With All The Saints

Sermon- Carillon Beach Community Chapel – 9-18-16

Scripture Reading:  Ephesians 4: 1-6, 11-16   

I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism;  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.……….

And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ, so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming. Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body’s growth and builds itself up in love.

The Lord bless the reading and hearing of his Holy Word.  Amen

As September moves along we see fall traditions in full bloom….it’s not only football and tailgating season,  though, that I’m thinking of.  It’s holiday season.  In the stores we’re seeing shelves filled with fall season holiday merchandise….Halloween candy and costumes, Thanksgiving cornucopias and fall décor, even  Christmas ornaments and gifts. We used to think that stores were rushing the season if Christmas merchandise appeared before Thanksgiving.  Now it is like a screaming, speeding train of holiday hurry almost from the time school begins.  I heard the first countdown to Christmas the other day and we haven’t even gotten to Halloween yet. There is, however, a holiday that gets little attention except among some Christians and churches….it’s All Saints Day…November 1st.  And today I don’t want to rush you through the fall, but I do want to challenge you today to think about saints. 

The story is told of a little girl whose family attended an impressive and stately old stone church with tall stained glass windows that graced both of the long side walls of the sanctuary.  Each window portrayed an apostle and other significant individuals in scenes from Scripture stories.  The little girl would study each brilliantly colored window as the light streamed in through them while she sat in worship with her family.

One day, during a Sunday School class lesson, the teacher asked the children:   “What are ‘saints’ ?    The little girl replied eagerly, “They are the people that the sun shines through!”  

She had in mind those beautiful stained glass portraits in the sanctuary through whom the sun literally shone brightly, but her response, in a more figurative way, is exactly the definition of what saints are!   Indeed, saints are the people through whom the light of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, shines in the world! 

In the church we talk about “communion of the saints with one another and with Christ.”  We hear the phrase “fellowship of the saints” or “perseverance of the saints.”   Some have understood a “saint” to be some extraordinarily holy and good person who receives a special designation from the church for the quality of his or her life. Like the recent beatification of Mother Teresa, now Saint Teresa.  This small, shy ordinary girl of 18 left her home in Yugoslavia in 1928 to join a convent in Ireland.  A year later she went to Calcutta to begin teaching ministry there among the well to do, where she continued for 15 years.  Eventually, she trained in nursing and sought permission to work in creating a new order of nuns in Calcutta to work among the ill, illiterate and those dying in its slums.  Until her death in 1997, at age 87, Mother Teresa continued her work among the poorest of the poor, depending on God for all of her needs. Honors too numerous to mention had come her way throughout the years, as the world watched,  astounded by her care for those usually deemed of little value. By her own description she was “God’s pencil—a tiny bit of pencil with which he writes what he likes.”

Despite years of strenuous physical, emotional and spiritual work, Mother Teresa seemed unstoppable. Though frail and bent, with numerous ailments, she always returned to her work, to those who received her compassionate care for more than 50 years. Only months before her death, when she became too weak to manage the administrative work, she relinquished the position of head of her Missionaries of Charity. She knew the work would go on. 

If anyone deserved the recognition of beatification, to be elevated in stature on earth to that of a saint, it was Mother Teresa.  Mother Teresa’s spiritual reality was one of an undivided love for Christ, consecrated by the evangelical vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and a special fourth vow of wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.   But she, in her submission and humility would be the first to say that holiness is not the luxury of the few, but a simple duty for you and for me, as well.  She would urge us to be holy as our Father in Heaven is holy. The more intimately one loves Jesus, the more holy one will become. The more holy one becomes, the greater will be the desire to be a conduit of God’s love, compassion, and presence to the world.

According to the Bible, it is not just the rare spirit that gives all of one’s life to serving the poor with vows poverty that is a proclaimed a saint, but it is the collective body of all of those who are made righteous IN GOD’S SIGHT through faith in Jesus Christ! 

2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God through Him.  By Jesus’ death and resurrection, his righteousness has become available to each of us through belief in him.

That is what makes us righteous in God’s sight……  Believing in Jesus.  We, you and I, believers in Jesus Christ, we are the saints.  All believers for the last 2000-plus years, those present here on earth and those who are now in heaven with Jesus in person are numbered among the saints.  A saint is someone who has received the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ.  The Apostle Paul used this term regularly for the members of the churches to whom he wrote letters.  For example, in Ephesians chapter 1 he begins the letter this way:  “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus”.   To the Corinthians, Paul wrote: (1Corinthians 1:2) “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.”    In all of the New Testament verses where a saint is mentioned, it is associated with those who are in Christ, who have faith in Christ.  Without Christ, being a saint is impossible.  With Christ, it is a reality. There are only two kinds of people on earth right now, as the late Pastor Adrian Rogers said; there are saints and there are ain’ts.  You are either saved and a saint, or you are not saved and you are still dead in your sin.  There are none in the middle.  There is no fence that anyone can sit on, in a posture of indecision about whether or not they are saved and righteous.

We honor those saints who’ve gone before us each year in November.  But not only do we celebrate those who are part of the church triumphant in heaven. But also we celebrate the lives of all believers here among us as we hold up the name of the Lord Jesus Christ through our love for him.  Do you feel like a saint?   It really doesn’t matter if you feel like a saint or not.  If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are a saint! 

Our righteousness in the eyes of God is sure, because of our belief in Jesus.  However, the Bible tells us also to encourage one another onward toward fulfilling the righteousness of Jesus Christ in the world as his ambassadors, his hands and feet in service to the world.  It was that latter direction of Christ that Saint Teresa of Calcutta did so admirably that garnered the attention of the world.

