Personal Holiness


by Mike Ratliff

Beth.
9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
10 With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
11 Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
12 Blessed are You, O LORD;
Teach me Your statutes.
13 With my lips I have told of
All the ordinances of Your mouth.
14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on Your precepts
And regard Your ways.
16 I shall delight in Your statutes;
I shall not forget Your word. Psalms 119:9-16 (NASB) 

The concept that God would somehow be satisfied with those who call themselves Christians, but who live their lives totally apart from Him, seems very strange to me. The idea that the Lord is only after converts who say a quick sinner’s prayer, but never really change must really insult Him. Look at the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for us on the cross. How could anyone really think He went through all that to accomplish only the possibility of salvation for all people or, even worse, automatically save all people including those who continue to live reprobate lives after hearing the gospel? Those who believe either of those are deluding themselves. Of course, their hearts are self-focused and they are suffering from a severe case of hardheartedness. God’s values are not apparent to their hearts so they live the way they want. Many of them compartmentalize their lives to the point they give God those couple of hours on some Sunday mornings, but the rest of their time is theirs.

God’s standards for those in His Kingdom are very different from that ugly, fleshly, and useless scenario above. The Lord is calling us to be His disciples not religious pew sitters. The cost of our commitment may look high, but we count the cost and submit to His Lordship anyway because it is only costly in the world’s eyes. When compared to the eternal it is as nothing.

25 Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.
34 “Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? 35 It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Luke 14:25-35 (NASB) 

Our calling is to shoulder our own cross. That means dying to self. Then what? We are to follow Him without holding any relationship or thing higher than our devotion to Him. We must value our relationship with our Lord as our most valuable treasure. We must not only do this, but also do it continuously. How? This stanza of Psalms 119 is titled “Beth” and it shows us the source of our personal holiness that is the source of our ability to live this way.

The first line in this stanza is, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” This stanza begins with a question followed by the answer. The idea stated in the question is, “tell me how to cleanse my ways and live in a way which keeps me pure.” The Spirit-led know the answer. Why? They know the processes God drew them into which led them to the moment of heart circumcision. They know it took total immersion into the Word of God and staying in His presence to put them into that position. They also know what it takes to maintain this walk. What is it? They must guard their hearts by staying focused on the Lord—they must walk in the Spirit and stay in the Word. When we do this, the Lord will give us His peace and joy by His grace.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:4-9 (NASB)

What a great picture of the sufficiency of our Lord! When we live for Him, come to Him with all our problems and stay away from adulterating ways He will give us what we need to stay pure. What is that? It is His peace. How does that guard our hearts and keep us pure? Our focus is on the Lord when He fills us with His peace and joy instead of self. We focus on our Lord and rejoice in His presence. In return, we are content in His grace. What a deal!

The second line in this stanza is, “With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!” I have learned the hard way my heart will most definitely wander from the truth if I get careless with focus. I have been in the midst of extreme joy and communion with my Lord one minute then I have walked right into some self-focused mess just a few seconds later. Why? We have to learn not to become self-focused in our delight and rejoicing in the Lord. I tend to do this sometimes. It is such a wonderful place to be! However, sometimes I will be experiencing that and start thinking of self-focused things. Once that starts, it is all over. Bah! In extreme situations, we get careless, walk right away from this very narrow path, and back to ugly fleshly things for self-gratification. How can we not do this? Ask God for Help. The psalmist tells us. We must remain humble and Spirit-led and avoid self-focus. We need His help to do this. If we try to go this alone, we will stumble. It is just a matter of time. However, do not lose heart. Those in Christ have regenerate hearts. That means God has granted them repentance and changed their heart to the point their will is now subject to His. What that means is those in Christ now have Free Will. Prior to salvation all choices made by our will eventually lead to sin so our will cannot choose anything except evil. Why? Prior to salvation, we are outside of God’s grace. The only way we can do anything that is not evil is within God’s grace. Once we are Born Again we are changed. We are new creations. Part of that is we now have the ability to exercise Free Will by God’s grace. That means the Born Again can now decide or choose to obey God and not sin. The fact we still sin tells us we are still in the process of sanctification. This process is what God is using to mature us unto Christ-likeness. It will continue for the rest of our Earthly lives.

