Disarm this 1 “Scary” Bible Verse and Change Your Life

Jesus Did Not Die to Reject You

But how do I know if I am doing enough to please Jesus?

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matthew 7:21-23

The Bible is powerful in ways that no other book can approach. It is God’s revelation of Himself and His plan of salvation to you. The Book of Hebrews compares the Bible to a sharp two edged sword capable of easily dividing the most fundamentally parts of your life. It is the only offensive equipment you are issued in the armor of God in Ephesians. It will fundamentally change your life, if you let it. Yet, this weapon from God can also be used against you by the flawed and sinful people of this world. The Bible itself is inherently good, of course, but people with bad intentions or worldly perspectives often try to wield it in destructive ways. They hijack God’s inspired Word to control, dominate, divide, and discourage. The often use the sword God sent to set you free from the world to keep you imprisoned by it. Those holding you captive can be from your present or past. Yet, the most common and by far the most impactful offender in your life is you. It is only your acceptance of ideas that are not from Jesus that allows the Word to be turned on you. There always be false teachers eager to exploit the Word using your past hurts, weaknesses, and tendencies for their advantage, but it is your decisions that grant them the power to weaponizes the Bible against you. They have no power over you other than what you give them.

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This may seem to be a depressing thought, but it is actually great news. You have the power to escape what is hurting you. You only need to face down the hurt in you that agrees to accept less than all that Jesus wants for you and disarm the bad readings of the Bible that justifies it. The Sword of Truth is meant to protect your freedom in Christ, not reinforce captivity.

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Stuck in Neutral with Christ

My friend, Chris (not his real name), is one of the nicest, most generous, and kindest people you will ever meet. He will give you the shirt from his back and drive 100 miles to do it. He loves Jesus, his family, and God’s Word. He does everything you could think a Christian should do – gives, prays, serves, loves – truly trying to follow Jesus. Despite all this, a secret haunts Chris. He is not doing drugs or looking at things he shouldn’t on the internet- his hidden torment is way more painful than those. Chris constantly worries that he will not make it to heaven and this fear hits to the heart of his relationship with Christ. He does not believe that God actually accepts and approves of Him, despite His belief in the Gospel. It may seem like a simple issue, but his anxiety over this question robs him of much of the fruit that should come from following Christ…and is not alone in having this struggle.

I talk with many Christians who are plagued by this same distressing doubt. They tend to be honest and humble people who recognize their sins and failures freely. They know they get distracted from the work of the Kingdom by all the things of life – job, family, and leisure. They admit they can’t ever truly say they do all they can to serve Christ. These observations are true for every Christian, whether you admit it or not, and are good by themselves. The problem comes when they take these honest findings and mix them with the broken things of man. They may a history of a parent, teacher, pastor, or church with strongly legalistic or authoritarian tendencies. They may be a “Type A” who proves themselves through effort. Regardless of the specific issue, the additional ingredient to God’s message of grace alters it entirely. They are left burdened, stressed, and guilt ridden. Perhaps the saddest of all, they tend to view Jesus’ imminent return with dread rather than joy. This great day is seen as the moment He will expose their failures and confirm their fears. They suspect they haven’t earned the right to hear from Jesus:

His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ Matthew 25:23

It is like getting hung up on the first part of Paul’s words in Romans 7:

I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am!

But not continuing to read the rest of the thought.

Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:19-25

God’s Grace is Greater than Your Regret

Chris and many of these hurting Christians also have a common Bible verse which has become their Sword of Damocles. This is the “scary” passage of God’s Word that hangs over their heads threatening them with doom. It acts like an anchor on them as they runs their races for Christ. It is the passage in Matthew that includes the words no disciple ever wants to hear from Jesus:

I never knew you; depart from Me...

Please not that I call them “scary” with quotes not to diminish anyone’s struggle. They are challenging and I understand how you could become stalled out over them. In the wrong hands, they can be used against you in all sorts of ways. Yet, the quotes are there because even the hardest verses in the Bible are not there to instill anxiety in the Lord’s family. In other words, to paraphrase Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride:

You keep using that Bible verse to beat yourself up. It do not think it means what you think it means.

God is your perfect Father. He does not use the dysfunctional parenting tactics of the world on His kids. He is so much better than that and He reveals this truth in the Word. You just have to dig in and fight to see it.

This is what I mean by disarming the Word. It is removing your own destructive junk from it in order to let God’s power loose.

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Jesus Does Not Want You to Depart from Him

Jesus’ words “Depart from Me” may cause you a bit of alarm even as you read this post. That is both understandable and not all bad. They speak to fundamental issue for every Christian, your identity as a follower of Jesus.

