I am sorry about the format of this post. I have went through it four times and put space between the paragraphs and it will not hold the format when I publish it. I don't know why?? I realize it makes it considerably harder to read but this seems to be the best I can do.
PERFECTING HOLINESS IN THE FEAR OF GOD
2 CORINTHIANS 6:14-71
SEPARATION – THE EFFECT OF HOLINESS
2 CORINTHIANS 6:14-71
SEPARATION – THE EFFECT OF HOLINESS
Separation is the willingness to make distinctions.
In the first part of this message we labored to show the existence of the principle of antithesis in the Scripture.
This whole concept of antithesis is the result of the enmity that God said he would institute between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.
The Bible is full of this principle. Again one has to be absolutely inattentive to miss it. The above list could be added to:
These are just a few that come to mind, you could probably add to the list. Each of these manifestations of the antithesis can be substantiated by Scripture. The student of Scripture would readily recognize this truth.
Douglas Wilson in his book, Classical Christian Education deals with the presence of the antithesis when he writes, "But a belief that truth is absolute is not the same thing as saying that truth is simple. Because God knows all things exhaustively, He knows (for any given situation) the right thing to do. He knows which course of action is ultimately wise. I need not know everything, but the fact that God knows everything enables me to know something. In the same way, the fact that God know the fault lines of antithesis in everything enables me to make progress."
The notable thing about this quote is that Wilson acknowledges that God knows perfectly well where to draw the lines. While we cannot know it as well as God we can, as Wilson puts it, make progress. But if one embraces the notion that no lines need be drawn because it is a gray area (consequently one choice is no better than the next) then little if any progress will be made. The fact is there is a right thing to do in every situation. There is a right position for every issue. There is only one right position while there can be many wrong positions. There is always a course of action that is always ultimately wise and then there are many other courses of action that are by degrees less wise as we move away from the ultimately wise course of action.
Because God know how to perfectly draw the lines and what the right position is on every issue it should matter to us. I suppose this is the real problem that I have with the whole concept of "gray areas". It is the equivalent of saying one choice is as good as another, even when at times the choices are diametrically opposed. Two different choices are not equally good. We may not have the wisdom, discernment, or discretion to say for sure which is best, but it does not mean that there is not a best and it certainly does not mean that God does not know which is best. We need to quit being lazy and realize choices do matter. They matter to God. They matter to our own spiritual well-being. They matter to those we influence.
In fact if the truth be known, everyone is separated! This may surprise you somewhat coming from me but at it most basic level, if you think about it, it is true. Even people that are less conservative than you, are still very separated. It is simply a matter of from what we are separated and to what we are separated. For example:
Some people are separated unto confusion in gender appearance, some are separated from it.
Some people are separated unto movies with violence, cursing, and immorality, some are separated from it.
Some people are separated unto contemporary christian music or worse, some are separated from it.
Get the idea??
What ever we are separated to, we are saying that it is light, good, holy, sweet, truth, righteous, godly, pure, spiritual, heavenly, eternal, clean, wise, obedient, and submissive.
What ever we are separated from we are saying that it is darkness, unholy, bitter, error, unrighteous, ungodly, impure, carnal, worldly, temporal, unclean, foolish, disobedient, and unsubmissive.
Or, we are saying it does not matter, it is a gray area??? This is really an untenable position for one who claims to believe the Bible. It is tantamount to accusing God of not knowing which is best and exactly where the fault lines of antithesis fall.
To be honest, I do not know exactly where they fall in relation to any number of issues. This is because of my human frailty and my tendency to carnality. There are some areas where I believe I have a good sense of generally where they fall. Then there are a few area where I am absolutely convinced, fully persuaded you might say, of where the fault lines should be. Could I be wrong?? Yes I could be! Do I believe I am wrong. No, I don't. Do I believe that others who disagree with me are wrong? Yes I do! I am absolutely certain that I will be held responsible for my conclusion at the day of judgment, and for me this is a sobering reality. It does not allow me to indulge the laziness of claiming it is a gray area. This is not a sober minded position. This is a position that makes us vulnerable to the devices of Satan.
