Be a Saint – Live for Christ!

large_the-smile-of-god-in-the-face-of-his-saints

How does this sound to you…

Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in fear of the Lord. New International Version, Acts: 9:31

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Peace

Strengthening

Encouragement

Which one of these blessings do you need right now?

I confess I would love to drink up full portions of each – peace, strength, and encouragement!

Who wouldn’t?

Long ago, as the persecution of the early church intensified, the faithful resolve of the followers of Christ intensified as well. They refused to cower in fear. Instead, these Believers proclaimed the hope of Jesus Christ all the more. Then, after this difficult and oppressive season, and after the miraculous conversion of Saul of Tarsus, the early church experienced a time of peace.  They could finally breathe again.

It was at this moment that Peter chose to set out from Jerusalem. His purpose? To strengthen and encourage the saints of Jesus Christ.

As Peter traveled about the country he went to visit the saints. New International Version,  Acts: 9:32

Who were these saints?

 

These men and women lived along the Mediterranean Coast in towns and villages like Azotus, Gaza, Lydda and Sharon. These were people that Philip had shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with as he traveled throughout the country earlier in time. The new church was birthed through his efforts in this region. The saints had come alive!

What I love and envision as Peter traveled from town to town, from village to village, from church to church, from home to home, was that he was meeting up with and encountering saints – people, perhaps, like you and me – who wanted to grow in their faith and who were hungry to learn more about Jesus.

Peter was fully aware that the followers of Jesus Christ, His saints, His believers, needed spiritual encouragement and refreshment. They needed love and care. They needed to hear more truth and more words of instruction and exhortation. They needed coaching and support. Peter had come to not only lift up and encourage the saints, but to ordain, to anoint, and to bless them to further the Kingdom of God on earth and beyond.

For Peter, for the early church, for the people who would receive, embrace and follow the message of Christ, these were the saints of God. These were a people group that professed a sincere faith in Jesus Christ and lived out their convictions in all that they did – in their day to day lives – along the Mediterranean Coast.

When we think of saints in this day and age, regular Jesus following people don’t quickly come to mind. Over the course of the centuries, the view of who the saints of God were morphed into something almost unattainable for the common man. Even today, the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church require a procedure called canonization before they will bestow someone with the Saint of God title.

Yet, back in the early church, there was no such thing!

A saint was a faithful follower of Christ.

A saint was a holy one – with a soul separated for the things of Christ.

A saint was a believer who acted upon his/her conviction of faith.

A saint was a resident of a city, town, or village who had day to day responsibilities that helped care for the needs of his/her family.

A saint was someone who needed refreshment, strength, encouragement, healing, and peace as they lived out their faith – perhaps just like you and definitely just like me – and Peter responded to these needs as he traveled from one place to another along the Mediterranean Coast.

For Peter and the early church, everyone who followed Christ was a saint – whether they lived along the Mediterranean Coast or not. And each saint believed that Jesus Christ lived in them and empowered them to do right on this earth. The Holy Spirit guided their lives and strengthened their hearts. They were guided by hope that Jesus Christ was their Lord and Savior. They were guided by the confidence that the Holy Spirit would advance the Kingdom of God as they followed His leading.

Do you consider yourself to be a saint of God?

You are – if you profess Jesus Christ to be your Savior and Lord!

We are the saints of the earth…

As for the saints who are in the land – in neighborhoods, towns, cities, countries, and nations – They are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight! New International Version, Psalm 16:3

A saint is not about a title or lofty designation– a saint is about one who believes in Christ and acts upon this faith in everything they do and in everything they say with delight!

We can rest in this truth!

The peace, strength and encouragement of Christ is ours as we embrace our identity as saints of God!

Perhaps if we truly embraced this identity, we as Christ followers, would be seen as saints who love as Jesus loves, because we live with the Grace of Christ in us and the Hope of Christ empowering us. If we did, I believe the church could grow in numbers once again – because those in our communities, towns, villages, and such would see and experience our love for Christ and our love for our neighbor. They would observe the difference He is making in our lives. They would see us living for our Lord and not living in fear for ourselves.

Yes, fellow saints, if we could do this, what a difference it would make in world that often deems us hateful and irrelevant.

Be a saint, Believers! Live for Christ!

Will you join me?

 

Image retrieved from Desiring God : The Smile of God in the Face of His Saints

8 Comments

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  1. You have a pleasant vision of what you wish Christianity would be and, if your vision came true, I’d certainly have less animosity towards Christianity in general. I’m curious why you think American Christianity in particular has fallen short of this. You mention that Christians are often viewed as hateful or irrelevant by those outside, which is true and becoming more and more true as time passes. When I was a conservative Christian, I chalked this up to people just hating Christ and not wanting to hear The Truth(TM), along with maybe some anti-Christian conspiracy in the government maybe with demons involved. Once I became a more liberal Christian, I realized that the blame lay more with Christians themselves and their behavior, but I often still found it baffling why, when Jesus seemed so clear about teaching sacrificial love, Christians were so stuck on self-serving agendas and power-lust. Now that I’m no longer a Christian at all, I have yet another set of opinions on why Christianity continues to fail in America… that Christianity is an institution that enjoyed and thrived on unwarranted power for most of our country’s history and people are now threatened by the idea that they are no longer the only big kid on the block, so to speak. And there are a lot of people who benefit greatly from holding this power and they are very invested in manipulating others to help them keep it. And other nuances as well. I could go into a lot more detail, but my point here is not really to expound on my opinions but rather to get yours.

