WHAT IS A DISCIPLE? – Separation
In my last blog we discussed that a disciple is someone who seeks to continuously be in the presence of God, a person who wants to develop and grow in their relationship with their Heavenly Father. Of course the first thoughts that come to mind are setting aside time each day to read Scripture and pray, but if we are not careful, these can become just habits. No different than reading a novel and one-sided communication with God, where we speak to God but don’t take the time to be quiet and listen. Believe me, prayer and reading Scripture can be good disciplines, and I’m not saying there is no benefit; but for them to truly help you grow in your faith in Christ and your relationship with your Heavenly Father, these actions have to become stepping stones through the process called sanctification.
What is sanctification? First of all, it is never-ending process. Like you, I have heard the word “sanctified”, which leads one to believe there is an ending place, an “arrival point.” But no one ever arrives. If this is the path as a Christian we choose, we are always growing, always moving deeper into the spiritual realm of a vital, living, growing relationship with the Father. In our microwave culture, we want to push start, get it cooked, eat it, and move on to the next process. But with sanctification, there is only continued growth until we arrive at the pearly gates. The Greek for sanctification is hagiosmos, and it means to be set apart for God and His purpose in your life.
Sanctification is the process by which we move toward holiness in our life. Not holier-than-thou holiness, where we become judges of others, but a humble form of holiness, where we realize that without Christ we can do nothing (yet through Christ we can do all things). By growing in holiness. we realize the truth of our power, or lack of it, and the awesome power of the Holy Spirit when we bow before God in humility. Through sanctification we move from working for God to wanting more and more for God to work through us. As I have grown in my faith and thus in the process of sanctification, I have realized that I have less and less with which o bargain… I used to come to God and try to make a deal: God, if you will do this, then I will do that. In perspective now, I see how ignorant I was. I realize now that the only assets I have to offer are praise and thanksgiving. But that’s fine with me, because it is fantastic to just sit back and rest in His grace, mercy, and love and to just receive His abundance, while giving God all the praise and glory and honor.
Thus, as sanctification helps us to move toward holiness, it helps us to develop deeper lines of communication between God and ourselves. We must remember that our Heavenly Father is a holy God. He cannot look upon sin. That is why Jesus upon the cross cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” This was the only time in all the Gospels that Jesus referred to His Heavenly Father as God, because at that time God was pouring out all the quilt of sin from the time of Adam to the end of time on Jesus. On the cross, Jesus became sin for us. God had to turn His back on His Son because as a holy God He can not look upon sin. Even as brand new believers, we can pray to God through the name of Jesus, but as we grow in holiness through sanctification, our relationship with both the Father and the Son becomes much more intimate.
I didn’t always understand sanctification. What it was really all about eluded me. But after reading The Power of the Blood of Jesus, a book by Andrew Murray (one of my favorite theologians) , I began to catch the concept much better. In this book, Murray talks about the power of Jesus’ blood in the process of sanctification. He says that sanctification occurs in three stages: 1) separation, 2) consecration, and 3) participation. What surprised me is that God has power over only the first stage, separation, and that we have control over the other two stages. The remainder of this blog will focus on “separation.”
“Separation” is imperative in both the Old and New Testaments. Noah was separated out to build the ark. Abraham was separated out from his family and his land to go to a land that God would show him. God made a covenant with Abraham and sustained it through Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve patriarchs. God separated the Hebrew people and called them to be a people unto Himself. God separated Moses to lead the Hebrews out of the land of Egypt. God separated Aaron and his sons to be priests, the Levites to care for the tabernacle and the holy articles. God separated Joshua to follow Moses and lead the people into the promise land. After Joshua’s death, God separated people to be judges over the land. When the people demanded a king, God separated out Saul and then David. God separated out Elijah, Elisha, Hosea, Isaiah, and Jeremiah to be prophets. (There was a lot of separating going on!) The point is that when God has a certain work to be done. He separates a person or a people unto Himself to do that work.
In the Old Testament. the people God separated unto Himself to be His witnesses to the world were the Children of Abraham. He separated them out to be a nation of priests, a light for God to the world around them. Unfortunately, they (much like the church of today) preferred to blend into the world than be separated unto God.
In the New Testament God separated Mary to be the mother of Jesus and Joseph to be His earthly father. Elizabeth and Zacharias were separated out to be the parents of John the Baptist. We probably don’t think about it in this way, but God the Father separated Jesus to be the Savior, the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world. And guess what – God has separated you and me out to follow Jesus. Separation is God’s call on our life. Separation is the first step toward our sanctification and the first step toward our salvation. I love how Charles Spurgeon puts it – he believes in predestination, in that we are ALL predestined to be called by God. But the answer to that call is up to us.
The problem with separation is that it means exactly what it means. We are called to be separated unto God and separated from the world. What makes an Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Elisha, Mary, and Joseph different is that they accepted the call of God for their life. Each of them was willing to be different and separated from the people of the world around them.
Jesus Himself is one of the best examples of sanctification. We see it in His baptism. Matthew 3:13 says, “Then Jesus came from Galilee to John to be baptized by him.” There is a lot of theology behind baptism which is not necessary to go into with this blog. Suffice it to say that baptism is a sign of separation, a sign of submission, a sign of a calling beyond oneself. Johns baptism was a baptism of repentance, a change of mind/thinking. Don’t get this wrong -Jesus did not come to repent. He was sinless. Jesus came as an act of submission! But through repentance, the people from Judah and the people from Galilee who came to be baptized by John answered God’s call to separate themselves from the sins of their nation. Jesus’ coming was in answer to God’s call to fulfill the plan of the worlds salvation.
We’re back to that key word: separation. To be separated from the world and separated unto God the Father for His work and to do His will. The church of today wants to blend in with the world and try to bend God into doing their work according to their will. True disciples welcome separation from the world, because they know this is the only way to seek His face and to be in His presence.
In Christ –
Next blog we will talk about step #2, consecration. Until them be sure and pray Psalm 91 in the first person daily. And if you want to be even more empowered, pray Psalms 23, 27, and 121 as well.