Ian Taylor - Saints

I wonder, did you notice the line in that hymn (351, God in Heaven), “Glorious calling, saint, is thine…” There are a few verses that I have been thinking about that speaks of saints and of our calling.

I Corinthians 1:1, “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints…” “…called to be saints…”

Romans 1:7, “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints…” Those of us in the Work sometimes speak about our calling. We all feel we have been called to preach the Gospel. Some of the tests we go through: we wouldn’t be able to continue except for a deep conviction we have that God has called us. It is so important to have that deep conviction.

The other half of the story is being called to be saints. You could get the feeling that you are in God’s Family by default because you are not called into the Work, or that you have just drifted in. None are saints by default or by drifting in to our place. We are saints because God has called us. When we were called, we didn’t understand what it meant. In the Gospel Meeting, we felt the calling and the deep experience and we made our choice because we loved Jesus and wanted to follow all the way. We didn’t think of it as being called to be saints; a sanctified, separate people.

There is a little verse in Psalms 50 that has been mentioned already. “Gather My saints together unto Me; those that have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” (Verse 5) It gives us an insight as to what a saint is. A saint is one of God’s Children; a citizen in Heaven; those who have made a covenant by sacrifice. Part of being a saint is we enter into a covenant. A covenant is a two sided agreement. A promise and agreement is made by one party and a promise and agreement is made by the other party. This covenant is a two-sided agreement. It is not just a one-sided relationship where God does all the giving. We have responsibilities and promises and vows to make.

“…those that have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” God’s half of this covenant has been sealed by a great and costly sacrifice. There were many sacrifices down through the ages up to the sacrifice of God’s Son. Our half of the covenant is made with God by sacrifice, commitment, surrender, and self-denial and by giving over the lordship of our lives to God. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.” (I Peter 2:9)

“But ye are a chosen generation…” Being one of God’s saints means we are a generation of people who have been chosen and hand picked, not that we feel special or righteous about it. We responded to His Word and because of that He could choose us. We “…are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood…” We are royal because we are the sons and daughters of the King. We are of the priesthood because we have access to the holiest of all. We are a holy nation of people scattered throughout the earth. A people that are holy, special, and Christ-like. We are a purchased, unique people like no others in the earth. These are the ones God includes in His Family. There are the saints that God calls.

I guess you are aware of how one of the churches in the world creates saints. There are conditions: a person has to be dead, and they had to have performed two miracles. The person has to be approved and then declared a saint. There is a push to declare the first Australian saint. We understand there have been saints in Australia for many years. They are not made by man, but by God and they are not dead but alive. They die to self, but they are alive. They don’t do miracles to others, but they know the miracle in their hearts of being born again, the miracle of new life. That is the miracle necessary to be a saint.

Think of what Paul wrote to Timothy about being sanctified. “…he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” (II Timothy 2:21) Think about being a sanctified vessel. That is what we all are. We are just made of clay, but we are sanctified and set aside for a special use. Not just an every-day use but set aside for a special use. I was thinking of God’s Creation. There are 6 billion people on earth today. What a privilege: in that 6 billion there are just a few that God has set apart and sanctified for His special use. Sanctified means it needs to be kept clean for God’s use.

Another thing that happens to God’s Vessels: they are filled with something special. They are set aside, kept clean and filled with the Spirit of God. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters…” (II Corinthians 6:17-18) “…come out from among them, and be ye separate…” The people in Corinth had heard the Gospel but they were still struggling to be separate from what they were. Paul was saying, “Come out and be separate,” set aside for the Lord’s use. In Hebrews it says that Jesus was “…separate from sinners.” (Chapter 7:26)

In the Gospel, we read He was friends with sinners and publicans and ate with them. He was, on one hand, a friend of sinners and on the other hand, he was separate. It is like in John 17 when He prayed for His disciples to be in the world but not a part of the world. You go back to the world and your neighbours on Monday. You will rub shoulders with them but you are not a part of it. Keep separate. There is a dairy down the road. If you picked up a bucket of milk from there (we don’t see it these days in bought milk because it is homogenised), after a little while, the milk sinks to the bottom and the cream rises above. You don’t have to do anything, it just happens. It is the same for God’s People. When you live among the world you go to work and to school together but you are different. God puts something in your heart to cause you to rise above the world and the distractions of the world. Rise above the world and be separate.

