SEPARATING FROM THIS WORLD
AND UNTO CHRIST
II Tim.2: 4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
During the rise of fundamentalism the word “separation” became known as avoiding certain sinful practices. Smoking and drinking and cursing and movie going were among the usual suspects. There was a Biblical aversion to anything that smacked of ecumentalism, and young people were exhorted to never even date an unbeliever. Now all those things were good and healthy teachings for all who desire to conform to God’s Word, but the principle of separation goes much further than just those issues.
The principle of separation is designed by God as an important part of what is called sanctification. That is the process in which our lives move steadily toward obedience and a surrendered walk as well as a continuing turning away from sin. One day we will receive new and sinless bodies, but until then it is God’s will that we bring our mind, will, emotions, and our bodies under subjection to the Word of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. That process is called sanctification and part of that process is being separated mentally, emotionally, and sometimes even physically from that which is against Christ.
Paul tells Timothy that we are not supposed to get all tangled up with the affairs of this life. And in many places the Scriptures tell us not to love the world and the things in the world. Jesus told us that God so loved the world so there must be more than one definition concerning the word “world”. Yes, there is. One speaks of the sea of lost humanity while the other speaks of a powerful and alluring spirit which is always against Christ. We are to love lost humanity but we are to remain separate from the spirit which seeks to have us stray from loving and obeying Christ. We are supposed to avoid and even run from temptation.
It is no secret that given enough exposure and availability and opportunity we all might succumb to temptation and even commit that which we could have never imagined. Like the old American Indian believer once remarked. He said, “There are two dogs inside me. One white dog and one black dog and they always fight”. A listener asked him which dog wins. He replied, “The one I feed”. And so it is with us all. Jesus repeated the divine exhortation, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God” which means we cannot live anyway we desire because God will keep us from sin. No, we are responsible before God and although He is more than willing to empower us to a righteous walk He will not be a pawn to a life which invited temptation.
But here is where the church has completely missed it. The things I mentioned about smoking or cursing or even being yoked up with unbelievers in a dating or marrying setting are all obvious and sinful. But the prince of the power of the air is much craftier than just those kinds of sin. In fact the whole world lies in the wicked One. He has imprisoned the entire world with all kinds of deceiving spirits. Some are obvious like drug addiction and adultery and drunkenness which are committed by people but which enticing spirits tempt men’s fallen flesh into.
But we must open our ears and allow the Spirit to teach us concerning these things. We cannot see a demon under every tree and construct some kind of dungeons and dragons game which assigns a demonic spirit to every sin and malady. But we also must not be ignorant of the devil’s devices. He is most cunning and can use even that which seems innocuous as a means to imprison our hearts and minds. We are exhorted to have some level of interaction and even eat with unbelievers so we can show God’s love and share the gospel of Christ. But we are also warned about cultivation close relationships with those same unbelievers because that can many times lead to a compromise in our spiritual lives. It happens all the time.
But as the church created a list of things to avoid because their influence could be openly seen and felt, it ignored a much more powerful and clandestine force which was already at work. And that alluring force was not seen in the light of Scripture and for the deep compromise that it is. And its effects were not seen for the detriment to a spiritual walk that they are. So the church not only did not warn people concerning this compromising force that was controlled by evil, but the church embraced it and welcomed it right into the gathering and even exhorted people to enjoin themselves to it.
But there is another principle taught in the New Testament that when it is ignored it leads to all sorts of compromise. In fact, if we ignore this principle we will quickly become imprisoned by this present world and any authentic spirituality will quickly evaporate.
Col.3: If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
Rom.8: For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
This is a spiritual principle which is rarely even addressed in today’s evangelical community much less pursued with any kind of brokenness and vigor. We have been called to understand that we are no longer fellow citizens of this fallen world. This world is no longer our home, and we cannot, we must not, seek life from within this temporal existence. Does that sound much too lofty to your intellectual sensibilities? Does it sound unreasonable, fanatical, and some useless rhetoric which renders a person so heavenly minded that he becomes of no earthly good? And that, my friends, is at the very core of what truly ails the contemporary church.
We have become so earthly minded that we are of little heavenly benefit. We are pilgrims who are heading toward the Celestial City, but as we walk we are to think like Jesus, and have the heart of Jesus, and speak like Jesus, and live like Jesus. Now I ask you, have you ever read the four gospel accounts of the life of Jesus through at one time? And if you have did you notice what consumed Jesus’ life and how He acted and how He spoke and what things did not matter to Him? Remove yourself from the realm in which you now think and live, and allow the Spirit to guide you into truth. If you can place your own understanding as a sacrifice upon the altar of God’s truth, and if you can proceed into some very unsettling territory, then perhaps you can catch a glimpse of something so sacred, so confusing, so glorious, and so liberating that your entire being will begin a spiritual metamorphosis that you never could imagine.
