Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful


by Mike Ratliff

1 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way where I am going.” 5 Thomas *said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” 6 Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. John 14:1-6 (NASB) 

Genuine Christian Faith bears fruit in those who possess it as they mature, persevering in the fires of sanctification. This fruit is seen in hearts that have joy and remain at peace even when under burdens that would crush most people. Yes, Christians often lament and mourn and deeply desire for those burdens to be lifted, but as they place their eyes on Christ and their perspective moves from the temporal to the eternal then what was troubling their hearts seems relatively trivial. What is the worst this world can do to us? It offers cruelty and death. However, for those in Christ, we have the promise of life in Christ no matter what happens to us in this life. Continue reading

God’s 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 even if their sin amounted to 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 two 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

Finishing the race


by Mike Ratliff

In 1978 I decided to become a runner. I was 26-27 at that time. I began running a mile or so out from my apartment in Forestville, Maryland then running back. As I was able, I added distance to that run in half-mile increments on the outbound route. That would add a mile to my run. By late 1979 I was able to run 5 miles in about 30 minutes or so. In 1980 I moved from the Washington, DC area to the Oklahoma City area. By this time my Dad had taken up running. He could not run the distance at my speed, but he could run all day. He ran marathons. Continue reading

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves


by Mike Ratliff

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. Matthew 7:15 (NASB) 

With the ever increasing move away from Orthodox Christianity into various forms of experiential religion that we are witnesses of here and now, it seems that the bottom is falling out of Christianity, at least in the USA. It’s bad enough that we have all of these “wolves in sheep’s clothing” drawing the unaware into false religions while pretending to be Christian, but there are seemingly endless numbers of our “Christian” leaders falling all over themselves embracing these heretics.  It’s not that we have heretics among us, we always have them, but there are now many of our leaders either falling in bed with these people or revealing their fleshly side in some of the grossest sins imaginable. It seems there is a pastor or church leader exposed nearly every week for some sort of sexual sin or for being a narccissictic abuser of women or perhaps one who is the enabler of those who do those things by covering things up for them. What is going on? Continue reading

In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world


by Mike Ratliff

18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. 25 But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’ John 15:18-25 (NASB) 

The Greek word John used here for world is κόσμος or kosmos. The meaning of this word is determined by the context. In this context, John is referring to the sum total of persons living in the world. Therefore, when our Lord says the κόσμος hates Him and His followers, He is referring to the hatred of all those who are not regenerate. The word ‘hates’ here is μισέω or miseō. This is a present, indicative verb in active voice. That means the action it describes is going on right now. The action is ‘detesting with an implication of persecution.’ This is described in Romans 1 where we see that the natural (unregenerate) man knows the truth about God in his or her heart of hearts, but suppresses it and does all they can do to put it out of mind. This denial of the truth takes many forms, but it is all wrapped up in hating God, Christ, and His followers. Remember this hatred is ‘without cause.’ Since they hate the truth and God, they will hate genuine Christians as well. We are seeing this materialized in our time by the Progressive Liberal mindset which is godless and is opposed at every point to the Christian worldview.

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Efficacious faith is a gift from God


by Mike Ratliff

13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14 (NASB) 

Efficacious adj. producing the desired effect – from The Oxford New Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus Third Edition.

Christian faith has appeared to many an easy thing; nay, not a few even reckon it among the social virtues, as it were; and this they do because they have not made proof of it experimentally, and have never tasted of what efficacy it is. For it is not possible for any man to write well about it, or to understand well what is rightly written, who has not at some time tasted of its spirit, under the pressure of tribulation; while he who has tasted of it, even to a very small extent, can never write, speak, think, or hear about it sufficiently. For it is a living fountain, springing up into eternal life, as Christ calls it in John iv.1

