Separation

consummatum-estWhat separation from the world involves:

You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. – NIV Leviticus 18:3

The Israelites moved from one idol-infested country to another. As God helped them form a new culture, he warned them to leave all aspects of their pagan background behind.  He also warned them how easy it would be to slip into the pagan culture of Canaan, where they were going.  Canaan’s society and religions appealed to worldly desires, especially sexual immorality and drunkenness.  The Israelites were to keep themselves pure and set apart for God.  God did not want his people absorbed into the surrounding culture and environment.  Society may pressure us to conform to its way of life and thought, but yielding to that pressure will (1) create confusion as to which side we should be on and (2) eliminate our effectiveness in serving God.  Follow God, and don’t let the culture around you mould your thoughts and actions.

 “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.  Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”NIV 2 Corinthians 6:17

Separation from the world involves more than keeping our distance from sinners; it means staying close to God (see 7:1, 2). It involves more than avoiding entertainment that leads to sin; it extends into how we spend our time and money.  There is no way to separate ourselves totally from all sinful influences.  Nevertheless, we are to resist the sin around us, without either giving up or giving in.

 

You need not be separated from God:

then hear from heaven, your dwelling-place. Forgive, and deal with each man according to all he does, since you know his heart (for you alone know the hearts of men)NIV 2 Chronicles 6:30

Have you ever felt far from God, separated by feelings of failure and personal problems? In his prayer, Solomon underscored the fact that God stands ready [street/Graffiti] to hear his people, to forgive their sins, and to restore their relationship with him.  God is waiting and listening for our confessions of guilt and our recommitment to obey him.  He hears us when we pour out our needs and problems to him and is ready to forgive us and restore us to fellowship with him.  Don’t wait to experience his loving forgiveness.

 

Sin separates us from God:

Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.

Why should you be beaten any more? Why do you persist in rebellion?  Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted.  From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness – – only wounds and bruises and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil.

Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are being stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers. The Daughter of Zion is left like a hut in the field of melons, like a city under siege.  Unless the LORD Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah. – NIV Isaiah 1:4-9

As long as the people of Judah continued to sin, they cut themselves off from God’s help and isolated themselves. When you feel lonely and separated from God, remember that God does not abandon you.  Our sins cut us off from him.  The only sure cure for this kind of loneliness is to restore a meaningful relationship with God by confessing your sin, obeying his instructions, and communicating regularly with him (see Psalm 140:13; Isaiah 1:16-19; 1 John 1:9).

 

Of believers and unbelievers on judgment day:

All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. – – NIV Matthew 25:32

Jesus used sheep and goats to picture the division between believers and unbelievers. Sheep and goats often grazed together but were separated when the time came to shear the sheep.  Ezekiel 31:17-24 also refers to the separation of sheep and goats.

 

Jesus’ separation from God:

From about the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – – which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – NIV Matthew 27:46

Jesus was not questioning God; he was quoting the first line of Psalm 22 – – a deep expression of the anguish he felt when he took on the sins of the world, which caused him to be separated from his Father. This was what Jesus dreaded as he prayed to God in the garden to take the cup from him (26:39).  The physical agony was horrible, but even worse was the period of spiritual separation from God.  Jesus suffered this double death so that we would never have to experience separation from God.

 

How Jews showed separation from pagan influences:

And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.” – NIV Mark 6:11

Pious Jews shook the dust from their feet after passing through Gentile cities or territory to show their separation from Gentile influences and practices. When the disciples shook the dust from their feet after leaving a Jewish town, it was a vivid sign that they wished to remain separate from people who had rejected Jesus and his message.  Jesus made it clear that the listeners were responsible for what they did with the gospel.  The disciples were not to blame if the message was rejected, as long as they had faithfully and carefully presented it.  We are not responsible when others reject Christ’s message of salvation, but we do have the responsibility to share the gospel clearly and faithfully.

 

Don’t seek it in marriage:

But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.  How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband?  Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?  – NIV 1 Corinthians 7:15-16

This verse is misused by some as a loophole to get out of marriage. But Paul’s statements were given to encourage the Christian spouse to try to get alone with the unbeliever and make the marriage work.  If, however, the unbelieving spouse insisted on leaving, Paul said to let him or her go.  The only alternative would be for the Christian to deny his or her faith to preserve the marriage, and that would be worse than dissolving the marriage.  Paul’s chief purpose in writing this was to urge the marriage couples to seek unity, not separation (see 7:17; 1 Peter 3:1, 2).

 

Hell is eternal separation from God:

and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.  He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power – NIV 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9

The “everlasting destruction” that Paul describes is the lake of fire (see Revelation 20:14) – – the place of eternal separation from God. Those people who are separated from God in eternity no longer have any hope of salvation.

 

How to avoid eternal separation from God:

And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, nor for anyone who receives the mark of his name. – NIV Revelation 14:11

The ultimate result of sin is unending separation from God. Because human beings are created in God’s image with an inborn thirst for fellowship with him, separation from God will be the ultimate torment and misery.  Sin always brings misery, but in this life we can choose to repent and restore our relationship with God.  In eternity there will no longer be opportunity for repentance.  If in this life we choose to be independent of God, in the next life we will be separated from him for ever.  Nobody is forced to choose eternal separation from God, and nobody suffers this fate by accident.  Jesus invites all of us to open the door of our hearts to him (3:20).  If we do this, we will enjoy everlasting fellowship with him.

 

©Kingsway International 1973.

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