Are You A Saint ?
How would you know if you are or not ?
I'm writing tis to encourage you to find out, then make the choice for or against your personal sainthood.
There is a long litany of recognized saints ... all dead. Sainthood has been conferred on persons by general acclimation in many cases, and by processes declared by church authorities to validate saintliness of the departed.
No living person is officially judged a Saint though many are considered "holy". For example, the Roman Catholic Pope is referred to as "THe Holy Father" as well as by other titles such as Pontiff. These refer to the office more than the incumbent (who may indeed be a living saint or not).
In general, our acceptance of the label Saint applied to a person is based on perceptions and judgments, by humans, of the value of the person's life in terms of their apparent devotion to God and service to mankind. In OUR judgment.
Sometimes we bandy about the term in various serious and satirical ways. Many regarded Mother Theresa as a Saint during her lifetime because they could see she devoted herself to caring for others in Christ's name. I know some Jewish physicians who devote themselves to caring for others out a compulsion to serve the hurting, the way Jesus did, but they are not likely to be viewed as saints whether alive or dead.
You may have heard someone say, "She's a saint to put up with him for forty years", or more seriously, "Taking care of him makes her a saint in my book." In this world there are, and have been, millions of people doing what we judge to be good things. Depending on our priorities, they may be seen as saintly works for God or not.
The disciples Jesus chose have been labeled Saints, Judas Iscariot excepted, plus Paul (Saul), the known martyrs who were publicly executed for faith in Christ (Stephen and Joan of Arc come to mind). Mary the mother of Jesus, and Joseph his foster father, are accorded sainthood status by acclamation. So are others from later times.
The modern litany of deceased labeled Saint comes from processes managed by the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church. This process follows a series of steps. (If you Google® "canonization of saints process" you can pick your authority from the many hits. I chose wikipedia.org' article because it is peer reviewed.)
Step 1 - some people want to propose a deceased for canonization to Sainthood.
Step 2 - their Bishop can authorize a preliminary investigation for their worthiness once they have been dead five years. The Pope can waive the five year waiting period.
Step 3 - exhumation, examination for heretical factors, taking of relics. If candidate passes, then labeled Venerable ... worthy of veneration by people.
Step 4 - ""Blessed" Beatification is a statement by the church that it is "worthy of belief" that the person is in heaven, having come to salvation."
Step 5 - ""Saint" (contracted "St" or "S.") To be canonized a saint, at least two miracles must have been performed after death. Canonization is a statement by the church that the person certainly enjoys the Beatific Vision. The saint is assigned a feast day which may be celebrated anywhere within the Catholic Church, although it may or may not appear on the general calendar or local calendars as an obligatory feast, parish churches may be built in his or her honor, and the faithful may freely and without restriction celebrate and honor the saint."
That's the Roman Catholic method of marking a Saint. Number one is he or she must be dead. Do not lose sight of the fact that very aspect of the process has to do with decisions by people based on what they believe and what their judgment of it is.
Some Bible quotes are needed here for clarification:
"10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead." Deuteronomy 18:10-11 NIV
"For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." Matthew 5:18 KJV.
The LAW, as it was and as it is, prohibits contacting the dead.
Canonization requires proof of performance of two miracles after death. How is this accomplished? In essence, someone contacts the dead by praying TO them for a miracle. After two such miracles are "verified" by clergy they go into the record of the investigation. When all is said and done, authorities proclaim, "Yep. He or she is in heaven."
There is no question that many departed are in heaven. The question is whether or not anyone on earth can make a correct JUDGMENT about a particular person. Though it does not matter to the argument I am going to make, I think no one has the ability the authority to declare who made it into heaven except those Jesus told when living they were saved and would be with him. He said this to the apostles and to the thief crucified next to him.
THE TRUE SAINTS:
"Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you." Phil 4:21 NASB.
