'Christian' cults, Australian churches, biblical discernment, Biblical truth, Burt Westbrook, Caboolture Church, Charismatic church, Christianity, cult, cults, false Christianity, false doctrine, God's grace, God's mercy, Meg Westbrook, Obed Mission, Pentecostal church, warning to Christians
Introduction by Sherryn @ The Narrowing Path
This past year the Lord has brought many precious brothers and sisters in Christ into my life, through this blog, through a new church family and through other avenues that have surprised me. These people have blessed me in many ways, and I have learned a great deal from them about the holy, Almighty God we serve and what it means to live a life submitted to Christ. Through them I have experienced God’s grace and the stunning truth of unity in Christ that our Lord promises his people, as scattered as we are. The author of the following testimony, Austin Hellier, is no exception. His life and witness continue to richly bless me, and I rejoice at the work the Holy Spirit is doing in his life.
I am honoured to share with you Austin’s story…a fellow Australian and more importantly, a brother in Christ. Austin’s journey from conversion, through times of deception and even manipulation, has brought him into a mature and abiding relationship with our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Chris. He has a deep love for and sound knowledge of God’s Word, and a sincere love and protectiveness for the Body of Christ. Austin tells his story with honesty, humour and an amazing respect for the many people who have touched his life over the years. Even when he speaks of those who were less than loving or honest, he is more charitable than I could ever be. His writing is a joy to read, and his message a much needed one.
Austin’s experiences show how even the most earnest person seeking God can be led astray into serious error. He has an extraordinary memory for facts, and has meticulously researched the history of charismatic and Pentecostal churches in Australia, and in Queensland in particular. Although he started writing his testimony in March 2011, the Holy Spirit had already begun to move powerfully in Austin’s life in the preceeding months of that year. His experiences, God-given wisdom and insight into the state of the Church in these latter days is a gift to the Body of Christ and to me.
I pray that Austin’s testimony is a blessing to you. If you have any questions for Austin, please leave them here on the blog so he can answer them. I look forward to posting guest articles from Austin here on the blog in the future.
BIO: Austin Hellier
Austin was born in 1959 in Newcastle NSW. He was raised a Catholic, attending St. Patrick’s primary school in Swansea NSW, from 1965 until 1971, and spent his high school years at St. Pius Xth College, Adamstown, graduating at year 10 in 1975. He came to Christ at a church youth outreach one Friday night during August of 1978. He was 18 years old at the time of his conversion.
Following several jobs from 1976 to 1979, Austin got his breakthrough into the Electronics trade in 1980, when he attended Tighes Hill Tech for that whole year, as a full-time student. Austin had spent his entire upbringing living in his beloved Swansea town on the shores of Lake Macquarie, until he reached 21 years of age.
In mid 1981, Austin gained employment with the former Telecom Australia (now Telstra), working for Trunk Network Engineering for the next five years. In his final year, Austin also attended both of Telecom’s Sydney based training schools (the first one at Stratfield-Homebush and the second one based in North Sydney,) and finished that training course in June 1986.
One month later, he resigned from Telecom and moved to Queensland where he was to live until 1994. During that time, Austin turned his ‘electronic’ hand towards the business machine trade, relying on his past training and experience in communications, which was to stand him in good stead.
Leaving Brisbane in 1994 for Alice Springs, Austin was to spend the next 4 years, working partly as a public servant with the former CES, and also as a project officer with the Institute for Aboriginal Development. He left Alice in February of 1998 for Adelaide. Austin’s 2 year stay was to bring him in contact with the controversial ‘laughing revival’, and to also make him some very good friends.
He was to move on twice more (Shellharbour and Port Kembla) and finally settle back in Brisbane once more in March of 2005. Austin has lived in more than a dozen towns and cities, and work at more than a dozen kinds of employment as well as undergoing several full time and part time studies in electronics and the humanities. He is an experienced electronics tech, and a qualified youth worker as well.
