“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
II Corinthians 6:14–18
“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.”
Be ye separate. The theme of a great separation runs through the Bible. There are only two sides—him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not. Those who serve God have chosen to leave behind anything that would separate them from Jesus. Those who love and copy the ways of the ungodly world around them have chosen a different path. Today, in the very last days of earth’s history, it is of the greatest necessity that we know which side we are on. For to choose to be partly on the side of the world is to be completely an alien to the side of Christ.
“The Lord, by close and pointed truths for these last days, is cleaving out a people from the world and purifying them unto Himself.” Testimonies, vol. 3, 52.
“It is God’s design to manifest through His people the principles of His kingdom. That in life and character they may reveal these principles, He desires to separate them from the customs, habits, and practices of the world.” Medical Ministry, 187.
“God’s people today are to keep themselves distinct and separate from the world, its spirit, and its influences.” Counsels on Health, 290.
How important is it that we as Christians separate ourselves from the world, its values, practices, and influences? Any concept that encourages laxity of Christian principles in this area is like a small needle that deflates the balloon of the entire Christian experience. In fact, the very biblical definition of a Christian is one who has separated from the sinful ways of the world.
“A Christian, as described by the Scriptures, is a person who is separated from the world in his aims and practices and is united with Christ—a possessor of the peace which Christ alone can bestow, finding that the joy of the Lord is his strength and that his joy is full.” In Heavenly Places, 168.
“Those who come out of the world in spirit and in all practice may regard themselves as sons and daughters of God.” Manuscript 11, 1901.
In other words, God regards as His followers only those who are willing to leave the world behind. Those who still grasp its ways with one hand, as Lot’s wife did, unwilling to give them up, are not His sons and daughters. In fact, our separation from the ways of the world is a thermometer of the depth of our Christian experience.
“The strength and spirituality of the people of God are manifest by the distinctness of the line of demarcation which separates them from the world.” The Southern Work, 17.
“There are conditions to meet if we would be blessed and honored by God. We are to separate from the world, and refuse to touch those things that will separate our affections from God.” The Review and Herald, January 2, 1900.
“Do you desire to become the sons and daughters of the Most High? Here is stated the condition of this great privilege. Come out, be separate, touch not the unclean. You cannot keep the fellowship of the world, participate in its pleasures, identify yourself with its interests, and still be the sons of God.” That I May Know Him, 310.
Each of us desires to be a son or daughter of the Most High, and God mercifully makes known to us how we can cooperate with the work He wants to do in us. He has not left us to stumble in the dark, seeking for acceptance with God. Instead, He has made the conditions plain, and one of them—a very important one—is separation from the world. “The condition of our acceptance with God is a practical separation from the world.” Counsels on Health, 51.
Practically speaking, what is separation from the world, and how separate are we to be? This revolves around our upholding and living the Law of God, which is trodden down by those around us. It involves our believing and teaching the great message of truth committed to us by God in His Word. And, just as importantly, it involves our living out this truth in our daily lives. Our daily lives must be in wide contrast to the habits and customs of those around us.
“We are not to elevate our standard just a little above the world’s standard, but we are to make the distinction decidedly apparent. The reason we have had so little influence upon unbelieving relatives and associates is that there has been so little decided difference between our practices and those of the world.” Testimonies, vol. 6, 146, 147.
“In the service of God there is no middle ground. … Let none expect to make a compromise with the world, and yet enjoy the blessing of the Lord. Let God’s people come out from this world, and be separate.” Our High Calling, 305.
There is no middle ground, no gray area. The distinction is to be decidedly apparent. In other words, by observing my daily life, I ought to be able to see without a shadow of a doubt that I am a follower of Jesus.
“We have a representation to make to the world of pure principles, holy ambitions, noble aspirations, that will distinguish us from all other people, making us a separate nation, a peculiar people.” God’s Amazing Grace, 249.
The principles given to us by the Lord are so high and holy that they should distinguish us from every other group of people.
“By waiting and watching, God’s people are to manifest their peculiar character, their separation from the world. By our watching position we are to show that we are truly strangers and pilgrims upon the earth. The difference between those who love the world and those who love Christ is so plain as to be unmistakable.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 194.
