Separation: A Key To Spiritual Strength (Part 1)
by Dr. Ken Matto
(2 Tim 1:15 KJV) This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.
(2 Tim 4:10 KJV) For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.
We see in the above two verses that the Apostle Paul had suffered in the area of abandonment. He assessed that many whom he thought were his co-laborers, just deserted him and went back into the world. Now in the case of Demas, he is mentioned three times in Scripture, and it isn’t till we get to Second Timothy, we see that he had deserted Paul and went back into the world. These are incidents with three men who, at this point, were probably not saved. So then it would figure that they would have more love for the world than the things of God.
What about the true child of God? Is there a responsibility to separate from the things of the world? God commands His children in many places in the Scriptures to separate from worldly things which could draw a believer back into a sinful lifestyle or cause a believer to lose their testimony. God is so strong on the issue of Christian separation that He even commands us in Scripture to separate from a brother who is not ordering their life according to the Scriptures.
(2 Th 3:6 KJV) Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
When we speak of separation, I am sure that one of the first things which pops up in your mind is a Monastical lifestyle where we shut ourselves off from the world. Well, this is not what the Scriptures speak of. Once in a while, it does not hurt to come apart for a while and refresh, but no matter where we turn, we will still see the influence of the world around us. The Apostle Paul knew that no matter where you went, there was the world and all its philosophies waiting to devour the Christian. Paul knew that we must rub shoulders with the unbelievers in this world, but the Bible also tells us not to fellowship with them in any way which would hurt our Christian walk.
(1 Cor 5:9-11 KJV) I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: {10} Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. {11} But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
Anytime a Christian compromises in any manner with the world, it weakens their walk. Homogenization is for milk and other liquids and not for the Christian. Homogenization is an interesting method, plus it gives us a mighty principle. In the process of homogenizing, there is a reduction of the liquid to the smallest particles possible so they will evenly blend or uniformly be distributed throughout the whole liquid. When you look at milk in a glass container, what do you see? You see a uniform white liquid from top to bottom in the container. In other words, the milk you have on the top of the glass will be the same as the milk you have on the bottom of the glass, because it is a uniform blend.
Now what does this teach us? It teaches us that if we accept the smallest compromise without checking ourselves, we will tend to homogenize false beliefs or inappropriate lifestyles into our Christian walk without realizing that we are self-destructing. False beliefs and lifestyles will then be a part of our life. Then when it is challenged by other believers, the false beliefs will be defended. On the other hand, if we homogenize true beliefs into our thinking, the Christian will become stronger and will be able to separate from the false.
Let me inject one thing here that needs to be addressed. When one is pondering separating from something biblically unbefitting, whether it be a church, teacher, or sinning brother/sister, a judgment must be made before one separates. There are many Christians today who claim that we are not to judge. This is erroneous because judgment must be made before any actions are taken. The Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit knew this principle well.
(1 Cor 5:12 KJV) For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?
Here Paul is telling the Corinthians that it is their responsibility to do the judging. The word for "judge" in 1 Cor. 5:12, is the Greek word "krino" which means, "to decide between, distinguish," and also carries the meaning of "separate." This idea that we are not to judge, is foreign to the Scriptures because if we would judge teachings or lifestyles first, we would save ourselves much heartache. This principle also applies to false teachers and teachings. They cannot be separated. Many of us have heard that God loves the sinner but hates the sin. This is nowhere found in the Bible. At the beginning of this article, Paul named three people who abandoned him. There was no separation of sin and sinner. It is imperative to name false teachers and teachings to warn other Christians to avoid them. It is the same with the unbeliever. On Judgment Day, God is not going to separate the unbeliever from their sins. They are identified with their sins and because those particular sins were committed by them, they will pay for those sins. There is no separation of sin and sinner, and there is no separation of false teacher and teachings.
The Unwillingness to Separate
One of the characteristics of modern Christianity is the reluctance to separate for the good of testimony and spiritual growth. When we talk about separation, it is not just for a few hours or days. It is a seven day separation because even the slightest alliance with false doctrines or philosophies can be detrimental. The type of separation which is called for is more than just a bodily separation. It is a separation of mind and desire. The Christian has the mind of Christ which means a different mind than that of the world. The two cannot be amalgamated. (Phil 2:5 KJV) Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: One of the reasons it is so hard to get people to separate is that we see famous evangelists and preachers push an ecumenical religion, and just because these people are on TV or on radio, we tend to follow them. I do not understand why people think, that just because someone is on TV or radio, that they possess some type of special favor with God with special endowments. Every true Christian is commanded to be faithful and separate, no matter what their position is.
