Hold Fast to the Word of Life


by Mike Ratliff

19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, 20 “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.” Acts 5:19-20 (NASB) 

We are in a period of the Church in which we must keep our eyes fixed on Christ alone for if we look to men we are in danger of being deceived. To counter this, we must become focused where God wants us to be focused, doing as He desires us to be doing. Continue reading

Another Jesus


by Mike Ratliff

3 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. 4 For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 (NASB) 

Every professing Christian, whether he or she is trained theologian or not, has constructed some kind of Christology in their mind, in their heart. Sadly, with the dearth of clear and correct doctrine being taught in our churches, most seem to believe that whatever their own concept of Christ is it is okay. After all, to have correct doctrine isn’t that important? Some think that Jesus came to give His followers a “better life” here and now. This would include becoming prosperous and influential. Others see Jesus as mostly concerned about the environment and that He is the ultimate tree hugger. Still others see Jesus as primarily a teacher of ethics. This same Jesus is concerned with accepting all into His kingdom regardless of whether they have repented of their sins or not. Are any of these examples representative of the Jesus we meet in God’s Word? Continue reading

The Falling Away


by Mike Ratliff

1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 (NASB) 

I confess that for many years that 2 Thessalonians 2:3 seemed to me “not to fit” with the Eschatology that I was being fed on a regular basis. I even heard one very well known “Prophecy Expert” say that the “falling away” as some translations say or “apostasy” as the NASB says in v3 was describing the secret Rapture of the Church. Nowadays, with my work in this ministry, it has become apparent to me that more and more of once solid “evangelicals” and their ministries are joining the ranks of the apostate. Not only that, the “quasi-Christians” that once seemed to at least feel guilty because of their fleshly lifestyles are now viewing those of us who remain firmly fixed in our obedience to our Lord as “crazy” or “legalistic” or “judgmental” or even “dangerous.” They seem to have no issue with calling themselves “Christian” while living fleshly, sinful lifestyles. I believe that this move into apostasy that is called “the falling away” or “apostasy” by Paul is well underway. Continue reading

Fruitless Fig Trees


 

by Mike Ratliff

17 And He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.
18 Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. 19 Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He *said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered.
20 Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, “How did the fig tree wither all at once?” Matthew 21:17-20 (NASB) 

It was in late fall of 2004 that I realized a very important Biblical principle. Up until then I had always assumed that when God gives us a message or lesson or sermon or counsel in which to write or teach or preach or give to those who needs to hear it, He would also cause those hearing it to recognize it as the truth, believe it,  and obey it. Reality hit hard. The principle I learned was that God is glorified when we obey Him whether the results of our obedience meet our expectations or not. What happened was that I shared with the men at our old church the wonderful news that all God really wants from us is our devotion and obedience rather than just our religiosity. The results were not exactly what I expected. For the most part, I was looked at like I was an alien from another planet.  Continue reading

Pragmatism and Postmodernism


by Mike Ratliff

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? (Luke 14:28 NASB)

Postmodernism : A general and wide-ranging term which is applied to literature, art, philosophy, architecture, fiction, and cultural and literary criticism, among others. Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective, efforts to explain reality. In essence, it stems from a recognition that reality is not simply mirrored in human understanding of it, but rather, is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own particular and personal reality. For this reason, postmodernism is highly skeptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races, and instead focuses on the relative truths of each person. In the postmodern understanding, interpretation is everything; reality only comes into being through our interpretations of what the world means to us individually. Postmodernism relies on concrete experience over abstract principles, knowing always that the outcome of one’s own experience will necessarily be fallible and relative, rather than certain and universal.

Postmodernism is “post” because it is denies the existence of any ultimate principles, and it lacks the optimism of there being a scientific, philosophical, or religious truth which will explain everything for everybody – a characteristic of the so-called “modern” mind. The paradox of the postmodern position is that, in placing all principles under the scrutiny of its skepticism, it must realize that even its own principles are not beyond questioning. As the philosopher Richard Tarnas states, postmodernism “cannot on its own principles ultimately justify itself any more than can the various metaphysical overviews against which the postmodern mind has defined itself.” – From Faith and Reason

Pragmatism:
Function:
noun
Date:
circa 1864

1 : a practical approach to problems and affairs <tried to strike a balance between principles and pragmatism> 2 : an American movement in philosophy founded by C. S. Peirce and William James and marked by the doctrines that the meaning of conceptions is to be sought in their practical bearings, that the function of thought is to guide action, and that truth is preeminently to be tested by the practical consequences of belief

Postmodernism is a term that that was claimed by the Emergent Church movement. Even though the Emergent Church movement has been absorbed into other movements such as the Social Justice and WOKE movements, this philosophy in the first part of the 21st Century has come to dominate Western thinking. In each area of thought within it we find that, invariably, pragmatism is its root. Pragmatic philosophy says that everything is relative because ultimate, transcendent truth does not exist. This makes reasoning with a pragmatist extremely frustrating. Also, there are moral and absolute standards in our society that are continually under attack and, seemingly, are crumbling under our feet all around us. The culprit behind this is Pragmatic philosophy coupled with postmodernist thinking.  Continue reading

What Is That to You?


by Mike Ratliff

20 Peter, turning around, *saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” 21 So Peter seeing him *said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” 22 Jesus *said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” John 21:20-22 (NASB)

Part of my makeup that God molded into my character is the ability to observe, take note, and analyze as part of Him directing what I study and pray about in order to obediently minister in my writing and teaching. What do I observe? Everything! I take note of my fellow Christians when they interact on this blog and others. I see the patterns of what is hot and what is not. I have seen people come at me or one of my friends with vehement viciousness over doctrinal differences. What have I learned? I have learned that humans have a huge problem in wanting to control other people.

