Christian Authenticity – Marks of the True Christian


by Mike Ratliff

9 Ἡ ἀγάπη ἀνυπόκριτος. ἀποστυγοῦντες τὸ πονηρόν, κολλώμενοι τῷ ἀγαθῷ, 10 τῇ φιλαδελφίᾳ εἰς ἀλλήλους φιλόστοργοι, τῇ τιμῇ ἀλλήλους προηγούμενοι, 11 τῇ σπουδῇ μὴ ὀκνηροί, τῷ πνεύματι ζέοντες, τῷ κυρίῳ δουλεύοντες, 12 τῇ ἐλπίδι χαίροντες, τῇ θλίψει ὑπομένοντες, τῇ προσευχῇ προσκαρτεροῦντες, 13 ταῖς χρείαις τῶν ἁγίων κοινωνοῦντες, τὴν φιλοξενίαν διώκοντες. 14 εὐλογεῖτε τοὺς διώκοντας [ὑμᾶς], εὐλογεῖτε καὶ μὴ καταρᾶσθε. 15 χαίρειν μετὰ χαιρόντων, κλαίειν μετὰ κλαιόντων. 16 τὸ αὐτὸ εἰς ἀλλήλους φρονοῦντες, μὴ τὰ ὑψηλὰ φρονοῦντες ἀλλὰ τοῖς ταπεινοῖς συναπαγόμενοι. μὴ γίνεσθε φρόνιμοι παρʼ ἑαυτοῖς. 17 μηδενὶ κακὸν ἀντὶ κακοῦ ἀποδιδόντες, προνοούμενοι καλὰ ἐνώπιον πάντων ἀνθρώπων· 18 εἰ δυνατὸν τὸ ἐξ ὑμῶν, μετὰ πάντων ἀνθρώπων εἰρηνεύοντες· 19 μὴ ἑαυτοὺς ἐκδικοῦντες, ἀγαπητοί, ἀλλὰ δότε τόπον τῇ ὀργῇ, γέγραπται γάρ· ἐμοὶ ἐκδίκησις, ἐγὼ ἀνταποδώσω, λέγει κύριος. 20 ἀλλʼ ἐὰν πεινᾷ ὁ ἐχθρός σου, ψώμιζε αὐτόν· ἐὰν διψᾷ, πότιζε αὐτόν· τοῦτο γὰρ ποιῶν ἄνθρακας πυρὸς σωρεύσεις ἐπὶ τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ. 21 μὴ νικῶ ὑπὸ τοῦ κακοῦ ἀλλὰ νίκα ἐν τῷ ἀγαθῷ τὸ κακόν. (Romans 12:9-21 NA28)

9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “ Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 “ But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him A drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21 NASB)

All that is not of faith is sin. That includes good works and any religious acts that are done from any motivation or source other than faith. The Christians who walk before the face of God Spirit-filled are the ones who are walking by faith. As we have seen in this study, so far, those that become Spirit-filled are those who are living sacrifices. The continual process of mind renewal is transforming them. This renewal is actually a complete renovation of the intellect or mind by the Holy Spirit as they become immersed more and more into the Word of God. This causes them to surrender more and more unto the Lordship of Christ. They have given over their circumstances to the Lord so they have taken up their crosses and are following the Lord. Continue reading

Yieldedness unto Spirit-filling


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)

One of the requirements for Spirit-filling, which is truly the key to that filling, is “yieldedness.” Those professing Christians I have dealt with who are mired in unbelief about God’s sovereignty, for instance, also display all outer evidence of not being filled with the Holy Spirit. What do I mean? They are not Christlike. They do not reason critically. They are emotional about everything. They use dirty tricks and logical fallacies to try to promote their “cause” instead of stating their points and relying on the Holy Spirit to implant His truth in the hearts of those in debate. Of course, that would imply that their position was biblical, which it is not because if it were then there would be no need for such manipulation. In any case, what is the biblical nature of this “yieldedness” that enables believers to become Spirit-filled? Continue reading

