The Scariest Verse In The Bible

The Gerasene Chamber of Commerce would not have been happy. A man named Jesus and a few of his followers had just sailed to their shores. But before Jesus could get out of the boat all of the way and put his feet on the ground, the craziest man in town runs up to greet him.

This wasn’t what typically comes to mind when you think of some guy who’s a little off. This man didn’t walk around pushing a shopping cart talking to himself. His condition was more severe. The gospel writer Mark lets us know pretty early on why the man was so crazy. He was demon-possessed (Mark 5:2).

Mark gives some frightening details about this man who came to meet Jesus.

He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. Mark 5:3-5 (ESV)

Mark is very graphic. The man standing before Jesus lived in a graveyard. People tried to contain him with chains but he kept breaking them. No one in town had the power to control this man. All throughout the day and night, he would scream and cut himself. It sounds like something from a Stephen King novel.

But none of those verses are the scariest one in the Bible.

The man begged Jesus for mercy. Most likely, the request was one part the man wanting relief from Satan’s torment and one part the demon not wanting to face the power of God. And then Jesus asked a strange question.

And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” Mark 5:9 (ESV)

A legion was a group of 6,000 Roman soldiers. Mark is not necessarily saying that this man was possessed by 6,000 demons but we can be sure that it was more than one. The man’s reply was something similar to, “We don’t have a name. We have 6,000 names.” So whether it was 100 demons or 6,000, let’s be honest, this was a scary situation.

But it’s still not the scariest verse in the Bible.

The demons begged to stay in the community before being cast out of the man. Strangely enough, Jesus granted their request. I told you that the Chamber of Commerce wouldn’t like this. The demons were sent into 2,000 pigs which they forced to run off of a cliff and into the sea. If you were the guy in charge of looking after those pigs that day, you were scared. If you happened to be fishing in sea when you saw 2,000 pigs jump off of a cliff and into a watery grave, you would have been scared too.

But still, those aren’t the scariest verses in the Bible.

The pig farmers couldn’t keep this news to themselves. They told the city folks and the country folks about what the strange visitor did to the town lunatic and their pigs. Sure enough, everyone came to see for themselves. Mark’s description of the town’s reaction to the changed man is very peculiar.

And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. Mark 5:15 (ESV)

This was the first time that the people in the town were ever described as being afraid. Mark never said that they were afraid when the demon-possessed man cut himself, screamed or broke chains. Only when they witness the transforming power of Jesus are the described as being afraid.

Even still, that’s not the scariest verse in the Bible.

But Mark 5:17 is.

And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 

These folks never seemed to have a problem with the evil of up to 6,000 demons possessing one man. They never cried out in protest at the fact that those demons wanted to stay in their town once Jesus evicted them from their host. No, but when they encountered the holiness of God, they just couldn’t take it. So they asked Jesus to leave.

It is possible to excuse evil, ignore evil and indulge in evil to such a degree that evil becomes comfortable. Yes, even the most horrific evil. And when that happens, the only thing left to frighten us is the pure holiness of God.

The Gerasenes decided that day to reject the one truly good thing they had ever seen. Six thousand demons were welcomed in their town. The one true God was not. And that’s frightening.

The church is surrounded by evil. We live in a culture that promotes evil, funds evil and even goes so far as to call evil good. God doesn’t keep us here to blend in. Rather, he keeps us here to resist and expose evil.

As Jesus was leaving, the formerly demon-possessed man had an obvious request. He waned to go with Jesus. Wouldn’t you? But Jesus didn’t allow him to. It’s funny. He granted permission to the demons when they asked to go into the pigs but not to this new follower when he apparently wanted to be the 13th disciple. Why?

Jesus had a mission for the man who had just been made new. He wanted the man to tell others about God’s mercy. And no one can tell a story better than the person who it happened to. No one can lead others to marvel at God quite like a man who himself marvels at God.

Mark 5:17 is the most frightening verse in the Bible because it reminds us of how comfortable we can become with evil. It confronts head on our tendency to settle for some of the devil and none of Jesus. It shows us how similar the American church is to the people in that town. We are okay with Jesus from afar. But when he starts to contradict the evil that has grown so dear to us, we kindly ask him to leave.

In a lot of ways, I’m afraid that he has granted that request.

And that’s really scary.

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How To Defeat The Demon That The United States Senate Cannot

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We don’t know the name of the demon.

Sometimes the Bible shares that information with us. Like when Jesus asked a demon possessed man for his name and got the creepy response of, “My name is Legion, for we are many” (Mark 5:9).

