by Mike Ratliff
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. (Matthew 7:15-18 ESV)
I have been in many separate discussions with friends over that last several weeks and months pertaining to the seeming escalation of growing apostasy all around us. Some have lamented that it seems that there is no one who can be trusted anymore. I made the comment last night to a friend that it was becoming increasingly more difficult to trust the fruit of those who minister for money or whose livelihood depended upon popularity. This is really nothing new. Our Lord, in His Sermon on the Mount, told us to beware of false prophets who come to us in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. He told us how to recognize them. How? It is by their fruits. This has not changed. Therefore, when I sit at the feet of a teacher or preacher of God’s Word I look for this within what is taught and within how he lives and with whom he associates and how he conducts himself in this life. Those who are not really God’s man will be revealed in this because of their inconsistencies in godliness and their consistencies in worldliness because, “we will recognize them by their fruits.”
Disingenuous Christian leaders are extremely prevalent in our time. They are worldly. They are part of a different spiritual system than Christianity. The focus is not on Christ and His glory. Salvation is not seen as God’s work in building His Kingdom made up of His people for His own glory, but an earthly kingdom of people that is all about reclaiming the earth, making it a better place to live. The life of Christ is seen as a good example rather than the Jesus’ incarnation as a Man to become the propitiation to purchase a people for Himself. It is all backwards. This causes a focus in how church is done to be on a business-like approach to build large churches that appeal to the flesh using flashy shows, glitzy music, and videos along with loud music. Or, it is based on Eastern Mysticism not the Bible at all. It is not church for God’s glory, but church for non-Christians. This is the product of these false prophets. Their bad fruit is this false religious system they have created. It is unchristian. How does God develop good Christian leaders?
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. (John 15:1-4 ESV)
Genuine Christians are branches attached to the true vine that is Christ. These branches, if attached to the true vine, will produce godly fruit. If they do not then this proves they are not genuine. If they produce godly fruit, they are pruned so they will produce more fruit. All those truly attached to the vine are clean because of the Word Christ has spoken to them. They are exhorted to abide in Him as He abides in them. Genuine Christian leaders do this. They remain in the vine. They abide in Christ as He abides in them. No one can produce godly fruit unless they abide in Christ. They may indeed produce fruit that the world likes, but if they do this they do so by not abiding in Christ and this is ungodly fruit and those who are truly in Christ will recognize it as such.
5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (John 15:5-8 ESV)
Who is that really produces godly fruit that brings God glory and proves that a servant of God is truly genuine? It is Christ. The servant who abides in Christ is the one who bears this fruit produced by Christ. Oh, men like Rick Warren can become the head of a huge earthly religious empire, but what is the fruit? Is it godly fruit? We have looked at the gospel preached in those churches and it is not biblical so those conversions and transformations he is continually boasting about are bogus so that fruit is as well. That is man-made fruit for it is works based or synergistically based salvation, which is not valid. Jesus says right here that apart from Him, we can do nothing. That means that all of our efforts to serve and save our selves or preach the gospel are a total waste of time outside of our Lord being totally in control of it all. This is why we can ask for whatever we wish and receive it if we are fully abiding in Christ in His full control. What a great place to be! In fact, only those who live and minister this way avoid the lake of fire according to v6.
Who can we trust? We can trust only those who abide in Christ and prove it by bearing godly fruit in complete obedience to Him. Yes, I know that we all sin and we (who are in Christ) are all on that path of sanctification so there is room for grace here. The key is abiding. Where is our focus? Are we ministering for self or for Christ and His glory? Are we being Christians because it is “cool” or because God has effectually called us? If it is the former then, sorry that is a one-way ticket to the lake of fire. If it is the latter, then you are my brother or sister in Christ. If this is true then I adjure you to devote the rest of your life to abiding in our Lord and Saviour for His glory alone. Forget following men. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Soli Deo Gloria!