The real question becomes upon what basis are we making the distinctions?
To help us think about the basis for making these distinctions I want to bring two terms to your attention. Discretion and discernment. These are two words that have a direct bearing on where we will draw the lines of antithesis or whether we will be guilty of blurring the lines between good and evil.
DISCRETION - It is basically a word that involves the idea of disjunction or separation. Discretion has a direct bearing on separation. The nature of our discretion will determine where we draw the line of antithesis and consequently will determine the nature of our separation. It will determine what we are separated from and to what we are separated.
Discretion is a word that is used on several occasion in the book of wisdom, Proverbs. This it seems is fitting. Let us examine a few of those places.
Actually the first reference will be in Psalms.
Psalms 112:5 - A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion.
What is one thing a good man does. The verse mentions several things but for the purpose of our present discussion notice the last thing mentioned. A good man will guide his affairs with discretion.
So, a good man makes decisions about the affairs of his life. He separates things. A good man does not live his life in a huge gray cloud. He makes determinations about things. His affairs are determined through the process of separation, making distinctions.
Proverbs 1:4 - To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.
One of the purposes of the Proverbs is to give discretion to the young man. Gray areas are the natural abode of immature believers. As we grow in grace and gain understanding and knowledge of the holy our "gray" area should shrink. It is young men who have difficulty separating things properly. The Proverbs were provided to help a young man exercise discretion and thus separate things properly in his life. To know what he ought to do and what he ought not to do. The Proverbs are designed to help a young man rightly discern the fault lines of antithesis. In fact much of the book is ordered along that very premise. It is a book of contrasting and comparing. Why? So young men could properly separate things concerning the issues of life.
Proverbs 2:11 - Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:
This is why discretion is important. It serves as a preserving element in the life of an individual. If you are content to live in the context of a gray understanding of the issues of life, then your decisions basically become a shot in the dark. In most cases the tendency will be to go with that which is least offensive to the flesh. After all if it does not matter that much and it is just a gray area and one choice is a good as the next then why choose the path that requires the flesh to be crucified. People are so busy scorning a separated life they never take the time to consider the preserving nature of exercising discretion.
Proverbs 3:21 - My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion:
What was the son to not let depart from his eyes. His father's law and commandments. As a side note. I have yet to understand why it is a virtue to question and abandon the law and commandments of a godly Father?? To hear some young people talk they have convinced themselves that they have embraced wisdom by departing from the standards of godly parents. This is the first indication to me that they are simple and lack discernment. Proverbs makes it abundantly clear that it is a wise son who embraces the virtues of godly parents and takes them as his own. Many young people do not realize that their foolishness is showing when they accuse other young people of believing something just because they were raised that way. This is a trait that is extolled as a virtue in Proverbs. They take the virtue and attempt to make it a vice. What does this say about those young people? It says they lack discretion!
It was the commands and law of the father that would equip the son to know sound wisdom and discretion. When young people embrace the virtues and values of godly parents they are keeping sound wisdom and discretion. They are climbing atop the shoulders of their parents which if God is gracious will help them to see even more clearly.
Proverbs 5:1,2 - My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding: That thou mayest regard discretion, and that thy lips may keep knowledge.
What is one way that a young man can show that he has regard for discretion. By attending to the wisdom of a father and bowing his ear to his father's understanding. Many young people have set a course of indiscretion and a life destined to be lived in the gray fog of worldliness and carnality because they would not bow the ear to a godly father's understanding. Discretion is acquired by doing that very thing.
Proverbs 11:22 - As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.
This is one of my favorite verses in the whole of Proverbs. Imagine a jewel of gold in a swine's snout. It there anything more unthinkable that this. These two things do not go together. Yet, this is exactly what a fair woman without discretion looks like. A woman without the ability to separate and distinguish is a woman who takes on the appearance, spiritually at least of a swine's snout. Of course if you have enough young women embracing this mode of living then I suppose that all swine snouts look alike??!!
