Mike Ratliff

Biblical Holiness

Only the believers who are led by the Spirit are seeking to live holy lives. All others may want to be holy, but without the power that is inherent in the life led by the Spirit, they cannot do it. They try to be holy via will power, but that is doomed to failure. If we live lives that are characterized by holiness what will we be like? We will be in a constant state of cleansing. We will be denying self by feasting on God as we fast from fleshly things and worldliness. We will not be doing or saying things to draw attention to ourselves, but instead we will be in a state of genuine humility knowing that all we have that is good is that which have in Christ according to his will and his work.

21 Therefore what benefit were you then having from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you have your benefit, leading to sanctification, and the end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gracious gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:21-23 (LSB)

Holiness is one of those subjects that everyone seems to know everything it pertains to, but no one knows how to define. What is it? If you look up “Holiness” in a dictionary, it will tell you that it means to be “Holy.” That is not a lot of help is it? What does the word “Holy” mean? One dictionary definition is, “exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness.” Of course, that could only be speaking of God.
A synonym for “Holiness” is “Sanctification.” If we look it up, it is defined as “the state of growing in divine grace as a result of Christian commitment after baptism or conversion.” That’s close. A believer’s holiness comes as he or she matures in Christ through grace. It comes from there, but what are its qualities? As believers mature they begin to take on Christ’s very character. They become Christ-like. One of the “fruits” of salvation, a huge part of the godly treasury of the Heart, is separation from the World. What does this mean?

12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the depths graciously given to us by God, 13 of which depths we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual depths with spiritual words. 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 (LSB) 

The Holy Spirit resides in the Spirit of each believer. His presence not only makes the Spirit of the believer Holy He is also constantly at work sanctifying the believer. What’s the big deal? Why can’t we stay conformed to the world and grow in Christ? The ways of the world are the antithesis of God’s ways. God’s ways are right; the world’s ways are not.

7 Let the wicked forsake his wayAnd the unrighteous man his thoughts;And let him return to Yahweh,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 Yahweh.9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,So are My ways higher than your waysAnd My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:7-9 (LSB)

If a believer refuses to jettison things or thoughts that are clearly “of the world,” as the Holy Spirit leads them to do so, it is nothing more than rebellion or disobedience. What happens when a believer does this? They are refusing to submit to the will of God. When the Holy Spirit convicts you and me about anything our conscience, if healthy, will condemn us about it as well. If we refuse to heed God and our conscience, we are contributing to our own Hard-Heartedness. We are diminishing our treasure instead of laying it up. The treasury of our Heart is building up worldliness instead of holiness. Holiness is the quality of godliness that speaks of conformity to Christ’s character and non-conformity to the world.
Only the believers who are led by the Spirit are seeking to live holy lives. All others may want to be holy, but without the power that is inherent in the life led by the Spirit, they cannot do it. They try to be holy via will power, but that is doomed to failure. If we live lives that are characterized by holiness what will we be like? We will be in a constant state of cleansing. We will be denying self by feasting on God as we fast from fleshly things and worldliness. We will not be doing or saying things to draw attention to ourselves, but instead we will be in a state of genuine humility knowing that all we have that is good is that which have in Christ according to his will and his work.
I used to think that self-denial was no fun, hard work and only led to boredom. That would be true if my entire fulfillment came through self-gratification. However, God has graciously granted me repentance as I feasted on Him and fasted from fleshly desires. He is in the process of changing my entire value system and remaking my conscience so that it will be pure and cleansed. He is in the process of washing away all defilement therein. I pray everyday that I will be given ears to hear Him, that I will heed my conscience which is held captive to the Word of God and  that I will be led by the Spirit and that the Lord will not stop leading, guiding and directing my steps. This is learning how to hear God.
Now when I slip, stumble, and blow it I know it immediately. I know I have taken my eyes off Christ and feasted on something that is defiled while I fasted from Him. I hate it, but it is a good thing that I cannot get away with anything for any length of time! When we do blow it what do we do? The following passage is a word picture that is the “best” way to get back on track.
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The Light of the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ

Paul does not back away from the truth, and we should not either, that the Gospel is indeed veiled to those who reject it. Those who want a gospel on their own terms reject out of hand the genuine gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, 2 but we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 in whose case the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus. 6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 (LSB)
Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post (2 Corinthians 4:1-6). What is the Apostle Paul saying here? The Gospel that he preached, the other Apostles preached, which was passed on to them from Christ himself….
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Christian Assurance

Genuine believers can fall into the fleshly trap of self-focus. They can become neutralized by this because that is what this does. On the other hand, walking in repentance, though quite painful at times, is the only way for us to continue in this growth pattern and remain fruitful. In this our assurance will grow in depth and breadth.

