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Come Out from Them and Be Separate

February 14, 2021 Speaker: Allen Snapp Series: Messy Grace: Second Corinthians

Topic: Christian Living Passage: 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1, Matthew 23:15

Messy Grace

Allen Snapp

Grace Community Church

February 14, 2021

 

Come Out from Them and Be Separate

14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.17 Therefore, Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.
18 And, I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.
Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1 NIV- Pray


In the 4th century a famous monk named Simeon Stylite (as pictured on screen), in the pursuit of holiness, climbed a 60 foot pole and spent the rest of his life up there. On top of the pole was an 11 square foot platform and that’s where Simeon lived the last 37 years of his life, having food and drink and other necessities hoisted up to him in a basket. From the safe distance of 60 feet, he could preach to crowds without ever having to get near anyone.

You’ve got to admire Simeon Stylite’s dedication, but is that what God had in mind when He says, “come out from them and be separate”. Does God mean for us to cut ourselves off from the people and the culture around us in the pursuit of being holy? What does it mean to come out from them? What does it mean to be separate?

Before we examine this text for answers, let’s look at a group of people who had perfected “come out and be separate”. They were experts at it. Then let’s contrast them with someone who time and again never seemed to get it right.

I’m talking, of course, about the Pharisees and Jesus.

The Separated Ones and the One who didnt keep his distance

Did you know that the name Pharisees literally means “the Separated Ones”? They spent their whole lives building fences to keep themselves from accidentally getting “unseparated”. They built fences of rules and regulations and clarifications around God’s word to keep them from accidentally disobeying God’s word.

God’s word said not to work on the Sabbath, so the Separated Ones wrote 50 volumes of rules and regulations mapping out how many paces a man was allowed to walk on the Sabbath, how heavy a burden he might carry, what he could or couldn’t do. They erected fence after fence after fence to protect them from disobeying God’s commands.

They also built fences of isolation to help them keep them from getting too close to an unclean, defiled sinner. Such was their piety that they refused to socialize or associate with sinners, instead they looked down their noses at common sinners, in much the way they imagined God looked down His nose at them. They knew that God couldn’t stand sinners, so the Separated Ones couldn’t stand sinners either!

When the Pharisee in Jesus’ story thanks God he is not like common sinners, including the tax collector praying off in the corner, he’s just connecting with God over their common separateness from unclean, low life sinners.

The Separated Ones had come out from them and be separate down to a science.

Jesus, on the other hand, kept messing up with this separation thing. He healed people on the Sabbath! On one Sabbath his disciples got hungry as they walked through the grain fields and began picking heads of grain to eat. Working on the Sabbath! The Pharisees nailed Jesus on that one! Jesus not only healed people of leprosy on the Sabbath, he did it by touching them. He touched unclean lepers, which according to the law made him unclean. Jesus didn’t ceremoniously wash his hands before eating. Worst of all, Jesus associated with sinners, hanging out with them, having dinner with them in their homes. The Separate Ones mocked Jesus by calling him the “friend of sinners”.

As good as the Pharisees were at being separate, Jesus was bad at it. So maybe “come out from them and be separate” doesn’t mean what the Pharisees – or Simeon Stylites – thought it meant.

Because Jesus called the Pharisees white-washed tombs – clean on the outside, filled with rotting, defiling dead bones on the inside. And when Jesus touched the unclean, it didn’t make him unclean. It made the unclean clean. So I don’t think this passage is calling us to erect 60 foot poles outside our homes, or dig motes around our homes and fill them with alligators to keep the unclean out and keep us separate. But it does call us to do something, so let’s look more closely at this passage to better understand it.

  1. Coming out and being separate is avoiding (or breaking off) the influences that lead us in ungodly directions

We talked about this last week, but Paul isn’t talking about friendships with unbelievers, he’s not saying we should not associate or connect with those who don’t believe in Jesus Christ. Paul’s talking about forming a life-bond that closely harnesses the life direction and labor of a believer with someone who isn’t a believer. And that’s not good for either of them.

I don’t want to oversimplify this, and for a more in depth look at what it means to be unequally yoked, I encourage you to listen to last week’s message, but I think one big aspect of what it means to be yoked to someone has to do with influence and specifically spiritual influence.

Jesus connected with people who weren’t just called sinners, they were sinners. Some of them led pretty sinful lives. Prostitutes, thieves, adulterers, even IRS agents! (JK) But here’s the thing: when he hung out with them, he wasn’t being influenced towards their sin, he was influencing them towards God and holiness. Like the leper, when Jesus touched the unclean, their uncleanness didn’t transmit to him, his cleanness transmitted to them.