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It is good to be certain of who you are in Christ. Yet, to the wounded and those languishing in religious imprisonment, these good words can inflame a hidden suspicion about who you think you are in Jesus. Your own sins and failings leads you to wonder why Jesus would ever saved you, particularly when you start comparing yourself to others. It is Christian imposter syndrome at work. You doubts and hurts can then tempt you to engage a warped sort of pride and control. Your certainty of you viewpoint on yourself can lead you to question the truth of Jesus’ Gospel. You are just so bad, in your opinion, Jesus could not do what He says He did – it is just too good to be true. Your deep seated fear whispers, “Salvation cannot be that easy” since that nothing comes for free in the world. You can reason that there has to be a catch or fine print that goes along with saved by grace somewhere.

Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 can seem to prove the wisdom of your anxiety:

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’  Matthew 7:21-23

This passage, by itself and out of context, can be read to seem like Jesus rejects Christians from entering heaven because they have not done enough for Him. Jesus can be depicted as arbitrary in His judgment and impossible to satisfy. You can start to see Jesus more like the distant and fickle mythological gods created by man through history rather than as He is.

How can you stand a chance of approval if these guys who prophesy, cast out demons, and done many wonders, are not allowed in by Jesus?

Viewing Jesus this way truly should leave you in a panic. Thankfully, disapproval and disappointment is not what God has for you. Arbitrary punishment and rejection are the tactics of abusive men. 

God is not that sort of Dad. Jesus is not that sort of Lord. His way is so much better.

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Using the Bible to Disarm Your Conclusions

So what do these verses mean? How do you know what I say is true?

The first thing to keep in mind when looking at a hard passage is to not read it in isolation. These 3 short verses in Matthew, for example, cannot be read independently from the rest of the Bible. You must take them in along with the whole Gospel and in context of the verses themselves. Focusing on just one short passage, by itself, can lead you to wrong views of God. John 11:14-15 provide an exaggerated example of this fact. Pretend you don’t know about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and just read it on its own:

So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Do you see all of the false beliefs and strange opinions about Jesus and Lazarus you could get from this one verse? You may wonder why Jesus is unloving and ignoring the pain of a man’s illness and death. You could conclude that Lazarus must be a bad guy and God pronounced judgment on him as a sinner. These are logical conclusions based on the passage, in isolation, but they are clearly wrong. You know Lazarus is one of Jesus’ close friends and Jesus will not only raise him from the dead, but also first wept over the pain of his death. The conclusions drawn from the short passage are contradicted by the clear statements in the rest of the Bible so the conclusions must be discarded. The certain larger picture fills in this information needed to understand the challenging section.

Jesus words in Matthew 7, therefore, must be viewed within the rest of His Word, most importantly His Gospel. The Bible says that Jesus died on the Cross to save you from the sins and punishment you could never save yourself from. God is clear that your salvation and standing before Him are gifts, not based on your works:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.  I and My Father are one.” John 10:27-30

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. Romans 8:15-17

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These are just three of the many Scriptures detailing your relationship with God in Christ. God sets these concepts out clearly in the Scripture, in the above verses and elsewhere. He cannot contradict Himself in Jesus’ words in Matthew. Put simply, Jesus the Good Shepherd willingly died to save His sheep while we were still sinners to give us eternal life and could not earn it. We are adopted into God’s family as a result and seated in the heavenlies by God as monuments to His grace. This is already completed for those in Jesus. God cannot follow up on these clear promises by rejecting His sheep and throwing a child out of His family. The idea makes no sense when viewed through the lens of the entirety of the Bible. This conflict between what is clearly stated in the Bible and a questionable reading of one passage, should lead you to discard the inconsistent conclusion. It cannot mean what you think it means because the rest of the Bible says it doesn’t. You can then move forward and dig into what Jesus does intend to say to you.

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The Importance of Context

Jesus words also have to be read in the context of the passage itself. It is here that you can start to really comprehend Jesus’ meaning. Chapters 5-7 of Matthew cover Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. It is God’s teaching on what His Kingdom and His people should look like. Importantly, in chapter 7, Jesus takes time to warn His people about straying from following Him, the narrow gate that leads to life, and about false prophets. Specifically, the passage that precedes Jesus’ words of “depart from Me” deals with spotting wolves hiding among the flock of God:

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

Jesus warns you about false prophets and teachers. These are religious people in authority who claim to be Christians, sheep, but are really non-believers acting to hurt the church, wolves. Jesus’ identification of their true nature is crucial. They are wolves, those that attack, devour, and destroy the flock.

