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Separation

A major problem within Christianity, in the past and today as well, is the widespread worldliness among those that call themselves Christians. Pierre Viret, a friend and associate of Calvin, described the professing Christians of his day:

How do many—indeed the vast majority—of those who boast of the Gospel live? They are often the most dissolute of all. They follow the lifestyles of the Papists, idolaters, and earthly and carnal men, without repentance, without amendment of life, without giving any good example, either by their life or conversation. They are often the first at dances, plays, taverns, brothels, and other houses of dissolution. In short there is no way of telling them apart from unbelievers.[1]

Viret wrote in the 16th century during the Protestant Reformation; isn’t it amazing how little change there has been in 500 years?

He speaks of “those who boast of the Gospel.” How many, though, were true Christians? They probably went to church because that was the thing to do but how many were truly regenerate? Very likely many were false Christians but only God can always distinguish between the true and the false. The false rubbed shoulders with the true and were counted as Christians.

We could say that is to be expected, especially of new converts that still have much to learn about Christian living. Perhaps we should be tolerant and patient with them. Their behavior may improve as they grow familiar with what it means to be a Christian. But what does God say?

God calls His people to emulate Him, a goal beyond their reach but one they must strive for. God’s standard can never be compromised with impunity; He requires perfection and this is what His people must make their goal as well. Christians, although in principle free from sin, are in practice still sinners and subject to temptation. They won’t realize perfection in this life but it must still be their goal. No lesser objective will do; to lower this standard by any amount is to introduce compromise, a step which always invites more of the same and can lead a long way down. Jesus said:

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matt. 5:48)

To realize this lofty goal and to do the work God has assigned to them, Christians must constantly strive to improve themselves, to subdue the old man that still resides within and develop the new man into the model that Christ gives. This begins with the acquisition of an in-depth knowledge of God’s word and its application. This is best accomplished in the ecclesia community environment where believers can employ the various gifts God gave them and bring the entire community to increasingly higher levels of understanding and dedication. The kingdom of God can only grow from the bottom up and this is most effectively done in an environment in which the Holy Spirit is free to guide and direct each of His charges without excessive external interference. An environment in which Satan’s voice is so loud that it interferes, instills doubt and suppresses the Spirit will not do.

For this reason, Christians need to separate themselves from the world and especially from those that call themselves Christians but don’t obey God (2 Cor. 6:17). To fail to separate is to welcome sin into our lives and there is no clear limiting point that governs how far it can penetrate. Separation is necessary, first because the Lord requires it, and second because we must protect ourselves and especially the more susceptible members of our families, our precious children, from the corrupting influences of a sinful world.

But it is not just the weak that must be separate; even the most sanctified are yet a very long way today from where they should be as God’s chosen people. In a mixed environment such as we have today, the sanctification process is severely limited by the near presence of unbelievers. It’s too easy to compare ourselves with our sinful neighbors and feel proud of our really very limited moral standards. We need a much better environment for our children and ourselves. They should become godlier than we, with each generation progressing in godliness as we, the body of Christ, become more and more like our Head. We have a long way to go before we can even begin to believe we are approaching what we should be as His people. Separation from evil is essential for the kind of progress we need to make. God said “be ye separate…” He did not say “be the weak among you separate…”

[1] Pierre Viret, “The Christian and the Magistrate,” P. 125-126. translated by: R. A. Sheats, Psalm 78 Ministries, www.psalm78ministries.com