I AM A SAINT
Who Am I? Seeing Your True Identity Through God’s Eyes ❧ Part 4
Selected Scriptures ❧ August 22, 2021
Without doubt one of the most confusing words among followers of Christ today is the word “Saint.” If I were to ask, “Do you see yourself as a sinner saved by grace, or as a saint?” Most of us would say, “That’s easy. I’m a sinner saved by grace.” I would then like to ask you, “Where did you get that idea from?” You might say, “Well, I got it from what I’ve always heard in church. I’ve been told the Bible says I’m a no-good rotten sinner. I know who I am and where I come from and quite frankly the description of a no-good rotten sinner fits better than a saint. A saint, after all, is someone who is perfect. And the most I’ve ever come to being perfect was when I filled out a job application.”
What if I were to show you that’s not what the Bible teaches at all? In fact, the Bible says the most accurate truth of who you are is a saint, not a sinner; that without exception every believer is a saint? Not sure if you buy into that? Well, what does God’s Word say? When the Apostle Paul was writing to the believers in Ephesus, he began his letter with the words: To the saints who are at Ephesus (Ephesians 1:1, NAS). Now, if he only said that to the Ephesians, we might think they were an elite group of believers that’s why Paul calls them saints. But Paul doesn’t stop there. In fact, he addresses other believers the same way. He calls believers in Romans, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Philemon saints. He even calls the believers in Corinth saints! To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours (1 Corinthians 1:2). That’s pretty startling when you realize the Corinthian believers were a mess both morally and theologically! For that matter, the whole New Testament calls believers saints. The truth is, every believer is a saint.
I’ve found when it comes to seeing ourselves as saints, many of us are like poor Charlie Brown. One day Charlie Brown was talking to his friend Linus about the pervasive sense of inadequacy he feels all the time. Charlie moaned, “You see, Linus, it goes all the way back to the beginning. The moment t I was born and set foot on the stage of life they took one look at me and said, ‘Not right for the part.’” When it comes to calling ourselves saints, most of us would say we’re “Not right for the part.” Why is that? Two reasons: One we know ourselves too well! And two, we don’t know the God’s Word well enough!
Today, we’re going to continue our message series: Who Am I? Seeing Your True Identity Through God’s Eyes. Today, we’re going to look at: I Am a Saint. Four ways the Bible says believers are saints. A saint is someone who is: 1) Saved by faith, 2) Lives by faith, 3) Fights by faith, and 4) Conquers by faith. I am a saint who is . . .
- Saved by faith. A saint is someone who is saved (made right with God) by faith. I never cease to be amazed how believers as well as nonbelievers alike miss this vital truth in God’s Word. Both believers and nonbelievers think that in order to be saved, they must do something. And that something always boils down to works. Nonbelievers think works are necessary to earn salvation. While many believers think works are necessary to maintain salvation. Both are wrong.
The Bible overwhelmingly teaches we are saved by faith alone in Christ. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). In Galatians Paul writes, a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus…since by works of the Law no flesh will be justified (Galatians 2:16). In Romans, Paul declares, Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). The word justified means God declares the believing sinner to be right with Him on the basis of his or her faith in Christ. How can you be justified (made right) before God? By realizing your need to be saved from your sin and trusting Christ as your Savior. The moment you trust Christ, you are saved. When you are saved, the Bible says you are a saint. The two are inseparable. That’s why Paul called Corinthians saints. To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours (1 Corinthians 1:2). Notice, Paul says they are saints by calling. God called them saints by their faith in Christ. In the same way God called you to be a saint by your faith in Christ. From the moment you place your trust in Christ, your new identity is that you are now a saint in Christ. This is, in part, what Paul has in mind when he says we are new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Controversial philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkegaard got it right when he said, God creates out of nothing – wonderful, you say; yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful. He makes saints out of sinners. Sainthood is not a spiritual attainment for something we do, but what Christ has done for us. It means you are now spiritually alive but not necessarily spiritually mature.
