In this season of my life, I’ve been fostering a mild obsession with holiness. I know there’s nothing I can do to make myself holy (or holier) in the eyes of God – I’m just a sinner saved by grace, so He sees Christ’s holiness as it is credited to me rather than my sinful nature – but there are things I do (or abstain from) to remind myself I’m set apart as one of Elohim’s chosen people, such as eating Torah kosher.
We the redeemed are in fact “in the world, but not of it”, as Yeshua prayed in John 17, and most of us are probably familiar with that phrase. Unfortunately, I’ve heard it too often misquoted as a command or challenge, i.e. “we are to be in this world but not of it”.
That being said, though we are set apart by grace, we have been entrusted as stewards of our daily decisions and therefore are challenged to practice discernment and discretion. This is an oft-discussed/debated topic, and I think the important thing to grasp is the foundational purpose of discretion. I do understand that it’s important to be “above reproach” to an extent that we “don’t hurt our witness”, but we must be careful not to become legalistic. Yeshua Himself was regarded as a glutton and a drunkard on account of the company he kept, yet He was sinless. At the end of the day, you’ve got to reach lost sinners where they are, but if you’re trying to share the Gospel with an alcoholic and you struggle(d) with that yourself, do not go to a bar with him. I hope you catch my drift; I could go on a tangent and discuss this much further, but I don’t know how much priority we should really be placing on this aspect of Christian behavioral discretion, as it’s not laid out in much detail in Scripture. When it is discussed, the focus is its effect on our “weaker” brothers and sisters and our own health.*
So, if holiness is not about behavior, nor behavior about holiness, what is this whole “set apart” thing about? What I have misunderstood for a long time is that we are not just set apart from the world. We are set apart in this world for a purpose. If your purpose as a Christian were to be altogether separate from the world, you would be dead. Our destiny and destination as children of Abraham is the Promised Land, the Father’s presence. Your location on earth is evidence of your purpose in the world. We, the redeemed who are still alive in our bodies on earth, are holy agents of the Gospel and love of God among the spiritually dead. We are promised in Matthew 16:18 that the gates of Hades will not overcome the church. This is another verse (and concept) often misinterpreted – probably much due to mistranslation and lack of understanding of the Hebrew concept of Sheol and its Greek equivalent, Hades [I will not get into that now…please do a word study of Hades (Sheol) and its differences from Hell (Gehenna)]. Very basically, I believe Hades as it is referred to here is little more than the concept of the land of the dead.
I’ve always thought and been taught that it’s saying satan and his forces will not overpower the efforts of the church. However, if you read it in proper context, it’s really saying the church can overpower death’s door! We, whom Messiah has made holy, can be victorious in the land of the dead!
And we really are living in the land of the spiritually dead. The world is ultimately and unanimously inherently dead, but we can be used to bring life to it through the message of Love.
Somebody shout or something – I’m ’bout to have some church up in my office!