A Better Rest


by Mike Ratliff

7 For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice,
8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
As in the day of Massah in the wilderness,
9 “When your fathers tested Me,
They tried Me, though they had seen My work.
10 “For forty years I loathed that generation,
And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.
11 “Therefore I swore in My anger,
Truly they shall not enter into My rest.” Psalms 95:7-11 (NASB) 

I placed Psalm 95:7-11 at the top of this post. This part of Psalms 95, a song of praise, is a call for professors of faith to not harden their hearts like the Israelites in the Exodus, but to believe and obey God and, therefore, enter into His rest. In my post Pragmatism and Mustard Seed Faith a few nights ago, we looked at faith, belief, and unbelief. Those with faith that saves, πίστις, believe God and obey Him. These will enter into God’s rest. On the other hand, those in unbelief, ἄπιστος, do not believe God and, therefore, disobey Him. I used this contrast in an attempt to show how “liberal Christianity,” no matter what form it takes, is not Christianity at all because it is based entirely in ἄπιστος. This is true because its leaders attack God’s Truth as absolute truth. In fact, they elevate uncertainty about everything as a virtue and attempt to say that certainty about anything is arrogance in action.  Continue reading

Glory Praise and Worship


by Mike Ratliff

28 Some eight days after these sayings, He took along Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. 30 And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, 31 who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him. Luke 9:28-32 (NASB) 

As we continue in our discussion and deeper look at the makeup of the dividing line between genuine Christianity, that which is God centered, and counterfeit Christianity, that which is man centered, let us look the vast difference in how each side understands the concepts of God’s glory and the praise that is His due. The word most often translated as praise in the New Testament is δόξα (doxa). It is also translated even more often as glory. However, in secular Greek, δόξα means opinion or conjecture, especially favorable human opinion, which then includes an evaluation placed by others, such as fame, repute, honor, or praise. Is this what is meant in God’s Word when δόξα is used in reference to God’s glory and the praise that His due? I submit that that definition exactly defines most professing Christians’ understanding of praise and worship, but is not in any way shape or form what is true δόξα. Continue reading

What is religious externalism?


by Mike Ratliff

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:25-28 (NASB) 

Because of our old church going Purpose Driven in 2006, my wife and I left. The journey to find a new local church fellowship was a long and difficult one. One of the churches along the way was just a few blocks from the one we had just left. A coworker of mine served there as part of one of their worship teams. This was one of the churches my ex-pastor was continually commenting about because of how small it started out and how big it had become while his church seemed to be stagnant, maybe even declining. The “worship” at this church was what I like to call “show time!” There were all sorts of colored lights with spotlights on those “performing.” Each had their own microphone and were all dressed in the same colors. There were at least 20 musicians on stage playing drums, keyboards, guitars, horns, you name it. The drummer was enclosed in a glass booth. It was all very “contemporary.”

After the “worship,” the main pastor walked onto the stage with the spotlights following him. The stage was black. The stairs were black. They worked the lights so that nothing could be seen on the stage except the pastor. He was dressed casually in all black. He was carrying a nice looking cardboard box that he set on the table next to the lectern. He said a few words to direct our attention to the screen that dropped down silently behind him. Then the auditorium went dark. We watched a movie for about 15 minutes of a glass blower working on a vase. The video took us through the whole process of blowing and shaping the glass. It looked like both hard work and a bit of fun. In any case, when the movie ended the spot light came back up revealing the pastor preparing to open the box.

He then spoke of Jesus desperately desiring for “us” to give Him a chance to make our lives better. All we had to do was “accept” Him, and then Jesus would remake our lives unto excellence. Then he reached into the box and took out a beautiful glass vase. He told us that this vase was the one the glass blower in the movie was working on. He gestured to the vase and said, “This is what Jesus wants to do for you, to take you from corruptible sand to beautiful glass.” I don’t remember much after that. That was one of the shortest “sermons” I have ever heard.  Continue reading

It’s All 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)

As many of you know Tom Ascol collapsed Sunday at his church. He was rushed to the hospital and is still there. I have been following this as much as I can and I have prayed for him, his family and his ministry as many of you have. I rejoiced today as I read that Tom is responding verbally to those around him. Continue reading

