Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Set Apart

Leslie Basham: What comes to mind when I say church? Here's Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: The Church is not a building, it's not an organization, it's not an institution. It's a Body of believers in Christ who have been called out of this world and set apart to belong to God, to be God's holy temple, to be God's dwelling place, and to be used for God's holy purposes. That's what the Church is.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, July 21, 2015.

Imagine a master craftsman creating something that is one of a kind. He sets high standards in order to create beauty. Well, God is a master craftsman, the greatest ever. He is calling us to be set apart, to be one of a kind. Here's Nancy to tell us more in a series called, "The Splendor of Holiness".

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I have a longtime friend who is a very godly woman, now in her 90s. I call her Mom J, Mom Johnson. A couple of years ago when I began writing a book on holiness, I asked her to pray for me as I wrote. She is one of my praying friends, and she did pray.

But not only did she pray for me, she decided she really wanted to learn about this whole subject of holiness herself. So, past the age of 90, she decided to meditate on every Scripture reference that she could find related to holiness.

And at one point, before she had ever seen a word that I had written of my book, she wrote and said to me, "Your book is already at work in my life. I have no words to convey the extreme spiritual joy and strength I have found as I’ve stopped to meditate and concentrate whenever I read the word holy. It's been awesome." [And then I love this phrase] "I've been at attention waiting and listening whenever I read this combination of four letters: H-O-L-Y.

Here's a women who has walked with the Lord for the better part of a century. She has been under great Bible teaching for many, many years. She knows the Word of God. But now as she approaches the finish line of her life here on earth, she has been given this new glimpse of holiness.

And I just think, could there be any better preparation for that day, not too long from now, when she finally enters into the holy presence of God? I just wonder what fresh springs of delight and joy you and I might discover if we could get the vision of holiness that has captured Mom J's heart.

You may have in your home some special china, maybe something that you were given as a wedding gift, maybe something that was your grandmothers that got passed down to you as a family heirloom, but it’s special. You don't use it every day. It's not everyday china; it's for special use. It's for company, for special occasions.

The word holy that we are talking about this week has to do with something that is special. It's something that is set apart. In fact, the word that is translated holy in the Scripture comes from the root word that means "to separate, to cut." It means "to be different, to be distinct, to be set apart."

  • It's something that is sacred.
  • It's not common.
  • It's clean.
  • It's pure, but it's set apart.

That's one of the primary meanings of the word holiness. It's to be set apart for special use, not for common everyday use, but for special use.

Now throughout the Scripture we see that God set apart certain things, places, and people for Himself, for His use. They were consecrated for God to use. They were not to be used for common, ordinary, everyday purposes. They were holy.
So God said to Moses in the book of Exodus, "The ground on which you are standing is holy ground." It's special; it's set apart. God set apart one day of the week and He called it a holy Sabbath.

God gave instructions to His people that the first part of their income was to be set apart as a holy tithe. In the tabernacle and then later in the temple, God set apart a room where He would meet with His people, and what did He call it? The Holy Place. The priests who ministered in that room had to be holy priests; they were set apart for God. They had to wear holy garments.

God also fulfills His eternal purposes in our world by means of people who are set apart and holy. Let me show you what I mean.

In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was set apart by God to be a holy nation. Now that didn't mean that their conduct was more holy than that of the Philistines or the Ammonites or the Moabites, or that they were more inherently upright than those who were not set apart.

God called them holy because He had set them apart from other nations and with that distinction and that privilege came the obligation to live holy lives.

The Israelites were set apart by God, and they were set apart for God. God said in Leviticus chapter 20, "I have severed you from other people, so that you should be mine" (v. 26 KJV).

It's a picture of a mom who points out her kid in the basketball game and she goes, "That's my son. He's mine, my possession; he belongs to me." She takes pride in the fact that he is her son. That's a special relationship.

And so God said, "I severed you from other people; I set you apart from others so that you should belong to me." Set apart for God.

Deuteronomy 7 tells us, "You are a people holy to the Lord your God [set apart]. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth" (vv. 6-7).

What a privilege! You see the splendor of holiness here, the beauty of holiness? This is not a restriction. This is a privilege to be set apart for God as His treasured possession. That He would choose you and me out of six billion plus people on this planet and say, "I want you to be Mine."