    Now that I’m out of the belief system, I find it harder to put myself back into the shoes of someone still in it. I can recall a lot of the things I believed at the time, but I was also pretty immature and ignorant back then, so I don’t think that’s always an accurate reflection of Christian experience. The social and political landscape here has also changed plenty since then. So would you be willing to describe your own viewpoint on the matter? Why do you think that American Christians are failing to uphold the vision that you describe here?

    • Hi Evan,

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. Honestly, I believe that if today’s believers in Christ followed the model of the early church (the early church found in the book of Acts) you would observe and have a very different experience with Christ followers. I actually believe one of the reasons some American Christians are acting so-in-your-face, is because they are fearful of change and fearful of what is ahead. Are they trying to hold onto power? Some are – that is for sure. The mistake some make is that they expect all people to act as they do. However, if you do not have their faith and ascribe to their beliefs, how can one expect others to act/believe as they do? After being in the States for seven months, I met with many Christians who were more afraid of the future than they were of trusting in their God for their future. It was like they had forgotten the security they had in Christ. They wanted control over what was going to happen. Yet, no one can have that.

      I believe people see this lack of trust/faith and it’s a turn-off.

      If we as Believers really trust our God and His Son to guide us, in good times and in bad, then we shouldn’t get so bent out of shape about what happens in our lives. Can we be frustrated? Sure. Can we wonder what is happening? Yes, again. Yet, if we turn that questioning and frustration against others and rail against them – blaming them for our ‘problems’ – then we are showing an unbelieving world that our belief system is not very strong. It is weakened by the strength and power we ascribe to others – not to our God.

      The ‘power’ thing you talk of in the Christian church/community has existed for centuries. As one example, William Tyndale, a leader in the Reformation, was executed because of his work in translating the bible into English. He believed the ‘common man’ should have access to the Word of God in his own language. Yet, those in power at the time in England, did not want to give up having control over who was allowed to read God’s word. At that time, few had personal access to God’s word and alas, the church leaders wanted to keep it that way. In addition, it was before and during this time, that the concept of saint morphed into something ‘greater’ than what it ever was intended to be – making a saint more than a follower of Christ, but rather a miracle worker.

      Honestly, Evan, when man is more interested in holding power, being in control, being self-centered and self-preserving, this is when things go completely awry in matters of faith. In my opinion, the Christian faith is a relational faith – we are asked to love God and love others. There is nothing more important in our faith life than these two things. Yet, some Christians are more focused upon dealing with the issues that separate them from others than they are on building, maintaining, and preserving the relationships they share with others. The issue often times becomes more important than the person. And this is what the unbelieving world sees – regardless of the issue – they see Christians getting all worked up about it and not taking the time to understand the people that this issue affects.

      As one example, you are more important to me and it is more important to me that you return to a vibrant and real faith in Christ than anything else. Of course, this is not where you are now. Yet, that doesn’t mean that I don’t care for you or want the best for you. I do. I want you to know that I am for you! And I believe that my God and my Savior Jesus Christ are for you too! I really – honestly and truly – believe that!

      Well, I’ve written quite a bit. If you have other questions, shoot them my way. I hope I’ve answered you.

      • Thank you. Yes, you have answered my question. It seems, if I distill it to simplest terms, you think that the American church is failing because they are afraid of losing control of things rather than trusting in your god. If I could continue to pester you, do you think there’s any way that the church could try to change that? Is there something that Christians should be doing to weed out power-hungry leaders and shift the culture within their own churches? Or do you think that it’s pretty much up to an act of god or some major event to force the issue on them?

      • Hi Evan,

        Great question!

        Actually, it probably isn’t all that simplistic of why the Christian church experiences failure – not just in the States – but worldwide as well. And how do we define failure?

        For the sake of our conversation, I will define failure in the church as when it stops following the teachings of Jesus Christ – loving God and loving others – as it seeks to self-manage and self-sustain itself. When a church looks to itself for its answers, and not to the Lord, it is placing itself in the headship role. According to Scripture, Jesus Christ is the head of the church and its Good Shepherd.

