What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?


by Mike Ratliff

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. Matthew 7:15 (NASB) 

The Church in our time appears huge, but this is only in appearance. It is thousands of miles wide, but only a fraction of an inch deep. Much of what claims to be Christian is not and proves it by what is actually its focus and what (or who) it actually worships. The focus has its foundation in pragmatism and its worship is nothing more than self-aggrandizement. They give lip service to their own version of “Jesus” who bears little if any resemblance to the Jesus we read of in God’s Word. This counterfeit Christianity is the majority while the true Church, which is made up of those saved by grace through faith because of God’s election and effectual calling is the minority. This should not surprise us because the Word of God tells us that this will be the case as this age comes to a close to make way for the age to come. Also, just a few weeks ago we went through the false prophecy of September 23, 2017 being a firm date for the return of our Lord. Some claimed this would be “the beginning of sorrows.” Others even went so far as to say it would be the “End of the World.” What did we learn? People who claim to know things like that on certain dates prove they are false prophets because God’s Word tells us that no one knows these things except the Father. Therefore, do not believe these liars.  Continue reading

Living in the Spirit rather than according to the Flesh


by Mike Ratliff

9 Ὑμεῖς δὲ οὐκ ἐστὲ ἐν σαρκὶ ἀλλʼ ἐν πνεύματι, εἴπερ πνεῦμα θεοῦ οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν. εἰ δέ τις πνεῦμα Χριστοῦ οὐκ ἔχει, οὗτος οὐκ ἔστιν αὐτοῦ. Romans 8:9 (NA28)

9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. Romans 8:9 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

When we talk about “the flesh” in this life, we are not always talking about these living breathing bodies we all have though the context does mean that in some cases as we shall see. Here in Romans 8, the root word of what is translated in English as “flesh” is σάρξ or sarxContinue reading

Joy within 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 (above) is the Greek noun χαρὰν, which is the Accusative, Singular of χαρά or 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 or peripiptō, which is a compound of περί or peri, “properly through (all over), that is, around” and πίπτω or 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 or peirasmos, “refers either to a testing or a temptation to do something wrong.” Continue reading

What are the deep things of God?


by Mike Ratliff

6 Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7 but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9 but just as it is written,
“Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 (NASB) 

I’m sure the title of this post struck some of you in a way hard to explain. When I first started this study, I could not help but think back on an investigation I did many years ago into some false teachings by a man who claimed that his ministry was based entirely “in the deep things of God.” That mysterious statement seemed to be used by him as a smokescreen to hide the fact that he was teaching rank heresy and that heresy was claimed by him to be coming to him as a direct revelation from God. Well, if that were true then it would indeed be “the deep things of God,” but what he was teaching was very shallow spiritually and really called for people to become submissive to him as a prophet based on one thing; he said so. Also, he attempted to keep everyone in line through bullying tactics and that included those of us who stood up to him. This is not what the depths of God (the deeps things of God) are. Let us take a closer look.  Continue reading

Music and Theology


The following devotional is from Tabletalk Magazine from Ligonier © 2017 for September 28, 2017.

1 I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
to you, O LORD, I will make music. Psalm 101:1 (ESV) 

Not only was Martin Luther an accomplished theologian and beloved pastor, but he also had some gifting for music. He wrote many hymns, many of which are sung to this day not only by those in the Lutheran tradition but by other Protestants as well. Perhaps the best known is “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” which is based on Psalm 46. Luther well understood the power and influence of music. His understanding is well captured in his statement that “music is the handmaiden of theology.”

Like a handmaiden who assists her master, music serves theology and the teaching of God’s Word. And like a handmaiden, music can be a good servant or a bad servant. When music is a good servant, it provides the right setting for the teaching of God’s truth and for helping the people of God grasp the deep things of the Lord. Quality hymns and songs enrich our hearts and minds, driving home what God has revealed to His people. On the other hand, when music is a bad servant, it gets in the way of good theology. Poorly crafted music and lyrics promote error. As an art form, music always communicates something, and it can communicate either truth or error.

So many of the fights over music that occur in the church have been over whether we should have contemporary hymns and songs or stick to the classic music of the church. That debate can obscure the real issues. After all, the classic hymns of the church were contemporary music when they were first sung, and some of the music written in our day will undoubtedly endure as classic music for the people of God. No, the real debate is between good music and mediocre or poor music. A beloved hymn is not necessarily a good hymn simply because it is old, for there are many old hymns that teach poor theology. And a current song is not necessarily a bad song, for many current songs teach good theology.

