We are sojourners, mere travelers passing through foreign territory. We are exiles held captive in a foreign kingdom awaiting the day when we will be home. We are called to be in the world but not of it. We are called to be set apart, holy, for God’s glory.
“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”
1 Peter 2:11
“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”
But, in all honesty, are we set apart?
- In what ways are we set apart? In what ways are we not like the world? Are we set apart in the way God instruct us to be, or do we define our own holiness?
- Are there cultural practices that we have absorbed from the world, and do they conflict with Biblical culture?
- What does Scripture say about the culture of God’s people? Why is Biblical culture so foreign to Western Christians today? Do we even know what defines the culture of the covenant people of God?
As strangers traveling through a land that is not ours the cultural clashes should be obvious. The way we do life, the manner in which we speak, our outward appearances, everything about us should say “devoted to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Promised Messiah, the God of the everlasting Kingdom”. The cultures of the world that we live in, and yet are not a part of, should seem foreign to us.
God gave very specific instructions on how to be set apart. He gave instructions for how to interact with people differently than the surrounding religious cultures. He showed how to worship the true God differently than the neighboring people. God even gave commands on how the children of God should physically set themselves apart. He gave them guidelines on what to eat and how to eat it. This is not talking about a man-made, Pharisaical culture as was contested by the apostles and even prohibited by the Messiah himself.
True Biblical culture, as defined by God, is carefully, and in great detail, outlined in the Scriptures. Those who call themselves covenant people, children of God, and fellow heirs would do well to evaluate whether Biblical culture has become the foreign culture.
Feeling out of place, feeling like stranger without a true home is part of the challenge we face. Thankfully we are empowered by the Spirit of God with a desire, and not mere duty, to live according to the Word. This was what was promised thousands of years ago. This holiness, being set apart, would be more than a set of codes that must be followed in order to be sons of Abraham. It was promised that these laws would be on our hearts. Circumcision of the flesh without faith is of no value. BUT, circumcision of the heart, which is a concept deeply rooted in Torah, leads to true obedience and set-apartness.
“Circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your hearts,”
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.”
Next time we notice someone, maybe even with a hint of disdain, who is living out their set-apartness in some way that we regard as pointless, we must guard our hearts from judgment. Whether or not they are adhering to the Biblical definition of being set apart or man-made holiness, at least they grasp the concept that we are meant to be different. We should take the opportunity to repent from a stubborn heart towards the ways of God. We need to search the Scritptures, plead with the Spirit to renew our minds, and discover what God has to say about being set apart in a way that pleases him.
Are we set apart, holy, and acceptable to God?
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.