Dead to Sin Alive to God and Slaves to Righteousness


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

He Will Abundantly Pardon


by Mike Ratliff

4 “Behold, I have made him a witness to the peoples, A leader and commander for the peoples. 5 “Behold, you will call a nation you do not know, And a nation which knows you not will run to you, Because of the LORD your God, even the Holy One of Israel; For He has glorified you.” 6 Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. 8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.  (Isaiah 55:4-8 NASB)

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is not editable. It is not open to change. No matter how much anyone  wants it to be otherwise, it is unchangeable. It is God’s Good News to be proclaimed to all fallen man. This good news is the proclamation that there is a way, only one way, for sinful people to be reconciled to God. It is good news because all people suffer from the same condition. They are born dead in trespasses and sins and are not morally able to do anything about it. This separates all of us from God because He is Holy and must judge all sin. The Gospel declares that Jesus Christ went to the cross and became sin on our behalf, our propitiation. God judged our sin in Him. This “atoned” for our sins. Now let us look at the pardon available to all who believe.

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Put Away


by Mike Ratliff

6 ἵνα δὲ εἰδῆτε ὅτι ἐξουσίαν ἔχει ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἀφιέναι ἁμαρτίας—τότε λέγει τῷ παραλυτικῷ· ἐγερθεὶς ἆρόν σου τὴν κλίνην καὶ ὕπαγε εἰς τὸν οἶκόν σου. Matthew 9:6 (NA28)

6 “but in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on Earth to forgive sins””–then He said to the paralytic, “Rise up, take up your stretcher and go to your house.” – Matthew 9:6 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The literal idea behind the Greek αἴρω (airō) is “to raise or lift up,” and it is usually used in this way. When the Lord Jesus forgave and healed the paralytic in Matthew 9:1-8, for example, His command was to, “Rise up, take up (ἆρόν) your stretcher and go to your house.” In this usage the verb ἆρόν (aron) is the second singular, aorist active imperative case of airō.

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Sin Not Mortified Leads to a Darkened Soul


by Mike Ratliff

A SONG. A PSALM OF THE SONS OF KORAH. FOR THE CHOIR DIRECTOR; ACCORDING TO MAHALATH LEANNOTH. A MASKIL OF HEMAN THE EZRAHITE.
1 O LORD, the God of my salvation,
I have cried out by day and in the night before You.
2 Let my prayer come before You;
Incline Your ear to my cry!
3 For my soul has had enough troubles,
And my life has drawn near to Sheol.
4 I am reckoned among those who go down to the pit;
I have become like a man without strength,
5 Forsaken among the dead,
Like the slain who lie in the grave,
Whom You remember no more,
And they are cut off from Your hand.
6 You have put me in the lowest pit,
In dark places, in the depths.
7 Your wrath has rested upon me,
And You have afflicted me with all Your waves.
Selah.
8 You have removed my acquaintances far from me;
You have made me an object of loathing to them;
I am shut up and cannot go out. Psalms 88:1-8 (NASB) 

Despite what many faux-Christian leaders are teaching in our day about the necessity of repentance in the life of the believer, the Word of God teaches us something entirely different. In it, we learn that the life, vigor, and comfort of our spiritual life depends much on our actively and deliberately mortifying the sin that clings so closely. This teaching has unfortunately been neglected much over the last several decades to the point that some scoff at its necessity in the Christian walk. However, if we go back and read the Puritans and others that came before we find that personal holiness has not always been neglected in the Church as it has been in our day. Continue reading

Put to Death What is Earthly in You


by Mike Ratliff

12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:12-13 (NASB) 

Compromise is the order of the day. When God’s Word is forsaken and replaced with the subjectivity of Man’s wisdom then what do you expect? When a so-called Evangelical leader can ignore what Sacred Scripture says very clearly about Homosexuality being a sin just like murder and that no practicing homosexual will inherit the Kingdom of God and still call what he teaches “Christianity” well then what we must understand is that what we are dealing with are people who want to be included as practicing Christians while remaining unrepentant of their sins. No matter how much Scripture twisting these faux-preachers try to do, they cannot change what the Apostle Paul wrote and taught about repentance being an integral part of our salvation. If we compare what Paul taught here with what our Lord Jesus clearly taught we see no difference. That part about if we want to come after Jesus we must deny ourselves, take up our Crosses, and follow Him costing us everything, that is a life of repentance my brethren. I wonder how many professing Christians in our time really understand that… Continue reading

Have No Fear


by Mike Ratliff

4 “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. Luke 12:4-7 (NASB) 

We are told not to fear earthly things or other people no matter how evil or violent they are. However, we are told to fear God. Much of the fear Christians have, however, is not based in their fear of God, but in the fear of their own failures being exposed or their own spiritual deficiencies being exploited by the devil’s seed. Of course some of that fear comes from the spirit of fear that dominates some Christians.

