2 CORINTHIANS 6:14-71
SEPARATION – THE EFFECT OF HOLINESS
By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;
To be like Jesus one must be holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. What does it mean to be holy. It means to be undefiled. Undefiled by what? Undefiled by the world. It means to be separate from sinners. We are not to be like sinners but separate from sinners. But really the two words that give us the greatest insight into the character of Jesus is that he was holy and harmless. As frail human beings we run the risk of being holy but not being harmless, or being so harmless that we are not holy. The goal is to be both holy and harmless. It is not good enough to be holy without being harmless. It is not good enough to be harmless without being holy. Jesus was both likewise we should strive to emulate him in this regard. The gospel accounts give us the example of Jesus being both holy and harmless.
It is important to recognize that separation is the effect not the cause. We often speak of being separated from the world. What do we really mean by this? What we are really addressing is the need to be holy. Holiness is the cause of which separation is the effect. Pursuing holiness causes us to be separated from the world. The cause always produces the same effect. Holiness always produces separation. The more profound the cause the more striking the effect. The greater the holiness the more striking the separation.
1 Peter 4:1-4 – Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:
Separation is the practical impact of striving for holiness in our lives. When we are not experiencing the effect it is likely because we are not embracing the cause.
In the course of this message I simply want to examine the principle of separation. The whole idea of separation is presented as a positive and the natural phenomena in the life of those who profess to be God’s people. The principle of separation is given to us so many ways in Scripture that one has to be willfully ignorant to miss it. The principle is given to us in so many different formats that to miss its relevance is to embrace blindness and we will surely stumble and fall.
Separation in the minds of many is a legalistic word that has no place in the framework of Christian living. Too many place the emphasis on a liberty the Bible does not even grant while they refuse to acknowledge the clear teaching of separation and loathe and hold in contempt those that would seek to instruct in righteousness.
The sad reality is that when it comes to separation there are few who are willing to hold the line and stay with the old paths wherein dwelleth righteousness. Unfortunately we have whetted the appetite of a generation for compromise by compromising principles of separation, holiness, and piety. We have taught them how to compromise and it is a lesson that is eagerly learned by the flesh. While those who attempt to hold the line are marginalized and accused of being unwilling to change with the times.
Clear, honest direction from the Psalmist. Because evil and good are opposites one cannot do good without departing from evil. This too, assumes that we are responsible for making judgments about what is evil and good. It is not sufficient to say it does not matter, or that is just a gray area. We are to be in the business of discerning evil and good so that we might know what it is we are to be departing from and what it is we are to be doing!
Proverbs 31:12 - She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
She cannot do him evil if she is doing him good and she cannot do him good if she is doing him evil. They are forever separated.
Jeremiah 4:22 - For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.
Again, evil and good are set in opposition one to another.
Isaiah 5:20 - Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Call evil good and good evil. In doing so we construct a large middle area that we call gray. I am convinced that modern Christianity (Baptists) have been unwittingly led away with postmodern thought. Postmodern thought is basically expressed in the concept that there is no objective standard. What is good for you is good for you, but it is not necessarily good for anyone else. Everyone is their own standard. The greatest offence in such an environment is indicating that someone is wrong or believing you are right. Well, such a philosophy may be acceptable to those walking in darkness but it should have no countenance among those who claim to be children of light. There is an objective standard, a divine standard. It is found in the Holy Bible. If the Bible says it is good, it is good for everyone. It does not matter what you think about it or even whether you understand it. It is not about understanding it is about obeying. If the Bible says it is evil it is evil for everyone. It does not matter what you think about it or even if you understand it. Again, it is not about understanding but obeying! Jesus said, "If ye love me keep my commandments."
Lamentation 3:38 - Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?
There is no blurring of the antithesis with God. No evil and good proceeding out of his mouth.
Amos 5:14 - Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the LORD, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken.
It is too bad that for most people evil and good is something that is just on the farthest reaches of the fringe, but in the practical areas of our lives it is all just one big gray area. What we wear, our hair lengths, our choices of entertainment, our speech, it just mostly does not matter. Modesty is whatever you think it is. Women cut their hair off as though God never spoke to the matter. We gorge ourselves on a diet of violence, sex, and worldliness in our entertainment all the while supporting an industry that is so totally against God that it should sicken us! Considering most people's choices for entertainment and music it is no wonder they have no discernment. They are so saturated with carnality in their entertainment that they would not know carnal living if it walked up and said, "Hello, my name is Carnal." Carnal? What's that??? I know, I know I am being legalistic and judgmental.
Matthew 7:18 - A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Note the antithesis. Note the strength of the connection. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit.
Romans 12:21 - Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.They do not coexist. They are at eternal enmity with one another. One must always be overcoming. One always is overcoming. If you have afforded yourself the luxury of living in a spacious no-fire zone (gray area) then you do not have to be overly concerned with which is overcoming. After all with your philosophy it really does not matter. In fact maybe you've become so complacent that you don't even think you philosophy matters. You just want to be in a live and let live world. That is a very comfortable position, at least until judgment day!
Holy and Unholy
Leviticus 10:10 - And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean;
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.
Here we are told that not only are we to discern between holy and unholy but that God's leaders are to teach God's people the difference between the holy and the profane and cause them to discern between unclean and clean. That means that the minsters of God are to instruct in righteousness and also the principles of discernment that help us to see clearly what is holy and unholy. We are to deal with the issues and specifics and the principles underlying the issues.
Much of the problem today is a weak pulpit. So much of the preaching today is so shallow, and vauge, and general, and weak, and cowardly that it has no capacity to stop the encroachment of compromise in the churches. Our women dress like men and cut their hair like men. Our church members watched the latest hollywood movie on Saturday evening, and in many cases it is likely that their pastor did too. The people are saturated in contemporary christian music, rock music, country and western music. And no one calls them to account. Thus we continue the slow drift toward spiritual lethargy listening to the siren's song of grace, grace. And this in spite of the fact that the Bible says in:
Titus 2:11-14 - For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
So, in the end we will learn that the siren's song of grace, grace was in reality the Wicked One lulling us into complacency and turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness.
By the way O, man of God Titus 2:15 says, These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.
May God once again visit the pulpits of this land with a fire from heaven that will devour the stubble and that will ignite the flames of piety, passion, and holiness; without which no man shall see the Lord!