For 13 years, I lived three blocks from the Pacific Ocean in a sleepy little town 25 miles south of San Francisco. Half Moon Bay is known for two things, fog and Mavericks.
Mavericks is a spot that big-time surfers go. This legendary place can have waves up to 80 feet high, some of the biggest waves in the world. Waves gain momentum for thousands of miles out to sea. These swells slam into a reef off a small peninsula called Pillar Point, where the ocean floor suddenly rises from over 100 feet deep to only a few feet deep. The geology and the geography shoot the swells to a size of eight-story buildings. If the waves don’t kill you, the rocks will. Only the courageous and the crazy surf Mavericks!
Then, on Thursday, March 17, 2011, a big wave surfer from Hawaii wiped out just before dark. They say that Sion Milosky was thrown into the ocean by a huge wave. Then a second wave came on top of him and held him under water. Sadly, he drowned. He was 35 years old with a wife and some kids that he loved.
Why would he surf such a dangerous place? Why would he risk so much when the hazards of Mavericks are well-known? There were signs warning people there. It was well-known how dangerous it was. Why don’t he listen?
After 51 years of ministry, I have learned that some people don’t listen to warnings. You can caution them, you can cajole them, and you can show them from the Scriptures but some folks do not want to listen. After reading the Bible 51 times in all the last 51 years, I am becoming more aware of the accuracy of warnings in God’s Word. That’s why I strive to pass on what the Bible says and how to live for God to others in hopes that they will listen to Scripture and follow God.
Since the first of the year, many of us have read through the Bible. Throughout Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, repeatedly and almost ad nauseum, God says something like this: “be careful to do what the LORD your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left” (Deuteronomy 5:32 and dozens of other places). God warned Israel to stay away from the Canaanites, the Moabites, the Hittites, and other pagan nations. God was concerned that the influences and temptations of these pagan peoples would lead His people into idolatry and sin. And guess what? God was right! Time after time, God’s people did not heed God’s warnings. If you read the book of Judges with us earlier this year, you know how Israel refused to listen to warnings just like that surfer off Half Moon Bay.
That is why I want to talk to you about an important Biblical concept – separation. The term “separation” is based on 2 Corinthians 6:17: "‘Therefore come out from them and be separate,’ says the Lord.” The same idea is in Romans 12:2 which says: “Do not be conformed to this world.” 1 John 2:15 says: “Do not love the world or anything in the world.” There are many more verses that warn God’s people about the world’s dangerous influence on their lives.
Back in the day, the term “separation” was used to support legalism and the do’s and don’ts. The word fell out of use and the concept has left our discussions in the last 25 years. But the more I watch Christians, the more I believe we should talk about separation again.
In an article titled “Be Separate,” Billy Graham observed: “To a large extent, the American church has become merged with the world. It has adopted so many of the world’s ideals and standards that it has lost its ability to stem the tide of crime, deception and immorality that is sweeping the nation. For millions of church members there is no deep commitment to the cause of Christ, no regularity of attendance at public worship, no sacrificial giving, no personal religious discipline.”
So, what does separation mean? How can you and I live a separated life?
God wants our purpose to be different. The separated life means that your life is dedicated to God only. That means your sole purpose in life is to glorify God. In Judges 13:5, there is a description of how Samson was supposed to live. It says that he was to be “set apart to God.” If Samson had not lived an undisciplined, libertine life of excesses in every area, he would have saved himself a life of sorrow and disgrace. If Samson had completely surrendered his life to God, one can only imagine that he could have accomplished with God’s help. Separation will allow God to use you in ways you cannot even dream. But you can’t have “two masters” (Matthew 6:24). You have to turn your back on the world. Colossians 6:2 says: “Set your affections on things above, not on things below.”
God wants our perspective to be different. The world thinks in the short-term, doing what feels good. Other people may chase fantasies and get-rich schemes, but God’s people think God’s way. We can’t choose expedience over God’s will. James 4:4 says, “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of these world makes himself an enemy of God.” True Christians aren’t trying to fit in with the world. True Christians stand out. They are unusual. Christians see things very different that the world and are proud of it!
