God Justifies the Ungodly


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) 

I was in a discussion with one of our elders recently about the worship “style” at our church. I am almost 70 years old. He is about the same age. He and I both would prefer a more “traditional” music format, but he told me that it was not going to happen because the population in our area is predominantly made up of people who would not go for that at all, but are very much attracted to the more “up-to-date” music with the musicians and loud volume along with the videos with the lyrics, etc. However, he did say that our new worship leader has changed the music to be more focused on worshipping God alone and not about us. I did agree with him on that. I thought a lot about what he said and also about the fact that our church is really growing in spite of the Covid-19 stuff. Our pastor also preaches the full gospel, that is, Law and Gospel. On Easter Sunday I lost count of how many people were Baptized. My elder friend also told me that our church is structured in such a way that new Christians are encouraged and discipled while more mature believers are encouraged to serve. No one has demands put on them that are beyond their maturity level.  Continue reading

Not Legalism but Christ


by Mike Ratliff

6 τοῦτο γινώσκοντες ὅτι ὁ παλαιὸς ἡμῶν ἄνθρωπος συνεσταυρώθη, ἵνα καταργηθῇ τὸ σῶμα τῆς ἁμαρτίας, τοῦ μηκέτι δουλεύειν ἡμᾶς τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ· 7 ὁ γὰρ ἀποθανὼν δεδικαίωται ἀπὸ τῆς ἁμαρτίας. 8 εἰ δὲ ἀπεθάνομεν σὺν Χριστῷ, πιστεύομεν ὅτι καὶ συζήσομεν αὐτῷ, 9 εἰδότες ὅτι Χριστὸς ἐγερθεὶς ἐκ νεκρῶν οὐκέτι ἀποθνῄσκει, θάνατος αὐτοῦ οὐκέτι κυριεύει. Romans 6:6-9 (NA28)

6 Knowing this that our old humanity 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. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. Romans 6:6-9 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

As one who has been accused of being a Pharisee bound to legalism more times than I could ever recount, I was very pleased today when I heard a definition for “legalism” that I had never heard before. This definition of “legalism” states that the “legalist” is one who attempts to make legal and binding what is never addressed to be so by God. For instance, I was taught growing up by my well meaning parents that even to take a sip of an alcoholic drink was a sin. I have read the Bible cover to cover many times and I know for certain that there is no such command in scripture that is even close to that admonition. However, I did find several references to not becoming drunk with wine or strong drink. Our Lord turned water into wine at Cana. He drank wine at the Last Supper. Paul counseled Timothy to take a little wine with his food to help his stomach.  Continue reading

Spiritual Blindness


by Mike Ratliff

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. Ephesians 2:1-3 (NASB) 

Not that long ago whenever I learned of a pastor or other “church leader” going off the rails morally I would be shocked as did most other believers I know. However, now, it seems that some things have changed. I read this article this morning and was not really that surprised at all. Of course, I was disgusted and wondered at the leadership of that church and the members of it that they would put up with such unchristian behavior. It is unquestioned that just as the Church in Europe has lost its way because of these things the very same thing is happening in the United States at an accelerating rate. The Church is apostatizing and it seems that many within who are standing firm against it are some who are attempting to cause division with attacks rooted in self-righteousness fueled by conspiracy theories such as King James Onlyism. Continue reading

Who is this Jesus?


by Mike Ratliff

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. Matthew 16:13-17 (NASB) 

The career our God has graciously given me that provides for me and my family is a Database Administrator, however I have worked in nearly every area of Computer Technology since 1973. However, my passion outside of serving my Lord and Savior is photography. Some have said I should be professional photographer. I think I am a bit too old to start a new career. In any case, there have been some photos I have taken over the years that have struck a chord with some people in ways that has surprised me. I knew the shot was good. I knew it when I took it. I knew it was when I developed it on my computer as well, however, there is an artistic aspect to some of these shots that cause some people to react to them in ways that really surprise me at times. This “abstraction” is open to interpretation. Some react one way, others another way, while some other people don’t even like that shot while others love it. Art is like that. It can mean whatever you want it to mean depending upon the level of abstraction. Is our Lord Jesus Christ like that? I mean, is who He is open to discussion? Are all those ‘abstract’ versions of Jesus in our time valid? Those who insist they are make a grave error. Their error is that they ignore that the Bible, the Word of God, Sacred Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus Christ is God. Continue reading

