Mike Ratliff

Christian Character

If we humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand of sanctification, we will submit to those whom God wills. We will worship Him instead of self. We will walk by faith not by sight. That means that temptations to not be honorable can be defeated and left powerless because they depend on our functioning within our flesh and pride.

18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things. 19 And I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you the sooner.20 Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, 21 equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:18-21 (NASB) 
R.C. Sproul shared the following story in the September 2007 issue of Tabletalk magazine. “Several years ago I was participating in a discussion with some business men in Jackson, Mississippi. In the course of the conversation, one of the men made reference to a man who was not present at the meeting. He said, ‘He is an honorable man.’ When I heard this comment, my ears perked up as I thought for a moment I was hearing a foreign language being spoken. I realized that I was in the middle of the Deep South where customs of old had not entirely been eradicated, yet I still could not get over that somebody in this day and age was using the word honor as descriptive term for a human being.”
Is the term ‘honor’ as a descriptive term for a human being out of place in our day and time? If we look up ‘honor’ in our dictionaries we will find that its chief synonym is ‘integrity.’ Before we begin to determine the lack of this characteristic in the current body of Christian believers, especially among its leadership, let us define what we mean. Integrity describes one who has an uncompromising adherence to moral and ethical principles. It describes one who possesses soundness of character. There are many more definitions, but this is enough for now. A honorable person is a man or woman of principle. He or she puts principle ahead of personal gain. Also, they do not compromise their principles. That would mean that once they grasp the truth they would never let go, no matter the cost.
One of the major attacks against my posts on the doctrines of grace over the last several years was that I presented them as truth. Sometimes, this aroused some very ugly attacks because I did not say what I presented could possibly be wrong and the opposing views could be right. If I believed that then I wouldn’t have bothered posting them. What sort of truth is it that we can say, “this is the truth, but I could be wrong and your view could possible be true too.” That’s not standing on principle. That’s called compromise. Some would call it political correctness. This is why I despise our political system in the United States. Politicians must often compromise everything, including their principles in order to function. That is not right. That is why I could never hold public office.
Compromise is with us wherever we go. It seems that our entire lives are challenges to our principles. Those of us who are Christians experience this on an even higher plane. I promise you, the world system is anti-everything that God tells us from His Word that should makeup genuine Christian character.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.  
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Heart Rending

Heart -Rending is divinely wrought and solemnly felt. It is a secret grief which is personally experienced, not in mere form, but as a deep, soul-moving work of the Holy Spirit upon the inmost heart of each believer. It is not a matter to be merely talked of and believed in, but keenly and sensitively felt in every living child of the living God. It is powerfully humiliating, and completely sin-purging; but then it is sweetly preparative for those gracious consolations which proud unhumbled spirits are unable to receive; and it is distinctly discriminating, for it belongs to the elect of God, and to them alone.

13 And rend your heart and not your garments.Now return to the LORD your God,For He is gracious and compassionate,Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindnessAnd relenting of evil. Joel 2:13 (NASB)
Over the years I written much on this blog about the necessity of repentance in the heart of the believer. First, no one comes to Christ without it and second, no believer grows in Christ without walking in daily repentance. This walk of repentance on a daily basis is actually something we are called to do continually. That is what we do when we obey our Lord in taking up our own cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23) and present ourselves as living sacrifices holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1). None of you truly in Christ can say you are blameless in and of yourself. You, like me, are a sinner who is saved by grace through faith as God’s gift. This salvation makes us blameless in God’s eyes, but we still must come continually to the throne of grace to confess our sins (1 John 1:9), which both humbles us and God uses this to grow us in Christlikeness as he forgives and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. As Jesus told Peter on that last Passover before going to the Cross.
8 Peter *said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” 9 Simon Peter *said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” 10 Jesus *said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.” John 13:8-11 (NASB)
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God is Faithful

The doctrine of God’s word is, that all who are in union with the Lamb are safe; that all the righteous shall hold on their way; that those who have committed their souls to the keeping of Christ shall find Him a faithful and immutable preserver. Sustained by such a doctrine we can enjoy security even on earth; not that high and glorious security which renders us free from every slip, but that holy security which arises from the sure promise of Jesus that none who believe in Him shall ever perish, but shall be with Him where He is.

