I hear this line often: "We're not supposed to be fruit inspectors, you know!" People say this a lot too: "Judge not lest ye be judged!"
Well...actually...we are supposed to inspect fruit and we are supposed to judge.
The word 'judge' here in the way we have come to use it is kind of an unfortunate one. It doesn't mean to judge unto condemnation. Only God does that. It means to discern by carefully detecting whether a person's words line up with the bible and whether their character is bearing good fruit from a good tree.
And yet when people are confronted by a statement or claim that this preacher or that teacher is false, and back it up with the bible, they invariably allege verbal misconduct on the speaker's part and do the very thing they say we should not do: judge the speaker. Ever consider the irony, rather the hypocrisy? "I judge that you are wrong for judging!" LOL. Here is what the Matthew verse actually says in context:
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye." (Matthew 7:1-5).
1. In that set of verses, Jesus gave a procedure for us to employ for when we DO judge. Not 'if" we judge, "when" we judge. First is to make sure we have repented to Jesus. Are we ourselves are in good standing with Him? Have we let sin pile up in our lives? That is the log. When we view others through the filter of our own unrepented sins it colors our perspective and partially blocks our view.
So the first part of the process is to examine ourselves to see if we are a hypocrite. Once that is completed, presumably through prayer, repentance, biblical study and perhaps fasting, then we are clear to judge. The Greek word is translated judge...or decide. To come to a choice, make a decision about something.
To the people who say we should not judge, what you are really saying is that we should never make a decision about anything that we come into contact with in our Christian walk. Not hardly!
2. Other times, people will look at the fact that there seems to be fruit and decide that person must be good based on that assessment alone. But that, too, is judging. Irony alert. People do this especially when there seems to be a LOT of fruit, or fruit has been bearing out for a long time, like Teresa of Calcutta's work with the poor for 50 years. But what are fruits? Are fruits simply good things that people do? Here is the scripture that deals with the subject:
"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits." (Matthew 7:15-20).
So now that we have cleared the log from our eye, the second point is that we look for fruits- AND we look at the tree! How do we do that?
3. First, inspect the tree. In Maine we had a 100 foot tall pine tree leaning over our house. We suspected it was dead, but of course we couldn't see the inside of it. And we didn't want to tear it down if it wasn't dead. We hired an arborist to come give an assessment, and he said that the tree was dying. There were symptoms that in his expertness told him so, such as the leaning over, the mounding at the roots, the sandy soil that wasn't nutritious, among other things. But only when we had removed the tree and exposed the inside did we see the truth: the tree had heart rot. The entire inside was rotten. Practically only the bark was holding the tree up at all! So decide if the tree is good or evil.
An application of that inspection would be the book The Shack. The Shack is said to be good fruit by man, evidence of a good work in bringing the love of Jesus to many millions. But what tree did the apparently fruitful book come from? William P. Young.
Mr Young does not believe Jesus is the sacrificial substitutionary atonement for sins. He is actually a Universalist. This is an evil tree. I am not saying he is evil, but that the false doctrine that he holds in his heart leads to heart-rot and a rotten heart cannot produce good fruit. No matter how healthy the fruit looks on the outside, it will contain stuff that you don't want to ingest. Let's take a look--
4. Inspect the fruit the tree bears. Really! Well, would you eat a piece of fruit that you haven't judged as healthy? Look here. This is my apple tree. I walked out there and looked to see if there were fruits yet. Yay! There are! Mmm, that red one looks lovely.
But I don't do that. Before I ingest anything, I make sure it is healthy and won't harm me. Don't you look at what you eat, first? So I inspected the fruit. How did I do this? I got closer. I looked at it from every angle. I took my time. And...oh, no!
The other side of the red apple was rotten. I don't know how or why, but it was not safe to ingest. Is it a bad tree? It might be. Maybe it is dying. Maybe its interior is rotten. I read the first 75 pages of The Shack. I thought it was well-written and had a good premise: how to deal with horrible things that happen to children. But as I read, alarms went off. I inspected the theology behind the book, sin isn't punished, God is a woman, The Spirit is a woman, the bible is dusty and outdated, there are many ways to heaven...and I realized that this was not a fruit of Mr Young's that I wanted to ingest. The tree isn't good.
We are not God and only He can see the heart rot. But we can examine the external symptoms that lead to a tree's death and decide, or judge, whether the thing is living or dying. I won't eat that apple! I am glad I am a fruit inspector!
4. Where is the fruit? He is the true vine. (John 15:1). Apart from Him we can do nothing. "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. 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." (John 15:4-5).
Sometimes fruit falls off the tree and rolls away.You are being a fruit inspector when you see this and you determine it is not good fruit.
I think everyone would agree that is bad fruit lying on the ground there. It isn't attached to the branch, that's why. It shriveled up and got no living water and it is a dead fruit now. Oh, but don't judge that poor fruit! It couldn't help shriveling up! Ack.
There is a man in Australia today who says he is Jesus Christ, returned, and his wife is Mary Magdalene. (More on him in a later post). The duo bought up land and they have followers who bought land and they are making a compound. The cult now has half a dozen branches in Australia, in branches in half a dozen other nations, too, including the US (Brevard County FL and Las Vegas). Would you ignore his claims that he is Jesus by saying, "But he gives to the needy! He organizes food distribution to tornado victims! He is so nice! Who are you to inspect his fruits! Judge not!" No, you would not say that, (I hope). So when you reject the Australian man as Jesus, you are judging and you are inspecting fruits.
What I am getting at is that the closer one looks like the real thing the more outcry we get about not inspecting their fruits and not judging them. But we must inspect all who claim to come in the name of the Lord! Not just the easy ones like The Shack and not just the wacky ones like the Australian Jesus.
But people like Billy Graham and Beth Moore and Jentezen Franklin and Joel Osteen and Joseph Prince do seemingly good things, and seemingly bear fruit, but they say things that indicate they are not doing them in the strength of the branch and in fact are apart from the vine. Their fruits, after a while, will be shown to be the wasp-ridden, bug-infested seemingly good fruit that is on the ground even if initially they looked healthy.
Like this one.
It looks good. It might be good to eat. It hasn't been off the branch for very long. It is still coasting on the nutrients it had absorbed while it had been attached. But I better check it out anyway. You know that the minute fruit is off the tree, bugs and wasps and worms will be attracted to it. I sure don't want to bite into a wasp! I will inspect this fruit.
Oh no! I'm so glad I inspected this, and I judge it not fit to eat. The fruit was borne but it went away from its branch. There are harmful things on this fruit I was not aware of until I looked closer.
Just because someone ministers, sacrifices, or helps does not mean automatically that they are good. Further inspection is necessary. Is the tree healthy? Is the tree bearing fruit? Is the fruit that it bears consistent with the kind of tree that it is? Is the fruit good, or rotten? Is the fruit on the branch or off the branch? These are the inspections we need to make.
In case you're still clinging to the notion that we 'judge not' and we aren't fruit inspectors, 1 Corinthians 6:2-3 says, “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?”
We are warned to beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but "inwardly they are ravening wolves." They have heart-rot that is not evident at first. How could we “beware” and how could we know they're "false prophets” if we don't judge? The Lord asking us to judge. Do so carefully, respectfully, prayerfully, lovingly, and not hypocritically, but do judge (decide). And to judge you have to inspect first.