God wants our lifestyle to be different. Our style of dress needs to be modest and honoring to God. Our word-choices cannot be vulgar or profane. The way we drive, relate, live, rear our kids, and the very expressions on our faces should tell the world that we belong to Jesus. Everything we do and say tell the world that we are Christians. Titus 2:12 tells us to “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” That’s how God wants us to live!
Billy Graham wrote: “There must be an out-and-out stand for Christ. It does not mean that in society we are snobs or have a superiority complex. But the Christian should stand out like a sparkling diamond against a rough background. He should be more wholesome than anyone else. He should be poised, cultured, courteous, gracious, but firm in the things he does or does not do. He should laugh and be radiant; but he should refuse to allow the world to pull him down to its level.”
God wants our behavior to be different. The world uses intimidation and force to get an ear. Threats and bullying are the tools of the world to get their way. God’s people cannot be witnesses to the world if they live just like them. We have to demonstrate the Fruit of the Spirit of Galatians 5 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). God’s people need to live with honesty, with integrity, and purity. God’s people need to speak with words edify and honor God. We need to be positive examples of our Christ by not only our words, but by our behavior and actions!
God wants our friendships to be different. Joshua warned Israel (23:7): “Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them.” Paul told Corinth (1 Corinthians 5:11): “you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.” When you play with pigs, expect to get dirty. So don’t play with the world. Stay clean, sanctified, and walking close the Lord!
God wants our amusements to be different. Pastor Lee Toms once observed that in the 1950s Christians said it was wrong to go to movies when they were mostly good but now, we say going to movies is all right and so many movies are horrible. Separation means we are careful of what we see, what we do, where we go, and to what we listen. Our hobbies, our music, our books, our magazines, and so much more should show people that we belong to Christ.
God wants our world-view to be different. The writer of Psalmist (115:1) proclaims: “Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory…” The world lives for power, possessions, and pleasure. They are self-centered, greedy, and intent on living for the moment. What gives Christian joy and happiness is quite different. We live for God, for His righteous, and for His Kingdom. We can’t pile huge debts on credit cards, buy fancy cars on time, or live beyond our means with houses and material goods. The world thinks only of this life so they worry to preserve the here and now. That is why fear and anxiety is so prevalent today. The world is selfish, proud, egotistical, and often narcissistic. Christians should be selfless, humble, giving, and godly. We live in the sovereignty of God so our world-view is optimistic, joyful, serene, and eternal. Romans 12:2 says: “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind …”
God wants our values to be different. Jesus spoke of Christians this way: “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:16). The world thinks tolerance, appeasement, and compromise. What we believe and where we get our ethics is not up for discussion. Christians read the Bible, follow the Bible, and implicitly obey the Bible. Separated Christians will believe, think, vote, work, and live life in a very different way than the world. We “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). We are God’s witness to the world so we live according to our values. That is why Jesus told us in Matthew 5:16: “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
God wants our allegiance to be different. Hebrews 11:16 speaks of the heroes of faith this way: “Instead, they were longing for a better country— a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” I salute the American flag and I love my county. But I am first and foremost a Christian! But, this world is not our home. We are just passing through. Our treasures are in heaven. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God. 1 John 2:15 says: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Never forget that your ultimate loyalty is to God, your King.
A wealthy old woman was interviewing people for a job as her chauffeur. She asked each of them the same question: “How close can you drive a drive next to the side of a cliff?” One driver said: “One foot.” Another said “one inch.” Still another said: “a razor’s edge!” The woman was impressed with their driving skills.
But one man really impressed the woman the most. He said: “I’d never drive that close to the edge of a cliff! In fact, I’d stay as far away from the edge as I could!”
Guess who got the job? Yup, it was the last guy, the careful one, the wise one, the separated one, who got the job.
Folks, separated thinking will keep you close to Christ. That is the way real Christ-followers have to live! God want you to “be separate” from this world. You and I need to stay far from the world’s temptations. You can’t dabble and play with fire! You need to separate yourself from the things, people, and activities that would entangle and ensnare you. We need to live like true Christians in everything! Start today!
I love being your pastor!
Pastor Mark Platt