Paul was writing to the members of the church at Philippi. He sent greeting to the saints. What saints? Dead people ? No. The saints in Christ Jesus. The Greek transliteral in the Interlinear Scripture Analyzer reads, "greet-ye every holy-one (saint) in anointed (Christ) Jesus."
In Paul's Spirit filled mind, a saint was a person "in Christ". Throughout his letters he speaks of the converted who believe in Christ and the redemptive work He performed. He professes that such are "in Christ" ... living in the light of the Spirit which indwells the Believer.
[ The Work of the Holy Spirit - Jesus speaking ] “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me." John 15:26 New International Version.
If you have accepted, that is believed and confessed, Jesus Christ, Messiah, Son of God incarnate, has saved you to eternal life, you are in the family and kingdom of God, a joint heir with Christ to all His inheritance forever. You are a SAINT.
HOW TO LIVE AS A SAINT:
Sainthood is conferred upon you by God.
It has nothing to do with you except that you believe.
You do not earn it. You do not receive a visible halo.
What you do get is the constant presence of God's Spirit within you confirming the truth that Christ has redeemed your spirit from your flesh and cleansed you of all since past, present, and future. It matter not what others judge about you. God and you know the truth.
Saintliness is another matter.
The crux of saintliness is who and what you are inside.
The appearance of saintliness is in the judgment of others. Humans judge by appearances using standards they acquired through life.
A young child may identify a person as holy and saintly because of the person's demeanor. This is not to say the child is wrong, for what is in the heart of a person is what comes of him. One who is kind shows kindness. On who loves God and knows God loves him shows that kind of agape love. And so on.
I believe the way for you to live your Sainthood during your time on earth is to cultivate the fruits of the Spirit listed by Paul in his letter to the Galatians, chapter 5, verses 22 & 23. "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."
The specific words vary a little from one English translation to another but the meaning is the same in all of them.
LOVE IS FIRST.
I saw a cartoon in which an older couple is greeting the preacher on the chuch steps after service. Referring to the sermon he preached, she says, "I'd like to see you love MY neighbor."
I know people who are in many ways everything but lovable. I have been one in the past and maybe will again. But God has loved me right along ... waiting for openings to invade my spirit with His and love me enough to make me want to love others the way HE does. That is the the key. The way HE does.
God does not show me His love by slobbering on me; making complimentary untrue statements that flatter me; pretending to like me and all my behaviors. God's love is pure and full of truth. He will never lie to you for any purpose. His concern is for your eternal redemption to join Him in glory. This is what he wants for my reprehensible neighbor as well.
What He wants you and me to do is see the neighbor as He does: flawed, difficult, maybe miserable and vitriolic, etc., but within a soul crying out in the darkness not even aware of what they are missing.
When you recognize that non-believers are blinded by Satan through his expert manipulation of circumstances and subtle, or blatant, verbal attacks, you see them as victims God wants to rescue; captives He sent Jesus to set free just as he has set me, and I hope you, free.
If the non-believer observes enough agape love flowing from believers it might incline him to open his mind. His curiosity may be piqued and send him searching for what makes such people the way the are. His search could well lead him into the loving arms of God.
JOY FOLLOWS LOVE.
This joy, like the PEACE which accompanies it, is inexplicable in human terms. It surpasses understanding. It is not a happy-go-lucky attitude, yet it is. When I look within myself I find unspeakable joy. If I try to intellectualize it I fail. One the one hand I have everything I need. I am ot poor nor well off. I have what I need for life.
I am just short of age seventy-five, stricken with a list of illnesses and frailties including currently a battle with lung cancer. None of these issues impinge on my joy because my joy comes from my relationship with THE ever present, ever caring, supreme being who created me for the express purpose of knowing joy in His presence. HIS joy is knowing that we both know this. It is a phenomenal shared gift we give we give to each other.
Have you ever sincerely wondered, "What could I, a mere human, possibly give to God that He wants?" Maybe some suffering? Saying a lot of rosaries? Volunteering in a homeless shelter? You can do a lot of manifestly earthly things which serve God's purposes but nothing you can do even approaches giving your innermost self to a joyful communion with Him ... and doing so continuously your whole life long regardless of what bad stuff the world system run by Satan sends your way.