He now lives in retirement in the inner city area of Brisbane, Queensland Australia, and welcomes any genuine inquiries in relation to his testimony.
Beware Of False Prophets… Part 1
By Austin Hellier © 2013
Cleaning Out the House
I firmly believe in the principle that Paul espouses in 1Corinthians 15:54 – 55, where he teaches us: “first the natural and then the spiritual,” which applies during these major cleanup jobs. If we begin by cleaning out our ‘natural’ house, the Holy Spirit then takes this as a willingness to change, and then begins His work in our lives afresh – cleaning up our ‘spiritual’ lives (acts) for us (His sanctifying work – more on this later.) This work begins as an act of grace by almighty God. Over time, the responsibility then becomes ours, as we begin to walk by faith, and appropriate the good things that God has for us. We learn of justification, righteousness and the principles of the faith walk with God, anew. The Holy Spirit then becomes a ‘person’ to us, in every sense of the word. He leads and guides us into all truth (present truth that we need for our daily walk) and brings His convicting hand upon our hearts if and when we do err.
Cleaning Up the House
The Holy Spirit wants to do a sanctifying work inside His people, the people of God, but we must sense His calling to this task. There’s no point in the Lord burning up all the dross, unless we can first identify it, and give our permission to our loving Father God to commence the work. I can clean up my lounge room, my bedroom, and all the intervening cupboards and drawers, but it is only God that can clean up the inside of me (heart, mind and spirit) and because He has given me the element of free will, I must decide that this is what I want for my life. I have learned over many years, that the Holy Spirit is a gentleman. He never forcefully interferes in our lives, but at the right time, He intervenes. An intervention (in this current context) is where the Lord comes into our lives in an act of grace, in order to make us an offer. EG: “Austin, I will clean up your act (for now) if you will clean up your house.” Sounds more like a deal or a swap, but that’s just what God was saying to me some two months ago.
The wheelie bins full of junk have long since become landfill around the greater Brisbane area, but God has only just begun His sanctifying work in my life. I say sanctifying, (set apart for service) and not ‘sanctimonious’ as this is no fake religious experience I’m talking about. First of all, I had to embrace one of the first six principles (Hebrews 6:1-2) of the Christian faith – ‘repentance from dead works’. In order to do this effectively, I had to begin once again, to exercise myself in principle number two – ‘faith towards God’. We must come to the place where we firmly believe that we are nothing, that we can do nothing (of ourselves, in our own strength) and that the inner workings of the Holy Spirit may well remain a mystery for the time being. I do not advocate becoming a couch potato, while the triune Godhead does all of the work! There are certainly things for us to do. Keep loving Jesus through it all, and ALLOW Him to keep on loving us, despite our failures and short comings. Secondly, keep ourselves in the flow. “If you walk in the Spirit, you won’t fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” Sounds like I’m stating the obvious doesn’t it? Well, it’s only obvious if you have the need, and can see the need in your own life. I had to exercise faith once more, in simple matters. This is not Sunday School material – these are the first steps towards God Almighty – this is the beginnings of “life, and life more abundantly,” just as Jesus promised us! I felt like an old piece of furniture that was being restored, one step at a time.
Out In the Cold
After having been involved in three churches here in Brisbane over the last six years, and having watched all of them fold, I was left out in the cold for a while, not being able to find one that was close to home, or that seemed to suit my needs at the time. I spent the next two years “fellowshipping with myself” and occasionally inviting the Lord to the ‘meeting’, on and off. I got by with some offerings from AM radio preachers, my Bible, my guitar and some booklets that some Christian friends tossed my way every now and then. I felt like Gideon, hiding in the cave, with just one more handful of grain to sustain me. Offering a sacrifice of praise on the guitar certainly works to a degree, but a coal that has been out of the fire for some time will eventually go out. Fellowship is the key!
