Article: SET APART FOR GOD’S PURPOSE | Jacob Varghese
In my 53 years of living on this earth, I have been a born again Christian for around 34 years. From the very beginning, I have felt called to be separated unto God. My desires are to please God. I did not always succeed, but my heart was for God. As Christians we are called to be “set apart.” Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Are you set apart for God? What does that really mean? When it comes to being set apart for God, know that it cannot be done by our own efforts. You must be saved. You must repent of your sins and trust in Christ alone for salvation. Christians are called to be set apart from this world. However we are not the first people to be called out from among this world. To be set apart means God chose us specifically for His Glory. As a Christian I am set apart to show the great and marvelous love God has for us and to live a life that is holy before God. This means living a life that is not conformed to the ways of this world. Why has God set apart Christians? Jesus prays in John 17: 15-16 “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it”. Jesus calls us to be in the world, but not of the world.
In Genesis God called Abraham to be set apart from his family, friends, and where he lived. At that moment he had a choice to make to either ignore the calling or accept the calling. What did Abraham do, he chose to obey the call of God. When we chose to obey God; that sets us apart from everything that is worldly. Just like Abraham, it is important for every Christian to know God called us to be set apart. He has set us apart from the ways, thoughts and attitudes of the world. This means every Christian who is called by God to His Son to receive Salvation is to live their life in such a way others see and know they are not molded by the world. Romans 12:1-2 say “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Once someone receives Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, they are set apart from the world and unto God.
Don’t distance yourself from the secular crowd, but influence it. When you know who you are in Christ, you are the influencer. When we know our purpose and our identity, we change the atmosphere and the culture. We are called to be salt and light. Both of those things change their surroundings. One brings flavor and the other brings clarity. We are not just set apart from sin, but we are set apart for a purpose, which is to influence our spheres for Christ. God’s goal in setting us apart is not about taking us out of the world, but about Him taking the world out of us. God commands for His people to live a “set apart” lifestyle that honors Him. We are called to be alert and sober. We are to keep His decrees and follow them. We are not to be conformed to the evil desires we had when we lived in ignorance of God’s love, grace and power. Living this consecrated lifestyle, we must not take sin lightly. Instead, we should aspire to live a set-apart and holy lifestyle.
In Daniel 1:3-8, even though Daniel was exiled far away from home and subject to pressures and temptations to have food and wine in ways contrary to God has instructed in the Scriptures, he resolved in his heart not to defile himself with the king’s food and wine. To “resolve” means to determine, to establish and act on a decision. It also means to plan and exert courage and the will. This is the first step towards a holy lifestyle. Daniel resolved not to defile himself. He kept himself “clean” as God has instructed in the Scriptures by not touching anything unclean. In Daniel 1:12-16, Daniel chose to be tested for the sake of following God’s decrees. Daniel fasted to be set apart and consecrated for the Lord. This is an act of wholehearted worship. Daniel’s mind was set on the things of God and not on what others think or the things of this world. Why is consecration or being set apart so important? This is because the holiness of God demands it. In 1 Peter 1:15-16 we see “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” Therefore, if we want to be of use to God and His kingdom, we must consecrate ourselves for His purpose.