God Commands Christians to Be Separate
Back during the times of Ancient Israel and Judah, God had strictly forbidden them to make pacts or to meld with the foreign and pagan nations which surrounded them. (Deu 18:9 KJV) When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. God wanted to protect them from the heathen idolatries and ideologies which pervaded those nations. It is also interesting to note that God never rescinded that command for His people to remain a separate people. Of course, I am speaking of the Redeemed of God.
When we talk about the surrounding nations in the Old Testament, it is a picture of the Kingdom of Satan encroaching upon the Kingdom of God--or the true believers. At the present time, we have many false religions and philosophies which have not only invaded the church, but also our Bibles. When I say Bibles, I mean the massive amount of-study and psychology-based application Bibles, which place their erroneous interpretations on the same page as the text. People look at these interpretations, and are persuaded because the arguments seem just. God wants us to flee only to His Word and to study that Word, comparing Scripture with Scripture. This is how we can avoid becoming snared with false teachings.
God has called us out of the world, but not to leave this world until all the work He has assigned to us is complete. As Israel faced the encroachment of false deities and religions, so the modern Christian is also faced with false ideas and religions, but our problem is worse. We are not confronted with large statues of fish gods like Dagon or large female statues like Astarte. Our attacks come subtly, packaged in theology books, study Bibles, socially-centered magazines, education, and even friends or family who have bought into false gospels. Satan uses subtle methods to try and conquer us. Yet, no matter how the falsehood is thrown at us, we are to remain a separate people.
Where Ancient Israel Failed
(Ezek 22:23-26 KJV) ...{25} There is a conspiracy of her prophets...{26}...they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they showed difference between the unclean and the clean...
The word "conspiracy" means "an unlawful alliance." Now what kind of alliance could the modern Christian have? This is simple. All one has to do is look at the pro-life movement and you will see the holding of hands and the agreeing which takes place at every meeting or gathering. I once sent money to a pro-life organization, until I found it was being funneled to the Roman Catholic Institution. When the Twin Towers were hit in September of 2001, we waged war on the Taliban Government of Afghanistan for harboring terrorists. Since then, Islam has been getting much positive exposure, and I have heard only one media Christian, Franklin Graham, come out against it as a false and violent religion. Where is the rest of the Christian community in treating Islam as false as Mormonism or Roman Catholicism? Ancient Judah and Israel both failed because they chose to co-mingle with the false gods and religions of surrounding nations. This is why we see many references to high places in the Scriptures. God sent Judah and Israel into captivity because of their incessant disobedience. It was a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that both nations would be taken by men of other tongues. (Isa 28:11 KJV) For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.
So both of these nations went through the furnace of affliction to attempt to purify them. They wanted the pagan nations so badly, so God obliged them by letting them be taken captive. It is the same with the modern church as we see the invasion of signs, wonders, and tongues as a fulfillment of Isaiah 28:11. Since so many people want these things, God has allowed many churches to fall prey to them. The great conspiracy of the modern church is that the main line denominations, and even independent ones, are not warning against these things, but instead embracing them. We need to espouse the warning given in 1 Corinthians 10:11. (1 Cor 10:11 KJV) Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. God’s dealings with Judah and Israel are not even being considered by today’s church leaders, and this is why we see the rise in false gospels in the church.
God Commands An Unconditional Holiness From His People
(Lev 19:1-4 KJV) ...{2}...Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy....{4} Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the LORD your God.
The word "holy" is the Hebrew word "Qadosh." In verse 2, it is in the plural, "qodhoshim" which means "a holy people." This is not a suggestion, but a command. As I stated before, the command has never been rescinded.
(1 Pet 2:9 KJV) But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 1 Peter 2:9 is the counterpart to Leviticus 19:2. The reason that God commands us to be holy is because holiness is the chief tenet of salvation. As we see in the principle of pro-creation 'of like begetting like.' In other words, sheep have sheep, cows have cows, bugs have bugs, etc. In the like manner, because God is a holy God, he begets holy children. In 1 Peter 2:9, the words "holy nation" carry the same meaning as its Hebrew counterpart. "Nation" is "ethnos" which may also be translated "people." So in both the Old and New Testaments, we are seeing that God has set His people apart as "holy," which means we are a separated people. When we speak of holiness, we are not speaking of those who dress up in all sorts of religious regalia, but an inward holiness which is given to those who truly become born again.
Some Unholy Alliances We Make
I want to give some examples of the unholy alliances which we make in this world and sometimes deem them acceptable. The problem is that we look at these things through our eyes without the discerning Word of God being the spiritual filter.