Saving or efficacious faith is not the same thing as the best faith man can muster through the exercise of the will. According to our Lord Jesus in John 4:13-14 (above), efficacious faith is that which is given to the believer by God and this same faith will become in the believer a spring of water welling up to eternal life. This is not belief that is the product of reason or intellectual assent. It is not a belief that the believer must generate and desperately hold onto lest it be diminished and be lost. In the excerpt from Martin Luther’s letter to Pope Leo X, Concerning Christian Liberty, we read that those who conceive of faith as something done by the believer count it as simply a social virtue and that is an easy thing. Luther says that those with this concept of faith believe as they do because they have not experienced efficacious faith and have never tasted the great strength there is in it. I contend that the purveyors of the Seeker-Sensitive, Emergent, and Missional forms of “Christianity” are of the same sort of faith Luther is contrasting in this letter with genuine believers who are so because they have drunk of the water given to them by the Lord that has become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. These of the New Type of Christianity have a faith consisting of works-righteousness. This is a man-made faith not the efficacious faith that is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:1-10).  Continue reading

God’s provision, tests, and trials


by Mike Ratliff

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 8:31-39 (NASB)

As I shared on Facebook, I had lunch with my wife, my daughter and my youngest grandson at a local restaurant this morning. Everything was normal. However, as we prepared to leave, I took that last bite of my burger and reached for my glass of iced tea when something unexpected happened. My reflux kicked in and I found myself unable to breathe. My wife and daughter got me up out of the booth, I guess because I don’t remember doing it myself, and they asked for help. I don’t remember much. The next thing I know I felt some very strong arms grab me from behind and do that classic Heimlich Maneuver on me. I had never experienced it before. In any case, with just two very sharp thrusts I was breathing again. There were two men who helped us. I gave them both a very big hug and my wife bought their lunch. I am so grateful and I thank God for men like that. I really do not know how much longer I would have had if they hadn’t been there. Continue reading

Spiritual blindness and KJV Onlyism


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. Ephesians 2:1-3 (NASB) 
 When I am at work attempting to solve a very difficult and serious database problem the last thing I need is someone standing over me pointing out things to me that are non-essentials, trivial things that have little or no impact on the ultimate goal, which is solving the problem. When we fight the good fight, which is standing firm in the middle of God’s truth never swerving left or right from it even in the face of wicked attacks from every direction, we must also beware of the attacks from within that our enemy employs in order to distract and discourage. Those used by our enemy to do this are spiritually blind. Some actually mean well, but they have been deceived by a lie that contains half-truths that are presented to them in such a way that it plays on their emotions, especially fear. What is spiritual blindness? Continue reading

In him we have redemption through his blood


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. Romans 8:28-30 (NASB) 

The unregenerate cannot conceive of a religion unless it is fully entwined with the exercise of free will as an expression of devotion or belief. Genuine Christianity is not a religion if that is how religion is defined. Authentic Christianity consists of God’s work in the hearts of those whom He gave and drew to Christ. The Holy Spirit regenerated them at the will of the Father as they heard the gospel thereby enabling them to believe and repent. From that time forward they serve their Saviour and God as His disciples. Their divine faith, a gift from God, overcomes the world as they obey Him, love Him, and love their brethren. They share their faith with others thereby being obedient disciples whom God uses to bring others into the Kingdom. Continue reading

The godly vs the hypocrites


by Mike Ratliff

      29 It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him. 30 So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers in the congregation returned to him; and Moses spoke to them. 32 Afterward all the sons of Israel came near, and he commanded them to do everything that the Lord had spoken to him on Mount Sinai. 33 When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, 35 the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him. Exodus 34:29-35 (NASB) 

What is hypocrisy? Most dictionaries define it this way, The practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense.” In the New Testament, one of best known examples of the Greek word translated as “hypocrites” is found in our Lord Jesus’ quotation of Isaiah 29:13 in Matthew 15:7-9, “ὑποκριταί, καλῶς ἐπροφήτευσεν περὶ ὑμῶν Ἠσαΐας λέγων· ὁ λαὸς οὗτος τοῖς χείλεσίν με τιμᾷ, ἡ δὲ καρδία αὐτῶν πόρρω ἀπέχει ἀπ᾽ ἐμοῦ· μάτην δὲ σέβονταί με διδάσκοντες διδασκαλίας ἐντάλματα ἀνθρώπων.” Or, “Hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy concerning you saying, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me and in vain do they worship me teaching as commandments the teachings of men.” Remember, this was our Lord talking here.  Continue reading

