Why Does God Want Our Love? – LIVE Q&A for May 23, 2024

Is It a Sin to Pray to Saints? - Live Q&A from Kenya for June 6, 2024

Today Pastor David Guzik is joined by Pastor Greg Breznik of Reach Orlando.

Is It a Sin to Pray to Saints?

Today’s lead question comes from YoLog:

Hi David, is it biblical to give veneration to Virgin Mary, angels, and saints? Is there any Scripture that forbids this practice?

To get picky:

  • I wouldn’t use the term “Virgin Mary” – I would say, “Mary, the mother of Jesus”
  • I know what people mean when they use the term “saints,” but we’re all saints.

Since the question first speaks about veneration, I would say there are a few Scriptures that forbid giving veneration to Mary, angels, or saints:

Deuteronomy 34:14: For you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

Matthew 4:10: For it is written, “you shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.”

Colossians 2:18: Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels…

When John fell at the feet of an angel to worship him, the angel replied: See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! (Revelation 19:10 – similar to 22:8-9)

Most Roman Catholics, when they venerate Mary the mother of Jesus, claim that they aren’t worshipping her. I simply leave it to the “eye test” – oftentimes, it sure looks like worship. Even if what they claimed was true – that they honored Mary the mother of Jesus, but not in a way that crossed into worship – who could endorse a practice of lighting candles, incense, bowing and praying before a statue – or of specific prayers made again and again to a person?

There are prominent, influential Roman Catholics who clearly tell their people, “DO NOT worship Mary!” But generally, all I hear are encouragements that people should give Mary more honor.

Let’s say a group of ten people have lit a candle, burned incense, knelt before a statue of Mary, and prayed the “Hail Mary.”  Maybe one among those ten would have the theological and personal wisdom and focus to not worship and only give reverence in proper measure, but you know that 9 out of 10 of those are worshipping Mary. It’s just a practice that can’t be endorsed.

In addition, there is the practice of praying to Mary the mother of Jesus, angels, and those said to be saints. Neither Mary nor any other departed believer should be prayed to.

I know that Roman Catholics and others claim, “This is just like asking a believing friend to pray for you. That isn’t wrong, so it’s not wrong to pray to Mary or the saints.” But I’d reply that it isn’t just like that. Look at the way people actually pray to Mary and the saints. I’m not talking about the theory, but the practice. The practice almost always violates the truth of 1 Timothy 2:5:

1 Timothy 2:5: For there is one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.

Whether it is actually taught or just in the practice of many Roman Catholics,

Deuteronomy 18:10-11: There shall not be found among you anyone who…conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.

“Calls up the dead” refers to the practice of necromancy, which is the conjuring up of or the contacting of the dead. One commentator (Kalland) explained this as, “One who investigates, looks into, and seeks information from the dead.”

In the story Jesus told about Lazarus and the rich man, in the realm of the dead, the rich man was forbidden to help his brothers who still were in the land of the living (Luke 16:19-31).

So, don’t pray to those who are in the realm of the dead. The Bible gives zero endorsement of this practice and speaks against it.

How do we really worship God? I think there’s more to it than saying “Lord, I worship You.”

Pastor David: I love questions like this. I love very basic questions about how to do the things of the Christian life. I think you’re right. Worship is more than saying, “Lord, I worship You.” There are two things that come to my mind immediately. Jesus said in John 4 that God is looking for people who worship Him in spirit and in truth. Real worship of God has an element of spirit within it, so it’s spiritual, and it also has an element of truth within it.

One thing we can do is to look for the words and patterns of Scripture, especially in the Psalms, which are filled with worship. We can let those verses impact our heart and our mind and say them back to God in worship to Him, for example, “Oh, magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together.” Another aspect of worship is to just let God be big and glorious in your mind and in your heart, to think of Him in a great and glorious way. We know what it’s like to honor or praise people. We give that same response to God from our own heart. There is a heart element in worship. But there are people who say some of the right words in worship, but their heart and mind aren’t in it at all. I don’t think it really avails much before God. Greg, what are some of your thoughts?

Pastor Greg: The passage from John 4, about worshiping the Lord in spirit and truth, was the first thing that came to my mind as well. When I teach on worship, I often encourage people to allow God to be the one who captures your passion and your imagination. As was mentioned, it is very easy to go into church and say things like, “Lord, I worship You.” But it’s an entirely different thing to have God capture your imagination, capture your passion, and then to pursue Him with your whole and all your being.

