Judge Not Part 15 – Letting the Word of Christ Dwell in You Richly


by Mike Ratliff

12 So, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and graciously forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone, just as the Lord graciously forgave you, so also should you. 14 Above all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body, and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with gratefulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:12-17 (LSB) 

Before I became a Christian, I was a Christian in name only. In other words, I was a religious Christian instead of a genuine Christian. I went to Church. I tried to be good. I was supremely unsuccessful at both being good, and being a good Christian. I thought that someday I would start to like church and get good at it. I simply thought that good Christians tired harder than the rest of us. Then God saved me. Continue reading

Judge Not Part 14 – Being a Living Sacrifice


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore I exhort you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice–living, holy, and pleasing 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 approve what the will of God is, that which is good and pleasing and perfect.
3 For through the grace given to me I say to each one among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound thinking, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Romans 12:1-3 (LSB) 

All of the things we have looked at so far in this study about doing all 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

Judge Not Part 13 – Behaving like a Christian


by Mike Ratliff

9 Let love be without hypocrisy–by abhorring what is evil, clinging to what is good, 10 being devoted to one another in brotherly love, giving preference to one another in honor, 11 not lagging behind in diligence, being fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in affliction, being devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, pursuing hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless, and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep, 16 by being of the same mind toward one another, not being haughty in mind, but associating with the humble. Do not be wise in your own mind. 17 Never paying back evil for evil to anyone, respecting what is good in the sight of all men, 18 if possible, so far as it depends on you, being at peace with all men, 19 never taking your own revenge, beloved–instead 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 (LSB) 

When I began working on this series, I was intent on presenting to all who read this the facts about the tremendous damage hypocritical judging does within the body of Christ as well as to those who practice it. However, the more I studied and wrote the more I became convinced that Christians judging others is a symptom of something much more dreadful. Just as bitterness and resentment have their roots in pride, judging hypocritically has its roots in spiritual immaturity. The spiritually immature believer’s biggest problem is a lack of humility. The believer’s level of Christlikeness is directly related to how successful he or she is in uprooting pride while cultivating humility in the heart. Continue reading

Judge Not Part 12 – Loving your Enemies


by Mike Ratliff

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ 39 But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your garment also. 41 And whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:38-48 (LSB) 

I remember the first time I read the passage I placed at the beginning of this chapter. I simply could not believe that it was possible for anyone to love one’s enemies or pray for them. I read in the Gospels that Jesus did those things, but He is God. How could any mortal person ever do this? At the time of that reading, I was not a regenerate believer. I was definitely in the process of being called, but God’s effectual call had not touched my heart yet. I still had the idea that one had to be able to do Christian things in order to become a Christian. I had to learn and believe the right things and do the right things so that I could possibly “grow into” a good Christian. Continue reading

Judge Not Part 11 – Wrestling the Correct Opponent


by Mike Ratliff

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the might of His strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12 (LSB) 

When I was in Junior High, I wrestled for a couple of years. I was never very good, but I did learn many things about the importance of leverage, quickness, and flexibility. When I had to wrestle some kid who had long arms and who was physically bigger than I was, I knew I was going to have a tough time. I usually won the match if I used my speed and upper body strength to leverage my opponent onto the bottom. I usually lost if the kid I was wrestling had similar quickness to mine and who knew how to counter my upper body strength by going after my legs. Wrestling is simply body against body. It is strength and quickness against strength and quickness. It helps if the wrestler knows the right techniques for takedowns and pins; however, it is still muscle against muscle. Continue reading

Judge Not Part 10 – Drinking from Christ’s Cup of Suffering


by Mike Ratliff

34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who were following him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away people after him. He too perished, and all those who were following him were scattered. 38 So in the present case, I also say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or you may even be found fighting against God.”
40 So they followed his advice. And after calling the apostles in and beating them, they commanded them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. 41 So they went on their way from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for the Name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ. Acts 5:34-42 (LSB emphasis mine) 

I am sure you have heard some preacher somewhere at sometime say something like, “Come to Jesus so He can bless you and make your life better.” Every time I hear or read something like that, I want to grab them and ask them if they have ever seriously read their Bibles. Yes, a life in Christ is far superior to life outside of God’s grace; however, people who preach a gospel of health, wealth, and prosperity are guilty of misleading the gullible. The walk of a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ is one of self-denial, humility, obedience, and devotion to God’s glory. Continue reading

Judge not Part 9 – Doing all for the Glory of God


by Mike Ratliff

31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (LSB) 

Some have said that God’s demand that He be glorified above all things (Isaiah 43:7; Colossians 1:10; 2 Timothy 2:4; John 8:29; Romans 8:8; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; Ephesians 4:1; 2 Corinthians 5:9) while commanding that His people remain humble, puts Him in a bad light. The scriptures tell us that God created humankind for His glory. Doesn’t this make God selfish, vain, and overly proud? That viewpoint comes from a distorted view of God and Man. That viewpoint is at the core of Humanism. Continue reading

Judge Not Part 8 – The Invaluable Treasure of a Clear Conscience


by Mike Ratliff

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus,
2 To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3 I am grateful to God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I unceasingly remember you in my prayers night and day, 4 longing to see you, having remembered your tears, so that I may be filled with joy, 5 being reminded of the unhypocritical faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am convinced that it is in you as well. 6 For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:1-7 (LSB) 

People are such illogical creatures. The fallen nature we all inherited from Adam reveals itself at the most maddening of times. Our Christian scholars, ministers, and theologians are not immune. It seems that our lack of humility is Satan’s most valuable tool in defeating us. I have a Blog as part of my writing ministry. I also participate in theological discussions on other Blogs. Some of those discussions can become chaotic situations at times. There are times when the ones contending in these “discussions” become so adamant about their polarized positions that the situation becomes ripe for frustration, anger, and bitterness. Continue reading