In this spiritual realm much of what seemed practical now seems useless. Much of what seemed logical now seems senseless. Much of what seemed important now seems trivial. And much of what seemed right now seems all wrong. Why? What has happened? Consider a man who lives in a place called Babylon. This is a place that is utterly and completely opposed to everything God desires and teaches. This man enjoys this place just like everyone else. He is on the same treadmill going someplace just like everyone else. Comparatively he is not a criminal and he is generally a law abiding citizen in Babylon.
But one day this Babylonian citizen believes on Jesus Christ and he is born again. Something wonderful has happened and he is changed. He begins to attend church and read the Bible and Christian literature and he prays a little. He supports missionary endeavors and fellowships with other believers. He begins to see things that are sinful for what they are and he changes some of his habits. But he fails to see something much more sinister that is foundational to the entire Babylonian construct. He is blind to the actual power which lies at the very heart of this Babylonian community where he still resides. And because he does not recognize the poison inherent within the Babylonian construct he gladly participates in some of the rituals he participated in before. And although his motives may have been moral his actions begin to dilute and compromise his spiritual life.
Now this kind of spiritual compromise is not easily seen since it is shrouded in morality and seemingly noble causes. He does not go to the tavern anymore, and he avoids certain risqué movies, and he is generally a law abiding citizen. But he fails to understand that he is still bound by a very strong spirit which has imprisoned his heart and mind until the eternal things of God and His kingdom are merely doctrines and far from a life changing reality. In fact, his life and many of the things that garner his attention are the same as his unbelieving neighbor who works hard, obeys the law, and loves America. You see, this man now lives almost exclusively within the temporal in his heart and mind and most, if not all, of his energies are spent on temporal things.
He has become a citizen of Babylon who happens to profess Christ. Do you understand the implications of that statement? This is not just denominational perspective which can be tossed about in theological discussions. It is not just some spiritual fine tuning. And it is not just a matter of personal preference. This principle generally called separation will determine just how far and how deep you go in Christ. And if you truly desire to know Christ in all His fullness as well as have your life become His glorious conduit, then there are things you must face with great spiritual vulnerability. In other words you must be willing to set aside what you think you know and the contentment you have come to enjoy and walk into the New Testament with the Holy Spirit alone as your guide.
Now when a believer has become set in his ways and when he has peer reinforcement built over many years then it is a colossal challenge for him to reevaluate his spiritual knowledge and perspective at the foundational level. And then there is the issue of receiving such a challenge from a nobody like me who has many flaws and inconsistencies that can assist you in dismissing what I am teaching. Yes, to detour significantly from the road most travelled in order to pursue Christ even for a week or two seems so unconventional and even a little bit dangerous. And so most will not even give it another thought. And they will see what I am saying as little more than some kind of a rebel spirit if not a critical spirit.
But if we truly desire to follow Jesus inside our hearts than we are going to have to separate ourselves from the fallen institutions of this Babylonian-esque culture in which we live. We cannot continue to present lies about the Christian nature of Babylon and still believe we are following Christ. We cannot join hands with unbelievers in order to fix Babylon and still profess to follow Christ. We cannot kill people in order to defend this Babylonian system and profess to follow Christ. We cannot pledge allegiance to Babylon and still profess to follow Christ. We must allow the Spirit to give us the wisdom and strength to withdraw and separate ourselves from this system which is so antagonistic to the things of Christ.
I do not use the term “Babylon” just to be melodramatic and theatrical. I use it because it is a Biblical metaphor for a system, a government, and a culture which is antichrist which is another term I use literally and not just for effect. But if we do not recognize this world for the enemy it really is then we will continue to live lives that are no spiritual threat to the kingdom of darkness. When the lives of professing believers are so commonplace and unremarkable, then where is the salt and light? And when a culture is so profoundly sinful and hedonistic, should not even a mildly committed believer’s life stand out? And if a believer should endeavor to be fully surrendered and sanctified and separated for the Master’s use, shouldn’t that life be observably prominent within that culture? Should a life which is fully committed to Christ in heart and life be seen as fanatical and incongruous to cultural reason? What I mean is that if a life is filled with the Spirit and seeks to be fully separated unto Christ it will be seen as unreasonable in many ways.
And given the current ecclesiastical climate it will be seen as unreasonable by the church as well as the culture at large. But step back for a moment. Why would that which is so openly taught in the New Testament now be considered as unreasonable?
Rom.12: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Sacrifice? Holy? Acceptable unto God? And what do the words “be not conformed to this world” actually mean in thought and practice? Do they just mean quit smoking? The unbeliever can do that. Do they just mean avoid certain more obvious and grievous sins? Even unbelievers quit certain sins. No, those words carry a spiritual weight more profound than the church is now willing to admit much less investigate. And therein lies the eternal power which is available to all who truly know Christ. But alas, the church has been swallowed up by the culture and now operates as religious and somewhat moral Babylonians rather than humble, incandescent vessels which provide gospel light inside a kingdom of darkness.
Until we "come out from among them" we will in many ways be just like them. And that is not only a sad spiritual state before our God, but it will turn out to be an eternal tragedy for those around us.