The Wesleyan Methodist Church

also recognized and known as an Independent Methodist Christian Denomination or Church

  

 
 
 
Personal Separation

Introduction

What is the only way of Salvation and the only way that a person will go to heaven? Through Jesus Christ.

What constitutes a true Christian? Someone who has been "Born Again".

"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." - James 4:4

"Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you," - 2nd Corinthians 6:17

The Bible is NOT vague on the matter of separation from the world. God's children are commanded in the Bible to be SEPARATED from the world. In what way should we be separated from the world?

We are to be separated in our beliefs. The heathen have their own system of beliefs. As believers, we should meditate in the Bible day and night as David did in Psalm 1:2. We must not fall into the foolish sayings, beliefs, and inferior values of the godless world. Such statements as "Only the strong survive" or "You deserve a break today" or "If it feels good, do it!" surely are not based upon the Bible, but rather humanism. We all deserve to burn in hell, nothing better. We are to rely upon the Lord's strength and not our own. The Apostle Paul said he was strong when he was weak, because his weakness caused him to rely upon God more. We must obey the Bible, whether it feels good or not. We must constantly be on guard against adopting worldly quotes and reasoning into our mind. Since we have a tendency to repeat what we hear, we must analyze everything we hear using the Bible as our measuring stick. Carnal thinking is completely backwards from the Bible. As Christians, we need to seek the truth, asking God's Spirit to guide us.

We are to separated in our fellowship. Christians should have little dealings with homosexuals other than ministering the gospel to them. We should never be unkind or mean to anyone, rather we should always be loving and kind. The Bible commands us to be blameless and harmless as believers, not rendering evil for evil.

"That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;" - Philippians 2:15

We should be wise as serpents, and as harmless as doves. The Apostle Paul warns us about making friends with covetous and scornful people (1st Corinthians 5:11). We are not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers or heathen believers (2nd Corinthians 6:14). Christians should associate with other God-fearing believers who are living an upright life for Jesus. No Christian should ever become a Freemason, which is a Satanic organization. Christians must decline invitations to join non-Christian groups which will draw us away from the Lord and holy living. The church is the organization which Jesus founded, so let's support our local New Testament churches. No surrogate organization can replace the church. Jesus may have been a Friend of sinners, but He certainly was not a companion of those living in sin. Jesus ministered to the people and talked with them openly; whereas the religious Pharisees looked down upon them, refusing to even associate with them.

We are to be separated in our conversation. From listening to many professed Christians, you'd never know that they were a Christian. We have always been saddened in life when we hear a professed "Christian" take God's name in vain (or anyone for that matter).  We should be very careful what we say. God tells us to "season" our words with grace (i.e., look for opportunities to include God in our conversations). Sadly, many people look for opportunities to make sexual innuendos because their mind is continually in the gutter. This should not be the testimony of a child of God. If nothing else, keep your mouth shut.

We are to be separated from the world in marriage. If you marry an unsaved person, then you could have the devil for a father-in-law. God forbids us from marrying an unsaved person. We should also be careful about the type of person we marry, even if they do profess to be a Christian. Love may be blind, but marriage is a real eye-opener. We should be careful who we marry, making sure that we truly love that person. Would you be willingly to escort that person around in a wheel-chair for the rest of your life if their health fails? Only true love would answer "yes."

As a Christian, after the Gospel and other such fundamentals of the faith, there is perhaps no greater doctrine that we need to understand than the doctrine of Biblical Separation.

The doctrine of Separation vitally effects our lives. What we believe in this area affects what Church we attend, how we raise our children and such practical things as what clothing we wear, what music we listen to, what things we buy at the store and many other every day things.
We believe misunderstandings and even false teachings in this area of Biblical Separation have robbed many Christians of joy in their salvation that they could have experienced had they understood the truth in this all too critical area of their lives.

Personal Separation

Personal Separation is the area of Biblical separation that has the most practical impact on our lives as Christians. There are two arenas that we are commanded in scripture to practice Personal Separation in. One is in the area of separation from disobedient brethren, the other is in the area of separation from worldliness.

Personal Separation from disobedient brethren

2 Thessalonians 3:14-15
"And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother."

I Corinthians 5:9-11
"I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:

Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.

But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat."
 