I know how Elijah felt by the brook Cherith too, being fed of the ravens, and quenching my thirst from the ‘water of the word’. I finally found a church just two blocks down the road from where I live, in the inner city suburb of New Farm. No, it’s not one of those giant ‘Mega churches’ – this church meets underneath someone’s house several times a week. “Oh NO!” you say – not one of those dreaded ‘house churches?’ Well, yes – sort of. It’s not one of those ‘no name’ house churches as such (God bless them, I love them all) it’s a ‘Pentecostal’ church (for want of a better word) where the “revival fire” burns bright, the fellowship is sweet, and the older couple who oversee it love God and His people, and are mature and experienced people.
God is leading His people towards revival, and it’s so prevalent in and around Brisbane lately, you can smell it in the air. Young people are getting baptised (8 and 9 year old kids) who have the desire to follow Jesus Christ in obedience, and who have a basic understanding of what they are doing before God and man. Others are being set free from a lifetime of sin, sickness and an early grave through the work of more than a dozen street ministries. Some of us who have walked with the Lord for a long time, and have been out of fellowship with His body for a while, are progressively being restored to a fullness of faith that they have not known for years – and I am such a one. I was saved some 33 years ago, into an evangelical youth group way back in August of 1978. There was a different kind of ‘revival’ going on back then, mainly amongst the youth of the town. Amidst a backdrop of drugs, witchcraft, bikie gangs and booze filled parties, Austin Hellier finally found his way to Jesus Christ one Friday night, way back in 1978.
There were more than 40 young people who came to that evangelical church over a period of some months. The church had a weekday program for the unemployed called “U-ACT” putting the emphasis on you – yes you, all those little teenage ‘darlings’ who were on the dole by choice and who, from time to time caused mayhem and havoc in the town. Their Friday night outreach was called ‘Open House’, and the idea was to feed woeful youth from U-ACT to Open House, over a period of time by subtle acts of personal evangelism. It worked a treat too. This youth group consisted of some 45 minutes worth of board and table games and interaction (gossip, practical jokes, occasional barneys, etc) and then followed by a half hour of solid spiritual input. Songs would be sung, and a short testimony or two would be told. Then the main message would be delivered by a local or imported preacher come evangelist.
I spent some eighteen months all up in U-ACT before going to Open House, and on one such Friday night, an evangelist by the name of Larry Nicholson came our way, and ‘preached Christ unto us’. I went out into the then empty kitchen, and prayed the silent prayer that others were then praying out in the back room, and got gloriously “born again”. I kept it a secret until the following Sunday morning, where I told the minister what had happened. He was overjoyed. I found out later on, that my mother had been on her knees for the previous two years (having been saved herself in a weekly ladies bible study), and that my salvation had been well undergirded with prayer by those godly women. Six months after my initial conscious decision to follow Jesus Christ, and leave the world behind, I was water baptised myself, at the tender age of 18. This occurred down at Caves Beach, where two pranksters (good brethren really), took me out into the surf, said the words of baptism over me, and then left me totally surprised by a wave set that dumped me head over heels all the way from the shore break to the edge of the wet sand. My ‘bumpy ride’ of Christian pilgrimage had begun.
A few months after that, I was baptised in the Holy Spirit and received ‘gifts of the Spirit’ for ministry, which the Lord would use later on. The next twelve months or so was spent ‘visiting’ the various churches in my area. From the Baptist youth group, to the Presbyterian church, to the Four Square Pentecostals, to the Catholic Charismatics, to the Salvation Army girls, to the Independent Baptist folks at the Mark’s Point Mission. I fellowshipped with them all. I could also see very clearly at that very early stage, that no one church group had it all together, but collectively, they did have it all. I could not understand back then, why they were so divided. So much for Jesus’ prayer to the Father ‘that they may be one as you and I are one’. People began to ‘press me for a decision’ – I innocently told them that I had already made a ‘decision’ to follow Jesus Christ some 12 months before.
