by Mike Ratliff
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 1 Timothy 1:12-13 (NASB)
The older I become as I journey down this narrow way the more what passes for Christianity seems more and more absurd. Why? I suppose it is that I have become very convicted that we are very guilty of taking God for granted. Instead of worshiping Him for who He is, we seem to be totally focused on His works. While we should worship Him for His works with a grateful heart, we are leaving out direct worship of our Wonderful, Awesome, and Majestic God for who He is. Our salvation is an incredible gift by His grace. That is why it troubles me so when Christian leaders cheapen it with their man-focused, easy-believism. Easy-believism produces professing Christians who believe their salvation came as a result of something they did. I know this because I was one of them for nearly 20 years. If this is our mindset about our salvation, we believe that our walk as Christians is also totally dependent upon our will power. It is as if what the Bible teaches about regeneration is unheard of or at least completely misunderstood. Also, Jesus’ own words about the exclusivity of who are His disciples and who aren’t seems to be in code because few seem to grasp what He is saying. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven,
And whose sins have been covered.
8 “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.” Romans 4:1-8 (NASB)
Not long ago in a Bible Study class we got into a very tense discussion about how to share the Gospel. Some in the class were more for just inviting those they were concerned about to come to church with them. Others wanted to make friends with them and ease them into becoming Christians. I sat there for a while with my hand raised being ignored by the leader. He had a smile on his face because he knew that when he called on me I was going to cause a fuss. He called on about four of five other people who said pretty much the same thing then he called on me. I said something like, “I’m confused, how are these people going to know they are sinners and that they need a Savior unless they are given the Law first then the Gospel?” It got real quiet. Then a few others who had remain quiet earlier got involved and agreed with me, but then said that you have to do it in a way that doesn’t hurt people’s feelings or offend them. Yeah, they said that. I turned around and asked if any of them had read Peter’s sermon in Acts 2? Yeah, it got quiet again. It seems that people in our churches are uncomfortable obeying the Great Commission because to do so requires us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Jesus. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and A man’s enemies will be the members of his household.
37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 10:34-39 (NASB)
A few days ago I shared an encounter I had on social media with a fellow who many would call a “troll” in my post Born of the will of God. That started a couple of days of some very ugly encounters on Facebook in which I finally realized that God was putting me through some fiery trials. I shared some of that in my post last night, Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you. I prayed about all this a great deal last night and this morning and came to the conclusion that I could no longer participate on some of those ugly discussions in that group. To my surprise the admins of that group met and reinstated me last night. However, as I perused the posts this morning the ugliness and hatefulness permeating many of those posts repelled me so I left the group. I then contacted the two admins that are my friends and thanked them for reinstating me and then told them why I was leaving. The head admin said he wanted me to stay because the group was being overrun by a bunch of hotheads and he needed men like me to stand firm and not budge. I told him I would take some time off and perhaps be back later. I think I am suffering from a form of battle fatigue.
In this post we will look at why there are so many of those who are infiltrating our churches and Christian discussion groups, etc who are obviously counterfeit Christians. I used to be perplexed by the growing apostasy in the ‘visible Church’, however I no longer am. Why? God is sovereign. I believe God is a Covenant God who has not relinquished any of His sovereignty nor has He left His people’s eternal status up to their fickle, fallen natures. Those whom God saves are truly saved. Their hearts are regenerate. They are eternally His. None of eternal security is in their hands. Instead, they are held in His capable and omnipotent hands. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 1 Peter 4:12-17 (NASB)
In yesterday’s post, Born of the will of God, I shared the experience of a trying day with someone who hated our faith and wanted to do everything possible to discourage us and attack everything we hold dear about what God has given us in Christ. This morning I was reading a friend’s blog and discovered that he had gone through almost the same experience that day as well. He and I agreed that God was obviously working in us for His purposes yesterday. Several days ago a missionary was killed trying to reach an isolated people on an island in the Indian Ocean. There is a lot of controversy about this. Some are saying he was not a real missionary. Some are defending him. Some of the most vicious attacks are coming from within the ‘visible church.” I don’t know all the facts so I have stayed out of all that, however, in one discussion group in which I am part of the firestorm over this began today. I started reading through it and discovered to my dismay that a few of the admins of that group were taking turns blasting a good friend of mine who was defending the integrity and mission of the missionary who was killed. I stepped in and got between him and the admins. I took a lot of the heat, traded blows, made them back up some then the most vicious one became very insulting. I asked, “Am I supposed to be afraid of you just because you are an admin sonny?” A few minutes later he muted my account for 24 hours. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
