Israel was chosen by God to be his people. From Moses until Christ, the Jews were set apart by God as a special possession for himself, and they served as a living picture, a living parable, for the kingdom of God on earth. As such, they were to be a holy people, differentiated from all the other people groups around them. In fact, some of the laws given to the Israelites were meant to figure this separation and purity, such as those in Deuteronomy 22:9 against sowing a field with two kinds of grain, wearing a garment of mixed fabrics, or plowing with an ox and a donkey together. Israel was a set-apart people. And they prefigured the New Testament church.
Christians—you and I—are the Israel God is now working with. Too many Christians want to minimize or eliminate the differences between themselves and the people around them. There is constant pressure brought upon us to conform to the reining modes of thinking of this age. Such pressure was heavy upon Israel, too, who was always dealing with temptation to worship the gods of the surrounding nations. We are beset with the pressure to worship the gods everyone around us is worshipping. Those gods include fornication, homosexuality, moral relativism, religious relativism, and the concept that God is not really angry at anyone (except child molesters and Hitler). Or the god that there is no God and that human beings are the result of a physics crapshoot. There is pressure to accept all religions as equally valid to Christianity, and not to make moral declarations based on the Bible. There is pressure to say that any sincere belief in God is good enough for him—you don’t have to approach God specifically through Jesus Christ.
But Christians are called to be set apart from the world in their thinking, their practice, and how they see reality. We are called to bring our thoughts into submission to Christ and to declare his truth to the world. We are called not be the same. People of the world hate the light of the Scripture because they love their sin. They love it so much, they will invent all kinds of arguments to defend their way of life and will slander those who say they are wrong, sometimes viciously. We must take courage in those times, trust God, and be faithful to the message he has delivered to us. If the Bible says marriage is a union between a man and a woman only, then so must we. If the Bible says no one can come to God except through conscious faith in Jesus, then so must we. If the Bible says you can’t divorce your spouse except in cases of adultery or abandonment, then so must we.
And we must say these things out loud. Christians are not called to a cloister. We are called to be separate from the world in the midst of the world. And this may be the hardest thing. We have friends in the world; we are not friends with the world. We go about our business in the world; we are not yoked to the world. We participate in civics as citizens of the world; we are wayfarers passing through. It takes courage to have a different mindset than the prevailing mindset of the culture around you. But the cultural mindset leads to death. We must not adjust the message of the Scriptures to accommodate modern beliefs. Instead, we call on the world to change to accommodate God’s message. Christians must stand firm in the face of opposition in proclaiming God’s eternal truths to the world and so save some. That is true love. The truth brings life. Do not be conformed to this present world, Christian, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.