One of the elders asked me, "Who are these people dressed in white robes, and where do they come from?" "I don't know, sir. You do," I answered.
He said to me, "These are the people who have come safely through the terrible persecution. They have washed their robes and made them white with the blood of the Lamb.
Are you a "saint"? Do you write the word "saint" in front of your name when you sign things? Do you introduce yourself saying "Hello, Iím Saint Ö?" Most of us would think that it would be far too presumptuous on our part to call ourselves a saint. We know just how unsaintly we are.
When we think of a saint we think of the heavy weights of
Christianity A saint is someone like Mother Theresa Ė you go and live in a third
world country somewhere and dedicate your life to helping others Ė thatís a
The Apostle Peter or the Apostle Paul Ė those guys are saints Ė the real good people. These are the champions of Christianity Ė they are shining examples to the world of what it means to be a Christian.
But me Ė a saint? No way. Iím definitely not a saint."
Letís say that we have a committee here at church, called
the "Saint Committee." And their job is to determine if you should be called a
"saint" or not. And so this committee goes into your house while youíre not
home, and sets up hidden cameras. They set up microphones all over your house.
They set up surveillance equipment at your work. They bug your phone so that
they can listen to your conversations. They follow you around, take pictures of
you, and take notes on everything you say and do.
Then, after gathering all this information, they meet as a committee, and the chairman says, "Well, what have you learnt about so-and-so? Is this person a saint?" What do you think they would say, after observing the lives of any of us closely?
"Heís no saint," one of them might say. "Iíve listened to his conversation. Iíve watched what he does. Heís no saint! Without a doubt heís a sinner!"
Do you think thatís what the committee would say about
It is true, that we are sinners, and we have more than earned that title in our lives. If our all of our conversations were taped, and we were watched every day, we would be embarrassed by what other people would see in our lives.
We know that God knows everything about us Ė what we say and what we think and what we do? That thought is so embarrassing. Thereís no way God could think otherwise Ė we are no saints; we are sinners.
Everyone is sinful, and even the so-called "good" people
have skeletons in their closet. No one deserves to be called a saint.
And yet, the strange thing is, God does call us to be saints! The word "saint" appears in the Bible over 60 times, and every single time it is used, it refers to those who are Christians but interestingly not necessarily those whom we think of themselves as good and holy. In his letter to the Romans, Paul says, "To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints."
He begins his letters to the Corinthians in the same way and we know all too well that the church in Corinth had so many issues to deal with. They could hardly be called a model Christians. The congregation was divided according to their favourite pastor, there was sexual immorality, drunkenness at church gatherings, claims of superiority over others because some claimed to have greater and more important gifts from the Holy Spirit, there were even lawsuits between members of the church. And yet in spite of all this Paulís opening words, "To the church of God in Corinth, to those Ö called to be saints".
If the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to this church, he would write, "To all in Caboolture who are loved by God and called to be saints."
Itís good to remember this because we can be so hard on
the church and the people who make up the church. Many people drop out of the
church because all they can see are sinners in a congregation Ė people with all
kinds of hang-ups, different and difficult personalities, people with any number
of pet sins they find hard to kick, people who seem to specialise on stepping on
other peopleís toes. If thatís all that God could see when he looks at us, he
would have every right to drop us like a hot potato. He knows all about our sin
but he doesnít give up on us.
So why does Paul use the word "saint" so freely when addressing even the most perverted Christians? How does a person become a saint in the eyes of God?
The answer is found in one of our Scripture lessons for this morning Ė the reading from the Book of Revelation, chapter 7. There you have a picture of the saints in heaven gathered around the throne of God.
Verse 9 Ė there is a huge crowd Ė so big no one could count them. They were from every nation on earth, wearing white robes and holding palm branches, praising God in heaven with all the angels.
Verse 13 Ė someone asks,
"These people in white robes Ė who are they and where did they come from?"
And then verse 14 is the key verse, "These are the people Ö who washed their robes and made them white with the blood of the Lamb".
Thatís the secret of how a person becomes a saint Ė by
washing their robes and making them white in the blood of the Lamb.
"Your robe" is your life. The Bible sometimes talks about our robes Ė our clothes Ė as covered in dirt Ė the dirt of every sinful thought, word and action. They are so filthy that no amount a Sard Oxy Action Plus or Omo would get rid of the stain of sin. There is only way your robe of life can be made white as snow and that is in the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.
At the beginning of our service, we confessed all of our sins to God. And after confessing our sins, what happened? We again received the assurance that our sins have been forgiven. And it wasnít some warm fuzzy statement about how God is nice and loves everybody and doesnít really take sin seriously. No, the forgiveness of sins you received was a special kind of forgiveness. The forgiveness God gives is very costly. The high cost was the life of God's Son given for us on the cross.
The Bible says, "The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies
us from all sin" (I John 1:7). We believed this; we put our faith in it. In
the eyes of God, we are saints. Sure, we will always be sinners while we walk
this earth, but as far as God is concerned we are also saints Ė people who have
been cleansed of all sin through the blood of Jesus.
You see, a "saint" is someone who realizes that he/she is a sinner, repents of that sin and believes that the blood of Jesus Christ takes away all of our sins.
In our baptism God cleansed us for our sin by connecting us to the blood of his Son.
When we receive Holy Communion we eat and drink the very body and blood of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, given and shed for you, for the forgiveness of your sins. At that moment, you are washing your robe in the blood of the Lamb. You and I are "saints" in the eyes of God. Itís not because we have done something so good that somehow makes up for all the bad we do. Quite the opposite Jesus has done something good for us by giving his life for us on the cross.
Maybe there are some people here who arenít yet convinced that God can accept sinners, especially if you are feeling guilty over something you feel is unforgiveable. Be certain about this - through Jesusí life, death and resurrection and the holiness that Jesus achieved for you on the cross, he is calling you to have faith in what he has done for you - that the blood of Jesus Christ has cleansed you of all of your sins.
It follows then that since God has made us saints that we should endeavour to live like saints. Itís a tough call but saints strive to show love, forgiveness, compassion and understanding in every relationship and every circumstance. Thatís the challenge that God throws out to us. You have been called to be saints and so strive to be who you are.
We know how often we fail to live up to our calling. Without hesitation we say, "Well, Iím a sinner Ė thatís no secret to anyone who knows me. But Iím also a saint because Christ has taken my sins away. Iím a saint because of Jesus."
© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
2nd November 2008