How to Be a Saint Sermon of James E. Carter
Text: “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” (Phil. 1:1).
Scripture Reading: Philippians 1:1–11
What is a saint? Some may think of saints only as those who have been declared to be saints by the Roman Catholic Church for some outstanding accomplishment or virtuous lifestyle.
They have been deceased for centuries and are recognized on church calendars. Others may think of saints as pious but not very nice people. Still others use the word saint as a loose term of respect applied to a particularly good person.
When you read Paul’s letter to the Philippians, you know that Paul had still another meaning. Saint is the translation of a word that means “holy,” to be separated from sin and set apart to God. So saints are not people who are dead so much as they are people who are different.
The first-century Christians were different because they were committed to Christ.
The Philippian letter was written to people Paul called saints. They were the Christians in the church.
I. As saints, Christians are called to be something.
There is a distinction between being and doing. Many of us are very willing to be doing—doing good deeds, doing programs and activities, doing ministry.
But we are soon made aware that before we can do for Christ, we must be. To Nicodemus, the Jewish ruler who visited Jesus at night, the Savior said, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). Even he would have to do something before he could become a citizen of the heavenly commonwealth.
Christianity is more than an ethic to follow, a philosophy by which to live, or a theology to believe. It is a person to follow. We are to follow Jesus Christ and give our lives to him in faith.
By following Jesus we can understand what kind of person we ought to be. He is always our guide and example. Great Christians have always taken Jesus as a pattern.
The selfless Francis of Assisi prayed that he might be as selfless as Christ; Brother Lawrence, performing the lowliest tasks in the monastery kitchen, prayed that he might be as humble as Christ; David Livingstone, in the perils of darkest Africa, prayed that he might be as adventurous as Christ.
II. As saints, Christians are called to be something different.
Many differences exist between Christians and non-Christians. One obvious distinction is the commitment of their lives. Christians have made a commitment in faith to Jesus Christ. Their lives are centered in him. Therefore they have a distinctive lifestyle.
In Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, he proclaimed to his followers, those who were people of the kingdom, what kind of character they should have if they followed him. The lives of saints are marked by grace, peace, strength of character and purpose, and love. Remember, the word saint comes from the root for “holy,” which means separate. Christians are to be distinct from the world.
III. As saints, Christians are called to be something different for a purpose.
Saints of God are not different just for the sake of being different. Different does not have to mean odd. Christians are to exemplify the life of Christ and thus point others to him. William Barclay told of a little girl who went with her mother to church one day.
She asked her mother about the figures in the stained-glass windows. Her mother replied that they were saints. Then later in the week she visited an older woman with her mother. As they left the house, the mother said, “You have seen a saint today.” Trying to put the two together, she finally said, “Oh, I know what a saint is. A saint is someone who lets the light shine through.”
You, too, can be a saint by following Christ.
James E. Carter (1935-2015; PhD, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) was a pastor with over thirty years of experience. He served as director of Church-Minister Relations for the Louisiana Baptist Convention from 1988-2000