Live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God


by Mike Ratliff

1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. (1 Peter 4:1-2 ESV)

Even though genuine Christians are new creations and have been purchased out of the world through the redemptive work of Christ on the Cross, as they attempt to live godly lives in the temporal, they will come under tremendous pressure to compromise by reverting back to the fleshly way of dealing with life. This way of reacting to circumstances, both good and bad, has emotions as its catalyst motivated by a form of self-righteousness that is manifested through self-exaltation and self-protection. Here we witness ourselves reacting to the good and bad in a way that is little different than we did prior to our salvation. We may even attempt to justify our actions by proclaiming that we are only seeking justice. Pride is the culprit behind this and when we stumble into these sins it is because we are not spirit-filled and, therefore, not humble. Continue reading

You cannot serve God and money


by Mike Ratliff

1 When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, 2 and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. 3 Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food. 4 Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. 5 When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven. (Proverbs 23:1-5 ESV)

The god of the natural man is self. Worship of self revolves around self-gratification. This idolatry is enhanced in a consumer driven economy such as in the United States. The “visible church” is not immune. From pastors like Steven Furtick becoming so wealthy that he can build a huge 16,000 square foot mansion to Mark Driscoll and his elders forcing all of the leaders in his church to sign non-compete agreements that if they leave that church for whatever reason they cannot start a new church or even become part of an existing church within a certain square mile radius of any of the Mars Hills campuses. These things are the fruit of “ministries” that are focused primarily on the “bottom line.” If you keep these things in mind then you must understand that how these ministers and those like them “minister” to their “flocks” is all designed to keep the money flowing in.

Continue reading

Which Commandment Is The Most Important Of All?


by Mike Ratliff

28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel:The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. ’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. (Mark 12:28-34 ESV)

The rabbis of Jesus’ day engaged in an ongoing debate to determine which commandments of the Law were “light” and which were “weighty” (Matthew 23:23). It reminds me of the debate in certain circles of the visible Church today in which some are concerned with how far they can push their “Christian Liberty.” This concept is no more biblical than that of the rabbis attempting to compartmentalize their religion. Does our Lord’s answer to the Pharisee in Mark 12, Matthew 22, and Luke 10 have any significance to the Christian? Continue reading

The Temporal Result Of The Testing of Our Faith


by Mike Ratliff

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes 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 1:3-7 ESV)

Despite what some false “so-called Christian leaders” in our time say, there is no guarantee that the Genuine Christian will be immune from suffering. In fact, suffering is the method God uses to prune the branches that abide in the Vine, our Lord Jesus Christ. (John 15) I have found that the form this suffering takes is nearly always a surprise. When atheists or pagans ridicule, the resulting sorrow from that is relatively minor and easily borne compared to that delivered by professing Christians. In any case, we must not be discouraged, even though that is what our enemy seeks to do to us through it. God is allowing him to do this to us, therefore, what should our reaction be? Continue reading

Is It Possible For Christians To Walk in the Light as He is in the Light?


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 were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5 ESV)

The tragic state of the vast majority of professing Christians in these early years of the 21st Century is that only a small minority of them are actually walking their Christian walk before the Lord in the light that is borne from our Saviour’s own life. As a result, most Christians are in bondage to their flesh. They are enslaved to a taskmaster who has an insatiable appetite for self-gratification. Even though they profess Jesus as Lord and Saviour they live as if it’s all up to them to try to live righteously. Since they can’t do it they have assumed a cavalier attitude about it and live defeated in their fleshly pursuits. This is tragic. I fear that many if not most of these professing Christians are disingenuous. Why? If there is no drive to be holy as God is holy, if there is no hatred of their sin, if there is no brokenness over their failure to repent then the Spirit of God does not reside in them and their hearts have not been regenerated. Let’s look at God’s light which shines in the darkness and has not ever been overcome by that darkness. Continue reading

Are You Being Filled With the Spirit or Something Else?