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Genuine Children of God


by Mike Ratliff

28 Καὶ νῦν, τεκνία, μένετε ἐν αὐτῷ, ἵνα ἐὰν φανερωθῇ σχῶμεν παρρησίαν καὶ μὴ αἰσχυνθῶμεν ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ αὐτοῦ. 29 ἐὰν εἰδῆτε ὅτι δίκαιός ἐστιν, γινώσκετε ὅτι καὶ πᾶς ὁ ποιῶν τὴν δικαιοσύνην ἐξ αὐτοῦ γεγέννηται. 1 John 2:28-29 (NA28)

28 And now little children, abide in him that when he is manifested, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before him at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you also know that everyone practicing righteousness has been born of him. 1 John 2:28-29 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

How is that people who profess faith as Christians and supposedly placed their faith in the Incarnate Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, actually display a moralistic, therapeutic, deistic religiosity that is centered in their own moral uprightness? We find this in Church leaders such as pastors and especially scholars at the seminary and denominational level, but, sadly, because of the former, highly prevalent in the pews. In 1 John 2:28-3:10, the Apostle John gives us “evidence” that is most definitely not “politically correct” that will enable us to determine those who really are the genuine children of God and those who aren’t. Of course, we should take a close examination of ourselves as we go through this passage. Continue reading

Walk in Light


by Mike Ratliff

6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light 9 (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; Ephesians 5:6-11 (NASB) 

Intentional godliness is the product of a spirit-filled walk. No Christian becomes godly by simply wanting it. Neither do they become godly through self-righteousness. Instead, the walk that is truly godly is one that is not self-focused at all. It is one that is totally wrapped up and empowered by a consistent, deliberate attempt to discover or discern what is pleasing to the Lord, then doing it. If we analyze this, and we should, we will see that the intentional walk in the light of God is one that separates the Christian from both non-Christians and professing Christians who bear no eternal fruit.

This separate walk does not include promises from God that all will be easy. There is no fine print that states that the obedient Christian will not become ill or lose their job or find themselves having to part with the world’s goods or even having a spouse walk out on them. No, we find examples in Sacred Scripture of God taking His saints through very heavy trials even though they were exemplary in their walk in the God’s light. Think of Joseph and Job. It is during these times that we discover who the real Christians are as well as those who either have a long way to go in their sanctification or are not genuine at all. The more mature believers are the ones who will come along side the suffering saint to help bear the burden while the others say insipid things like, “You must have committed some horrible sin and God has struck you down for it.” Continue reading

What is an Almost Christian?


by Mike Ratliff

16 θεὸν ὁμολογοῦσιν εἰδέναι, τοῖς δὲ ἔργοις ἀρνοῦνται, βδελυκτοὶ ὄντες καὶ ἀπειθεῖς καὶ πρὸς πᾶν ἔργον ἀγαθὸν ἀδόκιμοι. Titus 1:16 (NA28)

16 They profess to know God, but by their works, they deny Him, being detestable and as to every good work, unfit. Titus 1:16 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In Puritan Matthew Mead’s The Almost Christian Discovered we find the very definition for what is plaguing the visible church in the 21st Century.  If Pastor Mead was alive today preaching as he did in the 17th Century, he would be quite controversial, but isn’t that what we who are called of God to stand for His truth in the lost and dying world supposed to do? In our time we lament what cheap grace and easy-believism and post-modernism have done to our churches’ ecclesiology, watering down the Gospel and doing away with rightly dividing the Word of Truth while turning the what should the weekly gathering of the local church into some sort of sales promotion or entertainment event. Those terms would be unknown to Pastor Mead, but he would have been quite familiar with one coined by Martin Luther, antinomianism. This describes those who desired to be called Christian, with all of its benefits, but shunned all of its obligations. Continue reading

Idol


by Mike Ratliff

21 Τεκνία, φυλάξατε ἑαυτὰ ἀπὸ τῶν εἰδώλων. 1 John 5:21 (NA28)

21 Little children, guard yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:21 (NASB) 

Our English word idol is derived from the Greek εἴδωλον (eidōlon). Homer used eidōlon for phantoms and apparitions. In later Classical Greek, it carried the other non-religious meanings of picture, copy, or “any unsubstantial form, an image reflected in a mirror or water, an image or idea in the mind.”

