Being a Living Sacrifice


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.
3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Romans 12:1-3 (NASB)

All of the things that true Christians should be doing for the glory of God, drinking from the cup of Christ’s suffering, wrestling the correct opponent, loving your enemies, and behaving like a Christian are possible only for the believer who is in the process of taking on Christ’s character. No one can do these things naturally. No one is able to attain this level of spirituality by trying to do those things. Instead, these behaviors flow from a Christlike heart. No believer will ever become Christlike in their character unless they also become Spirit-led. If a believer is controlled by their emotions then they are not Spirit-led. Neither are they who have not learned to walk in the Spirit. If sin runs rampant through a believer’s life then they are not Spirit-led. In addition, if a believer is constantly consumed by anger, bitterness, envy, and self-protection then they are not Spirit-led. Continue reading

Beware of false prophets


by Mike Ratliff

4 And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 5 “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. 6 “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7 “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. 9 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12 “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 14 “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:4-14 (NASB)

When I encounter those whose theology and eschatology has been colored by presuppositions, philosophies, and the teachings of some theologians that the Church’s main function is to establish and prepare God’s Kingdom here on this Earth so the Lord will return and to claim it, I wonder how seriously these people take Scripture passages such as Matthew 24:4-14 (above). These same people are all about making secular culture conform to Christianity. I find it very difficult to line that up with what our Lord said in Matthew 24 about what things would be like before he actually did return. What is the reality? Will the Church totally take over the world in this age? From what I have studied in the New Testament, the Church is a called out “congregation” of people that are despised, persecuted, and put to death for their faith as they live for the glory of their Lord in this life. The point of that is to attain a greater resurrection in the next age. Let’s see what our Lord said about the reality of what we have to deal with in this age as the Church. Continue reading

Poor in Spirit


by Mike Ratliff

3 “ Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3 (NASB) 

One the most disturbing aspects of the churches who practice Christianity “lite” is the nearly total abandonment of a call for personal holiness. Even more discouraging is the fact that they preach a version of the gospel that has had any mention of repentance severed from it. The reasoning behind this, of course, is that they are building bridges to the unchurched. If they preach the whole gospel they will drive them away not draw them to join their churches. The problem with that sort of reasoning is that it is all pragmatism. It is based on fleshly reasoning and the ways of the world. It is actually unbelief in the form of ministry. The architects of Christianity “lite” do not believe that God is still building His Church, therefore, they will do it themselves using marketing techniques constructed around “relevancy.” They reason that if they build cool churches that it will draw people who hate traditional “church.” They may not go to the old Baptist Church on main street, but they might go to a gathering that is more of an entertainment venue than a church.

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Christlike Submission to Authority


by Mike Ratliff

2019 ended with the start of the Impeachment proceedings against President Trump. As that farce played out the Covid-19 pandemic farce began to be played out. Oh, the disease is real, but the political reaction to it is without a doubt bizarre. Many things this year have troubled me greatly. One of those was the reaction by many Christians when the fake bad news about the pandemic started being blasted out to us constantly in the Spring. I witnessed many who before all this started professed to have a very strong faith and walk before the Lord Jesus Christ, but these same people’s faith seemed to evaporate and be replaced by a vapid fear when things got rough. Yes we had to deal with that at the very same time that we are in the midst of one of the most nasty election years I have ever seen. The demonstrations, riots, and all those liberal mayors, governors and judges siding with the rioters just caused me to retreat into my prayer closet. I contacted some of my closest Christian friends and relatives about this as well. Are we at the end? What is going on? I was reminded by some of those close to me about all those posts I have written about how God is always working to cleanse His Church and that process can seem very severe to us.

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Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?


by Mike Ratliff

1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 But He replied to them, “ When it is evening, you say, ‘ It will be fair weather, for the sky is red. ’ 3 And in the morning, ‘ There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening. ’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? 4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and went away. 5 And the disciples came to the other side of the sea, but they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 They began to discuss this among themselves, saying, “ He said that because we did not bring any bread.” 8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “ You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? 9 Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up? 10 Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets full you picked up? 11 How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:1-12 NASB)