The other thing I was thinking about worshiping God is that it also has to do with longing to know Him. Most people spend very little time in the Bible, so they don’t really know this God that they’re trying to worship. How can God capture your imagination if you don’t really know Him? I think part of worship is just being in the Word daily, moment by moment, learning who God has been, learning about His character.

Pastor David: Let me add one other thing. How do you say “thank you” to somebody? Well, you say “thank you” by saying it, but you also do it by meaning it. There’s something within you that means it, that decides you’re going to mean it.

Does God lead us into temptations? Do Matthew 6:13 and James 1:13 contradict each other?

The Lord’s Prayer (​​”Lead us not into temptation”) and James 1:13 (“God does not tempt anyone”) is there a contradiction? Does God really lead us to temptations?

Pastor David: First, allow me to explain that the passage in the Lord’s Prayer which says, “lead us not into temptation,” isn’t necessarily implying that God would do so, in contradiction to what it says there in James. An important thing to note is that in English we have different words for temptation and testing. However, in Koine Greek, the ancient language in which the Bible was written, there is no distinction between those terms, so to be tested is the same thing as to be tempted. I really think that the idea that Jesus was getting at was, “Lord, don’t lead me into any testing that I won’t be able to handle as I rely on You.” I think it’s more of a broad sense of testing than something like, “Oh, God, please don’t entice me to evil.” I don’t think that’s the idea there. God does not entice us to evil. Rather, the request is, “God, don’t allow me to be tested in any way that’s beyond my ability as I trust and rely on You.”

What is your opinion on the “Billy Graham Rule” of not being alone with a woman other than your wife? ​​Is this “rule” only for pastors? Are there any teachings or passages that support this “rule”?

Pastor David: I think that it is wise and circumspect to be very careful about time you spend with women that are not your wife. I think that’s true for pastors, but I also think it’s true for every man who’s concerned with godly living. I don’t think it’s something to be paranoid about, but I do think it’s something to be legitimately cautious about.

Now, in Billy Graham’s case, I think he had reason for even greater caution because of the prominence of his ministry. There were at least a few people who would have liked to deliberately ruin his ministry. So, I think he had even more reason to maintain such a practice. But as a general principle, I think it very much applies. Pastors should be circumspect.

I’m not in pastoral ministry over a church any longer, but when I was, I would not counsel a woman alone in a room with a closed door. I might speak to her one on one, but I would make sure that it was an absolutely open and above-board situation. I think there’s a lot of wisdom there. I do think it’s possible for such a thing to be taken into a legalistic extremity; that’s possible with anything. But as a general principle of wisdom, I think it applies.

Pastor Greg: 1 Thessalonians 5 tells us that we ought to avoid any appearance of evil. We realize that sometimes where men and women are working together in ministry, people can get the wrong idea about what goes on. So, you do have to be careful of it. And I think that you’re right, the larger somebody’s influence within the church, or the larger their ministry, probably the more sensitive they need to be to avoid any appearance of evil.

Pastor David: That’s right. I like the idea of being circumspect. It’s just being wise about your conduct, and how it appears to others. And again, there could be a legalistic extreme in these things, but that’s not by necessity, as a general principle.

Pastor Greg: To pastors who are listening, I have noticed sometimes that in churches who really try to follow the Billy Graham rule, women don’t get ministered to very well, because the pastor doesn’t feel like he can minister to women. And he may not have a woman on staff or at the right position to minister to other women. So, I do think that the Billy Graham rule is a good rule, but I also think you need to make sure you have ways for women in your church to be ministered to well and not excluded. Pastor David: We can almost call that the Billy Graham rule responsibility. If you’re going to commit yourself to that rule, then you need to be very responsible to make sure that the needs of women are being ministered to. And again, the Billy Graham rule should not be a way to avoid ministering to women, or making sure that their discipleship is neglected in the church. Not at all. If it’s being used to do that, then it becomes sort of a dangerous thing.

Should Christians pray for their dead ancestors?

My question is about people that claim they are Christians but pray for their dead ancestors. I don’t understand the practice. Ancestors seem to have a big influence. How should prayers for ancestors / the dead be understood?