And God didn't just do that for the Old Testament Jews. In the New Testament God set apart a new Body comprised of both Jews and Gentiles; He called it the Church. Now the Greek term, ekklesia which is translated church in our English translations means, "a called-out assembly." It's a set apart people.

The Church is not a building. It's not an organization. It's not an institution. It's a Body of believers in Christ who have been called out of this world and set apart to belong to God, to be God's holy temple, to be God's dwelling place and to be used for God's holy purposes. That's what the Church is.

And so God says in 2 Corinthians, chapter 6, "I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from among them and be separate" (vv. 16-17 NIV). Be set apart because I have set you apart, live set apart, separated lives from the rest of the world.

Now, that doesn't mean that we don't have contact with the rest of the world, but it means we don't allow ourselves to become defiled, contaminated by things in this world’s system that are not holy.

Now, let me just remind you that God would have initiated a relationship with us is no small thing. We so easily take it for granted, especially if you have grown up in the church. This set apart relationship is kind of what you see in the eyes of a groom standing at the altar who looks into the eyes of his young bride and vows to give himself to her and to take her as his own.

What is he saying to her? In effect he's saying, "I love you; I have set you apart from all other women on this planet to be mine. You’re special."

She doesn't see that as an obligation at that moment. Certainly, it has obligations that go with it, but she sees that as a priceless privilege. She is willing to give herself voluntarily, freely, wholeheartedly to this man who has set her apart to be his.

Now, when she accepts that pledge, she is entering into an exclusive relationship. She is agreeing to be set apart from all other men. From that point on, in a sense, she is no longer free. She is not free to date. She is not free to be intimate with other men. She is not free to lead her own independent life.

She has become one with this man who has set her apart to belong to him. But in relinquishing those freedoms, she is embracing the privileges and the blessings and the responsibilities and the obligations of marriage.

I'm so thankful to have grown up in a home where there was a sense of the joy and the blessing of being set apart for God. I can remember the sense that my parents gave us that when there were things that we couldn't do that everybody else could do, and we moaned or groaned about that, the sense we got was, You don't belong to everybody else. You belong to God. You have been set apart for His use.

I learned early on that to be set apart for God is not a punishment. It's not an attempt on God's part to deprive us or to condemn us to this cheerless, joyless lifestyle that is what people often think of as Christianity.

To be set apart for God is a priceless privilege. It's a call to belong to God, to be cherished by Him, to enter into an intimate love relationship with Him.

It's a call to fit into the grand eternal plan of our redeeming God for this universe. It's a call to experience the exquisite joys and purposes for which we were created. To be called, to be holy, to be set apart for God is a call to be freed from everything that destroys our true and our ultimate happiness. It's a call to be like Jesus.

What does Hebrews 7 tell us? The Lord Jesus was holy, he was harmless, he was undefiled, he was separate, set apart from sinners (v. 26 paraphrased).

Now, He loved the sinners. He ate meals with them, but He never allowed His life to become contaminated by the corruption of sinful flesh. He was separated from the world, separated from sin, set apart for God and set apart for righteousness.

And when we are called to be holy, we are called to be set apart as Jesus was. Set apart from this world and set apart to belong to a holy God.

I have a friend whose elderly parents recently moved out of the house where they had lived for over 50 years. My friend spent an entire month sorting through a lifetime of his parent's accumulated stuff.

I mean, we’re talking correspondence—he had a dad who saved everything it seemed: correspondence, financial data, clippings, photos, on and on. He saved more than 70 boxes and then the rest, that was going to be discarded, filled four dumpsters.

When my friend was telling me about this experience, he said it was a complete record of their lives that he went through in that month. And when it was all said and done, one thing stood out to that son about his parents. He said, "There was not one single thing in all their belongings that was inconsistent with their profession of their relationship with Christ."

Now let me ask: How would you fare if someone went through the record of your life: all your possessions, the books and magazines you have read, your CD and DVD collections, checkbooks, tax returns, journals, day-timers, phone bills, correspondence, past emails that you thought you deleted, a record of all your Internet activity?

