Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father's house.… (Genesis 12:1)
These were the first words that God spoke to Abraham, the father of His chosen people.
In the Old Testament, God made a covenant with His people, choosing them from among the nations to be a people for Himself. He blessed and guided them, loving them exclusively (Deut 7:6-7). He expected them to set themselves apart from the other nations, forbidding them to marry or have relations with outsiders. They belonged to God and were to serve Him wholeheartedly.
In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus established a covenant with His disciples through His blood, such that whoever comes to God through Jesus Christ will be saved (Heb 7:25). He intercedes for those who are His; and yet He does not pray for the world (Jn 17:9), for His people are not of the world (Jn 17:14-16). The Lord desires that His people be filled with joy and live holy lives. Though they live in this world, they are purified and considered holy through the truth.
While Abraham was in Haran, God commanded him to leave his country and his people, and He would bless him. Abraham obeyed the word of God and left Haran (Acts 7:4). From that point on, God's guidance and blessings never left him. God considered Abraham His friend (Is 41:8), establishing the covenant of circumcision with him and blessing his descendants abundantly. God separated them from all peoples on the earth to be His children.
While His people were suffering in Egypt, God commanded Moses to bring Israel-His firstborn son-out of Egypt so that they might serve Him (Ex 4:22-23). To "serve" and to "leave" have a direct relation with each other; only after the Israelites left Egypt would they be able to serve God.
After His people left Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, and journeyed to the wilderness of Sinai, God called to Moses from the mountain, saying,
...if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Ex 19:5)
He also established the Ten Commandments: laws by which His people were to abide, separating themselves as God's people from the nations of the earth.
Forty years after their deliverance from Egypt, the Israelites arrived at the plains of Moab, east of the Jordan River. The Moabites were petrified and asked Balaam to curse the Israelites. Instead, God conveyed this message to the king of Moab through Balaam:
How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced? For from the top of the rocks I see him, And from the hills I behold him; There! A people dwelling alone, Not reckoning itself among the nations. (Num 23:8-9)
From the history of the chosen people, it is clear that God desired His people to be a blessed and holy nation. The messages of prophets, the departing words of the Lord, and the epistles of the disciples all express the same desire of the Lord: Leave! Separate yourselves from them!
Yet we see that throughout history, the chosen ones did not separate themselves from the world. When the Israelites asked Samuel for a king, they simply wanted to be "like all the nations" (1 Sam 8:5). They imitated the world in its ways, wanting to be "ruled by man" instead of by God, who was supposed to be their king (1 Sam 12:12).
What about us?
Broken marriages, infidelity, sexual promiscuity, repulsive attire, godless conversations, money-driven lives, substance abuse-these have become society's norms. So many people are doing it. What about me?
Television and other media have replaced God's words as the guide to people's attitudes toward life and morality. Worldly ideals silently exert a subtle, but powerful, influence on the children of God, gradually leading them into a world where separation no longer exists.
As children of God, it is important for us to set ourselves apart (2 Cor 6:17-18). But our ability to do this is often tested by colleagues, associates, politicians, and celebrities whose fashionable but ultimately vain lives present a false reality. Some of us have become skeptical and ask, "Why be different from the rest?"
The Lord Jesus said that His disciples were not of the world, just as He was not of the world. He sanctified himself for the sake of His disciples (Jn 17:16-19). How, then, can we claim to be the Lord's disciples if we do not persevere for Him? Friendship with the world is enmity with God (Jas 4:4). The elect of God simply cannot compromise their values to fit worldly trends. If a person loves the world and covets the things of the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 Jn 2:15).
Society is increasingly tolerant of sin; so much so that in upholding the absolute truth and keeping the word of the Lord, one is often perceived as narrow-minded and arrogant.
They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Pet 4:4-5)
Some believers today may wonder why the church does not unite with other Christian denominations. The unwillingness to compromise the truth is interpreted as arrogance. However, the more pertinent question is, how can the truth tolerate falsehood? How can differing faiths unite without the truth being compromised? Amid society's wave of "tolerance," will the church remain firm in its stance without conceding to or complying with worldly trends?
The world continues to change. Regardless of the outcome, it is increasingly important for us to preserve the Lord's way. Our life of faith must resist the drift away from the truth.
This, then, is the will of God: to separate ourselves from the world, to be a people dwelling alone, to embrace a truth-based value system, to set our minds on the spiritual things above, and to conduct ourselves in holiness and purity. We are to become a holy nation, a royal priesthood, and a people belonging to God (1 Pet 2:9).