1 Simeon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ,To those who have received the same kind of faith as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the full knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 2 Peter 1:1-2 (LSB)
God is good. I struggle at times trying to explain certain doctrines in a way that anyone reading these posts will clearly understand them, but God, being good, really helps me put these posts together and also, I’m convinced helps those who are truly seeking HIs truth to understand what He has helped me post.  In this post  I hope to cover true Christian assurance, God willing.” He is obviously willing because all I had thrown up to me all day today was how unworthy and sinful I am yet how marvelous His grace is and how awesome it is that I have obtained faith in righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ even though all I deserve is His wrath. When I look at how well I keep the commandments like “Love your neighbor as yourself” I know that I am a selfish, self-centered, prideful, self-loving person who is a total failure at this. I have never kept this commandment by trying to do so. The only time I have ever done so is as I have humbled myself before my Lord as He worked through me as I served in ministry and I found myself loving and serving people in ways that I cannot do no matter how hard I try. On the other hand, as I walk (and drive) through each day with me in control with my focus on me and what I want, that is most certainly not the case. 
If my assurance was based on that performance then I would be in a sorry mess. Oh, and I most certainly do find myself before the throne of grace pouring out my heart quite a bit agreeing with God about my sinfulness and His righteousness and my lack thereof. It is through this humbling process that I am in the process of denying myself, denying what my flesh wants, mortifying it so-to-speak, as I give praise and glory to God as I trust that He is in control of all things and then I simply pursue righteousness from a grateful heart and turn from evil as I am led. This is how I take up my cross daily and follow my Lord. This “knowledge” that this is necessary does not come from the flesh or from man, but from God. It certainly didn’t come from me.
Look at the passage I placed at the top of this post. The word “knowledge” translates ἐπιγνώσει the dative, singular form of ἐπίγνωσις (epignōsis), which means “knowledge, understanding.” However, this is a strengthened form of “knowledge” implying a larger, more thorough, and intimate knowledge. Despite what is popularly taught by some so-called “Christian leaders” in our time, the Christian’s precious faith is built on knowing the truth about God. Christianity is not a mystical religion, but is based on objective, historical, revealed, rational truth from God and intended to be understood and believed. The deeper and wider that knowledge of the Lord, the more “grace and peace” are multiplied. Therefore, even though this whole day was a test of my faith, I was able to turn in faith to my Lord in repentance and agreement with Him about my sinfulness completely at peace in the knowledge that all my sins were paid for at the Cross and that these sinful, fleshly struggles of pride and selfishness in me are part of God’s cleansing fires of sanctification to make me ready for eternity.
To get to that place where we can part ways from trying to justify our sinfulness and, instead, agree with God about it in light of His Holiness and Righteousness, and our need of His grace in order to anything good (John 15) we must come to know our salvation. We must know what be believe and why be believe it. We must know what Christ has done for us on our behalf and what our responsibilities are in light of that. A good place to start is 2 Peter 1:3-11.
3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the full knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 2 Peter 1:3-4 (LSB)
This is, of course, a continuation of vv1-2. Do genuine Christians have to try to live the Christian life by will power or by their own strength? No! Christ has given by His divine power everything that pertains to life and godliness through what? Here is that word epignōsis again. Knowledge is a key word throughout 2 Peter. This knowledge is an intimate knowledge that only genuine believers have granted to them by God Himself.
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Suffering for God’s Glory

