Appendix VI: SEPARATING INFLUENCE
The scriptural account of creation reveals that God used separations to create variables. The separations were not intended to restrict or devalue anything but rather were made for the purpose of producing a specific value that would contribute its unique gifting to the larger purpose.
When God created the natural universe and formed the earth, He made many distinctions. Among them, He separated light from darkness, the waters above from the waters below, and mankind into male and female (see Genesis 1:4-31).
God separated to create differences, so each could uniquely contribute something to a greater value. Light was separated from darkness to frame day and night. Water was separated from land so the earth would be an inhabitable planet.
The crowning glory of the creation came as God created mankind by separating one being into two—male and female. The distinction equips us to assist God in birthing and growing His offspring. As offspring of God, we all have value that contributes to the function of the family of God.
God not only created separations, He also created instrumental factors to influence separation.
Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals and brings out a weapon for its work; and I have created the destroyer to ruin (Isaiah 54:16).
The word “destroyer” is translated from a Hebrew verb shachath, which means to harm in some manner, as to decay, destroy, and ruin. Shachath is a verb not a noun; it is an action, not a thing or person. The destroyer is not the smith, the coals, or the fire. The destroying factor is the combined activity of the trio. God says He created the destroyer as an instrument to accomplish a specific result.
The purpose of this destroying action is to bring the object into such a state that it can be formed and molded into a more useful product. The activity is only intended to harm the unyielding characteristic in the metal, not the metal itself.
The metal in this metaphor represents our lives, and the destructive activity is intended to assist our development into greater levels of usefulness. God intends the destroying influence to encourage our growth and development.
Scripture also identifies the smelting process as a separating influence. In this example metal ore is placed in extreme heat to extract the ore, gasses, slag, and rock that contaminate the precious metal. The metal can be further refined through additional heating processes.
For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons…and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness (Malachi 3:2-3).
As with the smelting process, God uses life’s trials and testing to separate from us non-Christlike characteristics. These trying times increase our growth into refined reflections and resemblances of God’s character, attitude, and personality.
In the biblical story of the righteous Job, a presence appeared before God and noted how God restricted harmful activity. When the ability to inflict more harm was increased, it still had restrictions (see Job 1:6-12; 12:16). This presence called Satan was obviously very subordinate to its Creator.
God allowed harmful activity to come to Job so He could extract the small amount of distrust that remained in him (see Job 1:5). This influence acted as a proving agent that sought to separate Job from God. In the end of the story, Job was more refined and better off than before.
The first proving influence to appear in human history came as a crafty serpent in the Garden of Eden. This influence twisted God’s word and offered an alternate way of life, indicating that if we ignore God’s guidance, we will be as God:
The serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD GOD had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”…And the serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:1-5).
The temptation was articulated in the form of three thoughts: 1) “Didn’t God say you can eat from any tree?”; 2) “You won’t really die”; and 3) suggested they would get what God intended, “God knows that listening to me will make you as God.”
When they accepted these ideas, their view of God’s relational intent clouded their understanding. Their perception caused them to want to cover up in each others presence and try to hide from God. When their error was exposed, they shifted blame onto the tempting influence.
The perception continues to skew our understanding and complicates our response to God and one another. We tend to self-protect and hide when we feel guilt. Then when we are exposed, we try to justify our actions. Like Adam and Eve, we are quick to say, “The devil made me do it,” or that our spouse or parents are at fault. Such is life when separated from our true source of life.
These Old Testament examples reveal two insights: 1) God created separation to distinguish things for specific relational purposes; and 2) God allows temptation and difficulty as a means of testing and trying us, as proving factors that are really intended to help us mature as His children.
The New Testament Scripture calls this presence that tempts us “the devil” 38 times and “Satan” 34 times. Since the oldest copies of the New Testament are in Greek, it helps to understand the Greek meanings of these words. (Greek is still considered the most descriptive and precise of languages.)
Tempter—(peirazo, Strong’s Greek #3985); to prove by solicitation; verify one is or is not; to make more so
The devil—(diabolos, Strong’s Greek #1228); accuser, slanderer, who falsely accuses in order to divide
Satan—(satanas, Strong’s Greek #4567); to oppose, pit against, an adversary
Temptations come to refine us. They can appear as adversaries that oppose, using slander and accusation. Their purpose, however, is to prove us and reveal to us our level of refinement. We must realize that God already knows our level of maturity. We are the ones in need of clarifying insight.
