Take Up Your Cross


by Mike Ratliff

23 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 24 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25 For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Luke 9:23-26 (NASB) 

Many years ago when I was much younger I made a commitment to become fit enough to run one mile in under 5 minutes, run 5 Kilometers in under 18 minutes, run 5 miles in under 30 minutes, run 10 Kilometers in under 37 minutes, and run 10 miles in under an hour. By the time I was 33 years old I had accomplished the first three. I had missed my goal for the 10K by less than a minute, however, my best time for a 10 mile race was 1 hour and 4 minutes. These times are no where near competitive at the highest level, but in the Oklahoma City Running Club it was. It took a great deal of commitment. I had to train by doing miles and miles of road work and then compliment that with speed work. I had to work on my upper body strength and had to eat right. Some of my friends and relatives accused me of becoming obsessive. I couldn’t have done any of this without commitment. When God saved me in 1986 I remember my mother saying, “Watch out! Michael will get into the Bible just like he did running…” I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant by that, but I have found that commitment to the Word of God is just part of becoming the Christian God wants all of us to be. It also takes commitment to obedience to our Lord’s commandments, God’s glory, denying self, dying to self, submitting to others, and loving our Lord foremost.  Continue reading

There is only one Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ


by Mike Ratliff

8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
11 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:8-12 (NASB) 

The title of this article may surprise many. I have been in “conversation” on this topic for last several days with many who disagree that there is only one gospel. Their stance is that no one can know everything about the gospel. We must be tolerant of others views of salvation because the gospel is inherently unknowable. Before our Lord saved me I may have bought that argument, but not anymore. Our God is a very precise God who does things His way in His timing and always for His glory. Continue reading

The Hypocrite


 

by Mike Ratliff

6 “I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go.
My heart does not reproach any of my days.
7 “May my enemy be as the wicked
And my opponent as the unjust.
8 “For what is the hope of the godless when he is cut off,
When God requires his life?
9 “Will God hear his cry
When distress comes upon him?
10 “Will he take delight in the Almighty?
Will he call on God at all times? Job 27:6-10 (NASB) 

One of the easiest accusations that Christians can hurl at one another is the epitaph “Hypocrite!” I probably receive at least half a dozen emails or comments a week with that accusation firmly pointed at me. What is a hypocrite? A hypocrite may be a very neat imitation of a Christian. He professes to know God, to converse with him, to be dedicated to his service, and to invoke his protection: he even practices prayer, or at least feigns it. Yet the cleverest counterfeit fails somewhere, and may be discovered by certain signs. The test is here: “Will he call upon God at all times?” Continue reading

Overcoming the World


by Mike Ratliff

18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. John 15:18-19 (NASB) 

I grew up as a Southern Baptist, however God did not haver mercy on this sinner until I was 34 years old. I have remained in Baptist churches for the most since then except while living in Kansas. The SBC churches there were either very pragmatic or too far away. The last church we attended before moving back to Oklahoma at the end of 2012 was Mission Road Bible Church in Prairie Village, KS. The pastor was Rick Holland. It was a very solid church. When we moved back to the OKC area we were shocked at first at how many churches there are here compared to the KC area. In any case, we ended up back in my home town and were invited back to the church in which I had served as a deacon and Bible teacher for many years in the 1980’s and 1990’s. That being said, the idiotic politics going on the SBC seem like light years away from what we are doing, but I do know that it causes each of us to question what is going on and ask what we should do to stem the liberal takeover of our denomination.
Continue reading

The Second Battle


by Mike Ratliff

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

The Effect of the God-Centered Gospel


by Mike Ratliff

1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. 1 John 1:1-4 (NASB) 

Most, if not all, of the contention that I have experienced in this ministry has to do with people’s demand to be “justified” on their own terms. For instance, one fellow angrily told me that the genuine gospel was to do good works, to feed the hungry and minister to the homeless. Another one insists that all he has to do is love God and love everyone and that is how he experiences “salvation.” Are these valid forms of the Gospel? Continue reading

Perfectionism and the Second Blessing


by Mike Ratliff

50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 1 Corinthians 15:50 (NASB) 

It is a very dangerous thing to interpret things extra-biblically that occur in our spiritual growth. For instance, in my own walk I was in a very stagnant spiritual state for over a decade from around 1990 until 2004. I had some growth spurts during that time, but they were always followed by years of mediocrity. Then in 2004 God took me through about 8 months of spiritual boot camp. I emerged a changed man. I really thought that I had come across some sort of ‘second blessing’ in which I had entered into a new level of spirituality that was easily accomplished simply following some sort of plan or formula. Continue reading

Christians Should Bear Their Crosses With Patience


by Mike Ratliff

33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NASB) 

The natural man in each of us wants to paint God as a combination of a spiritual Santa Claus and the Genie from Aladdin’s Lamp. We tie our good works into how well our lives go. If we do good things then God will surely see to it that we don’t lose our jobs or we get a great raise each year or our health is good. Equity or fairness is our cry. Just look at our society. Even though it isn’t a reality everyone seems to demand that no one be offended or that everyone be treated fairly. This has bled over into the Church in the 21st Century.

