THE OTHER SIDE OF SEPARATION
Separation has always been important to God. When the Lord chose Abraham, He separated him from others to accomplish a specific task. Genesis 12:1-3 records the promise of God made to Him. “Now the Lord had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, From your family And from your father's house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." While the promise does not mention separation, we know as it unfolded, the descendents of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob would become His own special people to accomplish His will for all mankind, namely, the salvation of man separated from God because of sin. That was their purpose as the chosen generation. As Solomon dedicated the temple, his prayer to God included this, “For You separated them from among all the peoples of the earth to be Your inheritance, as You spoke by Your servant Moses, when You brought our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord God.” (1 Kings 8:53)
As time came for Israel to inherit their promised possession, among the commands of the LORD to them was that they drive out all its inhabitants. In Deuteronomy 7:1-11 Moses gives the people instructions as they inherit the Promised Land. These instructions included utterly destroying the nations before them (because of their wickedness), not making marriages with them, or serving their gods and idols. “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.” (Deut. 7:6) Moses was telling them they were separated by God from the rest of the world and that they needed to maintain that separation. In vs. 11, He tells them HOW to stay separated, “Therefore you shall keep the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments which I command you today, to observe them.” If only they had obeyed Him. Yet, even though they failed miserably in keeping themselves separated, the PURPOSE for which they had been separated was accomplished (cf. Gal. 3:19-24).
As a nation, God demonstrated the seriousness of separation by appointing the Levites to be His priests and keepers of the Law. (Deut. 10:8) Leviticus 22:2 says, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, that they separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, and that they do not profane My holy name by what they dedicate to Me: I am the Lord.” Further warnings included: IF one of his descendents (a qualified priest) approached those things dedicated to the Lord (i.e. separated to Him) while unclean, he was to be cut off from His presence. Further instructions were given to those not priests to not eat those things which were holy (see Lev. 22:1-16). The point of all this, I believe, was to cause the nation of Israel to understand that Holiness of God. That which He separates for Himself is to be hallowed and treated as such.
As you study the history of Israel, you find that their failure to keep themselves separated, both as His nation and His priests, resulted in their being carried away into captivities. Consider – it was IDOLS and corruption that were continually emphasized as the cause of their downfall and removal from the sight of God. And even when they returned from captivity, separation was once again emphasized. They were even commanded to separate themselves from their foreign wives (Ezra 10:11, Neh. 13:3).
So what is the point? The people of God are to be a separated people. It is a major implication as you study the history of God’s people and something God does NOT take lightly. Consider the text we began with. Paul was telling these brethren, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.” Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Cor. 6:14-18). The Christian life is one of separation.
Do we take that seriously? When we obeyed the gospel, we put to death the man of sin (Rom. 6:5-7). That statement is in the midst of a text in which we are challenged to NOT continue in sin. WE died to sin so that we will no longer live in it (Rom. 6:2). Sin cannot reign in our mortal bodies (Rom. 6:12). As Christians, we realize that we are different from the world. We need to ACT like it! We need to realize that we cannot engage in our old sinful activities any longer. We understand that we are now servants of Christ and we belong to Him. 1 Cor. 6:19-20 says, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.” Such is a part of being separate.
This separation needs to be obvious. Others need to see that we are different from the world. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount spoke of us as light by saying, “Let your light so shine before me, that they may see your good works and glorify you Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16) It is not a matter of us doing things to draw attention to ourselves like wearing t-shirts with “Christian themes” or crosses or displaying spiritual bumper stickers on our cars, but our CONDUCT will set us apart from those who are without the dictates of Christ and His word. This is especially true when we are converted out of the world (as opposed to having been raised in a godly home). Peter said, “For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles — when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.” (1 Peter 4:3-4). Friends, when you become a Christian, you separate yourself from the world to serve Christ. Don’t EVER think that you can profess Him in name and not live a separated life. Don’t forget the words of our Lord in Matt. 6:24, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Show me someone whose interests are still for financial gain, popularity, fame or sensuality and I will show you someone who is NOT totally separated from the world.
BUT, there is another side to separation. When we think of separation, what often comes to mind is what we cannot do. We have a tendency to be negative in our attitudes and thoughts. We think in terms of prohibitions and as a result, we are miserable. Serving God is too much about the don’ts. However we need to remember that we are not just separated FROM the world, we are separated TO God. While there are things we are to give up, there are many other things we will receive in doing so.
Consider the following passages:
· Colossians 1:13, “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love”
· 1 Thessalonians 4:7, “For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.
· 2 Corinthians 6:17-18, “Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.”
· Leviticus 20:26, “And you shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine.”
· 1 Thessalonians 1:9, “For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God”
· Romans 6:11, “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
· Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
· Revelation 1:5-6, “and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”