PEACE IS PARAMOUNT.
"And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7 KJV
"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John 14:27 KJV
My experience of this peace is astonishing to me.
I have had the peace of knowing Christ my Savior nearly forty years but this sublime peace in my spirit has been in me for only a few years. Like many changes in ourselves we only come to recognize them over time, when the contrast with our former state of being is revealed to us.
For me the key to having this gift manifest in my daily life is that it grew out of learning what it means to trust God. (Trusting God is the subject of another separate monograph). Briefly, it means I reached the conclusion that first, foremost, and always, I trust god that, as Paul wrote, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28 KJV
Believing this statement is a leap out of the life of anxieties, worries, fears, concerns, and the vicissitudes of life, into a realm of seeing reality. Somehow, God will turn every negative or tragic event of your life into something working for your good.
You MUST understand that this refers to your spiritual good, not you fleshly desires. The silver lining to every dark cloud is that God is aware, looking after you. If you are one who loves him, He will twist reality in your favor so that your spirit will grow closer to Him.
The true peace comes from knowing with certainty that virtually nothing in earthly life really matters in the end. You're born ... you live ... you die. Billions have done so and for most of us it matters not. Just statistics.
What DOES matter while you're alive is living in fulfillment of the two Great Commandments Jesus stated in Matthew 22:37-40. Love God; love your neighbor as yourself.
There is your focus for life. Your basic instructions for what to do until you die. That's all you need do. God will take care of the rest. If life deals you harsh blows, bear up as well as you can and have the peace that comes from trusting God to take you home when it's over. If your peace can be an example that causes others to want what you have, and that leads them to Christ through someone He puts in their path, you have sown good seed for the Lord.
First you must allow yourself to enter this realm of trust in God. I would be remiss if I did not mention that it requires personal surrender to His will. This is not in the sense of if your friend is killed in an accident, "It was God's will". That is nonsense. It was the result of existing in our fallen world of sin and death.
In fact, it is God's will that everyone be saved. What I am talking about is coming to the realization and acceptance that you exist at God's pleasure. You know He created you and can at any time uncreate you. Surrender involves facing God and telling Him in your heart that you are okay with this. If He wants you to live, so be it. If He does not want you to live, so be it. His will, not your desire, becomes your preference. It has to be real to you. You can not pretend to God.
When you are confident in your relationship with God and trust Him because you are surrendered to His will, you can live enjoying the unparalleled gift of His PEACE in your spirit.
FORBEARANCE or PATIENCE.
Both words are used in different translations. They really do not have the same meaning. Forbearance is practiced by mature adults... it is not meaningful to children. Patience is understandable to every age above three years. Practiced? NO. Understandable, yes.
Waiting is inevitable, even in the line for the drive-up window of the fastest fast food place on earth. A child in America waits months for Santa to come with gifts. When it crosses his mind that Christmas next is not too far off he begins to focus and fantasize about it. Many will become impatient with the waiting and become whiny and complaining. "When is Christmas going to be here?" "Why is Christmas taking so long?"
The child does not really know the meaning of patience or how to experience it. A saint has learned that whatever an outcome may be, desired or not, trust in God and the Peace of Christ empower the saint to wait without anxiety or fear.
There are no limits on the fruits the Spirit gives us. A death row convict who has become saved can experience the love of God in a personal relationship, have spiritual joy while awaiting the outcome, be at peace about his situation, and feel no anxiety about the outcome.
It would ne natural for him to use the legal system to delay execution and preserve his life. But during the process he can be growing in the fruits of the spirit; be an example to others; and in the end become proof that "all things work together for good in the lives of those who love God" by being executed to satisfy humanity's sense of justice but being taken home to the bosom of God instead of consigned to hell.
