"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 every 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)
We often hear people reference the notion of judging good and bad fruit but it is often misapplied. We hear this in relation to ordinary people. Maybe someone we are considering marrying, or going into business with. The true context is above and it shows that Jesus was talking about false teachers. Beloved, the world sells us on shades of grey. That everything is not black and white. The truth is everything is black and white. We may not like the truth. It may brush up against our secret sins but it does not change. Look at the definitive nature of what Jesus is teaching here. Every healthy tree bears good fruit. Every single one of them. Every diseased tree bears bad fruit. Every single one of them. There is simply no way that a healthy tree can bear bad fruit and there is no plausible way for a diseased tree to bear good fruit. Since the context is false teachers the good fruit must be the preaching of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and the bad fruit must be those that deviate from it. This is not open for debate beloved. Jesus left no wiggle room at all. There are no healthy trees bearing bad fruit. A true teacher of the Gospel simply would not traffic in what is false.
The next important point is that we thus recognize what is false by the teaching itself. This may seem obvious but the first line of defense from people who support false teachers is their sincerity. Or their compassion. Or their works in this world. Nearly every disagreement I have had with those who defend false teachers usually contains the defense that I do not know their heart. Oh but I do. Jeremiah assures me their heart is as wickedly deceptive above everything else in this world; just like mine. That is why we do not rely upon our heart. I do not rely upon my heart or my intentions because I know my heart will lie to me to get what it wants. That is why we rely upon the Bible as our plumb line. Along the same line, our intentions do not mean anything to God. It does not matter if Joel Osteen has convinced himself that he is really doing the Lord's work. He is not. It does not matter if Jan Crouch believed she was doing what God wanted. She was not. We can tell that by the fruit, or the teaching, of the people she promoted. We can tell by the butchering of the Word of God she trafficked in while taking money from the sheep of God.
If it is not their hearts or intentions, it is usually the litany of earthly works they engage in. Sure it is nice that they give something back considering how much they steal but that misses the overall point. Sure it is nice to build a playground for orphans in a third world country but that does not balance out the countless souls you have led away from Christ. Remember as Jesus Himself taught, there are only two choices for us:
Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Matthew 12: 30 (ESV)
So it is great that you provide free backpacks to kids in the neighborhood of your church but it has no relevance to the doctrine you preach. We ought to be found doing good works in addition to preaching correctly. So often we get it wrong. We think that the buying of the backpacks or the building of the playground are the good fruit. No beloved. Those are certainly good works, which should be a result of being saved but they are not fruit in the context of the key verses. Good fruit is that the teaching lines up with Scripture. Why? Because the Bible teaches us that only the real Gospel has the power of God to save man. Thus if you preach the real Gospel you are gathering unto Him but if you do not -- you are scattering. Jan Crouch's fruit makes it abundantly clear. She lived a life scattering people away from Jesus Christ by perpetrating false gospels for money.
The last takeaway from the key verses is not pleasant beloved. It is not seeker friendly or purpose driven. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. The Bible says that those who are in teaching and preaching ministries will be judged by a higher standard. This is that standard beloved. It is why this must be written, no matter how uncomfortable we all might be in dealing with it. To claim to represent the Gospel and then not represent it is a terrible folly. It is like you have the keys to the kingdom of heaven and you refuse to give them to people. It is like being a doctor who discovers cancer in their patients and tells them to just think happy thoughts. It is cruel. It is negligent. We will be held to account.
Please understand that this gives me no pleasure. I pray that Jan Crouch realized her folly at the end by truly repenting and calling out to the Christ she had scattered from for so many decades. His forgiveness would be even that gracious. But there is a responsibility we have as ministers of the true Gospel to speak the truth even if it makes us uncomfortable. There are still millions of people who tune into TBN every single day and are bombarded with one heretic after another. Millions strolling down the broad path that leads to destruction and it is Jan Crouch who helped pave that path. Do we pray for her family? Absolutely. Do we pray that she rests in peace through true repentance in her final hours? Absolutely. Do we tell the truth though about her life so that others might realize the truth before it is too late for them? Absolutely. I understand if that makes you uneasy. I am sure you can regale me with tales of her heart and her intentions or point me to many temporal good deeds she had done in her life. None of that matters compared to decades of scattering people away from Christ by supporting some of the most despicable and damnable heresies this world has ever known. For Jan Crouch, the die is cast. For her victims however there is still time to gather them back to Jesus Christ through the only thing that can save them. The true Gospel.