“Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you” 2 Corinthians 6:17
Shortly after I was saved, I began attending a popular local Evangelical church in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was a shock to the system. I’d expected the people to be warm and loving like Jesus. And I’d expected to be welcomed in as one of the family. But it wasn’t like that. The people were completely wrapped up with themselves and I was ignored for months.
Now I’m not stupid. I was obviously an object of suspicion. I didn’t come from a Christian family. I wasn’t connected with anyone in the church. And arriving in jeans, T-shirt, leather jacket and a motorcycle helmet didn’t fit with the dignified suit and tie brigade of middle class suburbia.
It was a tough beginning for a new Christian but it taught me an invaluable lesson. I quickly learnt there can be beautiful church buildings, with steeples, crosses, stained glass windows and welcome signs on the manicured front lawns, and yet something could be missing.
You know what I’m talking about. There are churches where right liturgy is more important than real love. Where politics is more important than pursuing God. Where the sacred has become commonplace. Where the methodology is more important than His majesty. Where a person’s wardrobe is more important than his or her worship. Where sensationalism takes precedence over sanctification. Where the service is so predictable it’s little better than a bad rerun. Where religion is more important than righteousness. And where all the trappings of God exist but He’s been marginalized or ignored for years.
So what should be done? How can there be renewal when God’s people don’t want to admit they possess less than everything? How can the emptiness be filled when Christians believe they’re doing the right thing because they’re performing every ritual to perfection, studying the Word inside out, and going through all the motions?
It begins with you and me. We must acknowledge that something is missing. We must come back to God. We must stop striving in the flesh. We must renew our respect for the holy things of God. And we must humbly call on God’s people to bring God back into the center.
That’s not easy. It’s costly bringing God back into the center. There’s a price to pay – something more than our sincerity, respectability, skill, or effort. For you and I can’t, and never should attempt to handle the holy presence and glory of God with human hands. We can’t take Him for granted. We can never assume we’ve got Him all figured out. The only way to see God in the center is when everything of the flesh is slain. We must be holy as He is holy. Purity must become dearer than life, sin must be confessed, we must consecrate ourselves according to His Word. There’s no other way. The things that prevent God’s presence from being in our midst must be released. We must separate ourselves from the things that soil us. We must stop doing things our way and start doing things His way. The only way to experience the presence of God is to kill the things of the flesh. We must come out from the world and be separate. As it says in 2 Corinthians 6:17, “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”
Well that’s given us lots to think about, lots to pray about, and lots to pursue. So count the cost. Don’t move on until you can trust God, by His Spirit, to make you holy as He is holy …