Question:

I have doubts about certain religions. People have asked me what I believe regarding these things and I honestly don't know what the Bible says about it.

You probably know about religions that preach about "ghosts" or "spirits." I've even heard about people who sacrifice animals or other people to get something they want. Does the Bible say anything about that? Are these people deceived and won't get what they want through that or does it actually have anything to do with Satan so that their "sacrifice" to get what they want works?

How about people who claim to have seen ghosts? It confuses me because the Bible says it's impossible, but Samuel came back from the dead to talk to Saul.

Another thing that has been bothering me is what to think about death. Should we be scared of it? Honestly I am scared of losing people I love before they become Christians. What if it happens? How do you get over something so tragic?

Also,I John 5:16-17 still scares me. Lately it's been incredibly difficult to deal with temptations; more difficult than ever.Every time I do something wrong if feels like, "Oh, I can never do anything right; I should just give up." What if I can't act like a Christian because I have committed a sin leading to death? I have spent days not trying not to sin because every time I try not to sin, it doesn't work.

I don't want to lose my faith, but lately even that has been difficult.


Answer:

It is times like these when it is important to have other Christians around you to help you keep life in perspective. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:23-25). When you try to do things on your own, you tend to lose ground.

Regarding ghosts, see:

In I Samuel 28:7-14, Saul was about to go into battle. He wanted to know what the future held, but God had stopped talking to him because of his sins. So he decided to talk to a medium, a witch, about forcing Samuel to speak with him. What is interesting is that when Samuel did appear, the medium cried out in alarm. She got something she wasn't expecting. In other words, she didn't normally get the real thing. She saw a spirit coming out of the ground, and this wasn't what normally happened. In other words, God intervened in this woman's trickery to teach Saul a lesson. The fact that God made an exception doesn't mean this always happens.

Regarding sacrifices to the dead, it is idolatry raising its ugly head again. "They joined themselves also to Baal of Peor, and ate sacrifices made to the dead. Thus they provoked Him to anger with their deeds" (Psalms 106:28-29). Whether it is Satan fooling people to make it appear they are getting what they want or just mere happenstance, the result is the same. "The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved" (II Thessalonians 2:9-10).

Regarding death and trying to save souls. Paul said, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" (II Corinthians 5:10-11). You and I know that Judgment is real. It is a strong motivator to reach as many people as we can. But don't ever let fear paralyze you into making no effort. And for ourselves, there ought to be no fear. "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love" (I John 4:18).

It is odd that you turn from concern about others salvation to thoughts of abandoning your own. Do we sin? The answer for every person is "yes." "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (I John 1:8). The difference between the saint and the sinner isn't the existence of sin, it is their attitude toward sin. The sinner wallows in his sin. The saint is disgusted by it and works to change himself.

"Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother" (I John 3:7-10 NAS95).

The Greek is clearer than the English. I quoted the NASB because it gets closer to the meaning of the Greek. John isn't saying a child of God never sins. He is saying that a child of God doesn't live in sin -- he doesn't make a practice of staying sinful.

Notice that all of this is in the same book. I John 5:16-17 talks about what to do regarding those who aren't willing to change and leave their sins. What do you do with a person who is convinced that they have a right to a particular sin? "If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death" (I John 5:16-17). The only sin that leads to death is a sin that is held onto. For more details, see "A Sin Leading to Death."

Too many people turn this backward, thinking that God refuses to forgive some sins. God wants everyone saved (II John 3:9). That is why Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:8). The problem isn't God's refusal to forgive. The problem is men refusing to let go of sin.