Correct doctrine conforms to godliness and is a means of great contentment, but false doctrines do neither


by Mike Ratliff

1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NASB) 

Life is a continual hunt or search for circumstances that will result in contentment. That is the focus for the natural man. When societal norms become relaxed from the “bonds” that restrict certain forms of self-expression” we witness rising levels of aberrant behavior that are simply attempts by seekers of this “contentment” to find, experience, and practice them hoping to finally reach some level of passion or peace or whatever that will last and leave them in that “contented” state. We see this in Christianity as well. What we understand as Orthodox Christianity is not very satisfying to the unregenerate. However, religiosity is an integral part of the human makeup, therefore, with this volatile combination, we witness increasing levels of bizarre forms of “Christianity” as those desperately seeking what “satisfies” go after the “feelings” as they vainly try to fill that hole in their soul that demands fulfillment. Continue reading

Christian accountability and obedience


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)

Preaching or teaching from God’s Word is nothing to trifle with. The responsibility that goes with each is eternal. Those who minister through the Word will be held accountable. We must ask each time we preach or teach, “Did I treat what is Holy as it deserved? Have I fallen into doing my ministry perfunctorily?” Those of us who teach must never do so in a way that is in any way motivated by anything other than our love and devotion for our Lord. Yes, there will be circumstances that we respond to and use as inspiration or input in a spontaneous way, but, even in that, we do a tremendous disservice to our Lord if we don’t go to Him in prayer first before we respond, write, preach, or teach. While the leader has a huge responsibility to minister by the Spirit, those who hear the truth from God’s Word will also be held accountable. Continue reading

What does it mean for Christians to draw near unto God?


by Mike Ratliff

7 You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:
8 ‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
9 ‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’” Matthew 15:7-9 (NASB)

What does it mean biblically to draw near unto God? Obviously, the Jews our Lord confronted as Matthew recorded in the passage above were not doing so. However the writer of Hebrews says to those who are truly born again:

19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22 (NASB)

Here is Hebrews 10:22 from the NA28 Greek text, “προσερχώμεθα μετὰ ἀληθινῆς καρδίας ἐν πληροφορίᾳ πίστεως ῥεραντισμένοι τὰς καρδίας ἀπὸ συνειδήσεως πονηρᾶς καὶ λελουσμένοι τὸ σῶμα ὕδατι καθαρῷ·”

The words “let us draw near” translates the verb προσερχώμεθα, which is the Present tense, Subjunctive mood, Middle voice, 1st person, plural of προσέρχομαι (proserchomai), “to approach, accede to.” This verb structure refers to continuous or repeated action, regardless of when the action took place. The subjunctive mood suggests that the action is subject to some condition and the present subjunctive can be used to give exhortation, which is exactly what the writer of Hebrews is doing here.  Continue reading

Heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ


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. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Romans 8:12-14 (NASB) 

If you are anything like me, looking closely at your walk before the Lord, the concept that sinful believers who vacillate between godliness and carnality with deliverance from those sins not in any way certain, then the concept that we are heirs with Christ is hard to grasp. I have no trouble with God’s absolute sovereignty, holiness, righteousness, justice, immutablility, omnipotence, omniscience, or omnipresence. He is perfect. He is the most High. The problem is that I know that I am not in any way worthy enough to even be in His presence. Continue reading

The world does not know genuine Christians because it does not know 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 it 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

There is none righteous, not even one


by Mike Ratliff

25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 21:25 (NASB)

We live in an evil time. There are large numbers of “Christian” leaders who claim to be ministers of God, but prove by their words and actions to have thrown off the authority of God. They do what is right in their own eyes while claiming that they are only following the leading of the Holy Spirit. The fact that what they say or do is unbiblical seems to trouble very few. When some point out the truth to them, they claim that God has led them to do what they do so it must be okay and those who protest are legalistic, divisive, and haters.  Continue reading

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves


by Mike Ratliff

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

The visible Church in our time has been compromised for the most part by human philosophy and has succumbed to the pressure from the world to not emphasize God’s truth as absolute. Professing Christians who discount the Word of God as absolute truth are actually placing their intellect, their beliefs, and the counsel of their own hearts above the Word of God as it relates to authority and truth. It is one thing for an atheist to denigrate Christians, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the God the Holy Spirit. That is almost expected and should not surprise us. However, when the majority of professing Christians demand the right to behave contrary to what the Word teaches about Christian behavior can God’s judgment be far behind? Continue reading

Biblically discerning the Lord’s will


by Mike Ratliff

1 Παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ παραστῆσαι τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν θυσίαν ζῶσαν ἁγίαν εὐάρεστον τῷ θεῷ, τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν ὑμῶν· 2 καὶ μὴ συσχηματίζεσθε τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, ἀλλὰ μεταμορφοῦσθε τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοὸς εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τί τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ εὐάρεστον καὶ τέλειον. Romans 12:1-2 (NA28)