9 Ἦν τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν, ὃ φωτίζει πάντα ἄνθρωπον, ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κόσμον. 10 ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἦν, καὶ ὁ κόσμος διʼ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ ὁ κόσμος αὐτὸν οὐκ ἔγνω. 11 εἰς τὰ ἴδια ἦλθεν, καὶ οἱ ἴδιοι αὐτὸν οὐ παρέλαβον. 12 ὅσοι δὲ ἔλαβον αὐτόν, ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν τέκνα θεοῦ γενέσθαι, τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, 13 οἳ οὐκ ἐξ αἱμάτων οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος σαρκὸς οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος ἀνδρὸς ἀλλʼ ἐκ θεοῦ ἐγεννήθησαν. John 1:9-13 (NA28)
9 He was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10 He was in the world, and the world came to be through Him and the world did not recognize Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him He gave to them the right to become children of God, even to the ones believing in His name, 13 the ones born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:9-13 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
Heresy is nothing new. When I encounter someone who snipes at me or one of my friends about our theology and condemns us as arrogant, prideful, legalistic, followers of a vain man (John Calvin). It jars me somewhat. However, I have learned to listen to what is going on for God is showing me something. That person trolling us today on Facebook could easily have substituted Martin Luther there instead of John Calvin. The way the conversation went though it ended up that the person doing the sniping was one of those ‘Jesus Followers’ that we used to run into regularly several years ago who hated all forms of organized church. I asked many diagnostic questions of the fellow attempting to pin him down on what he actually believed. He refused to admit that God was sovereign. He refused to admit that he needed a savior because of being dead in sin from birth. I finally got him to share that his approach to being a “christian” was to pray all the time and understand that he was saved by doing good works and having faith. Sound familiar? Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
3 Εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὁ κατὰ τὸ πολὺ αὐτοῦ ἔλεος ἀναγεννήσας ἡμᾶς εἰς ἐλπίδα ζῶσαν διʼ ἀναστάσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐκ νεκρῶν, 4 εἰς κληρονομίαν ἄφθαρτον καὶ ἀμίαντον καὶ ἀμάραντον, τετηρημένην ἐν οὐρανοῖς εἰς ὑμᾶς 5 τοὺς ἐν δυνάμει θεοῦ φρουρουμένους διὰ πίστεως εἰς σωτηρίαν ἑτοίμην ἀποκαλυφθῆναι ἐν καιρῷ ἐσχάτῳ. 1 Peter 1:3-5 (NA28)
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy having regenerated us to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable and undefiled and unfading, having been kept in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
The first chapter of 1 Peter is extremely pastoral. If there is anything the sheep in our time desperately need in great measure it is spirit-led shepherds (pastors) who are bound to the Word of God who obey Him in the pastoring of their flocks as our Lord commands. It is tragic that so many of those the world sees in our time that claim to be Christian leaders do not in any way shape or form meet that criteria. No, instead they are celebrities or they are apostates or heretics on the way to being apostates. God has his church, ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia), and he will continue to build it and no power can destroy it (Matthew 16:18), however, we are warned throughout the New Testament that wolves in sheep’s clothing, false teachers and prophets would come in to the church and lead many astray. This has continued until this day.
by Mike Ratliff
46 “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Luke 6:46 (NASB)
There is much controversy in the Church these days over some teaching from those who have made it a point to move their doctrine away from the orthodox into what used to be called liberalism. However, instead of rejecting everything spiritual as the liberals do, these new teachers claim that they are moving back to the origins of the Church with methods and doctrine that are more indicative of the early church rather than what is called Orthodox now. The followers of these teachers have, for the most part, rejected “church” with any hint of orthodoxy in it. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
1 To You I lift up my eyes,
O You who are enthroned in the heavens!
2 Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,
As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to the Lord our God,
Until He is gracious to us.
3 Be gracious to us, O Lord, be gracious to us,
For we are greatly filled with contempt.