        When a church – I am not going to lump all churches together and generalize them as all one way; there are good, healthy and vibrant churches in this world – However, when a church and its leaders have fallen away from acknowledging the headship of Christ, the first thing they must do is acknowledge their need for Him. There is nothing we can do to affect our position with God. As Christ followers we already are in a permanently accepted and secure position with Him. Yet, the truth of the matter is that the shame within us tries to convince us that we must start over with God when we have sinned against Him. When we are preoccupied with sin, we are preoccupied with ourselves and have no time for others. Thus, if a church and its leaders truly want something different with themselves, it begins with their heartfelt convictions, not their circumstances. According to Bill Tell, “the key that unlocks our influence is when we trust who God says we are and live out of this truth.”

        Honestly, Evan, for any change to happen it begins with going to God and choosing to trust Him with all of us.

        In Revelation 3, the church of Laodicea had no need of anyone or anything. It chose to look to itself for its needs and wants. In Revelation 3, Jesus offers Himself to them and asks the Laodicea Chruch to open up its door to Him once again. Jesus will come in when this church permits Him to do so and to be their solution.

        You see, in my mind, God may not necessarily force an issue to be dealt with on anyone. The God I know invites me into relationship with Him. I see Him as my Primary Resource for everything in life.

        A church that has fallen away from this belief is offered the invitation to return – it can happen when others confront the leaders with what they are doing with their leadership; it can happen when a church splits and there are now two churches that are beginning again; it can happen when church leaders recognize what they have done and acknowledge their need; it can happen when people leave the church and only a few are left and they must look honestly at themselves and admit what has happened….it can happen in so many different ways.

        But for me, it all comes down to one thing : the church must acknowledge its need for Jesus Christ and not for the wants of this world. And as I said, the church counts upon its God as its Primary Resource.

        I know I may seem simplistic in this view. Yet, without a heart decision to trust God for what we need, we will always look for something else. In my humble opinion, a church that fails is a church community that does not trust God and fails to acknowledge the love, security and power they have in Jesus Christ. And in my view, when they fail to do this – they show the world something that Jesus Christ never intended.

      • Thank you for your reply. From what you’ve said, I’m afraid I have no hope for the American church to improve. This is both because I don’t think there is a god who will improve them, and because the sorts of churches and leadership that sell hate, abuse, and fear are also the exact sorts of churches that claim that they have more trust in god than anyone else. They claim that their trust in god is exactly why they lead their attacks on non-believers and those they consider lesser all while insisting that this is the “godly” and “loving” thing to do. From where I stand, there’s not really any reliable test to tell if someone trusts god or not besides their own profession of trust, and I certainly haven’t seen any better sort of behavior from those who claim to trust god vs. those who don’t make that claim. In fact, the Christians I know who admit to having doubts in god tend to be much better people than those who don’t (on average, not necessarily on an individual basis). So if the American church just needs to keep trusting their god more, I fear never going to see a change for the better. What do you think?

        Of course, as an outsider, the fact that the American church is losing influence, respect, and membership at a drastic rate isn’t really a problem. BUT I do wish that the church would reform itself such that other people don’t have to suffer from their cruelty and meddling. And many churches have. I just wish that there was something that good Christians could do that would help influence the rest of their churches to become better and kinder places. I just don’t have the belief that you do that saying “trust god more” is really ever going to make a difference. 😦

      • Hi get what you are saying, Evan. Unfortunately, there is a lot of evidence out there that shows that people who ‘trust God’ are hell bent on not loving others because of one thing or another.

        I contend that trusting God is a matter of believing who God says we are and living out that truth. A lot of Believers wear masks of shame. Instead of living out the gift of grace we have, they live out a works mentality to earn God’s blessing and in so doing may work themselves out of a relationship with others. They take on the role of judge and jury – that’s not our job. We are told to love. Period.

        The institution of church will not change unless its people do. It’s a matter of the heart and soul.

        Some people in the States are convinced the US is going to self destruct depending upon which President is elected. We really don’t know what will happen. Yet, their fears are driving them to say some pretty divisive things. If God is on the throne, and I believe He is, then whether the US implodes or not, He is still on the throne. He is not displaced by what happens or does not happen in a political realm. What some believe will happen is that they will be displaced – and they don’t like the thought of that.

        When I say I trust God – I trust Him for whatever happens here. I trust Him to guide my steps for His glory and purpose and for the good of others. And for me, the good of others means to treat others with kindness, respect and dignity. Do I pray for others to receive Christ? All the time! I pray that people I interact with will come to know Christ.

        Yet, it is they, themselves which must decide. We’ve talked about this before. No one forces anyone to do anything – and if someone is trying to use fear and intimidation to get someone to profess faith in Christ – it will never work. My Savior invites. He does not shame.

        Thanks, Evan. I’m sorry you have no hope for us. But, I don’t share that view – because I have the hope of Christ and count on Him to lead me. I also have friends who are Christ followers who believe as I do and don’t subscribe to this shaming and bellowing and hateful stuff that other Christians do. We are here to love others and that is what we shall do. Always.

        Take care and thanks again for engaging with me. I hear you.

      • Hi Evan, one quick thing…everything I’ve mentioned is all predicated on the belief that not only are Believers trusting God but living out that ruthless trust in their lives.

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