I just wanted to keep ‘fellowshipping’ with them, and couldn’t understand why they had issues with me coming and going as I was lead. “I’m sorry brother Austin, but it just doesn’t work like that around here” they all said, almost at once. I felt that each group wanted to own me, but that none of them understood my kind of fellowship, seeing it was on a much higher “spiritual plane” than their limited denominational outlook. They contributed significantly to my early growth spurts though, to their credit. It was to take me many years of study, research and experience to understand the historical nature of the church (church history) the various ‘moves of God’ and the reasons as to why the churches back then were divided over doctrine and practice. I never understood the sad fact that most of them would never ‘return to the one fold’ and that their course in history had been determined long before I was born.
Of course, back in those early days, I wanted to look ‘biblical’ – so I grew a beard (all prophets and apostles had beards.) I wanted to have a ‘travelling ministry’ so I hitch-hiked up and down the track between Newcastle City and Swansea on numerous occasions. I also wanted to take God’s word seriously, so I discarded my previous two Bibles (a Good News, which I had for about 6 months and an NIV, which I had for another 18 months, prior to leaving home and moving to the city for study in 1980.) I got myself the biggest, meanest, nastiest looking KJV Bible that dole cheques could buy, and a $10 guitar. I read this Bible every day for the next two years, and soaked up large portions of God’s word, which are still with me to this day. As a young believer, I tended to have my favourite stomping grounds, but no real methodology of Bible study. I was also very good at ‘witnessing’ to everything that moved, and on occasions, would simply take my new converts back to their place, and baptize them in their own bath tubs!
The Big Smoke
There were many things that I would have to learn ‘the hard way.’ A lack of discipline in this area (Bible study) early on, will not stand you in good stead when trouble comes your way in later years. After some two years in the denominational church scene of my home town of Swansea, I ventured off into the ‘big smoke’ of Newcastle, as a TAFE student for the year of 1980. During that time, I lived in a ‘dumpy old boarding house’ in the suburb of Tighe’s Hill, just across from the college, and came across a ‘no name’ house church. I was to fellowship with that one group for the next six years (1981 – 1986).
“COGS Out Of Place’
Before I launch into the House Church history, I want to mention a brief encounter that I had with the “Children of God” cult. They too were billeted in a caravan in the back yard of that dumpy old boarding house in Tighes Hill for several months. I knew nothing or their pernicious ways at that time, being so young, but they insisted that they were Christian missionaries, working their way around the countryside ‘on a mission from God’. They lived very much a ‘hippy” communal lifestyle, going onto the streets of Newcastle and the beaches, and shopping malls, begging money from passers-by, or alternatively selling flowers, literature or just busking and doing street theatre and taking donations for same. Their ‘sleeping arrangements’ seemed odd at first, with everyone rotating several times throughout each week – it was hard to know just who was with who back then. They told me that these differing arrangements were due to the fact that they had several ‘training sessions’ on weeknights, and one night, one of their single young women offered me a ’training session’ in the caravan, which I (thank God) declined, and went to my normal midweek study at the house church. It would be some time before I realised just what was ‘on offer’!
Over the next few months, I was to read their literature (then called ‘Mo Letters’ from their wayward founding father, David (moses) Berg. Berg was the son of well-known and respected Evangelical ministers, but had rebelled against church authorities and had taken himself out (1 John 2:19?) of their fellowship and gone his own way, making up his vain and deceitful religion as he went.
The COG usually lived in communal situations (like the old terrace house in inner city Newcastle, where the rest of the clan lived and gathered for their ‘training sessions’. These communes were run by hardliner Alpha male types, who ruled with a rod of iron – they were known as “COG Shepherds” a possible throwback to the 1970’s Shepherding and Discipling error, that did much damage to large sections of the body of Christ that embraced it.