Staying immersed in the Word of God, internalizing it through meditation and study, will help us stay Spirit-led. When we are Spirit-led, we will not sin. Why? The Holy Spirit is leading us. When we are walking in the Spirit, we are also walking and standing fully armored with the whole armor of God. Never forget, this battle to remain pure is a spiritual battle. We are under attack from our “OLD MAN” sin nature and our enemy to go back to self-gratification and idol worship. To fight and win this battle we must remain armored by being Spirit-led. Internalized scripture is a mighty weapon. It guards our hearts. What we are really discussing here is a battle to remain obedient to our Lord, and therefore, remain pure. When we are tempted to react in the flesh, we must not try to fight this battle with our own strength. Why? We will stumble. However, when we deny self and obey what is right we must do so by His grace and power not ours. If we do this, we will not stumble.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 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 powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, 15 and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. Ephesians 6:10-20 (NASB)

We did a very detailed study of the whole armor of God in my second book Possessing the Treasure, which is no longer in print. However I have published The chapter  “God Fights Our Battles.” here on this blog from that book. Here is the link. If you have that book, check it out or review it. lastly, I have posted the manuscript of Possessing he Treasure on this blog as well so if you want to read it, here is the link. The reason we are inconsistent in this walk of personal holiness is we try to fight these battles ourselves. That is a mistake. Instead, we must simply stand in our armor as we call upon the Lord to do the fighting. As we mature from Adult to Mature Christians, we should learn how to fight these battles. I firmly believe this marker, among others, differentiates the Adult Christian from the Mature Christian. The Mature Christian knows he or she cannot do the fighting and wants only to be pure and holy before the Lord, which results in constantly remaining armored and ready for battle by choosing to be so.

The third line in this stanza is, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Again, we have a bold statement from the psalmist that makes it clear the way to remain pure is to hide or store God’s Word in our hearts. We have already discussed this. We know this. Why don’t we do it then? This stanza repeats it twice for us. That means it is vitally important. We need to take this seriously. We need to take this to heart and make some changes. What changes? We must determine we want personal holiness and are willing to pay the price to get it. What is that price? We must submit to our Lord and do what He wills for us to do. We must get into the Word and get the Word into us. Some may believe that is not necessary, but God’s Word is very powerful. It is the Sword of the Spirit. It is one of our mighty weapons.

12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Hebrews 4:12-13 (NASB)

When it comes to listening to the doctrines of men or following what the Word says I chose the Word. Forget the doctrines of men. Give me the pure and unadulterated doctrines of God’s Word. When we internalize His wonderful Word, we are exposing all of our false ways to His spiritual surgeon’s scalpel. Ouch! However, this is vital. We must submit to the wonderful pulverizing work in our hearts. How do we do this? Get into the Word and get the Word into our hearts.

The fourth line in this stanza is, “Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!” We must never lose sight of the fact that the Lord is our discipler. I would be nowhere without His leading and guiding in my heart. When I do research, I am amazed how He works out all those situations so I end up right where I learn what He wants me to learn so I can grasp and internalize His truth. I would rather sit at the feet of Jesus and learn what He teaches than any human teacher. This statement begins with “Blessed.” This is a different word than the “Blessed” found in the stanza entitled “Aleph.” This word describes one who is blessed as they kneel. God does not kneel to us. However, He does participate in our worship as we do it correctly, in spirit and in truth.

