The Call to Be Separate

After reading the books of Ezra & Nehemiah a few weeks ago something stood out to me.  The reason Ezra & Nehemiah plucked out their beards and tired their garments was because of mixture.  Mixture with the people around them had put the remnant of Israel in danger before God:

 “When these things were done, the leaders came to me, saying, ‘The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, with respect to the abominations of the Canaanites, the Hittites…and the Amorites.  For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands.  Indeed, the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass.  So when I heard this thing, I tore my garment and my robe, and plucked out some of the hair of my head and beard, and sat down astonished.” –Ezra 9:1-3

That seems like a alone_in_crowdpretty intense response.

Now days many have adopted the idea that in order to influence the culture we need to be more like the culture.  But I think the Bible teaches the exact opposite.  It’s true Jesus was a friend of tax collectors & sinners.  But Jesus was also the most set-apart Man that ever lived.  The reason He and His disciples impacted the darkness was because of the Light they carried, not because they were trying to fit into darkness.

More recent fathers and mothers in the faith are good examples.  Take a look at John G Lake, Andrew Murray, Heidi Baker, or Reinhard Bonkke.  Would we classify them as men and women who blend in with the culture?  Or are they “strangers who seek a homeland”?

Christians are called to be drastically different than the world.  This doesn’t mean our clothing style has to change (though in some cases it does!) or that we stop interacting with unbelievers.  But it does require us to evaluate what things in our lives are displeasing to God.  A clear line must be drawn in the sand:

“Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world.”  -1 John 2:15-17

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon”. –Matt 6:24

“‘You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts.  For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.’”  – Luke 16:15

If we find that we’re excited by the same things the world is, we may need to take a closer look at our lives.  Many things our culture celebrates may seem innocent but in heaven’s eyes they are idols, distractions, and offenses to God.  We need discernment.  We need to know what parts of our culture God is pleased with and what parts He is offended by. We should then separate ourselves from the things in our culture that displease God.

The ironic thing is that the more separated unto God we are, the more impact we’ll have on the people around us.  The power to change the culture comes through consecration.

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.  For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?  And what communion has light with darkness?  And what accord has Christ with Belial?  Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?  And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For you are the temple of the living God.  As God has said: ‘…Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord.  And I will receive you.  I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty’”.   -2 Cor 6:11-18



Are You Being Conformed or Transformed?

The culture around us is constantly telling us to conform ourselves to it.  The voices say, “Have our ideals, talk like we talk, buy the clothes we buy, be entertained by what we’re entertained by, find your identity in what we do, Yellow_Rays_over_Greysspend your time the way we do, be a part of the crowd, fit in.”  The unseen pressure can be felt everywhere you go.  But the Bible says:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God…and do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” –Rom 12:1-3

This is quite the opposite message from the culture around us.  Jesus calls us to be counter-cultural, to go against the grain, to be an outsider with Him.  It’s easy to conform to the culture around us but it takes the power of the Holy Spirit to be transformed into the image of God.

In order to be transformed our mind has to be renewed.  It takes an attitude of spiritual violence to resist the culture and be like Jesus.  Transformation comes as we read the Bible, walk in obedience, choose humility, and say no to fearing what people think.  It doesn’t just stop at our culture either.  There are times we need to resist being conformed even to Christian circles.  Just because Christians are doing it doesn’t mean it’s right.

Of course we don’t want the opposite end of the spectrum either.  We don’t want to resist conformation at all costs and become rebels who try to do things on our own and go against everything.  The aspiration to have godly qualities we see in others is good.  But overall, the only person we really need to be like is Jesus.

Which voice are you listening to?  Are you being conformed or are you being transformed?

7 Ways to Get Free From Fear, Anxiety, & Worry

Most everyone is afraid of something – not having enough, conflicts, pain, embarrassment, heights, etc.  But as Christians we really should only fear one thing – God. Not an unhealthy fear that cliffcauses us to run away from Him but a clean fear that purifies us from sin and causes us to tremble.  I believe the more we fear God the more we will be delivered from all the other fears & anxieties we face day by day.  But it’s much easier said than done.  All of humanity is trapped in this predicament and only the power of the Holy Spirit can set us free.

How do we get breakthrough in this?  As I’ve studied the Bible I’ve seen 7 things that can set us free.  This list is by no means exhaustive but I’ve found them helpful:

1)      Cultivate the Fear of the Lord

A.W. Tozer once said that “all the problems of heaven and earth, though they were to confront us together and at once, would be nothing compared with the overwhelming problem of God: That He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about Him“.  What we believe about God affects our view of everything.  When we get true revelation of who He is all the other things start getting smaller.