Sometimes we have professing Christians in our churches who decide they don't like this or that portion of Scripture anymore. They decide to live in open blatant sinful rebellion against God, yet they want their church to still accept them.
The Scriptures will not allow us to make any such accommodations. Paul tells us "Do not associate with him". Yet we are always to be willing to reconcile with that person if they will repent of their ways and return to the path of truth. This type of separation is required not only on a corporate level as a church, but even on an individual level so that "that he may feel ashamed" and he may come back to the truth. Paul says to us regarding our treatment of a brother who is in open rebellion against God "With such a man do not even eat". That seems pretty harsh by our modern way of thinking, but it is so that he will feel ashamed and return to the truth of God.

Personal Separation from the world

1 John 2:15
"Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

This verse is one of the most common verses used to start this important topic of Personal Separation from the world. It is also one of the most misinterpreted and misapplied passages in all the Scriptures.
The key to understanding this verse is to how we understand the word 'world'. The word 'world' in this verse is a translation of the Greek word 'Kosmos'. In its most natural meaning this word was referring to the entire universe. We are told in John 3:16 that God loved the 'Kosmos' or 'world':

John 3:16
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

We are told in passages like I John 2:15, not to love the world (Kosmos) but in a passage like John 3:16 we are told that God loved the world (Kosmos). So what are we to make of this? We must never forget the most important rule of proper Scriptural interpretation. Scripture interprets Scripture. Many times we may not fully understand what is said in one passage, and another passage will then interpret and help us to understand it. Lets look at a few more passages of Scripture which will help us understand what is meant by 'world' in I John 2:15 and passages like it:

Romans 12:2
"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."

2 Peter 1:3-4
"According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."

1 Corinthians 3:3
"For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?"

According to these passages we are not to love "the pattern of this world". What is the "the pattern of this world"? It is "the corruption in the world caused by evil desires". Paul tells the Corinthians how they are acting worldly because they were doing the evil, corrupt things of the world like being jealous and fighting amongst themselves.

So in summary, to be worldly is to be sinful. Worldliness to sinfulness is like holiness to righteousness. The terms are for all intents and purposes synonymous. When the Bible tells us not to be worldly, it is telling us not to do the sinful deeds of the world. When the Bible tells us to be Holy, it is telling us to do the righteous deeds that God does. So you could say that worldliness is the flip side of holiness, and sinfulness is the flip side of righteousness.

So now that we understand what the "world" is in this sense lets look at some passages that deal with worldliness in this light:

James 1:27
"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." [the corruption in the world caused by evil desires]

James 4:4
"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God."

To be "a friend of the world" is to approve of or participate in those things the world does that are sinful in and of themselves. To be "polluted by the world" is to be overcome by its sinful desires and sinful ways.

Separation from legalism

In any discussion of Personal Separation we cannot avoid the topic of legalism in fundamentalist circles. It is interesting how many definitions that we have heard of this term. We agree that the original meaning of legalism is different than how we understand it today. But that is the nature of language, it changes and evolves as the years go by.

Edward Fisher, a theologian of the 17th century was the first to use this term. He defined it as "one who bringeth the Law into the case of Justification". This person in his estimation was a legalist. This was saying that someone was a legalist who believed works were a part of justification. Today though this word has taken on a different meaning. It now refers to someone who takes their personal application of Scripture and makes that the standard by which others must be judged. A legalist in today's terminology is one who comes to a standard, and then condemns anyone who does not agree with and live up to that standard.

Here is an instance of legalism. Let's take a man for sake of discussion. He has come to a new standard in his life that he will not drink any alcohol at all. Now there is nothing wrong with him taking that stance on a personal basis or for his family. He would be acting "legalistic" though, if he told his friend that for him as well, drinking at all in any amount is sin. So it is not legalistic to make standards for ourselves that we may not find specific Biblical command for, but it is legalistic when we take our personal standards on things which the Bible does not condemn and then make them the standard by which we judge other people.

Where did legalism come from? We believe it was unfortunately a bi-product of fundamentalism. In the fundamentalist movement, Christians rallied together to defend absolute truth. The wanted to defend things like the absolute truth that Jesus was God in the flesh and was born of a virgin. Some fundamentalists though, falsely reasoned that since the deity of Christ is not a disputable belief, nothing is disputable. This gave birth to the "once size fits all" mentality we now see in many churches today. Now Ministers were taking their opinions on social or entertainment issues and preaching them on the same level as the fundamentals of the faith.
In the next few sections we will discuss some tactics as well as legitimate questions sometimes raised by those fundamentalists with legalistic tendencies.

