The cost of true discipleship


by Mike Ratliff

18 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea. 19 Then a scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” 20 Jesus *said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 21 Another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus *said to him, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:18-22 (NASB) 

For the Christian, this life is a test as well as a proving ground in which God grows and matures those who belong to Him through pruning and removing what is not of Him in order that the believer will be humbled and, therefore, enter deeper into the process of becoming more Christlike. There is a cost of discipleship, but if you listen to certain preachers and teachers in our time, this is not true at all. Instead, what they teach is that repentance is not at all part of one’s salvation. However, repentance is a marker of Christian authentication. On the other hand, in the visible Church in our time there are many voices which seek to normalize homosexuality. However, to make this claim they must ignore what the Bible clearly teaches about what constitutes marriage (Genesis 2:24;1 Corinthians 7:8-9). Those who truly follow Jesus must do so on His terms, not the terms of this lost and dying world.  Continue reading

Purging the old man


by Mike Ratliff

17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Ephesians 4:17-24 (NASB) 

God allowed me to teach in church this morning. It was the pastor’s class. There are 4 teachers and they rotate. One of the four had to be out of town so I was asked to fill in for him. We are working our way through Romans. When my turn came it was time to cover Chapter 12. I was asked to do this a week ago so I guess you know now why so many of my posts lately have been about what it means for Christians to be a living sacrifice acceptable to God which is our reasonable service. However, this morning we covered vv1-21. This is first time I have stood in front of a group in church to teach since 2013. I have led our small group Bible studies when we have met in our home, but that is not the same thing, at least not for me. I knew all the elders in the class and there were several people I knew and have known since the 1980’s, but there were also several people I did not know. I spent a great deal of time preparing for this class both in the Word and in prayer.

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The Believer’s Supreme Act of Spiritual Worship


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)

The vast majority of people in this age of Evangelical churches are by-and-large spiritually immature, Biblically ignorant, and self-centered, therefore, these people are also no threat to our enemy and his kingdom because they fall for every wind of doctrine, are prey to the wolves who have invaded the church at every level and they believe the lies such as, “God wants all of you to be rich and healthy and to have your best life now.” There are also the lies subverting the Gospel to make it into a social gospel all about “social justice” or making the world a better place. I could fill this post up with examples of these and countless other subversions that derail God’s people and move them to be focused on the temporal rather than on the eternal. Those who are suffering under these delusions are self-focused rather than God-focused. Continue reading

Believers are dead to sin, alive to God


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

Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?


by Mike Ratliff

46 “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Luke 6:46 (NASB) 

There is much controversy in the Church these days over some teaching from those who have made it a point to move their doctrine away from the orthodox into what used to be called liberalism. However, instead of rejecting everything spiritual as the liberals do, these new teachers claim that they are moving back to the origins of the Church with methods and doctrine that are more indicative of the early church rather than what is called Orthodox now. The followers of these teachers have, for the most part, rejected “church” with any hint of orthodoxy in it. Continue reading

The cost 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 and even if their sin amounted 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 to 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

God’s disipline


By Mike Ratliff

1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 2 Peter 1:1-4 (NASB)

Last night I posted a short piece titled Be Anxious for Nothing which is about how Christians are not immune from suffering, but are called to not be anxious about anything since God is Sovereign and is using our tests and trials for His own purposes. Also, our main weapon in this battle is prayer. After I posted it I received several emails and some comments from readers requesting prayer and thanking me for that post. I take no credit for that. I wrote it as one of you since I am going through pretty much the same trials and tribulations as the rest of the Body of Christ. In this post we will look at another aspect of Christian suffering. What do I mean? I keep hearing certain “New Evangelism” types say things on Christian radio and other places that really raises red flags in my heart. They say things like, “God loves you just the way you are!” Or something like, “You are unique, God made you like no one else, quit feeling inferior, you are one of God’s favorites, so start acting like it.” You get the idea. These same people are the ones whose “god” just loves everyone and would do nothing to hurt anyone nor judge anyone’s sin. Continue reading

The gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it


by Mike Ratliff

12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Matthew 7:12-14 (NASB)