At issue is whether a particular hymn or piece of music, in both the arrangement of notes and its lyrics, is able to convey biblical truth. Good worship music is able to convey something of the complexity of our Lord’s character, and it invites us to increase our knowledge. Simplistic songs often do not do justice to the full biblical truth they seek to express, and they often do not invite us to move deeper into God’s Word to learn more and more about Him. Our goal should be to find the music that is best able to convey God’s truth, goodness, and beauty.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Self-Righteousness vs Inward Cleanliness


by Mike Ratliff

24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Matthew 23:24 (NASB) 

A huge trap that Christians can fall into is self-righteousness. It is a form of idolatry and that always causes spiritual blindness (Romans 1:24-25). Self-righteousness puts all effort towards godliness in the wrong place. It creates a form of piety that is all about outward appearances while putting little or no priority on matters of the heart. It is all about being concerned about appearances and what others think rather than being totally committed to abiding in Christ from within first. The self-righteous are consciously holy. However, that is not what we are called to be. Christians must be consciously repentant and unconsciously holy. The difference is huge for these are totally opposite walks. Continue reading

Is the Great Commission best fulfilled by preaching the Gospel or by Christians ‘being the Gospel?’


by Mike Ratliff

16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 (NASB) 

The passage above (Matthew 28:16-20) is best known as our Lord Jesus’ Great Commission to the Church. This is what we are to be about. I heard a survey taken at a Christian bookseller’s convention a few years ago in which one of the questions asked was something like, “Is the Great Commission best fulfilled by preaching the Gospel or by Christians ‘being the Gospel?’” Well over half of the answers given were affirmative for the latter rather than the former. That was not surprising after the rest of the survey results were revealed though. The overall lack of depth of real Bible knowledge and doctrine in that group was indeed telling. From that discussion it became apparent that most of those responding to the survey actually believed that their performance as Christians had more to do with evangelism than actually preaching the Gospel itself.  Continue reading

Give Me Jesus


Give Me Jesus

In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus

You can have all this world
But give me Jesus

And when I am alone
Oh, and when I am alone
And when I am alone, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus

You can have all this world
But give me Jesus

And when I come to die
Oh, and when I come to die
And when I come to die, give me Jesus

“Give Me Jesus” is a traditional Black Gospel song. The author is unknown and when it is performed reverently, with all focus on the Lord, not on self, I find myself worshipping and often weeping with joy. Many artists have recorded this song like Jeremy Camp and Fernando Ortega. I have both in my library. I seem to listen to Fernando’s version the most though there is nothing wrong with Jeremy Camp’s. In any case, this last Sunday in church we sang this song as part of our worship service. Man oh man! Everything came alive! Why? Our focus was on Jesus as our all-in-all! Who needs the nonsense this lost and dying world has to offer? Where is your treasure? If you are clinging to the stuff of this world as your treasure then you cannot sing this song and worship the Lord in spirit and in truth. Please mediate on this today and repent as the Lord leads.

The angry Jesus


by Mike Ratliff

12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days.
13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; 16 and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” John 2:12-16 (NASB) 

Some today have made a caricature of our Lord Jesus Christ. This man-made image is far from the truth we see in Sacred Scripture. There have been some who have even portrayed the Bible as revealing two separate “Gods,” the mean, angry God of the Old Testament, and the kind, gentle Jesus of the New Testament. The former is an image contrived by those who resent God’s commands for holiness and righteousness while the latter is vastly incomplete and derived by those who are either ignorant of what the New Testament teaches about our Lord or they are deliberately ignoring what it says. Continue reading

For he whom God has sent utters the words of God


by Mike Ratliff

34 For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure. John 3:34 (NASB) 

34 ὃν γὰρ ἀπέστειλεν ὁ θεὸς τὰ ῥήματα τοῦ θεοῦ λαλεῖ, οὐ γὰρ ἐκ μέτρου δίδωσιν τὸ πνεῦμα. John 3:34 (NA28)

In John 3:1-21 our Lord spoke the words of God to “a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.” In this passage our Lord clears the table and tells it like it is. He tells Nicodemus in v3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Of course, Nicodemus doesn’t “get it at first and asks, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” in v4 and, “How can these things be?” in v9. In between those two perplexed questions, our Lord, the Λόγος or logos or Word, the living Christian proclamation as a whole of the New Testament proclaimed τὰ ῥήματα τοῦ Θεοῦ or “the words of God” to Nicodemus in a way that he had never heard before. He said,”Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” As we read in John 3:34 (above), He spoke or uttered the ῥήματα τοῦ Θεοῦ to this man and all who read John 3. What did he say? Only those born again are part of the Kingdom of God and to be born again is to be born of the Spirit. Notice carefully that this rebirth is not something controlled by or contained by or comprehended by people of the flesh. Everyone truly born of the Spirit are so by the work of the Holy Spirit not by the works of men. These are the ῥήματα τοῦ Θεοῦ.  Continue reading

