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Friday, July 27, 2007

Separation: The Effect Of Holiness - Part One

I have decided to post the first part of this message alone. I think it is an important message of itself and although millions are not reading this maybe God will use it to cause the some few who do to think as it has caused me to think, as I preached it to my own people here. I think the principle presented here is one that is not given enough sober consideration in our day. While there are others who would certainly be more capable than myself in expounding these truths they are presented in all of their weakness for your thoughtful consideration. I will post the rest of the message next week, Lord willing.
PERFECTING HOLINESS IN THE FEAR OF GOD
2 CORINTHIANS 6:14-71


SEPARATION – THE EFFECT OF HOLINESS
HEBREWS 7:22-26



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:


The pursuit of holiness causes us to not run with them to the same excess of riot. This in turn causes them to speak evil of us. The separation is a natural occurrence between opposites. Separation is the result of the presence of an antithesis. We are the children of God and the whole world lieth in wickedness. This thought presents the antithesis. The presence of the antithesis requires a separation. When the lines are blurred everyone loses their bearings.

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.



Separation Is Rooted In Contrast

Herein is the problem. The contrast between the world and God's people is being blurred. Take a group of people from the local mall and the local church and let people decide which group came from which place and in most cases it would probably be a guess in the dark. Where is the separation?? The Scripture clearly sets before us the importance of antithesis, and God's people have a solemn obligation to sustain it.


Consider the following:


Light and Darkness

Genesis 1:4,5 - And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

There was a clear division between light and darkness. Even a cursory reading of the Bible will reveal that this physical reality serves as a spiritual object lesson throughout the scripture. God divided the light from the darkness the light is called day, the darkness is called night. He divided them and named them. Light and darkness are for ever separated. Nothing changes in the dark except our ability to discern and see.


Ecclesiasties 2:13 - Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness.

Not only is darkness and light forever separated. Light both physically and spiritually excels darkness.


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!

Note the antithesis:

good/evil

darkness/light

bitter/sweet

There is a separation between all these things. They are divided asunder. They are contrasting terms.


John 1:5 - And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

The light shines the darkness does not comprehend. Light and darkness never understand one another. They never call a truce. They are forever opposed to one another. God made it so!


John 3:19 - And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Men are naturally inclined to darkness because of the nature of their deeds.


Acts 26:18 - To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

The purpose of the gospel is to turn men from darkness to light. Darkness the power of Satan. Light/God! To be turned from the power of Satan to God is the spiritual equivalent of being turned from darkness to light.


1 Peter 2:9 - But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
We have been called out of darkness. Light is characterized as being marvelous. We leave the darkness behind and step into the light. The evidence that we are in the light is that we bear the marks of a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, and yes, a peculiar people. All three of these designations are stated to be such they they shew forth something. People should be able to see that we are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a peculiar people. It would seem that it is our peculiarity that marks us as a chosen generation and a royal priesthood. Unfortunately we live in a day when no one wants to be peculiar for the Lord. Something would seem to be terribly amiss if we were not a bit peculiar to those who are still walking in darkness, after all we are to be children of light.


1 John 1:5 - This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
This verse plainly sets forth the spiritual application of light vs. darkness. God is light. In him is no darkness at all. God is righteousness, truth, and holiness. In him is no unrighteousness, error, or sin. In God the spiritual antithesis is perfectly presented. He is light, there is no darkness! You will remember that we are commanded to be holy for he is holy. We are to strive for a degree of light in which no darkness is to be found. There is no room for complacency here.
Many have abandoned any real effort to maintain the antithesis because we are incapable of doing it to the degree that God does. God's perfection should provide no excuse for apathy but rather should provide motivation for perfecting holiness in the fear of God!


Good and Evil

Genesis 2:9 - And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Good and evil! There is good and there is evil. They are set over against one another just as we have seen with light and darkness. Again we have produced a generation who see a little good at one extreme and a little evil at another extreme and a vast middle area where there is neither good or evil. Just because we have blurred the lines in our own thinking and to satisfy the longings of our own flesh does not mean there are not clearly defined boundaries. It is our responsibility to study the Word of God in order to discern them. Lazy Christianity breeds a worldly Christianity! It is dereliction of duty to claim it does not matter. My responsibility is to seek the mind of God on the issues of life.
Proverbs 15:3 - The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.
He is beholding the evil and the good. It does not say anything about beholding the gray. It is arrogance of the first degree to assume that because we cannot discern an issue clearly that God cannot. Just because I do not know does not of necessity mean that God does not know either. Just because I do not know does not of necessity mean that it does not matter to God! The fact is God sees more clearly than any of us and the Scripture declares that he is beholding the evil and the good. While it is hard to be comfortable with a shrinking gray area it is abominable to assume that God can't figure it out either!
Psalms 34:14 - Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

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!

1 Corinthians 15:33 - Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.

Enough said!!

Holy and Unholy

Leviticus 10:10 - And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean;

The crux of the matter. Putting a difference between holy and unholy. We have to judge things. We are required to label things. Some things are holy, some things are unholy! This is all well and fine with most people until you begin to walk through their gray area labeling things unholy and then boy howdy, listen to the pig squeal! The problem with all of us is that we don't want to be told that we are engaging in anything that is unholy. Even though we all are!


Ezekiel 22:26 - Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.
Here the priest are being condemned for putting no difference between the holy and profane, they did not make a difference between the clean and the unclean. Are we to think that we will escape the censure of God if we are found guilty of a similar disobedience?

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!

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