Last evening my pastor’s Wednesday evening message was an in-depth exposition of Pneumatology or The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit. He did a very good job of differentiating the works of the Holy Spirit that so many professing Christians confuse and look at as the same thing or as something that is completely unbiblical. Not including the works of the Holy Spirit prior to and including Christ’s incarnation he is intimately involved in the salvation and life of believers. For instance, in 2 Peter 1:21 we learn that he inspired all Sacred Scripture. All believers come to Christ because they are first regenerated by the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:12; Titus 3:5; Romans 8:11). All believers are baptized into the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13; Romans 6:3-4; Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5) and from this we learn of his permanent indwelling of all genuine believers. In the lives of all genuine believers, before they are saved and afterwards as they are drawn into walks of repentance, the Holy Spirit convicts (John 16:8). He sanctifies all believers (2 Thessalonians 2:13). He is the “helper” sent by Christ to all believers (John 14:16; 1 John 2:1; John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:1; Romans 8:26). Lastly we come to the filling of the Holy Spirit. All believers are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is not the same thing as being baptized by the Holy Spirit. I wrote the following post August 29, 2010, but I believe it is just as vital for us to grasp now as it was then. – Mike Ratliff

Are You Being Filled With the Spirit or Something Else?

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:15-21 ESV)

In Ephesians 5:18 Paul commands, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit!“ At first glance that may read or sound like Paul is saying, “instead of getting drunk, do these religious things,” which he lists in vv19-21. However, as we know, the proper way to interpret Sacred Scripture is by keeping what we are studying in context foremost. Here, the context tells us that the Apostle Paul is making a contrast that the Ephesians would have understood perfectly. Let’s go deeper. Continue reading

Be Filled by the Spirit


by Mike Ratliff

18 And do not become drunk with wine in which is dissipation, but be filled by the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:18 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)

What does it mean for a Christian to be “filled” by the Holy Spirit? In my translation above the preposition “by” renders the Greek word ἐν (en), “in, with, by, among, at, on, when, to, as, for, through, while, within, of, about, into, because, during, throughout, before, under.” Why did I render it as “by” instead of “with?” As Louis Sperry Chafer said, “It is not a matter of acquiring more of the Spirit, but rather of the Spirit of God acquiring all of the individual.”1 The believer who is Spirit-filled is influenced by the Spirit and nothing else while those who are not, are more influenced by the temporal. To be filled by the Spirit is to have our thoughts, desires, values, motives, goals, priorities, and all else set on spiritual things and spiritual growth.  Continue reading

An Example of Counterfeit Christian Spirituality


by Mike Ratliff

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3 ESV)

While I was working today I received an email from my friend Ken Silva pertaining to a recent Tweet by Rick Warren in which he quoted Henri Nouwen. He had written a post about it as well. A copy of the Tweet is below. As Ken makes very clear in his post, Henri Nouwen was a Catholic mystic who practiced what is called today “contemplative spirituality” in order to reach some higher spiritual level. This “hiddenness” that Nouwen was talking about in this quote is not the same thing at all that Paul was speaking of as the Christian’s being hidden with Christ in God as we read in Colossians 3:3 (above.). No, this “hiddenness” is what the mystics try to achieve by seeking to find the “inner self” through their “contemplative spirituality.” When I was in High School and College in the 1960’s, this was called transcendental meditation. It is in no way Christian. So how is it that Rick Warren, who is not alone in this by any means, can blatantly go after Eastern mysticism and still be considered a Christian? Continue reading

The Key to being Spirit-Filled


by Mike Ratliff

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. (Romans 6:13 ESV)

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1 ESV)