But this time, we don’t get a name. Another nameless demon. The lack of a name didn’t make this demon any less evil. Like all the others, he was bent on destruction. This time, it was a child who he had his sights set on.

The child was mute. And he had seizures. Horrific seizures. Is there any other kind? The demon would make the child foam at the mouth. He would grind his teeth. His body would lock up. On more than one occasion, the seizures would happen near fire or large bodies of water leaving the child on the verge of drowning or burning.

The child had a demon.

But the demon had no name.

Just an agenda to destroy a child.

Thankfully, the child had a father.

The father wasn’t known for his theology. He didn’t have all of the answers. But he thought that he had found a group of men who could help him.

He was wrong. In spite of their best efforts, these men could not save the boy. All seemed lost. It appeared as though the demon living inside of this boy would be a very much unwanted member of the family.

Dad.

Boy.

And the demon with no name.

There was one last hope for the boy. Jesus. Jesus asked to see him.

Jesus didn’t say a word to the demon at first. All it took was the presence of Jesus to send him, and of course, the boy, into another one of those terrible seizures. As the child rolled around on the ground, foaming at the mouth, Jesus finally said something to the demon without a name.

“You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” Mark 9:25 (ESV).

The demon obeyed.

But no one was celebrating just yet. It appeared that the demon was able to get in one final death blow before leaving the boy. His small body was laying, lifeless, on the ground. Everyone assumed the worst.

Jesus grabbed the hand of the motionless boy.

The boy was alive.

He stood up, for the first time in years, free of the demon with no name.

We don’t know the name of that demon who was hell-bent on destroying this child. We just know that he didn’t enter the child again.

But that doesn’t mean that his kind went away.

We see him at work today, busy killing more children. Only this time, he has federal backing, the approval of the United States Senate and a nice respectable name to work with.

Planned Parenthood.

This demon has a name. But his end will still be the same.

After Jesus healed the child, his disciples came to him, confused.

“Why couldn’t we get the demon out of that boy?” They were no help when they tried. But at least they tried. Could you imagine what would happen if this distressed father had gone to the more progressive members of the United States Senate for help.

“We don’t understand the problem. Your boy only falls in the fire three percent of the time. And besides, think of all the other services this demon provides for your son.”

Jesus gave a direct answer for his inquisitive and confused disciples.

“This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

When the history of Planned Parenthood is written, the organization will be remembered for having two very valuable friends. The first is the bloodthirsty United States government and the second is the apathetic American people who are more disturbed by the thought of losing free condoms than they are at babies being murdered and sold.

But Planned Parenthood will also be remembered for their three great enemies. Two of those enemies are natural. One is very much supernatural. In the natural, the sonogram and the hidden camera have worked beautifully together to prove that the practices of Planned Parenthood are anything but, “safe, legal and rare” and that an unborn child is obviously much, much more than a clump of cells.

There is another, more powerful enemy of the death industry in this country.

Prayer.

As Christians, we should keep fighting against abortion. We should watch and share the disturbing videos of Planned Parenthood workers treating babies like leftovers from one of their wine and salad meals. We should not give up holding our elected officials accountable, even when they have given up. Still, there are always those naysayers who say that it will never work. They tell us that Planned Parenthood can never be defeated. They were the first to tell us after Monday afternoon’s disappointing vote, “See, I told you so.”

I believe that Planned Parenthood can be defeated.

But it will take a much more powerful option than a Senator. Thankfully, Christians have one.

We have prayer.

It just might be that prayer is the only thing that will defeat this demon. If so, that’s okay. Because the One we pray to is infinitely more powerful than any demon Hell has to send our way. And make no mistake about it, the murder of babies is demonic. It is Satanism in its purest form. Just because someone wears a flag on his suit or says, “God bless America,” doesn’t mean that he can’t have a Legion or two pulling his strings behind the scenes.

But Jesus is greater than Legion.

Jesus is greater than that nameless demon who threw that little boy into the fire.

And Jesus is greater than that demon who is using the name of Planned Parenthood to legally throw more boys into more fires.

I can’t wait for the day when he commands this demon to leave our children alone.

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Does He Have More Faith Than Anyone In Your Church?

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I have more faith than anyone else in my church.

I believe that the Bible is God’s word.

I sincerely believe that Jesus was born of a virgin.

I believe that he never sinned.

I believe that he is the Son of God.

I believe that he was crucified.

I believe that he died and was buried.

I believe that he rose from death on the third day.

I was there for it all. And it all scares me. I shudder just thinking about it. But I believe.

