Christianity 201

February 14, 2013

Set Apart

“Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the LORD today…” —Exodus 32:29

Today, as yesterday, we begin with Dr. Charles Price, pastor of Peoples Church in Toronto.  Though Charles was never my pastor, this was the church I grew up in, at a time when it was Canada’s only megachurch.  This was titled, On Being Set Apart.

To be holy does not mean to be perfect, but to be ‘set apart’. That is the meaning of the word. It does not equal being perfect.

In my wedding service, I said to my bride as part of my vows: “Forsaking all others, I take you only unto me.” What I meant was, “I’ll never look at a girl again the way I look at you. I’ll never develop a relationship with another woman in the way that I have a relationship with you.” I had become ‘set apart’ exclusively to her. I was entering into a ‘holy’ relationship with her, one in which we are set apart exclusively to each other. That did not make me a perfect husband overnight!! (I think that took a week!) No, I will never be a perfect husband, and that was not the expectation on my wedding day (certainly not my wife’s!), nor was it the meaning of setting myself apart to her. I am repeatedly needing to say ‘I am sorry’. We are always learning new things about each other, and the journey of growth will never end – ‘till death do us part’.

Being called to be ‘holy’ is to be set apart to Christ, and involves no expectation of perfection – for that is neither offered nor promised to us in this life. Rather, in our frailty and the everyday fumbling of our lives to walk in harmony with the Lord Jesus, there is a fundamental attitude that says, “I am set apart to the Lord Jesus”. That is what it means to be holy.

The alternative to holiness is that we are available to anything that happens to attract our attention at the time. To be available to whatever is convenient, comfortable and compatible with our own selfishness is to live an unholy life. We are called to holiness, called to live in step with Jesus, called to unite our interests with His and our agendas with His. As Peter wrote, ‘In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord’ (1 Peter 3:15).

~Charles Price

I never really thought in terms of holiness meaning being “set apart” until I got deep into the lyrics of the Brian Doerksen song, Refiner’s Fire.

I choose to be Holy
Set apart for you, my master
Ready to do your will.

A few years ago here, I wrote about being separated from the world, and compared it to how the Amish people live among us, but are very much set apart from the rest of the world. In the world but not of it.

Our key verses in that devotional were Romans 12:2

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (TNIV)

1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (The Message)

and because for some of us, this will involve a transformation, II Cor 5: 17:

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (NLT)

Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! (The Message)

Let me end by reiterating a line from Charles Price, above.

Being called to be ‘holy’ is to be set apart to Christ, and involves no expectation of perfection – for that is neither offered nor promised to us in this life. Rather, in our frailty and the everyday fumbling of our lives to walk in harmony with the Lord Jesus, there is a fundamental attitude that says, “I am set apart to the Lord Jesus”. That is what it means to be holy.

August 5, 2010

Looking at the Amish

Somewhere near the end of our vacation, we were in a town where suddenly a horse and buggy appeared in the opposite traffic lane.   Not knowing if my wife had noticed, I simply said; “Amish;” to which she replied; “Oooh!  Let’s look at them.”

The strange remark — which I got right away, but you may not have — is a reference to people we know who say they are going to go to Pennsylvania to “look at the Amish.”   Not shop in their stores and buy jams, jellies or crafts from them.   Not spend a week helping out on one of their farms — the way one might volunteer on an Israeli kibbutz — as much of an adventure as that would be.   Not attending one of their worship services.

No… just “looking at the Amish;” the way we might visit a town if everybody there had two heads.

But maybe, just maybe, we should take a minute to ‘look at’ (in the sense of ‘consider’) the Amish.

While everybody else in Christendom has suffered the fate of slowly being dominated and shaped by the spirit and culture of the world, these people have managed to truly understand what it means to be “set apart;” what it means to not ‘give in’ to the dominant culture and its ways of seeing the world.

And isn’t that part of what defines ‘holiness?’

Brian Doerksen, the writer of the song “Refiner’s Fire” saw this connection:

What got my thoughts going in this direction is waking up this morning and realizing the extent to which my thought processes have been slowly shaped and conformed to the ‘spirit of the age;’ the world’s way of looking at everything. I’ve been absorbed into the dominant culture’s way of seeing the world.

Instead of simply ‘staring’ at the Amish, we should be engaging them; asking them, “Hey, what’s the secret to all this?”  “How do you manage not to be trapped into the contemporary mindset?”

I think Romans 12:2 is the key:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  (TNIV)

But I especially like the way The Message Bible handles this:

1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Much of the “pattern of this world” is molded within us by media.   It may mean tossing the DVD player or the internet.   The Amish simplified things by rejecting electricity altogether.   Are they any worse off for that decision?

For some of us, this may involve a bit of “unlearning.”  While searching for an appropriate translation of II Cor. 5:17, I found it interesting that The Message Bible makes a reference in verse 16 to the very thing the whole “looking at the Amish” thing is about, physical appearance.

16-20Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!

Changing our worldview is going to involve major transformation.

Want to read a daily devotional that originates in “ground zero” of Amish culture?   Check out Daily Encouragement, always bookmarked in this blog’s blogroll at the side.   While not every post is Amish-themed, if you scroll back you’ll find various pictures and stories relating to the area around Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Photo is from Daily Encouragement by Stephen & Brooksyne Weber.