The key to patience then is trust in God and His perfect will for your SPIRIT life. Forbearance in American English connotes something different. It is acting patiently in the face of a challenge usually produced by an adversary or person who is stubborn, irritating, or in some way bearing down. It means tolerating an undesirable situation without rancor. Only living in the Peace of Christ can empower you to do this and retain your spiritual joy.
This has been the most difficult for me my entire life. Though I am by nature a generous and giving person, my demeanor has been often on the verge of rude. I did not have the Love, Joy and Peace of Christ filling my heart so even when I acted kindly in fact, I did not act kindly in manner.
Somewhere back ten years ago or so I recognized this and began asking the Lord specifically to teach me kindness. As He often does, He taught me by exposing me to situations calling for the kindness I wanted to exhibit but were the antithesis of a situation where I would be inclined to be kind. I'm a slow learner in some areas.
Simple examples: surly clerks, rude receptionists, and the like. God never once condemned my unkind responses to such events but each time the Spirit would say to me something like, "There was a chance to be kind if you wanted to be."
I started catching on. When my visceral response to a situation inclined me to something other than kindness I would momentarily pause and listen for instruction from Him. In time I became accustomed to this and found being kind more and natural to my personality and my liking.
Yesterday I witnessed a singular act of kindness. I watched a patient in our treatment facility help a very elderly patient go to the ladies room then lead her safely back to her recliner and replace her blanket. She and I talked about this when I remarked on her kindness and thanked her for it. (I was hooked up to an infuser; she was not).
She said she has "felt" for people since she was a child and likes helping. It makes her feel good to do kind things for people. Fact is, it makes everyone involved feel good except those poor souls who have not learned to accept gifts of kindness from others.
I am no authority on kindness (nor anything else except my personal relationship with God my Savior and all I know about that is what He reveals to em moment by moment), but I can tell you that kindness is a natural attribute of the Creator and through his indwelling Spirit, every saint is endowed with the ability to think, speak, and act in a kindly manner with no expectation of return. Be kind for your own sake. It adds to your happiness and whatever sense of human self worth you choose to maintain.
Goodness is a tough call. Jesus answered a man, "Why do you call me good? God alone is good."
You could make the mental leap and consider Jesus was in effect saying He was the same as God. I don't think so. I think He meant what He said. God alone is good. All beings fall for short by comparison. We saints may do many things which in our judgment are good as compared to bad or doing nothing. But we ourselves are not "good" in the sense that Divine God is good, for He is perfect.
I think you have to take Paul's exhortation to goodness as meaning that, driven by the Holy Spirit, you seek to do that which you believe is good. You must recognize you may be wrong. What you think is helping may be interfering for the one you want to help. Nevertheless, pursue a course of behaving well, avoiding evil, and doing that which seems good in your eyes after consulting the Holy Spirit and the person you want to help. There are times when a person most needs to be left alone to deal with their issue no matter if you think you can help.
This is a lot like allegiance. You may pledge allegiance to the U.S. flag by which you mean you intend to stand by and stand up for your nation. You make an AA pledge to sobriety, or a 4H pledge, and so forth.
You mean it when you say it and you normally can maintain your faithfulness to it because the devil is not working 24/7 to make you doubt what you professed.
Your profession of Faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior is quite another matter.
Anything your spiritual enemy can do to make you waiver, doubt, or weaken in you faith he will do. He often comes at you from and through other Christians and Christian Ministries who bombard you with do's and don't's.
If you are saved, you are saved. You are not under the law. When you start listening to those who promote the law, you become aware of your insufficiency for eternal happiness with the Lord. Other than Jesus, no human being ever was, is, or will be sufficient to meet God's standards. That is precisely WHY He sent His Son ... to cover us believers in a cloak of righteousness acceptable to the Father.
Your faithfulness, allegiance, fidelity, heart, mind and soul must all be focused, in all circumstances, on what you BELIEVED in order to enter the kingdom in the first place. The knowledge that Christ has redeemed you must reign in your spirit without reservation or competition from other ideologies.
