For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. – 2 Corinthians 4:6
One day a man was walking through a beautiful church building with his 4-year-old son. As they walked, the young boy looked around. He stopped and was curious about the stained-glass saints windows that looked so beautiful with their bright colors. As he looked at the windows, he asked, Daddy, "Who are all the people in the windows?" "They are Saints," said the father. "What are Saints, daddy?” the kid asked.
The father was stuck. How was he going to explain who saints were to a four-year-old boy? As the boy was still looking up at the windows, and the father was still wondering how he would explain who saints are, the young boy suddenly shouted. "I know who saints are, daddy. They are the people that the light shines through." A saint is someone the light shines through.
Today, for All Saints Day, we will give thanks to the saints and celebrate their lives. Luke’s second book of Acts does not have a conclusion. The book does not tell us what became of Paul or the rest of the church. After the book of Acts there are numerous martyrs, apostles, disciples, believers, saints, popes, godly people, and followers of Christ who died for the sake of the Biblical faith. The only remembrance we have of them is through old text and biographies. Without understanding that past, we are unable to understand ourselves. The past still lives in us and it influences who we are and how we understand the Christian message. It influences how we understand sainthood.
All the words in both Greek and Hebrew that are used in the Bible and are translated into the word "saint" all have the same definition. According to the Bible a saint is someone who is sacred, holy, pure, blameless, and dedicated. Of course the word "holy" doesn't mean "perfect.” It means "set apart." Set apart to serve God. And the only way people can be "pure and blameless" is through the blood of Jesus shed on the Cross covering and washing away the stain of their sins. The Lord calls on saints to separate themselves from the world through their salvation, compassion, dedication, and dependence on the Lord.
I. CHARACTERISTICS OF A SAINT
Matthew 22:30 Jesus said to Sadducees, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels of God in heaven.” The first martyr of Stephen, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”. Quite often, we think of saints in the same way we may think of angels. Or very well-known people from the past, such as Saint Francis or Mother Teresa or Saint Patrick. But in the Bible, a saint is simply a follower of Jesus Christ. They become saints by being born again by the Holy Spirit, which can only happen through God. The people described as saints, in the Bible, were still very much human. They were called, they were holy, and they were extremely dedicated. Dedicated in terms of attitude and in terms of being set apart from the world. But they were still real people, far from perfect. They were fishermen, farmers, tent makers, doctors, teachers, carpenters, former prostitutes, extortionists, outcastes, robbers, etc.
They were not without mistake and sometimes they disagreed with one another. They were not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. They were on a journey, the journey of following Jesus. They were on the journey of learning to be more and more like Jesus, which means, becoming more and more loving, and less and less judgmental. They were on a journey to become more and more accepting of others, and less and less condemning of others. The Bible states, only Jesus is Perfect, but understand His people were and are not perfect.
As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:12 "Now we see a reflection in a mirror; then we will see face-to-face. Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way that I have been completely known". Just think of all the mistakes the Apostle Peter made or John or James. They learned throughout their journeys. They learned from their mistakes. They learned by allowing Christ to forgive them, by accepting Christ's forgiveness and moving on in Christ with love.
As Christ's followers are called to live in His salvation. His salvation separates us from this world and calls us to a higher purpose. Through God’s salvation, normal people have been called upon to be His saints. They are called to separate themselves from this world.
Saints are separated from the world through their lifestyle and compassion. Such as the example of Mother Teresa or Saint Nicholas, compassion is a key value. In Luke 6:27-36 Jesus says: "Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other one as well. If someone takes your coat, don't withhold your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks and don't demand your things back from those who take them. Treat people in the same way that you want to be treated." We are also called to "lend expecting nothing in return." We are called to "be kind to ungrateful and wicked people." We are not to "judge" nor are we to "condemn" others.
But understand, this is not an easy task. Through our mortal bodies, we carry pride, greed, and selfishness. It is not easy to love those who you may think are different from you. It is not easy to love those who hate and reject you. But we are called to "Be compassionate just as God is compassionate." Through his salvation, He fills us all with a spirit of compassion. Compassion for the sick, compassion for the broken and lost, and compassion for our enemies.
God calls us to live a compassionate lifestyle. Mother Angelica once quoted, "Saints are ordinary people with the compassion of the Father in their souls, the humility of Jesus in their minds, and the love of the Spirit in their hearts." Through their salvation and compassion, saints live a lifestyle different from the world. And God calls His saints to be dedicated to this lifestyle.
Yes, a saint is dedicated. A saint may fall down, but a saint gets back up again. A saint may fall into sin, lose their temper, hurt another by word or deed, but a saint asks God for forgiveness, accepts that forgiveness and asks God for the strength to grow in love. That's what it means to be "dedicated." The Bible says, in Proverbs 4:18 But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.
A dedicated follower of Jesus Christ may not always love their enemies, but that is their goal. When they find that they cannot love their enemies, they ask God for God's love to overcome their anger and hatred. When they find it difficult to pray for those who mistreat them, a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ prays for those who mistreat them anyway. If a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ finds it nearly impossible not to judge another person, they admit this failure to God and ask God to enable them not to judge. They pray to God to help them to love all persons, no matter who that person is, what they look like or how they live their lives.
