Testing of Your Faith


by Mike Ratliff

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though 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 (NASB) 

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

Do Not be Conformed to This World


by Mike Ratliff

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen. Galatians 1:3-5 (NASB) 

In the late 1970’s I read of a physician in a large urban hospital finding a man admitted with many of his vital organs failing due to extreme alcohol and drug poisoning. He recognized him as one whom he had treated a few years earlier for the same problem. The man was destitute and had been given free medical care. They had treated the man as a project to recover his health. After many weeks he appeared to be completely recovered so they sent him back into the world free from the affects of drugs and alcohol. However, it looked now as if that merciful reclamation project had been totally wasted. The man died the next day. Continue reading

Back to Fundamentals


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. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 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.
12 Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. 13 I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind. 2 Peter 1:1-15 (NASB) 

In the 1960s, the premier football team in the NFL was the Green Bay Packers. They won the NFL title in 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966 and 1967. They also won the first two Super Bowls. Their coach through all of these winning seasons was Vince Lombardi. Continue reading

Being a Living Sacrifice


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.
3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Romans 12:1-3 (NASB)

All of the things that true Christians should be doing for the glory of God, drinking from the cup of Christ’s suffering, wrestling the correct opponent, loving your enemies, and behaving like a Christian are possible only for the believer who is in the process of taking on Christ’s character. No one can do these things naturally. No one is able to attain this level of spirituality by trying to do those things. Instead, these behaviors flow from a Christlike heart. No believer will ever become Christlike in their character unless they also become Spirit-led. If a believer is controlled by their emotions then they are not Spirit-led. Neither are they who have not learned to walk in the Spirit. If sin runs rampant through a believer’s life then they are not Spirit-led. In addition, if a believer is constantly consumed by anger, bitterness, envy, and self-protection then they are not Spirit-led. Continue reading

Prayer Fasting and Forgiveness


by Mike Ratliff

9 Οὕτως οὖν προσεύχεσθε ὑμεῖς· Matthew 6:9a (NA28)

9 Therefore, thus pray you; Matthew 6:9a (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The context of Matthew 6:9-13 from which we get what is traditionally called “The Lord’s Prayer,” is, of course, Matthew 6, which is part of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount. The theme of Matthew 6:1-18 (the context of vv 9-13) is found in v1, “Προσέχετε [δὲ] τὴν δικαιοσύνην ὑμῶν μὴ ποιεῖν ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων πρὸς τὸ θεαθῆναι αὐτοῖς· εἰ δὲ μή γε, μισθὸν οὐκ ἔχετε παρὰ τῷ πατρὶ ὑμῶν τῷ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.” Or, “But be careful to not demonstrate your righteousness before men with the aim to be seen by them; otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in Heaven.” Our Lord gives an example in vv 2-4 of believers giving alms to the needy. Their motive is to be seen by others in order to receive praise from men. Then in vv 5-18 our Lord gives uses the examples of prayer, fasting, and forgiveness, which will be the subject of this post.  Continue reading

Healthy Christians Long to know God’s Will


by Mike Ratliff

1 As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for You, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;
When shall I come and appear before God? Psalms 42:1-2 (NASB) 

Spiritually healthy Christians have a deep desire to know God’s will thereby knowing where God wants them to be as well as doing what God wants them to do. Without a doubt, discovering God’s will commands more interest and arouses more anxiety among those spiritually healthy Christians than anything else. That desire is a sign of spiritual health. Why do they deeply desire this? They want to please God. At their regeneration, God gave them a love of obedience that is bolstered as they find joy in doing His will. Along with that, the very thought of offending God grieves them deeply. They deeply desire to live in a way that shows gratitude to God for His grace. He has given them this as their purpose in life. With each victory of obedience as they mortify their sin by His grace, this desire becomes stronger and stronger. Therefore, believers deeply desire to know God’s will so they may do it.

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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

Apprehended By God


by Mike Ratliff

12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12 (NASB) 

The Apostle Paul often used the analogy of a runner to describe our spiritual growth. Unlike a race that has an ending with one runner reaching the goal and attaining the prize of victory, our spiritual race will continue as long as we live. We will never reach the goal of Christlikeness, but like the runner in a race we must continue to pursue that goal.