Shadrach, Meshach, & Abed-Nego are a great example of this.  When they were threatened to be thrown into the fire by King Nebuchadnezzar they don’t seem scared at all.  Why?  Because they knew God and feared Him more than the king’s threat:

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.   If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.  But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” –Daniel 5:16-18

When Daniel is plotted against by the governors and satraps of King Darius in chapter 6 he doesn’t look too scared either.  They tricked the king into signing a petition that “whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king shall be cast into the den of lions”.  What was Daniel’s response?  – he went home and in his upper room with the windows open, knelt down three times that day and prayed before God.

These men didn’t fear death or pain because they feared God more than these things.  They were walking out what Jesus said hundreds of years later:

 “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.   But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!”   -Luke 12:4-6

2)      Know your worth to God

For most of us here in the western world our lives aren’t threatened if we follow Jesus.  We’re not in danger of losing our lives or being tortured for our faith.  Fear manifests itself in different ways.  I think some of the biggest ways is the fear of not having enough or that something bad will happen.   But Jesus is really smart.  He uses the best idea ever to counteract this type of worry which is so common to humanity – our worth to God.

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”  -Matt 6:24-26

The reasoning is “If God is sovereign and cares for the animals how much more will he provide for His image bearers, redeemed by His blood?  If He died for us when we were His enemies how much more will He take care of us as His friends?”  That’s the second thing we have to know if we’re to be delivered from anxiousness.  We have to know how much we’re loved by God.  “Perfect love casts out fear”.  We may know it in our head but usually when we’re worrying about things it’s because we don’t really believe that He is good, all-powerful, and for us.

3)      Walk in Holiness

Proverbs 28:1 says “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.”  There is a certain boldness that accompanies people who walk in holiness with the LORD.  Obviously our works don’t save us.  Only the blood of Jesus can do that.  But those who walk in greater measures of holiness have confidence before God because they’re seeking to obey Him in everything.

4)      Worship & Pray

Worship is a weapon.  When we choose to worship Jesus in the midst of trials and testings it does something not only in the spiritual realm but in our own hearts.  I believe fear flees when we worship Jesus.  A leader on the missions’ base here in KC once had a vision where they were in the Prayer Room and suddenly, all kinds of demons worshipstarting coming into the room.  As they came in, everyone was distracted and started to become afraid.  But the man at the front of the room told them to ignore the demons and keep worshiping.  After a little while the demons started to flee and the atmosphere went back to normal.

Also, lots of times we’re anxious just because we haven’t brought the thing to the Lord in prayer:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer & supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hears & minds through Christ Jesus.”  -Phil 4:6-7

5)      Step out of your comfort zone

Nothing drives out fear like actually stepping out of the boat onto the water with Jesus.  When we step out of our comfort zone it puts us in a place where we have to depend on God.  Jesus loves when we do that.  That’s why he told Peter to come out of the boat onto the water with Him.  The more we do it, the more boldness we get and the more we develop a history of seeing God’s faithfulness.

6)      Live Before the eyes of God

I think we’d be surprised if we realized just how much of what we do is influenced by the fear of man.  We want to look respectable, godly, & talented to people, and to avoid embarrassment.  Yet to live before the eyes of people is bondage.  We can’t serve two masters.  We must choose who we want to impress – God or man.  If we choose God we can be sure that we’ll look like a fool sometimes.  But what does it matter?  If we’re doing the will of Jesus we have the approval of the most powerful Person in all history.  When we stand before the judgment seat only what He thinks will matter.

7)      Live for Eternity

This was one of the primary pillars in the early church.  They did ridiculous things in the natural because they were living for another age.  Paul said he received floggings, beatings, and stoning from the Jews more than once.  He was shipwrecked three times & spent a “night in the deep”.  He was in perils of waters, perils of robbers, perils of his countrymen, perils of the Gentiles, perils among false brethren (2 Cor 11:22-29).  The list goes on and on.  What caused him to be so bold through all this stuff?  He said it himself:

“Therefore we do not lose heart.  Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” –2 Cor 4:16-18

We’re so used to living in a fallen world that we can’t really picture what it would be like to have perfect trust in God.  But that’s what we’re reaching for!  We already have beautiful examples of men & women throughout history who’ve touched this and I want be numbered among them!  In the end, what we need is a spirit of might – that power from the Holy Spirit that makes us fearless, courageous, & empowers us to face the giants in our lives. “If God is for us who can be against us?”