The ground of separation- spiritual
In the preceding two aricles on separation, we discussed both the basis of separation and the first principle of separation, that of an abiding relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I attempted to show you that as a result of God's saving grace, Christians are not merely called and commanded to be separate, but have actually been positioned as separate as a result of their spiritual union with Christ. In this next study I hope to show you upon what grounds an adequate means of separation can be found.
There is a picture in the Old Testament book of Numbers I believe accurately describes God's ultimate intention for His people if they would only obey Him. It is found in Numbers 33 verses 50-56. In it, we find the people being led by Moses toward the land God promised Abraham as an inheritance forever. God commands Moses to speak to the people about how they are to act once they enter into the land God had promised them. God's commands included "driving out the inhabitants of the land," (the people possessing it), "destroying their stones" (alters), molten images (their gods) and their "high places" (which were representaive of the places these people worshipped.) It is important to recognize why God commanded these things and also to note what would result if they failed to do so. (verses 55, 56).
A natural or spiritual battle
It is very important as Christians to understand the difference between what occurs in both the natural and spiritual realms. We have talked about this often and I'd like to use the passage in Numbers above to explain the difference between how God called His people to separate then and how He calls us to separate today. Unless we have a proper grasp upon this, we shall be found fighting against the wrong enemies in our desire to both serve and honor God.
Without going into great detail, we find many instances in the Old Testament where God used His people to bring judgment upon wicked people and nations. Unfortunately, one of the results of this was an exalted view of these people as if they alone were "special" and everyone else "evil" around them. Jesus ran into this very thing with the Pharisees who looked down upon everyone else outside of a Jewish heritage. This is the reason behind Jesus telling them not to judge (Matthew 7:1, 2) Their motive derived from a spirit of superiority over others. Although Jesus did reiterate what the law said and what these people added to that law (hating one's enemies), he followed that with what He now said was in addition to that law here in John 5: 43 and 44;
"You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…"
"But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you" [Luke 6:27, 28, 31]
Obviously, this is something the present day Jews had little interest in doing, nor had they the capability to do so. Jesus was commanding them as well as us to do something that we in our own ability have no desire nor ability to accomplish. He was bringing the commandment to a new level altogether, one which touched upon one's desires as well as motives. The commandment went beyond the reach of the flesh (natural ability) and therefore required a solution that only God Himself could provide. Notice how "hating one's enemies" would entirely circumvent God's command to love others.
The deception of the familiar
In many areas of our lives, we simply react against anything that seems unfamiliar to us. Whether that's a new twist upon an old doctrine, a new Bible version or in the case of these Jews, Jesus equating anger with murder (Matthew 5:21,22), well, it doesn't go over very well. None of us like it when somebody comes along and upsets our religious world with their take on the truth. After all, "we've never done it that way," right?
The deception of what's new
Along with the temptation to get stuck in the religious status quo of some church or institution, another danger is equally as deceptive. That is the deception that somehow Christianity needs to change due to some differing circumstances we now face in the world. Whether this includes an attempt to be culturally relevant or simply appeasing the world and its patrons through pragmatism makes little difference. Either way, the gospel is stripped of its power through the cross- whether that be for justification or in personal sanctification.
It is human nature and living out of those resources that naturally leads men to question that which will personally cost them something and exchange that for an alternative. Wouldn't it be easier to act like the world and thus attract them to our message? Isn't it less offensive to avoid conversations about judgment and hell and rather tout the benefits of being a Christian? Isn't it better to merely invite people to my church where my Pastor can tell them about Jesus so I don't have to?…and so the questions go. It doesn't take long for most people to jump on board that road offering the least resistance.
One of the lies touted these days is called Dominionism. It's a false belief that although mans dominion "over the earth" was lost in the garden of eden when sin entered the world, this dominion was restored to God's people as a result of the death and resurrection of Christ. It is taught by these dominionists that "Christians" need to recapture and claim the dominion that was lost and this will result in God's people "ruling over" the various facets of this world and it's societies. The areas of dominion to be "taken over for God" are often called the Seven Mountains and include business, government, media, arts & entertainment, family, religion and education. This process of taking over is called by Lance Wallnau and others, The Seven Mountains Mandate. So what does this have to do with separation or Numbers 33 for that matter?
Perception is everything
How we each live our lives as Christians depends upon our perception as well as those who influence that perception. For example, if we can be convinced that the Seven Mountains Strategy above is actually a Biblical mandate (in other words, a command of God to be obeyed) then we are all the more likely to "follow" those leaders who have labeled it and will lead us in accomplishing it. On the other hand, if we believe the Seven Mountains Strategy to be the command of man and not God, obviously we will shun it as false and warn others of the danger. Whatever our perception, we likely will convince ourselves of that as truth along with the Bible verses used to support it.
Although many would attempt to convince us of a dual mandate to preach the gospel AND restore the cultures of this world, God has never commanded us to restore any culture. Discipling the nations IS NOT defined in the Bible as "dominionists" would have us believe. The message of the kingdom Jesus preached was NOT OF THIS WORLD and therefore cannot have earthly affiliations whatsoever. It is intersting to see how these individuals and religious organizations would use fleshly natural means in an attempt to usher in "their version" of the kingdom of God.
In Numbers 33 we find something here that seems to be in line with the Seven Mountains Strategy. There is an invasion if you will, into the enemies territory. The enemy must be overthrown. Furthermore, the very places in which the enemy has erected his gods must be toppled as well as the gods themselves. Once this "tearing down" is accomplished and the enemy "thrown out," then the "righteous ones" can take dominion over "the promised land." So what's the problem you say?