What if they could also review a candid camera replay of all the choices you have made when you thought no one was watching? Then add to that, a script of your thought life, your attitudes, your hidden motives.

The fact is that all things are going to be exposed, ultimately, before God, both the evil and the good. All of that will come into the searching, searing light of God's holiness. Not only will it, it does it now. "The eyes of the Lord," Proverbs tells us, "are in every place beholding the evil and the good" (15:3 KJV).

And so the apostle Peter, among other writers in the Scripture, says to the children of God, "Be holy in all that you do" (1 Pet. 1:15 NIV). That means holiness is to characterize every area of our lives.

The nineteenth century pastor, Charles Spurgeon, had a passion for holiness. He said, "Our lives must be such that observers may peep within doors and may see nothing for which to blame us."

You see, we are pretty good at putting up a holy front when we go to church or when we are with people whom we want to impress.

But God sees; God knows all. The call to holiness is to live a life that is open to scrutiny and evaluation all the time. It means evaluating every aspect of our lifestyle, our behavior, in light of God's holiness and what pleases Him.

So holiness has to do with our motives. Why do we do what we do? Are we motivated by a secret desire to impress others? It has to do with our values, what we really love, whether our affections are set on things in heaven or things on earth.

Holiness has to do with my attitude. How do I respond to pressure? Holiness has to do with my thought life. What do I think about, what are the secret fantasies that go on in my mind? It has to do with our speech. It has to do with our relationships, the way we relate to our families, to our fellow workers, to members of the opposite sex, to people who disagree with us.

Holiness has to do with our conduct, our habits, our work ethics, the way we dress, what we eat, what we drink, how we spend our free time. It has to do with what we do for entertainment, the music we listen to, the books and magazines we read, the movies, the TV programs, the videos we watch.

Some time ago someone gave me a video of a movie that I’d heard was a very touching story. However, I had also been told that this movie had a lot of profanity in it. So I’d never felt right about watching it. It sat in my closet for a long time.

But one evening I got home, I was exhausted from a long day at the office, and all I wanted to do was crash. I pulled out that video. I held it in my hand for a minute or so while I argued with my conscience because you see, at the time, I was preparing a new message on the subject of holiness. But based on what I've heard about it, I knew that this video did not meet the standard of Philippians 4, verse 8, "Whatever things are pure . . . let your mind dwell on these things."

I knew in my heart that this video would defile my spirit. But, I will tell you at that moment, I wanted what I wanted, which was to indulge my tired flesh, more than I wanted to please the Lord. So I ignored the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I popped that video in the machine and, as I had been told, it had a lot of profanity in it.

About twenty minutes into that video, the phone rang. It was the head of a large Christian organization who was returning a call that I had placed to him earlier that day. And when that phone rang, and I heard the voice of that man on the other end, my heart jumped.

I felt as if God had walked into that room. Of course, God was in that room, and He had been all along, not just when that phone call came in. But it was as if God had mercifully sent that interruption to rescue me.

Well, when I hung up the phone, I pulled the video out of the machine. I started to put it back on the shelf. Then I had second thoughts about that, and I just tossed it in the trash can. I thought, "There's not really any good reason to keep that on my shelf."

But I felt like such a hypocrite at that moment. Alone; no one else would have ever seen or known. Here I was challenging others to embrace a standard of purity, absolute holiness, but in the privacy of my own home I was indulging my flesh with unholy entertainment.

And you can't have that stuff go into your mind and into your heart without being affected by it. Philippians says, "Think on things that are pure." There was no way that video could have been considered pure.

Most of all I was grieved because I knew I had grieved the Holy Spirit who lives inside of me. I’d said, "I want to choose this unholy thing even if it means that there are walls that go up in our relationship."

Well, I got down before the Lord and I confessed to Him what I had done. I asked Him to forgive me, to cleanse my heart, to fill me once more with His Holy Spirit. And I am so grateful, as I know you are, for the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

Now, as I have meditated on this subject of holiness, not only in those days, but since and over the last couple of years in particular, as I have worked on this book on holiness . . . One of my staff has said, "It's great to have a boss who is writing a book on holiness because I have been becoming more touch-sensitive to things that aren't holy. Things that wouldn't have bothered me before are bothering me."