Separation from "Guilt by Association"

First we want to take on a few mentalities that we believe have caused much error in this area of personal separation. One of these is the "guilt by association" mentality found in many churches today.

Think of this in the realm of our judicial system. Would it be right to condemn a man's son to death because his father is a murderer? No, we give the father his just punishment and the son is judged based on his own actions. Would it be right to judge a Minister of the Gospel and seek to destroy him because he has undergone divorce as a consequence of actions, some known and some unknown to him, by his former wife? Is it right to judge anyone about anything on secondhand information? Christians need to answer! 
This is such a simple concept when we stand back and look at it, but so many, especially in fundamentalists circles fail to see this truth.

Likewise, just because something finds its origins in this sin-cursed world that does not make it wrong. Each thing must be judged on it own merits as to whether it violates God's law.
Cars, computers and the Internet are all examples of things that find their origins in this world. Cars can be used to transport people to their jobs or they can be used to run someone down and kill them. Computers can be used to make our lives easier and speed up routine processes. Computers can also be used to hack into banks and governments and do illegal actions. The Internet can be used to spread the Gospel of Christ, but it can also be used to spread the filth of pornography.
In the same way, a Hollywood Studio might put out a wonderful film filled with virtue and redeemable qualities, and the same studio a few months later puts out a film filled with pornographic imagery. We must judge each case on its own merits.

So now that we understand that being worldly means practicing those things the world does that are sinful in and of themselves and, that we cannot use "guilt by association" when looking at things, but we must judge each thing on its own merit. If we do this we are properly ready to discern what is right and what is wrong from a Biblical stand point.

Separation from "If it can be abused it must be wrong" attitude

Another mentality that has caused confusion and wrong thinking in the area of separation is the, "If it can be abused it must be wrong" mentality. We will give you an example: Many Christians today believe it is wrong to drink because some people are drunkards. They will say "drinking alcohol leads to drunkenness". The quick answer is that the Bible never forbids the drinking of alcohol, only the abuse of it (drunkenness). But, they do not stand back and look at their statement and see it for how ridiculous their statement really is. That would be like saying eating leads to gluttony and shooting a gun at the range leads to murder. Guns can be used to kill innocent people and that is called murder. Eating can be abused and, when it is it is called gluttony. In fact the Bible compares gluttony to drunkenness in Proverbs 23

Proverbs 23:19-21
"Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way. Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags."
 
So clearly, the "if it can be abused it must be wrong" mentality finds no support from the Scriptures.

Shouldn't we avoid all 'appearance of evil'?

The King James Version's rendering of 1 Thessalonians:5:22 has been the source of much confusion again in this area of separation:

1 Thessalonians:5:22
"Abstain from all appearance of evil."

In 1611, people understood what the KJV translators meant by "appearance". You can tell what they meant by "appearance" from how they translated that same Greek word 'eidos' in these passages along with the one you stated:

Luke 3:22
"And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape [eidos] like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased."

Luke 9:29
"And as he prayed, the fashion [eidos] of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering."

John 5:37                                                                                                        "And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape [eidos]."

2 Corinthians 5:7
For we walk by faith, not by sight [eidos]

1 Thessalonians:5:22
"Abstain from all appearance [eidos] of evil."

Even from other translations of the Greek word eidos in the King James Version itself we can see that it does not mean "appearance" in the sense that even if it could appear to be evil then avoid it. The Scriptures are telling us here to avoid the actual presence of evil in whatever form it may take.  So yes, we should "avoid every kind of evil". We agree on that completely.

Separation from "What about if it has a hint of sin" attitude

Ephesians 5:3                                                                                                  "But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;"

What is a 'hint' of evil? We think those that use this expression mean that it would be like a drop. That's not much. But is this verse saying that if anything we are watching, reading buying or participating in has a hint of evil in that we are not to be involved with it? Or is it saying that there is not to be "among you" or among us even a hint of evil? Or are these the same thing?

What Paul is saying here is that we are to search ourselves and that there should we should not find one 'hint' of these things in ourselves. If we do we should ask God for forgiveness and strive to remove these things (through his power) from our lives. It is not saying that if we pick up the Newspaper and there is an ad in there that is evil then we must throw out the Newspaper.