Judge Not Part 7 – The Balm of Hope


by Mike Ratliff

1 Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. 2 Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his building up. 3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “THE REPROACHES OF THOSE WHO REPROACHED YOU FELL ON ME.” 4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through the perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 Now may the God of perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:1-6 (LSB) 

I have heard it both ways. I have heard that this Christian walk is one of balance between legality and grace. I have also heard that that view is a fallacy. My own observation, however, is somewhat different. I do believe we must be balanced. We are not to judge others in hypocrisy, and we are also to carry out God’s righteous judgments according to His will. However, I believe our walk of balance is one of enduring the harsh realities of this life in the power of God’s grace. This walk defies the logic of the natural mind. However, at the same time that we endure our tests and trials by the grace of God, we reflect Christ to those around us. This walk of balance is what the believer inherits as part of the suffering Church. It is enabled by God’s grace as He applies His balm of hope in our hearts. Continue reading

Slavery Freedom Faith and Fruit


by Mike Ratliff

1 Τῇ ἐλευθερίᾳ ἡμᾶς Χριστὸς ἠλευθέρωσεν· στήκετε οὖν καὶ μὴ πάλιν ζυγῷ δουλείας ἐνέχεσθε. Galatians 5:1 (NA28)

1 For this freedom, Christ freed us, therefore, stand fast, and be not held again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In Galatians 5:1 (above), the reference to the freedom for which Christ freed us is refers to Paul’s arguments from Galatians 4. Never forget the purpose of this letter to the Galatian churches. They were being attacked by “Judiazers” who were attempting to get these Gentile believers to look to keeping the Jewish ceremonial law and regulations because they were saying the atonement bought for them through Christ’s blood was not sufficient for their justification. Paul’s argument is exactly the opposite. In Galatians 5:1, he makes it clear to them that Christ freed us through His atoning death especially for this freedom and those who have it must stand firm and not submit again to a yoke of legalism or slavery.  Continue reading

Crucifixion and Ressurection


O LORD,

I marvel that thou shouldst become incarnate,

be crucified, dead, and buried.

The sepulcher calls forth my adoring wonder,

for it is empty and thou are risen;

the four-fold gospel attests it,

the living witnesses prove it,

my heart’s experience knows it.

Give me to die with thee that I may rise to new life,

for I wish to be as dead and buried

to sin, to selfishness, to the world;

that I might not hear the voice of the charmer,

and might be delivered from his lusts.

O Lord, there is much ill about me – crucify it,

much flesh within me – mortify it.

Purge me from selfishness, the fear of man, the love of approbation,

the shame of being thought old-fashioined,

the desire to be cultivated or modern.

Let me reckon my old life dead because of crucifixion,

and never feed it as a living thing.

Grant me to stand with my dying Saviour,

to be content to be rejected,

to be willing to take up unpopular truths,

and to hold fast despised teachings until death.

Help me to be resolute and Christ-contained.

Never let me wander from the path of obedience to thy will.

Strengthen me for the battles ahead.

Give me courage for all the trials, and grace for all the joys.

Help me to be a holy, happy person,

free from every wrong desire,

from everything contrary to thy mind.

Grant me more and more of the resurrection life:

may it rule me,

may I walk in its power, and be strengthened through its influence.

From The Valley of Vision – A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions

 

The Calves of Jeroboam


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. Colossians 3:1-7 (NASB) 

We are born from our Mothers’ wombs depraved and separated from God because we are sinners. Unless God intervenes in our lives we will be self-absorbed and temporally focused in every part of our lives. We are “depraved” because we desperately seek fulfillment from our only avenue open to us for any circumstance which will tell us we are special or deserving of a positive “feeling” of contentment or fulfillment. That avenue is the flesh. Our flesh is all about self. Even seemingly selfless acts are done from a motivation of some form of self-gratification. Continue reading

Oh Lord, be glorified in me!


by Mike Ratliff

3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the LORD spoke, saying,
‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy,
And before all the people I will be honored.’”
So Aaron, therefore, kept silent. Leviticus 10:3 (NASB) 

God is far more serious about His glory than anyone else. Does it feel wrong to you that our God demands that we be humble before Him while also demanding that His creation exist solely to glorify Him? (Isaiah 43:7; Colossians 1:10; 2 Timothy 2:4; John 8:29; Romans 8:8; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; Ephesians 4:1; 2 Corinthians 5:9) If that concept rankles within your soul then it is imperative for you do some self-examination. Don’t feel too bad about that because all of us who are in Christ are in the process of becoming conformed unto the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:29-30; Philippians 2:12-13) That process is called sanctification. (Romans 6:19-23; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Thessalonians 4:3;1 Peter 1:2) Continue reading

What is the Biblical Evidence of Being Filled With the Spirit?


by Mike Ratliff

18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, Ephesians 5:18 (NASB) 

As we have seen, the passage Ephesians 5:18 is a command. The verb forms of “do not get drunk” and “be filled” are both present tense, imperative mood, passive voice. The imperative mood equates to a military command and something the Christian does control. Neither not getting drunk with wine unto debauchery or Spirit-filling are optional, but rather mandatory for Christians. You may ask, “how so?” This is clearly shown to be the will of God in Ephesians 5:17, just one verse earlier, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Never forget my brethren, God would not give us command unless we were being put in charge of carrying out the command, so it’s up to us to obey.  Continue reading