Christians who are driven by their flesh are very superstitious. These folks are the suckers that the hucksters of the Word Faith movement prey upon. These folks give their money away to evangelists and faith healers hoping to be blessed. I remember when I lived in Tulsa in the mid-1980s that Oral and Richard Roberts were preaching “seed-faith” theology. That meant they asked people to send in their money to show their faith and in return God would bless them by multiplying their seed. In other words, send in some money and we guarantee you that God will give back to you even more. Continue reading

Come to Me and I Will Give You Rest


by Mike Ratliff

37 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “ If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37-39 (NASB) 

3 “ Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:3-12 (NASB) 

Hell is real. All who do not repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ will spend eternity there. Those who repent and believe are those who ‘come to Jesus to drink.’ They believe as the Holy Spirit is poured out on them to the point that their lives are taken over by Him. Those who do will never experience hell. Instead, they come to Jesus and find rest for their souls. Those who do this are poor in spirit. They mourn for their sins. They are not proud, but meek. In their growing godliness they hunger and thirst for Christ’s righteousness to become manifest in them. They become more and more Christlike, therefore, they take on His character. They show mercy as He does. They become more and more pure of heart. They remove themselves from seeking their own. Instead, they become those who live to bring others to their Lord. Conversely, this holy and separate life does not cause them to find peace in the world. No, instead they are persecuted for righteousness sake. Continue reading

If The Foundations Are Destroyed What Can the Righteous Do?


by Mike Ratliff

14 Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, Ephesians 6:14 (NASB) 

Temporal focus is deadly for Christians. We know that God’s will for us is our sanctification, (1 Thessalonians 4:3) but we tend to let our focus drop from God to self. Our flesh is insidious in its desire to drive us to partake of the world and its ways for self-gratification. Our enemy knows this; therefore his temptations are often rooted there. No one is immune or exempt from this. In fact, God uses this battle to test His saints. Continue reading

Everyone Did What was Right in His Own Eyes


by Mike Ratliff

25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 21:25 (NASB)

We live in an evil time. There are large numbers of “Christian” leaders who claim to be ministers of God, but prove by their words and actions to have thrown off the authority of God. They do what is right in their own eyes while claiming that they are only following the leading of the Holy Spirit. The fact that what they say or do is unbiblical seems to trouble very few. When some point out the truth to them, they claim that God has lead them to do what they do by giving them their vision so it must be okay and those who protest are just legalistic. Continue reading

Do Not Be Anxious


by Mike Ratliff

25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Matthew 6:25 (NASB)

As many of you know I turned 70 earlier this week. I am planning on retiring from my DBA job in December. We are working with various financial consultants, lawyers, the V.A., Social Security, etc. to prepare for that time when I won’t be getting a paycheck every couple of weeks. Then, I opened my email this morning and there was one of those scary emails from a company that is selling a specialized investment thing that they say works within an I.R.S. loophole, whatever that is. But the trick they use to get your attention is a quote and testimonial from a financial expert who is predicting that the Dollar will collapse at the end of October this year. Of course, with the stage I am in right now this opened me up to that dreaded “spirit of fear” that I have written about on this blog. What would we do if the dollar became worthless? What about our food, our livelihood, et cetera? Then I remembered how I responded to those professing Christians who were giving in to the spirit of fear when the COVID-19 stuff started as they actually contributed to the spreading that fear instead of being Christlike and not fearful as we are told to do in Scripture. Is this any different? Continue reading

A Circumcision Made Without Hands


by Mike Ratliff

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. 9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; 11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. Colossians 2:8-12 (NASB) 

I have been working on a manuscript for a book that is an exegetical study of Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians. Stuart and I are in the editing phase now. I still have to exegete Chapter 4 and work on the Introduction some, but it is coming together. The passage above takes place in a critical point in Paul’s Epistle. He has been working through a section that I titled The Preeminence of Christ and now just before he addresses the theological issues going on there he gives them more depth of the reality of who they are in Christ and just one verse earlier he warns them not to let anyone take them captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (v8). There is a great deal of false teaching in our time that claims that people can be saved without repentance and surrender to the Lordship of Christ. However, both repentance and surrender to the Lordship of Christ comes through regeneration and, therefore, are not “works,” but those who say the opposite are guilty of the very deceit Paul is talking about in v8. Continue reading

The Holiness of the Church


by Mike Ratliff

9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. 1 Peter 2:9-10 (NASB) 

The Church is not a building. No, in the New Testament, written in Koine Greek, the English word translated as “church” is the word ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia). This word literally means, “the called out ones.” It’s usage in scripture denotes the New Testament community of the redeemed in a two-fold aspect, the first referring to all those called by and to Christ in the fellowship of His salvation, which is the “Church” worldwide at all times. The second aspect, rarely used, refers to a local body of believers.  Continue reading