The Church in our time did not descend suddenly into the level of apostasy we see all around us now. No, it actually began many generations ago when Christian leaders who compromised God’s Truth were tolerated or not dealt with through Church discipline as instructed in God’s Word. With each compromise comes a bit more heart hardening and a dullness of Spirit in their churches so that eventually true Biblical discernment becomes rare. Those who have not compromised are the minority while those who are walking in spiritual darkness view them as divisive, self-righteous, and judgmental. Why? These with discernment stand firm and rebuke those who teach what is not Biblical as if it is the truth while teaching against Biblical truth as if it is false.  Continue reading

Living in the Spirit


by Mike Ratliff

9 Ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐκ ἐστὲ ἐν σαρκὶ ἀλλʼ ἐν πνεύματι, εἴπερ πνεῦμα θεοῦ οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν. εἰ δέ τις πνεῦμα Χριστοῦ οὐκ ἔχει, οὗτος οὐκ ἔστιν αὐτοῦ. Romans 8:9 (NA28)

9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. Romans 8:9 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

When we talk about “the flesh” in this life, we are not always talking about these living breathing bodies we all have though the context does mean that in some cases as we shall see. Here in Romans 8, the root word of what is translated in English as “flesh” is σάρξ (sarx)Continue reading

Are You Guilty Of Idolatry?


by Mike Ratliff

1 Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and live there, and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” 2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and purify yourselves and change your garments; 3 and let us arise and go up to Bethel, and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” Genesis 35:1-3 (NASB) 

idolatry 1: the worship of a physical object as a god 2: immoderate attachment or devotion to something (from Webster’s Ninth Collegiate Dictionary)

I’m sure that most Christians’ conception of idolatry is one in which people fall down and worship some statue or image or a facsimile of something that appears to resemble a “god.” While that is an example of idolatry there is a more subtle form of idolatry that all people are neck deep in outside of the grace of God. If we look closely at the dictionary definition I placed near the top of this post, we will see that the first definition is our conception while the second is the reality of which we must all agree that we are guilty. The last word in that definition could easily be change from “something” to “someone.” Then all we have to do is look in a mirror to see who that someone is. We are all guilty of idolatry to some level. Continue reading

What Is A Reprobate Mind?


by Mike Ratliff

28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:28-32 (NASB) 

28 Καὶ καθὼς οὐκ ἐδοκίμασαν τὸν θεὸν ἔχειν ἐν ἐπιγνώσει, παρέδωκεν αὐτοὺς ὁ θεὸς εἰς ἀδόκιμον νοῦν, ποιεῖν τὰ μὴ καθήκοντα, 29 πεπληρωμένους πάσῃ ἀδικίᾳ πονηρίᾳ πλεονεξίᾳ κακίᾳ, μεστοὺς φθόνου φόνου ἔριδος δόλου κακοηθείας, ψιθυριστὰς 30 καταλάλους θεοστυγεῖς ὑβριστὰς ὑπερηφάνους ἀλαζόνας, ἐφευρετὰς κακῶν, γονεῦσιν ἀπειθεῖς, 31 ἀσυνέτους ἀσυνθέτους ἀστόργους ἀνελεήμονας· 32 οἵτινες τὸ δικαίωμα τοῦ θεοῦ ἐπιγνόντες ὅτι οἱ τὰ τοιαῦτα πράσσοντες ἄξιοι θανάτου εἰσίν, οὐ μόνον αὐτὰ ποιοῦσιν ἀλλὰ καὶ συνευδοκοῦσιν τοῖς πράσσουσιν. (Romans 1:28-32 NA28)

The word translated as “debased” in the ESV rendering of Romans 1:28 is the Greek word ἀδόκιμον. This anarthrous adjective means, “unapproved, unworthy, spurious, or worthless.” In the context of Romans 1:28 it is speaking of those who do not have a sense of pending judgment. They have a reprobate, abominable mind that is abhorred by God and men who do know God’s truth. The word “mind” here is νοῦν. This anarthrous noun is the intellectual faculty of the natural man, applicable to God or Christ (Romans 11:34; 1 Corinthians 2:16), employed in practical judgment, capable of being good or evil, and of being regenerated, the mind, the reason, the reasoning faculty. Continue reading

Belief vs Unbelief


by Mike Ratliff

21 Therefore the LORD heard and was full of wrath;
And a fire was kindled against Jacob
And anger also mounted against Israel,
22 Because they did not believe in God
And did not trust in His salvation. Psalms 78:21-22 (NASB) 

