separation from the world
It was the apostle Paul who in telling words made the following urgent appeal to all those who aspire to be disciples of Jesus Christ:
“I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God which is your reasonable service and be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:1).
It would be almost impossible to express in words a more comprehensive explicit entreaty to us Gentiles after the flesh, for separation from the World both in mind and body than is there enjoined upon us. Compelling as this message is, it is by no means unique, for it encapsulates the theme of holiness to the Lord, which like a thread of gold runs through the entire Word of God, and etches upon the mind of the believer what is demanded by God as acceptable behaviour.
THE CARNAL MIND
It is written that the carnal mind is in its natural state at enmity with God, is not subject to the Law of God, and nor indeed can be. It is surely evident from this arresting statement that we must ever be on our guard to ensure that in whatsoever situation we find ourselves, whatever course of action we decide to take, whatever our attitude in the world in which we find ourselves, the decisions we take should at all times be governed by the teaching and power of the Word of God, and not by the ideas, instincts or reactions which come naturally to us.
Only continual exercise in this warfare, this confrontation with this powerful mind of the flesh which is our natural inheritance can we hope to succeed in overcoming it. This constitutes the battle of life. Success depends upon the measure that the Word of God dwells and rules our hearts for that and that alone can provide us with the power and source of strength that we need.
The mind of the flesh is essentially subtle, enticing and deceptive. It can make the most debased of thought appear wholesome and pure. It can find excuses for the most blatant evils, without any conscious effort. It is resistant to control or subjection, can make black appear white and can cloak the most heinous of crimes by the innocence of motives.
Such is the enemy within, with its penchant for evil which daily confronts us. None are immune from its activity – not even the Son of Man when he was here amongst us. Such is its prevailing dominance, that Jesus alone of all the children of men overcame its power by his superior moral strength derived from his Father, so necessary in his triumph over sin.
With these facts before us, it is surely our highest wisdom to separate ourselves as far as this is possible, from all that the world around us stands for, dominated as it is by the thinking of men astray from God. Although in the world, we are not of it, having been delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. Our thinking must be governed by higher and more noble thoughts than those which permeate the mind of the World around us, however beneficent that may, sometimes and at best appear to be.
At this point, we pause and reflect as to how we are getting on in this conflict in life. Sometimes we are stopped in our tracks by an event in our lives or maybe something we have read which caused particular reflection. Living as we do in affluent times, we can so easily be caught off our guard into forgetting whose we are and whom we serve.
THE EXAMPLE OF ISRAEL
When Israel of old prospered being blessed of God, it is recorded that “Jeshuran waxed fat and kicked … and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation” (Deut. 32:15). Paradoxical as it may seem, the opportunity to do wrong is highlighted by reason of the greater scope and wider range of worldly activity which prosperity brings with it. The world around us beckons us ever more strongly to bow down to its idols and worship its gods. It is so easy to be beguiled by it all – to forget God and the line of demarcation between the Holy and the Profane.
The fruit is so alluring, its taste so pleasant and soothing to the carnal appetite, that in the relaxation of both mind and body which ensues, we let go of the anchor of our soul, even Jesus our Redeemer and Friend.
We must never lose sight of the fact that when we would do good, evil is present with us, so that our own estimate of right action must always be in accord with the Word of God and not by our own instinctive judgment.
Some short time ago, I was given a pamphlet issued by The Christadelphian Benevolent Fund entitled “Giving as God has blessed us.” Its title commended it to us, and we carefully read its contents. The giving of alms is enjoined upon us by Jesus Himself and it is one of the marks of our discipleship. But as with all other actions prescribed by our Master there are rules to be observed. If these are ignored or overlooked, our charitable works become valueless in the sight of God, however well-meaning in their apparent intention.*
Reading though the pamphlet with the principles of Separation in mind, we note the comments made in respect of each of the 7 charitable funds which form its contents. The first 5 funds have to do with commendable assistance both monetary and physically to brethren and sisters (with certain reservations in respect of the Bible Mission Welfare Fund) and are in accordance with Scripture teaching.