We want to clarify something here. We are not saying that we can watch anything as long as we do not exhibit those qualities. For surely what a man fills his mind with that is what he will eventually become. But if we are reading something or watching something and there happens to be a scene or some (and some is a relative term here) language we disagree with, that does not make that item unredeemable. But we must be careful, and there is no exact science in this area. This is where Biblical discernment must take place and we will all draw lines a little differently.
 
But there are other things, that no matter what the situation they are wrong. An example of this would be stealing. Whether we are stealing to feed our starving family or we are stealing to make a profit, it is still wrong, no matter what the situation.

Separation from those who won't accept" personal preferences".

Does the Bible leave room for personal preferences on anything? I don't think anyone could come away from Romans chapter 14 and think otherwise. Paul says "5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. "(Rom 14:5). So apparently Paul acknowledged that there would be different standards among believers on some disputable issues.

Romans 14 is all but ignored by most legalists today. Most attempt either to explain it way with saying the one who ate meat is symbolic of the Christian who understands that he needs to be stricter in his life. The one who ate only vegetables did not understand that and had less rules. But this is clearly not what the passage was saying. It clearly is saying that the one who understands he can eat meat that once he could not, is the stronger Christian. The one who eats only vegetables does not believe he has the freedom to do so.

We have recently heard one legalist say Romans 14 only applied to the dietary laws and Jewish Holy days not being required anymore. There can be no broader application than that. Its incredible what they will come up with to dismiss this critically important passage of scripture.
In this area of disputable matters we offer these passages to ponder on:

Romans 14:23
"And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin."
 
If you are reading something or watching something or listening to a program and you are not doing it in faith that is right, or you have doubts about it then do not do it. But do not take you doubts and make those law for all Christians, this is where legalism comes into play.

Separation unto a proper application of "honoring God"

"Does it honor God?" This is something important that we must ask ourselves about anything we do. Most people are intimidated by this question because they think the only things that honor God are going to Church, reading their Bibles, praying and evangelism. But other things honor God, like taking care of our families.
When we sit down with our children and play with them on the computer play station are we honoring God? One issue is that we should spend time with our children. The other is that the activity of playing play station does not dishonor God. Many times we can more easily determine if something honors God by determining if it dishonors God. Could playing play station dishonor God? Certainly if we were playing a game filled with vulgarity or if that was how we spend all our time.
Going to a movie( that is not filled with filth) or going to a baseball game with a Christian brother honors God because we are fellowshipping together. If that is all we did, then those activities might become a dishonor to God. If we did those at the expense of other responsibilities we should have taken care of first then it would dishonor God.
So how do we know that what we are doing honors God? Is the activity you are engaging in sinful? Even if it is not sinful by itself, have you neglected other things you should have done to do this thing?

Separation unto a proper application of "not offending our brother"

This is something we must also consider in the area of personal separation. Even if we are clear in our conscience before God, we must be considerate of our brothers and sisters in Christ who may have a stricter standard in this area.
Some legalists use this as a last ditch effort if all other arguments fail. If they cannot prove something wrong in and of itself, they will say if another brother is "offended" by it then we should not ever do it. The most common verse they use to support their belief in this area is found in 1 Corinthians 8:

1 Corinthians 8:13                                                                                   "Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend."

So was Paul saying he never ate meat again? Of course not. And if he meant it the way they interpret it then why did he write in Romans 14 these words:

Romans 14:6                                                                                                     "He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks."

Apparently Paul had no trouble here with one believer eating meat and the other abstaining. So what is Paul trying to communicate? It is that we should not do things directly in front of our brother that we know will offend him. It is not saying that we should never do those things even when we are away from him because he does not believe they are right for him to do.
 
Separation from some problems within Fundamentalism

The fundamentalist movement, although contending for fundamentals faith, was not without it's problems. Almost from the very beginnings of the movement some attitudes formed which were not Biblically based. Often in Church history heresy results from good Christian men with good intentions. In their zeal to fight against the modernists a mentality arose among many fundamentalists that was anti-science and anti-liberal arts. Creative writing, Artistry and Science began to be discouraged in many (not all) fundamental circles.
Attitudes of arrogance formed with fundamentalism within its early years. Also because fundamentalism was a movement about absolute truths such as the inerrancy of scriptures and salvation through Christ alone a "once size fits all" mentality arose amongst fundamentalists.

