1 John 3:1-3
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
For to experience any of these situations in relationship to Christ is blessedness for it means you have been chosen, elected by God for salvation. For true faith is never separated from these situations. As a Christian you will always mourn your sin. You will always thirst for the righteousness that will be yours in eternity. You will always be considered weak and insignificant by the world. You will always be blameless in your heart before God on account of Christ Jesus. That is why you are a saint. Not because of the righteousness of your actions nor your intentions, but because Christ Jesus’ righteousness has been given to you.
Therefore, there are two things you must always hold in distinction: how God views things and how man views things. God views every person’s righteousness in relationship to His Son. Mankind views righteousness on a sliding scale of virtues that change from person to person, and group to group. Men can look at a man and see a good person who generally seems to do what is right, while God can look at the same man and see a damned sinner who rejects His Son’s sacrifice and salvation. Men can look at a person and see a dirty rotten scoundrel according to how they behave on earth, while God can look at that same person and see a man declared righteous before Him on account of Jesus Christ who died for that person, despite his sinful wickedness.
Don’t get God wrong. Good works are important. Your neighbour and the world need them, but God does not. Therefore, good works do not make a saint. Only Jesus makes someone a saint. Works have nothing to do with it. Good works may flow from a saint, in fact, they are bound to flow from a saint, but a saint is not judged by God according to His works. A saint is judged so by God according to His Son’s righteousness which is credited to him by faith.
This is the manner of love that the Father has lavished on us! That He considers us equal to His beloved Son even though we are dirty rotten scoundrels. But the world can not see what God sees because the world does not understand who the Son is and what He has done for them. What our true nature is—what the Father has declared of us—is not yet clear to the world. For the world, lacking faith in the Son, does not believe that He is the glorious, triumphant Son of God. And so since they can not in faith see Him for what He is, what we are is not yet clear to the world either. It has not yet been revealed or epiphanied to the world. But when Our Lord comes again in His glory the world will know Him for who He is just as it shall know us for who we are: God’s glorious, forgiven, righteous, radiant sons—even you ladies, for to be His son, is to receive the love He has for His Son, His only Son, His beloved one, who is the most precious thing to Him in the universe, the apple of His eye. And when that Son of God comes again everyone will know Him for everyone will see Him as He actually is—for His Father will have glorified Him—and we shall be changed to become like the Son, free of sin, full of the Father’s love, which is His glory, and holy unto Him.
That’s who his saints are. They are a mighty crowd gathered from all nations, tribes, peoples and languages. Notice that “race” is not in there. God does not see race for He did not create the concept of race. Race and racism is a concept brought into the world by evolutionary thinking. And with the idea of race also came the idea that one race is more evolved than another, more valuable than another. Instead, God thinks in terms of families, peoples, languages. He thinks in terms of His family of which He is the Father, His people to whom He grants citizenship in their baptism, His language which is the truth, and His nation which he rules in His love. His nation are His saints. His holy ones. Holy because He has cleansed them with the blood of His Son.
They are holy because He dresses them in His holy robes of righteousness. Robes that are perfectly clean, cleansed by our saviour’s blood, pure, holy, radiant. Those robes and that blood cleanse our consciences from the stain of the sins of the past, freeing you of the burden of guilt and of the shame that life foists on you by other’s abuse toward you, misuse of you, and forcing their sins upon you. Now may proclaiming this to you may cleanse you of that burden and stain. But it may not. The stain may be deep. It may have worked itself into the very fibres of your being so that you do not identify yourself apart from that stain. If that is the case, seek out private confession and absolution, so that those things which plague you can be brought into the glorious light of God’s forgiveness, and the sin stain removing power of God can cleanse you from Satan’s lies that you are not holy unto the Lord.
For where do His saints come from? They come from right here. From the great tumult, the Great Tribulation, the suffering we call this life. The Great Tribulation is not some far off time near the end of the world when Satan’s wrath against believers will be great. Rather it is the constant and great suffering in all of our lives caused by others’ sin, by your own sin, and by the destructive force of sin as everything from relationships to families, from moral codes to the institutions of society, and even the physical universe and our own bodies crumble around us. God’s Saints come from out of this fallen world. They suffer like all do in this valley of the shadow of death. But both now and in eternity the Lord is our Shepherd. Or as Saint John would say, the Lamb of God is our Shepherd. That Lamb who sits on God the Father’s throne shall lead you to the living waters of heaven where neither sun, nor heat, neither UV nor x-rays burn you, scorch you, and cause you to suffer. For sin and its decay will be gone. The physical laws of the universe set off kilter by mankind’s sin will be righted. And just as a parent comforts a crying child, so your Saviour will shepherd, lead, and comfort you, wiping away not only the tears from your eyes but also everything that has made you less than a saint on this side of eternity.
For you are a saint of God. It is a hidden reality on this side of heaven. Hidden by your sin, hidden by your decaying flesh, hidden for it is not yet a physical reality, not one that shows itself forth always and completely in your actions. It is instead a spiritual reality. Something that God the Father has declared of you, but has not yet been brought to completion. But on that Last Day what we are will be known just as Jesus will be fully known. You are now a saint by Christ’s righteousness, by His choosing you, by His rescue of you from death and decay. On that Day it will be obvious. It will be clear, just as Christ Himself will be revealed in all His glory for all to see.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON