Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Outside the Camp

A beautiful hawk at Highlands Hammock
 Recently, a very dear friend of our family and I engaged in conversation over an important issue - namely the definition of marriage.  We came at our discussion from two differing perspectives.  She held that society has changed and it is time for the laws to change as well.  God, after all, need not be considered when we make laws in this country since we have separation of church and state and Christianity is no longer the only religion in our nation. I, on the other hand, presented the biblical perspective that God created man and woman establishing marriage between them as the norm for society.  No matter what man may say, do, or legislate, God's Law and moral code remains the truth whether we accept it or not.  Further, I explained that the country whose foundation does not rest on God's moral code is adrift and will face judgment.  This was a difficult discussion for me to have not because I did not believe every word I had  spoken but because I could see the chasm which separated our belief systems.  Loving someone and yet realizing there is a gulf between you which only Christ can remedy can leave us feeling lonely.
     After our conversation, I opened the Bible to Hebrews 13:12-15 and read:  "So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through His own blood.  Therefore let us go to Him outside the camp and bear the reproach He endured.  For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.  Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name."  It became clear to me that our Lord, who bore our sins, suffered alone outside the gates of Jerusalem.  Just as in the Day of Atonement the scape goat was taken outside the camp to carry away the sins of the people, so Jesus also took our sins and paid for them with His own life.  Furthermore, being outside the gate, represented the rejection of our Savior by the Jewish religious establishment of the day.  Then, it became clear to me.  For those of us who identify our lives as hidden in Christ, we also are called to live outside the gates.  We also will bear "the reproach He endured".  We are to be witness bearers of the truth and this is not a popular position.
     As believers, we are called to go outside the camp for our sanctification as Jesus prayed in John 17:14-15:  "I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one."  Then,  Jesus asks the Father to "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth."  While we walk in this world, we are not to be gobbled up by the system of thought and world views which soar around us like birds of prey.  Rather we are to be conformed to Christ in our thought lives.  Romans 12:2 reads:  "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of
your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."  We are to be different, and often, that is a lonely walk.
     Charles Spurgeon wrote these comforting words:  "You cannot grow in grace to any high degree while you are conformed to the world.  The life of separation may be a path of sorrow, but it is the highway of safety; and though the separated life may be painful and make every day a battle, yet it is a happy life after all....The crown of glory follows the cross of separation." (Charles Spurgeon, "Truth for Life Daily Devotion").  We are called to be in the world but not of this world.  Being witnesses to the truth flies in the face of popular trends and the latest ideas, but if we remain faithful, we will reap the blessings of obedience.
     I pray that I planted a few seeds as I talked with my friend.  I know in my heart that I remained true to my heavenly Father by standing for His moral Laws which govern our world.  In fact, we are all commanded to do just this.  We are to love the sinner but hate the sin.  As our society moves further and further away from the foundations and morality which God has established in the Bible, it will be more lonely to stand for truth but remember,  "the crown of glory follows the cross of separation".  Let us be bold in standing against the sins which are sweeping across our nation just now whether in consideration of marriage or any other area.  We can do no less than to go "outside the camp" to be with our Lord.  Selah!

The beautiful photography is courtesy of Cathy Hardesty a family friend and excellent photographer.  The pictures were taken at Highlands Hammock State Park.  Thank you Cathy!

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