There are only two groups of people in the world. There are Christians, the elect, and everyone else, the non-elect. What separates them? What is the difference? It is not different streams of faith, as new agers and the liberals” say, which are all equal and going to the same place and color people in different ways. No, that is what universalists of every variety are selling, but that is most definitely not what God’s Word explicitly says. No, the difference between those in Christ and everyone else is that the former are possessors of faith, which is the Greek word πιστις, which is transliterated as pistes. It and it’s many grammatical forms are translated as “assurance,” “faith,” ”belief,” et cetera throughout the New Testament. Before we define “unbelief,” let us define biblical faith, πιστις, so that we can see very clearly what marks the true believer from the false professor. Continue reading

Biblical Humility What It Is and What It Is Not


by Mike Ratliff

3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; Philippians 2:3 (NASB) 

One of the main contentions of all those who are in one or another are “liberal Christians” or “professing nominal Christians” is that it is an arrogant thing to teach from the Bible as if it is absolute truth. They say that the truly humble are those who confess to know nothing precisely, but only in a nebulous sort of way. This is primarily an attempt to appear humble to the world by seeking common ground with everyone, which is only possible if truth is held loosely so there is room for compromise. In the world’s eyes this does appear to be humble, but is this biblical humility?  Here is what Jesus said.

30 As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him.
31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:30-32 (NASB)

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Saving Faith is a Gift From God by His Grace


by Mike Ratliff

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. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB) 

Back in the late 1980’s I enlisted in our church’s Evangelism Explosion program. It required a great deal of scripture memorization, a lot more than I was actually prepared for. Those of us who were trainees were teamed up with a trainer and after learning to share the Gospel in class the day came when we were taken out to make visits to people who had checked a box on some form somewhere that they would be interested in “a visit” from someone from our church. In any case, one of the first passages I memorized in this training was the one I placed at the top of this post. In chapter 1 of Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesian Church he gives us one, long elegant sentence in Greek showing that the triune God initiated and accomplished cosmic reconciliation and redemption for the praise of his glory. He also speaks of the Church’s divine election prior to the foundation of the world in v4. In vv15-23 we Have Paul’s Prayer of thanksgiving, also one long sentence in Greek. This is a prayer that the Ephesian church will gain deep insight into the Lord’s powerful working and rich gifts in Christ. Then we come to chapter 2. We will look at Ephesians 2:1-10 in this post to keep things in context, but our focus will be vv8-9 for I want to look at three key words and what they mean to our faith. They are translated in our English Bibles as “faith,” “grace,” and “gift.”  Continue reading

If We Live in the Spirit Let Us Also Walk in the Spirit


 

by Mike Ratliff

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:22-26 (NASB) 

This walk in the Spirit, this genuine Christian walk is one of humility and self-denial. It is not marked by an insistence on having one’s fleshly desires met. Nor is it one of self-righteousness, antinomianism, or legalism. The ones who do walk in the Spirit are discerning and penitent. They walk in repentance and God will grow them in holiness. The Holy Spirit manifests the fruit of the spirit in them as they have crucified the flesh. Their focus in their walk is to do all for the glory of God with no desire for self-recognition or self-aggrandizement.  Continue reading

Christ’s Example of Humility


by Mike Ratliff

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Matthew 5:43-45 (NASB) 

If an enemy attacks we will respond one of three ways. We may choose to fight or we may choose to not react or we may choose to respond in love. My natural response is to fight, however, when I am in false humility mode where I am trying to please God in my flesh (wrong choice), I will respond by doing nothing or even ignoring the one(s) who are attacking. Since that is usually how I respond, that should tell you what a struggle it is for me in this battle with my pride. Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for them. That means that the third option is the one we must choose. How can we? Is this natural? No, it isn’t. Only the Spirit-filled or Spirit-led believer can do this consistently. Continue reading

Watch Out for Those Who Cause Divisions


by Mike Ratliff

17 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. Romans 16:17-18 (NASB) 

God calls all genuine Christians into His service at their salvation. They are given gifts in order to fulfill their ministries given to them by Him. We are all called to be good soldiers who participate in the suffering of our Lord (2 Timothy 2:3). We are also called to not be divided from one another, but to serve the Lord as one, to not work against one another. However, from the beginning of the Church there have been those who profess to be Christians, but who are not regenerate. They are not genuine. Some of these act as infiltrators in the church causing havoc, division, and creating obstacles contrary to the orthodox doctrines given to the Church, which are clearly taught in God’s Word. Continue reading