Even though the current crop of evangelicals disdain discipleship, Bible study, and spiritual growth calling them unnecessary since their sole goal is numerical growth through their evangelical ministries, we must not give in to this lie. Paul tells us that God’s will for each of His children is their sanctification. (1 Thessalonians 4:3) That means His desire for each of us is that we be holy. Continue reading

The Holiness of the Ekklesia


by Mike Ratliff

9 But you are A chosen race, A royal priesthood, A holy nation, A people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10 (NASB) 

The Church is not a building. No, in the New Testament, written in Koine Greek, our English translations of it where we find the the word “church,” it is a translation of  a form of ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia). For example, in Acts 5:11, “καὶ ἐγένετο φόβος μέγας ἐφʼ ὅλην τὴν ἐκκλησίαν καὶ ἐπὶ πάντας τοὺς ἀκούοντας ταῦτα,” which the NASB translates as, “And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things,” contains ἐκκλησίαν (ekklēsian),  which is the accusative, singular, feminine case of ἐκκλησίαAll that means is that ἐκκλησίαν is the direct object of the main verb in that sentence. However notice that there is just one ἐκκλησία“This word literally means, “the called out ones.” It’s usage in scripture denotes the New Testament community of the redeemed in a two-fold aspect, the first referring to all those called by and to Christ in the fellowship of His salvation, which is the “Church” worldwide at all times. The second aspect, rarely used, refers to a local body of believers.

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Living Holy in the World


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 1 Peter 4:1-2 (NASB) 

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

Counterfeit Obedience and Discernment


by Mike Ratliff

13 You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. John 13:13-17 (NASB) 

The heart of Man is deceitful beyond our understanding. I find it incredible that God would desire to save any of us. Even after regeneration there is an element in each of our hearts that falls for the wicked appeal of our enemy to believe those things that have an affinity to our pride and flesh. One of the things that I must do in order to write these posts is to do research into the ministries of certain people who are suspected of some form of apostasy or heresy. I find it amazing how I can listen to one of these fellows preach or teach and find something within my heart having an affinity to what is being said. Of course this shows us the level of deception within these things. It is very interesting to then analyze what is being taught and compare it to Scripture. It is then that that part of me that liked what it heard runs for cover because I am seeking to kill it. Continue reading

Joy in Trials


by Mike Ratliff

2 Πᾶσαν χαρὰν ἡγήσασθε, ἀδελφοί μου, ὅταν πειρασμοῖς περιπέσητε ποικίλοις, 3 γινώσκοντες ὅτι τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως κατεργάζεται ὑπομονήν. 4 ἡ δὲ ὑπομονὴ ἔργον τέλειον ἐχέτω, ἵνα ἦτε τέλειοι καὶ ὁλόκληροι ἐν μηδενὶ λειπόμενοι. James 1:2-4 (NA28)

2 Consider it all joy my brothers whenever you fall into various trials 3 knowing that the testing of your faith works endurance; 4 let endurance work to fulfillment, that you be mature and complete lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The word joy in my translation is the Greek noun χαρὰν, which is the Accusative, Singular of χαρά (chara), “is an antonym of grief and sorrow. It denotes ‘joy, happiness, and gladness.’” In other words, James, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is telling Christians to not grieve or be sorrowful, but to be glad and full of joy when they “fall into various trials.” The words “you fall” translates the verb περιπέσητε, which is the Aorist tense, Subjunctive mood, and Active voice of περιπίπτω (peripiptō), which is a compound of περί (peri), “properly through (all over), that is, around” and πίπτω (piptō), “fail, fall (down), light on” with the result coming to mean, “to fall into something that is all around, that is, light among or upon, be surrounded with: – fall among (into).” Doesn’t that “figuratively” describe how we so often have found ourselves in the midst of something that seems “overwhelming?” The word trials translates the noun πειρασμοῖς, which is the Dative, Plural of πειρασμός (peirasmos), “refers either to a testing or a temptation to do something wrong.” Continue reading

Casting out Fear


by Mike Ratliff

18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us. 1 John 4:18-19 (NASB) 

As God draws us out of darkness into a Spirit-led walk, we can still become discouraged or fearful when the fires of tribulation, tests, or trials come upon us. The move from walking according to the flesh to walking according to the spirit breaks those self-forged chains of bondage to our flesh that kept us mired in spiritual blindness. That happens as we become Spirit-led. We become Spirit-led when we obey God by drawing near unto Him. God’s ways are not our ways. Submission to the Lordship of Christ brings us rest and freedom. Rebellion against His Lordship puts in bondage and darkness. The Spirit-led walk is one which has its mind on the things of God. The flesh-bound walk is one which has its mind on the things of Men. Therefore, the Spirit-led believer fears only God while the flesh-bound walk is full of fear. Fear of what? Isn’t it a fear of having to submit to others? The Spirit-led believer submits to others for Christ’s sake. The Spirit-led walk is one that is free of fear of the unknown while the flesh-bound walk is anxious about everything. Continue reading

Unworldliness


by Mike Ratliff

11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. Galatians 6:11-16 (NASB)

We cannot walk by faith, abide in Christ, take up the Yoke of Christ, run the race God has set before us, and be living sacrifices if we have a worldly focus. If we are enamored with the world and its ways then we are not doing any of these things. Instead, our service at church is nothing more than extensions of our pursuit of self-gratification. We are self-absorbed religious people who are not walking this walk as one who has died with Christ. In fact, when we are doing this we will find that our “service” is really no different than the ancient Jews reliance on circumcision as their “way to God.” Continue reading