The closer we walk in obedience to our Lord, the more our Lord will allow our enemy to attack us in various ways in order to bring us to places of repentance and spiritual growth.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and unfading, having been kept in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:3-7 (LSB)
I doubt that I am unique in my dread of fiery trials. I have been a Christian long enough to know, however, that despite what men such as Joel Osteen preach and teach, testing by fire is the way God perfects our faith unto completion to prepare us to be before Him in glory. I have been rereading Grace Abounding To the Chief of Sinners by John Bunyan. He was a mighty warrior of the Christian faith, but he was made so by the great craftsman of our faith, our Lord, through the fires of temptation and tests that left a legacy of Biblical Truth for the body of Christ that is timeless. He lived in the 1600’s yet we are still reading of how God took a man who confesses all through this wonderful book about how wicked his heart is; but through his repentance and spiritual growth through fiery trials and temptations, God matured him and used him for His glory.
The second time through this book has been wonderful for me. I read it several years ago, but then I did not get the detail that God is giving me this time. Perhaps it is because of some of my own tests and trials this year that God is showing me or confirming in me the purpose of the physical and mental testing that I must deal with daily. When Bunyan first began preaching he was in the midst of a terrible trial of his faith. He was under continual attack from our enemy who was continually condemning him for having “sold Jesus.” The accusations were that he was not really a Christian and was outside of God’s grace because his sins were too great. However, when he would climb the stairs to the pulpit of the church in Bedford, England the enemy would leave him. Complete peace and joy would return as he preached the gospel. Lives were changed and he became quite well known as one whose preaching was touched by the Holy Spirit. However, he also confessed that as he would climb down those same stairs after preaching, the enemy would return to accuse him. This continued for over two years.
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Is there Injustice on God’s Part?

 When Moses was dealing with Pharaoh God was actively involved. God used the heart hardening tendencies of Pharaoh to create such unbelief in him that the Lord was glorified by showing His power in disciplining him. In the gospels and in the book of Acts we see the hardhearted unbelieving Jews who rejected Jesus and the Good News. Jesus told parables so they would not understand. Why? God chose to harden their hearts, close their ears, and blind their eyes. Why? That was God’s will. I will repeat this one more time. Not everyone is elect.

14 What shall we say then? Is there any unrighteousness with God? May it never be! Romans 9:14 (LSB)
The natural mind, plagued with selective rationalization, demands that God be fair in His dealings with all humankind. Fairness speaks of justice. One of the tenets of our republican form government in the USA is a right to a fair and speedy trial before one’s peers. A person on trial for a crime may or may not truly want justice. They may be guilty so their desire is not justice, but grace. If a judge in a criminal trial declares a defendant guilty, but then defers sentencing in lieu of probation or “time served” then he has extended grace to the guilty party.
All descendants of Adam are born spiritually dead in their trespasses and sins. (Ephesians 2:1-3) This fact makes all humankind guilty before God. They are children of wrath. God, the creator of everything, would be well within His rights to do nothing to save any one of us. If He had done that, no one could argue and say God was not being fair by dooming all humankind to an eternity in Hell because of their sin. However, God is gracious. He has “elected” to save those whom He loves. That is not everyone. He has also “elected” not to save some. What criteria did He use to determine whom He elected and whom He did not? It is a mystery of His will, according to His purpose. (Ephesians 1:9) We do know it was His choice and our behavior, personality, abilities or any other trait had nothing to do with it. (1 Corinthians 1:25-29)
As we see in Ephesians 1:3-12 and Romans 8:29-30, before the foundation of the world, God foreknew those whom He elected for salvation. This foreknowledge was an act of God setting His love and gracious actions upon those specific people. Because of this love, God predestined those elect for a specific purpose. In Ephesians 1:5, we see that he predestined His elect for adoption. In Romans 8:29, we see that God predestined His elect to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. Then we see in Romans 8:30 that the result of this process is the glorification of the elect. The purpose of salvation, therefore, is for those whom God set His affection towards to become His children who are conformed unto the image of His Son. This transformation results in their glorification.
We see the purpose of salvation. The problem is the natural mind still cries foul. Our sense of fairness, albeit corrupted by selective rationalization, raises a red flag and yells, “but, that’s not fair!” I have heard many, in their rejection of the doctrine of election; say something like, “my God would never do anything like that.” Of course, their God is a figment of their selective rationalization. Their knowledge of God comes from that rather than from His revelation of Himself in scripture. Their Bible knowledge is shallow and intermittent. Their relationship with God is nearly non-existent since its basis is self-focused religiosity. The Semi-Pelagians and Arminians had to create their shaky theologies because they had to create a way for people to be saved by choice. That means all people are eligible. Of course, these doctrinal beliefs must do logical gymnastics and scriptural eisegesis to bend the Bible to say what they want it to say.
Election was not the creation of John Calvin or Augustine. It is found throughout the Bible, however, the greatest argument for the doctrine of election is found in Romans 9.
1 I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, 5 whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. Romans 9:1-5 (LSB)
In these five verses, we see Paul’s anguish over the lost condition of the Jews. Even though they had the advantage of having a religious system in place that pointed them directly to God they had rejected Jesus. Jesus taught in John 4:22 that salvation is from the Jews. He did not mean that all Jews were saved. The work of salvation was revealed in the Jews and their religion. This religion was based around the Old Covenant. They had a huge advantage over the gentiles because in their religion they worshipped God. However, many were simply religious and did not know Him. The act of choosing Israel over all other tribes of peoples was an act of election. These people did not deserve this. God chose them by an act of His will for His glory.
6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s seed, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR SEED WILL BE NAMED.” 8 That is, the children of the flesh are not the children of God, but the children of the promise are considered as seed. 9 For this is the word of promise: “AT THIS TIME I WILL COME, AND SARAH SHALL HAVE A SON.” 10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that the purpose of God according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “THE OLDER SHALL SERVE THE YOUNGER.” 13 Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.” Romans 9:6-13 (LSB)
Not all natural descendants of Abraham are part of spiritual Israel. In addition, God elected one of Rebecca’s sons over the other before they were born. In fact, God loved one and hated the other. The loving of Jacob and hating of Esau by God is an example of the doctrine of election. The Greek word translated “hated” means “to detest.” The Greek word for “loved” is “agapao.” This form of love is the active directing of one’s will to find joy in doing what is best for the one loved. If we look in Genesis at God’s dealing with Jacob, we see that clearly. Some say the word “hated” can mean to love someone or something less than someone or something else. If that were the case then why did Paul follow this verse with the following verses?
14 What shall we say then? Is there any unrighteousness with God? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.”  Romans 9:14-16 (LSB)
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You Are Not Under Law but Under Grace

