Are You Praying to the Wrong Person? Part II: Saints

The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates, because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to [Paul and Barnabas]. But when the apostles Paul and Barnabas heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting, “Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.” – Acts 14:13-15

Most of us have heard the admonition, “Don’t shoot the messenger.” In other words, when the news is upsetting, some people take out their anger or grief on the one who delivers the news. Although tempting, this course of action is inappropriate.

In the book of Acts we read about a case where the opposite was happening. The lesson here is, “When the news is good, don’t worship the messenger!”

Paul had been used by God to heal a man in the city of Lystra, where the people worshiped multiple Greek gods. Seeing the miracle, they shouted “The gods have come down to us in human form!” They believed that Barnabas was Zeus, and that Paul, being the chief speaker, was Hermes, the messenger god. (Acts 14:11-12)

Some people today might find the misunderstanding mildly amusing, and no one could blame the apostles if they took the attention as a compliment. On the contrary, these men were distressed – so distressed they tore their clothes – a sign of extreme grief, anger, or loss. While the egos of some men might have enjoyed the kind of attention the apostles received, Paul and Barnabas were horrified. They had come with a glorious message, and the people misunderstood. Consequently, their reaction was the opposite of what it should have been. To the apostles, the twisted message was appalling, because the real message was so wonderful.

This was the true message: Contrary to the beliefs that were prevalent in those days – that there were many gods, with varying personalities and demands – there was only one true God, and He loved the world so much He gave His only Son, Jesus, to give His life for our salvation. The great news for the people of Lystra was that they no longer had to make endless sacrifices in an effort to atone for their sins and please their various gods with their changing moods. Jesus, the One and Only Son of God, had already made the ultimate sacrifice – Himself! Their sins were paid for! The only thing remaining necessary to receive God’s favor was to repent and trust Jesus as Savior and Lord.

Fast forward: In light of this account, how do you suppose the apostles feel about being worshiped and prayed to now? I’m guessing if they could speak to us today, they would say, “Remember, we were human, just like you! Remember the message we brought! Worship the God we served!”

The Church is the Body of Christ, and like a human body, Christ’s Body has different parts that work together. We have different gifts, different personalities, different ministries and mission fields. The stories of the first Christians, as well as accounts of Christians who lived more recently, are told to inspire us to do the kinds of things they did – to worship the God they worshiped, to serve the One they served.

These people came in a wide variety of personalities, situations, and challenges, so most of us can find at least one we can relate to. These differences aren’t so we can identify the patron saint of music or the patron saint of athletics or the patron saint of medicine and pray to one of them, depending on the situation. How is that really any different from worshiping many gods and thinking, I’m going on a cruise tomorrow, I’d better pray to the god of the sea?

Maybe you don’t pray to saints. Good for you. But do you have other “Christian idols” in your life? Do you have a favorite pastor, radio preacher, or other Christian personality that you like to follow? Do you mold every one of your beliefs after what that person says? Godly Christian preachers, teachers, and evangelists are wonderful. They can teach us a lot and help us grow. But we should never make one person a substitute for our own study of God’s Word and our own prayer time. Jesus formed His Church out of many types of people, so we could be interdependent on one another while at the same time being totally dependent on Him. Making a flawed human into a god (consciously or unconsciously) is not only offensive to the Lord; it is also totally unfair to that person.

Replacing God with anything or anyone else, is idolatry. This is perhaps the most serious sin of all, not only because it is a lie (That person or thing is not God.) but because it breaks His heart. The Bible speaks of idolatry as “adultery,” the grievous sin of being an unfaithful bride.

No, the Good News – the Gospel – is that there is only one God, and He loves you! Believe in Him. Worship Him. Pray to Him. Trust Him to get you through life – He will!

Besides, if you look to saints, they will say, “Don’t look to me, look to Jesus!

Prayer: Lord, Jesus, we are prone to look to something or someone we see, rather than the unseen God that You are. Forgive us and help us to keep the right perspective when we look at those Christians we admire. Help us to follow good examples, but never to put one another on pedestals. Help us to stay off pedestals ourselves and not give in to the temptations of our egos. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

24 thoughts on “Are You Praying to the Wrong Person? Part II: Saints

  1. All those pagan entities are making a comeback in world culture today. Good reminder to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and our minds and hearts on things above where he is seated at the right hand of God.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anita and I attended a “Christian concert” a few years ago called “Winter Jam.” Sitting in a nose-bleed section the volume was so loud that we had to use ear plugs to understand what was being said or sung.
    A few lines of teen girls sat in the rows in front of us, and I recall when one of the groups came to the stage, the girls went ballistic with one girl screaming, “Oh, g-d, it’s MY group that I’ve been waiting for!!” The three or four rows in front of us stood for the remainder of the concert that we stayed for, but left before “MY group” was done with their set.
    Just too much worship of humans and billed as a “Contemporary Christian Music Spectacular.” The people attending such events are being deceived into thinking this is worship of The God Who Is when, in fact, they are worshipping their idols. So sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As an aside, interesting you mention Zeus. Jesus equates Zeus with Satan indirectly in Revelation 2:12-13. Pergamos had a temple built to Zeus which has been reproduced in Berlin, so likely the “seat of Satan” in Pergamos was a reference to this temple. That said, Zeus=Jupiter=Beelzebub=Satan. Something else rather interesting, a major information technology company has collaborated with Greece to build a virtual reconstruction of Olympia complete with an image of Zeus. It is incredible. Anyone on the planet with a computer or smartphone can enter the temple of Zeus and behold him on his throne. Interesting times.

    Like

  4. Annie, you summed up the Church’s objective well with this, “Jesus formed His Church out of many types of people, so we could be interdependent on one another while at the same time being totally dependent on Him.”

    Amen! God bless you.

    Like

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