The people at my church are different. Their faith isn’t as strong as mine. It wasn’t always that way. I was assigned there a century ago when the people really believed. Jesus being crucified wasn’t just head knowledge for them. It was a truth that came from their hearts and played itself out in what they said with their mouths and did with their hands.

That too was a really scary time for me.

But with a lot of work, I got things under control.

Now concepts like the virgin birth, the crucifixion and the resurrection are just that. Concepts. Most of the people in the church check all of those boxes. But their belief never leaves their heads. It hasn’t found its way to their hearts and it certainly doesn’t make a difference in what they do or what they say.

We believe that the Bible is God’s word.

We sincerely believe that Jesus was born of a virgin.

We believe that he never sinned.

We believe that he is the Son of God.

We believe that he was crucified.

We believe that he died and was buried.

We believe that he rose from death on the third day.

Our beliefs will do us no good when Jesus returns to settle his score. The only works they have produced in me is my shuddering spirit. But that’s more than I can say for the people at my church. Their beliefs have produced nothing. Their belief alone will do them no good when the Enemy returns.

Their faith without works will condemn them to hell.

And by hell’s power, I’m fighting to keep it that way.

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! James 2:19 (ESV)

The Devil’s Diary: Strategies For Getting The Christians To Shut Up

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Christians keep getting in my way.

It’s time to rethink my strategy.

I don’t have a problem with all of the Christians. The ones who just call themselves Christians but never actually follow Jesus aren’t a problem at all. I’ve got them right where I want them – attending the occasional church service and living good moral lives. It’s just maintenance mode for them. As long as I can keep them convinced that their good deeds are sufficient, they’ll be with me soon enough.

But it’s the real Christians who are giving me all of the trouble.

My servants keep thinking that we can kill them off, scare them off or use some government mandate to bully them into silence. This rarely works. All it does is make them stronger. It’s like a kid kicking dandelions thinking that he’s getting rid of weeds when all he’s really doing is making the problem worse.

I think that it’s time to turn the brute force down a notch or two and go with a more subtle approach.

I’ll start by making Christianity cool.

I’ll give a few of the more outspoken Christians a bigger platform. I’ll do what I can to make sure that they succeed in athletics, entertainment and politics. And with that success, I’ll send a lot of perks in their direction. I’ll make sure that they are liked, well-fed and rich. Very rich.

All under one condition. They have to shut up about Jesus and his kingdom.

When they are tempted to speak that garbage about Jesus being the only way, I’ll convince them that they’re being ignorant and intolerant. I have plenty of people to help me with that task.

When they attempt to speak truth on a particular topic, I’ll remind them of all of the followers they will lose and all of the endorsement dollars it will cost them.

If one somehow manages to break through and say something I don’t like, I’ll work harder to make sure that his own people, his fellow Christians, will discredit him and mock him for not saying it the way they would have said it. Nothing is better than getting the enemy to do my work for me.

Once the celebrities are quiet, I’ll go after the common folks.

I’ll allow them to voice an opinion and fight against some social issues. Just as long as opposition to those social issues is generic enough that anyone could do it. Just as long as their opposition is rooted in “what’s good for society” or their favorite political party’s platform rather than Jesus’ kingdom. So they’ll carry on with their ending of sex slavery, feeding the poor and helping other fools in need. But they won’t do it in Jesus’ name. And I’ll be fine with that.

I’ll keep them so busy worrying about themselves that they won’t even notice what I’m doing in their own communities. I already have a man positioned in one church that has caused me many problems. In another week or two, he’ll have those fools so worried about the color of the carpet in their beautiful new building that they won’t have time to say anything about my destruction just outside of their walls. By the end of the month, if things go my way, that once threatening church will be too busy fighting against each other to fight against me.

I hate it when Christians start to examine themselves. But I sure do love it when they skip the self-examination all together in favor of examining one another. I still like to count all of the people who are here with me because of strategies like that one.

Finally, I’ll go to the pastors. I’m never going to get them to shut up. But I can try to change what they talk about.

I’ll make them work hard to shut down liquor stores in their towns. I’ll turn their pulpits into places to promote their books and campaign stops for politicians. And I’ll convince them that this is, “the Lord’s work.” I love that phrase. So much of my work is done under that heading. Their congregations and the communities they live in won’t know what to think. Before long, they’ll start to associate the closing of liquor stores and voting for the right candidate with the gospel itself. That’s when I’ll know that I’ve succeeded – when churches start to talk about the gospel without ever really talking about the gospel.

Lions, prisons and firing squads are only for short term thrills. They really are more self-defeating than anything. Prosperity. Popularity. Power.

That’s where the money’s at.

