Come Ye Out from Among Them
by Clem Thurman
via Gospel Minutes, Vol. 58, No. 27, July 3, 2009.
The October, 2002, issue of "The Legal Alert" from the Christian Law Association lists nine cases in this country of Christians being opposed or restricted in one way or another in the practice of their faith. I'm sure that the number has risen considerably in the past seven years. And this report is only the tip of the iceberg compared with the vast pressure to silence biblical truth coming from television, public school systems and society in general. The supreme court has tried to eradicate any evidence of the Christian faith from every public venue. The "New World Order" advocates would outlaw the preaching of the gospel over the public airwaves, if they could. And anyone who dares to speak out -- as Jesus did -- against sin or false religious teaching is accused of bigotry or fanaticism.
It isn't easy to stand for the truth of God in our present society. But we have our orders form the Lord: "Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? or what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what portion hath a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement hath a temple of God with idols? for we are a temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Wherefore Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, And touch no unclean thing; And I will receive you, And will be to you a Father, And ye shall be to Me sons and daughters saith the Lord Almighty" (II Corinthians 6:14-18). Or again, as the apostle Paul wrote, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:1,2). Instead of being conformed to this world let us be "transformed." We must not allow the world to determine our actions, nor our reactions, to what is going on around us.
The Opposition of the World
Jesus told the apostles, "If the world hateth you, ye know that it hath hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:18,19). And the Lord prayed for believers: "I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for those whom Thou has given Me; for they are Thine...I pray not that Thou shouldest take them from the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Thy Word is truth. As Thou didst send Me into the world, even so sent I them into the world" (John 17:9,15-18).
It is a great temptation for a Christian today to escape criticism or persecution by appearing like the world. But the Lord intends for us to be different -- not just to be different -- but to be right in God's sight: "righteous." One may be tempted to agree with the media that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle, rather than be labeled as a bigot or as "homophobic." But the Lord has spoken clearly on this subject (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:18-32), and we should so speak. In the workplace, we may come under pressure to hide our faith and go along with practices that are dishonest. But again the Lord speaks, "Be thou an example to them that believe, in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity" (I Timothy 4:12).
The Church Is "Called Out"
Many churches, in eagerness to bring the lost into their fold, have accommodated themselves to a pattern that is acceptable to the general unbelieving public. Their growth is accomplished through surveys and worldly marketing means. The heroes generally held up for our youth today are professional athletes and "rock" stars, who are paraded before the church as if to say, "This is your ideal; this is the kind of person Jesus want you to be." The effort is to attract youth through entertainment rather than offer them the challenge to "take up the cross daily and follow" the Lord Jesus Christ.
Churches try to accommodate themselves to the current fads of the world. They discard the old hymns that are both musical and edifying and replace them with "praise choruses" such as were used fifty years ago in Christian camps because they were simple, easy to learn and didn't require a song book. But when the children came back from camp, they readily joined the rest of the congregation in singing hymns with meaning and which require some thought. It is a serious mistake for the church leaders to fashion a program after the ideas of untrained youth.
Jesus did not cave in to the immature concepts of youth in order to appeal to them. The rich young ruler (Mark 10), He sternly said, "One thing thou lackest: go, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow Me" (Mark 10:21). This young man failed the test, but do you really think the Lord has "softened" the requirements for us today? The "easy faith" that has become so popular doesn't much resemble the gospel of the kingdom which Jesus preached. It is tragic when so many take the worldly ambitions of the flesh, give them religious titles and then peddle them as God-given "ministries."
Opposition Doesn't Weaken Faith
In the beginning of the church, the fierce opposition of both Jews and Romans only stirred believers to greater fervency in preaching the gospel of Christ. After Stephen was stoned to death for boldly proclaiming the truth (Acts 7), "There arose on that day a great persecution against the church which was in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad...They therefore that were scattered abroad, went about preaching the Word" (Acts 8:1-4). The more they were persecuted, the stronger became their faith. When the apostles Peter and John were arrested and threatened with death, and warned not to preach any more in the name of Jesus, their answer was: "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). They remembered the words of Jesus, and they believed them: "Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad for great is your reward in heaven" (Matthew 5:11,12).
While we in this country may come under some ridicule and criticism for our faith, as yet we have not had a taste of what those early Christians had to endure. Totalitarian governments are always at enmity with Christians, who must "Obey God rather than men." This enmity is not new. King Nebuchadnezzar, of Babylon, demanded that his subjects worship that image of gold. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused, they were cast into the fiery furnace. But God delivered them. Later, Daniel defied a similar decree of the new ruler, Darius, and was cast into a den of lions.
Pressures of Worldly Powers
We should not be surprised if modern politicians and media power-brokers see Christians as enemies of their power base. It was in view of this that Jesus said, "If the world hateth you, ye know that it hat hated Me before it hated you...If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you" (John. 15:18-20). Jesus knew what was at stake when He called people to follow Him. He said, "For whosoever would save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life for My sake shall find it...So therefore whosoever he be of you that renounceth not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple" (Matthew 16:25; Luke 14:33).
The world is filled with strife, injustice, sin, evil, hate. No one should expect that if he is in Christ, he is to be shielded from the pain and grief that surrounds him. Rather, Jesus calls His followers to bear His cross and share the burden of the world's ills. He said, "If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me" (Luke 9:23). It is no wonder that millions claim the benefits of the death of Jesus, but never take up HIs cross to follow Him. They will gladly lay their burden on Jesus, but refuse to take up His. But He said, "He that doth not take his cross and follow after Me, is not worthy of Me" (Matthew 10:38).
In the Fiery Furnace
When KIng Nebuchadnezzar had his servants throw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into the fiery furnace, he was amazed that the fire burned up those who threw them in, but spared those three. In fact, when the king looked, he saw FOUR walking around in the fire: "He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking the the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God" (Daniel 3:25). When we "walk by faith" (II Corinthians 5:7), there may be "fires" of persecution, but we can be assured that God is with us, that He will sustain us, and that ultimately, He will deliver us and save us eternally (Matthew 25:41,46).
If bearing the cross means enduring suffering, ridicule and scorn, then so be it. That seems fair. If Jesus bears my sins on HIs cross, so that I might be free of sin and forever live with Him in eternity, the least I can do is take up my cross and follow Him. That includes, "Seek ye first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33). If following Him calls for me to tell others of my faith in HIm -- even if I know it will bring ridicule and scorn on me -- heaven will be worth it. Some may say that it costs too much to be a Christian in today's society. But the truth is, it costs a lot more to NOT be a Christian!
It is high time that we stop offering the world "fun and games" as a gimmick to get them into our church buildings. The "health and wealth" gospel may attract numbers, but because Christ is not it's author, it will not save souls. We must take seriously the mission which Christ has given us, and trust in Him that He will see us through the furnace of fire to eternal safety.
Instead of conforming to the world, becoming like the world, let us recognize this truth: "Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4). That is the reason the Lord says, "Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate" (II Corinthians 6:17). We can never lead the world to Christ by becoming like the world. We must show the world a higher purpose than theirs, a higher morality than the world can find on its own. And if we have to show them the fiery furnace, we can also show them the One Who delivers us from it.
"Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal. For we know that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (II Corinthians 4:16-5:1).