As we have seen in this study, there are many requirements for the Christian to become and remain Spirit-filled, but there is one thing that is truly the key to that filling. We find the Greek word that exemplifies this in Romans 6:13 and Romans 12:1 (above). The ESV translates this word as “present” in both cases. While these translations describe the action Paul intended, I think it would have been more descriptive and more theologically correct for them to have used forms of the the word “yield” here instead of “present.” Why? I believe we are talking about self-sacrifice here, a form of worship, in our daily walk. In this, we are not only growing in Christian maturity, but God is using our surrender to His will by our yielding in obedience to Him as living sacrifices, to mold us unto Christlikeness. Hence, we are Spirit-filled and are able to walk unto the works laid before us by our Father. In John 15:5 Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” He’s not saying we cannot obey God and do good works. He is saying that we cannot do them unless we abide in Him and are, therefore, Spirit-filled. Just a a bit earlier he also told his disciples in John 14:14-17, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” Yieldedness to obey  God’s Word before we even know what it says is the key.  Continue reading

The Spirit-filled Christian’s Walk is an Act of Worship


by Mike Ratliff

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 ESV)

The Christian walk that John Bunyan set before us in his masterpiece The Pilgrim’s Progress is not one of “having your best life now” nor is it having all of your problems suddenly replaced with “opportunities.” No, Bunyan understood, and we need to as well, that no where in God’s Word are we promised that all we have to do is “come to Jesus and all our problems are over.” No, in fact, the opposite may very well be true. Jesus was not exaggerating when he said in John 15:18-19, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” Why does the world hate real Christians? They are not of the world, but have been chosen by Christ out of the world, regenerated and made part of His Kingdom. This change is radical. This salvation is by grace through faith not according to merit or works, but according to Ephesians 2:10 good works are part of what this Christian walk is all about, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” In fact, our Lord Jesus went so far as to say it very plainly in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Therefore, genuine Christians will be evident to the world because they will serve their Lord with their lives in obedience walking in the good works set before them by God Himself. That means also that they will not be those compromising all over the place with false religions seeking unity with false brethren and obvious wolves in sheep’s clothing for the sake of a friendly, false peace. That sorta explains why the world hates us don’t you think?  Continue reading

Submission


by Mike Ratliff

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-21 ESV)

The proper worship of our Lord is done by Spirit-filled Christians and no others. We have looked at what being Spirit-filled is and what it isn’t over the last several weeks. Perhaps the number one attribute that is evidence of being truly Spirit-filled is the submission of our will to the will of God, proper submission, as He has defined it. Our God is all about order, not chaos. I listened to an interview with the author of the book Surprised by Grace, Tullian Tchividjian, the other day. He made the statement that God is all about setting His people free from bondage and we have no business throwing a bunch of “law” at them. I suppose I could have misunderstood him, but I did listen to the entire interview and I would say that Tchividjian is what I would define as an antinomian. That is, he and I may agree that we are saved by Grace through faith alone apart from works, but we depart ways when it comes to that obedience stuff. He would have a huge problem with the subject of this post for he would see it as an attempt to but people into “religious bondage.” Well, let the Word of God speak…  Continue reading

Prophecy and Tongues


by Mike Ratliff

Now two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the Spirit rested on them. They were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp. (Numbers 11:26-30 ESV)

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:8-13 ESV)

As I ended our study last week on the Biblical definition of being Spirit Filled, I became convinced that after that was complete I should compare that with some very aberrant things being presented as “Christian” by an internationally, well-known local “church” in the metro area in which I live. I gave some hints about that in the post “What is the Purpose of Being Filled With the Spirit?” even though I did not give the name of the “church.” I did that because I was still praying about whether God really wanted me to do this. On my recent trip to Oklahoma, several family members encountered me concentrating on this as I meditated on scripture and prayed for wisdom. They all attempted to startle me as if I they thought I was in some sort of sleep state or something. No, I was simply listening to the Spirit as I worked through the Word comparing God’s truth with what I know these people are saying and doing which is most certainly not. I was simply planning the outline of what you are about to read. With each interruption I was concerned that I would lose the trail and not be able to get back to where God had me, but as I sat down this evening with my Bibles, lexicons, and commentaries, I found that the trail is indeed very hot and I pray that God uses me in this battle for His truth for His glory alone. Continue reading