23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NASB)
I recently became aware of someone I am acquainted with who was discouraged because of the lack of faith or trust that he saw in people he came in contact with in his job and in society. He claimed that it is rampant and much worse than he had ever seen before. I was asked for Bible verses about “faith” that addressed this. I did some research, but what I found in my study was that we are not called to have a high level of faith in other, but, instead, are to place our faith in God alone.
C. H. Spurgeon
Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.”—1 Thessalonians 5:24.
HEAVEN is a place where we shall never sin; where we shall cease our constant watch against an indefatigable enemy, because there will be no tempter to ensnare our feet. There the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.
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They Go from Strength to Strength

Fretful spirits sit down and trouble themselves about the future. “Alas!” say they, “we go from affliction to affliction.” Very true, O thou of little faith, but then thou goest from strength to strength also. Thou shalt never find a bundle of affliction which has not bound up in the midst of it sufficient grace. God will give the strength of ripe manhood with the burden allotted to full-grown shoulders.

4 Blessed are they that dwell in thy house:they will be still praising thee. Selah.5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee;in whose heart are the ways of them.6 Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well;the rain also filleth the pools.7 They go from strength to strength,every one of them in Zion appeareth before God. Psalms 84:4-7 (KJV)
As many of you know, I turned 70 this last October. As my wife and I enter this decade of our 70’s together we are discovering that there is indeed many things unanticipated about our health that neither of us saw coming. However, the most frustrating thing for both of us is how difficult it is for us to deal with the bureaucracy of health care. We both know others in our age group who have worse health problems than us and also many older than us who really would need assistance trying to understand the maze of rules, regulations, and other pressures put on us that I for one never saw my parents having to deal with until they both were in their 80’s and had to be housed in an assisted living center because they could no longer take care of themselves. We are a long way from that, but honestly, the healthcare jungle for people in our age group is treacherous and has over that last several months elevated my anxiety way beyond anything I have been dealing with at work. 
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Efficacious Faith vs. Man-Made Faith

Saving or efficacious faith is not the same thing as the best faith man can muster through the exercise of the will. According to our Lord Jesus in John 4:13-14, efficacious faith is that which is given to the believer by God and this same faith will become in the believer a spring of water welling up to eternal life. 

13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14 (NASB)
Efficacious adj. producing the desired effect – from The Oxford New Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus Third Edition.
Christian faith has appeared to many an easy thing; nay, not a few even reckon it among the social virtues, as it were; and this they do because they have not made proof of it experimentally, and have never tasted of what efficacy it is. For it is not possible for any man to write well about it, or to understand well what is rightly written, who has not at some time tasted of its spirit, under the pressure of tribulation; while he who has tasted of it, even to a very small extent, can never write, speak, think, or hear about it sufficiently. For it is a living fountain, springing up into eternal life, as Christ calls it in John iv.1
Saving or efficacious faith is not the same thing as the best faith man can muster through the exercise of the will. According to our Lord Jesus in John 4:13-14 (above), efficacious faith is that which is given to the believer by God and this same faith will become in the believer a spring of water welling up to eternal life. This is not belief that is the product of reason or intellectual assent. It is not a belief that the believer must generate and desperately hold onto lest it be diminished and be lost. In the excerpt from Martin Luther’s letter to Pope Leo X, Concerning Christian Liberty, we read that those who conceive of faith as something done by the believer count it as simply a social virtue and that is an easy thing. Luther says that those with this concept of faith believe as they do because they have not experienced efficacious faith and have never tasted the great strength there is in it. I contend that the purveyors of the Seeker-Sensitive, NAR, and WOKE forms of “Christianity” are of the same sort of faith Luther is contrasting in this letter with genuine believers who are so because they have drunk of the water given to them by the Lord that has become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. These of the New Type of Christianity have a faith consisting of works-righteousness. This is a man-made faith not the efficacious faith that is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:1-10). 
Efficacious faith produces genuine Christians, while man-made “easy” faith, which is works, does not as Luther shows us here:
We first approach the subject of the inward man, that we may see by what means a man becomes justified, free, and a true Christian; that is, a spiritual, new, and inward man. It is certain that absolutely none among outward things, under whatever name they may be reckoned, has any influence in producing Christian righteousness or liberty, nor, on the other hand, unrighteousness or slavery. This can be shown by an easy argument.
What can it profit the soul that the body should be in good condition, free, and full of life; that it should eat, drink, and act according to its pleasure; when even the most impious slaves of every kind of vice are prosperous in these matters? Again, what harm can ill-health, bondage, hunger, thirst, or any other outward evil, do to the soul, when even the most pious of men and the freest in the purity of their conscience, are harassed by these things? Neither of these states of things has to do with the liberty or the slavery of the soul.
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Come to Me and I Will Give You Rest