Our Eyes Look to the Lord Our God


by Mike Ratliff

1 To You I lift up my eyes,
O You who are enthroned in the heavens!
2 Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,
As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to the Lord our God,
Until He is gracious to us.
3 Be gracious to us, O Lord, be gracious to us,
For we are greatly filled with contempt.
4 Our soul is greatly filled
With the scoffing of those who are at ease,
And with the contempt of the proud. Psalms 123 (NASB) 

The vast majority of people on planet Earth want nothing to do with the real Jesus. Many love and hold dear another Jesus, but he is one made up by people who don’t know the one who is real. Tragically, the numbers of professing Christians are growing continually who are also following another Jesus who does not resemble in the least the one found in scripture. Those who hold dear the real Jesus are those who are entirely reliant upon the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Undoubtedly there are baby Christians who are not spiritually mature and whose faith is not strong. However, there are also huge numbers of “religious” Christians who live as if their “decision for Christ” many years ago is their fire insurance. Some of these are quite religious while others are simply calling themselves Christian as if it is some sort of family trait. Those who are completely reliant upon God, whose focus is His glory in all things are those who know the real Jesus and are known by Him. These are the believers whose eyes look to the Lord our God. They look unto God because this brings them knowledge of His countenance. Christians know God by interacting with Him in prayer, Bible Study, obedience and repentance. They are able to do these things with Him as they look unto Him, fully trusting Him to work out the details for His glory. Continue reading

Pragmatism and Mustard Seed Faith


by Mike Ratliff

1 He said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3 Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you. Luke 17:1-6 (NASB) 

There are many parallels between what is going on the visible church at this time with what Charles Spurgeon called “the Down-Grade Controversy” in his time. In the latter part of the 19th Century, he began addressing the growing apostasy in the Baptist Union in Great Britain. This apostasy was fueled by those leaders who wished to move Christianity from its historical focus, i.e. preaching the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit with emphasis on sin and the need of a Saviour, to one that was more in line with “Modernism.” He compared Biblical truth to the pinnacle of a steep, slippery mountain. The margin for error is very precise because one step away, and you find yourself on the downgrade. The following excerpt is from one of his sermons preached at the height of this controversy.

Doth that man love his Lord who would be willing to see Jesus wearing a crown of thorns, while for himself he craves a chaplet of laurel? Shall Jesus ascend to his throne by the cross, and do we expect to be carried there on the shoulders of applauding crowds? Be not so vain in your imagination. Count you the cost, and if you are not willing to bear Christ’s cross, go away to your farm and to your merchandise, and make the most of them; only let me whisper this in your ear; “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? 1

Spurgeon preached the sermon from which this excerpt is taken just after he was censured by the Baptist Union for his stance against the majority’s efforts to “modernize” their churches with de-emphasis of the biblical gospel in favor of being more open to those who would be offended by the cross and the insistence that they were sinners in need of a Saviour.  Continue reading

The Return of Jesus Christ


By Mike Ratliff

36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. 37 For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left.
42 “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. 43 But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 44 For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will. Matthew 24:36-44 (NASB) 

Jesus Christ is returning to this earth. However, if you look at the havoc the enemy is causing in the visible Church in our time it would appear that many, if not most, professing Christians are unconcerned about it. When certain Christian leaders can dismiss clear teachings from God’s Word and replace them with what the unregenerate want to hear then we must know that they do not believe that what the Word of God teaches us is literal in any sense of the word. Instead, they go on about in their lasciviousness in utter disregard for what awaits those who are guilty of making light of the direct commands of God. However, our Lord made it very clear in His Word that He was returning and with Him He will bring both reward and judgment. Continue reading

True Fruit of the Fear of God


by Mike Ratliff

13 The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. 14 For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 (NASB) 

The total lack of the fear of God is what marks the ungodly. (Romans 3:18) On the other hand, genuine believers in scripture are described as those who do fear Him. Tragically, when moral issues between professing Christians and the unchurched are compared there is very little difference. There is the same level of divorce, adultery, pornography, dishonesty, et cetera; in both groups. This should not be so. Continue reading

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

Boasting is Excluded


by Mike Ratliff

21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Romans 3:21-28 (NASB) 