DISCERNMENT - It is basically a word that has reference to the ability to separate, to note the distinctive character of, to discriminate, distinguish. If one has discernment that means they have the ability to note the distinctive character of an issue, distinguish and discriminate and thus to separate themselves from and to the right things. This does not sound like some one who is placing issues in a gray category. People who desire to exercise discernment will never be content with such a lazy approach.
Ezekiel 44:23 - And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.
The people were to be taught to discern between clean and unclean. Which obviously implies that they were to learn to discern between unclean and clean. God pity the preacher who allows his people to be comfortable in delegating issue after issue to the "gray" category simply because he is afraid he might offend. May God silence the men who encourage such a view!
Malachi 3:18 - Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
This verse extols the idea of not only discerning and discriminating in relation to the issues of life, but also between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not. We are to be discriminating in our judgment of people. It is important that we do this so that we can limit our exposure to the wicked and them that serve not God and embrace the righteous and those that serve God faithfully exercising discretion and discernment.
Hebrews 4:12 - For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The word of God is a discerner. The Word of God separates, it discriminates, it distinguishes. What does it discern? The thoughts and intents of the heart. What comes from the heart?
Proverbs 4:23 - Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
All the issues of life come from the heart. The thoughts and intents of the heart are discerned by the word of God. Do you see the connection?? All the issues of life are discerned by the word of God at the very root, in the heart. To say, "O, this issue is a gray area", is to say the word of God does not discern that. In spite of the fact that the Bible says it does discern it. There are no gray areas there are only areas where we lack understanding of God's revelation. Because we don't know, does not mean it cannot be known, nor does it mean it has not been revealed. It simply means that we have not yet come to understand it. To say that we don't understand is an honest admission. To say it is a gray area is a statement of arrogance and a surrender to laziness.
Hebrews 5:14 - But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
The senses have to be exercised to discern good and evil. It is exercised by reason of use. The question should be asked, use of what?
It really goes back to chapter 4:12. It is the Word of God that discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart. And again in chapter 5 and verses 12 and 13 the Scripture says:
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
Use of what? "the word of righteousness" The word of God. Why? Because the Word of God discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart, and out of the heart are the issues of life. So we discern good and evil in the issues of life by a faithful use of the word of God.
Herein lies the reason why there is so little discretion and discernment. We have to be using the word of God. Our lives must be saturated with the Bible. In all honesty, the average christian is saturated with the world much more than he is the Bible. Add up all the time he spends watching TV, videos, DVDs, reading novels, watching soap operas, reading christian romance novels, watching the news, reading fiction, listening to contemporary christian music, rock music, country and western music, playing video and computer games and how little time they spend in church and reading their bibles and material that would spiritually challenge and edify and it is no wonder that they lack discernment. Their lives are reflecting their diet. So, it is no wonder that women can put on a man's garment and say there is nothing wrong with it. Or a woman can cut her hair off or a man let his grow long and feminine-like and see nothing wrong with it. It is no wonder they see nothing wrong with wearing skin tight clothing or baring flesh. It is no wonder that Christian young people think it is a virtue to abandon at least part of the values of their parents. It is no wonder they are getting tattoos and body piercings. It is no wonder they are playing the lottery. It is no wonder they are board with preaching. It is no wonder they find humor in worldliness. It is no wonder they more excited about the local sports team than the presentation of truth. It is no wonder they think separated Christians are legalistic, Pharisees. Change the diet and the lives would change! They think they love their Bibles and their churches, but really they love the world more. Their lives reflect it, their attitudes reveal it, and their choices manifest it.
Discretion is lacking, discernment is missing and separation is absent! Consequently churches are full of people who are living comfortably in pleasing shades of gray. May God be gracious to raise some prophets in our midst who will lift up their voice like a trumpet and shew Israel her sin!