Come Out from Among Them

So far, I’ve made two points that should be beyond dispute. Satan rules over the unregenerate, and he is working to destroy us. So what does that mean? Should we head for the hills? How do we interact with the world?

One thing we can’t do is take it as it comes. We cannot view the Satanically created world system as good or neutral. We cannot simply accept it. We must test everything and cling to that which is good.

We can only embrace elements of the culture insofar as they reflect the image of God. You’ve heard the saying that even a broken clock is right twice a day. We must not get used to depending on that clock to tell time, but we must not assume that it’s automatically wrong – or the two times a day that it’s right, we’ll be wrong. RC Sproul Jr explains that just because the pagans walk on their feet doesn’t mean we have to walk on our hands.

What do we do with this world that is ruled by darkness? The Bible gives us two answers that seem contradictory at first glance, until we realize that they are in fact the same.

2 Corinthians 6:17-18 gives us one answer

17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

I’ve looked at a variety of commentaries, and the consensus seems to be that the Bible calls to be separate in terms of relationships and lifestyles.

For instance, John Gill says these verses are “an exhortation to believers in general, to forsake the company and conversation of the men of the world” and “The people of God are a separate people in election, redemption, and the effectual calling, and ought to be so in their conduct and conversation; they ought to separate themselves from all superstition and will worship in religious matters, and from the evil customs and manners of the world, though they are sure to become a prey, and to expose themselves to the contempt and rage of it”, and this is “intended in general, to forbid all communion and fellowship with unclean persons and things, not to touch them, to come nigh them, or have anything to do with them”.

Also see the commentaries by John Darby and Matthew Henry on this passage.

Charles Spurgeon said

If you are of the world, no doubt the world will love its own; but you cannot save the world. If you are dark, and belong to the kingdom of darkness, you cannot remove the darkness. If you march with the armies of the wicked one, you cannot defeat them. I believe that one reason why the Church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the Church. Nowadays, we hear Nonconformists pleading that they may do this, and they may do that,—things which their Puritan forefathers would rather have died at the stake than have tolerated. They plead that they may live like worldlings, and my sad answer to them, when they crave for this liberty, is, “Do it if you dare. It may not do you much hurt, for you are so bad already. Your cravings show how rotten your hearts are. If you have a hungering after such dog’s meat, go, dogs, and eat the garbage! Worldly amusements are fit food for mere pretenders and hypocrites. If you were God’s children, you would loathe the very thought of the world’s evil joys, and your question would not be, ‘How far may we be like the world?’ but your one cry would be, ‘How far can we get away from the world? How much can we come out from it?’ Your temptation would be rather to become sternly severe, and ultra-Puritanical in your separation from sin, in such a time as this, than to ask, ‘How can I make myself like other men, and act as they do?”‘

Come, ye children of God, you must stand with your Lord outside the camp. Jesus calls you to-day, and says, “Follow Me.” Was Jesus found at the theatre? Did He frequent the sports of the race-course? Was Jesus seen, think you, in any of the amusements of the Herodian court? Not He. He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.” In one sense, no one mixed with sinners so completely as He did when, like a physician, He went among them healing His patients; but, in another sense, there was a gulf fixed between the men of the world and the Saviour, which He never essayed to cross, and which they could not cross to defile Him.

And if that were all the Bible had to say, then it would be simple enough. We’d just move to communes and close the gates. We could go hide, keep ourselves pure, then we die or Jesus comes back.

That’s clearly not a Biblical position. The world is our enemy, but it’s also our mission field. As Spurgeon said, “We are not called to leave our daily business, or to quit our families. That might be rather running away from the fishery than working at it in God’s name but we are called most distinctly to come out from among the ungodly, and to be separate, and not to touch the unclean thing.”

So we have these two principles. We are supposed to come out and be separate, limiting our relationships with the ungodly, living very different lives; but we are also supposed to be making disciples of all nations.