Eventually the couple (unmarried, and known by the aliases ‘Sky’ for the woman and ‘Aaron’ for the man,) packed up their little band of five adults and three children, and moved on. I was to find out years later just how debauched and immoral these people really were. They have been accused of child sex abuse on numerous occasions, as well as many false doctrines and practices. Today, they are known as the “Family of Love,” and since their exposure in the media due to several court cases in both NSW and Victoria, have virtually gone underground, since the mid 1990’s. Now to continue with my story.
My first entry into the home church was rather timid and ignorant. The old preacher and his wife who ran it seemed indomitable – they were definitely in charge of the proceedings, but when I started to call the old guy ‘pastor’, he stopped me dead in my tracks and told me that “Jesus is my pastor, and he’s yours too!” He was a Bible machine gun and I just got myself riddled with bullets. He gave the assembled crowd a long lecture on the benefits of ‘having our headquarters in heaven’ and that “no earthly pope controlled our meetings” except for him, and “we don’t have a name because – because – because.” I was flabbergasted at this open denial of responsibility. Clearly, the scriptures teach that churches must have credible and recognisable leadership, who have passed certain tests, and have certain attributes in their makeup. Clearly, with hindsight, he had none.
I went through many experiences in that rather small group of believers (around 25 people, if everyone showed up at once). From the legality of “the doctrine of sinless perfection”, which effectively turned most of us into monks and nuns, to the sublime heights of the sovereign presence and moving of God on our lives (in order to balance out the after effects of our legalistic ideals) – ‘we must save the city’ or ‘women veiling when praying or prophesying’ or ‘Matthew 18 must be rigorously applied to each person, no matter how small the sin, or how holy the sinner might be’.
Paul speaks of ancient Israel in that “they all passed through the Sea, and all went under the cloud” (1 Corinthians 10) indicating that my walk thus far in the spiritual, paralleled theirs in the natural. So you can see, my beginnings were a little ‘rough and tumble’ in more ways than one, but God had His hand on me through it all. The elderly couple that ran the fellowship in those days, were from Brethren and Charismatic backgrounds, and were well schooled in the Word. They certainly had some good arrows in their quiver, but like many things in the body of Christ, it got to the point where the good things began to be outweighed by the bad.
Unfortunately, their legalistic interpretations of many aspects of the Christian life nearly killed us – all of us. “The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life” was a favourite scripture of mine for that whole period. After some two years, we parted company with them, amidst much tears and cries of ‘deceitful workers’ and ‘tools of the devil’. Of course, we were much more spiritual than that. We had simply outgrown them. Paul teaches us that “the law is a schoolmaster that leads us to Christ” and how right he was too. After all that legalistic mumbo jumbo, when you finally get free of the ‘monk doctrine’, you just want to run straight into the loving arms of your blessed Saviour, and never leave His tender but firm grip again. The wells of Elim sure looked good after the flight across the Red Sea, and the lack of spiritual food and water on a sometimes daily basis, for the first part of my wilderness journey.
However, that short spell around the ‘wells of Elim’ was not to last forever, and on we went, further on our spiritual walk both, individually and collectively. God was to visit our small group with three sovereign moves over the next four years, where the presence of God was so thick; you could just about cut it with a knife. A thin mist would appear in the room, and you knew that Jesus was standing right there, ready to minister to us poor, needy ‘unchurched’ people, who had left our various spiritual “Ur of the Chaldees” behind, in order to follow the Lord on a journey of faith, seeking for a city with foundations, who’s builder and maker is God, just like our father of faith, Abraham, had done so many centuries before. Now, living at the end of time, I can honestly say that He (Jesus) will never leave you or forsake you but there is a way which leads to life and that way is through a narrow door. The door is Jesus Himself of course (John 10:9), and that ‘door’ is far too narrow for us to cart all our worldly goods or personal baggage through. It is indeed ‘the eye of the needle’, where the camel must humbly descend down upon all fours, and have its load removed. Then and only then, can it enter into the “New Jerusalem” being faithfully guided by its Master’s hand.