Let us turn to 1 Samuel chapter 2, here we see of a young boy who kept himself away from the world and he grew set apart for the Lord. And the Lord himself testifies of that later. His mother and father had just left him in the temple and gone back home and the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord in the presence of Eli the priest. One thing Samuel consciously did was he kept away from the sons of Eli. Eli’s two sons, Phinehas and Hophni, were priests who committed evil deeds. What did they do? Their sins were greed and immorality. The sons of Eli were in the same temple. They were living there, they were sleeping there, and they were doing everything there along with Eli and Samuel but Samuel consciously kept himself away from that worldly company and those two men Hophni and Phinehas. Samuel’s mother would have told many times in those three or four years that Samuel was with her “my son, when you are in the temple keep away from those two men, don’t even talk to them. Don’t go anywhere near them. Don’t spend time with them. Don’t do what they are doing in the temple. You be set apart for God.” And Samuel took those words of his mother and he stored them in his heart and lived his life. Even though every day he could see them or meet them but Samuel did not have any business with both of them. And the next thing we read about Samuel in chapter 2:18 Samuel was ministering before the Lord, a boy clothed with a linen ephod. Samuel was ministering before the Lord. In 1 Samuel 2:21, we read “the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord”. We can see an upward progression in Samuel’s life. Then in verse 26 we read Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and also with man. Now before the Lord, Samuel is growing in stature spiritually and in favor with the Lord and also with people. Samuel is now slowly come to a place where he has grown in the Lord that there is an overflow of his life which start to bless other people. One very important thing we can see about Samuel in chapter 3:3, it says here Samuel was lying down in the temple where the ark of God was. There were many places in the temple he could have possibly laid down but Samuel laid down in the place where the Ark of God was. The Ark of God is a picture of the presence of God. Every night when he went to bed he slept in the presence of God. Every morning when he woke up, he woke up in the presence of the Lord. So many things were happening outside; Eli’s sons were doing so many things, but it did not distract Samuel. There were all kinds of people, who are coming to the temple to offer their sacrifices. All kinds of people came, there were all kinds of conversations happening outside, there were many worldly transactions and so many worldly conversations happening but Samuel was not affected by that. He kept himself for the Lord. There was a consecration in his life and that is what the Lord honored later. We need to understand that God did not call Samuel suddenly. There was a background and we can see the upward progression in his spiritual life. In chapter 3:10, it says the Lord came and stood calling Samuel, Samuel. This is not just an ordinary call. God is calling a young man to Himself and to a ministry. The Lord could see there was a consecration in his life. What an honor and a privilege? Isn’t it? In verse 21, we read the Lord continued to appear in Shiloh, the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel through his word. Lord wants to reveal Himself to us like this. God revealed Himself to Samuel when He saw a separation from the world. The beginning of chapter 3 we read “In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions”. But by the end of the chapter we see the Lord now continues to appear in Shiloh and the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel by the word of the Lord. The situation had completely changed because of one man’s consecration. We see one more thing what God saw in Samuel’s life in chapter 2:35, God says something to Eli “I will rise up for myself a faithful priest”. This is one of the things God noticed about Samuel that he was a faithful man. The small things he did in the temple, he was faithful. Whatever Eli committed to Samuel, he did it faithfully. So God saw faithfulness in his life. And second thing God says about Samuel “I will raise up a faithful priest who will do what is in my heart and in my soul. God finally found a man who would do what was in God’s heart and God’s soul. This is the kind of person God is looking for who is faithful, who would do what is in God’s heart and soul and set apart himself for God. Not the people who would run after the fashions of this world, not the people who want promotions in their job or run after money. God wants people who would set their hearts and minds on God. When Samuel spoke his words went in to people’s hearts and changed their lives. And all the people from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord. Dan was the northern point of Israel and Beersheba was the southernmost point in Israel at that time. What a beautiful expression, it says all Israel knew from Dan to Beersheba that the Lord had established Samuel as a prophet to the Lord. God can do that even in our lives. People can recognize the grace of God upon our life. People can recognize that God is with us.
What a privilege it is? Do you want to leave this and seek after some temporary pleasures of this world? Do not pursue after this world and miss the eternal life. Take a decision to be set apart for God. God set you apart for a reason. He is going to make something great out of you. You are different for a reason. When you are set apart you don’t disguise with others or you don’t blend in with the crowd because we have the light of Jesus in us. The light of Jesus is what makes us different and peculiar. God made all of us unique and different for a reason. Matthew 5:16 says “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Everything that we do should emulate God. We should be light carriers in the dark places. Wherever we are we should carry the light of God because in this world it is full of darkness. We need to be those persons that try to shine the light of God wherever we are. 1 Peter 2:9 says “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” God uses the different, the peculiar to basically showoff His glory or radiate His glory. We have to show the love of Christ to all those people even to those people whom you may think they don’t even deserve. Samuel’s life shows the importance of being set apart for God’s purposes. His close relationship with God from an early age molded him over time to be priest, judge, prophet and counselor to the people; and God also chose him to anoint the first two kings of Israel, Saul and David. Throughout his life, he focused constantly on the LORD and served Him faithfully and obediently in everything as set apart for God’s purpose.