Series: Matthew: We Need a King

Choose a Side, Pt. 2

May 16, 2021 | Jeff Crotts

Passage: Matthew 7:12-20

The last thing someone says is usually the most important thing they will say. 

  • At the most memorable.

These verses are Jesus’ conclusion to his sermon. 

  • A theme emerges in Jesus’ final thoughts; he is pressing home.
    • I have made this same emphasis preaching Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
    • Current pressures beg for a decision to be made.


  • The Bible leaves no room for middle of the road Christianity.
    • Either a believer or not a believer.
    • Christianity is binary.

One or the other. 

  • Identifications traced from Genesis to Revelation.
    • There are two races.
    • The line of Adam and the line of Christ.
    • You have Cain and Abel.
    • Jacob and Esau.
    • Israel and Egypt.
    • Jesus and the Pharisees.
    • Sheep and Goats.
    • Light and Darkness.


  • And in the end, those who take the mark and those who overcome.


Either, inside or outside the fellowship.

ESV  Ephesians 2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God

ESV  1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

These designations make up: Worshippers and Consumers. 

  • Christians gather to give OR are forcing themselves into heaven through their wills or works.

Jesus’ final statements make this point over the over again. 

  • Like in any good sermon, Jesus cuts to a decision point.


  • Placing the burden on the hearers so they must declare a side.


Siding with Jesus in five ways. 
1. Love like Jesus


  • Jesus draws the line by how someone loves (v. 12).
  • Bifurcating someone’s attitude toward others.
  • Either selfless or selfish.
 2. Lead to Jesus


  • Jesus draws the line in terms of how someone leads (vv. 13-14).
  • Bifurcating how someone leads themselves.
  • Submitting all their life to Christ or to the world.
 3. Learn from Jesus


  • Jesus draws the line by how someone learns (vv. 15-20).
  • Bifurcating between discerning truth from error.
  • What you discern by someone’s fruit.
 4. Live for Jesus


  • Jesus draws the line by how someone lives (vv. 21-23).
  • Bifurcating between living a true relationship with Christ or living a lie.
  • To live for Jesus is to know Jesus.
 5. Listen to Jesus

 Jesus draws the line by whether someone will listen or not (vv. 24-27).

  • Bifurcating between those who heed Christ’s warning or those who ignore it.
  • Hearing is saving, ignoring is damning.

From Sunday, May 16, 2021

This is the third way someone sides with Jesus.

 3. Learn from Jesus
  • Jesus draws the line by how someone learns (vv. 15-20). 
  • Discerning truth from error.
  • Specifically, what you discern by someone’s fruit.

Understand how high the stakes are with Jesus’ point. 

  • False teachers damage lives and families.
    • Tampering with someone’s mind.
    • What you think about yourself, your life, your God.
    • Determines just about everything in your life.


  • “What about your eternity?”

Public enemy number one is Satan.

  • He lurks right beneath the surface of this warning.
    • “Beware of false prophets.”
    • False teachers claim God’s authority.
    • Assert influence through lies and lethal doctrines.


  • A false teacher is the most threatening person on the planet.
    • A murderer might seem threatening.
    • What about someone out to kill your soul?


  • Satan’s assassins, stealthy, powerful, and effective.


  • 7 billion 800 million have chosen the wide road.

To “Beware” is serious.

  • Same warning in Acts and Paul and Peter’s letters!
    • Get your head up!
    • Identify good and bad “fruit.”
    • Evaluate someone’s motives and influence.

Not a casual tone as a “fruit inspector.” 

  • Not examining someone’s spiritual status.
  • This is severe.
  • Deciding between sheep or wolf.


Wolves enter your life by stealth. 

“…who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (v. 15). 

  • They “come” is a middle/passive
    • They slide into life, insinuating themselves through subtleties.
      • Appear fluffy and harmless like sheep.
      • Inside their methods are ravenous.


  • They Rob and Swindle the Gospel.