But before we discover how to make disciples of all nations, we ought to talk about what that means. What are we doing here? Are we simply killing time and trying to win converts? Waiting to die?

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John Piper on Legalism

I saw this quote from John Piper about legalism and thought I’d share it.

[L]egalism will be present wherever a person is trying to be ethical in his own strength, that is, without relying on the merciful help of God in Christ. Simply put, moral behavior that is not from faith is legalism. The legalist is always a very moral person. In fact the majority of moral people are legalists because their so-called Judeo-Christian morality inherited from their forefathers does not grow out of a humble, contrite reliance on the merciful enabling of God.

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There is a Devil

The first thing I realized (should I say remembered) has to do with the unregenerate and with Satan. Or maybe you could look at it in terms of spiritual warfare. The seed of the woman is at war with the seed of the serpent.

The nature of a Christian is fundamentally different than the nature of a non-Christian. We are salt, they are decay. We are light, they are darkness. We are life, they are death. We are children of God, they are the children of Satan. We are saints, they are sinners. We are sheep, they are goats. We are holy, they are vile. We are vessels for honor, they are vessels for common use and destined for destruction. We are servants of God and friends of Christ, they are children and slaves of Satan. We have passed from death to life, they have not. We have been delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of the Son, but they remain in the power of darkness.

To be even more explicit, the unregenerate are controlled by Satan. He is the prince of the powers of the air, the prince of this world. He keeps the unregenerate as slaves to do his will. They are hostile to God, and remain in that state unless and until God graciously intervenes.

This is a point that Arminians and Calvinists alike agree on. Only heretical Pelagianism suggests that there is no real difference between the saved and the lost, and that a man can obey God aside from God’s grace.

Before we go too far, we have to remember that even the reprobate are made in the image of God, and that God gives some measure of common grace to all. He actively restrains sin, even in the unsaved, through common grace. He allows the image of God to shine through even in the unregenerate.

Fundamentally, though, we produce fruit according to our nature. The unregenerate will produce wicked fruit, due to a wicked nature, although that fruit won’t be absolutely as wicked as it could be. Some of it, through God’s common grace, will be good. But at the core, it is bad.

The fact that the unregenerate have fundamentally corrupt natures is bad enough, but it gets worse. There is a devil. Satan exists, and he rules over the unregenerate. He is their father, their king, their captor. They do his will.

Genesis 3:1 tells us “the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field”. Satan is crafty. His schemes are not at all obvious to us.

And Satan hates us. He is a roaring lion who wishes to devour us. He is a wolf that would love to dine on a sheep. He is the anti-Christ – against Christ. He is a dragon that makes war against us. He is our enemy.

So, to summarize: Satan wants to destroy us. He is deceptive, devious and subtle. And he rules over all non-Christians.

What should that tell us about the individual and collective acts of non-Christians? The institutions, philosophies, and cultures produced by them? It means they are satanic, corrupt, wicked, in rebellion against God, and calculated to seduce and destroy the saints.

There are occasional books and movies that pit the hero against a worldwide, powerful, multigenerational conspiracy. Sometimes it’s the Knights Templar and the Freemasons, or maybe it’s the Illuminati, or whatever. It makes for an interesting story.

We Christians are faced with a real conspiracy. Satan is seeking to devour and destroy us. He has been at work for thousands of years, and commands an army of billions. His conspiracy includes powers, principalities, and the rulers of darkness of this world. The goal is to dishonor Christ by destroying us. It’s foolish not to realize that the enemy of God, the serpent, will attack us both openly and covertly.

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Going Back to the Start

I wrote previously about losing my religion, so now I’ll talk about the road that I’m on and where it seems to be leading. When you find yourself headed the wrong direction, you generally ought to turn around and backtrack until you can find the wrong turn. This is what I’m attempting to do.