 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Acts 20:29

Peter writes of them in a similar manner:

But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them. In this way, they will bring sudden destruction on themselves. Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of these teachers, the way of truth will be slandered. In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money. But God condemned them long ago, and their destruction will not be delayed. 2 Peter 2:1-3 (NLT)


These men and women are not and never have been Christians, no matter what they call themselves. They deliberately go after God’s people for their own benefit, causing great damage in the process. They are the enemies of God who deceptively claim to be working for and speaking for the Lord. God tells you that judgment is coming for them. These wolves are clearly not confused followers of Christ or disciples who fall short – that is the sheep they attack. There is no indication that Jesus breaks His train of thought or changes His topic before the next sentence which begins the “scary” section:

 Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven,

Do you see how the context changes the meaning entirely? Who does Jesus address in this passage?

He is teaching about wolves, false prophets and false teachers. In a fashion that is typical for Jesus’ teaching, He first explains His clear point and then follows it with an illustration to help the disciples understand it. He just said the false teachers, those who don’t bear fruit, will be cut down and thrown in the fire. Peter sets out the same idea. The people speaking to Jesus saying “Lord, Lord” can be clearly seen as the same wolves Jesus was in the middle of addressing. This is consistent with the context of the chapter and with the larger Gospel message.

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Removing the Fear Factor

The passage itself also supports the conclusion that Jesus addresses false teacher and prophets – once you have removed the fear factor:

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 

The initial response here is often – “Does that include me?” – followed by panicked evaluation of your life to see if you judge yourself good enough for Jesus. It stems from good motivations, but disregards the actual words of Jesus.  He just said to beware of wolves dressed as sheep. He identifies who He is talking about as false prophets. He does not alter the certainty of His finished work on the Cross. It really is finished.

What about the will of God part?

Once you get past the fear, you can examine how the Bible defines the will of God in the New Testament. Jesus also directly addresses this question and the logic that incites your anxiety behind it in John 6:

Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”

Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

The disciples in this passage respond to Jesus stating clearly that He is God by asking the question every many wants answered. Take notice of how the disciples reveal the mindset of man in their query. They look for works, plural, that they can do to show that they are doing the right thing. They seek to gain God’s approval and expect getting that that to mean working hard to meet a standard of achievement in religious activity. They focus on their works, their effort, and their holiness as the way to please God. Jesus’ reply is incredibly simple: 

Believe in Him whom He sent. 

This leads to the news that can revolutionize your life with Jesus. It is simply that your debt – past, present, and future was pain 2,000 years ago on the Cross. This means there is nothing for you to earn or pay off now, if you are in Jesus.

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The Great News – You are Justified by Him

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2

Man naturally wants to focus on himself to prove his worthiness before God. Jesus shifts your center of attention to where it should be – Christ alone. It is in Him alone that you are justified and made a child of God. There is no other foundation upon which salvation can rest. The centrality and exclusivity of Jesus exposes the problem with those appealing to Him in Matthew 7:

   Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 

Do you notice the focal point of the objections of these claimed followers of Jesus?

They spend their time before the King of Kings repeatedly pointing to themselves and their deeds. They think they can rely on their list of religious works to open the door to eternity. They show in these claims that they miss the point of Jesus as Savior entirely. The Jewish people would not have needed Jesus to die if works could save you. Their protests also reveals their arrogance. They claim responsibility for work that could only ben done by Jesus. The folks don’t know Jesus at all and never did – which makes sense since they are wolves. Jesus just explained that in the prior verses. Jesus is not fooled by their lies:

And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’  Matthew 7:21-23

Jesus is also clear there has never been any relationship involved with these individuals. He states it definitively – never knew. This is therefore not the rejection of a honest but flawed disciple. It is not the removal of salvation or closing a once open door to heaven. It is simply the omniscient Shepherd refusing to be fooled by the wolves He just warned His sheep about. It is Jesus acknowledging the false prophets decision in life to reject Him and be judged on his own merit. That choice doesn’t end well for any human.

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So What is the Good News, Again?

being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; Philippians 1:6

And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…1 John 4:18

The Bible says it better than I ever could, as always. Jesus started the work in you, if you are a Christian. He promises to keep on working on you until completion. You can rest on that promise because He loves you. His perfect love drives all fear out of you, when you understand it. Your job is not to agonize over your standing with God or labor to avoid His displeasure. It is simply to run your race from that place of certainty, looking at Jesus while you do. God will show you His great love, power, and glory as you do.

It is so simple…and glorious.

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