Separation

The Tightrope of Separation: False Starts

From Voice, Mar/Apr 2014. Used by permission. Read the series so far.

False starts

There are several false starts that we can make in the matter of separation. There is no doubt that God has called us to a position of separation. The question is how and in what way? There are several false responses that have been devised by man.

The first response is asceticism.

There are those who have said that Christians are not of this world and so they must get away from the world completely. Those who advocated this are called ascetics and they became hermits, went to monasteries, caves, deserts, and the wilderness. They said they had to get away from man and pleasures in order to be separate unto God. That however was a complete distortion of Scripture because we are commanded to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Scripture has told us to witness to, live before, and seek to reach men for Christ. After ascetics arrived out in the deserts and caves they discovered they brought the world with them because the sinful impulses exhibited in the world were also in them. Satan appealed to their pride, self, and false motives even when they were alone, and the world manifested itself in them. Wherever we go we take the sinful impulses exhibited in the world with us. Asceticism is not the answer.

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The Tightrope of Separation: Worldliness

From Voice, Mar/Apr 2014. Used by permission. Read the series so far.

Worldliness defined

What is a definition of the term “the world” or “worldliness?” Romans 12:2 says, “Be not conformed to this world.” That passage of Scripture really describes the whole matter. In 1 John 2:15 we find, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” In both passages, God is saying there is something out there which we as Christians are not to love. A true Christian is contrary to it. We are not to love the world because we are contrary to it.

Different words are translated “world” in the New Testament. One word refers to the inhabited earth. Another refers to an age or time and it can have a wicked connotation. A third word is the one which is most frequently used. It is the Greek word kosmos.

The world (kosmos) is that system organized by God’s enemy Satan. Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer in his theology defined the world as “civilization now functioning apart from God” (Systematic Theology, Vol. II. Dallas Seminary Press, 1971; 77). The unseen powers of spiritual evil, which have Satan as their head, are organized on a vast scale with great efficiency (Ephesians 6:12). This evil organization dominates the lives of unredeemed humanity, and Satan rules this kingdom in opposition to God and everything devoted to God and everyone dedicated to God. As Dr. Chafer expressed it, this civilization is dominated by Satan, functions apart from God, does not recognize God, and has a philosophy of independence (Chafer, 76-90). People of this world’s system say: “I have a right to go my own way, do my own thing, be what I want to be. I don’t owe God anything, I owe no allegiance to anyone.” That is the philosophy of Satan and the world. It is this world system which God says “do not love it, do not be conformed to it.” And so essentially we as Christians are to have no association with the world’s philosophies, ideas, pollutions, or system—because this world is functioning apart from God and in opposition to Him.

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The Tightrope of Separation: Separated Unto God

From Voice, Mar/Apr 2014. Used by permission.

Recently I read an article which began with these words:

Some time ago a man said to me, “I drink beer in the pub in my spare time. Some guys I know go out chasing women. So what’s the difference? Your hobby is Christianity.” To think that a man could look at me and say that Christianity was just a pleasant spare time occupation like collecting stamps or yachting. Is that my definition of Christianity? Do I put it second, or do I put it first?

This quotation points out the fact that if our faith does not change our lives, even the world questions the genuineness of our profession.

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Woodpeckers and Termites

Photo by Althepal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Althepal)

From Voice, Mar/Apr 2014. Used by permission.

Would you rather deal with woodpeckers or termites? The woodpecker’s color and noise demand your attention. You know he is there. But in contrast, by the time you notice termites, it’s already too late: your house is crumbling around you.

Yes, I would definitely rather have woodpeckers.

The Bible identifies some woodpeckers but gives them the name of “apostate.” This is an unbeliever who makes a lot of theological noise that is easily identified as false doctrine. You can’t miss him. You know he is there. But while the apostate can harm the church, the bigger threat is a heretic. Like a termite, he works within the church to bring division. He often goes unnoticed until it’s too late.

Before we go much further, we need to define those two biblical words. That is the key to understanding this issue.

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The Pyramid of Responsibility, Part 2

From Voice, Mar/Apr 2014. Used by permission. Read Part 1.

Different relationships, different responsibilities

Believers need to understand that there are varying levels of relationships within the Body of Christ, each with differing responsibilities. Although somewhat inclusive on the broadest level (our brotherhood in Christ), relationships become increasingly limited as one moves toward the individual’s standing before the Lord (priesthood of the believer). Thus, the most limited level of relationship is the priesthood of the believer, a level so exclusive that no one except the individual believer and the Lord are able to enjoy it.

Confusing the limitations of one level with those of another is where the majority of detonations occur in the minefield of biblically mandated relationships between believers. Seeking to apply the freedoms intended for a “lower” level to a level designed to be more limited produces inclusivism and compromise. Likewise, seeking to impose the restrictions intended for an “upper” level to a level designed to be broader brings exclusivism and unwarranted schism. Therefore the Pyramid of Responsibility of biblically mandated relationships must be understood and applied as believers seek to emulate our holy and loving God.

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The Pyramid of Responsibility, Part 1

From Voice, Mar/Apr 2014. Used by permission.1

Tiptoeing through the minefields encircling the relationships within the Body of Christ is enormously daunting. It seems that at any moment the dreaded event of stepping in the wrong place will trigger a mine that Satan has laid to disrupt fellowship between believers. As successive issues detonate, the Body of Christ is often divided, and the loss of its vitality prevents brethren from being effective in representing Christ Jesus.

Some of these mines are important areas of truth and doctrine that must never be viewed as negotiable. Others are incidental matters that ought not to inflict the damage they do. Some believers conclude that the risk of crossing the field is too high. Consequently, they want little to do with attempting to relate to the entire Body of Christ. They stay where it is safe and allow the rest of the Body of Christ to do the same. As a result of this protectionism and exclusivity, their impact is greatly diminished.

Other believers are so desirous of enjoying relationships with the entire Body of Christ they become indiscriminate. These believers seem to care little about the issues and the damage that compromising their doctrinal beliefs brings. By the time they reach the other side of the minefield, there is little genuine Christianity left. As a result of their inclusiveness, they have little to offer in terms of meaningful fellowship in Christ.

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Forgetting the Doctrine of Separation?

From Voice, Mar/Apr 2014. Used by permission.

This is a call to purity and balance. It represents that truth of God’s Word which has fallen upon the rocks of neglect in today’s American Church. It represents teaching from the Bible which seems so terribly out of harmony with our American culture. It almost seems pugnacious, no matter how graciously it may be stated.

This is about the doctrine of separation, biblical holiness in life and relationships.

I have watched with growing dismay as so many in the American evangelical church have cheerfully descended into theological illiteracy lacking any sense of doctrinal discernment which is based on the careful study and application of the Scriptures. And the “problem is that even the mildest assertion of Christian truth today sounds like a thunderclap because the well-polished civility of our religious talk has kept us from hearing much of this kind of thing.”1

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