You Are of Your Father the Devil


by Mike Ratliff

7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:7-8 (NASB) 

Relativism is the fatal disease of the unregenerate heart. Of course, it is a self-focused relativism. Everyone is unique, of course, but we have this built-in sense of ‘fairness’ that is antithetical to God’s Sovereignty. Several years ago my late friend and colleague Ken Silva was the subject of a satirical article meant to attack his character. If you think through that then you should immediately recognize the tactics of our enemy. Since he cannot refute the truth then he and his minions go after those who uphold the truth by attacking them directly. The article was a satirical portrayal of Ken killing a beast on the beach called an EvanJellyFish even though every now and then the beast said something that might be considered edifying. Ah, now we are back in that comfortable realm of relativism. It goes something like this, “Hey man, why are you attacking this brother in Christ? Look, he may practice Yoga and Contemplative Prayer and lead his congregation to pray to Mother God, but hey, look at all the edifying and nice thing he says in this book he just wrote!” That my brothers and sisters in Christ are the words of someone who thinks that the truth is truth because they think it is, but they do not know the words of God, the truth, because they do not hear them (John 8:46).  Continue reading

He Will Abundantly Pardon


by Mike Ratliff

4 “Behold, I have made him a witness to the peoples, A leader and commander for the peoples. 5 “Behold, you will call a nation you do not know, And a nation which knows you not will run to you, Because of the LORD your God, even the Holy One of Israel; For He has glorified you.” 6 Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. 8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.  (Isaiah 55:4-8 NASB)

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is not editable. It is not open to change. No matter how much anyone  wants it to be otherwise, it is unchangeable. It is God’s Good News to be proclaimed to all fallen man. This good news is the proclamation that there is a way, only one way, for sinful people to be reconciled to God. It is good news because all people suffer from the same condition. They are born dead in trespasses and sins and are not morally able to do anything about it. This separates all of us from God because He is Holy and must judge all sin. The Gospel declares that Jesus Christ went to the cross and became sin on our behalf, our propitiation. God judged our sin in Him. This “atoned” for our sins. Now let us look at the pardon available to all who believe.

Continue reading

True Godliness: Separating Regenerate Christianity from Counterfeit Christianity


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) 

For those of you reading this who have also read my series on the Counterfeit Church, I pray you will also read this post. 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. However, those 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

Be ye doers of the Word


by Mike Ratliff

19 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.
26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:19-27 (NASB)

Martin Luther hated the Book of James. He called it an Epistle of Straw and questioned whether it should be included in the Canon of Scripture at all. Why? His opponents in the Roman Catholic Church misapplied what James taught to try to support their theology that stated that people are saved by their works. A careful study of this wonderful book, however, does not support that. In fact, we find that James and Paul are in full agreement. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and the Book of James both speak of works and its place in the Christian walk in relation to Grace. They present the truth from different sides of the issue so when people who do not possess the spirit read James they often twist the word to fit their false theology. Continue reading

The Lordship of Christ Concerning Genuine Saving Faith


by Mike Ratliff

8 Πρῶτον μὲν εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ μου διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ περὶ πάντων ὑμῶν ὅτι ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν καταγγέλλεται ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ κόσμῳ. Romans 1:8 (NA28)

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ concerning all of you because your faith is being proclaimed in all the world. Romans 1:8 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In these broadly apostate days of the visible church the good biblical words such as ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ are thrown around and used in such a loose way that it is important for us dig into what God’s Word says about πιστεύω (pisteuō), “to have faith in, trust; particularly, to be firmly, persuaded as to something” and πιστός (pistos), an adjective meaning “faithful, trustworthy, reliable, dependable” instead of relying on what our modern translations give us for these words, for if we do not “dig” we remain in a shallow understanding of these things. On the other hand, God will use our hard work in these things to teach us, train us, and grow us into more mature Christians who do glorify God in our walks and perhaps other disciples will marvel and report to others and then our faith will be “broadly declared throughout the whole world.” You see, for Paul to make that statement about the Romans’ faith meant that there must have been something remarkable about it. What was it?  Continue reading