You say, “Well that doesn't sound like a great way to live.” It is a wonderful way to live because, as we are being set apart from this world, we are entering into a more intimate union and communion and fellowship with the holy God.

I find myself asking, "Is this holy? Does this please the Lord?" See, the goal isn't just to meet somebody's list, to chalk things off. "I didn't do those ten things. I did do those ten requirements." That's not what we are talking about.

We are talking about a relationship here with the holy God. I want to do what I know He loves, what I know is pleasing to Him, what I know will further and nurture our relationship.

Now, I'm so glad that God is not asking us to simply grit our teeth and make up our minds, "I will be holy" because that will kill you. We can't be, apart from Him.
The one who calls us to be holy is Himself holy. He's not only the standard for holiness, He's also the source of all true holiness. That holy God lives in me. He lives in you if you are His child. And it's His grace that will give you the desire and the power to be pure, to be holy, within and without. We are made holy by His power, by His grace, by His holiness, His life within us.

So let me ask you: Is your conduct blameless? Is it above reproach in every area of your life? Not by the world's standards, but by the standard of God's Word and His holiness?

And if you haven't been spending time in the Word of God, you have no way of knowing what that standard is. That's why we need to be immersed rather than filling our minds with those videos, those movies, those TV programs that are giving us a worldly way of thinking. We need to be saturating our minds in the Word of God so we come to love and to know what is truly holy.

Is there anything in your life that would not stand up to the scrutiny of His light? When that sunlight, that searchlight gets turned on, the searchlight of God's holiness, is there anything that would not stand up to that scrutiny: attitudes, habits, practices?

Now there is something like that in all of our lives, there are many things like that in all of our lives. That's why as children of God we want to be living in such close intimate relationship with Him that as His Holy Spirit convicts us of those things, we are quick to say, "Yes, Lord, I confess it." And confessing is just agreeing with God about what the light has shown us is going on in our hearts. Not to defend, not to rationalize, not to blame, not to cover up, but just to agree with God.

To say, "Yes, Lord, have Your way in my life, cleanse me, wash me, purify me. I want to have clean hands and a pure heart. Lord, I want to be holy through and through." That's the prayer that needs to be on our hearts as God's children.

Leslie Basham: Are you ready to embrace the kind of holy life Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been describing? I hope you’ll spend some time with the Lord today, making sure you’re right with Him and continuing in a lifestyle of holiness.

To help you in the process, we’d like to send you Nancy’s book, Holiness: The Heart God Purifies. It will give you a scriptural understanding of holiness and help you identify areas of change that might be needed in your life.

We'll send you the book, Holiness, as our thanks when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Your gift is very important to Revive Our Hearts. Nancy is here to explain why.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: When you support Revive Our Hearts, you’re helping us speak to women of all ages in all different seasons of life.

I especially love it when we hear from teenagers who are being impacted through this ministry. I’m thinking of a young woman named Rachel who emailed us and said, “I’m sixteen. I grew up in a Christian home, but I wasn’t truly saved until last year. Since then I’ve been searching for something to help ground me in truth. Your program has helped me immensely to show me that Christ is indeed the way, the truth, and the life.”

Well, what a joy it is to hear from a sixteen-year old girl who wants to get grounded in the truth of God’s Word. You can just imagine what benefits and blessings she will reap for the rest of her life because of the infusion of truth into her life at this young age.

I’m so thankful for the many listeners who support Revive Our Hearts financially so that we can help women of all ages become grounded in God’s Word. And that support is especially needed during these summer months.

So would you ask the Lord whether He would want you to send a special gift to help Revive Our Hearts continue on the air in your community?

Thank you so much for your prayers, for your encouragement, and for your support as we continue helping women, young and old, experience freedom, fullness and fruitfulness in Christ.

Leslie Basham: Again, when you donate any amount, you’ll receive Nancy’s book Holiness. Ask for it when you make your contribution by phone. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or donate at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Tomorrow we’ll look at Jesus’ harsh words to the people who looked the most holy. Why was He always criticizing the Pharisees? Please join us tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless othewise noted.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.