Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Called to Be Set Apart, Part 1

****This is from a talk that I gave to a women's gathering this past Monday night. While some received it and are contemplating it, some have rejected it altogether. Either way is okay, for it was for me to simply put it out there, to challenge, and to give us all something to chew on. We are all still bonded by the blood of Christ that covers us, and I will cling to that. Enjoy.***

I am a firm lover of the Word of God. I stand in awe of its transformational power for our individual lives, because I am living proof of it. If there ever was a mess in life, it was me. Many of you already know my story or have heard my testimony shared before, but so that everyone is on the same page, I’ll give you the nutshell version.

I didn’t grow up in the church, necessarily, but had some rather rough beginnings. At the age of 18, I was a victim of rape, and rather than talk to someone and seek help, I self-medicated with any drug or alcohol I could get my hands on. By the time I was 19 years old I could not stand to be sober and could not imagine life without my drugs. I was very scared, hateful and angry to everyone who dared cross my path. I moved out to Tucson in the summer of ’97 with my family, supposedly for a fresh start, but all it meant for me was fresh set of drug dealers.

In December of 1999, though, everything changed. Jesus met me in such a desperate place, in such a desperate way, that all I could say was, “If you don’t save me, I know I’ll die. I just know that I’ll die.” Thus began the transformation of me, with God systematically cleaning out the dross of my life and replacing it with a little bit more of a reflection of him.

I tell you this so that no one in here makes the mistake of thinking that I’ve got it all together. I was an absolute wreck of a life, and on many levels, am still quite a mess. But by God’s grace, He has transformed me into something that He chooses to use for His glory, and continues to transform me by the power of His Word and His grace and mercy in my life.

I have come to realize through this journey that when God is trying to teach me something new, He generally sets up themes for me to learn from. This is probably because I am such a hard head, but it just seems to take me a while to catch on to something new. So, these past few months, He has graciously been speaking to me about being set apart. And since He’s been speaking to me about, I’m going to share it with you.

The reason being is that this is a huge concept, and I am finding that it is increasingly difficult to put into practice in this day and age. When God speaks in His Word about us being His chosen people, being a royal priesthood, being a sanctified nation, what does that look like in normal, everyday lives? How do we live that out? Are we living that out?

I do not pretend to have any answers here. I am not a professional theologian and I am not paid clergy. I am a seeker of truth, and I am hoping that, if nothing else, I raise up lots of questions within you to struggle with. Maybe together, as a people united, we can struggle together and flesh out what it means to be set apart.

Let’s start by looking at some Scripture to determine what it is that God actually said in His Word to us as His children. We’re going to start in Exodus:

- Exodus 19:5-6 – Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
- God called His people a “treasured possession unto Him.” They were distinct as a holy nation, made distinct among the nations by the lives that they lived and the ways that they interacted with each other.

- Leviticus 20:26 – You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.
- KJV – for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people.
• The Hebrew word for severed, and set apart is badal – separate, divide, to make a distinction, difference, to withdraw from, to set apart
• God severed His people apart from the other nations, to be different, withdrew them from the people around them.

- Deuteronomy 7:6 – For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.

- Deuteronomy 10:14-15 – To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet the Lord set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today.

It is here that we are going to make the transition from the Hebrew Scriptures to the New Covenant. So where we have seen the Word of the Lord speaking about a holy nation, He has been speaking directly to Israel. But here we see that He is also referring to us, as followers of Christ, as being part of that holy nation.

- Galatians 3:28-29 – There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

- 1 Peter 2:9 – But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

So, if this is the Word, what do we do with it? How now shall we live according to the Word which we have heard? What does it mean for us as followers of Christ to live lives that are holy unto the Lord, set apart for Him, distinct among the peoples? I don’t know about you, but I find it very easy to look just like everyone else.

Even the ancient Israelites struggled with that. Look at 1 Samuel 8, starting in verse 4 through the end of the chapter.

Here is a nation that was called out by the King of kings Himself. YAHWE literally severed the nation of Israel from all the other nations, withdrew them from other peoples, fought battles on their behalf, and led them to the land that had been promised to them for centuries. He had called them by name to be different from the other nations, and yet their cry was to look like all the other nations. Their request to be like everyone else.

I don’t know about you, but I find it very easy to get into routines and habits here, to-do lists, chores and errands, so that really and truly, at the end of the day, my life doesn’t look much different than my neighbor, who doesn’t know Christ. Now don’t get me wrong. I’ll wake up early, on a good day, and have my quiet time with the Lord. We pray before we eat a meal and give thanks at the end of the day.