4 Our soul is greatly filled
With the scoffing of those who are at ease,
And with the contempt of the proud. Psalms 123 (NASB)
The vast majority of people on planet Earth want nothing to do with the real Jesus. Many love and hold dear another Jesus, but he is one made up by people who don’t know the one who is real. Tragically, the numbers of professing Christians are growing continually who are also following another Jesus who does not resemble in the least the one found in Sacred Scripture. Those who hold dear the real Jesus are those who are entirely reliant upon the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Undoubtedly there are baby Christians who are not spiritually mature and whose faith is not strong. However, there are also huge numbers of “religious” Christians who live as if their “decision for Christ” many years ago is their fire insurance. Some of these are quite religious while others are simply calling themselves Christian as if it is some sort of family trait. Those who are completely reliant upon God, whose focus is His glory in all things are those who know the real Jesus and are known by Him. These are the believers whose eyes look to the Lord our God. They look unto God because this brings them knowledge of His countenance. Christians know God by interacting with Him in prayer, Bible Study, obedience and repentance. They are able to do these things with Him as they look unto Him, fully trusting Him to work out the details for His glory. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
23 Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. Genesis 40:23 (NASB)
My natural tendency is to heartily participate in self-pity, outrage, and unforgiveness thereby opening doors in my heart that Satan enters causing me to become discouraged. When this happens to me, I find that my circumstances drive me to become very negative and impatient. I suppose that this is one of my besetting sins which clings closely to me ready to cut in on me causing me to drop out of the race God has set before me to run with endurance. (Hebrews 12:1-2) My sense of joy that strengthens me as I run this race comes from looking unto Jesus. My focus has dropped from Him to me and my circumstances. When this happens the slide into self-absorption is very quick. I suddenly find myself in this ugly spiritually flat mood whose fuel seems to be anger that sometimes results in outrage. I have often pondered how this happens. Prior to my personal restoration in 2004-2005 I was probably in this mood or mode the majority of the time. Since then, however, these falls into this dark ditch have been rare enough so that when I find myself there I am very surprised. Now, I implore the Lord and ask why this has happened. Why am I so full of joy on Tuesday and so fleshly and down on Wednesday? Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
1 To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, in You I trust,
Do not let me be ashamed;
Do not let my enemies exult over me.
3 Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be ashamed;
Those who deal treacherously without cause will be ashamed.
4 Make me know Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.
5 Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
For You I wait all the day. Psalms 25:1-5 (NASB)
Doubting God and His promises, worrying about things that are in God’s control are sins. Our enemy focuses primarily in his attacks on us on attempting to bring us to a place where we doubt God. This struggle comes to all who commit themselves to serving God with their lives. The closer they draw to God, the more Satan or his forces attempt to bring discouragement and despair to bear on these believers in an attempt to thwart their devotion to their Lord. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
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. Ephesians 6:10-13 (NASB)
I have taught and written much about the battle believers have, and will always have in this life, with their flesh. Most believers are enslaved to their flesh. Why? We were made with an insatiable desire for fulfillment. At birth we inherited our Sin Nature from Adam. We were all born that way. Prior to our salvation we sought fulfillment via it. It primarily utilized our flesh for that purpose. At our salvation through the washing of regeneration, our Sin Nature was cleansed from us. We are no longer hopeless sinners because of that. However, if believers are not discipled correctly to become Spirit-filled, they may remain Christian babies for much too long. These believers have not learned to crucify the flesh. Instead, they still seek fulfillment from via the flesh, which is sin. The first battle that all Christians are in, is the battle to become free from the flesh’s dominance in our lives. We must learn to mortify our sins as we become Spirit-filled. We will always be in this battle, but there are victories available. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
17 And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:17-22 (NASB)
11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. 1 Peter 2:11-12 (NASB)
When Christians are born of God into His Kingdom they also undergo a change in status not only there, but in the kingdom of darkness, the world, from which they came. Carefully read the two passages I placed at the top of this post from the Apostles Paul and Peter. Sadly so much of what we hear in what pretends to be Christianity these days emphasizes the exact opposite focus. They push agendas of political reform and social change rather than in truly discipling their flocks to prepare them to be aliens (pilgrims) just passing through a very hostile world on the way to their real home. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
16 Οὐ γὰρ ἐπαισχύνομαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, δύναμις γὰρ θεοῦ ἐστιν εἰς σωτηρίαν παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι, Ἰουδαίῳ τε πρῶτον καὶ Ἕλληνι. 17 δικαιοσύνη γὰρ θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ ἀποκαλύπτεται ἐκ πίστεως εἰς πίστιν, καθὼς γέγραπται· ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται. Romans 1:16-17 (NA28)
16 For I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone believing, both to Jew first and to Greek. 17 For the righteousness of God is revealed in it from faith to faith as it has been written, “But the righteous man will live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
After Saul the Pharisee was knocked off his horse on his way to persecute Christians, blinded by the power of God, and saved becoming the Apostle Paul (Acts 9:1-9), a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ in Damascus named Ananias was sent to lay hands on a “man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying” (Acts 9:11). When Ananias expressed fear and doubt, knowing whom Saul was, our Lord said, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:15-16). Continue reading
By Mike Ratliff
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:1-5 (NASB)
All in Christ belong to the living God. He gave all of them to the Son (John 6:37). Each of them comes to the Son and is saved. There was a time before God shattered my religious idols back in 2004 that I was sure in my mind and my understanding that genuine Christians believed like those in my church. They had to have responded to the Gospel as I had done. There was no way that a person could be Christian, I thought, if they belonged to certain churches that were way too formal according to my ‘standards.’ Also, genuine believers were religious in a certain way and that way looked a lot like the way my church did it and how all those churches I had been part of growing up did it. Continue reading