“We are called to be the Lord’s special people in a much higher sense than many have realized. The world lies in wickedness, and God’s people are to come out of the world, and be separate. They are to be free from worldly customs and worldly habits. They are not to accord with worldly sentiments, but are to stand out distinct, as the Lord’s peculiar people, earnest in all their service.” This Day With God, 248.
Do I stand out as distinct? This is an important question that each of us must answer. And yet it is a difficult question. It can be uncomfortable to stand out in the crowd, to be noticed for our convictions, to be different from our associates. For this reason, many people have chosen the easier route of, to a greater or lesser degree, conforming to the world’s styles and practices. And for this reason, we experience so little of the power of God, because we are not wholly on His side.
“Will separation from the world, in obedience to the divine command, unfit us for the work the Lord has left us? Will it hinder us from doing good to those around us? No; the firmer hold we have on heaven, the greater will be our power of usefulness.” In Heavenly Places, 312. God would not so clearly command us to separate ourselves from this world’s way of living if it were not for the best good of the upbuilding of His kingdom. In fact, “The reason we have had so little influence upon unbelieving relatives and associates is that we have manifested little decided difference in our practices from those of the world.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 289. Obedience to God will not make us less effective in witnessing, but rather more. The world must see that ours is a religion that transforms the daily life.
Jesus told His followers that they would not be loved by the world. The natural human heart cannot understand spiritual things. True religion will not make us popular. However, the honest in heart will be attracted to the beauty of holiness. If people of the world see no difference between us and themselves, we have not reached the high standard of God.
It is true that a person can be very different from all around him, and still have a heart unsurrendered to God. Yet, it is equally true that when the heart is surrendered to God, we will respond in loving obedience by choosing the clean and pure and rejecting the polluted. There is no merit in being different of itself. What God asks is obedience, and because of the condition of the world around us, obedience automatically means being different.
This, then, is the special work we must focus on in this time. “There must be a straining of every nerve and spirit and muscle to leave the world, its customs, its practices, and its fashions. …” Selected Messages, vol. 3, 155.
Coming into line with God’s heavenly principles of life needs to be our top priority. Any worldly weight that anchors us down to this earth needs to be dropped overboard. Our lives must be searched for any hidden corner where the world has put down its roots, any area in which we are out of harmony with the life that Jesus lived on this earth.
The message of separation from the world has for a great part been lost sight of by most professed Christians. It is essential that we not neglect it now. In His great mercy, God has built the wall of separation between His pure people and the sinful world. Although many have hoped to break down this wall, they have not succeeded, but have merely succeeded in placing themselves completely on the enemy’s side. God’s separation between holiness and unholiness remains. It is our responsibility to be certain that all blinders are removed from our eyes, and that we know without a doubt on which side we are.
“The Lord Himself has established a separating wall between the things of the world and the things which He has chosen out of the world and sanctified to Himself. The world will not acknowledge this distinction. … But God has made this separation, and He will have it exist. In both the Old and the New Testaments the Lord has positively enjoined upon His people to be distinct from the world, in spirit, in pursuits, in practice; to be a holy nation, a peculiar people, that they may show forth the praises of Him who hath called them out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). The east is not farther from the west than are the children of light, in customs, practices, and spirit, from the children of darkness. This distinction will be more marked, more decided, as we near the close of time. …” That I May Know Him, 308. The distinction is a great one—so marked as to be unmistakable. And it will become more marked as we near the close of time, which certainly is now. Why is this? While the world’s people are sinking deeper and deeper in sin and lack of restraint, God’s people are to be coming higher and higher, always learning more of the character of Jesus, and rising to meet the standard.
This is not a time to relax our principles. It is not a time to enjoy what unbelievers enjoy. It is not a time to follow the fashions. It is not a time to let the world shape our recreational tastes, or to heap up treasures on this earth. This is a time to come apart and be separate. Which side will you be on?
Amy Pavlovik has been a teacher and missionary in Macedonia but her highest calling at present is mother to two year-old Naomi and helpmeet to her husband Mile Pavlovik, Bible worker at Steps to Life.