Our pastor has been preaching through the first several chapters of Acts. In our small groups we have been taking a deeper look at the passages from which he gets his sermons. Last night was interesting because we talked a great deal about how each of us came to faith. Some of us had false starts, that is, we made a profession of faith as a child or teenager that was emotional not based on faith. Others were members of churches that did not preach the gospel, but they were baptized there. Since then we all have come to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ at various ages, but, interestingly, none of them were the same, not even close. In my own case I sat there and listened to everyone sharing while God took me through the labyrinth of time and circumstances in my life which culminated in me repenting and believing on my Lord Jesus Christ. But, it didn’t stop there. I also reflected on my journey since then. For many years, even as a Bible teacher and Deacon, I confess to you all that my understanding of salvation and the doctrines that have been developed, which explain it, was very fuzzy compared to my understanding now. During those years of doctrinal “confusion” I based my salvation on something I had done. I based my assurance on things I did. When I witnessed to others during that time the emphasis was on bringing people to make a decision followed by them reciting a sinner’s prayer. As well meaning as all of that was, I see it now as the fruit of utter spiritual immaturity.

Continue reading

Walking in the Light


by Mike Ratliff

1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 1 John 3:1-3 (NASB) 

God’s truth is knowable. Also, His truth is as His attributes and character. He is immutable. His truth is never changing. He is Holy. His truth is Holy, separate from the corruption of the world. His truth, the Word of God, is precise. It supernaturally divides man’s “truth” and understanding from God’s genuine truth. It is sharper than a two edged sword, however, religion is the bane of genuine Christianity. It dilutes our devotion from where it should be, on God and God alone, while placing it on works and religious activities that suck all the devotion away from God while placing it on things that build up pride and feed the flesh. While genuine expositions of God’s Word by spiritually gifted men is necessary, many Church activities are so far from what Christians should be about that their removal would not in any way hinder the genuine work Christians should be doing. Continue reading

False Teachers and True Contentment


by Mike Ratliff

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:10-13 (NASB) 

When I see or hear so-called Christians speak of God prospering them because of their faith or see Pastors or “Evangelists” with their own private jets, huge homes and limousines there is a bad taste that forms in my mouth. From the birth of the Church until now there have been those professing to be Christians who are anything but. They major in minors while ignoring the major points of our faith. They take passages of scripture out of context to make it say that it supports their aberrant forms of Christian theology. The huge tragedy of this, of course, is how many blindly follow them thinking they are Christian, when they are nothing but False Teachers who love money. Money is their idol and as we have seen in earlier posts, idolatry always leads to spiritual blindness. Continue reading

Living a Godly Life in these Apostate Last Days


by Mike Ratliff

1 This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.
3 Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” 2 Peter 3:1-4 (NASB) 

I am a Southern Baptist. I am Reformed in my Theology, but I am still a Southern Baptist. This causes friction at times when my brethren get confused about the Gospel. What I find troubling is that those who are opposed to “Calvinism” the most, don’t have a clear understanding of the Gospel the way the Bible teaches it. No, they only have a nebulous understanding that they have put together since God saved them through the inconsistent discipleship they have had. It would be amusing to stand firm against them, but it’s really not, it is not funny at all because these brethren are confused and have only believed lies and are, therefore, not spiritually mature. Continue reading

God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness


by Mike Ratliff

5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, Romans 2:5 (NASB) 

I was online today on a friends Facebook page reading about an issue he is dealing with in which a school is disciplining someone who called a “transgender” a girl. He was discussing how he would get involved because he writes and how he needed to get involved because the local press in that city is ignoring the whole thing. I was simply reading the article and trying to understand what was going on then began reading the comments when a person that I did not know started calling my friend a bigot. He made several very rude and crude comments. I made one comment about how hypocritical it was for those demanding tolerance to be so intolerant. Then the guy making those comments came after me calling me a “redneck” and “backward” and a “bible thumper.” The only reason I could think of that he would call me a “bible thumper” was that he had looked at my Facebook page. I made the comment that I was not a “redneck” and stated why and then in another comment I posted Romans 1:18-32. Something happened after that because all comments on that post disappeared. That’s okay. I wondered why God allowed that encounter to happen like that. It’s been awhile since I have actually had to deal with an openly hostile reprobate and I confess it took me by surprise how ugly it got.
Continue reading