“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33 NIV).
The Bible promises us trouble. How we respond to it determines our character and maturity. Do we get offended and keep our hearts from God or do we run to Jesus? Do we gossip and complain or do we patiently trust God? I have to admit that I do my fair share of complaining to and nagging God when I am struggling. Unfortunately, peace and trust are not always my go-to response. This blog is called Choosing Trust because I often have to remind myself to choose to trust God!
We had a pastor that used to say that how you respond when you are squeezed by trials exposes the real you. Think about it this way, when you squeeze an orange, you get orange juice. When you squeeze an olive, you get olive oil. When you and I are squeezed by pressure, stress, and/or fear, we show what we are made of too.
We are all going through some collective squeezing right now. I’m sure that you have things going on in your personal life too. So, how are you doing? What is the squeezing teaching you? What have you seen come out of you that you didn’t know was there?
“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies,” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10 NLT).
Based on what I’ve seen on social media (and what I’ve seen in myself), many of us have forgotten that Jesus has called us to live set apart. Being set apart means that we live separate and different from the world. When we are in relationship with God, we don’t get to behave like those who don’t know Him. The Bible is our guide. Our standards have to be higher because we are in this world to point people towards Jesus’ love.
Being a Christ follower means laying down our lives and following Christ. We so badly want things to be easy and for everyone to care about our opinions. But Christ’s life certainly didn’t look like that. It looked like being misunderstood, betrayed then publicly beaten and murdered. I know that sounds radical and harsh, but it’s true. For us to follow Him, our lives have to look different from those who aren’t in relationship with Him.
Here is what God has to say about His kids living set apart:
“Don’t set the affections of your heart on this world or in loving the things of the world. The love of the Father and the love of the world are incompatible. For all that the world can offer us—the gratification of our flesh, the allurement of the things of the world, and the obsession with status and importance—none of these things come from the Father but from the world. This world and its desires are in the process of passing away, but those who love to do the will of God live forever,” (1 John 2:15-17 TPT).
“Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes,” (Romans 12:2 TPT).
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light,” (1 Peter 2:9 NKJV).
“If you were to give your allegiance to the world, they would love and welcome you as one of their own. But because you won’t align yourself with the values of this world, they will hate you. I have chosen you and taken you out of the world to be mine,” (John 15:19 TPT).
We are not on this planet to be comfortable or to fit in with the world. We are here for God’s glory. When we are squeezed, the fruit of the Spirit is what the world needs to see in us so that they see Him. For that to be possible, we have to train and develop our souls.
Jesus has me deep in spiritual, emotional, and physical health training. I have a lot of life to live and I want to be as strong and healthy as possible. Being set apart means shaking things up and doing things differently. Right now I am shaking things up by getting off of social media, breaking up with sugar (speaking that one into existence! ;)), and being really careful who I allow to speak into my life. I need less noise and more Jesus to live set apart for Him.
When we take a step away from the world to recharge and hear from Jesus, it raises the standard. This is God’s calling for ALL believers, not just the select few who are “super Christians”. All believers should make choices that set them apart. Things like sacrifice, surrender, and worship show that we are obedient to God’s Word and committed to growing in our relationship with Christ.
This may sound confusing after I’ve told you a million times to live set apart, but it’s important that we understand that, living set apart is not about us living set apart. It’s so not about our special-ness or separate-ness. We are not that great! GOD is great. It can be easy to forget that we were once lost and deeply part of the world too. The only thing that separates us is Jesus and He is for everyone. Putting the emphasis on us, leads to pride, which leads to failure and sin (Proverbs 16:18). Living set apart is about 1.) acknowledging God’s holiness, 2). developing our spiritual muscle, and 3.) showing the world that God is in pursuit of them.
As I was writing this, my friend told me that she listened to a podcast that talked about, “Retreating from the world, for the world.” She had no idea that that was my topic for this week but just “knew I needed to hear that.” God is amazing. That’s the true heart of being set apart. Just in case I haven’t said it enough in this post (ha!), God calls us to be set apart so that the world can see Jesus. God uses us to challenge the status quo and shows people that He has more for them: “Why are they happy? How are they so peaceful? Why doesn’t my life look like theirs?” We aren’t called to be set apart so that we can hide from the “scary” world. It’s actually an invitation for others to “come and see” how amazing God is.
I haven’t been able to get away from the story of the Samaritan Woman for the past couple of months. It has captured my heart because it shows God’s heart for the lost so beautifully. You can read the whole story in John 4. This woman was cast out of mainstream society because of her choices and was full of shame. Jesus spoke right to her heart and gently exposed her pain and sin. He captured her attention and called her to join Him in living set apart. She ran home and invited the WHOLE town to “come and see” with her.
“Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” (John 4:29 NIV).
No one understood living set apart more than Jesus. He repeatedly got alone with His Father. He obeyed everything He was asked to do and never sinned once, in His entire life. Talk about being set apart! But there’s also no one who had such a positive effect on the lost. Yes, He lived set apart but it wasn’t to keep Him away from people who needed Him the most. It was to show them the power of God.
The world is watching us to see if this is all real. They are desperate for hope and answers. How we treat people we disagree with and how we respond to all this squeezing, should show the world that God is passionately in love with people. His way is better and is available for every single one of us.