3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Psalms 22:3 (KJV) 

This is a verse from Psalms 22 that is called a messianic Psalm because it prophetically describes Jesus’ agony on the cross. The psalmist was expressing agony and grief, but in this verse, he reveals what happens in our hearts when we are in the midst of true worship of our Lord. This verse is a call to God from one who is suffering and feels abandoned by God just as Jesus was on the cross. Some modern translations use the word “enthroned” instead of “inhabitest.” That implies God becomes enthroned in the heart of those who worship Him in spirit and in truth. What a wonderful truth! When we live for His glory, He becomes enthroned in our hearts. This means we are in His presence and He is doing His good work in our hearts to regenerate them unto Christ-likeness. Here is the same verse from the NASB.

3 Yet You are holy,
O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel. Psalms 22:3 (NASB)

The Hebrew word that is translated “inhabitest” and “enthroned” in this verse means “to sit” or “take up residence.” However, it can also mean, “to sit as judge.” Our Lord is Lord of all. We do not make Him Lord because he is Lord. However, we must submit to Him as Lord. When we do that, he is enthroned there. In fact, this very act places us on the altar of self-sacrifice and self-denial. Picture it, when we are living a life that is a life of worship of our Lord we are actually walking in the Spirit, abiding in Christ, running the race that is set before us and we are presenting our bodies as living sacrifices to Him. This is how we walk the Walk by Faith. This is how we walk Spirit-led.

The fifth line from this stanza is, “With my lips I have told of All the ordinances of Your mouth.” The psalmist is telling us he is a teacher to others of what the Lord has revealed to him. When God reveals His wisdom, His ways and His standards they do a wonderful work within us, but they are also the source of fruitful teaching and preaching. The great Puritan writers, who were teachers and preachers, were adamant that the masses should have the revealed Word of God proclaimed to them. In fact, they took on the attitude they were dying men preaching to dying men. God granted a tremendous revival or spiritual awakening to the Reformers because they went hard after learning the truth from His Word. The impact of those truths was a conviction to pass them on to all.

One major reason the Church in the 21st Century is so weak and powerless is the rampant lack of Bible knowledge by the majority of the believers in it. When God draws someone into this Spirit-led walk, the self-focused majority view that dear saint as ultra-spiritual and strange. What a tragedy! It should be the other way around. The Church should be full of mature believers who disciple new believers. However, in fact, the Church is full of weak and powerless self-focused believers who see the Spirit-led as a threat to their ease and comfort. Since Bible knowledge within the Western Church is lacking there is also a glut of false doctrines touted as truth to those unfortunate masses of self-focused pew sitters. This compounds the problem. For instance, if a preacher or teacher expounds Puritan doctrines, which are hundreds of years old, in some of these churches or on so-called Christian Radio, it causes such an uproar one might believe he or she is spewing evil from Satan’s own lips.

Our Western culture is part of the problem. Today it is not “politically correct” to tell people they are totally depraved sinners when compared to the holiness of God. The doctrines taught by some folks have been bent and twisted around our culture to the point they no longer have any impact on anyone. These are the doctrines of demons. Look at the passage below.

1 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 3 men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. 1 Timothy 4:1-3 (NASB) 

This is just an example of what has happened in our day. I have been studying the teachings of those great theologians who were the backbone of the Protestant Reformation. I am very fond of the writings of John Bunyan. John Owen is another example along with Richard Baxter and Jonathan Edwards. There are many more. These men knew their Bibles. They knew how to rightly divide the Word of truth and were not interested in being “pleasers of men.”

What we have to understand is, God’s ways are not our ways. His ways are perfect and always right while man’s ways may look right unto him, but are wholly false.

8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9 (NASB) 

12 There is a way which seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12 (NASB) 

With all that in focus, what doctrines should be taught to God’s people? Forget doctrines that simply tickle the ears of those who care nothing about being a disciple of Christ. We must pursue the truth, God’s truth, not politically correct drivel.

1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 (NASB) 

We must do as the psalmist says and teach what God teaches us. Preach what God reveals to us. Never deviate into doctrinal compromise by adulterating them with the ways that seem right unto men. When we present God’s truth, the hearts of men are cut, sliced, and crushed. Lives are changed and God is glorified.

