Damaged Goods


by Mike Ratliff

There is a push in the United States to make it illegal to preach the truth from God’s Word where it pertains to the sin of homosexuality. Of course the emphasis of those laws or initiatives is to protect the rights of certain people based on their sexual preference, which is also called gay rights. They say that to preach what the Bible says about homosexuality is to foment hate; therefore, the laws are placed under the umbrella of hate crimes.

On the other hand, some who preach against certain sins are also guilty of trying to force morality upon the unregenerate. How can an unregenerate person stop sinning? When Christians focus on sins that are abhorrent to God that should be just as abhorrent to believers, the focus should be on cleansing those sins from the Church itself. At the same time, we must never shut our doors to the lost, no matter what sins are consuming them. God saves sinners. Continue reading

The Lord is My Strength and My Shield


by Mike Ratliff

1 “I love You, O LORD, my strength.”
2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalms 18:1-2 (NASB) 

This walk before the face of God is according to the ways of God not according the ways of men. God’s good work in our hearts to grow us unto Christlikeness resembles the work of of a good diamond cutter who shapes an uncut, rough gemstone from something that is not worth much in its raw state into a polished, faceted, and extremely valuable diamond that appears to have a brilliant fire within with innumerable facets reflecting that light in every direction. The various planes and facets are cut to perfection. That internal fire is actually the result of the diamond’s form as a many faceted prism. The light comes from outside the diamond, but it appears to be within. Continue reading

Sanctification begins in Regeneration


by Mike Ratliff

13 But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. John 17:13-19 (NASB)

I have read and heard countless arguments about our sanctification. Some say that we are sanctified by our religion. Some say that we are sanctified by God and we have nothing to do with it. Some say that while our Justification is Monergistic (all of God) our Sanctification is Synergistic (us working with God). I used to have fellowship with a very likable young man on Facebook who actually teamed up with me in several debates then something changed. He suddendly dropped out of all of my discussion groups. Then a few weeks later he came back, but he had changed. He had become part of the Hebrews Roots movement. I don’t know all their precepts, but I do know that one of their requirements is that Christians must keep the Law. I contacted my friend about this and referred him to the Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. It was to no avail. He told me flat out that in the Hebrew Roots movement that the keeping of the Law is the source of their Sanctifcation. I have had no contact with him since. So which is it?

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Humility Under the Lash


by Mike Ratliff

9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:9-10 (NASB) 

There is a form of Christianity prevalent in post-modern America that has an incredible hold on some people to the point their conception of God is that He is little more than a vending machine or a kindly grandfather who would never hurt anyone. I speak, of course, of all forms of Christianity that are man-based. Their problem is that they are conceived of by people who have no patience for theology. Instead, they rely on their own conception of God based within the limits of their ability to reason. For instance, their conception of God is that He is too good to be unfair. Then, of course, their conception of what is fair and unfair enter into their reasoning. The end result is that, since God does not seem to come through the same for all people, then the problem must be with the people themselves. If one person is not healed while some are then those who are not healed must not have enough faith because God is fair and would not leave anyone in sickness while healing others. Continue reading

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

Born Again to a Living Hope and Called to be Holy


by Mike Ratliff

6 ἐν ᾧ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε, ὀλίγον ἄρτι εἰ δέον [ἐστὶν] λυπηθέντας ἐν ποικίλοις πειρασμοῖς, 7 ἵνα τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως πολυτιμότερον χρυσίου τοῦ ἀπολλυμένου διὰ πυρὸς δὲ δοκιμαζομένου, εὑρεθῇ εἰς ἔπαινον καὶ δόξαν καὶ τιμὴν ἐν ἀποκαλύψει Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ· 1 Peter 1:6-7 (NA28)

6 In this you greatly rejoice, for a little while now, if it is necessary, having been grieved by various trials, 7 that the tested genuineness of you faith—infinitely more valuable than gold that perishes even though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6.7 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

There are some who insist that the doctrine of imputation will create antinomianism because we will not “work out our salvation,” since we have been declared righteous, we can live any way we want. However, that “charge” is unbiblical for another very large and important doctrine, the doctrine of regeneration. We understand Sacred Scripture to teach that God regenerates all those He calls to believe and draws to the Son. This regeneration changes everything. It is supernatural. Here is how Paul described it in Ephesians 2:4,5, “ὁ δὲ θεὸς πλούσιος ὢν ἐν ἐλέει, διὰ τὴν πολλὴν ἀγάπην αὐτοῦ ἣν ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς, καὶ ὄντας ἡμᾶς νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτώμασιν συνεζωοποίησεν τῷ Χριστῷ, – χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι –” or “But God being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when were dead in trespasses, he made us alive with Christ – by grace you have been saved —”. Regeneration is God making a person who is spiritually dead spiritually alive in Christ by His grace. Let’s look at what Peter has to say about this along with our imputed righteousness along with the call for us live unto the holiness of God. Continue reading

Life in the Spirit Unto Maturity


by Mike Ratliff

1 Οὐδὲν ἄρα νῦν κατάκριμα τοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. Romans 8:1 (NA28)

1 There is therefore now no condemnation to the ones in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

 Romans 8 is best understood after reading the Apostle Paul’s exposition of his own “wretched man” trapped in a “body of death” in Romans 7:14-25. 