It was around this time that we came under the influence of several televangelists. We changed almost entirely, the nature and structure of our fellowship at that point. In the past, we had gone out evangelising around the beaches of Newcastle and the shores of Lake Macquarie (‘we shall fight them on the beaches and in the trenches – members of “the fellowship” will never surrender’ – Winston Churchill) every weekend without fail. We had seen many people come to the Lord through our outreach efforts, but hardly any of them stayed with the group.
Most of them moved on to other local churches (lucky them!) while those of us who remained used to meet six nights per week, but never on a Sunday! This got a bit laborious after the older folks had gone, and so for a while, we decided that we would concentrate more on personal growth, rather than outreach, which had been somewhat neglected for some time. The fellowship asked me to do a Bible study on growth principles, and when I looked up the word ‘principles’ in my study aids, I found the ‘First Six Principles of Christ’ as listed in Hebrews 6:1-2.
We commenced this study with enthusiasm, and over the next month and a half, laid out our foundations. Some of the younger single folks used to stay over for the weekend at one particular home, south of the main city of Newcastle. In the past, we had met at two other houses as well. One in Mayfield, and another in downtown Hamilton. It was decided though, that Charlestown would be our ‘base’ from now on. After the foundational study was completed, we turned our focus on to the TV set, and (almost) without fail, some took it in turns to faithfully record the one hour program of a certain televangelist, for the next two years. We even got the chance to go and see this individual down in Sydney during 1984, at a convention centre, and had planned to stay for the whole three days.
When we got there, disappointment stared us in the face, as we realised on day two, that ‘Mr Wonderful’ was not all that he was cracked up to be. Concentrating far more on money than he did on Jesus Christ, we decided that we would also part company with him, and headed back up the track to Steel City. God has to destroy all of our favourite ‘idols’ and that includes ministry idols too. God had used that program to give us some simple teaching, but that very teaching itself caused us to grow and become far more discerning than when we had first begun to receive it. When someone wants to trap a bird, they spread breadcrumbs along the ground, towards the trap. When the unwitting bird eats the last few crumbs, they accidentally ‘trip the trap’. It’s not uncommon for some people to give forth a lot of truth, just to promote a few good lies. The last few ‘breadcrumbs’ can indeed be poison – hear me, Oh Church of Jesus Christ – be discerning in these last days. Fortunately, we had stopped just short of the ‘trap’ being sprung, but there were still other unforeseen traps up ahead. Due to a number of circumstances that would take too long to describe, we came to meet another ‘older couple’ from up Queensland way, and this connection was to ultimately split up our small fellowship forever.
Having lost two ‘bible teachers’ in the last four years from our lives looked a bit disastrous to our fledgling group, which we finally named “Beulah Fellowship”. ‘Beulah’ means ‘married’ in the Hebrew tongue, and ‘Hepsibah’ means that “my delight is in her” – the church, or so we took it to mean. Hepsibah was a bit of a mouthful for us simple folk, so we decided on Beulah instead, and were to keep that name for the rest of the time that we were to remain together. It’s a long stretch you know, going from an ‘unnamed’ house church to one that had a name – and to do it in such an ‘unscriptural’ manner too!
Using words from the Bible to describe the nature of your fellowship would have been anathema to the old couple, back in their day. They strongly believed that ‘named works’ were carnal, unspiritual and “of the devil”. Of course, they must have missed the scriptures in 1Corinthians 3:10 which states quite clearly that there were four divisions in the church of Corinth, and the fourth division was the one that claimed to follow no man, but to be ‘of Christ’ and Christ alone. Strange doctrines, and even stranger people who concocted them – tut, tut, tut!