Separation from the Rise of the "Pharisaic system"

Charles Spurgeon, the great Baptist Minister, smoked a cigar on daily for basis for much of his life. He never "repented" of this because he did not feel it was sinful. In 1874 (during the birth of modern fundamentalism) a guest speaker in his pulpit spoke of how he "took his cigar-box before the Lord" and the Lord helped him overcome the sin of smoking.
Charles Spurgeon immediately stood up and said ""Well, dear friends, you know that some men can do to the glory of God what to other men would be sin. And notwithstanding what brother Pentecost has said, I intend to smoke a good cigar to the glory of God before I go to bed to-night. "If anybody can show me in the Bible the command, 'Thou shalt not smoke,' I am ready to keep it; but I haven't found it yet. I find ten commandments, and it's as much as I can do to keep them; and I've no desire to make them into eleven or twelve.

The incident with Charles Spurgeon was published in Christian magazines and news papers. Responding to the uproar Spurgeon wrote in a letter:

"I demur altogether and most positively to the statement that to smoke tobacco is in itself a sin. It may become so, as any other indifferent action may, but as an action it is no sin. Together with hundreds of thousands of my fellow-Christians I have smoked, and, with them, I am under the condemnation of living in habitual sin, if certain accusers are to be believed. As I would not knowingly live even in the smallest violation of the law of God, and sin in the transgression of the law, I will not own to sin when I am not conscious of it. There is growing up in society a Pharisaic system which adds to the commands of God the precepts of men; to that system I will not yield for an hour. The preservation of my liberty may bring upon me the up-braidings of many good men, and the sneers of the self-righteous; but I shall endure both with serenity so long as I feel clear in my conscience before God. The expression "smoking to the glory of God" standing alone has an ill sound, and I do not justify it; but in the sense in which I employed it I still stand to it. No Christian should do anything in which he cannot glorify God; and this may be done, according to Scripture, in eating and drinking and the common actions of life."

The reason that we bring up Charles Spurgeon's smoking incident is to illustrate a point that he may not even have realized at the time. Many times we as Christians take our personal battles and try to make them other peoples battles. Lets take one statement of Spurgeons for an example - "I demur altogether and most positively to the statement that to smoke tobacco is in itself a sin. It may become so, as any other indifferent action may, but as an action it is no sin."

Are we condoning smoking and saying that it is alright to smoke? Absolutely not! We say all this to make this point - anything can become sin. Some things are not sin in and of themselves ,but they can become sin when abused.
We do not condone smoking at all because of being Holiness people and we say that we don't like it because God breathed into man and man became a living soul, but we will not say smoking is a sin. It is however a filthy habit and common sense and the medical profession tell us that we shouldn't smoke. So, smoking can become a bondage - if you smoke too much? We say, that it can affect your health and because of smoking you may die prematurely.

If we say smoking is a sin, then along the same logic we have to say eating red meat is a sin. Why? Because if you eat too much it will eventually clog your arteries and cause a heart attack. But how much red meat is too much? It depends on your genes.
We do realize at this point many Christians (including fundamentalists) will say the logic above could be used to justify just about anything. On this basis, drugs could be legalized. This is not what we are saying at all.

There are certain times when the abuses of a small minority affect society as a whole and those issues must be addressed. So, we are not going to get into the drugs issue here, but there is a difference between drugs, smoking cigars and cigarettes and eating red meat and we are not going to get into that huge topic here.

Another thing we would like to point out, is that the rise of this new "Pharisaic system" as Spurgeon put it, was really just a revival of earlier Christian asceticism (an abstinent life, renunciation of pleasure). The other thing Spurgeon did not realize, is that he himself was part of this system as he preached against going to the shows and other amusements. We admire Spurgeon a lot as we do many in the the Baptist denominations, and as Pentecostals we understand that it is difficult many times to see our own inconsistencies, but Spurgeon was really on to something here with the "Pharisaic system", if only he would have looked into it a little deeper.

Therefore, in regards to separation unto personal holiness and righteousness

Under guidance from the study of God's Word, the Holy Spirit's inner witness with your human conscience and the proper doctrine of faith and practice taught by the ministry in your church, you will know the truth and the truth shall set you free. That liberty and freedom is not an occasion for the flesh to do what it likes and expect God's grace and mercy to pick up the tab. It is an opportunity for each one of us to grow in the knowledge of Him unto a perfect man, conformed to the image of Christ, walking in humility, purity, transparency and righteousness. Exhibiting glory, power, life and the light of His person.



 

 

 

 
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