The Source of True Joy


by Mike Ratliff

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Matthew 7:21-25 (NASB) 

Most Christians are seeking joy and are, perhaps, perplexed because their circumstances are anything but joyful. Our Lord gave us the example through the way He walked throughout His earthly ministry in which we are given what true joy is and how we must live in order to obtain it. The following passage is right in the middle of that part of John’s Gospel dealing with the Samaritan woman at the well.  Continue reading

Let us make our calling and election sure


by Mike Ratliff

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 1:2-4 (NASB) 

Is it possible to know whether we are genuine partakers of the divine nature and not simply religious converts? Let us look at the Apostle Peter’s understanding of this. If anyone would understand that our own efforts to please God are a total waste of time, Peter would be the man. He declared to our Lord on the night of His arrest that he would rather die with Him than desert Him. However, we all know that Peter not only deserted our Lord that night, he denied Him three times. From that failure and his later restoration by our Lord after He was resurrected, we know that we cannot please God with our own efforts. Any work that we do that is outside of His Grace is just works of the flesh and totally worthless. Continue reading

The Big Lie


by Mike Ratliff

7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. 10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. Galatians 6:7-10 (NASB) 

Repentance is not a large part of the paradigm that is the 21st Century version of the visible Church. The current trend to build Mega-Churches has as one of its main tenets that the prevailing culture within which the church resides must determine the content of the Gospel. In order to attract the largest possible number of people to be part of these churches absolutely no emphasis is placed on living a life of repentance by the professing Christian. Instead, the way “church is done” is to bring the world into it, to not be threatening in any way to those who have no desire to abandon their flesh oriented lifestyles. Continue reading

What is Sweet as Honey yet Causes Bitterness in the Heat of the Spirit?


by Mike Ratliff

Believers are called to role of reconciliation, forgiveness, loving our enemies, and turning the other cheek by being humble and Spirit-filled. Also, the genuinely humble believer will not be timid, but bold.

Part of being bold because of the moving of the Holy Spirit within us is to proclaim the truth even if it takes the form of a rebuke. We are told to love our enemies, but we must not have unity with professing believers who are mired in heresy. On the other hand, those in apostasy must be rebuked in love with the goal of restoring them to fellowship and unity within God’s truth.

Much of the Bible is prophetic in nature. A large part of those prophecies take the form of God rebuking His people for their apostasy as well as declaring His coming judgment upon the world for their rebellion against Him and His ways.

One such prophet was Ezekiel. His book opens with him witnessing the glory of God in a magnificent vision. His account of it in Ezekiel 1 is utterly amazing. It is obvious that when he wrote it that he was struggling to describe the indescribable. In v26-28 Ezekiel describes his reaction to seeing this. Continue reading

Sonship through the Spirit


by Mike Ratliff

34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Matthew 25:34 (NASB) 

I am a Calvinist. In this age of not saying things in order to avoid causing offense I refuse to subject myself to that. I know who saved me. I know that without God’s sovereign grace working in me I would never have been saved. It would never have happened because I know what I was. Just a sinner. I was as the Word of God says, dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). Since that time I have read many books, listened to many sermons, and have written much about the “process” of how a person goes from being spiritually dead to spiritually alive in Christ. The Reformers had it right. They developed what is referred to as the Ordo Solutis, which is Latin for “Order of Salvation.” Here it is.

  1. Election – God’s choice of people to save. This choice occurred before the foundation of the world.
  2. Predestination – The work of God to ordain to salvation those who have been elected to it.
  3. Calling – The preaching of the gospel message.
  4. Regeneration – The change in the person produced by God.
  5. Faith – The trust an individual has in the work of God on the cross.
  6. Repentance – Turning from sin.
  7. Justification – The imputation of righteousness to the individual thus making him righteous according to the law.
  8. Sanctification – God’s work in the individual to make him more like Christ.
  9. Perseverance – God’s work in the individual results in the person continually believing throughout his life.
  10. Glorification – Resurrection to glory with God.