Those of us who write for CRN are often called “Watchbloggers” by those who believe that we go too far in comparing what is really going on doctrinally in the church in our time to what should be going on. Much of what is “wrong” in the Church in our time is a drive to reform it into “man-centered” relevancy. When we reveal the very words of those leaders doing this then out come those accusing us of being “over the top” or “arrogant” or “backward” or “legalistic” even “heretical” because we obediently reveal what is said in comparison with what the Bible says.

Since the adherents of “relevancy” are mired in their man-centered worldview, they insist that Biblical truth to that level is unknowable. For instance, they say that the Doctrines of Grace are heretical. For us to say that God is Sovereign in election and saves His people whom He chose before the foundation of the world, then we are heretics even though we teach exactly what the Bible says. Continue reading

Why Saints Persevere


by Mike Ratliff

4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 (NASB) 

Several years ago during some research for a piece I was working on, I found myself on a blog that was most definitely not a friendly place for anyone who holds that God’s Truth is absolute and we can know it by studying His Word. The search that landed me there had to do with Penal Substitution. I never did find out why Google linked to that site, however, as I read the comments in the discussion of the post in question, one seemed to sear itself into my memory. The person who wrote came across as young and angry. He had a huge problem with Paul Washer of Heart Cry Missionary Society. Why? He did not like the fact that when he heard him he felt like Paul was simply manipulating his emotions to make him believe that he was not really saved. He then began ranting about Reformation Theology, calling it “works theology.” Why? Because we teach that proof of the veracity of one’s salvation is proven when the believer perseveres to the end. I asked myself, “How that could possibly be seen as works because we do not teach that the believer’s perseverance is accomplished by self-effort.” Continue reading

What is Joy?


by Mike Ratliff

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

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

Supply


by Mike Ratliff

19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. Philippians 1:19-20 (KJV)

The NASB translates the passage above as:

19 for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. Philippians 1:19-20 (NASB) 

What is this “provision” or “supply” Paul is talking about and how can we “tap” into it ourselves as we stand firm in these Laodicean days? Let’s see… Continue reading

Following Jesus is costly


by Mike Ratliff

37 For yet in a very little while,
He who is coming will come, and will not delay.
38 But My righteous one shall live by faith;
And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.
39 But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. Hebrews 10:37-39 (NASB) 

Nearly every day I receive contact from a dear soul or a couple or a family who have ‘lost their church.’ They were part of a vibrant, obedient, Bible preaching church then something changed. The leadership changed for some reason and there was some sort of hostile takeover by those who are consumed by Rick Warren’s ungodly Purpose Driven deception. Gone are in-depth Bible studies. Gone are expository sermons. Gone is ministry to the Body of Christ. Instead, the whole “enterprise” is all wrapped up in ministering to the “unchurched.” It becomes church for the world. Some of the contact I have received is couched in deep, hot anger or raw hurt. These people feel betrayed. What happens in most cases is that in certain areas, these take-overs wipe out all good churches there and leave nowhere for these people to go to be fed or to minister. Continue reading

The Spirit of the Antichrist


by Mike Ratliff

15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. 1 John 2:15-19 (NASB) 

If you are at all familiar with Eschatology and the many different views on the end times then you have undoubtedly read or heard of a man who is referred to as the antichrist. However, you may be surprised to learn that the word “antichrist” is found in the Bible only in John’s epistles of 1st John and 2nd John. The study of this person or persons is not the intent of this article. I have no doubt that in God’s timing the final antichrist will be revealed, but for now I would like to look at the attributes that we should understand are of the spirit of the antichrist.
Continue reading

Redemption


by Mike Ratliff

15 For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. Hebrews 9:15 (NASB) 

The Gospel is explained very well in the New Testament. The role of the Church in the World from the time of Christ’s Ascension until His return is very well defined for us there as well (to go and make disciples from all the earth, teaching them to observe all that He taught…) This Great Commission is not to ‘be the Gospel’ nor is it to ‘redeem the earth’ nor is it to ‘make the world a better place.’ No, it is to go and tell the Good News that we have a mediator of a new covenant and those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance that is made possible through the death of their Saviour who has redeemed through the shedding of His blood (see the passage above). You see, this is the Good News. The Gospel is to preach what Christ has done not what people have done, not what churches have done, not what religion has done or what being religious can do for anyone. It is simply to proclaim this message relying on the power and work of the Holy Spirit to draw those called to saving faith. Let’s take a closer look at this “redemption.”  Continue reading

The Best Place to be is Right Where God has You


by Mike Ratliff

7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NASB) 

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:10-13 (NASB) 

I believe that what ails the Church the most at this time in the early 21st Century is actually the root of most, if not all, of the growing apostasy we are witnessing. This ailment is the product of decades of poor doctrine and man-serving preaching and teaching. God has given the Church, except for His Remnant, a spirit of stupor that has blinded them so that they have believed the lie that the center of all things is not Christ, but themselves. Their felt needs are far more important to them than God’s glory. They view God as being good when their circumstances are ok, but not good when they aren’t. They have bought their goods at Vanity Fair and they have become their idols. Let us look at a wonderful Biblical example of a man who did not devalue his relationship with God in order to have temporal pleasure.

Continue reading

The Relationship of Believers to Christ


by Mike Ratliff

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. Ephesians 5:25-27 (NASB) 

There are really only two groups of people in the world. There are those who are branches bearing fruit in the True Vine who is Christ and then there are those who either are totally separate from the vine in their rejection of the Gospel or they are branches in in the True Vine who bear no fruit. Those branches which bear fruit have been cleansed by the washing of water with the word by Christ. Their sins are forgiven. The other group has not been cleansed so are in their sins whether they are in the True Vine or not.  Continue reading