There is only one gospel


by Mike Ratliff

8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
11 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:8-12 (NASB) 

With all of the “inside job” attacks on the gospel going on right now in the visible church I have decided to take a closer look at the Biblical gospel, what it is and what it isn’t. Some say that we must make our interpretation of the gospel very loose because “no one can know everything about it, therefore, we must be tolerant of other’s views of salvation because the gospel is inherently unknowable.” However, I am not in that camp and I pray that you aren’t either. Our God is a very precise God who does things His way in His timing and always for His glory. Continue reading

Make your Calling and Election Sure


by Mike Ratliff

22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, 23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,
“All flesh is like grass,
And all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
And the flower falls off,
25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.”
And this is the word which was preached to you. 1 Peter 1:22-25 (NASB)

The Puritans had a term they used in their theological writings and discussions describing professing believers who fell away or were in some way not consistent in their walk. They called them “temporary believers.” This may be a little offensive to many these days, but there are untold numbers of Pastors, Deacons, Elders, Evangelists, or whatever in our churches in our time who would not even qualify for membership in a 17th Century Puritan Church. As I have stated many times, I grew up in Oklahoma as a Southern Baptist. I have seen literally hundreds (if not more) of “invitations.” In a large percentage of these invitations, people walked an aisle, prayed a sinner’s prayer, was Baptised, and made a full member of the church. All of this taking place in a just a period of days. I have also observed a staggeringly high percentage of those professing believers last only a short period of time before disappearing from church never to be seen again. Continue reading

Where then is boasting? it is excluded; by what kind of law? of works? no, but by a law of faith


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) 

As I reflect back on my personal testimony of my pilgrimage and how God drew me to Himself regardless of my unworthiness and then patiently matured me over the years I marvel at His gift of grace. However, that does not negate the fact that I, like everyone else, had a lot of growing up to do, and still do I am sure. 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.

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What exactly is salvation?


by Mike Ratliff

16 Οὐ γὰρ ἐπαισχύνομαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, δύναμις γὰρ θεοῦ ἐστιν εἰς σωτηρίαν παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι, Ἰουδαίῳ τε πρῶτον καὶ Ἕλληνι. Romans 1:16 (NA28)

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In the passage above the word  “salvation” translates the noun σωτηρίαν (sōtērian), the accusative singular feminine case of σωτηρία (sōtēria), which means safety, deliverance, and preservation from danger or destruction. But what exactly is Biblical salvation?

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It is a lie that religion is the answer for our sin problem


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 (NASB)

Not everyone who claims the name of “Christian” is truly part of the genuine Church. Many of those claimants see Christianity as simply a religion and their religiosity within it as that which assuages their guilty consciences that condemn them for their fleshly lifestyles. Others strive with their entire being to do good and not sin while being very active in their churches. In this they believe that they are in the “group” that God will accept and proclaim righteous. There are others who believe that they are Christians because at some point in the past they “asked Jesus to come into their life or heart.” However, they were taught that that “act of faith” is all that Jesus requires of them. They are now “saved” and should not doubt their salvation. In the late 15th and early 16th Centuries Martin Luther was a very well educated monk in an Augustinian order in Germany. He deeply desired to have assurance of his salvation, but all that he was taught told him to be religious, to be obedient to the demands of the Church in Rome, to obey the Pope and that was all he needed. However, he had a problem. Continue reading

Assurance


by Mike Ratliff

10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. 2 Peter 1:10-11 (NASB) 

How can we know if we are truly in Christ? Or you may ask, “What is the fruit which genuine believers bear?” If true salvation is as impacting on a believers life as we contend then there should be verifiable evidence or fruit manifested in that life. The problem is in knowing what evidences really prove the presence of God in a person’s life and those that do not. I have noticed most of us look at the wrong things in our self-evaluations to determine if we are in Christ. Real evidence of the presence of God in a person’s life will be the fruits of salvation. These fruits will in turn lead to outward manifestations of “goodness” or “religiosity” which, unfortunately, can be counterfeited. These outward manifestations are often what we look at to determine if we are a “good Christian” or not. That is a fallacy. Any activity or attitude that can be counterfeited by a false believer cannot be used to verify ones salvation. Continue reading