Continue reading

What is Joy?


by Mike Ratliff

21 When my heart was embittered
And I was pierced within,
22 Then I was senseless and ignorant;
I was like a beast before You.
23 Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You have taken hold of my right hand.
24 With Your counsel You will guide me,
And afterward receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalms 73:21-26 (NASB) 

Undoubtedly, there is much confusion about that little three-letter word “joy.” Is it simply a deeper form of happiness? Is it the opposite of sadness or depression? The secular perception of joy is “lasting happiness.” However, the Bible interprets joy very differently. In fact, God commands His people to be full of joy. (Psalms 37:4; Philippians 4:4) If joy were an emotion based upon circumstances then that command would seem rather harsh and unrealistic. However, coming from a Reformed Theological perspective, we do know that God commands many things for His people to do that they could never do within their own capabilities. Beginning with salvation itself, we see that our believing unto salvation came through God’s supernatural regenerative work in our Hearts. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Being spirit-filled (Ephesians 5:18), walking in the spirit (Galatians 5:16, 25), praying unceasingly (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and loving our enemies (Matthew 5:43-45) are only a few commands for believers obedience to actions which they could never do within their own abilities. Continue reading

Do Not Love the World


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NASB) 

One of the markers of genuineness in a Christian is separation from the World. This isn’t a physical removal from planet Earth or a disintegration of the body of a Christian. A genuine Christian’s character should be in a continual upgrade unto Christlikeness. That means that as he or she cooperates with God in their sanctification, working out their salvation with fear and trembling, their character will take on more and more of Christ’s character. They will love what He loves and hate what he hates. God is love, but He hates a certain type of love. Continue reading

Children of God


by Mike Ratliff

28 Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. 1 John 2:28-29 (NASB) 

There are two types of people in the world. There are God’s children and everyone else. One of the reasons I love to read the Gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John and Revelation is that John, the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 21:7), wrote very profound words that have no gray areas. Of course he wrote as the Spirit breathed these words through him, but God used this man’s entire makeup in that process. John was very pastoral, but he was also a Christian apologist of the highest order. He was one the three Apostles who made up the inner circle closest to our Lord during His earthly ministry. Before Jesus called him to be his disciple, he was a disciple of John the Baptist along with Andrew, Peter’s brother. Jesus called him and his brother James, “Sons of Thunder.” John had great faith, but like most of us, he could get full of himself and focus inward instead of being humble and lining up with our Lord’s will alone. Continue reading

Meditation


by Mike Ratliff

8 This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Joshua 1:8 (NASB) 

To most believers the word “meditation” smacks of Eastern Mysticism or some sort of New Age mumbo jumbo. However, God calls for His people to not only pray and read His Word, but also to meditate on it day and night. There is the right way to do this, which is God’s way, as well as the wrong way, which is the way the false religions teach their adherents. Let’s look at God’s way. Continue reading

Humility is the key to the Spirit-led walk


by Mike Ratliff

10 Listen, O daughter, give attention and incline your ear:
Forget your people and your father’s house; Psalms 45:10 (NASB)

As we become Spirit-led the Lord will enable us to do many good works. We will become much more adept at prayer than we used to be. We will be able to read the Bible and be able to see truths that used to go right over our heads. We will be able to help others see the truth. We will be able to obey our Lord and do wonderful things for His glory. However, there is a danger lurking for each of us as our faith is grown and deepened. Continue reading

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

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him


by Mike Ratliff

41 Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:41-44 (NASB) 

One of the aspects of our Christian faith that we lose sight of sometimes, and it gets us in trouble when we do, is how vital it is that we remain totally amazed that we ever got saved at all. We make a huge error when we forget this because that path leads to self-righteousness, self-absorption, and an ungrateful heart towards God. Even though we may not be fully aware that we are in that place of self-focus, we cannot be Spirit-led when we are full of self. Continue reading

Love of the world


by Mike Ratliff

1 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. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)

One of the markers of Christian genuineness is separation from the World. This isn’t a physical removal from planet Earth or a disintegration of the body of a Christian. A genuine Christian’s character should be in a continual upgrade unto Christlikeness. That means that as he or she cooperates with God in their sanctification, working out their salvation with fear and trembling, their character will take on more and more of Christ’s character. They will love what He loves and hate what he hates. God is love, but He hates a certain type of love. 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