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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Separated Lives

Don't become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That's not partnership; that's war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands? Who would think of setting up pagan idols in God's holy Temple? But that is exactly what we are, each of us a temple in whom God lives. God himself put it this way: "I'll live in them, move into them; I'll be their God and they'll be my people. So leave the corruption and compromise; leave it for good," says God. "Don't link up with those who will pollute you. I want you all for myself. I'll be a Father to you; you'll be sons and daughters to me." The Word of the Master, God. With promises like this to pull us on, dear friends, let's make a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts us, both within and without. Let's make our entire lives fit and holy temples for the worship of God. (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1)

This is rather a long passage, but I'd like to explore just four simple thoughts with you from this section of Scripture.  The intention of this portion of Corinthians is a call to separation - a call to live in such a way that those around us see the difference God has made in our lives.  What is involved in separation? 

First, this passage points us toward the fact that we cannot team up with unbelievers and still live separated lives.  Fellowship is a term that indicates companionship - becoming a matching member with another.  In other words, it is a place of activity or interest where we experience the same involvements.  When we "pair up" with unbelievers in such a manner, it is not uncommon that the activity that we pursue is not the same as it is when we are paired up in fellowship with other believers.  If we find that our "perfect match" for our interests and experiences is with unbelievers, then we should ask God to begin the work of creating a desire within us for a different "match".  God's desire is not that we DON'T associate with unbelievers, but that we do not embrace their fellowship as our "perfect match" for our life experiences.

Second, Paul describes an attitude of spirit where we become partners with wickedness - we commune with the enemy.  A partner is a partaker in all that is produced.  Paul warns against developing relationships with unbelievers in which deep personal intimacies are shared - where we develop such a dependence on the other for the sharing of these types of intimacies.  Someone who is not in fellowship with God cannot have the same perspective on circumstances as one who is.  When we choose to close ourselves up to deep, intimate fellowship with other believers and open ourselves up to this type of relationship with unbelievers, we are choosing to cooperate or participate in a lifestyle that is not pleasing to God.  We need to recognize that we become like that which we cooperate with the most.

Third, Paul describes a condition in which we experience a lack of harmony when we try to walk both sides of the fence.  In other words, we are trying to live the best of both worlds - fellowship with God and with unbelievers.  Harmony is an agreement of parts - it produces a tranquility between the two.  There is no agreement that can be formed between the way of right living and the choices of the world.  The world's path will never produce peace or tranquility in our inner man - in fact, it will do just the opposite. 

Fourth, it is the writer's intent that we see that Satan and God cannot abide in unity - there is no union between the two that can produce anything of value or worth.  God's ways are not the ways of our flesh.  The working of God's Spirit in our lives points out areas of our lives that are aligned with the world - in turn, God asks that we turn away from that alignment and toward him. 

So, we see that God's warnings are pretty clear about our associations, our pursuits, and our passions.  There is not to be any mixture of the things of the Spirit with the things of this world.  If we allow this type of purification process within us, there are some promises contained in this Scripture that we need to embrace, as well.  God provides a series of five "I will's" in this passage that we might gloss over in a quick survey of the passage.  Here they are:
  1. I will live in you - he will take up residence in us.  This implies a permanence of his presence, not just an occasionally passing through, but an occupation of the one who is following him.  God will exercise his legal right to inhabit what he owns and if he does occupy us, then there is no room for any darkness to coexist.
  2. I will walk among you - not only resident in us, but strolling within.  This implies a leisurely pace in which an owner might stroll his land, looking intently for a profit from his investment.  God looks for the fruit of his Spirit to be produced where he dwells - this is a return on the investment he has made in us.
  3. I will be their God - Elohim (the creative God).  Elohim is the one who possesses absolute power and authority.  He is the God of covenant relationship - we can count on him - his promises are binding.
  4. I will welcome you - accepting us with great pleasure into his presence and into his companionship. 
  5. I will be your Father - as Father, he is at the core of all that originates from our lives.
Some pretty awesome promises, huh?  Our part in this process of separation is to cleanse ourselves from all that defiles our body or soul - to free ourselves from that which pollutes or hinders our growth.  That is why Paul says we cannot have fellowship (deep, intimate relationship) with unbelievers.  There is difficulty separating ourselves from that which hinders our growth in these types of intimate relationships.  As we separate ourselves, we find that it is work to move toward purity.  Don't ever think it will be an easy ride - there are tough choices to be made.  There will be opportunities to embrace a few works of the flesh right alongside the works of the Spirit - but don't do it!  As Paul so aptly describes it - make a clean break of all that defiles!  The end result is that we will be temples "fit" for the indwelling of our God.