We have received our righteousness from God by the power of that faith in Jesus Christ, who calls us to shine like a beacon of light in the world.  That is the gracious gift of God….. that God now views us as being counted as righteous as Jesus himself!  But there is another part of this process of being the light of Christ in the world and it involves not only what we believe, but also what we do.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit in us, making us holy in words and actions.  We are called saints because of our belief and God views us that way from the moment of our salvation.  But we begin to live out that calling in our lives as we seek to live as saints in the world today…..sharing the Gospel with others, living our lives as closely after the likeness of Jesus as we can, caring for the sick, the poor, the needy, the prisoners, the sinners, and witnessing about the work of the Lord in our lives to those who have not yet believed in Jesus.

 We are called to give of ourselves, our time, our obedience, our worship and reverence, as well as our money or other resources…..to assure that everyone has the opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus Christ and experience his love through God’s people and God’s church.

For us to live in the world as the saints that God has called us to be, we are to live like Jesus every day.  We cooperate with the Holy Spirit to allow the fruit of the Spirit to be born in us.  The love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.   What does that look like for each of us in the circumstances in which we live?  Out saintliness is evident to others when we:

Give a hurt in our hearts over to God’s healing, or  

          Surrender a self destructive habit, or

          Practice patience with someone who is difficult in our lives, or  

          Lift up others in prayer, or  

          Faithfully worship God in community with others, or

          Hand over a worry by trusting God, or   

          Choose to forgive someone, or

          Decide to overlook a slight or an offense, or   

          Make a wise choice that respects God’s biblical principles, or 

          Share our resources with those in need, or  

When we persevere in Christ, picking ourselves up and moving onward after a    disappointment or a failure……

There is a contemporary Christian song that was played often a few years ago ….

By popular artist Bob Carlisle, it is entitled  “We Fall Down”.  Listen to the lyrics.

Cursing every step of the way, he bore a heavy load

To the market ten miles away, the journey took its toll

And every day he passed a monastery’s high cathedral walls

And it made his life seem meaningless and small

And he wondered how it would be to live in such a place

To be warm, well fed and at peace, to shut the world away

So when he saw a priest who walked, for once, beyond the iron gate

He said, “Tell me of your life inside that place”, and the priest replied

 

We fall down, we get up, we fall down, we get up

We fall down, we get up

And the saints are just the sinners

Who fall down and get up

 

Disappointment followed him home, he’d hoped for so much more

But he saw himself in a light he had never seen before

‘Cause if the priest who fell could find the grace of God to be enough

Then there must be some hope for the rest of us, There must be some hope left for us

 

‘Cause we fall down, we get up, we fall down, we get up

We fall down, we get up

And the saints are just the sinners

Who fall down and get up

 

Perseverance is one of the hallmark characteristics of those who are called “saints”.  No matter how often or harshly one gets knocked down, how one’s faith is challenged, a saint rises again and stands firm in knowing that God will be there and God’s grace will be sufficient.   That is what saintliness looks like.   Phillip Yancey, theologian and author of several widely read books, says “Saints become saints by somehow hanging on to the stubborn conviction that things are not as they appear, and that the unseen world is as solid and trustworthy as the visible world around them. God deserves trust, even when it looks like the world is caving in…There is no better way for us to express love to God than by exercising fidelity to Him.”

These are the kinds of daily actions that define our life in Christ….that further provide evidence that our life in Christ is real….that we are becoming sanctified, being made thoroughly renewed by the Holy Spirit within us bringing into reality in the here and now what God in Christ has already said we are by our faith in Jesus.   We don’t want to be simply believers in the Word…..we want to be doers of the Word……not only saved, but saved unto the purpose for which God created us…….to do good works……to live into our calling to be saints.     

We are the saints at work in the world today.  And someday we will take our place alongside the saints in heaven.  Do you feel “saintly”?  Again, it doesn’t matter whether you feel like a saint or not.   Because you have believed in Jesus, you are counted among the saints by God!

How are you living out your life as a saint among other saints?   Are you demonstrating your love, obedience, and reverence for God through the daily thoughts you have, the words you speak, and the choices you make?   When you find yourself having fallen down in your Christian walk, do you get back up?

Although God has reckoned us righteous by our belief, can other people around us see the righteousness in our lives?  If not, then we are not yet recognizable to other saints as one of them!  But we all will be some day!  The Spirit continues the work of making us into the likeness of Christ until we go home.

Jesus said that someday every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that he is Lord!  There will be a time when all who remain will be the saints…..all who do not believe will have been removed from the world.  Listen to Jesus’ vision revealed to the Beloved Apostle John in Revelation 21:1-6

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”     And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”  Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.”

The old song is right,  “Oh when the saints go marching in,  how I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in!” 

To live eternally with the saints, as one of the saints, is our privilege.  It is our family legacy of salvation as heirs with Jesus Christ.   It is God’s gift.  It is our call to let the son shine through us like those beautiful stained glass window saints!   Let his light shine through you today and every day.     

Let us pray:

We come before you, loving Father, with all kinds of prayer, public, private, and secret; in the congregation and in solitude; solemn and sudden: with all the parts of prayer; confession of sin, petition for mercy, and thanksgiving for blessings received. We pray, hoping for your grace,  God, in the power of the Holy Spirit, in dependence on and according to the teaching of Jesus Christ. We ask that you would enable us to persevere in our faith and in our requests, notwithstanding discouragements that may come our way. We pray, not for ourselves only, but for all saints who have received righteousness by faith in Christ. Our enemies are mighty, and we are without strength, but our Redeemer Jesus Christ is almighty, and in the power of his strength we will overcome.   How shall we be encouraged in our righteousness?  When you have called, we have often neglected to answer.  Let us consider these things, and continue our prayers with patience as we persevere and become the saints through which your light shines.  Amen

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