The law is a vital component in God’s work in saving His people. It is the law that convicts both unbelievers and believers alike of sin. Unbelievers learn what sin is through the law. The law is not sin. Apart from the law, sin lies dead. Paul says that before he knew the law he was once alive apart from it. However, after he learned what it was to covet and that that was sin, then he found that sin very much alive within himself. Sin deceived him and brought him to condemnation because he was now guilty before the law for covetousness. The law is good and holy so it was not what caused Paul to be spiritually dead. No, sin did that. It was the law that revealed it. This brings conviction.

14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Romans 6:14-15 (LSB)
Most of the formative years of my Christian walk were spent in one church from February 1987 through February 2000.  During that time we had three pastors.  I was in some form of teaching for most of that time. One of the things that always came up when we studied the Old Testament was Romans 6:14-15. It was as if someone always had to make sure that we were not being legalistic. They cast the law as far from them and our church as the East is from the West. Is that how we are to treat God’s Law?
In Romans 6:14-15 we learn that Christians are not under law, but, instead, are under grace. What does this really mean? Does it mean that it is wrong to preach God’s Law under all circumstances?
1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is master over a person as long as he lives? 2 For the married woman has been bound by law to her husband while he is living, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. 3 So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man.4 So, my brothers, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were constrained, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. Romans 7:1-6 (LSB) 
Paul wrote this section of Romans to Jews for they ‘know the law.’ He states that the law is binding on a person only as long as he or she lives. Paul uses the example of a married woman. She is legally bound to her husband only as long as he lives. However, if the husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. On the other hand, if her husband is alive then she would be judged an adulteress if she lives with another man. She may remarry if her husband dies. What has this to do with the relationship of the law with Christians? Paul used this as an analogy to show that when a person becomes a Christian, he or she actually dies and is resurrected or reborn. They have died to the law through the body of Christ. Now instead of being bound to the law, they are bound to their Saviour. Before this first resurrection each of us were living in the flesh and controlled by our sinful passions, which, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. However, this resurrection unto life has released us from the law because we have died to that which held us captive.  In other words, the law can no longer condemn a believer.
7 What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! Rather, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law. For I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, worked out in me coveting of every kind. For apart from the Law sin is dead. 9 Now I was once alive apart from the Law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to lead to life, was found to lead to death for me. 11 For sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by working out my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful. Romans 7:7-13 (LSB)
Does the fact that the law no longer condemns believers mean that we should treat it as worthless or unimportant? I have received some rebuke from some for teaching from the Old Testament to Christians. Are they right to say that I am teaching from the irrelevant ‘Old Covenant?’ Paul very clearly teaches us here that the law is a vital component in God’s work in saving His people. It is the law that convicts both unbelievers and believers alike of sin. Unbelievers learn what sin is through the law. The law is not sin. Apart from the law, sin lies dead. Paul says that before he knew the law he was once alive apart from it. However, after he learned what it was to covet and that that was sin, then he found that sin very much alive within himself. Sin deceived him and brought him to condemnation because he was now guilty before the law for covetousness. The law is good and holy so it was not what caused Paul to be spiritually dead. No, sin did that. It was the law that revealed it. This brings conviction.
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Therefore, Brothers, be all the More Diligent to Make Your Calling and Election Sure…

