Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Outside Part 2

2 Corinthians 6:17 - "Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE," says the Lord. "AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you."
This is not necessarily a quote from Isaiah 52:11 but it is similar. In Isaiah 52 God was calling for His people to separate themselves from idolatrous people as well as from idolatry.

Verse 14 also says; " Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?"

Paul is calling on Christians to do basically the same thing as Isaiah was urging the Israelites to do. Paul is imploring these Corinthian believers to make sure they are not yoked ('connected to; bound together with; linked to') certain people. Now it has often been understood that in verse 14 Paul is strictly forbidding the believers not to associate with the lost. Of course this is ridiculous for Jesus Himself said that believers are called to go to the lost, to spend time with them, to get to know them, and develop relationships with them, with the hopes of introducing Christ to them. If we are not to associate with them, then how can we reach them? The Apostle Paul wrote earlier in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters; for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler – not even to eat with such a one.” It becomes obvious in this passage that Paul did want believers to associate with lost people. He wanted the believers to reach the lost for Christ!

Another implication is that believers should not be married to non-believers. This just so happens to be true, yet one cannot stop with just this observation. What about business deals, joint ventures, and the like? Surely this encompasses these doesn't it? Sure it does, but the main point of all of this is the warning of 'yoking up with an unbeliever'!

An unbeliever is someone who simply does not believe. It could also be translated as one who does not have or produce faith. The Greek word in this verse is 'apistos' which comes from the Greek word 'pistos' for 'faith' and the prefix 'a' prior to that indicating opposite of, without, or void of what follows. In other words, 'apistos' could be translated 'without faith' 'faithless' or even 'unfaithful'. So this verse could also be translated as "do not be bound together with the unfaithful". This verse now opens up so much more than just seeing these unbelievers as representing just lost people. Remember the Israelites under Moses? These all who came out of Egypt were 'saved'. They were God's chosen people! Throughout their wilderness journey, they were 'unfaithful' to God. They just would not believe Him. God's people who had been delivered out of Egypt had a very hard time believing God and obeying Him after their deliverance. They were unfaithful children of God! Notice Exodus 17:2-7; "Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water that we may drink " And Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?" But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, "Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?" So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, "What shall I do to this people? A little more and they will stone me." Then the LORD said to Moses, "Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. "Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink." And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. He named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the LORD, saying, "Is the LORD among us, or not?"

Also notice Psalm 95:7-11. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand today, if you would hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, As in the day of Massah in the wilderness, "When your fathers tested Me, They tried Me, though they had seen My work. "For forty years I loathed that generation, and said they are a people who err in their heart, and they do not know My ways. "Therefore I swore in My anger, Truly they shall not enter into My rest."

The text that is under consideration, 2 Corinthians 6:17, must then be understood that God is telling His followers, to 'come out from among those who are unfaithful', no matter if those who are unfaithful are lost or if they are Christian! Think about it. Would God want a committed follower to be yoked up with a carnal believer? Absolutely not! It would seem that this is most likely what Paul was thinking about when he wrote this epistle. Remember his harsh rebuke 1 Corinthians 5 of the person who was sleeping with his father's wife? Later in that same chapter in verse 13, Paul said; "REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES!” Clearly Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, wanted faithful believers to be separated from unfaithful believers!

Paul goes on to contrast the actions of faithful with the unfaithful - 'what fellowship does righteousness have with unrighteousness; what communion does light have with darkness; what bond does Christ have with Belial (wicked, worthless); and again what does a believer have with an unbeliever, or what does the 'faithful have with the unfaithful'? Paul is very concerned with the fact that even believers can cause others believers to fall into and walk in sin and passionately warns against 'cohabitating' with sinning believers.

It is unmistakable in real life that Christians can be characterized by each of these descriptions. Whether it is those rare moments when we let our guard down or when we actually embrace them in habitual ways these certainly can be manifested in our lives. Certainly Christians can be unrighteous in actions, walk in darkness, and be unfaithful in life. To believe otherwise would be foolish. With this in mind, it is obvious that Paul is not suggesting that we separate from believers who sin and mess up at times for all do that, but rather unbelieving Christians who embrace sinful actions and attitudes and walk in them. Paul says, DO NOT BE A PART OF THEM! SEPARATE YOUSELVES FROM THEM! COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM!

He then says, "DO NOT TOUCH THAT WHICH IS UNCLEAN"! Unrighteousness, darkness, wickedness, and unfaithfulness are all unclean and Paul says NOT to touch, have nothing to do with them at all! Paul went further than saying not to do these things, he said 'don't even touch them! In other words, Paul commands the Corinthians to have nothing at all to do with those things! Pretty obvious!

Paul is very clear - Separate from those who are unfaithful and make sure not to do not do any of the things they do! Period!

With that in mind, then it becomes clear that disciples of Jesus Christ, followers of the Lord are to...

Come Out from among...