In Exodus 11, God said to Moses, “…that ye may know how the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.” (Verse 7) It is not something we choose; we don’t do this and this to be different. The Lord sets a difference between us and the world and we are just like the cream rising above the milk. When we are in the world and go to work and school, we are different because we have the Spirit of Jesus. We model ourselves on the Lamb nature, not the wolf nature. There is a difference in our talk and the words we use.

Quite a few years ago, we had a Mission in a country area. We met many very religious people who came to a lot of Meetings. We visited them and had a lot to do with them over two years. We were asked one day, “Do you have Fellowship near Scone?” Scone was 200 kilometres away. We said we did. They said, “Would they be the Wilton family?” We said it was. They said, “We lived beside them 35 years ago. Their manner of life was the same as the people here. We always knew they were Christian people. We worked together on the road or in the dairy. We knew they were Christian because when things went wrong with the cows, there were never any wrong words.” After 35 years, they remembered. It is wonderful when God can set a difference.

I was thinking about some special saints among us today: the little children and their parents. Before Samson was born, an angel visited Manoah and his wife. They asked, “How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?” (Judges 13:12) That is the prayer of Godly parents. A family of children is a tremendous Mission. Everyone thinks of the Workers in the new year and their Mission. Parents have a 20-year Mission. “How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?” Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Maybe that would have been a good answer for Manoah and his wife. When you are sitting with your children, or in the car together (in every day happenings), tell them Bible stories. Tell them about Jesus; His life and sacrifice and the miracles He did. Tell them about Noah and the flood. Tell them about David and Goliath. Tell them about Daniel in the lions’ den. Tell the stories as if they are real people because they are. They are our brothers and sisters. We just didn’t meet them because they lived a long time ago. The flood did happen. Tell of Goliath. It really did happen. Daniel in the lions’ den really did happen. Tell them stories that are real stories. It is a wonderful foundation.

When Moses was born, there was a law that all boys were to be thrown into the river. As long as possible, Moses’ parents kept him out of the river. The time came when they couldn’t keep him any longer. It is like the river of the world; it is so treacherous with strong currents to drag them downstream. Moses’ parents couldn’t hold him any longer. His mother spent time weaving a basket and she “…daubed it with slime and with pitch…” (Exodus 2:3) It wouldn’t have smelt or looked so nice but it was safe. When she couldn’t hide him any longer she put the ark into the river. Where did she put it? She didn’t put it into the middle of the river where the eddies swirled, but on the edge in the bulrushes. The time came when that child had to face the river, but she made a covered ark and placed it in the bulrushes in a back-water where he was kept safe.

We encourage people to put God first; to read and pray in the morning. A mother told us she had a problem. She had to get her little girl ready to catch the bus and before that, she had to get her husband to work. So she tried to get up earlier to read and pray, but she was so tired, she would fall asleep. She said, “It doesn’t work. What am I going to do?” It is more important to give God your best hour, not your first hour. For most of us, the first hour is our best hour. She came to us later and she said she was getting her husband off to work and her child to school, and then she had her quiet hour. That was her best hour.

Little children pick up on things so quickly. If God’s Kingdom is the joy and delight of your life, they will pick up on it. If your home revolves around it, they will love it. But they also pick up on criticism, or negativity, or laxness, or apathy in your service to God. Children pick up on these things so quickly.