The sixth line in this stanza is, “I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, As much as in all riches.” The thing which puzzles the natural man when he or she observes those who become completely sold out Spirit-led believers is their total devotion to God’s truth coupled with a complete lack of care for the things of the this world. The Spirit-led believer has an insatiable thirst and hunger for God’s truth.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 5:6 (NASB) 

This believer is so devoted to God’s truth he or she sees it as equal to the air breathed to stay alive. The Holy Spirit will send Divine Illumination into our hearts as we study the Word and seek the truth. We do not have to rely on our intellect for God to do this. The Spirit-led believer will treasure this eternal treasure more than anything this World can offer. This is God imparting His wisdom unto us. None of us are worthy of this. However, our God is gracious and wants the best for us. When we respond to God’s call to dig deeper He blesses us with his Divine Illumination that is that overwhelming understanding of the truth and where it has come from.

The seventh line is this stanza is, “I will meditate on Your precepts And regard Your ways.” This statement is showing us the benefit of getting into the Word and getting the Word into us. What is it? Having the living Word of God in our hearts causes us to draw near unto Him. When we do this, He draws near unto us. When we are close to our Lord like this, He does a marvelous work in our hearts. He will open our hearts to the truth. He will then reveal those ways that are in us that are not His ways. He will then lead us into repentance. The Lord will then grant us that repentance which means we actually grow, change, and conform to His ways. It is all by His grace.

The eighth line in this stanza is, “I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word.” The psalmist was testifying of the results of the Lord’s good work in His heart as he dug into the Word. He had fallen in love with God’s truth and as a result, it had taken up residence there. God drew him into this devotion then blessed Him via the regenerative work by Grace in his heart. We must never forget this good work in our hearts is always by His grace not because we will it to be so.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are taken from The Holy Bible, King James Version.

Our Heavenly Dwelling and the Ministry of Reconciliation


by Mike Ratliff

1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. 4 For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. 2 Corinthians 5:1-4 (NASB) 

As I shared in another post, I tested positive for Covid-19. I retested about a week later when my symptoms seemed to be abating and it was again positive. My symptoms worsened. Then last week I retested again and it still came up as positive. I contacted my son who is an M.D. He had recently gone through the same thing, but was back at work. He told me to quit retesting as I will continue to test positive for about 90 days. This caused me to look back at how long these “symptoms” had been plaguing me. It started the same day I retired which was Christmas Eve. It was also the day that all of our family members came in for the holidays. We had a houseful. That’s when it started. My symptoms have been bad, then almost went away only to come back again and again. So, counting back to Christmas Eve I think I have another month of this up and down stuff. When the symptoms are raging I feel awful. When they abate it is like nothing at all is wrong. While this was all going on my brother had to be hospitalized because he got Pneumonia from the Covid infection he had. That started in December and even though he is home now, he is still on oxygen. I am very thankful that I have not had to go through that. So, as believers we have to ask, “What is God doing through all this?”

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The Worshipping Heart


by Mike Ratliff

1 The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice;
Let the many islands be glad.
2 Clouds and thick darkness surround Him;
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.
3 Fire goes before Him
And burns up His adversaries round about.
4 His lightnings lit up the world;
The earth saw and trembled.
5 The mountains melted like wax at the presence of the LORD,
At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
6 The heavens declare His righteousness,
And all the peoples have seen His glory.
7 Let all those be ashamed who serve graven images,
Who boast themselves of idols;
Worship Him, all you gods.
8 Zion heard this and was glad,
And the daughters of Judah have rejoiced
Because of Your judgments, O LORD.
9 For You are the LORD Most High over all the earth;
You are exalted far above all gods.
10 Hate evil, you who love the LORD,
Who preserves the souls of His godly ones;
He delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light is sown like seed for the righteous
And gladness for the upright in heart.
12 Be glad in the LORD, you righteous ones,
And give thanks to His holy name. Psalms 97 (NASB) 