The Blessedness of the Regenerate


by Mike Ratliff

1 Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, 2 to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. 3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:1-7 (NASB) 

18 Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling.
19 It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly
Than to divide the spoil with the proud. Proverbs 16:18-19 (NASB) 

When I encounter a professing Christian who is joyless and focused entirely on trying to be fulfilled by worldly things, I want to take them aside and tell them that what they are seeking will not be found where they are looking. I want to show them that only genuine Christians who are humble as their Lord is humble find true blessedness.

All truly regenerate believers have what they need to become humble and Spirit-filled, but most of us struggle for many years in the furnace of sanctification before God gives us that first taste of joy that is beyond measure. Why do we struggle so? God knows what is best for us. Each of us is unique and God will use us according to His will in His timing. Some require much more refining than others based on what God has for them to do. However, everyone who is regenerate can experience the blessedness our Lord shared at the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount. Let’s take a close look at what some call The Beatitudes. Continue reading

Quickened


by Mike Ratliff

13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, Colossians 2:13 (NASB) 

There is a related word in Scripture to “regeneration.” It only appears twice in the New Testament. One of those is in the passage I place at the top of this post. The words “made you alive together with” translate the Greek συνεζωοποίησεν (synezōopoiēsen) the third singular, aorist active indicative case of συζωοποιέω (syzōopoieō) which means, “make alive with someone.” The KJV translates this as “hath he quickened together.” Continue reading

I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel


by Mike Ratliff

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16 (NASB) 

Western Christians, especially American Christians, are, for the most part, double minded. Materialism, humanism, and liberalism have so contaminated them that they believe that they will never be persecuted for their faith. It is as if the idea that persecution for being a Christian is unthinkable. In many parts of the World persecution is actually becoming worse. It is estimated that over 16,000 Christians are martyred each year. However, in this country Christians are more concerned about Football or Television shows or money or possessions than contending for the faith. Continue reading

Mercy


by Mike Ratliff

23 Οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, γραμματεῖς καὶ Φαρισαῖοι ὑποκριταί, ὅτι ἀποδεκατοῦτε τὸ ἡδύοσμον καὶ τὸ ἄνηθον καὶ τὸ κύμινον καὶ ἀφήκατε τὰ βαρύτερα τοῦ νόμου, τὴν κρίσιν καὶ τὸ ἔλεος καὶ τὴν πίστιν· ταῦτα [δὲ] ἔδει ποιῆσαι κἀκεῖνα μὴ ἀφιέναι. Matthew 23:23 (NA28)

23 Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for you tithe mint and dill and cumin, but you have neglected the more important things of the Law: justice and mercy and faith; but these things you should have done without neglecting the others. Matthew 23:23 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

A simple definition of mercy is “the withholding of deserved punishment and relieving distress.” The Greek ἔλεος (eleos) speaks of “compassion, pity.” One Greek lexicon tells us, “Kindness or good will towards the miserable and afflicted joined with a desire to relieve them.” Even the pagans of Greece felt pity. Aristotle wrote that tragedy aroused pity and even fear that the same tragedy might befall them. Continue reading

What is the difference between Conversion and Regeneration?


by Mike Ratliff

12 “While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, 13 at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; 17 rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, 18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’ Acts 26:12-18 (NASB) 

A hypocrite is someone who implies he or she stands for one set of values, but actually lives out their life doing the opposite. Since the post-modern church is mired in hypocrisy, one might assume that Christianity was the problem. If Christianity really was the one and only true religion and Jesus’ disciples truly are changed by their new birth in Christ, the hypocrite label should not stick. Why? True Biblical Christianity professes that all in Christ not only have their sins forgiven them, but they are also new creations who are no longer under the power of their former sins. Continue reading