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life


by Mike Ratliff

1 Πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστιν ὁ Χριστὸς, ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ γεγέννηται, καὶ πᾶς ὁ ἀγαπῶν τὸν γεννήσαντα ἀγαπᾷ [καὶ] τὸν γεγεννημένον ἐξ αὐτοῦ. 2 ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκομεν ὅτι ἀγαπῶμεν τὰ τέκνα τοῦ θεοῦ, ὅταν τὸν θεὸν ἀγαπῶμεν καὶ τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ ποιῶμεν. 3 αὕτη γάρ ἐστιν ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ, ἵνα τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ τηρῶμεν, καὶ αἱ ἐντολαὶ αὐτοῦ βαρεῖαι οὐκ εἰσίν. 4 ὅτι πᾶν τὸ γεγεννημένον ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ νικᾷ τὸν κόσμον· καὶ αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ νίκη ἡ νικήσασα τὸν κόσμον, ἡ πίστις ἡμῶν. 1 John 5:1-4 (NA28)

1 All who believe that Jesus is the Christ, born of God, and all who love the Father loves the one born of him. 2 In this we know that we love the children of God when we love God and we obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For all that has been born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 1 John 5:1-4 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Satan’s worldwide system of deception and wickedness, at times, seems to be overcoming the Church not the Church overcoming it. However, through Christ and his provision of salvation, believers are victorious over the invisible system of demonic and human evil that our enemy operates to capture men’s souls for hell. Currently, the visible church seems split with divisive conflicts that those with any rational sense of reason can only attribute to demonic attacks our enemy is using to divide Christians to get them away from our primary mission, the Gospel and the Great Commission and, instead, focusing on issues that simply cause these conflicts and strife keeping us from what we should really be about. Continue reading

What is Biblical salvation?


by Mike Ratliff

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. Romans 1:16 (NKJV) 

Back in 2006 when God opened my eyes to what the leadership at our church was doing with the Purpose Driven stuff and I raised the alarm I was rebuked with argument that I should just kick back and cooperate so that the church could peacefully go Purpose Driven so that God could work there and people’s lives could be changed. When I began commenting on the old Slice of Laodicea blog about that same time, those PDC apologists who hated our firm stance against it said very much the same thing. If you listen to Rick Warren speak when talking about what a great ministry Saddleback Valley Community Church is, he will always try to emphasize the thousands of people whose lives have been transformed or changed.  Continue reading

Preaching the real Gospel instead of another one


by Mike Ratliff

8 ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐὰν ἡμεῖς ἢ ἄγγελος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ εὐαγγελίζηται [ὑμῖν] παρʼ ὃ εὐηγγελισάμεθα ὑμῖν, ἀνάθεμα ἔστω. 9 ὡς προειρήκαμεν καὶ ἄρτι πάλιν λέγω· εἴ τις ὑμᾶς εὐαγγελίζεται παρʼ ὃ παρελάβετε, ἀνάθεμα ἔστω.
10 Ἄρτι γὰρ ἀνθρώπους πείθω ἢ τὸν θεόν; ἢ ζητῶ ἀνθρώποις ἀρέσκειν; εἰ ἔτι ἀνθρώποις ἤρεσκον, Χριστοῦ δοῦλος οὐκ ἂν ἤμην. 11 Γνωρίζω γὰρ ὑμῖν, ἀδελφοί, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τὸ εὐαγγελισθὲν ὑπʼ ἐμοῦ ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν κατὰ ἄνθρωπον· 12 οὐδὲ γὰρ ἐγὼ παρὰ ἀνθρώπου παρέλαβον αὐτὸ οὔτε ἐδιδάχθην, ἀλλὰ διʼ ἀποκαλύψεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. Galatians 1:8-12 (NA28)

8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel to you besides that which we preached to you let him be a curse. 9 As we have previously said, and now again I say, if anyone preaches a gospel to you besides that which you received, let him be a curse. 10 For am I now trying to convince men or God? Or am I seeking to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be Christ’s slave. 11 For I make known to you, brothers, the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I neither received it from man nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:8-12 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