Unfaithful people

Unfaithful fellowships

Unfaithful churches

Unfaithful denominations

Unfaithful organizations

Unfaithful Anything that embraces sin and rebellion against God or His Word

It should also be noted that in Revelation 3 interestingly Jesus Himself was found outside the Laodicean church knocking on the door. Jesus found Himself outside of that which He created - His church. For many, it appears that Jesus is walking up to a local fellowship and knocking on the door of the building where some believers are meeting. This simply cannot be what is being portrayed here at all. The term 'church' refers to the body of Christ and not the building in which it may be meeting. Jesus is knocking, seeking to get the attention of the body of Christ from outside of it. More specifically He was attempting to wake up individuals within the body. "If any 'man' hear my voice..." Do you see it? Jesus was on the outside! Jesus was outside the church! The reason He was outside was for the same reason we have just seen above - the church had embraced unrighteousness, darkness, wickedness, and unfaithfulness. Jesus would not have anything to do with any of that stuff so He 'came out' and separated Himself from it.


We must remember that the Word of God is not saying that we separate ourselves from out of the world, but rather separate ourselves within the world. We are to be a separate people in the world who do not participate in the deeds of darkness, but rather expose them and live separate from them.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

An Outsider

Needtobreathe's song, 'The Outsiders' caused me to really think a little deeper than normal. I love to think and even though I am no C.S. Lewis or J. R. R. Tokien I had a rush of emotions as an epiphany hit me. Or maybe it was the rush of acid reflux. Either way I begin to meditate upon this song. A few lines say; "We are the outsiders, oh we are the outsiders ... On the outside, you're free to roam, On the outside we found it home, On the outside there's more to see, On the outside we choose to be.."

I begin to think about that and how that many would take it that this song is talking about being saved and being on the outside of the lost world. Being on outside of 'lostness' or on the outside of the world that rejects Jesus, Christianity, etc.
But then I began to be reminded of what 2 Corinthians 6:17 says. It says; "Come out from their midst and be separate from them and do not touch what is unclean". As I have read this verse in the past, I quickly would say that the Apostle Paul is talking about being separated from the world, from that which is lost and not of God. That's cool and all, but then that 'epiphany' hit me and I thought that God also wants us to separate from all that is unclean, including religion, religious institutions, and yes religious people. Hmmm... O yea, remembering that Jesus is not a religion nor is He a building or denomination but rather He is a Person who happens to be God!

I then begin seeing that just as the song speaks of being on the outside, that as followers of Jesus Christ, we are justified by God's very Word to separate ourselves from even those who call themselves Christian, the church, and God's people. O NO! It can't be! Sure it can! One only needs to see the latter part of the verse mentioned earlier; "DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN". What is unclean? That which is sinful, wrong, and rebellion against God and His Word. So, if a fellow believer is willingly and openly rebelling against God and refusing to be obedient, then the follower has every authority to separate himself from the rebellious believer.
The same would go with a local fellowship (church) or even a denomination. If a fellowship or a denomination openly rebels against God, the faithful follower must separate himself from it or be guilty by association or by enabling the rebellion. If we remain in that which is wrong, then we actually condone the very thing which is wrong.

So with that in mind, we must exclude ourselves. We must depart! We must leave the 'inside' and head outside! In this case following the Lord must be done as an 'outsider' of the church. It has to be! There is no way to follow Jesus if we are tolerating sinfulness or rebellion. This in no way calls for perfection at all, but rather for a desire to be right and obedient to the Lord. We are all sinners and we all mess up every day, but living in open rebellion is unacceptable. Friends have parted ways, marriages have dissolved, and believers have departed fellowships/churches. On the surface one could argue that friends, marriages, and churches should work their problems out and stay together. Well that's admirable, but when open rebellion and an unwillingness to forsake the rebellion, the follower who desires to be right with God cannot stay in that situation.

Jesus Himself is actually the first 'outsider'. In Revelation 3:20, Jesus is standing at the door of the church knocking. Jesus was 'outside' the church. The Laodocean church was a church filled with people who were lukewarm, just existing. Jesus showed His disapproval by being 'outside' knocking on the door. He offered to come to anyone in the church who desired to open up to Him.

Unfortunately many churches today keep believers from growing and experiencing the wonderful life God has offered. Churches have been guilty of throwing cold water on the people of God and have kept them from enjoying the greatest gift in the world. Jesus came to give us abundant life and all the joys that go with it yet it seems that so few are living that life. What's up? What's wrong? What's going on?

Remember the line in the song? "On the outside we're free to roam, On the outside we found it home, On the outside there's more to see, On the outside we choose to be ..." That excites me and not only does it excite me, I have experienced it! In the past 5 months, I have been on the outside and it has been totally awesome and extremely life changing! The chains have been broken and I have been set free to roam, and see, and choose, and take hold of the mighty Hand of God in fresh and new ways! I have the freedom to follow, the freedom to enjoy, and the freedom to see so much more than I ever have. I am an outsider and I must say that the outside is so much better than being on the inside of those walls of tradition and institutionalism. Freedom is so cool! I love being an outsider! I have found that I am more like Jesus as an outsider. We've been having a good time being out here.