I haven’t completely made the jump from “yuppie dispensationalist” to “reformed agrarian” so to speak. And honestly (nothing like absolute transparency with a bunch of relative strangers, is there?) I still have doubts about where I’m going and if it’s the right place. Who knows if I’ll wind up as a grouchy fundamentalist, a reformed agrarian, a yuppie dispensationalist, a squishy evangelical, or even a postmodernist. But for now, anyway, this is the way I’m headed.

Doug Wilson uses an illustration originally from Francis Schaeffer to illustrate how otherwise small differences have large impacts:

High in the Rocky Mountains you can find the continental divide and look at a spot of snow straddling that divide. And there, six inches apart (which is not far at all), you can see snow which will eventually find itself in the Gulf of Mexico, and just a few inches away, there is snow that will wind up in the Pacific Ocean. The six-inch spread there is far more significant than a six-inch spread just a few feet away.

When I discuss individual issues with most evangelicals, it often seems that one of us must be crazy. We just seem to be so far apart, and talk right past each other. It’s not just that we disagree; we don’t even understand each other sometimes.

Maybe I’m just a theology nerd, but I think the differences are ultimately theological ones. Major doctrines impact other doctrines, and affect your behavior in significant ways. So if I can outline how my understanding has changed on some of these major doctrines, maybe it will help.

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Blog is Mostly Back Up

I’m mostly back up. Still need to fix a few things such as my blogroll and the stylesheet, but this will do for now.

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Blog Down For A While

This blog will be down for a few days. I am moving to Word Press and cleaning up some old stuff. I certainly won’t be posting until I am done, and the whole site will probably be up and down during that time.

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Book Review: Heiland

Heiland, by Franklin Sanders. 276 pages. Available through Draught Horse Press for $10.

Heiland is the German word for “savior”. It’s also the surname of the protagonist in this story. The book is set in Tennessee in the year 2020. When Franklin Sanders wrote this in 1986, 2020 probably seemed as far in the future as 1984 did to Orwell.

The story itself is not particularly good. The plot largely serves as an opportunity for the author to trace out some political and cultural themes, to describe what an explicitly Christian agrarian society might look like, and to present a few short essays – disguised as monologues – on politics, economics, the intersection of faith and politics, etc.

Sanders describes a future in which America (or at least Tennessee; little is said about the other states) is divided into the wicked urban Insiders and the godly, rural Freemen. We learn that the population has shrunk vastly among the Insiders, due to government-subsidized aggressive abortion and euthanasia policies. We see a Big Brother-like government that actively tracks its citizens, using microchips embedded in their right hands. The borders of cities are sealed – ostensibly to control drug trafficking – and only approved travel is permitted. The federal government has expanded to the point that state legislatures have been relegated to an advisory capacity only.

The Freemen, on the other hand, live mostly simple agrarian lives. The average family size among Freemen is seven. They are free, mostly choosing agrarian pursuits and cottage industries. They live not so much in rebellion against the government, but simply ignore it in general. Not all rural and small town dwellers are Freemen, but their seems to be either a majority or a sizable minority in each county, enough to ensure that they are mostly left alone.

The story winds its way through Tennessee fifteen years hence, enough to show us the horrors of Insider society and give a reasonably good look at Freemen society. It shows how the Freemen government works, describes the church a little, goes into some detail about the militia-style military system, other economic tidbits, and general Freemen culture. We also get a reasonably good look at Insider culture, replete with superfluous atrocities and caricaturized villains. The story reaches its climax as the Insiders attack the Freemen to bring them into “voluntary compliance” with the tracking, identification, and tax requirements of the government.

The strengths of this book include a fairly comprehensive overview of both Freemen and Insider culture. Sanders mentions enough specifically, and alludes to enough, to show us where our secular culture might be heading and what a more godly culture might look like. He does a good job demonstrating some degree of continuity between the Freemen and our past, quoting politicians and theologians from the time of the American Revolution and the US Civil War.