The same thoughts that Adam and Eve succumbed to confronted the second Adam, Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12:45). This time the temptation was not visualized as a serpent. Instead, the influence is called tempter, the devil, and Satan.
Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted His forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread…” and “If You are the Son of God throw yourself down…” [God will protect you] and “I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and serve Him only’” (Matthew 4:1-11).
As with Adam and Eve, the influence claimed: “If you are God’s Son, provide for yourself”; “Test God to prove Him”; and, “If you submit, you’ll get what God promised.”
Adam accepted these ideas and tried to live separate from their Father. Jesus, however, acknowledged the tempter’s purpose was to worship and serve God. This knowledge helped Jesus overcome the temptation to separate, and God remained Lord of His thoughts, feelings, attitude, and actions.
The tempting influence can appear as contrasting thoughts, ideologies, a spirit or angel of light, an attitude, or a critical element in conversation. Many times a person will function as its agent.
God openly encourages some relational separations so He can bring us into greater levels of maturity. God can lead us to leave a situation we are in or a seasonal stage of life.
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone…For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:18, 24).
Men are instructed to separate from parental beginnings so they can properly partner with a wife in marriage. This is not meant to divide families but to help men fully enter the unique oneness of a spousal relationship.
God can also ask us to leave our extended family and homeland so He can enrich our experience and enlarge our impact, as He did with Abram.
The Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house…and I will bless you…And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).
During the last days with His disciples, Jesus instructed them to separate from their Jewishness and baptize (immerse) people into His name—into His identifiable presence.
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18-19).
It is also be helpful to realize that our life in God’s fellowship is not meant to separate us from the world we live in. Any separation is meant to refine and mature us so we are equipped to more effectively draw others into this way of life.
I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil…They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world…As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them (John 17:15-18).
While our obedient response to God’s lead can have a temporary adverse effect on family, friends, and fellowships, it will ultimately enrich our relationship with God and with everyone we touch. When God dwells in our midst as a guiding presence, we can even be distinguished from the religious norm (see Luke 17:11-18).
We want to remember that God is supreme and can bring a good result out of everything. This is especially true for those who love Him (see Romans 8:28). While Adam and Eve’s choice was an error, it opened the door for mankind to know God’s forgiveness and way of salvation. The Prodigal Son’s choice to leave his father equipped him to return and have a better appreciation of his father’s care.
God allows both good and bad influences in our lives to act as proofing activities. As servants of God, they are intended to strengthen our resolve toward God and the fellowship of His presence.
6. Way of Balance Strengthens Us
(All Scripture quotes are from the NASB version)
A man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and said, “Lord, I would like to know what heaven is like.”
The Lord then led him to two doors. He opened one of the doors and the man looked in. In the middle of the room was a large table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew, which smelled delicious and made the man’s mouth water.
The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles that were strapped to their arms. Each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful, but because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths. The man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering.
The Lord said, “You have seen hell.”
They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew, which made the man’s mouth water. The people were equipped with the same long handled spoons, but here the people were plump and well nourished, laughing and talking.
The man said, “I don’t understand.”
“It is simple,” said the Lord, “it requires but one skill. You see, these have learned to feed each other, while the greedy only think of themselves.”
This story demonstrates the Way of Balance because the healthy way to live includes a care for “me, myself, and I” that is balanced by a care for others. A willingness to share with one another is a demonstration of balance.
We have come to understand that our heavenly Father designed life to be a process for birthing and initially developing offspring into children who reflect and resemble His heart character, attitude, and personality (CAP).
We have seen that our sincere repentance brings us into a change process that invites God’s graceful assistance. Our repentant adjustments teach us to be more flexible.
In the Way of Balance, we realize our flexibility can lift us into a grander truth and reality than what we might know and experience in the twisted world of division.
Balance is usually described as the cancellation of all forces by equal and opposing forces. Balance does not cancel opposing forces; it recognizes and receives value from each side without fully committing to either side.
Positive and negative forces provide an example. We all relate to positive as a preferred value, and we try to avoid negativity. Balance however, appreciates the value in each and then demonstrates a greater value. It is a position that dwells amid differences between opposing forces. Balance relates to the value in these differences as contributing factors.
A higher truth is often observed when examining issues with a balanced perspective than any opposing side of an issue can provide. Balance is a major ingredient in sharing ideas because it depends on the activity of giving and receiving of what might be considered conflicting values.
We trust you’ve enjoyed the preview for this chapter. We hope you’ll purchase a copy of the book and join us on this exciting faith journey. The Christ Culture is available from this website or Amazon.com