Look at our motivation for denying self, taking up our crosses and following Christ! If we obey our Lord in our sanctification, working it out with fear and trembling then we will be putting to death our flesh and its sinful desires. In doing this, we become more and more Christlike because we are becoming Spirit-led. If we do this then we will have assurance. If we have this assurance then we will have joy and hope and will run the race set before us in the power of the Holy Spirit as we keep our eyes on our Lord. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

1 Simeon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ,To those who have received the same kind of faith as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the full knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the full knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 2 Peter 1:1-4 (LSB)
We have spent a large amount of time lately looking at forms of “Christianity” that are really forms of apostasy or heresy. We have also compared their false beliefs with those of other aberrant forms of our faith such as the seeker movement and “liberal Christianity.” There are others to be sure, but what has been amazing is how they all do the same thing. They elevate Man and demote God. They teach salvation by works instead of by grace through faith as a gift from God.
Is it possible to know whether we are genuine partakers of the divine nature and not simply religious converts? Let us look at the Apostle Peter’s understanding of this. If anyone would understand that our own efforts to please God are a total waste of time, Peter would be the man. He declared to our Lord on the night of His arrest that he would rather die with Him than desert Him. However, we all know that Peter not only deserted our Lord that night, he denied Him three times. From that failure and his later restoration by our Lord after He was resurrected, we know that we cannot please God with our own efforts. Any work that we do that is outside of His Grace is just works of the flesh and totally worthless.
Peter was restored to fellowship and service by our Lord. That should be an encouragement to us all. Who hasn’t failed and stumbled horribly? How do we feel when we do that? It should break our hearts and also drive home the point that we cannot walk before the face of God in our own strength. If we try, we will be constantly fighting a losing battle with our flesh, which is still enslaved to this lost and dying world. The only solution is to become Spirit-led. It is through becoming Spirit-led that the evidence of our new nature becomes apparent and the assurance that we have escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire becomes enhanced. (See 2 Peter 1:1-4 at the top of this post) Let us look at Peter’s counsel on what we will do if we are enslaved to the Spirit of God rather than to our own flesh.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these things are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the full knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For in whom these things are not present, that one is blind, being nearsighted, having forgotten the purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and choosing sure; for in doing these things, you will never stumble; 2 Peter 1:5-10 (LSB)
Our faith was a gift from God at our regeneration (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, our sanctification is according to the will of God; therefore, we are to grow more and more humble as our pride is put to death. This makes us become Christlike. Only genuine Christians can overcome the world and deny their flesh. Everyone can make temporary decisions to do something or stop doing something, but that is only the fruit of will power and is not only temporal, but outside of the grace of God.
What are we to do then? Peter tells us that we are to make every effort to supplement or “supply”  our faith. How do we do that and what is it we are to supply it? Again, the answer is to become Spirit-led. This breaks the chains of our fleshly desires and puts us into a mode of obedience to God that is by His strength and direction instead of our own. Again, this is only possible for the Spirit-led, but all who are partakers of the divine nature are able to do this because our sanctification is according to the will of God.
2 For you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. 7 For God did not call us to impurity, but in sanctification. 8 Consequently, he who sets this aside is not setting aside man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you. 1 Thessalonians 4:2-8 (LSB)
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Justification: The Source of Righteousness

Because God’s righteousness is eternal, the one who receives it from Him enjoys it forever. Paul makes it very plain throughout all of his epistles that this righteousness is never imparted to anyone on the basis of law keeping. No, it has been manifested apart from the law. What does it mean, “even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe”? Right standing with God is declared to all who through faith in Jesus Christ believe. (Romans 1:16,17, Ephesians 2:8,9)

