Session 6 - Man as Set Apart
"I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth
is filled with violence because of them
So make yourself an ark
into the ark, you and your family, because I have found you righteous in this
generation" Genesis 6:13, 14, 7:1
"Once you were not a people, but now you are the people
of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear
friends, I urge you, as aliens, and strangers in the world, to abstain from
sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the
pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds
and glorify God on the day he visits us." I Peter 2:10 - 12
- The challenge faced by men to be set apart in the world today.
- Despite the value we place on individualism, we are social
creatures. We want to be liked, to fit in, to be on the team at work,
good members of our neighborhood, "members of the club."
- The world today has been described as a lonely place despite the crowds
around us (what David Riesman called "the lonely crowd"). Loneliness
and isolation are among our greatest fears. Few men want to feel "out
- Among our greatest fears (despite our praise of individualism)
are loneliness, isolation and not fitting in.
- We abstract our identity as men from cues given by men in the world
(we are "other directed" rather than "inner directed").
For example, many men are more likely to ask subconsciously "What
should I feel about this?" than "How do I feel about this?".
- We live in a world where men (and women), even if we realize we are
different, have difficulty "feeling different."
- The watchwords of our society are "diversity", "anything
goes", "do your own thing", "just do it",
"melting pot", "live and let live", etc.
- As long as we don't "abuse" another person, we are for
the most part free to do what we want (worship God or worship Satan,
go to church or go to a ball game, read scripture or pornography).
- To look at us during the week, for the most part, we don't look
all that different in dress or behavior from the man in the next cubicle
at work or the neighbor next door.
- We work the same types of jobs in the same settings as most other
persons in our society. There are virtually no "respected"
jobs in our society toward which men in the church feel an aversion
(from psychiatry to politics, from teaching to banking).
- The challenge to the church of setting apart its men.
- The scriptures make clear that we are set apart, resident
aliens in this world. "God's elect, strangers in the world".
I Peter 1:1
- Yet we don't want to feel like resident aliens in the church.
- The old spiritual "you've got to walk that lonesome valley.
You've got to walk it by yourself
" doesn't ring true for
us today. We don't view the Christian walk as a lonely walk.
- Perhaps the most frequent reason people give for leaving a particular
congregation is "Nobody spoke to me. I never seemed to fit in."
- Spirituality is the "in thing" and we like it. Being spiritual
(as opposed, for example, to atheistic) is becoming the rule rather than
the exception. We can be spiritual as "new agers" as well as
- Our work in the church is very much like our work in the world. If
we are salesmen in the world, we may use basically the same techniques
to "sell" the salvation found in Jesus. If we are accountants
we may keep the church books. (There is nothing inherently wrong with
using our worldly talents for the Lord. Rather, at times, we blend our
secular work and our sacred work.)
- We don't emphasize being set apart as part of the Christian identity,
that is, set apart as an individual. Rather we tend to emphasize our church
family (a natural desire among Christians), "one nation under God"
(the fellowship of all men and women), and unity (who can argue with unity?).
- Our idealized behaviors, such as the ideal behavior of a Christian
father, may not that different from society's view of the good father
(faithful in marriage, spends time with the kids, listens, shares in household
- We may have undergone a dramatic change with our conversion, but does
that change set us apart? Rather, we may be exchanging one support group
for another (support from the church is to be desired but it doesn't necessarily
set us apart).
- Noah, a man set apart by God.
- Noah was different from the beginning. In contrast to the
evil men and women on earth at the time, "Noah found favor in the
eyes of the Lord
Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people
of his time, and he walked with God." Genesis 6:8, 9
- For all times, God has elected some people and set them apart,
"Neither the sexually immoral nor idolators nor adulterers
thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers
will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were.
But you were washed, you were sanctified [set apart like the sanctuary
of the Jewish temple is set apart from the world], you were justified
in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."
I Corinthians 6:9-12
- Our fear of the doctrine of predestination has at times blinded
us to this election. "God works for the good of those who loved
him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God
foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his
those he predestined, he also called; those he called he
also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." Romans
- God can choose anyone. Yet the men (and women) he selected as leaders
in both the Old and New Testament were already different, set apart
by their own behavior. He chose individuals who were not afraid to
be different though they were not always doing right. Consider the
loner shepherd David, the apostle Paul before his conversion, the
hot headed apostle Peter, and Simon the Zealot.