But what about the rest of the day, the part of the day where I actually have to interact with the world to get my chores and errands done? Am I set apart? Would anybody else be able to identify me as a follower of Christ, other than by the cross around my neck? So what does it mean for us, in this day and age, to be a holy nation? How did Christ intend for us to live? be continued tomorrow.
Grace and peace, y'all.


  1. Shauna, thank you for sharing your story with us. Thank you also for sharing your manuscript. Honestly, I was curious about it from your FB posts. I am in anxious anticipation for Part 2. I'll bet you did ruffle a few feathers. I think I may know what's coming because I am already struggling with some of this. However, I need to check my motives and reasons for my struggle. It's never easy when God starts pointing out my "imperfections" and I know He's right, but I have been comfortable in this place for a long time. You are a blessing in my life. You're not just Jesus' light, you are a magnet!

  2. Thank you, friend. I needed that. I love you!

  3. These comments didn't look so long in Word...but here goes...

    I am glad you divided your talk for posting. Smaller chunks make it easier to ponder and discuss.

    As I may have mentioned, similar thoughts have been on my mind due to the Daniel Bible study where we’ve been focusing on living lives of integrity (lives set apart) in this modern day Babylon of ours. Ours is a culture of seduction and nuance and it is very easy to blend right in. I blogged about this issue a while back:

    I feel like the central question is: HOW are we supposed to look like a people holy unto the Lord, peculiar and distinct among the nations. In the daily-ness of life how do we live as Christ-followers.

    I find it very interesting to think of the groups that are set apart by their attire, jewelry, physical marks, etc. I think they might have an advantage. The nuns and priests of Catholicism, the African Massi, the orthodox Jews, the Amish. I wonder how Christ-followers would react if we too had a distinct dress. I think that I might rise to the position if I was clad in garments representing God Almighty. Yet, I fear that something in me would resent and rebel.

    Of course, we can say that Christians should appear different because of their modesty or their joy or the places they frequent or because they “put on Christ.” But honestly, because those attributes are not distinct physical markers, they are not very distinguishing. We Christians are in a unique position. Is there any other religion that is virtually void of any distinctive marking?

    I find myself arguing internally about the marks of a Christian life.
    -Is it more important to be identified by others as a Christian or is it more important to have a heart pure before the Lord (1 Chron 28:9, Luke 2:35).
    -Is an external physical marking beneficial or necessary when God himself set his seal of ownership upon us (2 Cor 1:21-22).
    -Do I need the watching world to know what I do with my money or is it preferable to not even let my left hand know what my right hand is doing (Matt 6:2-4).
    -Should we be set apart from the world around us? Yes! We are children of the King (Gal 3:29). Yet we are not to elevate ourselves and hold ourselves apart from the world (Phil 2:5-7).

    In all my ramblings, maybe I have come upon an answer to the question of HOW.
    -We can not set ourselves apart. God himself set us apart (Lev 20:26)
    -We do not make ourselves into a holy nation. God chose us to be a holy nation. (1 Peter 2:9)
    -As hard as we try, we can not make ourselves peculiar. Jesus makes us peculiar (Titus 2:14, KJV)
    -We did not do the work of the cross. Only Jesus could make peace for us through the cross (Colos 1:20)
    -We did not choose Jesus. Jesus chose us and appointed us to go and bear fruit (John 15:16)
    -We do not do the work of Christ. Apart from Jesus we can do nothing (John 15:5).

    I think that is the answer: Apart from Jesus we can do nothing.
    John 15:4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
    The Greek word for remain (or abide in the King James) is meno and some of the synonyms and definitions are: abide, remain, dwell, not to depart, to continue to be present, to be held, continue, endure, to remain as one, not to become another or different, to sojourn, tarry. Perhaps there is nothing more counter-culture than tarrying. Yet the only way to live a life that is peculiar, holy and set apart unto Christ is by the conscious, daily, intentional act of tarrying with Him.

  4. Donita,
    Thank you so much for that thoughtful insight. It is true. Apart from Jesus, even the best of intentions are only half of the story. Because without Jesus present, in the heart, bringing transformation, there is no reason to not just go the way of this world. It just wouldn't make sense.
    But in the light of Jesus, sacrifice, humility and submission make sense.
    One of the things that have really been striking me lately in the midst of all of this is: What if we took the teachings literally? What if we literally lived out the things that Jesus taught and modeled, rather than living out our cultural version of it? How would our lives be different? What if the Scriptures were the main influence, rather than our culture? Somehow, I moved by that thought.

  5. Dear Shauna,

    This is the kind of word that the Church in America must ponder. I've been teaching from James as a way to move forward. If we LIVED James, we would be SO different from those around us, we wouldn't need a marking. We would be marked!

    Blessings In Jesus,


Thoughts? Feel welcome to share...