  • False teachers are swindlers [same word for “ravenous”].
    • Sheep in New Zealand come off cleaner than our petting zoos.
    • Have held little lambs in NZ and they rival any puppy.


  • What we face.
    • False teachers are not an obvious threat.
    • Unlike how a “dog” and “pig” might be (cf. Matt. 7:6).
    • Dangerous people like pigs or dogs are one thing.
    • You know who you are dealing with.


  • Satan’s emissaries come as an angel of light and compromise is subtle.

ESV  Acts 20:28-35 aPay careful attention to yourselves and to all bthe flock, in which cthe Holy Spirit has made you doverseers, eto care for fthe church of God,1 which he gobtained hwith his own blood.2 29 I aknow that after my departure cfierce wolves will come in among you, bnot sparing the flock;30 and afrom among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.31 Therefore abe alert, remembering that bfor three years I did not cease night or day cto admonish everyone dwith tears.32 And now aI commend you to God and to bthe word of his grace, which is able to cbuild you up and to give you dthe inheritance among all those who are sanctified.33 aI coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel.34 aYou yourselves know that bthese hands ministered to my necessities and cto those who were with me.35 In all things aI have shown you that bby working hard in this way we must chelp the weak and dremember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed eto give than to receive.'"


Paul says, “Pay careful attention” using the same wording as “Beware.”  

  • Using a different word, repeating his warning, “be alert” (v. 31).
    • Same comparison to “fierce wolves” is made.
    • On seek and destroy mission to harm the most vulnerable in the church.


  • Note subtle accusations against Paul’s integrity on motives, money, and work ethic.
    • Nothing new, Satanic method.
    • Discrediting the messenger, dismisses the message.       

2 Peter 2 says “false prophets…arose among the people” and “secretly bring in destructive heresies, denying the Master who bought [created] them” (2 Pet. 1:2). 

  • They are sensual, blasphemous, greedy, irrational, “They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed” (2 Pet. 2:14). 

ESV  2 Corinthians 11:13-20 For such men are afalse apostles, bdeceitful workmen, cdisguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as aan angel of light.15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as aservants of righteousness. bTheir end will correspond to their deeds.16 I repeat, alet no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little.17 What I am saying awith this boastful confidence, bI say not with the Lord's authority but as a fool.18 Since amany boast according to the flesh, I too will boast.19 For you gladly bear with fools, abeing wise yourselves!20 For you bear it if someone amakes slaves of you, or bdevours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or cstrikes you in the face.


ESV  Philippians 3:18-19 For amany, of whom I have often told you and now tell you beven with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 aTheir end is destruction, btheir god is their belly, and cthey glory in their shame, with dminds set on earthly things.


  • Consumers inside the church!


  • Consumers who consume themselves!


ESV  1 Timothy 1:19-20 aholding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have bmade shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are aHymenaeus and bAlexander, whom I chave handed over to Satan that they may learn not to dblaspheme.

ESV  1 Timothy 4:1-4 Now athe Spirit expressly says that bin later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to cdeceitful spirits and teachings of demons,2 through the insincerity of aliars whose consciences are seared,3 awho forbid marriage and brequire abstinence from foods cthat God created dto be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.4 For aeverything created by God is good, and bnothing is to be rejected if it is zreceived with thanksgiving


False teachers do not set out to be false teachers.

  • Do not plan to fall away and harden their hearts.
  • Move one degree off course and this over time, sets this dangerous course.


ESV  2 Timothy 3:6 For among them are athose who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions


ESV  2 Peter 2:14 They have eyes full of adultery, ainsatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts btrained in greed. cAccursed children!


Remember Eve being enticed by the Serpent. 

ESV  Genesis 3:1 Now athe serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You1 shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?"

  • Sowing the seed of doubt.
  • Gangrene
  • Families upset.


Now some good news. 