Do you see my brethren that those truly born again are those who are resting in Christ as His disciples? They keep His commandments from the motivation of love for Him, not in order to earn their salvation. I adjure each of you to examine yourselves. Ask God to reveal the truth of your standing before Him to your hearts. Repent of what He shows you then rest in our Lord as you walk and serve Him yoked up with Him. Love Him and serve Him for His glory alone.

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.
25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. 26 Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. Matthew 11:25-26 (NASB) 
The passage above is partially made up of a short prayer by our Lord. In vv20-24 preceding this passage our Lord had just pronounced woes upon the impenitent who had seen His mighty works and heard His preaching and teaching.
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The Trial of Your Faith

Tried faith brings experience. You could not have believed your own weakness had you not been compelled to pass through the rivers; and you would never have known God’s strength had you not been supported amid the water-floods. Faith increases in solidity, assurance, and intensity, the more it is exercised with tribulation. Faith is precious, and its trial is precious too.

6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:6-9 (KJV)
Just a few years after God had mercy on me back in the mid-1980’s we moved from the Tulsa area to Edmond, OK. then just a few months later we moved again back to my home town, Yukon, OK. It was here that we joined the church in which was a huge part of us raising our children then rejoined it after 15 years of living again in Tulsa then Kansas then Edmond. One of the pastors of this church now was a Bible teacher back then and it was in his class that my wife and I were placed. It was from this man’s teaching that I learned so much of what I teach you. His name is Scott. One of his lessons I will never forget was about how God takes us and tries our faith in the fires of tribulation. He compared what God does to a gold refiner who holds the gold in fire until all the dross is burned away. He knows the process is complete and the gold can be taken from the flames when he can see his own reflection in the gold.
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It Is A Faithful Saying

The first one lays the foundation of our eternal salvation in the free grace of God, as shown to us in the mission of the great Redeemer. The next affirms the double blessedness which we obtain through this salvation—the blessings of the upper and nether springs—of time and of eternity. The third shows one of the duties to which the chosen people are called; we are ordained to suffer for Christ with the promise that “if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.” The last sets forth the active form of Christian service, bidding us diligently to maintain good works.

11 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: 12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: 13 If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. 2 Timothy 2:11-13 (KJV) 
It is a blessed thing to mediate on the reality of being in Christ. The enormity of that fact should strike us hard because those who are truly in Christ are those who also know they don’t deserve to be. The miracle of our salvation is incredible and the cost our Savior paid to save us is beyond our understanding.  Spurgeon understood this and wrote about it in today’s devotion from his Morning by Morning.C. H. Spurgeon
“It is a faithful saying.”—2 Timothy 2:11.
Paul has four of these “faithful sayings.” The first occurs in 1 Timothy 1:15, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” The next is in 1 Timothy 4:6, “Godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation.”
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The Effectual Call

Just like Abram, we are justified (declared righteous) by God because we have believed Him in the promise of the Son. We believe because we have been effectually called with a holy call according to the purposes of God, not the purposes of any man. 