Acceptance of Roman Catholicism As Christianity
I know this is an old one, but as we continue to head towards the Last Day, it seems that more Christians are believing that Roman Catholicism is a true belief. This religion has murdered countless millions in its long history of religious pogroms. One has only to look at the Crusades and the Inquisition. This institution is by no means Christian since it contains massive amounts of idolatry, mysticism, and false teachings. They are also involved with the charismatic movement, which is the tie that binds false religions worldwide.
Acceptance of Higher Criticism
This is the belief that the good ole’ King James Version is not good enough, even though it was the Bible which built this nation. Critics tell us that we need modern versions with all the Catholic influence. I recently purchased a Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, the Fourth Edition. One of the editors of this text is Carlo M. Martini who is a Roman Catholic. This text underlies all the modern versions. So we can safely conclude that unless you are using a King James Version in your Protestant Church or for personal use, you are using a Roman Catholic Bible. Modern versions continue to add and subtract to the text, especially where the editor feels uncomfortable with a verse. So instead of leaving it in, they take it out or cast doubt on it and say it is not in the oldest manuscripts. Since most Christians couldn’t care less, they get away with it.
Marriage or Business Partnership with An Unbeliever
Here is another subtle trick of Satan. We are not to enter into any type of binding relationship with an unbeliever. The Bible commands that a true Christian marry a true Christian, period! In the matter of going into business, it is the same principle. The Christian will want to order their business with biblical principles and the unbeliever is not bound to any set of moral or divine laws. This opens the door for "wheeling and dealing," which may not be within the confines of the law. If the business gets into trouble, the Christian goes down too.
Denial of Any Parts of Scripture
Two sections ago, I mentioned the butchering of the Bible. What I am speaking of here is the outright denial of any part of God’s Word. Sometimes we tend to deny certain Scriptures by avoiding them or explaining them away. For example, there are many out there who deny the existence of Hell and just explain it away by saying it is only the grave. Watering down Scripture is also denying its meaning. Many people tend to water the Scriptures down to sell books and tapes, and keep their congregation feeling good, when they should be made to tremble once in a while. This is especially done in Christian psychology books.
Acceptance of Worldly Principles to Order Your Christian Walk
Sometimes we get comfortable in our Christian walk and we begin to start accepting some of the methods the world offers. This can happen when we let our guard down. This is why many are in strapping credit card debt. I knew a brother who once told me, "The Lord wants us to have nice things." I don’t know where he found that principle in Scripture, but he attached His Christianity to his incessant buying patterns. I know some Christians who are so absorbed with Psychology that they order their lives according to it. Many Christians have even accepted the social gospel and have used up their lives trying to save the whales. Whenever the world creeps into our Christian walk, it will become diluted and ineffectual for the Kingdom of God.
Mixing Behavioral Science with the Gospel
By this I mean the admixture of Psychology, Sociology, and other so-called pseudo subjective disciplines to the true Gospel. If you go into any normal Christian Book Store (what I mean by normal is 99% unbiblical junk), you will find more psychology and sociology than Spurgeon or Gurnall. Books from men like Rick Warren or Tony Campolo will normally be in the Top Ten bestsellers. This is because discernment has gone out the window with the Truth.
Any Compromise - Public or Private
Any time we cut corners or do something which is less than biblical, we are compromising. This is especially true on the job. The workplace is the hardest place to keep a testimony. This means that the easiest way to do this is to establish the fact that you are a Christian from the first day on the job. This way, they will know where you are coming from. Make no compromise with evil. The simplest way to recognize a possible compromise is to ask yourself," if the result of this decision was brought out into the light, would I be ashamed or justified according to Biblical principles?" The worst thing a Christian can be fired for is improprieties on the job because it ruins the entire witness.
Any Sin
It doesn’t matter what type of sin, it is all the transgression of God’s Word. We must be on guard against the seemingly small sins, because if we allow those in our life, then the little sins begin to mushroom into the larger sins. Then pretty soon we have to go into the furnace of affliction, so God may deal with us on them. (1 John 3:4 KJV) Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
Consequences Of Violating God’s Parameters Of Separation
There are always consequences whenever we violate the Word of God. We, in the Reformed Community, are sometimes guilty of not realizing that just because our sins have all been paid for, we neglect to understand that willful sinning will warrant consequences for our actions. This may be the reason that many Christians seem to be living shelved or stagnant lives. I want to offer some consequences which may be affecting many believers in their walk, and hopefully if you identify one or two in your life, then maybe you can begin your walk back toward God. Remember, He will never forsake you, but He will deal with you.
Confusion in Your Life
If there is one thing many Christians suffer from, it is confusion. This may exhibit itself by not knowing where you belong in the body of Christ, you are confused on making decisions, or you are generally unstable in your life. Confusion in the Christian walk is normally the result of infusion of worldly principles into a Christian’s walk.