There is only one true gospel. That may surprise many, but it is actually one of the major themes of the epistle of Galatians. I have been in “conversation” on this topic for the last several days with many who disagree that there is only one gospel. Their stance is that no one can know everything about the gospel. We must be tolerant of others’ views of salvation because the gospel is inherently unknowable. Several years ago, I may have bought that argument, but not anymore. Our God is a very precise God who does things His way in His timing and always for His glory. Continue reading

Be ready for every good deed


by Mike Ratliff

1 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. Romans 13:1-2 (NASB) 

There are some who teach that our salvation is something of a crapshoot. Oh, they don’t ‘use words like crapshoot to describe their Soteriology, but their insistence that a person’s salvation is a mere decision means that their approach to the Gospel is one of mood and emotion manipulation that can be resisted by a person and, therefore, results in nothing more than some emotional decisions amidst many equally emotional rejections. Is this the means that God uses in the building of His Church? Continue reading

The washing of regeneration


by Mike Ratliff

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. Ephesians 5:25-27 (NASB) 

4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7 (NASB)

Many false teachers in the past and currently have taken the word “washing” in the two passages above and taught that this refers to baptism. However, a careful reading of the text reveals that baptism is never mentioned nor is the Greek word for baptism used by Paul in either passage, therefore, we know that he, inspired by the Holy Spirit, was writing about something else entirely. Continue reading

The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 14 – Conclusion


by Mike Ratliff

37 For yet in a very little while,
He who is coming will come, and will not delay.
38 But My righteous one shall live by faith;
And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.
39 But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. Hebrews 10:37-39 (NASB) 

As we end this study of the Pilgrim’s Heart, let us take notice of the vast difference between the self-focused Christian, the Flesh-bound, and the God-focused Christian, the Spirit-led. The former is fleshly. He or she may very well be a genuine Christian, but they struggle mightily with besetting sins and are still focused on self-gratification as a means of fulfillment. His or her heart is relatively hard or callous towards God. The latter is not nearly as fleshly. He or she is a genuine Christian, and besetting sins are actively fought via mortification. The Spirit-led believer seeks to obey God and deny self. He or she has learned to take every thought captive so that sin does not have a chance to take root. His or her heart is relatively tender towards God. The Spirit-led believer, in his or her obedience, is Spirit-filled. That means he or she walks and obeys God by His grace. These fundamentals are the basis for all aspects of the victorious pilgrimage.

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The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 12 – The Disciple’s Heart


by Mike Ratliff

25 Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.
34 “Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? 35 It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Luke 14:25-35 (NASB)

During all my Flesh-bound years as a born again believer, I read the passage above (Luke 14:25-35) innumerable times. I had an understanding of it, but I have found since I became Spirit-led that I was wrong all along. I had assumed someday I would learn to enjoy church enough and develop a deeper love and devotion to the Lord through that. Boy was that stupid! Continue reading

The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 5 – The Contrite Heart


by Mike Ratliff

1 I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul will make its boast in the Lord;
The humble will hear it and rejoice.
3 O magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
5 They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
And saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them.
8 O taste and see that the Lord is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
9 O fear the Lord, you His saints;
For to those who fear Him there is no want.
10 The young lions do lack and suffer hunger;
But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.
11 Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Who is the man who desires life
And loves length of days that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil
And your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
And His ears are open to their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against evildoers,
To cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 The righteous cry, and the Lord hears
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones,
Not one of them is broken.
21 Evil shall slay the wicked,
And those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned. Psalms 34 (NASB)

What is a contrite heart? The word contrite is not used much anymore. The dictionary definition for contrite is grieving and penitent for sin or shortcoming. Grieving has the same meaning as mourning. Therefore, a contrite heart is one that mourns. Is that all? What does penitent mean? Its dictionary meaning is feeling or expressing humble or regretful pain or sorrow for sins or offenses. A contrite heart appears to be one that mourns and regrets sin. Does this mean a contrite heart regrets sin and feels bad about it? That is part of it. Actually, the key to understanding what contrite means is found in its synonym, penitent. That word does mean having the humble or regretful pain or sorrow for sin, but it is also the root word for repentance. Continue reading