The day I ran into all those tweets and got unfriended I did some research into Black Liberation Theology, Woke Christianity and social justice stuff that goes with it. From that came my post Black Liberation Theology, Woke Christianity and Racism. I didn’t receive very much push back on it like I expected I would. However, I did receive one comment that I refused to post because it violated the rules for commenting on my blog. The fellow who was commenting had a ministry in the inner city in which it was all about social justice. The Gospel to him was secondary to social justice. He even stated in his comment that the purpose of salvation, purpose of the Church by God was to bring about social justice. The reason I didn’t post his comment was his accusations that I was ignorant and did not do any research in coming up with the content of that post. If I had written a positive post about social justice I doubt if he would have cared. What those deceived people in the social justice movement, in whatever form, lack is an understanding of the necessary centrality of the the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and the fact that the good works that we are to walk in are those that we can do only by the grace of God as we shall see in the Bible Study below.

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Believers are dead to sin, alive to God


by Mike Ratliff

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 1 Timothy 1:12-13 (NASB) 

The older I become as I journey down this narrow way the more what passes for Christianity seems more and more absurd. Why? I suppose it is that I have become very convicted that we are very guilty of taking God for granted. Instead of worshiping Him for who He is, we seem to be totally focused on His works. While we should worship Him for His works with a grateful heart, we are leaving out direct worship of our Wonderful, Awesome, and Majestic God for who He is. Our salvation is an incredible gift by His grace. That is why it troubles me so when Christian leaders cheapen it with their man-focused, easy-believism. Easy-believism produces professing Christians who believe their salvation came as a result of something they did. I know this because I was one of them for nearly 20 years. If this is our mindset about our salvation, we believe that our walk as Christians is also totally dependent upon our will power. It is as if what the Bible teaches about regeneration is unheard of or at least completely misunderstood. Also, Jesus’ own words about the exclusivity of who are His disciples and who aren’t seems to be in code because few seem to grasp what He is saying. Continue reading

Regenerated to a living hope


by Mike Ratliff

3 Εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὁ κατὰ τὸ πολὺ αὐτοῦ ἔλεος ἀναγεννήσας ἡμᾶς εἰς ἐλπίδα ζῶσαν διʼ ἀναστάσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐκ νεκρῶν, 4 εἰς κληρονομίαν ἄφθαρτον καὶ ἀμίαντον καὶ ἀμάραντον, τετηρημένην ἐν οὐρανοῖς εἰς ὑμᾶς 5 τοὺς ἐν δυνάμει θεοῦ φρουρουμένους διὰ πίστεως εἰς σωτηρίαν ἑτοίμην ἀποκαλυφθῆναι ἐν καιρῷ ἐσχάτῳ. 1 Peter 1:3-5 (NA28)

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy having regenerated us to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable and undefiled and unfading, having been kept in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The first chapter of 1 Peter is extremely pastoral. If there is anything the sheep in our time desperately need in great measure it is spirit-led shepherds (pastors) who are bound to the Word of God who obey Him in the pastoring of their flocks as our Lord commands. It is tragic that so many of those the world sees in our time that claim to be Christian leaders do not in any way shape or form meet that criteria. No, instead they are celebrities or they are apostates or heretics on the way to being apostates. God has his church, ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia), and he will continue to build it and no power can destroy it (Matthew 16:18), however, we are warned throughout the New Testament that wolves in sheep’s clothing, false teachers and prophets would come in to the church and lead many astray. This has continued until this day.

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We are now alive in Christ


by Mike Ratliff

6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. Colossians 2:6-8 (NASB) 

When God saved us He justified us by imputing Christ’s righteousness to our account. He washed us clean through the miracle of regeneration that changed us so that we now have the spiritual ability to walk through our lives and not sin. He also sanctified us, but that was only positional. He did not remove our old nature. We are still in a death struggle with it to nullify our pride and cultivate humility as God’s Holiness becomes manifest in us more and more. This body of death is still with us, but we are no longer dead in our trespasses and sins (Romans 3:10-18) because we are now alive in Christ.

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Conversion and regeneration


by Mike Ratliff

12 “While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 13 at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. 17 I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, 18 to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’ Acts 26:12-18 (NKJV) 

I am sure most of you have heard Jeff Foxworthy’s ‘You may be a redneck if…” comedy routine. There is another form of it from Mr. Foxworthy with the word “redneck” replaced with the word “hypocrite.” This is, of course, an attempt at “Church humor.” After a few of the quips, at least to me, the humor becomes strained. It is no longer funny because each “You may be a hypocrite if” statement stresses the ugly half-heartedness which plagues the majority of church members. For example, one of them said something like, “You may be a hypocrite if you read “Left Behind” at work and “Fanny Hill” at home. Continue reading

All in Christ are actually damaged goods


by Mike Ratliff

9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NKJV) 

There is a push in the United States to make it illegal to preach the truth from God’s Word where it pertains to the sin of homosexuality. Of course the emphasis of those laws or initiatives is to protect the rights of certain people based on their sexual preference, which is also called gay rights. They say that to preach what the Bible says about homosexuality is to foment hate; therefore, the laws are placed under the umbrella of hate crimes. On the other hand, some who preach against certain sins are also guilty of trying to force morality upon the unregenerate. How can an unregenerate person stop sinning? When Christians focus on sins that are abhorrent to God that should be just as abhorrent to believers, the focus should be on cleansing those sins from the Church itself. At the same time, we must never stop reaching out to the lost, no matter what sins are consuming them. God saves sinners. Continue reading

Sanctifcation and Regeneration


In response to yesterday’s post, Who will and who will not inherit the Kingdom God God?, my friend Stuart Brogden sent me the article below, which he had written in response to some people that we both know who contend that the redeemed person is no different from a reprobate. Some of them say Christians are still Totally Depraved, not a new creation. Both of us have contended with them. I asked if it would be ok if I posted the article and he said yes. Enjoy and be blessed. By-the-way, some of you may know Stuart by his online name of “Manfred.” 🙂 Continue reading

God is Sovereign in Salvation


by Mike Ratliff

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

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 Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians  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

All of the Good Shepherd’s sheep will believe and repent and be saved by Grace through faith


by Mike Ratliff

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

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

Be ready for every good deed


by Mike Ratliff

1 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. Romans 13:1-2 (NASB) 

There are some who teach that our salvation is something of a crapshoot. Oh, they don’t ‘use words like crapshoot to describe their Soteriology, but their insistence that a person’s salvation is a mere decision means that their approach to the Gospel is one of mood and emotion manipulation that can be resisted by a person and, therefore, results in nothing more than some emotional decisions amidst many equally emotional rejections. Is this the means that God uses in the building of His Church? Continue reading