Our Lord Jesus Christ set before us the way of Righteousness. Yes, He lived a perfect life and died on a cruel cross to pay the penalty and price for the sins of those whom He came to save. However, He also taught us both in word and deed how the truly Righteous should live. Those whom God has saved are regenerated so that they can believe and repent and receive salvation by grace through faith. However, this regeneration does not kill or do away with our sin nature. God uses our sin nature, which battles us in every step in our spiritual growth, for His own purposes. These purposes include keeping us humble as we see how unrighteous we really are because of our battles against our own flesh. Yes, we still sin. In fact we will never be free of these battles against our flesh until we are taken home to be with our Lord. Continue reading

Why does the persecution come upon believers?


by Mike Ratliff

26 “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, 27 and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning. John 15:26-27 (NASB) 

We live in a time of biblical ignorance. Much of the ignorance is intentional. There are some “so-called” Christians who seek to separate Jesus from Holy Scripture. Those who are immersed in the Word of God as they walk before the face of God in their sanctification see this movement with a great deal of incredulity. How can anyone learn about Jesus and what is expected of His disciples if all understanding of Him comes extra-biblically? Continue reading

Do genuine Christians need to confess their sins and seek forgiveness and cleansing?


by Mike Ratliff

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NASB)

I am a firm believer in the Biblical Doctrine of Justification by Faith. Within that Justification is the Doctrine of Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ to the account of the believer. The Righteousness that God sees on our account is that of our Lord Jesus Christ which means we are forever in Him and will be for eternity. That is our Justification. What many people stumble over, however, is confusing this Justification with our Sanctification. We are positionally sanctified in the eyes of God (Romans 8:30), however, in this temporal reality we are still being called by our God to walk through the sanctification process that burns away what is not of Christ in us and replaces that with the image of Christ. This process may take a lifetime. Throughout that process we stumble. We make mistakes. We sin. I have heard that some teach that since we are justified by Faith there is no reason to confess and seek forgiveness and cleansing when we sin. Is that what the Bible teaches?

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Faith and works


by Mike Ratliff

14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:14-18 (NASB)

The passage I placed at the beginning of this article is one the most abused and misunderstood passages that I know of because, if it is read casually, it can be easily misunderstood. If it is exposited by someone possessing a faulty hermeneutic, it can be twisted to say what no other part of the Bible teaches, that faith plus works is required for salvation. Continue reading

Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?


by Mike Ratliff

8 And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), “Let us do evil that good may come”? Their condemnation is just. Romans 3:8 (NASB) 

The debate in the visible Church in our time concerning the need for Christians to walk in Repentance is actually quite perplexing to those of us whose hearts and consciences are bound to the Word of God. It clearly exhorts us all to repent and walk in righteousness. I had a conversation with a Pastor several years ago at lunch following his sermon that Sunday morning. We discussed the dreadful condition in the visible Church today in which most professing Christians appeared to be very immature and in bondage to their flesh. I asked for his opinion of why that was so. His response was that it was the result of the Church not being the Church as God designed. There was little or no Church discipline. There was little preaching of the Law and the Gospel together. There was hardly ever a mention of walking in repentance before our Holy God. I agreed completely with his analysis. He also shared that he did not believe that a very large percentage of the professing Christians were genuine.  Continue reading

What is your role in the Truth War?


by Mike Ratliff

15 Βλέπετε οὖν ἀκριβῶς πῶς περιπατεῖτε μὴ ὡς ἄσοφοι ἀλλʼ ὡς σοφοί, 16 ἐξαγοραζόμενοι τὸν καιρόν, ὅτι αἱ ἡμέραι πονηραί εἰσιν. Ephesians 5:15-16 (NA28)

15 See therefore how carefully you walk not as unwise but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

There is a great deal going on in the visible church, much of it having little to do with genuine Christianity, that most of us can do little about. Yes, we can pray, which is very powerful. We can also obey God and expose the evil to other believers. However, the older I get in the faith the outrage over much of what people like Stephen Furtick or Rick Warren say or write I no longer allow to consume me. I know what my role is in the Truth War. Do you know what yours is? Shouldn’t it be to obey what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian church in Ephesians 5:1-21.  Continue reading

Christians must walk in the light of God’s truth regardless of the rest of the world loving and living in deception and darkness


by Mike Ratliff

9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.
13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14 (NASB)

We live in a time of deep deception. Even genuine Christians can be deceived if they are not exceedingly careful. It is imperative that, even though we must remain in the world for a time, we must not be of it. The Church has been under heavy attack since Acts 2. It is a wise and discerning thing for us to understand that God uses this to purify, cleanse, and teach the Church. It is as we address heresy that doctrine is developed or our understanding of God and His ways becomes more defined for us. Continue reading