No Personal Peace
There seems to be a restlessness in our spirit in that we are never satisfied or at peace about any situation. The Christian seems to be frazzled about everything. This may even result in sleeplessness. Personal peace is a great gift from God.
Whenever God reigns in a situation, the believer will have peace which passes understanding. When God is not reigning in a situation, lack of personal peace is a great symptom. (Isa 26:3 KJV) Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee
Personal Problems Seem To Intensify
Whenever we walk outside the separation, it seems personal problems seem to intensify or multiply. It seems that no matter what we do, there is always one more problem around the corner. It seems we just cannot avoid problems and that they are rolling over us like a steam roller. When we avoid the wisdom of God, the only other available wisdom is worldly wisdom, which always goes opposite the wisdom of God. Godly wisdom goes opposite of the world, but that is how God designed it.
Christian Friends May Distance Themselves For A While
When God begins to work with you, He might allow your Christian friends to remain at a distance. Remember the tongue lashing Job received from his friends. Finally, God had to intervene in the "us against Job" dialogues. Sometimes friends can come between God and your restoration. Friends may sympathize with you on an emotional level, but God wants to restore you on a spiritual level, which will eventually heal your emotions. How did God train Moses? He sent him to the backside of the desert for 40 years, before he was ready for the task God assigned to him. God had to strip away all the odors of Egypt which remained on Moses so he could be totally sold out to the Lord. This is what God does for us also. He gets the world out of us, so we may be fully usable in the Kingdom of God.
Prayer Time Seems Dry
(Psa 68:6 KJV) God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land. Walking outside separation is really rebellion against God. Sometimes our prayer life seems dry and rote. We don’t recognize any answers to our prayers and we become discouraged, and eventually we stop praying. Then we ask "what is the use in praying?" This is the mindset Satan wants us to adopt. He wants us to question whether prayer to God is really effective and advantageous for the believer. Whenever we abandon our prayer time, it is a sure formula for further trouble.
Bible Study Yields Little or No Fruit
Another consequence is that our Bible study seems to yield no fruit. Instead of extracting many different truths from the Scripture, it seems they are just words now. This is because the Holy Spirit cannot open our spiritual eyes if we are approaching the Bible with a double mind. An unseparated Christian does not possess a dedicated mind toward the things of Scripture. We are commanded not to grieve or quench the Holy Spirit, and when we do, we suffer the consequences of dry Bible study.
Our Thirst for God Seems Quenched
Remember when you were a young Christian, how you could not quench your desire to know more about the Lord Jesus Christ? Walking with the world tends to quash that spiritual desire and replace it with secular things. The visible world will do its very best to over-shadow the eternal, invisible world. After all, isn’t it easier to throw on the TV or radio for three hours instead of doing Bible study? We seem to lose the zeal we once had and accept a very mundane understanding of God.
My Spiritual Conscience Is Silent
(Acts 24:16 KJV) And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men. Our spiritual conscience seems dormant. When we are saturated with the Bible and walking in concert with the Lord, we are able to instantly draw on what we have studied whenever a situation arises. If we are walking opposite the Lord, then we can expect the consequence of silence at a time when we need to make a right judgment.
We Lack Wisdom in Personal Decisions
Whenever we walk opposite the Lord, it seems the decisions we make seem incorrect. No matter what we do, we seem to come up one inch short of a yard. Whenever we neglect the wisdom of God, it will always cause us further trouble. Decisions lacking wisdom, are always a catalyst for calamity.
I have listed a number of things which could be consequences for not living a separated life. Keep in mind that God may use these things as a way of doing some type of work in our life which is not related to any type of judgment. He may use these items as a spiritual watershed in our life.
The following is paragraph which I took from somewhere, but I forgot. Who cares! It is the principle which it conveys that is important.
I was in a Sunday School class in a Bible-believing church in our hometown a few weeks ago and I have had a sense of depression over it since. I was trying to share Deuteronomy 6 with this group of young parents. We got into a really good practice (after reading that scripture many times) of Bible reading in Proverbs, first thing in the morning, a reading from a Christian character book before nap time, and ten verses from whatever book we happen to be reading before bed time. We make a point of sharing God three times a day. I was trying to explain this and was practically bombed out of the class. A doctor’s wife told me that I must have much more faith than she did if I expected this plan to save my kids from teenage rebellion (we were discussing the Dobson films). Another woman saw no problem with her three daughters dating non-Christians. I mentioned there was nothing in the Bible to support her premise. And she let me know what a good plan this is to lead others to Christ. She boasted that her daughter’s best friend was a non-Christian. Of course, we have to be a "light" in a dark world, but yoking with the unsaved is a real problem for me. I just can’t get over how we have been duped as a society. - M.T. Ohio