Why is this so important to know about yourself? Because you are going live according to the way you see yourself. God never views you or calls you a sinner again. You are a saint. Someone might say, “Doesn’t Paul say he is the chief of all sinners?” (1 Tim. 1:15). Yes, he does, but the context makes it clear he is speaking of his B.C. days, Before Christ, not the present. If you see yourself as a no-good rotten sinner, you’re going to continually struggle to measure up; to feel as though you’re “Not right for the part,” as Charlie Brown says. Feelings of inadequacy, guilt, shame will consume you. You will never be able to repent enough, pray enough, read your Bible enough, be good enough to feel completely accepted by God. Your relationship with Christ will become a monotonous list of “Do’s and don’ts.” Legalism will become your middle name and you’ll hate it. Dr. Neil Anderson says it well, People cannot consistently behave in ways that are inconsistent with what they believe about themselves. You don’t change yourself by your perception. You change your perception of yourself by believing the truth… As believers, we’re not trying to become saints; we’re saints who are becoming like Christ (Anderson, Victory Over the Darkness, Pp. 45-6;49). First, God says you’re a saint because you’re saved by faith.
- Lives by faith. A saint sees himself as a saint because he lives by faith. In other words, our faith is not based on our behavior – good or bad, it’s not based on our circumstances, or our experiences. Our faith is based on Jesus Christ and what He has done for us. That’s why the author of Hebrews reminds we’re to keep our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians, For we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). He again reminds those of us prone toward legalism, Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith” (Galatians 3:11). Saints live by faith. Does this mean you’ll never sin or wrestle with fear? No. We still live in a fallen world. From time to time, we’re still going to sin; we’re still going to fail. And we’re still going to struggle with fear.
- We’re saints who sometimes sin. Being a saint means you’re completely new, but it does not mean you’ve completely arrived. While it is true your core identity is now that of a saint, it does not mean you no longer sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). We still live in a sin-fallen world, and we still have sin-fallen habits.
Here lies the problem where many of us get spiritually stuck. Old sin habits can die hard. They can control and debilitate our new identity. This where well-meaning recovery programs can do more harm than good. They say you need to be honest about your addiction, whatever it may be. That’s a right start. But where they go wrong is when they are told to introduce themselves by saying, “My name is , and I’m an alcoholic.” The problem with this is rehearses your addiction as your identity. Pastor Mark Driscoll writes, Sin may explain some of your activity, but it’s not your identity (Driscoll, Who Do You Think You Are, p.35). What’s true of you is you are now a saint. Once you’ve confessed your sin, don’t wallow in your failure. Brush yourself off, stand up, and remember your true identity is not your sin. You are a saint. The more you remind yourself who you are in Christ the more your behavior reflect your identity as a saint.
- We’re saints who sometimes live in fear. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). “Timidity” comes from the word: Δειλία, meaning a state of fear. Fear can cause us to forget who we are and Whose we are. It can drain our courage and leave us depressed. The most often repeated commandment in the Bible is, “Do not be afraid.” God knows we’re going to wrestle with fear. Being a saint does not mean we won’t have fear, but it does mean we have something greater than fear – God in us and God with us (1 Jn. 4:4). Years ago Dr. E. Stanley Jones penned these words: I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt and anxiety. In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath—these are not my native air. But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely—these are my native air. A John Hopkins University doctor says, “We do not know why it is that worriers die sooner than the non-worriers, but that is a fact.” But I, who am simple of mind, think I know; We are inwardly constructed in nerve and tissue, brain cell and soul, for faith and not for fear. God made us that way. To live by worry is to live against reality.
3. Fights by faith. A saint that is saved by faith, lives by faith, and a saint that lives by faith, fights by faith. Saints aren’t pacifists. Nor are they conscientious objectors. The Bible says saints are warriors. But our battle is not physical, it is spiritual. Understanding this is crucial to our identity. As saints, we’re told to stand firm and to put on the full armor of God. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:10-12). It is imperative to the success of our confidence we understand the kind of battle we’re facing – it is spiritual, not physical. Unless we are convinced where the real battlefield is, we will fight in vain against the enemy. It must be fought God’s way, not ours. Over and over in the Bible God reminds His people the battle is His.
Paul tells us our first order of defense every saint must have is the full armor of God. It is the only sure way we’ll be able to resist the evil we see taking place today. With God’s armor, we are more than conquerors in Christ knowing nothing can separate us from God’s love (Rom. 8:37). While sitting in a Roman prison, Paul became very familiar with the armor the soldiers wore. He compared their armor to the saints’ armor God forged on the anvils of heaven. He lists six pieces of armor. For the purpose of this message, I want to briefly dial in on three of them: feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit.