1 Therefore, I urge you brothers through the compassions of God to present your bodies as living, holy sacrifices, well pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service. 2 And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may discern the will of God, that which is good and well pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Both the Apostle John and the Apostle Paul used light and darkness in analogies pertaining to spiritual life and spiritual death. For instance, in John 1:4, 5 the Apostle says, “ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων· καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν.” Or, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men; and the light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not grasp it.” In order to lay the foundation for this discussion on discerning the Lord’s will, it is imperative that we understand what is being said in these two verses. First, the “Him” in v4 refers back to ὁ λόγος or “the Word” from v1. This is, of course, our Lord Jesus Christ. In v4, we learn that in Him was ζωὴ or zōē, “life.” This ζωὴ is not simply the life we all have here and now, but was φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων or the “the light of men.” What does that mean? This light comes from God and brings to this dark world true knowledge, moral purity, and the light that shows the very presence of God. Finally, notice that this light shines into the darkness, but the darkness does not “receive, admit, or grasp” it. Those who discern the will of God are in His light. Those who cannot are in darkness.  Continue reading

Christians’ sin problem and its mortification part 3


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, Colossians 3:1-6 (NASB) 

I find it appalling that our version of the church in the early 21st Century has so neglected Discipleship that Christians across the board are clueless about the deadly issue of resident sin within them. They not only do not know it is there, but they are given no training on how to deal with it. After salvation they are told that they are new creations in Christ, the old has passed away, behold the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Well, that is true, at salvation believer’s hearts are quickened. What was dead is now alive. What this means is that where there was zero spiritual life before there is now abundant spiritual life. However, this means that believers are now in Christ spiritually and He is in them spiritually. They can pray, worship and read their bibles with understanding. However, it does not mean that their “old man” sin nature is dead and gone. He is still there. He now has an alive Spirit to deal with whereas before, the sin nature controlled everything. Now there is huge battle taking place between the Spirit and sin nature for dominance in the heart of the believer. Continue reading

Christians’ sin problem and its mortification part 2


by Mike Ratliff

11 You, O Lord, will not withhold Your compassion from me;
Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me.
12 For evils beyond number have surrounded me;
My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to see;
They are more numerous than the hairs of my head,
And my heart has failed me.
13 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me;
Make haste, O Lord, to help me. Psalms 40:11-13 (NASB) 

As we saw in Part 1, the first step in mortifying our sin is to attack it habitually. That means that as we take each step through each part of each day we habitually take each thought capture to the Holiness of God. We compare what our hearts are attempting to pursue for gratification with God’s standards, the Law and the commands of our Saviour. This is the first step in our declared war on the root of sin in our hearts. There are two ways to attack our sin nature. The first way is useless. It involves trying to stop doing the sin. It is equivalent to picking the fruit off of a bad tree in an attempt to kill it. That, of course, is silly, but that is what trying to use will power to stop sinning is analogous to. The other way to to attack our sin nature is to lay the axe at the root of the tree and start going for the kill. If we kill the root the tree will die. I would rather think of what we are attempting to kill as weeds rather than a fruit tree, but you get the idea. Continue reading

Christians’ sin problem and its mortification Part 1


by Mike Ratliff

Most believers I know become quite perturbed with me when I dwell on the topic of sin after salvation. I fear that many of our number consider this a taboo topic. In their estimation, they are saved and they don’t have to worry about sin anymore. Of course these same believers are never very interested in the topic of personal holiness either. When these believers do sin they come across with an attitude like, “I know I sinned, but God is going to forgive me so what is the big deal?” It is as if they are living as examples of certain admonitions from scripture.

1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? Romans 6:1 (NASB) 

What was the Apostle Paul’s response to that question?

2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin.
8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:2-14 (NASB)
Continue reading

The requirement of the Law will not be fulfilled in those walk according to the flesh, but according to 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) 

In yesterday’s post, “Christians’ sin problem and its mortification,” we looked at the 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 again 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

Christians’ sin problem and its mortification


by Mike Ratliff

9 I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.
14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 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? Romans 7:9-24 (NASB) 

If we are honest, each of us would have to confess that there are sins that have an incredible hold on us. It seems that no matter how devoted we become in our walk before our Lord, there will be some sins that trip us up, making us stumble and fall to our deep chagrin. Our self-loathing resulting from this can be quite severe. We cry out to God, we promise Him that we are done with that sin. We declare that we would rather die than do it again. We weep. We mourn. We then start to recover and become joyous in the Lord again. Then a short time later there is that sin pouncing upon us out of no where. We seem to have little or no strength or resolve to fight it off and then we stumble right back into it again. Continue reading

Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight


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) 

It is imperative that Christians have a correct and viable theology of suffering. These health, wealth, and prosperity preachers in our time will disagree of course, but let them. We have God’s Truth, His Word, held in objective context held up against their subjective, ear-tickling smoke and mirrors false religion. Oh, there may indeed be some “spirituality” going on in there, but to proclaim, “God is here!” or “God is in this!” or “We are having a Revival, come and join us!” is the very act of man elevating himself above God, telling Him what to do and when. However, I digress. God has always used suffering in the lives of His people to sanctify them, to draw them to prayer, to purify them, to grow them spiritually, and to direct their paths. Paul called some of his suffering a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan (2 Corinthians 12), but allowed by God to keep him from exalting himself because of his great knowledge. When we learn to view the seriousness of our sin as Paul did and God’s glory as imperative then we will begin to understand that sin in the life of a Christian is an anathema in a realistic, daily sense rather than in some sort of abstract give and take.

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