What was God’s criterion for choosing the elect?


by Mike Ratliff

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6 (NASB) 

A few years ago I listened to an attack on “Reformation Theology” in which the preacher based his entire case upon one single charge. He said that a Monergistic interpretation of the Bible is based upon a faulty presupposition. That presupposition is in two parts. The first part is that we say man is dead in trespasses and sins and incapable of obeying all commands to come to God in his own ability. The second part is that we say God takes the initiative and regenerates those whom he has elected before the foundation of the world enabling them to repent and believe and come to Christ and be justified by faith. This fellow totally ignored the fact that this theology is based upon God’s free choice before the foundation of the world and the redemptive work of Christ in the obedient life and keeping the Law and going to the cross to the become the propitiation for those elect. That’s right, he totally ignored what was actually accomplished at the cross. Instead, his interpretation of all those “difficult” passages like John 6:44 are best to be seen as God’s people being those who come to him in repentance and then he saves them. So, totally ignoring all these passages about election and imputation, he says salvation is a totally Synergistic system which man kick starts by coming to God in repentance first and then God takes over from there. He gave examples of genuine converts he had seen who came in brokenness and he could tell they were saved because they grasped the truth and walked in repentance, et cetera. He contrasted that with false converts who were simply religious who never walked in repentance. Right, could it be that he was confusing the order of things? Could it be that those he was seeing coming in repentance have been regenerated by God first and now are able to believe because they are the elect of God? Continue reading

Saving faith does not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God


by Mike Ratliff

1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NASB) 

Martin Luther is considered the “Lighting rod of the Protestant Reformation.” It was through his battle with the Roman Catholic Church that the doctrine of salvation through Justification by Grace through Faith alone was recovered and from that, many Christian martyrs went to their deaths refusing to compromise their faith by denying the truth of knowing Jesus Christ and Him crucified based not upon the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. So much of the pressure being brought to bear upon Christians in our time is to not be so precise in our theology, but be more willing to “compromise” along doctrinal grounds for the sake of “unity.” The “mega-church” model is based precisely upon never offending anyone, but being non-threatening and willing to be all things to all people in order to attract everyone, but to what? Continue reading

Good works and works righteousness


by Mike Ratliff

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. 38 At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:36-38 (NASB) 
When I was a young man and even prior to that when I was a teenager before God had mercy on me, I was quite religious. I went to church with my family and tried to emulate what I saw my parents do in their devotion. I tried to reach a point in my own devotion where I could be fulfilled, wanting to serve God with the joy and fervor I saw in other believers. However, I just could not do it. I found myself bored in church. I found no inner drive to read my Bible. I had no desire to have a consistent devotion to God because there were so many other things in my life that were more important to me than that. I was tormented by the fact that I could not behave consistently “Christian.” I had no self-control in certain situations. Then I would visit my family and attend church with them on Sunday full of remorse and guilt. I would exit the service determined to do good works and not sin anymore. I look back on that time now and almost laugh except it was a horrible conflict in my life at that time. I was convinced that being a Christian consisted of doing Christian things. In that unregenerate mind, a Christian was a Christian because they did those things. That, of course, is what works righteousness is.

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As I live,” declares the Lord God, “I will not be inquired of by you.”’


by Mike Ratliff

3 “Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Do you come to inquire of Me? As I live,” declares the Lord God, “I will not be inquired of by you.”’ Ezekiel 20:3 (NASB) 

The Visible Church has become largely corrupt and apostate. Some are going the direction of Joel Osteen’s Word of Faith gospel that tells us that God wants to bless us, but cannot because we are not asking Him for it or we are not doing something right. Then there are those denominations that are affirming same-sex marriage, which is expressly condemned in God’s Word. There are apostasy examples all across the board and there is not room enough or time enough to address them all here. However, these things all have one thing in common. These are people seeking to be seen as “Christian,” but on their own terms rather than what the Word of God clearly teaches us.  Continue reading