Verse 16 literally says, “…from their fruit” “You will recognize them…” 

  • Greek term epignowskw confirms, no matter how stealth, and deceptive, Christians see through it all.
    • They look like white, fluffy sheep but the Spirit of God lives enables you to see the dark tale sticking out from under the sheep costume.
    • You sense trouble.
    • Truth makes lies stick out.

The church has a mixed response to Critical Race Theory.

  • Equity and Equality, turns into Confirmation Bias.
    • You see what you want to see.   
    • Unbiblical ideologies undo a Christian’s life and mission.


  • Social media pervades unbiblical views.
    • Ask them to explain their position and expect, “Educate yourself!”
      • Our chief education on being impartial is God’s Word.
      • Our chief education on how we got here is God’s Word.
      • Our chief education on loving humankind is God’s Word.


  • Divisions are not chiefly over ethnicity.


  • Divisions are based in two roads: Wide and Narrow.
    • Race of Adam, under sin.
    • Race of Christ, under grace.


  • Where love has been shed abroad in our hearts.

Media influx causing a “Pancake mindset” – a thin stack of ideas. 

  • Proverbs warns of hearing soundbites of the matter.

 ESV  Proverbs 16:2 aAll the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD bweighs the spirit.


ESV  Proverbs 18:17 The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.

Do not miss, beneath the surface, gentle encouragement, being on the narrow road (cf. v. 16). 

  • Good news, right?
  • On the “narrow road” because you recognize or see the war.

Into hostile territory. 

  • The wide road is the superhighway.
  • The narrow road treks through the swamp.
    • But not without night vision to see what is coming.

 “…you will recognize them by their fruit.”

  • They look like everyone else.
  • But what they look like is not the tipoff.
    • What they say and do tells who they are.


It is always the safest looking family member who can turn out to be the predator. 

Jesus’ formula of recognition is simple. 

  • He asks, “Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?”


  • His formula: discerning when things do not fit together.


  • Something is incongruous.
    • When preaching says, “You are generally good” instead of, “You are generally bad.”
    • When someone says, “I wonder if there really is alien life on other planets,” when God’s saving plan is centered on earth (cf. Jn 3:3:16).
    • When someone looks to Mother earth, seeing God as creation instead of seeing God through his Creation.
    • When professors preach theistic evolution verses literal creation, science supersedes biblical truth.
    • When pulpits push “Doing good” and “Be good” instead of saying, “Only God is good” and we know him by “grace” alone.
    • When Hell is nebulous and “maybe”.
    • When, you can find God through dreams not by Gospel preaching.
    • When other religions have a backdoor into heaven.
    • When Christians are “little gods.”
    • When Scripture is one of the Holy books.
    • When parts of the Bible are more inspired than another.
    • When the Bible erases its male pronouns.
    • When preachers quip, “Who are we to judge whether or not the Mormons go to heaven.”
    • When Christians water down the sting of immorality.
    • When males are confused as females, vice versa.
    • When the conservative party affirms Katlynn Jenner as the best option.
    • When the new religion is CRT.

Reading a new book by Voddie Baucham (Fault Lines) he calls CRT a new cult religion.

  • Cosmology (Critical Theory)
  • Original Sin (racism)
  • Law (antiracism)
  • Gospel (radical reconciliation)
  • Martyrs (Trayvon, Mike, George, Breonna)
  • Priests (oppressed minorities)
  • Means of atonement (reparations)
  • New birth (wokeness)
  • Liturgy (lament)
  • Canon (CSJ)
  • Theologians (DiAngelo, Kendi, Brown, Crenshaw, MacIntosh)
  • Catechism (“say their names”)

Antiracism offers no salvation – only perpetual penance in effort to battle an incurable disease. 


In verses 16-19, Jesus makes things simple. 

  • “Grapes” do not come from “thornbushes” or “figs from thistles” (v. 16).
    • It just does not happen.
    • You will not hear “untwisted” truths from a false teacher.
    • You will not hear straight forward truth, like Jesus said it!