19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are in the Law, so that every mouth may be shut and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law NO FLESH WILL BE JUSTIFIED IN HIS SIGHT, for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:19-20 (LSB)
The real Gospel is not entertaining. It is not “fun.” It is not hip. It is not cool. No, it is blunt and abrupt and not politically correct. It calls everyone a sinner with no exceptions and those who are justified by God are so on the basis of the righteousness of another while they remain completely undeserving. Not one of them can take credit for their own salvation. After they have been baptized into Christ, they remain “sinners saved by grace.” They are not perfect or perfected. They have not somehow become “better than” anyone else. They have the mark of the Saviour upon them. They belong to Him. They are His bondservants or slaves and He is their Lord, but in the interim until they go home to be with Him forever, they remain in this life both declared Holy and Righteous by God in their justification, but also still sinful and imperfect as they go through the fires of sanctification. What is the source of this righteousness since it is not by any works of the law that it comes as we read in the passage above? In fact, it is the through the law that comes the knowledge of sin. 
21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith, for a demonstration of His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:21-26 (LSB)
Because of the universal sinfulness of man, which we looked at the earlier posts, God has graciously provided a righteousness that comes only from Him on the basis of faith alone. It cannot be earned or deserved. In Greek, Paul begins v21 with Νυνὶ δὲ or “now but.” This is not a time reference. Instead, it refers to the place in Paul’s argument in which he changes from exposing the problem to giving us God’s solution.
The word “righteousness” in v21 is translated from the Greek word δικαιοσύνη (dikaiosunē). This is the state or condition of perfectly conforming to God’s perfect law and holy character. The root of this word is also the root of the word most often translated as “justified” or “justification” as we shall see. God is the source of this righteousness. It fulfills both the penalty and precept of God’s law.
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The Nature of God’s Word is to be Persecuted

The way unto life is not wide nor is it open to all forms of interpretation. There is only one way and that is through the narrow gate which sends us down the strait and narrow way which leads to life. What this means to our 21st Century minds, which are way too sophisticated (tongue in cheek) for the simplicity of the gospel way, is that we are in for a huge battle if we obey our Lord by walking the narrow path. This battle will bring sorrow and persecution because it is against the ways of the world and flies in the face of the form of Christianity that is predominate in our time. 

14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would abide, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17 This I command you, that you love one another.18 “If the world hates 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 15:14-19 (LSB)
I have been reading through the book of Acts over the last few weeks. It is very interesting to see the spread of Christianity as the Apostles obediently made disciples wherever they went. This spread was always accompanied by persecution. The hotter the persecution the more encouraged the brethren became. While that is not logical to the fallen mind, that is exactly how God grew His church. In the early 2nd century the bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp who was a disciple of the Apostle John, was brought to the Roman authorities and ordered to confess that Caesar is lord. Polycarp was eighty-six years old at this point. All he had to do was utter that statement as he offered a pinch of incense to Caesar, but he refused. He was martyred by fire.
What we must never forget when looking at these things that the result of Polycarp’s martyrdom, for instance, was that through it Christians who witnessed his stand were inspired to remain faithful. Again, this is illogical to the fallen mind, but my brethren, we must never forget that God’s ways are not our ways.
Let it not make thee despair neither yet discourage thee O reader, that it is forbidden thee in pain of life and goods or that it is made breaking of the King’s peace or treason unto His Highness to read the word of thy soul’s health. But much rather be bold in the Lord and comfort thy soul. Forasmuch as thou art pure and has an evident token through such persecution that it is the true word of God. Which word is ever hated of the world, neither was ever without persecution (as thou seest in all the stories of the Bible both of the New Testament and also of the Old) neither can be, no more than the sun can without his light. And forasmuch as contrarywise thou art sure that the Pope’s doctrine is not of God which (as thou seest) is so agreeable unto the world, and is so received of the world or which rather so receiveth the world and the pleasures of the world, and seeketh nothing but the possessions of the world, and authority in the world, and to bear a rule in the world, and persecuteth the word of God, and with all wiliness driveth the people from it, and with false and sophistical reasons maketh them afeared of it: yea curseth them and excommunicateth them, and bringeth them in belief that they be damned, if they look on it, and that is but doctrine to deceive men, and moveth the blind powers of the world to slay with fire, water, and sword all that cleave unto it. For the world loveth that which is his, and hateth that which is chosen out of the world to serve God in the spirit. As Christ saith to his disciples (John 15) if ye were of the world, the world would love his own. But I have chosen you out of the world and therefore the world hateth you.1
Knowing this, how is it that the Christian leaders in our time pursue just the opposite? What I mean is that the Bible clearly teaches and men such as Luther, Tyndale, Calvin, Knox, Owen, Edwards, et cetera affirmed that the Gospel is narrow in focus. It is not broad. The door unto salvation is not wide nor is it easy to find. Our Lord Himself said that few find it. These few are those chosen out of the world by God Himself (see the passage I placed at the top of this post).
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The Danger of Entering Temptation

