The Essentials For Separation
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

We have been pursuing a certain line of thought for quite some time, and we have given it a name: Simple Questions Often Asked . We are often asked some very simple questions that have very profound answers. The question which we have been considering for the past several weeks is, “What is a separated life?” We hear of worldly Christians, and we hear of separated Christians, so we are asked often, “What is a separated Christian? What is a separated life?”

As we began to deal with this subject, we said to you that it would be necessary for us to have an explanation of terms because as we approach it from a human standpoint, many different ideas develop. As we approach it from a Scriptural standpoint, we have a point upon which we can fix our thoughts and not go into error.

Separation Related to Areas

Examining it from a Scriptural standpoint, we discovered that separation in the Bible is dealt with not primarily in relation to things, but rather in relation to areas. We found that the Bible demands separation in the area of sinners and sinful things. We found that the Bible demands separation in the area of saints. Yes, as strange as it may sound, sometimes you, as a Christian, are expected to separate yourself from another Christian if that Christian is violating the Word of God.

Then we found in a third area that separation is demanded from a group of people whom we called, for the sake of alliteration and for the sake of one-word summary, the spoilers . We call these folk the spoilers because they are described in the Scriptures as the false prophets, antichrists, deceivers, even messengers of Satan. Of course, their main aim and ambition is to spoil the work of Christ and God. So we describe them as the spoilers . These are the areas of separation which we have been thinking about for the past several weeks.

We said when we began the initial discussion of this question, “What is a separated life?”, that not only would it be necessary for us to have an explanation of terms, but it would be necessary for us to emphasize the essentials for separation. If you are going to live a separated life, there are several things which you must keep in mind as essential to such a life.

Desire to Glorify God

These essentials have been referred to by any number of people by any number of different terms. These essentials have been referred to as the law of liberty, the law of grace, the law of expediency, the law of edification . All of those are good terms, but we are going to sum up everything that we want to say to you on the basis of three phrases. We are going to suggest to you three essentials which we believe you must observe if you are going to live a separated life. The first essential we are going to designate as a desire to glorify God.

Turn, please, to I Corinthians, chapter 10, and notice the paragraph which begins with verse 31:

I Corinthians 10:

31Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
32Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:
33Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

Necessity of Being Sincere

Notice especially verse 31:

I Corinthians 10:

31Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

This suggests to my mind what I have emphasized to you—that an essential to a separated life is a sincere desire to glorify God, a sincere desire that whatever you do may bring glory to Him.

Notice the language I am using—a sincere desire to glorify God. It cannot be a superficial one. It must be a sincere one because in the few verses which I have read—to these I could add many more—it is revealed that a desire to glorify God oftentimes means that you will be pleasing someone else far more than you are pleasing yourself, that to do something for God's glory oftentimes means that you will have to say, using an expression which I have used many times, a final “no” to self, and an eternal “yes” to God. There is no other way to glorify Him.

Seeking Christ's Approval

Turn, please, to Paul's letter to the Colossians, chapter 3, verse 17, for a companion verse of Scripture:

Colossians 3:

17And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

I refer to this as a companion verse because it reminds me that if I have any question as to what is for God's glory and what is not, I can settle it by deciding whether or not I could do it in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We pray oftentimes in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I am not at all sure we all know exactly what we mean when we use that phrase. I want to suggest to you that it means that you are praying what you are praying by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you do whatever you do in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, you are saying, “This is something upon which the Lord Jesus Christ could put His approval.”

I beg to suggest to you that if you follow this essential, a sincere desire to glorify God, determining what would glorify Him by what the Lord Jesus Christ could put His stamp of approval on, you will not need to worry about things; you will not need to be worrying about a negative approach to Christianity; you will not need to be worrying about legalism. Your one supreme desire will be to glorify our Lord Jesus Christ.

Spirit of Discernment

The second of the three essentials I would leave with you is what I am terming a spirit of discernment . Not only must there be a desire to glorify God, but there must be a spirit of discernment on the part of the followers of Christ as well. Turn, please, to I Corinthians, chapter 10, noticing verse 23:

I Corinthians 10:

23All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.

Let me reemphasize the words, “All things are lawful for me.” That is, you have been made free through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the Lord Jesus Christ Himself said, “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient, nor do all things edify.

Determine What Actions are Expedient

I suggest to you that if you are a Christian with a sincere desire to glorify God, it will be necessary for you to have a spirit of discernment in order that you may be able to discern what is expedient for you. Don't worry about your neighbor at the moment. At the moment, think only of yourself. You need a spirit of discernment to know what is expedient for you. Christians should never ask simply, “Is it right or is it wrong?” The additional question should be asked, “Is it expedient?” With a proper spirit of discernment, we might eliminate some things from our lives which we are tolerating as Christians, and strange as it may seem, we might even permit some things in our lives which hitherto we have felt were wrong.

Definition of Expedient

What do I mean by asking, “Is it expedient?” May I suggest to you that the word expedient is the translation of the Greek word sumphero , which literally means “to work together with.” The word is translated by the word contribution . I should ask myself in relation to anything, “Is this making any definite contribution to the ultimate end for which I am here—to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ?”

The word is translated by the word advantage. I should ask myself the question, “Is this particular thing going to give me any advantage in my life for Christ, or will it prove to be a disadvantage?”

