A Tree and Its Fruit

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!

18 thoughts on “A Tree and Its Fruit

  1. Mike, you are right.Piper does access the feelings/emotion area a lot. I have been in a discussion with a Brother over this Brother’s view that we need a holistic approach to the Gospel. That Christ wants us to be healed physically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually and all these must be in balance to be healthy. I have a problem with that thinking as I see it as therapeutic and based in sociology/psychological sphere–of which those spheres are Man’s attempt at knowledge apart from God. They are so called sciences that believe that Man’s problem is social or mental. They have a view of the perfect man. So does that mean that Moses, Jeremiah, Elijah, even Paul were not healthy? Paul said in my weakness I am strong and I was given a thorn in the flesh for a reason.

    We need to see men that have fruits that come from Gospel living—not steps to a happy life or a fulfilled life, a rounded life. Obey God and let God be big and we small. That way we will lean on him if we are rich or poor, healthy or sick, sane or troubled. Our life is in Him. He is not an add on to fulfill us or give us joy. He is our joy.


  2. What has gotten in to John Piper asking for Rick W to be at his conference? Everyone knows R.W. is a false teacher! Is there anyone out there anymore who is rock solid on their doctrine? Sheesh! This mysticism stuff is getting to be rediculous too. You are SO right Mike, either you are on the narrow road or you are on the wide….there is no in between. Good post.


  3. Brother Mike,
    I attended a reformed Baptist Church this past Sunday with my brother and sister-in-law {I have been in a Southern Baptist Church for the past seven years}. What a difference!
    As I listened to the sermon, I kept saying in my thoughts, ‘Finally, a preacher who ‘gets it’! The preacher made this statement during his sermon, ‘only in America can you claim to be a Christian and not have to prove it’. How true, this goes on all day every day in my old church. We have women in the congregation who have been married and divorced multiple times, with NO church discipline taking place. There’s gossip, pride, materialism, and phoniness dripping out of many who gather there every Sunday. One member has a daughter who’s an ‘ordained minister’ in another denomination, a few have husbands who are Roman Catholics. One lady says she respects her husband’s religion and he respects hers, they get along fine! Talk about compromise! The sad part is the preacher knows this, I’ve had many talks with him, and yet, he says/does nothing. He is a nice man, but he lacks the boldness, power, and fear needed to preach.
    The prayers are always centered on the temporal, praying for healing, jobs and the like. Don’t get me wrong, these things are important, BUT, the greatest need people have is to be saved!
    The Southern Baptists’ loyalty to both denomination and Lifeway publications is ungodly and borders idolatry. As you’ve already mentioned, the arminian view is one they hold fast to tooth and nail. Their ‘decisionism’ is more set than concrete. It is heartbreaking to see these folks so caught up in deception; many of them are well over 70 years of age. Time is not on their side.

    The reformed aren’t without issues as well, as you’ve pointed out. Their loyalty to famous preachers is scary, not to mention sinful. The latest to endorse Rick Warren is none other than Steve Camp, you can read that here-http://christianresearchnetwork.com/?p=17655

    I believe we should not categorize ourselves the way we do, it breeds sin {pride, boasting};either you are a born again follower of Christ or you aren’t.

    Thank you for writing this piece, may the Lord be praised. We must always speak the truth, in love, and with boldness.



  4. Thank you for your clear teaching here. Good words to ponder today as I work on our farm. God bless you.


  5. Thank Fred. You have it right brother. That holistic view of the Gospel is a trap unto works righteousness brother thinly disguised with a layer of piety. Run from it. That is what the Emergents are teaching and it is not the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I challenge anyone to find that teaching in the Word of God.


  6. I am glad you pointed that out Lyn. You said it a bit better than I did. Yes, the Reformed part of the Church has issues too and we are seeing that it is under attack now as well. The SBC is a crumbling mass of confusion. Is this what awaits the Reformed sector. I pray not. Yes, either we are believers in the Lord Jesus or we are not. That’s it. I am Reformed because those churches in our area were the only ones left who had not compromised. Now we are seeing cracks there too. When we meet our Lord face to face he isn’t going to ask us to quote the Westminster Confession of Faith. He will either recognize us as His or He won’t.


  7. There is a perspective of the Piper/Warren fiasco that is confusing.
    We are instructed to “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” Acts 20:28. This is an extremely serious and sober charge to the shepherds.

    Why have the other shepherds invited to this “conference” not come out with a public proclamation that they “would refuse to share the platform with Mr. Warren”? These upright, godly men with countless years of obediently following our Savior. If we were invited to share the stage with someone who was controversial would we not openly and quickly decline the invitation to preserve our reputation and ministry?

    This would be based on “Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God;” 1 Corinthians 10:32 and “giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited.” 2 Corinthians 6:3

    Piper has caused an upset in the body of Christ which is apparent to all (no matter what side you fall on), and is a stumbling block for those who believe that Warren violates their Christian conscience and their obedience to protect the flock and to contend for our Lord and Savior. This is disturbing and confusing to sheep.


  8. That’s right Mary, and in my humble opinion I believe this is an indication that he is deliberately attempting to cause this rift. I do not understand his motives. I do not understand the motives behind those others who will be in the conference who have not declined because of Warren being there. I have heard some of them attempt to justify their position by saying that Warren is really evangelical, but just too pragmatic. This ignores the very clear evidence of his compromise with Contemplative Prayer and Spiritual Formation and all of that. From this, I have to conclude that we are witnessing a case of deception and a growing spiritual blindness that is absolutely amazing. God is allowing this for He is sovereign. The elect are being tested. Will we stand firm or will be compromise too?


  9. That’s right Mary, and in my humble opinion I believe this is an indication that he is deliberately attempting to cause this rift. I do not understand his motives. I do not understand the motives behind those others who will be in the conference who have not declined because of Warren being there. I have heard some of them attempt to justify their position by saying that Warren is really evangelical, but just too pragmatic. This ignores the very clear evidence of his compromise with Contemplative Prayer and Spiritual Formation and all of that. From this, I have to conclude that we are witnessing a case of deception and a growing spiritual blindness that is absolutely amazing. God is allowing this for He is sovereign. The elect are being tested. Will we stand firm or will we compromise too?


  10. Hi Mike,

    Thank you for warning us and showing us what is going on with this. It is confusing, but God warns about being deceived and we do need to take care that no man deceive us. We need to be watchful and test things and that is what you are doing. We put on the full armor of God and know what His word says and this is our protection.

    What do some of our Christian leaders/teachers/pastors say about Christ? To “try” Him for 60 days? That He’ll make everything great for you if…..? To “experience” His “presence” by meditation? All these things are shockingly denigrating to His holiness when you really think about what is being said. Well, anyway, that’s what I want to know about someone. What do they say about the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Praying for strength for you, Mike.


  11. Amen to all the above comments. An interesting observation is that these church growth methods, and following of “popular leaders” through the advent of the internet, makes this an ‘instant’ global concern. I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 3: 1-7…about carnal sectarianism..
    “so then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but GOD who gives the increase”!


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