In an earlier chapter we noted that from the Greek word for “transfigure” comes our English word “metamorphosis.” It means “a change on the outside that comes from the inside.” When that little larva forms its cocoon and waits, nature performs a marvelous miracle. God made it that way. The creature that emerges is a beautiful butterfly or moth. How does this happen? There is a change on the outside that comes from the inside. The seeds of all that development were already there.
When you were saved, God put His glory within you. Your body became His temple. He wants all of us to live a transfigured life—not just reflecting the glory but radiating the glory, from within. That is what happened on the Mount of Transfiguration. John saw the glory of the Son, Peter saw the glory of the Scriptures, James saw the glory of suffering, and Moses saw the glory of service. Now we want to look at Elijah and learn from him the glory of separation.
In Elijah’s day, the people had compromised and were living ungodly lives. One of the sad things about the people of God is that it is so easy for us to compromise. Sometimes we call it courtesy, but it turns out to be compromise. In Elijah’s day, the people were worshiping Baal. It was the lowest kind of idolatry, the worship of the basest appetites of human nature, all in the guise of religion. This false religion had taken over the nation.
I wonder if this is not what has taken over our world today. People are worshiping their base appetites. Paul talked about those whose god is their belly, or their appetite, who live just to satisfy the sensual desires of human nature (Phil. 3:19). God has put certain basic appetites into us, and these appetites are good when used in the right way. There is nothing wrong with eating—you have to eat to keep your body alive. But when you live to eat, it becomes gluttony. There is nothing wrong with sleeping—we must have rest if we are going to function properly. But when you sleep all the time and refuse to work, that is laziness and sin.
In Elijah’s day, God’s people were not a separated people. God’s plan for Israel was that they be a separated people—separated so they might enjoy God more. God always says no that He might say yes. God wanted His people to enjoy the best blessings, so He commanded them to be separated from sin.
A second reason why He wanted His people to be separated was so they might witness to the other nations around them. It was God’s plan that the nation of Israel be a shining light in the moral and spiritual darkness that surrounded them. Unfortunately, instead of witnessing to the lost around them, the Israelites began to worship at the pagan altars! They began to live according to the same principles and laws as their pagan neighbors, and before long, the lines of separation were gone.
I fear that today biblical separation has become a lost blessing. In some places we have an extreme kind of separation that has become isolation and legalistic pharisaism. It is possible to keep high standards and not be spiritual. The Pharisees had very high standards, but they were not spiritual people, and they crucified Jesus! At the other extreme we have professing Christians who say that the answer is not separation but identification. We have to be doing the things the world does so that we can show them how concerned we are. My Lord, when He was her eon earth, was holy and harmless and undefiled, and yet He was separate from sinners (see Heb. 7:26). He was not isolated; He was a friend of publicans and sinners (see Luke 15:1,2). Jesus was separated but not isolated.
Separation is contact without contamination. In my daily life, I must have contact with all sorts of people in all kinds of places. The important thing is not to get contaminated. My doctor follows this principle. He has to have contact with disease, and yet he maintains purity by washing his hands, wearing surgical gloves, putting on a mask and so on. Why? He wants contact without contamination.
© 2006, Warren Wiersbe
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).