Separation (Part 2)
In “Separation: Part 1” we saw that separation from the world and it’s ethos, systems, and attitudes is obviously very important in the Bible. However, it could be easy to get the wrong idea about what separation is to look like and how we are to be separate. It is a big topic to consider and one that we learn throughout our lives as Christians. This sheet shows that separation, if it is to be truly for the Lord, starts with our minds and hearts.
What does it mean to be separate?
When we think of separation the thought that probably springs to mind is that of a hermit living in a cave in some uninhabited corner of the earth. While this is the approach some Christians have taken this is not the form of separation advocated by the Bible. The Lord Jesus was quite clear in His prayer to the Father that we are to be sent into the world. “As thou hast sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). “I do not demand that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them out of evil. They are not of the world, as I am not of the world” (John 17:15-16). Therefore, we are to be in contact with people in the world all the time and yet we are to be separate from evil.
The best example of a life of faith is in the Lord Jesus Himself. He lived a life as a perfect man and therefore we can look at Him to see how we are to live a life of separation to God. In Hebrews it says of the Lord Jesus: “For such a high priest became us, holy, harmless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and become higher than the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26). His whole life was different from the lives of those around Him. Yet, we find that He readily sat down and spoke with tax-gatherers and sinners. He did not speak like they spoke. He didn’t join in with their conversation and discuss the things they were discussing in their sinfulness. He spoke to them the words of God in love. To some He had to be blunt to others He could be gentle, yet, in tremendous wisdom, He brought words of correction and life to sinners that drew them to Him wanting to know more of the God of which He spoke.
One example of this is in the house of Levi (also called Matthew) “And after these things he went forth and saw a tax-gatherer, Levi by name, sitting at the receipt of taxes, and said to him, Follow me. And having left all, rising up, he followed him. And Levi made a great entertainment for him in his house, and there was a great crowd of tax-gatherers and others who were at table with them. And their scribes and the Pharisees murmured at his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with tax-gatherers and sinners? And Jesus answering said to them, They that are in sound health have not need of a physician, but those that are ill. I am not come to call righteous persons, but sinful ones to repentance” (Luke 5:27-32).
The Lord Jesus was sitting in the house of Levi surrounded by all his friends whom he had brought to listen to Jesus while they had a meal. Jesus could not have been more separated from the company around Him in spirit as He opened their eyes to their need for forgiveness and their need for God grace. The Pharisees were only concerned with the outward appearance. To them the idea of eating with sinners was to associate themselves with them and so they murmured. The Lord replied so beautifully in saying that He was interested in saving those who knew their need and could not save themselves. He wasn’t excusing the Pharisees, but was pointing out that they had missed the point of God’s grace in that they should have been trying to help sinners too rather that condemning them.
So we are told to stay away from sinful things as far as we can to enable us to be irreproachable in our witness and keep us true to the Lord:
“I have written to you in the epistle not to mix with fornicators; not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the avaricious and rapacious, or idolaters, since then ye should go out of the world” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10).
“that ye may be harmless and simple, irreproachable children of God in the midst of a crooked and perverted generation; among whom ye appear as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).
“But fornication and all uncleanness or unbridled lust, let it not be even named among you, as it becomes saints; and filthiness and foolish talking, or jesting, which are not convenient; but rather thanksgiving” (Ephesians 5:3-4). We are to be careful in what we say, what we laugh at and what we do to ensure that people will believe and trust what we say.
“Be not ye therefore fellow-partakers with them; for ye were once darkness, but now light in the Lord; walk as children of light, (for the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth,) proving what is agreeable to the Lord; and do not have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather also reprove them, for the things that are done by them in secret it is shameful even to say” (Ephesians 5:7-12).
“For if after having escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, again entangled, they are subdued by these, their last state is worse than the first” (2 Peter 2:20). We are not to go back to the ways of the world from which we have been saved. It is harder to get out a second time.
“Be not diversely yoked with unbelievers; for what participation is there between righteousness and lawlessness? or what fellowship of light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). This includes any form of partnership, e.g. marriage, business partnerships, etc. For example, we might find it difficult to be in a business partnership with someone who is being dishonest and being fraudulent when we are trying to tell people about righteousness and truth.
We are to love God and not the things of the world. This requires us, in dependence on the Holy Spirit who now dwells in us, to change our thoughts and desires. We are remove the influence of the world system in ourselves:
“Love not the world, nor the things in the world. If any one love the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world is passing, and its lust, but he that does the will of God abides for eternity” (1 John 2:16-17).
“Ye are of God, children, and have overcome them, because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world. They are of the world; for this reason they speak as of the world, and the world hears them” (1 John 4:5).
“For all that has been begotten of God gets the victory over the world; and this is the victory which has gotten the victory over the world, our faith. Who is he that gets the victory over the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5).
We are to use the things of this world, i.e. our money, possessions and time to serve the Lord and His people:
“and they that use the world, as not disposing of it as their own; for the fashion of this world passes” (1 Corinthians 7:31).
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
So, separation is inward. Our minds and hearts are now focussed on the Lord Jesus and the God and Father that He revealed to us. We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit who give us the power to be more like Christ. We are to be “imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, even as the Christ loved us, and delivered himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour” (Ephesians 5:1-2) being a scent of the Lord Jesus for God’s pleasure. The result of our inward separation from the lusts and desires of sin will be obvious in the way we live our lives. We will appear as lights in the world, in the world, yes, but not of it.