By Mike Ratliff
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.” (Matthew 12:33-35 ESV)
Despite what the Post-Modern paradigm holds, there are only two groups of people. There are genuine Christians and everyone else. There is truth and everything else is not the truth. I was once reprimanded by a postmodernist apologist for being too black and white. He stated, “After all, Christianity is so “broadly defined” there is room under its big tent for everyone so why are you being so narrow?” Our Jesus did not teach like that. He taught that the righteous believed righteous things and taught righteous things while the unrighteous did the opposite. He even showed us how we can tell a false believer or teacher from one who is genuine.
For most of my walk as a Christian until 2006, I was a Southern Baptist. I served in several churches as a Bible Teacher and Deacon. The overwhelming measuring method of authenticity that I witnessed being applied in those churches was what a person professed. Early on when some older more mature Christian leaders were in control, I remember some church discipline coming into play when a member left his wife and moved in with his girl friend. As a teacher, we were expected to stay within the boundaries of the Baptist Faith and Message. The most heated discussions I can remember in those early days had to do with Eschatology and some of the militant Arminians in our Church being upset because we had some John MacArthur Videos in our Library.
On the other hand, Southern Baptists are mostly inconsistent Calvinists. That is, they believe in something called Once Saved Always Saved, but the Doctrines of Grace are either not understood or ignored or both. When a person appeared to apostatize, leaving the fellowship, they were still considered Christians even when they went hard after the world. I remember trying to get some to see that 1 John 2:19 would probably apply to those situations real well, but was told to just keep quiet about it.
What about when a major Christian leader has a blow out of some kind. This happens. Some get caught in adultery. Some commit other sexual sins and get caught. These are serious moral issues and I think they are signs that that person should be examined closely to be given a chance to repent. If they do not then they need to be removed from their position and disciplined. On the other hand, what about those major Christian leaders who start compromising with other religions such as with Contemplative Prayer, which is another form of Transcendental Meditation? What about those who know this is going on yet not only do not reprimand them for it, but extend the right hand of fellowship and even bring that person in closer to their ministry as John Piper did with Rick Warren? I suggest you listen to this radio show for more information, including the call-in guests.
It was as I listened to that show today that the pieces started falling together for me in what is going on with these once solid-appearing superstar Christian leaders who are now apostatizing. After that, I had a discussion with a friend about this very thing and I sent her this statement:
“First, Piper’s stuff is mostly about feelings. Go look at what he writes about and what he preaches. He tries to wrap it in good theology, but he is still all about emotions or feelings. Now, take that same wrapper and think of Driscoll. It is the same thing, but with a different focus. What this tells us is that the right theological confession is NOT the marker of authentication. It is not the fruit we are to look for. Christ says that we will know them by their fruit. Well, now we know that it isn’t this don’t we? So, this fruit is all about faithfulness to the doctrines Christ taught with ZERO compromise. Just because someone has the right confession does not make them our brother or sister in Christ. We have to remember that. It is those who remain with us who are true.”
The quote from Christ that I gave my friend is from Matthew 7:20. Let us look at that passage in context.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)
The gate that leads to salvation, spiritual life, is narrow, but the way that most go is wide and easy. That way leads to destruction. Notice also that those who actually find the narrow gate are few in number compared to those who go the easy way. However, never forget, many who take that wide, easy way that leads to destruction are absolutely sure that they are on the narrow way.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15-20 ESV)
Notice that Christ goes right from describing this narrow and wide gate contrast in vv13-14 to warning us that we will encounter false prophets who come to us in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. How are we to recognize these false teachers, false Christians leaders? It is by their fruits. He is emphatic that false prophets will produce fruit that will enable us to detect them as false. What is this fruit? Well, if they teach what is contrary to Christ’s own doctrines then that marks them right away doesn’t it? There are tons out there like that. The ones that cause us confusion are the ones with the right confession or profession, but who do things that mark them as unfaithful. There you have it. Unfaithfulness is a bad fruit. Using your position as a major teacher in the visible Church to teach false doctrine is bad fruit, but if you line yourself up with all the right doctrines then fellowship with those who don’t and allow them to teach at your conferences, et cetera, then what you have is bad fruit.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)
This is the horrible result of those who think they are on the narrow path and think they have gone in through the narrow gate and hold all the right confessions, but who compromise and produce bad fruit because they have been deceived. They have not entered by the narrow gate. If they had, they would be genuine and would be faithful and would produce genuine fruit that would mark them as genuine. It is a very sobering thing my brethren. If you are aware of a people blindly following these men who have compromised like this, please warn them that they are following apostates.
Soli Deo Gloria!