“To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
When you think about the “saints” in the New Testament, who do you think of? Paul? Peter? James? John? Those are the first four that come to my mind for me. Of course there are many more, but lets just look at these four for a moment.
What do we think about when we think on these four men? I think of them as very highly regarded. They were clearly men who encountered Christ in a real and personal way. If not, I doubt they would have given all that they had, including their lives, to serve and give glory to their Savior. They met him in the flesh. I think of them as Christ-like. Direct disciples of Christ. So when I think about them I think of them as somewhat extraordinary. Like they were more Christ-like than I could hope to be because they were discipled by Jesus. Like they are somehow less subject to the same weaknesses and temptations as I am.
But as my thinking turns this way I am forgetting one big truth that CH Spurgeon reminds us of: “The nearer a man lives to God the more intensely has he to mourn over his own evil heart; and the more his Master honours him in his service, the more also doth the evil of the flesh vex and tease him day by day.”
Essentially: “mo’ money mo’ problems.” The more of Christ we have in our lives the more of our sinful nature is revealed. Like a dirty floor, the more light you cast on it the dirtier it seems because you’re exposing the dirt that the shadow was hiding.
The fact is, if we had seen the apostle Paul, we probably would have believed he was remarkably like the rest of us; and if we had talked with him, we probably would have said, “Wow, this guy isn’t much different from myself. Yea, he’s more faithful, more holy, and more deeply taught than I am, but he has the same trials to go through that I do.” In fact, we would probably conclude that, in some respects, he is going through harder things than we are.
What does this mean for us? Lets stop looking at the New Testament saints as being less prone to weakness or sin. Their holiness is attainable even by us. We are “called to be saints” by that same voice which constrained them to their high vocation.
As CH Spurgeon said on the topic, “It is a Christian’s duty to force his way into the inner circle of saintship; and if these saints were superior to us in their attainments, as they certainly were, let us follow them; let us emulate their ardour and holiness. We have the same light that they had, the same grace is accessible to us, and why should we rest satisfied until we have equalled them in heavenly character?”
The saints lived with Jesus, lived for Jesus, and we would would naturally believe that they grew to be like Jesus. If we would live by the same Spirit we too can draw nearer to Jesus and grow to be like Him as well.
Think about it …