Older couple number 2 had had their early beginnings in what was known then as the ‘Windsor Revival’. Taking place in the early 1970′s, this revival happened in the School of Arts building on the north side of Brisbane. What started out as a rather small gathering, ended up being a solid meeting of over 400 people on a regular basis – quite a ‘Mega church’ for the city in those days. Overseas speakers ended up coming, and the saints benefited greatly from a variety of ministry in that place. Out of it were to come the CLC under Trevor Chandler, and later on, the COC under Clarke Taylor. The original founder of that move was a man named Ian Munro, and he was also the founding father of the Full Gospel Churches of Australia, under whose auspices the revival began. Dispute this history with me, if you will (and I will listen) but the above summary is an eye witness account of the proceedings by 5 or 6 people who were there in those early days. Some of them were to go on and become part of the differing movements that came in the aftermath of Windsor. A couple of them even made it into leadership positions, until it was their turn to ‘move on in God.’
Beware Of False Prophets!
After initial communications with this new Queensland group had commenced, some of their folks had come down for a visit with us, and stayed for a whole 2 weeks. During that time, we had come to understand that they all lived on some kind of ‘Christian commune’. They owned and operated a number of hobby farms, outside the city limits, and had about 35 people living on site “in community”. What we didn’t know, was that they dealt with people in a rather heavy handed manner, once they had them under their control. The Lord did warn me about these kinds of people in the midst, but as usual, in those days, I wasn’t always listening either. It is so important to know and hear the voice of God. Not voices inside your head, but that ‘still, small voice’ that leads you into all truth for your present needs. One day the folks from the farm were in the back yard of the house in Charlestown. The owner’s eldest son was giving them the ‘guided tour’ – of a shed and a small garden that was in alignment with the fence, on all three sides of their very small back yard. The tour lasted all of five minutes.
After introducing them to several garden plots, the barbeque and the incinerator, our brother then introduced them to the “choko tree”. Our visitors, who were ‘hobby farmers,’ laughed themselves silly – everybody knows that chokos don’t grow on trees; they grow on vines that run along the ground – right? Wrong!! What had happened was that one evening, probably some months before, someone had tossed the tea time scraps out into the garden, and thinking it would ‘compost’ and do the garden plot some good. Well it did! It sprouted several choko vines, but over time, one of them had crawled along the ground and had become entangled in the trunk and branches of this particular tree, before producing fruit. What could not be readily discerned back then, was what kind of ‘tree’ was in the midst of God’s little garden, back there in late 1983. The simple reason being, that the actual tree was out of season. A sour, prickly old lemon tree could not be discerned from 20 metres out, as there was no fruit on the branches – simple as that! Jesus said that you can’t get good fruit from bad trees, but there it was, right before our very eyes. (Matthew 7:18)
Be Good Fruit Inspectors!
In Matthew chapter 7: 13 – 24, Jesus warns us about false prophets, who are able to deceptively keep their bad fruit hidden for a season, and masquerade other people’s good fruit as their own. This is exactly what was happening here, right in our ‘own back yard,’ but none of us saw it that way at the time. Essentially the lesson for us all is to be good fruit inspectors. We need to know that the fruit that is hanging on the branches of each and every ‘tree’ (church, ministry or individual,) that we come across in our Christian lives, has actually been grown by that particular tree, and hasn’t been whipped away from some poor unsuspecting little vine, somewhere else. Failure to do this will inevitably end us up in some crisis or other at a later date. Fruit produces seeds, and seeds produce fruit. If you don’t want a sour old prickly lemon tree in your portion of the vineyard, then don’t receive of the false prophet’s fruit in the first place! Don’t let them plant the seeds of legalism and control in your hearts and minds on their first visit, or they will over grow your entire patch, leaving you with no good ground with which to plant and grow the seeds of God’s word, nor will they abide the tender loving care of those true ministers who He has appointed to oversee the plot.
Stay tuned for Part Two, to be posted soon. This is a story worth giving your careful attention, as it gives witness to God’s grace and mercy, but is also a stern but loving exhortation for all Christians.