Satan is shrewd. He knows that his victories come mostly by wearing us down. It is at these times that the temptation in our minds will be so severe that unless God does provide the way of escape, and we take it, then we will have entered into temptation.

9 “Pray, then, in this way:‘Our Father who is in heaven,Hallowed be Your name.10 Your kingdom come.Your will be done,On earth as it is in heaven.11 Give us this day our daily bread.12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.[For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]Matthew 6:9-13 (LSB)
In this post we will look at the danger of “entering temptation.” There is no doubt that most believers walk in defeat in this battle much of the time. On top of the guilt and self-abhorrence that are natural products of Christians sinning, there is also the battle fatigue that comes upon them which results in more guilt simply for being “tempted” in the first place. Of course, much of this can be blamed on faulty theology and an extreme drought in the area of teaching the Biblical truth about sin and temptation from our pulpits and Bible studies. To understand the danger of “entering temptation” we must first understand what it is and what it is not.
First, to our great relief, it is not merely to be tempted. Temptation will be our lot as long as we live in this age. It is impossible that Christians can be insulated from it that they would never be tempted. Satan is the god of this age. Within his power, the world is consumed with lust. Therefore, as long as we live in these bodies in this age, we will be tempted. Even our Lord Jesus Christ was tempted in every way that we are while in His earthly body. This made Him one like us except without sin. As hard as it is to grasp at times, the temptation we go through in this life is designed to conform us unto Christ’s likeness. In Luke 22:28 our Saviour called His ministry a time of trials or temptation. The Word of God in no place gives us a promise of absolute freedom from temptation. The best we have is found in the Lord’s Prayer that I placed at the top of this post. He commanded that we should pray for God to, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Instead of praying not to be tempted we are commanded to pray that we not “enter into temptation.”
Entering into temptation is something more than the ordinary work of Satan combined with our own lusts. We deal with this every day of our lives. No, entering into temptation is something out of the ordinary that is not in our every day walks before the Lord. It is something that comes upon us characteristically of being seduced unto sin, on one account or other, by the way of allurement or fear. I suppose those few sentences caused your spiritual ears and eyes to go wide open for this is not what we usually hear about the nature of this battle is it?
Entering into temptation is more than merely being conquered by a temptation or to commit sin. We may “enter into temptation” and yet not fall under temptation. Our great God can make a way of escape for us, when we are in it. He can break the snare as he makes Satan flee. He can build up our hearts to be more than conquerors even though we have entered into temptation. Our Lord Jesus Christ entered temptation, but was not in the least defeated by it. So what is the “danger of entering temptation? The danger comes when we are in it and become entangled.
9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.1 Timothy 6:9 (LSB)
When we are “entering temptation” to the point of compromising our walk so as to get what we desire it as a man falling into a pit where there are traps and snares that entangle him. Think of an insect that is allured into a Pitcher Plant. The deeper it goes into the flower the more danger it is in. At some point it will reach a point of no return where the angle of the tube of the flower is too steep. It will then tumble into bottom of the plant where there is accumulated rain water where it will drown and be digested. It becomes entangled. In our case, when we fall into the pit full of traps and snares in trying to feed our desire we are not quickly killed or destroyed, but we will soon find that we are entangled and can no longer free. We will be clueless as to how to become free from what is holding us. We have become enslaved to our own flesh.
13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.1 Corinthians 10:13 (LSB)
What a comfort this statement is! Even though we have become entangled and cannot find a way out in our own abilities, God knows how to deliver us. When we allow a temptation to enter us then we have entered into it. When it is alluring us we are still free from it. All temptations begin small. They may even appear benign, but are full of poison. When we partake of the allurement then the bargaining begins to go deeper. It may even continue small, just a small compromise, not a big deal…yet.
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