Shod feet. having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace (Eph. 6:15). A soldier’s feet are what carried him into battle and gained traction toward advancing victory. Maintain the priority and the urgency of the Gospel. The Gospel is our mission. Coupled with this is maintain the priority of your identity as God’s child. It is amazing to me how easily we as believers get caught up into thinking our opinions, likes or dislikes are more important than the Gospel. We must maintain the urgent mission of the Gospel. That’s the business God has called us. Jesus said, I will build My Church and the gates of hell will not overpower it (Matthew 16:18). In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world (John 16:33). Our victory is certain, nothing can or will stop it.
The shield of faith. taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one (Eph. 6:16). Jesus alone is our unfailing defense. We need no other. We may feel pulled to rely on some other form of defense for our faith, some other identity – our intellect, our ability to speak, our experiences, our accomplishments, or some else. While all of these may be helpful, Jesus alone is our reliable shield to protect us from the flying arrows of accusation from the enemy. We may be tempted to find our security somewhere other than Christ. Many believe being a Christian means committing intellectual suicide. We turn our minds off when we walk through the double doors of the church building. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is in Christ alone we find our true identity and meaning in life. Science cannot tell us why we’re here or what the meaning of life is. Jesus Christ is the only answer for overcoming racism, gender identity confusion, sexism, elitism that plagues our fallen world. Jesus alone is our unfailing defense when overwhelming thoughts or feelings of inadequacy attempt to cause us to panic and retreat. Our faith alone in Christ is our shield of unfailing assurance able to extinguish the arrows of the evil one.
The sword of the Spirit. And take… the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17). This is the only piece of armor designed for both defense and offense. It is your chief weapon against the enemy. We must believe God’s Word is God’s Word. There can be no deviation. There is no other authority of life and faith. An alarming number of churches today are going apostate; they are deserting the Word of God in order to be accepted by the world. They are unwittingly surrendering to Marxist Socialism which aggressively seeks to eliminate Biblical Christianity. Taking up God’s Word does not mean we carry it around like a good luck charm. In order to use God’s Word effectively both our confidence in its divine authority and our skill in applying it need to be seasoned.
- Victorious by faith. Being a saint means we have a victorious faith. This life is not all there is. The story isn’t over when we die. (Jesus) Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:1-3). Jesus promises this life is not all there is. He is preparing a place for us where we will be with Him. Through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives (Hebrews 2:14-15). C.S. Lewis understood this well, I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same.
This came home to me the other day while meeting with a group of about twenty pastors. The discussion was around the Church’s response to a possible government mandate to be vaccinated and the recent US abandonment of Afghanistan leaving many in harm’s way.
One of the pastors in our group also serves as an Idaho lawmaker. His name is Tim Remington. Not many years ago while leaving church services one Sunday, he was shot six times in the back and once in the head. He should not have survived, but he did. Not long into his recovery, Tim visited with the man who shot him offering him forgiveness and pointing him to Christ. His faith and courage continue to stir the hearts of many reminding us death is not to be feared. During his recovery Tim said, I don’t regret this. This is not a pity party at all. I wouldn’t have it on anybody else, I can tell you that, but if this is my calling and this is for me, then so be it. I’m OK with it, as long as I know that people are affected by it. If this is for good, then bring it on. I’m not excited to go through the pain, he said. I am excited to see the outcome of what God is doing. Christ has overcome not only death, but our fear of death as well. He reminded me of what we have been called to as saints. Were you to ask him if he is a saint, he would tell you without hesitation he is. But it is not because of anything he’s done, but what Christ has done for him. Tim’s identity in Christ was bold as well as strong. Were you to ask him how he survived all he’s been through, he’d give you a one word answer: Jesus. It is obvious by how he lives. He’s leading the way following Jesus. Being a saint means our hope is in Christ and Christ alone.
When it comes to calling ourselves saints, most of us like Charlie Brown would say we’re “Not right for the part.” Why is that? We know ourselves too well! And we don’t know the God’s Word well enough! Being a saint is not about what you do, but accepting what Christ has done for you. So, what is a saint? A saint is someone who is: 1) Saved by faith, 2) Lives by faith, 3) Fights by faith, and 4) Victorious by faith.