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Isolation versus Influence

I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.
–1 Corinthians 5:9-10

Some Christians have isolated themselves from the culture by becoming silo saints, while other Christians have identified with the culture by being spiritual sellouts. But of these two extremes, the one I think is more dangerous is isolation from the culture.

I don’t know any Christian who tries to justify being like the culture with a Bible verse, such as, “Here is the verse that explains why I commit adultery.” Yet Christians who are isolationists insist, “I am doing the right thing by not sullying myself getting involved with non-Christians. After all, if I get involved with non-Christians, then I am going to become like them.”

In John 17, Jesus prayed not just for His apostles but for all who would come to know Him in later centuries through the witness of the apostles. Did you know that Jesus prayed for you the night before He was crucified? Jesus said to God, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:15-18). Notice Jesus was saying, “I am not asking You to isolate My followers from the world. Don’t take them out; then they couldn’t do any good. And I certainly don’t want My followers to identify and become like the world. They are not of the world. That is why, God, I am asking You to make them holy, separate, apart from the world.” Jesus’s prayer was that we would influence the world. Jesus understood and modeled how to influence the world without isolation and without identification, and so did Elijah.

Elijah is a perfect illustration of somebody who influenced his culture rather than isolating or identifying with it. My former professor Howard Hendricks said that when Elijah burst on the scene, he came to a nation that was “on the skids.” Hendricks wrote, “There was a mania of mediocrity. Seven thousand believers were huddled in a cave in silent protest: ‘We don’t want to get involved.’ This man, Elijah, stands out like a spiritual colossus in the midst of a generation of perverts and spiritual pygmies.” I love that phrase. Doesn’t that describe the world in which we live? Yet in the middle of that culture, Elijah was a spiritual giant. He was a spiritual giant because of three convictions that not only transformed his life but will transform your world as well.

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Secret #1: Discover Your Unique Purpose” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2017.

Howard G. Hendricks, “Take a Stand: What God Can Do through Ordinary You” (Portland: Multnomah, 1983), 9.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


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