When Jesus came to earth, He had every intention of upsetting the typical status quo. He was well aware of the actual problem that plagued mankind, and it was neither the "other races" that existed nor the Roman oppression the Jews wanted Jesus to free them from. It was rather a plague that stemmed from the inside out. In other words, Jesus didn't come into history to condemn sinners (that would come later) or set corrupt politicians straight. He came to reconcile sinners to himself by carrying and embracing a very real personal cross.
On several occasions we find man and his methodologies attempting to either circumvent the reason for Jesus' incarnation or thwart His intentions. Here's just a few:
- Although Simon Peter confessed, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," [Matthew 16:13-23] it is obvious by his subsequent actions he didn't fully understand the ramifications of Jesus being the Messiah and even attempted to rebuke Him as a result. (vs.22)
- Here Peter takes things into his own hands as he attempts to prevent Jesus from being arrested. Jesus actually speaks before Peter and His captors, "How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?" (ever wonder why He said this aloud?)
- Once again Peter's self-confidence gets him in trouble. Even after Jesus said, Truly I say to you, that this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny Me three times."[Mark 14:26-31] Peter still insists that he will die for Jesus if necessary.
- During the miraculous so-called "transfiguration" of Jesus, Peter is attempting to start a building program- a tabernacle for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Despite putting Jesus first, this time He was rebuked by God the Father from a cloud! [Luke 9:28-36]
- The failure to circumvent God's intentions is by no means limited to Peter. In fact, their were disciples who even after Jesus' death and resurrection, even after the reception of the Holy Spirit were still being sectarian and opposing God's intentions! Paul the apostle states about the ekklesia at Corinth: "For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, "I am of Paul," and "I of Apollos," and "I of Cephas," and "I of Christ." [1 Corinthians 1:11, 12] Now, is there any difference between these sectarian divisions (see vs.13) and our modern day institutional distinctions? No, they are equally as sinful.
In every case, instead of simply following along with what Jesus had internded or told them would happen, they relied upon their own wisdom and solutions. Not only did they misunderstand Jesus' mission, they attempted to help Him fulfill what they didn't even understand. Neither is acceptable.
There is no question today that Jesus is still in the business of uprooting the enemy, removing his idols, tearing down strongholds and the sacred spaces His children find necessary in worshipping Him. But contrary to removing these from a geographical location on earth, the battlefield is the thoughts and intentions of each man's heart. Once that field has been renewed by the Spirit of God, then the recipient can begin to live in their spiritual inheritance.
We forget so quickly that we are merely soujourners on this earth, that this is not our home. The enemy we fight is not our neighbor, the local politician or the false prophet down the street. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Please read the verse again. Notice the who, what and where of our struggle. It is all spiritual in nature.
Dominionism is fatally flawed on many fronts, despite some truth within the framework of its description. Although it promises a new breed of Christians who will usher in the return of Christ, ultimately it is only another falsehood devised in the imaginations of fleshly men- none of whom present or carry a personal cross as Jesus has commanded them to do. In the end, it and its adherents will be destroyed. God does not take lightly those who like Peter above, either willingly or unwittingly promote an agenda that competes with His own.
Stand where you're planted
…for in Him we live and move and exist
I remember on several occasions over the course of my Christian life other professing believers giving little booklets on the subject of "our identity in Christ." It's very likely you have also been given one or even have one around the house somewhere. I was amazed at all the verses related to who I was IN CHRIST- my all new ground of my life before God. It's even more amazing once we realize that 100% of these truths are true because of what God did and offered to me as a completely lost, helpless and sinful human being. It's heartbreaking and breathtaking at the same time is it not? A lifetime of continual praise from one's lips couldn't begin to express or equal even a fraction of such a gift.
What I have never understood is that these very people who would enlighten me to all God has done would subsequently invite me to one of their sectarian church functions or conferences. Huh. Worse, some would attempt to convince me I had to adopt the tenets of Calvinism or some other system, worship or rest upon a specific day, have some special religious experience to be mature or even join up with their specific organization to even be a genuine Christian. Needless to say, a refusal basically meant the conversation was over as they had nothing else to say to me. Seriously, where is any of that within the framework of my identity in Christ? That's right, it's not, it's only some mans fleshly requirements for fellowship. How could they be so oblivious to the outright contradiction and hypocrisy of their actions.
Whether you realize it or not, continuing within a system devised by men IS TO PROMOTE that system and to aid in the spirit of division that far too often divides believers into various sectarian camps. In reality, if you were to obey God you would have to attempt to correct those in supposed positions of leadership of their hypocrisy in promoting a sectarian spirit among the local saints. That of course will get you ostracized and of course thrown out of their little or big religious kingdom. But then again, what did Jesus say to those who refused to obey Him? That's certainly not better is it?
If you or I are ever going to come to terms with how to properly exercize separation, we will have to abandon ANY and ALL sectarian distinctions along the way. Regardless of what we believe about Catholicism, Protestantism, Pentacostalism or any other man-made religious distinction, these can never become the basis of separation- nor of unity. A choice to separate or include someone must be spiritual in nature for that is who we have become.
To regress to a human designation for separation, whether that be a name of a church, institution or religious organization or system, is to act contrary to both what I profess, the nature of God's Ekklesia and the nature of my very being.