After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying,“Do not fear, Abram,I am a shield to you;Your reward shall be very great.”2 Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.” 4 Then behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.” 5 And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:1-6 (NASB) 
In Genesis 15:1-6 (above), God gives us through His prophet Moses probably one of the most important truths found in His Word. This truth is all wrapped up in God’s Sovereignty. In v1 we read that through a vision given to him by God, Abram learns that God is his shield and that he will receive a great reward. In vv2-3 we witness Abram’s fear and his plea for an heir from his own loins. His focus is temporal, but he recognizes that unless God ordains it, there will be no child of his own. Here we see that Abram is no different than us. When he is in control then he is dominated by fear and unbelief. However, in vv4-5 God gently deals with Abram’s unbelief and fear by assuring him that he would indeed have a son and that his descendants would be innumerable. From this we learn that God’s promises are eternally focused even if they have temporal elements. We are called to believe based on His character not our circumstances. In these two verses, we have God’s effectual call of Abram. In v6 we read that Abram believed the Lord, and God counted it to him as righteousness. As a result of every effectual call by God, the one called by God believes Him and as a result He justifies them. They are saved by grace through the saving faith that accompanies every effectual call. 
However, Christians are like Abraham in another way. We are living in between the promise and the fulfillment just as He was. Therefore, we live in an environment that is unredeemed and hostile to God’s truth and especially the genuine gospel. We struggle with becoming too focused on the temporal and this results in us becoming all bound up in fear and unbelief. When we attempt to draw closer to God and become the Christians we are called to be, we are attacked and accused by the enemy who attempts to make us believe that we are not saved by grace through faith like Abram, but by our faithfulness instead. If we listen to this then we can become quite discouraged because we are far from perfect. However, God is good to those whom He has called.
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Let Down Your Nets For A Catch

If the workers obediently cast their nets into the deep Christ’s way then those drawn into the net will be genuine because they are effectually called by God Himself. When He saves someone, it is always genuine for it is not simply a human decision, but it is the result of the washing of regeneration and belief in Jesus as Lord and Saviour. These are justified by God’s grace through the faith given to them by Him.

4 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Luke 5:4 (NASB)
The builder and sustainer of the Church, the Body of Christ, is the Lord Jesus not any man (Matthew 16:18). The building of the true Church is accomplished as God works through the foolishness of preaching to draw people from the darkness into the light and life that is found in Christ alone. It is built up in Christ through the means of grace, which are ordained by God not men. While we see that it is God who actually is doing the building, He has chosen to work through His servants to accomplish that which will bring Him glory. These servants that He uses as fishers of men are symbolically like the fishermen in their boats on the Sea of Galilee who cast their nets to catch fish to sell as their business. Let us make some comparisons. 
1 Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; 2 and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. 3 And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. 4 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; 7 so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. Luke 5:1-7 (NASB) 
This event happened immediately prior to our Lord calling His first disciples. Notice that without our Lord being with Peter, James and John they toiled all night and caught nothing. However, our Lord got in the boat, taught the people and told Peter, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” The difference this time was that this is a divine command, although Peter does not know it. The partners who had to come and help drag the great catch to shore were the brothers James and John. I don’t often like to make these sorts of analogies from Scripture for I have heard so many that are man-made things that some take and overuse to the deception of many. However, in this case, we are looking at something our Lord used to teach these men the truth about God and how He uses His servants to do His will in the preaching of the Gospel and the building of His Church.
If we compare the mindset of many Christians, they believe that it is their efforts, their ideas, their inovations that when added to preaching the gospel (if it even includes it) that will cause numbers to go up and that many will be added to the Kingdom because of their efforts. From this analogy, however, we learn that a true catch, the saving of many souls is always the work of God as He labors through His obedient servants. If He is not present then the fruit will not be genuine. If our Lord is not part of an evangelical push then it can only accomplish what men can do. Some may ‘decide for Jesus’ as the result of the entertainment or the glitz or the personality of the preacher, but is it genuine? No, it is as these fishermen laboring all night and catching nothing. However, if the workers obediently cast their nets into the deep Christ’s way then those drawn into the net will be genuine because they are effectually called by God Himself. When He saves someone, it is always genuine for it is not simply a human decision, but it is the result of the washing of regeneration and belief in Jesus as Lord and Saviour. These are justified by God’s grace through the faith given to them by Him. Numbers may or may not be large, but these who are effectually called and drawn by God are the real deal. The “catch” is miraculous for it is God’s work not man’s.
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