That’s what will finally get the Christians to shut up.

Hell House

It’s that time of year again when churches all over the southeast transform into haunted houses. Christian haunted houses. They have names like Judgement Journey, Tribulation Trail and Hell House. And if things work out okay, these places will scare you away from sinning and make you more like Jesus. If you’re not familiar with the phenomenon, here’s how it works.

Step One: Find an open field somewhere on the church property. That one where they normally park the bus should do just fine.

Step Two: Build some kind of structure for everyone to walk through. It has to be big enough to show plenty of really scary scenes. You know, a car wreck scene, a dude trying meth for the first time scene and a scene where a girl contemplates downloading a Miley Cyrus album. Oh, and there has to be plenty of room for middle school kids dressed up like demons and middle aged men on horses to jump out at unsuspecting customers.

Step Three: Advertise. This is easy. Just put a scary looking sign reading Hell House! out front where it used to say Jake Roberts Memorial Baptist Church. People driving by will either think that the church is having another business meeting or some sort of a Halloween event. Either way, they’re sure to check it out.

Step Four: Close the deal. At the end of the entire experience, have everyone sit in a room where one of the deacons is dressed up like “the angel of death” and asks them a few simple questions. Note: “the angel of death” has a thick southern accent and really doesn’t want to be there.

“That was bad, huh?”

“Who wants to go to a place like that?”

“If you don’t, raise your hand and repeat this prayer after me.”

And just like that, you’ve got yourself the beginnings of a full blown revival.

In real life the frightening things are often much more subtle. And the scarier we try to make those things, the closer we get to just playing games.

Ephesus was steeped in idolatry, sexual perversion and Satanism. When Paul came to town, he diligently and lovingly confronted these sins head on (Acts 19:26-27). As a result, the Holy Spirit really started to work. Sick people were healed and possessed people were set free. Some just by touching garments that had Paul’s sweat on it. This is where TV preachers got the idea of mailing out prayer cloths. Only Paul didn’t charge $22.99. Or use hairspray.

Anyway, people were watching and they were astonished.

Some were so in awe that they tried to get in on the action (Acts 19:13). But instead of doing so under the power of their Lord, Jesus Christ, they tried to cast out demons, “by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims” (Acts 19:13). Jesus was not their Lord and Savior. He was Paul’s. For them, Jesus was just another good luck charm or magical spell to keep evil spirits away. The same guy you mumble some prayer to or about before eating or flying for the first time but certainly don’t consider to be the Man who rules the universe and demands total obedience.

There were seven men who were making a habit of this. Imagine them going door to door or setting up a booth in the middle of town to cast out demons. What a way to get a following.

“Demon, I command you by this guy who Paul talks about, what was his name? Jesus? Yes, that’s right. Jesus. I command you by Paul’s Jesus to come out.”

This got them more than a following. It got them a response. A response that they were sure to carry with them for the rest of their lives. It was a verbal response. And then a physical one. But it didn’t come from a mere man. It came from a demon. A real one. Not a middle school one. Here’s what he said.

“Jesus I know.”

Of course the demons knew Jesus. He created them and had them at his service before they rebelled. And still today they shudder in fear of him (James 2:19).

“Paul I recognize.”

Satan uses all of his resources to keep men blinded from seeing the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4). Paul’s mission in life was to undo that blinding. And Satan took notice. He recognized Paul, not just as an enemy, but as a threat.

“But who are you?”

The Enemy was only really paying attention to those who were a direct threat to his kingdom. Why should he bother with seven boys who only cared about using Jesus to make a name for themselves? Today, why would Satan bother with a man who neglects prayer and prefers spending hours online looking at porn?  That’s just maintenance work for Satan. Keep the Internet connection going strong and let the rest take care of itself.

After that question, the demon possessed man jumped on the seven brothers, beat them and sent them running away naked. But that’s not nearly as troubling as that question.

“Who are you?”

This questions forces us to wonder if we are merely playing games and building our own kingdoms? Are our churches known by our adversary as a threat or are we seen as just another maintenance issue? Have another business meeting and let the rest take care of itself.

A couple of months from now all of the Hell Houses, Tribulation Trails and Judgement Journeys will be torn down. That big, open field will be empty again, except for the bus. And a lot of the people who had Jesus scared into them will already be back to their old way of living.

But the war will continue. For Christians, it’s a war that has already been fought and won on our behalf (Colossians 2:13-15). Nevertheless, battles still rage.

So we must continue to fight and endure until our Master returns.