  • Always partial truths; never the whole/ “untwisted”
    • Truths on God’s glory, sufficiency of Scripture, God being all-powerful, sovereign, and salvation being by grace alone.


  • Hard truths and irrefutable doctrine.
    • Like sin, wrath, and eternal punishment.
    • Grace, truth, and Christ being God and man.        

Verses 17-18 contrasts the “good tree” from a “rotten tree.” 

Jesus distinguishes “good” and “healthy” from a “diseased”, “rotten”, or “worthless”. 

  • When the tree is dead, you are not getting healthy fruit.
  • You work backwards from the fruit to the tree, not vise versa.

This is the same point when dealing with wolves.

  • When dealing with wolves, remember they are sneaking by stealth.
    • They appear to fine on the outside.
    • The trunk and foliage look rich, but the fruit is mushy, rotten, and rancid when punctured.

As a kid I remember pulling peaches off a tree where you find maggots and a rancid smell. 

I am notorious in our home for waiting too long to declare what looks fine in the refrigerator as contaminated.  Food that has outlasted the saran wrap!  “Dad, do not rationalize away the ‘sell by date!’”  If you eat something that is growing bacteria, your stomach will roil! 

Look at the fruit, not the tree. 

Verse 19 tells us how obvious this is, in nature and people. 

  • When “good fruit” is not being produced, the tree is pronounced dead.
    • Now one purpose and one destiny; cut down and “thrown into the fire” (v. 19).
    • Taken literally, that in nature, full measures are taken, so as with those spreading lies in church.


  • The secondary implication is that unrepentant false teachers are destined for Hell.

Certainly, this is the picture Jesus paints in John 15 over the unfruitful branch.


ESV  John 15:6 If anyone does not abide in me ahe is thrown away like a branch and withers; band the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.


In ninth grade public school, the world history teacher named Mr. Miller spread potent lie. 

  • Popular with students by teaching all religions lead to heaven.
  • Widely accepted amongst the students who wanted to avoid the accountability from God’s Word.


  • I still remember my best friend (likewise raised in church) in gym class questioning his faith. “I wonder if he is right?”
    • “I wonder if we believe in Christianity because our parents taught it to us?”
    • Still, not a believer, watched one of his parents (a believer) die.
    • Suffered without Christ, seduced by this seed of doubt.


  • People make this more complicated than Jesus does.


It is easy to believe this kind of seduction only happens out there when false teaching regularly creeps inside the church. 


“What happens when you find there is A Bully in the Church?”

  • A powerful sin that happens within the church that has largely gone unaddressed.
  • This is the sin of bullying.

One of the main qualifications for being a spiritual leader is that you cannot be “pugnacious” or “domineering” over believers. 

ESV  1 Timothy 3:3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.

ESV  Titus 1:7 For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain

ESV  1 Peter 5:3 not domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock.


I just read an article (expose’) on a formerly popular pastor who lost his fame from bullying.  He is at it again. 

  • The article claims he is controlling and verbally abusive.
    • Volunteers sign non-compete contracts.
    • Putting people on cyber-watchlists who can and cannot come on the property.
    • Kicking people out of the church for personal reasons.


  • Exact same bullying ending his mega-pastorate now threatens his pastorate.
    • Nobody’s perfect?
    • Reason the New Testament lists specific qualifications for being a spiritual leader.


  • Bottomline, spiritual leadership incites unique temptations.
    • Namely, pride and overpowering.
    • Bullies prey on the vulnerable.

Third John, often overlooked, compared to books like Romans or Ephesians. 

  • A single chapter toward end of your Bible.
  • Though small, it delivers a powerful punch.

Aged Apostle John addresses two issues the church needed to hear. 

  • John planted these churches spread through Asia Minor, now influenced by a bully.
    • The churches needed to take care of missionaries.
    • The churches needed to deal with a bully.
    • Diotrephes.


  • Not very sympathetic to bullies.
  • One clear application from this letter is, “Don’t be Diotrephes!”