But then we come to the Meal-A-Day and Samaritan funds which relate to help given to those outside the Truth. In respect of these 2 funds, we make the following observations:
The Meal-a-Day fund was evidently prompted by a United States Secretary of State proposing that each human being on the planet should be provided with at least one meal a day. It seems strange to say the least that Christadelphians of all people should wish to follow a powerful statesman of this world to do good as he saw fit. Our leader is Jesus Christ, not Henry Kissinger or any other man of the world. They are devoid of any understanding of the reasons for the existence of the very needs they wish to supply, or indeed the recognition that any effort they make will prove futile.
When Henry Kissinger can feed 4000 with 7 loaves and a few fishes, or 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fishes, we may sit up and take notice! The present reality is, however, that since the Secretary of State made his appeal there are more hungry souls in the world than ever before, due entirely to increased international strife, along with evils of the grossest kind. It is only with the return of our beloved Master that a remedy will be applied. In the meantime, it is our prime concern to respond to the appeal of the Apostle Paul, as stated in Romans chapter 12 and verse 1 with which this article began. By so doing we may by the grace of God ensure a place in the Kingdom of God with the opportunity of spreading the gospel to the world at large with the Power of the Spirit and in the process the healing of the nations. There is a time for everything!
As for the Samaritan Fund, this is founded on a completely false interpretation of the parable of “the good Samaritan”. This has nothing to do with our duty to those in the World, but everything to do with our duty to those who, having lost their love for the Truth for whatever reason have left it and are in the downward path to idolatry. We do not interpret the parables of Jesus as do the so-called Christian world with their humanistic beliefs, but rather in their teaching in respect of our need to stress the redemptive work of salvation from sin and death in Christ.
THE WORD OF GOD
Throughout its pages, the Word of God by dream, by oracle, by seer, not to mention plain speech, continually emphasises the necessity to keep ourselves unspotted from the World, and not to be associated with any of its enterprises. The methods employed by those operating both the Meal-A-Day and Samaritan funds are unscriptural. As a separate community, we should not voluntarily co-operated with the World’s organisations, however laudable their motives may appear to be. Their whole aim in action is humanitarian and excludes God and His purpose – of which they have no understanding, being astray from the Truth.
Moreover, an charitable work we support should be done anonymously eliminating any public notice as the Scriptures make plain – a fact which is compromised in the manner these two funds operate in conjunction with Oxfam and the Red Cross. Where – may I ask – is in the scriptures any record of the children of God voluntarily and by design making collections for those in the World to relieve their suffering?
When a would-be disciple of Christ approached him and indicated that desire, but asked that he might first go and bury his dead father and the response of Jesus completely negates the whole ethos which underlies the aims of the funds in question:
“Let the dead bury the dead”
Was the reply of our Lord. What a dramatic rebuff that must have been to one who from a humanitarian viewpoint wish to carry out what would seem a perfectly reasonable and necessary duty.
But to the True Disciples of Jesus there must be a constant awareness of the fact that outside the Truth there is a great gulf fixed. Touch not, taste not, handle not, is the maxim, so that we thus keep ourselves separate and not become involved in any of its activities, however “charitable” they may appear to be. Such a posture involves a discipline of the mind which often goes against our own personal natural feelings of sympathy and benevolence. But we must never forget that those natural feelings are the re-actions of a mind which has become infected with an innate powerful influence which, in its operation creates an antipathy to the thoughts of the Divine Mind, and does so without any conscious effort. It originated in the imbibing of the mind of the Serpent in the beginning, which resulted in the transgression of Divine Command.
The work of God and its absorbtion is essential requiring continual daily effort, for it alone can provide the power to overcome the evil in our nature. It alone will enable us to get the right perspective in life – to see all things from the Divine point of view.
The lesson is driven home to us in the record of God’s dealings with men in the past. When God commanded king Saul to “smite Amelek and utterly destroy all that they have and spare them not, but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” such action necessitated the exclusion of all feelings of sympathy which would naturally arise, especially towards apparent “innocent” children. But when it is realised that the idolatry and iniquity of these peoples had reached the point when destruction was the Divine Remedy we, paradoxical as it may appear, see the love of God in operation in the cleansing of the earth of what is abominable in His Sight.