Persistence pays. Remind your self often that you are a saint filled with the Holy Spirit and ask the Holy Spirit to continually affirm in you the validity of your faith. He will.
I am not sure just what this means. I know the difference when someone treats me in a gentle versus a rough manner but am not sure about my own behaviors ... if I come across as gentle or not. Paul is talking about fruits of the Spirit, not human behavior, but all the fruits manifest in human attitudes and behaviors which help identify followers of Christ to nonbelievers.
If you are familiar with the TV programs "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood" and "Captain Kangaroo" you saw examples of gentleness at work. It is something akin to softness in manner. My dictionary says kindly, amiable, not severe, mild.
Online thesaurus goes much further:
Main Entry: gentleness
Synonyms: meekness, obedience, tameness
We know Jesus Himself said He was meek. "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." Matthew 11:28-30 KJV
As I write I am seeing this in a way I previously had not. I knew that a slap is hard but a stroke is gentle, whether with hand or tongue. I had not thought of it as docility, being docile and yielding.
Being gentle does not mean letting yourself be used as a doormat. Jesus didn't. One of His characteristics was approachability. On more than one occasion he remonstrated with His close disciples to let people approach. They were very concerned for His physical safety and maybe tried to cordon Him off like the Secret Service does the U.S. President. Early on they knew the religious authorities wanted him dead; that made them protective. Peter drew a blade in the Garden of Gethsemane and cut a man's ear off. Jesus stayed his hand.
Jesus of course knew all and had the power to prevent His being taken until the appointed time. He was not gentle when He called the hypocrite teachers of the Law "A brood of vipers". I suppose He could said this with a smile or smirk in a gentle voice but when I read it I thought He was pointing and shouting.
I believe the Spirit shows me how to be gentle in situations and will show you even though I can't seem to explain in a way that satisfies me at the moment. The Holy Spirit Himself is the ultimate example of gentleness. If you give Him full sway in your mind you will experience this. Any rude or accusing voices you hear are not coming from Him.
Controlling of your SELF is a tall order. Every human being believes he is the center of the universe until he begins bumping into reality. What then happens is he is conflict with the world. He asserts his self ness, successfully or unsuccessfully. He may find that being aggressive, brusque, downright ugly or some other negative behavior gets him his way (you parents of young children listening ?); or he may find pleasantness and compliance bring the desired rewards. In some cases it would be lying, flattery or other false displays that win out.
The SELF is very difficult to control.
It is human, driven by hard wired human impulses for food, shelter, protection, gain of every kind. People who eat themselves to obesity are not controlling their "self". The self is controlling them. The same is true in every aspect of life: anorexia, alcoholism, gambling, sexual promiscuity, drug addiction, and so on.
People who exhibit self control are often referred to as having "will power". They set their mind on a thing and adhere to their decision. This is a sort of faithfulness to self. The reward for this persistent effort is how they judge themselves as satisfied with themselves.
Paul is talking about controlling the various human impulses which lead away from a close relationship with the Lord. In general, pursuit of worldly possessions and pleasures will weaken your relationship with God. The more you are focused on the new car, the bigger better home, the job or promotion, the less you are focused on your spiritual condition and relationship with God.
You can control your self-serving self only by relying on the Holy Spirit to speak to you moment by moment when you are making decisions. If you cultivate the habit of listening for His gentle voice in the midst of the world's clamor, you will hear Him. He will guide you, and you will be pleased with yourself.
Paul wraps up with, "Against such things there is no law."
I think he means that if you possess and show the Fruits of the Spirit, you need have no concerns about the Law. Saints are not under the law anyway but we nevertheless have been taught the law and want to be in compliance. If we live in and by the Spirit, we will be, even though a righteous man fails seven times a day, according to the Savior.
So. Are you a saint ?
If you are saved, you're a saint right now and after you leave earth you will be a saint in the presence of your eternal Father whether or not anyone on earth soys so.
Only you know the answer to my final question.
Are you living the life of a saint ?
You can if you so choose.
God bless you.