The word is translated by the word profitable . I should ask myself the question, “Is it profitable for me as a believer?” If I cannot give an affirmative answer, then, regardless of what others may think about my being narrow-minded and prudish, no matter what others may think about my being legalistic, I should say, “By God's grace, this thing will have no part in my life, for it is not expedient for me.”

To Edify Other Christians

Discernment is necessary not only as to expediency, but if you will glance at our text again, it is necessary to edification. We read in our text, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient; all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” I said to you a moment ago when we were talking about expediency, don't you think about the other man; think about yourself. I must say, think about yourself; yes, in relation to edification, but think about the other man as well. It is your responsibility and mine to live a life that will edify other Christians—that will edify individuals who are very near the Kingdom of God, but have not made their final decision for Christ.

Definition of Edify

The word edify is the translation of the Greek word oikodomeo , which means “to build a house.” Very literally, it means to put a roof on a house, and the suggestion is that you and I have a responsibility to examine the things with which we come in contact and in which we are called upon to participate, and if they will not build the house which we should be thinking about building for God, then they should have no part in our lives.

Someone may say, “Well, what is wrong with it?” There may not be anything wrong with it. It may be a very apt thing with which to build a garbage dump, but it may not be fitting at all to build the temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells. You need discernment to know what will edify as far as you yourself are concerned, and what will edify as far as other believers are concerned.

A Will for Discipline

That leads me to the third essential and the last which I leave with you. There is a necessity for us to have a sincere desire to glorify God. There is a necessity for us to have a spirit of discernment as to what is expedient and as to what will edify. The third essential is that it is necessary for us to have (notice carefully what I am saying) a will for discipline. Do you notice how I am phrasing that? I am not suggesting to you that it is necessary for you to have discipline in your life; you know that. The important thing is to have a will for discipline. There are any number of believers who will be quick to say, “Oh, I know I shouldn't be doing that, but I am just too weak. Oh, I know I shouldn't be doing that, but it is not going to hurt too many people.” The discipline is needed, we all agree, but the will for discipline is an absolute essential.

Turn, please, to the book of Romans, chapter 15, and notice verses 1 and 2:

Romans 15:

1We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
2Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.

Bearing Infirmities of the Weak

If we were to read chapter 14 in its entirety, we would discover that the Apostle Paul is speaking about questionable things in the lives of young Christians. Some of these young Christians were concerned about whether it was right to do thus and so. Some of the older Christians were saying, “How silly. How narrow can you get? I know that that is not going to hurt me. I know that that is not going to hinder my testimony. So I do it, and it doesn't matter to me what other people think.” Paul said, “Wait just a moment. You are an older Christian. You consider yourself a spiritual Christian. One of the responsibilities which goes with being a spiritual Christian is bearing the infirmities of the weak.”

The weak Christian is the individual who walks so gingerly in his Christian experience that he is afraid that at any moment he will fall over the precipice into Hell. Don't laugh at that individual. Recognize that you have a responsibility to bear his burden. If you accept that responsibility, it will be necessary for you to discipline yourself because you might want to say, “Forget it. Don't make a big thing out of it.” It is a big thing to him, whether you think it is or not. Instead of doing that, spend another hour, spend another day, refrain from doing something that would cause him to stumble because you are interested in his edification. I suggest to you that this is a will for discipline. It does not come easy. It means denial on the part of you as an individual.

Holy Determination Not to Offend

Turn with me, please, to I Corinthians, chapter 8, where the Apostle Paul sums up his own determination in relation to the matter of discipline in regard to causing his brother to stumble or building him up in the faith. I suggest to you that the will for discipline will include not only the matter of denial, but it will include as well a holy determination, and I use that word holy advisedly. Only God could give you grace to be so determined in the manner which is described in I Corinthians, chapter 8, verse 13:

I Corinthians 8:

13Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

The issue in Paul's day was not movies; it was not dancing; it was not mini-skirts; it was not beards; it was not long hair; it was not chewing tobacco and spitting red. It was eating meat that was offered to idols. If you notice, outside of what I have just said for the sake of emphasis, I have not mentioned things. When you begin to specify certain things as a rule of life for every people of every age, you get yourself out on a limb, and it may break.

Importance of a Principle

It may seem a bit strange to some of you if you did not know it, but there was a time a hundred or so years ago when men preached against the sin of riding bicycles on Sunday. You smile at that, but that is what comes of preaching against things. It is not the individual thing that is important, it is the principle. In Paul's day, it was the matter of eating meat that had been offered to idols that young Christians felt caused them to fall into sin. So the Apostle made his statement about meat. But you make it about whatever is prevalent in the day in which we live.

The word offend here means “to stumble.” Look at the words again. The apostle said, “Wherefore, if meat makes my brother to stumble, if it curbs his Christian growth, if it makes it more difficult for him to go on with God, then I will eat no meat while the world stands.” I like Phillips' translation of the verse because he emphasizes the spirit of determination. He translates it, “This makes me determined that if there is any possibility of meat injuring my brother, I will have none of it as long as I live, for fear I might do him harm.” I suggest to you, Friend, that this takes a will for discipline that is marked by denial and by determination.”

Conclusion

These are the essentials for a separated life: (1) A desire to glorify God. Let God decide what will bring glory to His name. A desire to glorify Him, regardless of what the cost may be. (2) A spirit of discernment as to what will be best for you and as to what will put the roof on the house, as far as you are concerned. (3) A will for discipline that will cause you to deny yourself, if need be, and to determine by God's grace that your life will be one about which there will never be anything questionable.


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