Pastor David: I’ll be pretty direct. It’s a bad practice. It’s a false practice. Hebrews 9:27 says that it’s appointed to man once to die, and then to face judgment. In this life, God gives us so much opportunity and so many chances to turn to Jesus, to put our trust in Him, and to respond to however God has revealed Himself to us. But once this life is over, that opportunity passes. The Bible tells us nothing of a chance in the life to come. I’ll put it in this way: if there is a chance in the life to come, God didn’t want us to know anything about it. He wanted us to act and to think and to minister as if the only chance we had is on this side of eternity. So, I don’t think prayers for dead ancestors do any good whatsoever. They just shouldn’t be practiced, because they pretend that somebody’s eternal fate can be affected after they leave this life, and by somebody who’s on this side of eternity.

I understand that certain cultures throughout the world and throughout history have had a very high esteem for ancestors, and they may find it possible to fall into these traps. But it’s not a biblical practice at all.

What about people that claim they’re Christians, but pray for their dead ancestors? Well, I would say to those people that they are in error. You shouldn’t be doing that. I think that it’s possible for someone to be wrong about many side issues, and still be saved. Whatever you want to say about the practice of praying for one’s dead ancestors, it’s not a core issue to the Christian faith. Now, it’s not right, it’s not good, and they shouldn’t do it. They should grow in Christ and come to a biblical understanding. All of those things are true. But I don’t think it means that that person isn’t a believer. What it means is that they are a believer in error. And that should be addressed.

Pastor Greg: The fancy term for that is syncretism. They have taken something from their culture and brought it into their Christianity. If people were excluded from being saved because of syncretism, then there would be a lot fewer people getting saved.

Pastor David: I would be more concerned about that syncretistic tendency in other places it was exposed because it could be expressed in ways that did compromise the gospel.

Pastor Greg: Exactly. So, it does become kind of a warning sign saying, “Hey, if you’re doing this, maybe you haven’t thought about the other things you’ve brought in culturally to your faith.”

Even though we can repent straight to Jesus, is confession a helpful practice?

I wanted to bring up confession. I know I can repent straight to Jesus. But I know it is still good to confess/share some struggles with sin.

James 5:16 (ESV) – Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Pastor David: I agree with you, I think it is good to confess and share some of our struggles with sin. You’re right that you don’t have to confess your sins to another person to receive forgiveness from the Lord. But I think that the proper confession of sin is a neglected practice among believers. Sometimes, we need to confess our sins to another person. Sometimes it’s helpful for accountability. If you’re struggling with the same sin over and over, and you find yourself coming to the Lord for forgiveness again and again, it’s probably time for you to confess that sin to a trusted brother or sister, whatever your own gender is – brothers should confess to brothers, sisters confess to sisters. Confess your sin to another person and ask them to help hold you accountable for it.

But there’s another reason why, and the second reason might be even more important. I think confession of sin can be so healing because we receive a word of forgiveness from another person. Do you remember what Jesus said about if you forgive the sins of any, their sins are forgiven? I think Jesus gave that as a working principle not only to the disciples, the Apostles, but to all believers in this sense: that if a person does confess their sins and seek forgiveness from God in a biblical way, repenting and trusting in Christ, it’s good for them to hear a word that says, “Your sins are forgiven. I speak to you in Jesus’ name that your burden is lifted, and your sins are forgiven. Now go and sin no more, as Jesus said.”

So, it is a neglected practice. I think this is something that Christians should think about more seriously, considering proper and appropriate ways for them to confess their sin one to another. It is true that at certain times, confession of sin has been done in an improper way. But we don’t have to do that; we can avoid that. I think there’s great power in doing it the right way. Anything else on that?

Pastor Greg: The first thing I would tell you is that when you do confess your sin to another person, make sure you find someone very trustworthy. It needs to be somebody who you know closely, otherwise practically it can become a problem at times. But in my experience, I’ve also seen that when I confess my sin to somebody, and we’ve prayed about it, their prayers have very often given me insight into my problem that I would not have gotten otherwise. So, I do think it is a really powerful practice in many ways.

Pastor David: And again, often neglected. Generally speaking, in the church today, or at least the circles I run in, the problem isn’t that people are confessing their sins to each other too much, but not enough.

Pastor Greg: Well, you consider the humility involved in something like that, to go up to another person and say, “You know what, I’m actually not who you think I am. I have this struggle and this weakness.” That’s a tough thing to do, which is why it’s important to tell it to somebody you really trust.