Jesus Christ is the True Vine


by Mike Ratliff

1 Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἄμπελος ἡ ἀληθινὴ καὶ ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ γεωργός ἐστιν. John 15:1 (NA28)

1 “I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser.” John 15:1 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In John 15:1, we have our Lord’s last of His seven “I am” sayings signifying His claim of deity. The word “true” in v1 translates the adjective ἀληθινὴ, which is nominative, singular of ἀληθινός or alēthinos, “unfeigned, trustworthy, true.” The nominative case form, ἀληθινὴ of ἀληθινός means that the metaphor our Lord is making of Him being the “true vine” is subject to the main verb in the sentence with is εἰμι, which, of course, means, in this context, “am.” Therefore, our Lord is saying that the fact that He is, in fact, deity means that He is the “true vine.” What this means, of course, is that there are “other vines,” but He is the only one who is “true” and God the Father is the γεωργός or vinedresser.  The noun γεωργός or geōrgos, “can refer to the owner of a farm or to those who work the farm.” Here our Lord is using this term metamorphically to refer to God the Father as the owner of a vineyard, the “vinedresser.”  Continue reading

When the Gospel is preached correctly, it divides


by Mike Ratliff

34 Μὴ νομίσητε ὅτι ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν· οὐκ ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην ἀλλὰ μάχαιραν. Matthew 10:34 (NA28)

34 Do not think that I cam to bring peace on the earth. I have not come to bring peace but a sword. Matthew 10:34 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The peace that Christians have because they are in Christ is between them and God and because of that, with each other. However, that does not mean that there will be peace between them and those not in Christ. In fact, these words of our Lord in Matthew 10:34-38 make it clear that those truly in Christ will be so changed by the Gospel, the presence of the Holy Spirit in them, and their new nature that there will be inevitable separation between them and those who are not in Christ. This holds true even within families. This is true because the genuine believer is so changed that no matter what sort of pressure comes to bear on them, they simply cannot be at peace with the ways of the world or the ways of the flesh. Their conscience is bound to Christ and His Word while those not in Christ have consciences bound to the flesh no matter how religious they are.  Continue reading

Regenerated to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead


by Mike Ratliff

6 ἐν ᾧ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε, ὀλίγον ἄρτι εἰ δέον [ἐστὶν] λυπηθέντας ἐν ποικίλοις πειρασμοῖς, 7 ἵνα τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως πολυτιμότερον χρυσίου τοῦ ἀπολλυμένου διὰ πυρὸς δὲ δοκιμαζομένου, εὑρεθῇ εἰς ἔπαινον καὶ δόξαν καὶ τιμὴν ἐν ἀποκαλύψει Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ· 1 Peter 1:6-7 (NA28)

6 In this you greatly rejoice, for a little while now, if it is necessary, having been grieved by various trials, 7 that the tested genuineness of you faith—infinitely more valuable than gold that perishes even though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6.7 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

A few weeks ago we looked at the doctrine of the imputation and what that means to the believer and what implications it has on both how we handle the gospel and how we live this Christian life. The following quote is from John Wesley, “The doctrine of imputation saws off the leg of holiness…” I am writing this post because in our time men like  Rick Warren and those who follow him are revealing their Pelagian roots by insisting that people must “work” in order to be right with God and that the doctrine of imputation is something “made up” by the Reformers like Calvin. I actually had that accusation thrown at me in a Facebook discussion group the other day.  Continue reading

The Gospel and what God does with and through it


by Mike Ratliff

1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2 NASB)

1 Γνωρίζω δὲ ὑμῖν, ἀδελφοί, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ὃ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν, ὃ καὶ παρελάβετε, ἐν ᾧ καὶ ἑστήκατε, 2 διʼ οὗ καὶ σῴζεσθε, τίνι λόγῳ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν εἰ κατέχετε, ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ εἰκῇ ἐπιστεύσατε. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2 NA28)

The Apostle Paul defined the gospel for us throughout his writings in the New Testament. In these dark spiritual times in which people believe their opinions and feelings are consistent with “truth” it is vital that we know God’s truth and make it known to all who will hear.  I would like to start in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. I placed vv1-2 at the top of this post. In v1 he tells us that he is going to define the Gospel (εὐαγγέλιον) as a process. In this process, the Gospel must be proclaimed (εὐηγγελισάμην) and through this some who hear it will receive it and it is their very foundation. I pray that you noticed the similarities between the two Greek words above. The word εὐαγγέλιον is Greek for “a good message” or “the good news.” The word εὐηγγελισάμην literally means “announce good news.” It is the word from which we get our English word “evangelize.” Notice also that those who hear the good news and are saved by it also stand (ἑστήκατε) within it because it is their foundation. This Greek word means “you stand” They abide in the covenant of the Gospel because it is now their foundation. Continue reading