“So, what was wrong with Diotrephes?” 

  • First, he “…likes to put himself first” (v. 9).
  • Second, he “…does not acknowledge…authority” (v. 9).
  • Third, he is divisive, “…talking wicked nonsense” (v. 10) about other leaders like John.
  • Fourth, he “…refuses to welcome the brothers” (v. 10) which are the missionaries.
  • Fifth, he “…stops those who want to welcome the brothers” (v. 10) – church members who love missionaries.
  • Sixth, he “…[puts] those who want to [welcome the missionaries] …out of the church” (v. 10).

Diotrephes was very evil, and John makes this obvious. 

  • In plain language, “What makes Diotrephes so bad?”
    • Number one, he is self-absorbed.
    • In Gospel ministry, an absolute “no no.”


  • Satan, made chief angel, not content to serve his Creator, fell, desiring “first place.”

Temptation to (Satan’s) PRIDE is what creeps in when a man is put in leadership too soon. 

  • The temptation of a “novice.”

ESV  1 Timothy 3:6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may abecome puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. (1Ti 3:6 ESV)

ESV  1 Timothy 5:22 aDo not be hasty in the blaying on of hands, nor ctake part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.    


  • One weakness leads to another.
  • But the root sin is always, PRIDE.


Just look at the pathology of heart, John describes: 


  • Diotrephes is not submitting to John’s apostolic authority; the same as not submitting to God’s Word.
    • Scripture written by the prophets and Apostles.
    • John, the last remaining Apostle, represented the Bible.
    • When a spiritual leader is self-absorbed and will not yield to God’s Word, things spiral in the church.


  • Diotrephes was divisive by telling lies about John to undermine his authority as their pastor.
    • Diotrephes, threatened by John, to secure power had to undermine John’s reputation.
    • A common bully-tactic.


Diotrephes stepped on the air hose of missions; also stopping to church folk from fellowshipping the missionaries. 


  • He was a CONTROLLER.
    • Stopping anyone who would not cut fellowship with the missionaries.
    • Putting them outside the church (3 Jn. 10).


  • Sounds dramatic but this same controlling behavior happening then, happens today!


  • Everything wrong in Diotrephes was blocking the entire mission of the churches of Asia Minor.


  • One negative, self-absorbed leader.


You say, “Are people really like this today, in the church?” 


  • Actually, yes! One thing leads to another. 


  • Think about it.
    • You are not supposed to be a spiritual leader in the first place, making you insecure.
      • What incites pride and necessitates self-protection.
      • What leads to ignoring and defying Scriptural accountability.
      • What leads to undermining anyone daring to hold you accountable.
      • From spiritual leaders, missionaries, or friends; it makes no difference.


  • Finally, you enforce strategies to excommunicate any who side against you.


So, what is someone supposed to do if there is a bully in your church? 


  • “Do what John promised he would do.”
    • Bring it up publicly!
    • John commits to this because this is what it takes to undo a bully.


ESV  3 John 1:10 So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.


The church needs bold and discerning people to confront bullies in the church. 


  • Why? For the health of the church and for the good of the mission. 
    • The church is a life-saving station.
    • People need Jesus and should be able to come to find Jesus.


  • You know when the church is bullied, its mission is totally stifled.
    • Controlling leaders suck the life out of the church.
      • And people neither come nor stay.
      • Or worse, are spiritual damaged.


  • When the church is functioning in health, people will not only come, but they also never leave.


Conclusion: Returning to the question: “Have you chosen to side with Jesus?” 


  • Discerning truth from error is discerning which side you have taken.
    • Wide Road or Narrow Road.
    • Jesus or the world.


  • Jesus is always the model. Selfless, humble, leader, discerning. 


  • In the first wilderness, Adam fell to the Serpent’s persuasions.


  • In the second wilderness, the second Adam, Christ saw through Satan’s deceptions.


  • We live in the third wilderness; by the Holy Spirit we wield this same discernment.     




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Series Information

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