I love to worship my Lord. Why? It is not about me. It is about Him. When we truly worship the Lord, we do so in spirit and truth. We worship and bless Him. Worship is not about us. I have seen many people get upset because they do not enjoy certain types of worship music. When we do that, we have it backwards. I have also seen many people sit through wonderful praise and prayer songs as if they are in some sort of trance. They may even be singing along, but their hearts are somewhere else. Does this bless God? Continue reading

Fairness, Rights and the Pursuit of Happiness


by Mike Ratliff

19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NASB) 

16 Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church. 18 Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 1 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NASB) 

9 The mind of man plans his way,
But the LORD directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9 (NASB) 

I’ve got my rights! That’s not fair! Can’t I do whatever I want to be happy? Do you recognize those attitudes? As I age I am constantly amazed at how stupid the world’s ways are. I am old enough to remember a time when there was always a “higher standard” that ruled over us all. It was simply understood life was not fair, it never would be, and it was best to get used to the idea. Then one day the world seemed to change. Now, there is a push to try to equalize everything. Forced equality forces the concept “everything is relative.” Continue reading

I Have Been Crucified with Christ


by Mike Ratliff

1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin.
8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:1-14 (NASB) 

The Doctrine of Regeneration tells Christians that the life they live now will not be as it once was, but will take on the characteristics of regeneration. The Christian is a new creation. The attributes of this pertain to spiritual quality rather than physical substance, however, the evidence of it will become manifest in how the Christian walks through each day and deals with the circumstances of life. Continue reading

Are You Walking Circumspectly?


by Mike Ratliff

21 Folly is joy to him who lacks sense,
But a man of understanding walks straight. Proverbs 15:21 (NASB)

I watched a video today of people trying eat in a restaurant on the D.C. area being hounded by BLM protesters demanding that they kneel and raise their fist as a sign they are “with them.” I didn’t see any in the video complying, but I did see a lot of bullying going on. The alpha male in me wanted to be there and take care of business, but is that what we do if we are Spirit-led Christians who are walking circumspectly?  I know that the world’s answer would be to respond totally in the flesh, but that is not the way of the Christian who is walking Circumspectly is it?  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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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

Ungodly Focus


by Mike Ratliff

6 Then Israel said, “Why did you treat me so badly by telling the man whether you still had another brother?” Genesis 43:6 (NASB)

Unforgiveness is poison for the Soul as it ensnares those who refuse to forgive by binding them into the prison of bitterness. This world is not a peaceful, easy, benign place. It is fallen. The world system is the product of Man’s rebellion against God. There is war. There is crime. There is oppression. People wrong other people. They place their wants and desires and perceived needs ahead of the wants and desires of others. The world system is marked by people pursuing their own no matter who gets hurt. The Christian is called to respond to the hurts and wrongs done to them in a vastly different way from the ways of the world. Continue reading

The Christian is a new creation


by Mike Ratliff

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 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. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:1-14 ESV)

The Doctrine of Regeneration tells Christians that the life they live now will not be as it once was, but will take on the characteristics of regeneration. The Christian is a new creation. The attributes of this pertain to spiritual quality rather than physical substance, however, the evidence of it will become manifest in how the Christian walks through each day and deals with the circumstances of life.

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Be all the more diligent to make your 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

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

Do not love what Jesus died to deliver us from


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) 

Much of the doctrinal confusion in the “Church” is directly attributable to attempts to understand scripture without proper study. It is fine to read the Bible and find joy in God’s truths. The Holy Spirit can and does reveal those truths to our hearts as we read and study His Word. However, the fact that there are huge doctrinal disagreements in the “Church” can be quite disconcerting to those who seek only to live for the glory of God by obeying Him in all things. If some teach that a passage in scripture really means one thing while others teach something very different then we have the makings of a paradox if our understanding of doctrine and scripture is based entirely within human reason. 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