Christian vitality is at a low ebb. Christian life expresses itself but feebly. The doctrines of grace are widely known great and glorious truths arc on the lips of many, but the practical exposition of the truth is little manifested. The standard of separation from the world is becoming so low and the saints in some instances are satisfied with a life so conformed to the world, that little difference is discernible to the casual observer.
If Christianity is to make greater headway, it must be proved to be more than a theory, and we must present to the investigation of the critical mind the reality of lives transformed by the power of God. More evil is done to the cause of Christianity by its adherents than its opponents, for the world often contrasts a Christian’s profession with his practice. They argue rightly that if Christianity is what we claim it is, it ought to make a difference in the life.
One has said, “Thousands of Christians are like water-logged vessels. They cannot sink, but they are so saturated with inconsistencies and worldliness and permitted evil that they can be towed only with difficulty into the celestial port.”
In the history of the early Church, we find that Satan instigated the world to seek the destruction of the truth by violence, but now in the last days he has adopted a different policy. What he cannot accomplish by slaughter, he effects by strategy, and this way gains the victory over the great mass of professing Christians.
The world has a distinct and unchanging character, whether it is the rude or the cultivated world, the world of the first or the twentieth century. In his first epistle, John describes the world. It is lustful, transient, hateful, anti-christian, deluded, satanic.
The world is not a friend to Christ or His people. It pretends to be, but while this world stands, it changes neither its fallen state, sinful nature, nor evil prince. The world that crucified our Lord hated Him. “They hated Me without a cause”; “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you” (John 15: 25, 18). Its temper is not changed, and it only loves and honours those that bow to its fashions and customs.
The Christian who loves the world is out of touch with his Lord, for Christ claims the Church as His Bride, and when she gives her affection to the world, what is it hut spiritual adultery that places a stigma upon her? “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
We see, also, that Christ “gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our father” (Gal. 1: 4). Here we have God’s purpose concerning us; and we have His command to each of us, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” (1 John 2: 15).
We have illustrative warnings in the Old Testament, which are written “for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3: 16). Mahlon and Chilion married Moabitish women and Jehovah cut them oft (Ruth 1:5). This is according to His promise: “Neither shalt thou make marriages with them … For they will turn away thy son from following Me, that they may serve other gods; so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly” (Deut. 7: 3, 4). Unequal yokes bring their own reward.
Samson, led by the flesh and not by the Spirit, fell with his head in Delilah’s lap, losing his power, sight, liberty, dignity, and life (Judges 16). Delilah’s lap speaks of worldliness, and once we put our head there, Satan’s razor will do the rest.
Jehoshaphat, a godly man. “joined affinity with Ahab,” the idolatrous king of Israel, and nearly lost his life in the disastrous battle of Ramothgilead. Returning home, defeated and humiliated, he was met by Jehu, the son of Hanani the seer, who said unto him, “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord?
therefore is wrath upon thee from the Lord” (2 Chron. 19: 2).
It may be said, however, that this is Old Testament ground. Turn then to the New Testament and read the words of the Holy Spirit. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14). This is quite clear. Marriage is to be “only in the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:39).
God is very careful to separate His people to Himself, hence His urgent call: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6’: 17, 18). Apart from the book of Revelation, this is the only place in the New Testament where God is called Almighty, and it seems as if God pledges His omnipotent resources for blessing to those who separate themselves from the world. An ecclesiastical separation is not the teaching here. I am afraid it is possible to embellish that with a halo, forgetting that every child of God must enter somewhat into the experience of the apostle Paul when he exclaimed, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6: 14).
The Cross should snap every link that binds us to the world. The separation of the Lord Jesus Christ from the world is the measure of His people’s separation. This He clearly stated in His high-priestly prayer, saying to the Father, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17: 16). He moved entirely outside its sphere of amusements, ambitions, fashions, habits, tastes, and purposes.
The real vital relationship into which we are brought with the Lord should be evidenced in practical living and conduct, for our obligations and responsibilities arise out of this relationship. God is holy, and He wishes His people to walk in keeping with His character. “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (I Peter 1: 16) is God’s standard for us. We do not become holy to become His children, but because we are His children. “Christ is the path to holiness, not holiness the path to Christ.” The fundamental conception of holiness in the Old and New Testaments is always separateness, this being the basic thought of sanctification and holiness.
In every age God is saying to His people, “Ye shall be holy unto Me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be Mine” (Lev. 20: 26).
It is a serious thing to give countenance to that which vitally affects the character of the gospel. “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal, 1:9). If he is accursed who preaches any other gospel, the man who upholds any other gospel by his presence and co-operation is, in part at least, in the same condemnation.
We read: “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son, If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed: for he that biddeth him Godspeed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 9-11).
The doctrine of Christ, embracing His deity, incarnation, atoning death on the cross, resurrection, ascension to the right hand of God, and His personal coming for His people, is absolutely essential, and the man who does not hold this doctrine is not to be received into our homes. All friendly intercourse with him is forbidden, because the claims of Christ are infinitely above the demands of courtesy, and we can escape the guilt of his evil deeds by complete separation. “What concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” (2 Cor. 6: 15).
Family and early associations may hold back many who are dissatisfied with modernistic preaching, but the honour of Christ is involved, and this should determine the question of church relationship.
In Sardis a few were commended because they had not denied their garments. May we seek from God that enablement to live “unspotted from the world.”