We need to be especially careful about who influences our lives spiritually. That’s what Paul is warning against: false teachers who are leading them away from Christ and into a false gospel. Jesus said in Matt. 23:15 the influence of the Pharisees was eternally dangerous: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are. Matt. 23:15

That’s influence! By the time the Separated Ones were through with a new convert, they were twice the child of hell the Pharisees were. That’s being yoked to the wrong influence.

When God says come out from them and be separate, He’s talking about separating from ungodly relationships and influences that are leading us into sin and away from God. That influence can be a relationship, it can be a group of friends, it can be a place, it can be a habit, it can be a anything that influences us away from God and towards sin. Come out from them and be separate means avoiding things and people that influence us in ungodly ways.

  1. Coming out and being separate remembers that holiness has two directions

Here’s what I mean: God doesn’t just say “come out from them”, He also says “come unto Me”. Holiness isn’t just going out from something, it’s going to something. It’s going to God. As Kevin DeYoung writes in his book The Hole in Our Holiness,

We dont just want holiness. We want the Holy OneTo run hard after holiness is another way to run hard after God.

God predicates the call to come out and be separate with this promise found in vs. 16:

I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.

Do you hear the awesome promise made to those who belong to Christ? God isn’t a long-distance God. He promises to live with us, walk with us, be our God, and just as precious, we will be His people.

That always makes me think of my late grandma. She used to say about Jesus with such delight, He belongs to me, and I belong to Him. That’s exactly what God is promising here. Then God says “because of that promise of intimate relationship…”

17 Therefore,Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.
18 And, I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.

God continues the promise of and invitation to relationship. Don’t ever settle for cold religion. God sure doesn’t. He loves relationship. Jesus didn’t come to establish a new religion, he came to establish a loving relationship with us as God’s beloved people.

Come out and be separate is a call to know God as our Father. I will be a Father to you and you will be my sons and daughters says the Lord Almighty. The Separated Ones were separated from the heart of God. They didn’t know God. Jesus said to them, if they knew God they would know him too, for God sent him.

When Jesus loved the outcast, the sinner, the lost person, he was mirroring the heart of his Father. And as we draw near to God our Father, we too will love the outcast, the sinner, the lost. Because God loves them, and because we were once them but God saved us by grace.

Holiness has two directions: away from ungodly influences, away from defiling, uncleanness, and towards our God. Not the God, our God. And we are His people.

  1. Coming out and being separate is purity motivated by Gods promises

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

Because we have these great promises of relationship with God, we need to do something. This is a call to action: let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

There are things in this world – and there are people in this world – that contaminate our souls and we should cleanse that stuff from our lives. We live in a world that bombards our senses 24/7 with ungodly, unclean messages and visuals.

Sometimes it’s the content that is defiling. Even a little bit of pornography is defiling.Sometimes it’s the quantity: in other words, it may not be the thing that’s wrong, it may be the amount of hold it has over us that’s wrong.

Personally I had to take a break from all the political and social messages going on. I still listen to a little bit of news, but not much. I put on Shane and Shane when I’m getting ready for the day, and it’s much better for my soul. There’s nothing wrong with news and politics and other trending issues, but too much can pollute the soul and divert our affections and focus from Christ.

Now we need to be careful not to become legalists here. Legalists focus on the externals. That’s what the Pharisees did. The legalist in us tends to think of coming out and being separate in external terms: don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t drink this, don’t wear that, don’t listen to anything with a drum beat in it. Seriously, Bill Gotthard taught that rhythmic drum beats were of the devil.

But Christians can get all focused on externals: don’t smoke, drink, or chew, or go with girls who do. It’s easy to erect a pole to keep us distant from legalistic taboos. We dress right, say the right things, look like perfect Christians on the outside. It’s harder to come out and be separate from the unclean thing in our hearts. Pride, selfishness, self-righteousness, anger, fear of what people think, gossiping, manipulating, lying, idolatry. These are all things that go on in our hearts and can be lived out in a way that looks respectable in church. But God looks on the heart.

We can’t purify ourselves apart from the Holy Spirit’s work in us, and the Holy Spirit won’t do it apart from us making effort to do it. To paraphrase John Piper, don’t wait for the miracle of soul-purifying to be worked on you, act on the miracle. The miracle has already happened: you’ve been regenerated, made alive to God, the power of sin has been broken, and you have been sanctified (or set apart) unto God. That’s already happened in the believer by the power of the Spirit. Now we need to act on it!

Finally, the motivation for this isn’t condemnation or guilt or duty. It’s because God has given us such great promises of loving, close relationship with Him, and we don’t want anything in our lives to block that fellowship or dishonor our Savior or our Father in heaven.

More in Messy Grace: Second Corinthians

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What Does It Mean To Be Unequally Yoked

January 31, 2021

Grace Available and Accomplishing Part Three

January 24, 2021

Grace Available and Accomplishing Part Two