Such is the degree of God’s anger, that Saul was removed from the Kingship because of his failure to completely fulfil Divine Command, allowing his own natural feelings to influence his judgment. It was left to Samuel to complete the work, for he hewed Amelek to pieces!
Now what was true then will be repeated again on a much wider scale and for the same reasons. The cup of iniquity of the nations is rapidly filling up and the same fate awaits them at the appointed time, when the words of the prophet Isaiah as recorded in chapter 69, verses 15-16 will be effected. When the “fury of the Lord will come up in His face and “the Lord will come with fire and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury and his rebuke with flames of fire, for by fire and by his sword will the Lord plead with all flesh, and the slain of the Lord shall be many”.
We are informed that as it was in the days of Noah, as it was in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, so it would be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man. That we live in those days so described must be self evident to any perceptive mind. He who is coming shortly, who is even at the door, will come “with ten thousands of his saints to execute the judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly, of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed – as Jude records.
The whole of Isaiah chapters 2-3 needs to be read to appreciate the range and scope of the judgments to be administered in all their awful intensity.
And what has all this to do with the “Meal-A-Day” and “Samaritan Fund” we may ask: The answer comes when we relate these charitable endeavours with the knowledge of the reasons which are at the root of the evils which they are designed to alleviate, for it is then we realise how wrong they are. It is misguided philanthropy.
The Samaritan fund, it is stated, responds to the consequences of wars and natural disasters. This is for the relief of suffering and human needs outside the Brotherhood. But whence come wars and fightings amongst men? Are they not the result of the evils innate in our human nature astray from God and His Ways? Little do men know – it never crosses their minds – that God uses these evils for the punishment of the transgressors of His Laws as well as for the furtherance of His Purpose. When men turn to God and submit to his Laws, then and only then will war and all that ensues from its evils, cease.
In the meantime, it is not for us to relieve its consequences lest we be found working against God – a very real probability! We have ever to remember that nothing is hid from his eyes. He is ever in complete control. As for natural disasters (so-called) the same principles apply. Take for instance the Tsunami disaster in respect of which a contribution of some thousands of pounds was sent to the Relief Fund. With that in mind, turn to what God has to say about such things:
“Behold, He [God] withholdeth the waters and they dry up. Also he sendeth them out, and they overturn the earth” (Job 12:15).
So it is the God causes both droughts and tsunami waves, and knows all about the consequences, the loss of life and distress they cause. With this knowledge, it is not for us to attempt to ameliorate what He directs, or say to him in effect: “What doest thou?”
In His eyes, the whole world lieth in wickedness and the judgments (for such they are) that he now brings upon it are, as we have stated, but the precursors of those more terrible and far-reaching judgments yet to be meted out at the Return of Christ. The natural disasters are no accidents. They occur to remind men of the Supreme Power of The Almighty. He is Omniscient as Omnipotent, and always in control. He requires His children to recognise and acknowledge the fact and not to interfere in what He considers it necessary at any time!
We recall the words of the Apostle Paul in his inspired letter to the Ephesians, chapter 6 and verse 12
“for we wrestle not against flesh and blood (i.e. in the physical sense), but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places”
And you don’t do that when co-operating with their organisations, however laudable their purpose may appear to be.
As we have pointed out, our task now (and it is a full-time one), is getting control of ourselves, allowing the fear of God’s Word to mould characters which reflect His Mind and Purpose, and understand why in being called out of the world we are a distinct separate people with all the ignominy, suspicion, and scorn that so often is its consequence.
In all the foregoing – in all that we have here written, we are not unmindful of the words of the apostle Paul in Ephesians chapter 6, verse 10:
“As we have opportunity let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the Household of Faith”
This is an individual injunction to be acted upon, but governed by the rules which we have endeavoured to make manifest, so that at no time do we compromise that separation from the world enjoined upon us – lest we imperil our eternal salvation
Eric W Phipps