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Life in the Spirit


by Mike Ratliff

22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 7:22 – 8:4 (NASB) 

There are four things that Christians must do in order to find deliverance from sinful desires in their hearts. These four things should be part of our discipleship in our churches, but they have been forgotten or bypassed in our 21st Century American Christianity. These four things that need to be emphasized in our churches are the Holiness of God, the significance of motivating desire, the need for self-scrutiny and the life-changing power of God. Instead most believers are taught what actions to do and what actions to not do. It is all external. Sin avoidance is emphasized when the Bible clearly tells us that God looks at the heart. Continue reading

Doers of the Word Not Hearers Only


by Mike Ratliff

22 Γίνεσθε δὲ ποιηταὶ λόγου καὶ μὴ μόνον ἀκροαταὶ παραλογιζόμενοι ἑαυτούς. James 1:22 (NA28)

22 Now be doers of the Word and not only hearers deceiving yourselves. James 1:22 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. James 1:22 (NASB) 

In 1997, about three years before God moved my wife and I from the OKC area to Tulsa, our Pastor contacted me during the week telling me he wanted me to fill in for him on Wednesday night after our weekly meal. That meant I would conduct a short Bible study and then have a question and answer period in which adults present could ask anything they wanted about doctrine or the Church or the Bible and I would attempt to answer it. The Bible study part was not a problem since I planned on simply using one I had prepared for another study that I had not yet taught. However, the Q & A was a bit unsettling. I had seen how it went. It was a bit like “Stump the Pastor.” Continue reading

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble


by Mike Ratliff

1 Πόθεν πόλεμοι καὶ πόθεν μάχαι ἐν ὑμῖν; οὐκ ἐντεῦθεν, ἐκ τῶν ἡδονῶν ὑμῶν τῶν στρατευομένων ἐν τοῖς μέλεσιν ὑμῶν; 2 ἐπιθυμεῖτε καὶ οὐκ ἔχετε, φονεύετε καὶ ζηλοῦτε καὶ οὐ δύνασθε ἐπιτυχεῖν, μάχεσθε καὶ πολεμεῖτε, οὐκ ἔχετε διὰ τὸ μὴ αἰτεῖσθαι ὑμᾶς, 3 αἰτεῖτε καὶ οὐ λαμβάνετε διότι κακῶς αἰτεῖσθε, ἵνα ἐν ταῖς ἡδοναῖς ὑμῶν δαπανήσητε. 4 μοιχαλίδες, οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ἡ φιλία τοῦ κόσμου ἔχθρα τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν; ὃς ἐὰν οὖν βουληθῇ φίλος εἶναι τοῦ κόσμου, ἐχθρὸς τοῦ θεοῦ καθίσταται. 5 ἢ δοκεῖτε ὅτι κενῶς ἡ γραφὴ λέγει· πρὸς φθόνον ἐπιποθεῖ τὸ πνεῦμα ὃ κατῴκισεν ἐν ἡμῖν, 6 μείζονα δὲ δίδωσιν χάριν; διὸ λέγει·
ὁ θεὸς ὑπερηφάνοις ἀντιτάσσεται,
ταπεινοῖς δὲ δίδωσιν χάριν. (James 4:1-6 NA28)

1 From where do wars come and from where do fights come among you? Is it not from here–from your pleasures warring in your members? 2 You desire and you do not have. You kill and you envy and you are not able to obtain. You fight and you war. You do not have because you fail to ask. 3 You ask and you do not receive because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your pleasures. 4 Adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever chooses to be a friend of the world is made an enemy of God. Or do you think that  it is in vain the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us“? Be he gives greater grace. Therefore it says,
“God opposes the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.” 
(James 4:1-6 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The Church since its inception in the 1st Century AD has been plagued by quarrels, disagreements, feuds, splits, et cetera. According to God, the problem is not with the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ or His doctrines, but with the fact that people in the Church are not submitted properly to Him or to each other. Pride is behind most disagreements just as it is behind those who break away from the truth to lead their followers with false doctrines and a focus that is on self rather than on God and his glory. Instead, those who cause these problems are in love with self and, therefore, in love with the world, its ways, and the things of the world.

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What Does it Mean to Overcome the World?


by Mike Ratliff

8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 10 but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. 12 For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:8-12 (NASB) 

There are some who believe that Romans 7:7-25 was written by the Apostle Paul in reference to before his salvation in that he proclaims his frustration with his inability to keep the law by his own strength. However, the unregenerate are not able to see that only 100% obedience to the law is acceptable to God. In this, they do not have the same grief over their inconsistencies in obedience that a genuine believer has. On the other hand, there are some who teach a false doctrine of perfection for Christians. This doctrine teaches that it is possible for Christians to mature to the point that they no longer sin. This is why I hold that Romans 7:7-25 very clearly teaches us that if we attempt to keep the law through morality or legalism then we will experience that same frustration that Paul did. On the other hand, when we understand that it is not us who have overcome the world, but our Lord, then we will have a very different view of tribulation and peace in this life for Christians.  Continue reading