It is wonderful for children to see their parents praying. Some parents teach their children to say little prayers and that is lovely. My parents never did because I was often in Mum and Dad’s room and I would see them kneeling in prayer. I understood that was what saints did. When I made my choice, I realized things were different and I needed to pray. No one told me that; I just knew. I shared my room with my little brother, so I went to bed early to pray before he came in. In the morning, I got up late to pray after he left. This went on for a while until one day, he came in and found me praying. He didn’t say anything and after that, it wasn’t a problem. Later when he made his choice, he prayed too. It is a wonderful opportunity for parents. Let children see you praying. It is an important part of the day. It is something very special and sacred.

We didn’t always have Gospel Meetings in the country area where we lived. When I was not quite into my teens (I didn’t understand why), Mum and Dad began making a special effort to get to Gospel Meetings. They traveled big distances because they understood the importance of it. When in high school, I had lots of homework. On Wednesday night, I understood I just had to fit it in. I was off to the Meeting, homework or not. I understood the importance of getting to Meetings. It is important to instill faith in little children.

It is good to help children to have that unquestioning faith because when they go off to school, they are taught things that are not true. When I was at school, there was a big thing about evolution. Help them to understand, “In the beginning God created…” (Genesis 1:1) There are things to do with living and moral standards that parents have the opportunity to teach what is right before the world has the chance to teach what is wrong. Even teenagers and older ones will find a lot that the world says are okay to do, but if we read the Bible we will know it is wrong. It is for us to read the Bible. Young people need to read the Bible and talk to parents or Workers about what the Bible says about things because the world is so often wrong. Parents have the opportunity to teach what is right.

I got to thinking about Acts. At Convention, a visiting Worker gave a Meeting on Acts. He said its full title is “The Acts of The Apostles.” It is more than that. There are a lot of things that the saints did too. Consider what the saints did; it is a helpful study. We read of the homes in Acts. We heard last night of Simon the Tanner. In Acts 16, we read of Lydia. After she listened to the Gospel, she said, “If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there.” (Verse 15) Then we read of the jailer. He “…took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them…” (Verses 33-34)

When I went to South Australia a few years back, there was a family with a small boy I met once or twice. Before I got there, they made contact with me. They wanted to adopt me. They opened their home to me and took me around. “This is your room. This is the kitchen…” Then we went to our Field. In the first home we went to, the same thing happened. Then the following week, there was another home. It is wonderful to have open homes. I thought of the homes where the Meeting is. Do we appreciate it? The home is ready week after week. The front door is open, the floor is vacuumed, the chairs are placed around and the table is in the middle. They are there with a welcome regardless of the weather. Do we appreciate those homes that are open for Fellowship?

Then there are the deacons. We read about them filling a need at the time so the Workers were not taken up with serving on tables. We don’t formally appoint deacons but we see faithful saints filling in the gaps; quietly working so the Workers are free to focus on the Spiritual need in the Gospel. We read of the saints continuing in prayer. In Acts 1, we read of two who offered for the Work. The saints were praying that the need would be met. Priscilla and Aquila “…laid down their own necks…” (Romans 16:4) Saints doing what they could.

In the last chapter of Acts, there is a little picture of when Paul was a prisoner and was being taken to Rome. He was taken from one town to another and when the saints there heard Paul was coming, they visited with him and then he continued on to Rome. More saints heard Paul was a prisoner and they came and met him. There were more saints than prisoners. It says Paul “…thanked God, and took courage.” (Acts 28:15) They would want to do so much but they were so limited. Maybe they couldn’t even say much. The best they could do was to walk beside Paul for part of the journey. Sometimes we would love to say or do something to be a support. Often there is nothing we can say or do but walk beside our brethren. We thank God every time a saint comes and walks beside us and it gives us the courage to keep going.

I appreciated thinking about God’s Servants and of God’s special Chosen People; those sanctified, separate vessels for the Lord’s use. We are all in this together. The saints need the Servants and the Servants need the saints. Think about the interest we have in the Meetings. We try to meet people and visit before the Meetings and put out cards, but no-one comes. Who brings them? It is the saints who live the Gospel. Because of the way they have lived they have had an influence. We need saints. May God help us to be faithful in the place He has called us to.