As far as weaknesses go, I’ve already mentioned a fairly weak story line. He also does too much hand waving and chalking up problems to sci-fi technical wizardry, such as anti-gravity machines and weapons that can create gigantic fireballs or suck the heat out of an area. I think the book would have been better without some of the monologues, without so much political and military detail, and with more description of Heiland’s day-to-day life and the society he lived in. The final showdown between the Insiders and Freemen could have been written on a smaller scale and without the technological wizardry.

It is a quick read, and I think a worthwhile purchase at only 10 Federal Reserve Notes. This is not a book for children. It is perhaps over the top, and implausible. But if nothing else, Heiland at least will help make you aware of dangerous trends within our society, where they might lead, and what a godly culture might look like.

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My Wife is So Dumb

My wife is _so_ dumb that she’s been married to me for eight years now. I always figured she was smarter than that. Glad she’s not! I guess it just goes to show you that there _is_ a difference between “book smart” and “common sense”.

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Happy Fathers Day

James Dobson describes the straight life for men:

“The straight life for a working man is not much simpler. It is pulling your tired frame out of bed, five days a week, fifty weeks out of the year. It is earning a two-week vacation in August, and choosing a trip that will please the kids. The straight life is spending your money wisely when you’d rather indulge yourself in a new whatever; it is taking your son bike riding on Saturday when you want so badly to watch the baseball game; it is cleaning out the garage on your day off after working sixty hours the prior week. The straight life is coping with head colds and engine tune-ups and crab grass and income-tax forms; it is taking your family to church on Sunday when you’ve heard every idea the minister has to offer; it is giving a portion of your income to God’s work when you already wonder how ends will meet. The straight life for the ordinary, garden-variety husband and father is everything I have listed and more…much more.

Happy Father’s Day!

Update

I should have taken more time when I posted this, based on the comments I’ve received. I don’t think Dr. Dobson is _complaining_, and I certainly am not. Instead, he is calling men to live this straight life of self sacrifice and obedience to God.

This “straight life” is not tedious or burdensome. It’s _glorious_. It’s strong, sacrificial, and _manly_. This is what we are called to!

Ephesians 5 says that the relationship between a husband and wife is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church. The relationship between a father and his children is an obvious picture of the relationship between _the_ Father and His children.

God’s relationship to us is marked by His self-sacrifice. Jesus laid down His life for us. This speaks to the way He _lived_ as well as His death. We are called to die daily for one another, and the obligation to our families is clearly first on the list.

God is glorified by sacrificing Himself for us. Self sacrifice is love. God is love. God’s dealings with us are marked by this self-sacrifice. And He is supremely glorified in it.

Similarly, men – as pictures of God the Father, and of Jesus – are called to lives of self-sacrifice. Not just a glorious “I’d die for you” mentality, but a _daily_ sacrifice. A _living_ sacrifice. God calls us to serve Him by serving our families. And it is glorious for us.

It is glorious to shoulder the burdens of protection and provision. It’s glorious to make sacrifices even with our leisure time. It’s glorious to give up our desires for our families. It’s glorious to take our families to church when we don’t feel like it. This is what God called us to.

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Examining a Few Practices

After two back-to-back posts with comments turned off, I thought I would have a more open topic to discuss.

I recently disparaged the idea of running a church as a business. I don’t want to get into that, but I do think it would be interesting to discuss some of the formal and informal practices of our church. Just four topics, and none of them have anything to do with music.

1. Do you take notes over the sermon? Why? What, if anything, do you think this demonstrates about your understanding of what church is for and what sermons are for?

2. Is there an American flag (or other national flag, if you are not from the USA) in your church? Why? What do you think about this?

3. Do families stay together for worship? Do infants go to the nursery? Do children go to “children’s church”? Do families sit together, or do the teenagers sit as a group? How welcome would infants and toddlers be? What do you think this indicates about the nature and purpose of the corporate gathering of the church?

4. What sort of formal liturgy, if any, does your church have? Do you recite any historic creed, the Lord’s Prayer, or follow any other pattern beyond the “three songs and a sermon” model? What significance do you think a liturgy has? Is it good or bad?

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