And we must remember that the battlefield is no place for playing games.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 (ESV)

If You Really Want To See The Devil

I was probably only eight-years-old but I was still old enough to know that something wasn’t right. It was more than not right. It was demonic. Satanic. And it was happening in the middle of my living room.

It was a party. A Sunday School party. The kids were several years older than me. One of them was laying in the middle of the floor. The rest were sitting around her, each with two fingers under her body. They were chanting.

“Light as a feather. Stiff as a board.”

I don’t remember how the rest went. But they were trying to levitate this girl off of the ground. Did I mention that this was a Sunday School party? Who said Christians don’t know how to have a party?

Later, I heard stories about standing in front of a mirror with something like a candle in one hand and, I don’t know, the wool from a virgin lamb, in the other hand. If you said some other chant three times while listening to an AC/DC record backwards you would see an image standing behind you. A scary image. But really, at that point, isn’t any image scary?

I was always too scared to try it. Sometimes fear can be a good thing.

As I grew older I got into horror movies. With each one I saw, I wanted to be scared out of my mind. But it never happened. Not because I was a really tough kid with nerves of steel. The movies just never delivered. A guy from your dreams with knives for fingers just didn’t seem realistic. Well, unless he could cut your hair.

Horror movies have changed. People still go to see them wanting to be scared. But instead of a villain in a hockey mask, most of today’s horror movies seem to focus on the supernatural. The Satanic. When I talk to people about their reaction to seeing those films, I find out that they respond the same way that I did all of those years ago. The movies never deliver. But maybe the next one will be really scary. And the vicious cycle continues.

We are fascinated with fear. To go a step further, we are fascinated with the supernatural. The Satanic. And as things progress, it takes more to scare us. Freddy and Jason just don’t do it for us anymore. We want to see the devil.

But, if you really want to see the devil, there’s a much more proven way. Just spend some time at a church that takes the Bible seriously.

Make no mistake, if your church is making any attempt to raise up disciples, demons are among you. They are present in your sanctuary on Sunday mornings. But this isn’t scary. Christ has already guaranteed victory for his church and equipped us in whatever daily attacks we face from our Enemy (Ephesians 6:10-20).

I’m not an expert. I’ve only been in ministry for around 15 years. Only five of those have been as a senior pastor. And I’m not one to see a demon behind every bush. If your car breaks down on the way to church, call a mechanic. Don’t call me to come and sprinkle something on it while rebuking the demon of busted fuel pumps.

But in the time that I’ve spent working in churches I have seen the demonic. Sometimes, it has been very dramatic. Like the completely rational person who feels a presence in the house or the person that violently looses all bodily control in the middle of a gospel presentation or the small child that can’t quit thinking about suicide and takes heavy doses of medication just to go to sleep at night.

You’ve seen it too. Everyone has. But the problem is that we never want to admit that a demon has something to do with any of this. We’d rather call it a medical or psychological condition. Sometimes that’s the case. But sometimes there’s more to it. Like the boy who kept having convulsions and falling into deep water and fire pits. When Jesus met that boy, he didn’t give him a psychological evaluation. He cast out the demon that was living inside of him (Mark 9:14-29).

But Satanic forces aren’t always working that way. In fact, sometimes I wonder if they would rather not be so visible. If maybe they prefer to be more subtle in their attacks. Perhaps by allowing gossip or divisiveness to take root in a church. You can be sure that whenever the Spirit is really working and people are getting saved and growing, from out of nowhere, somebody is going to complain, and I mean loud, about the chairs in the church gym being set up wrong.

Demons also like to show up in the teachings of a church.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons. 1 Timothy 4:1 (ESV)

If the Enemy can’t destroy a church through gossip, or strange noises coming from the basement, all is not lost for him. There are a lot of churches that he has no problem with. Churches that he would hate to see close down. Churches where a message of sin, repentance and faith is replaced by platitudes about life goals or no cost salvation for all.

Churches where he has already won the battle.

Typically, at churches like that, everything is peaceful. There are no strange distractions during services. No gossip or divisiveness to deal with.

No demons.

And no Satan.

After all, why would the Enemy bother messing with a church that is working to promote his  agenda? He’d just rather leave it alone.

And that’s really scary.

How to Get Rid of Demons

There are two wrong ways to think about spiritual warfare. The first way is to become obsessed with it. In this approach, every time your car breaks down, it’s a demon’s fault. The second way is to reject the spiritual world all together. This happens when you encounter someone who is legitimately demon-possessed and always classify their condition as a medical one or a mental one but never a spiritual one.

Satan is content with Christians making either of these two mistakes.

Thankfully, there is a third option, as explained in this video by John Piper.