A saint’s dedication is built on their commitment to God. Years ago the communist government in China commissioned an author to write a biography of Hudson Taylor with the purpose of distorting the facts and presenting him in a bad light. They wanted to discredit the name of this missionary of the gospel. As the author was doing his research, he was increasingly impressed by Taylor's saintly character and godly life. He found it extremely difficult to carry out his assigned task with a clear conscience. Eventually, at the risk of losing his life, he laid aside his pen, renounced his atheism, and received Jesus as his personal Savior.
Through Hudson Taylor’s dedication to God, even in a communist country, he was able to shine the light of salvation into an atheist who was assigned to discredit him. God calls us to live a dedicated lifestyle of forgiveness, compassion, and perseverance. Dedicate yourself to the Lord.
The Lord characterizes saints as those who depend on the Lord and not their own might and power. For "all who exalt themselves will be humbled." Matthew 20:16 "The first shall be last and the last shall be first." And "pride comes before a fall." We are told that "Jesus raised his eyes to his [dedicated] disciples and said: "Happy are you who are poor, because God's kingdom is yours. Happy are you who hunger now, happy are you who weep now, but how terrible for you who are rich. Because you already received your comfort. How terrible for you who have plenty now because you will be hungry."
The Lord wants you to understand that having a secure financial future and a full stomach, are not necessarily bad things in themselves, but they can be deceptive. They are temporary. Sometimes prosperity can actually get in the way of our relationship with God and with other people. It can steal our love. To be truly "happy" or "blessed" is to have a firm relationship with God.
Self-sufficiency traps us and separates us from God. Those who lay up treasures for themselves are not--and cannot be--rich toward God. We are blessed or happy when we rely solely on the mercy and love of God, from Whom all good things come. Yes, true happiness comes when we rely exclusively on God. And when we rely exclusively on God, we become more loving, more compassionate, and less judgmental. We become more pure and holy. And when we love Christ more--we love others the best. As His saint, He calls on them to be dependent on Him, so His glory can work through them.
II. SAINTS AMONG US
Many Saints have put their full trust in the Lord and have given their complete lives to Him in service and dedication. They have experienced more out of life than they ever could have imagined. In the city of Rome, Italy, the marks of martyrdom can be seen almost everywhere - and more clearly than most places in the world. In the middle of the famous Piazza Navonna, a church marks the spot where a young Christian girl was humiliated and martyred for her faith in Christ. Another church, not too far away, stands over the place where the body of Saint Lawrence was found and given decent burial by a Christian woman. Almost every corner and virtually every church building and religious monument has a story to tell about the martyrs. And because of this, they have also passed this fullness of life to others.
These people are saints…saints of God. They are the people through whom God's light shines through. Many of us may see saints as honorary people whom we can never be like. We hear of stories about missionaries who go to different countries and face physical persecution, and we say within ourselves, “I can never be like them.” But understand, dear brothers and sisters, what it truly means to be a saint for the Lord.
Romans 1:7 says, “to all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints. It's been said that "A saint is someone whose life makes it easier to believe in God." It is someone who shines the light of God through themselves onto others. They are a reflection and an example of the word of God. I am positive most of us have already met and known such people as this. Because if we had not, I doubt we would be here this morning. Most of us have already been given our first glimpse of Jesus through one of His saints. Remember, saints are all not famous leaders. They are those who shine the light of God for us.
Maybe it was our mother or father. Maybe it was our neighbor, school teacher, or friend. Maybe it was a pastor or a member of the church fellowship or a Sunday School teacher. Whoever it may have been, we knew there was something about them. There was something special about them that intrigued us and caused us to want to have that something special as well. They had a special light around them. They were the people who would go the extra mile for us or anyone. They were the people that we knew we could count on no matter what. They were the people who made us feel loved. They were the people who gave us just a glimpse of the light of God and His love.
Pope Francis quotes, “to be saints is not a privilege for the few, but a vocation for everyone.” It is not a mission only given to a small, collected group of people. We are all called to be saints and live as an example of His word. For all saints are mere men and women, but their love and spirit separate themselves from this world.
He has appointed all of us to be His saints through the salvation He has given us when we took Him as our Lord and Savior. We may be mere men, but through the sacrifice He bore on the cross for us, we are made new in His salvation. The Lord tells you to be compassion, to love just as God loved the world. To comfort, just as the Lord comforted the weary and to pray just as Jesus prayed for the sinners of this world. Be dedicated in the word and the works of the Lord. Let your faith in Him become your lifestyle. Live as an example and reflection of the word of God. And lastly, depend on the Lord. Do not let your self-sufficiency and financial status distract you from your dependency of the Lord. Hold onto Him and bless His name.
We are called by the Lord to be His saints. We are to let Christ’s light shine, like the light shining through the figures in the stained glass windows that the four year old boy saw. We are all ‘called to be saints’--people dedicated to God-- so that the light of Christ may shine through our words, and our actions. The word of God must reflect through our lifestyle. A saint is someone through whom we catch a glimpse of what God is like – and of what we are called to be. A saint is not perfect. But nevertheless, we thank God for them because a saint is someone through whom God tells God's story. Let the Lord help us to reflect His light onto others through our words, actions, and lifestyle. Help us to bring more people into the light as saints dedicated for the kingdom of God. Amen.