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? 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. Romans 7:14-25 (NASB) 

There are some who teach from this passage saying that it describes Paul’s life before Christ citing that this description is contrary to his own account or description of true believers in Romans 6 (cf. vv. 2,6,7,11,17,18,22) . However, as we read this passage it is obvious that this is a believer because he desires to obey God’s law and hates his sin. He is humble, recognizing that nothing good dwells in his humanness. He sees sin in himself, but not as all that there is, and he serves Jesus Christ with his mind. This very struggle was my desperate struggle for a couple of decades and I get private emails from many readers in the same boat, doubting the veracity of their salvation because they are in the same battle. Why are they in despair? Why was I in despair for so long? The churches, the religious systems of which we were part of told us in their pragmatism that there would be some point when we would outgrow this and reach some level of maturity and would no longer struggle like this. If that did not happen either we were very immature or not Christians at all.

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The Old Man


by Mike Ratliff

5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. Romans 6:5-7 (NKJV) 

Romans 6:6 clearly shows us that true believers become holy in Christ. However, there is confusion because many do not look correctly at the Greek verb tenses in this passage. If they simply read it in English or some other translation it is easy to not see that the all the verb tenses here are past tenses (aorist or perfect). What this means is that every verb tense here that refers to our identification with Christ in His death refers to it being completed in the past. Romans 6:6 translated literally says, “knowing this that our old man was crucified with Him that the body of sin may be made ineffective.”  This took place way back when Christ died and that it was completed then and there. What it does not say is that we must each morning get up and “crucify ourselves again to sin.” Instead, it says that by God’s judicial act, not by our experiential effort, the old man was “crucified” and therefore “destroyed.” Continue reading

A Life Pleasing to God


by Mike Ratliff

22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
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 5:22-27 (NASB) 

The main argument that I run into in discussions these days after scripture is used to nullify an opponent’s arguments is that he or she “does not agree” with whatever doctrinal position I am defending. In other words, the veracity of a truth is determined by their belief in it or not. That is a completely invalid argument. The qualities of a truth that make it true are not dependent upon whether people believe it to be true. Our enemy, a liar from the beginning, is hard at work selling compromise as something vital in our relationships and all dealings with others. Continue reading

The Advance of the Gospel


by Mike Ratliff

12 Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13 so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, 14 and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. Philippians 1:12-14 (NASB) 

This Christian walk is one of progressive sanctification in which God uses our tests and trials to shape and form us so that we will conform unto the image of Christ. However, we are of the right mind and have the right understanding when we gauge theses tests and trials as nothing when compared with what awaits us in eternity. I personally do not like the push back that comes from our enemy and his seed, but I know that the fierier the verbiage in their protests is, the more God has used His truth to provoke them. In light of that, I must carefully examine what I taught that caused their feathers to be ruffled then prayerfully seek the direction God is giving me through this. Being ridiculed and called a heretic by an enemy of the truth is nothing when compared to what other Christians throughout the history of the Church have endured, therefore, I use these things as means of discerning direction as well as self-examination to make sure I am responding as my Lord would.  Continue reading

Laying Down Your Life


by Mike Ratliff

16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 1 John 3:16 (NASB) 

What differentiates a genuine Christian from one whose religion is only skin-deep? Jesus said that He knows those who are His. He calls them His sheep who hear His voice and follow Him. (John 10:27) He also called them His disciples. He gave us the requirements for being His disciple in Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34 and Luke 9:23 where he said that if anyone desires to follow Him they must deny himself, take up their crosses and follow Him. If we combine these two views then we learn that our Lord’s sheep, His disciples, are those who hear His voice, deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him. This is telling us that genuine Christians are those who humble themselves before their Lord, die to self, submit to His Lordship, obey Him, and emulate Him as He leads. Continue reading

Do not grow weary and lose heart


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3 (NASB) 

A huge part of the Lord’s discipline is designed to eradicate within His people a love for this world. How can it be pleasing to God for His people to love the system that despised His Son and killed Him? Yes believers must live the lives God has given them here amidst people who are not His. God uses this to discipline and reprove His people. Unlike the message of many false teachers in our day, sickness, conflict, and trouble are not outward signs of God’s displeasure with a believer, but are, in fact, His work of sanctifying those in whom He delights. Continue reading

The Triumph of Grace over the Power of Sin


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

The Difference Between Justification and Sanctification


by Mike Ratliff

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Romans 8:28-30 (NASB) 

12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13 (NASB)

justify

Function: verb

Inflected Form(s): jus·ti·fied; jus·ti·fy·ing

Etymology: Middle English justifien, from Anglo-French or Late Latin; Anglo-French justifier, from Late Latin justificare, from Latin justus

Date: 14th century

transitive verb

1 a: to prove or show to be just, right, or reasonable b (1): to show to have had a sufficient legal reason (2): to qualify (oneself) as a surety by taking oath to the ownership of sufficient property

sanctify

Function: transitive verb

Inflected Form(s): sanc·ti·fied; sanc·ti·fy·ing

Etymology: Middle English seintefien, sanctifien, from Anglo-French seintefier, sanctifier, from Late Latin sanctificare, from Latin sanctus sacred — more at saint

Date:14th century

1: to set apart to a sacred purpose or to religious use : consecrate

2: to free from sin : purify

3 a: to impart or impute sacredness, inviolability, or respect to b: to give moral or social sanction to

4: to make productive of holiness or piety <observe the day of the sabbath, to sanctify it — Deuteronomy 5:12(Douay Version)>

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2008. Merriam-Webster Online. 29 May 2008

The theological climate in the Church today  has taken on the characteristics of a free-for-all. Most professing believers’ Bible knowledge is extremely shallow. On top of that we are also in a period of intellectual barbarianism which is marked by relativism. This causes the truth to be perceived as unknowable. Those holding this form of thinking refuse to believe that there is such a thing as absolute truth. In this intellectual climate it is little wonder that false prophets and false teachers can lead so many astray simply by saying what people want to hear.  Continue reading