- He selected men who were distinguished by their behaviors, not
necessarily by their professions of faith. He at times even seems
to target persons who are willing to argue with Him, such as Abraham,
Moses, and Elijah.
- Ultimately he selects people who bend to His will and are willing
to be set apart from the world.
- God drew a circle around Noah and his family and set them apart from
the rest of humankind. "I am going to put an end to all people
make yourself an ark
" Genesis 6:13, 14.
- Does God draw a circle around the church? Will God condemn some
people living today? As in the time of Noah, God judges humankind.
- Whatever God's judgment, the scriptures are clear that, as Christians,
we are different, a circle has been drawn around us, and we are separate
from the world.
- God developed a special relationship with Noah. "I will establish
my covenant with you." Genesis 6:18
- We enjoy special relationships at times to the degree that these
relationships have unique rights.
- We are less inclined to enter special relationships when they entail
- Our unique role as Christian men (and women) involves both unique
rights and unique responsibilities.
- Noah was obedient to God's will. "And Noah did all that the Lord
commanded him." Genesis 7:5
- A key characteristic of being set apart is heeding God's will and
not the will of those around us.
- We hear many voices calling to us today. Undoubtedly Noah heard
many voices questioning his boat building. Yet we have no record of
Noah being swayed by those voices.
- We speak about some people who are "in a zone", as if
they have blocked out everything around them while concentrating upon
some task (working on a task at work, playing defense in a basketball
game). Christian men should work upon "being in a zone"
as men set apart for God, as was Noah. Totally focused upon doing
the will of the Father.
- By being set apart, Noah and his family were saved from the fate of
the world. "Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife."
- Salvation for Noah and his family meant that they had to be set
apart from a world which was faced with death and destruction. To
them, it was clear that they were different from those around. Do
we have the same sense of being different from the world? Do we see
a world "slouching toward Gomorrah" as Robert Bork suggested?
Do we realize that our journey is a different journey that that of
- Noah also saved his family and set them apart through his faithful
acts. Do men today have confidence that through their faithful acts
others in their family can be brought under the protection of God?
- Because he was set apart by God, Noah was given special responsibilities,
unique responsibilities and limits are set on his actions. " 'Be
fruitful and in-crease in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread
of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth
lives and moves will be food for you
But you must not eat meat that
has its lifeblood still in it." Genesis 6:1-4
- Setting men apart for the work of the Lord.
- Recognize those men who have already set themselves apart,
who are willing to be independent. These men may seem "different"
and they may make us uncomfortable, but their willingness to be different
should be recognized. What are some examples?
- The man (and woman) who decides they will not have a TV in their
- The husband (and wife) who decides that his family will manage
on less financially because he wishes his wife to home school their
- The man who refuses to work in a setting where he feels that he
cannot be honest and ethical.
- "Draw a circle" around our men and their families. By recognizing
that the world is at times a hostile place, that its tough to be a Christian
in the world, that the church is truly different than the world, we draw
this circle. Some examples include:
- Focus more on the "initiation" of men into the church
(remember Session 3).
- Convene a special prayer time which recognizes the problems men
face in work, both holding their jobs and living up to God's standards
in the workplace. (We have done this at Brooks to some extent.)
- Be more open about many of the problems with our multi-media society
and the influence of that media upon Christians. The church is not
in the business of public censoring, yet we should be open about what
we view as potentially damaging in the media.
- Encourage men to develop a special, individual relationship with God
through Jesus. Means for accomplishing this include:
- Accentuate the importance of individual prayer as well as group
prayer (a number of men at Brooks engage in small group prayers).
- Highlight the importance of independent, self-directed study of
- Assist men to find their unique "call" from God. Distinguish
the individual call from the call to the church as a whole (our approach
with ministries is a step in this direction).
- Emphasize obedience to God's will, not because obedience saves but
because the saved are obedient.
- Rescue our brothers who are failing (dying) in the world. Help our
brothers to recognize that salvation (and happiness) comes through the
work of the Lord, not through success in the world.
- If a brother has significant financial difficulty, work with that
brother to assist him during difficult times.
- Develop church based programs to combat addictions (similar to
- Emphasize that God has a special responsibility for every man. The
church may not always be able to dictate that responsibility. Perhaps
each man should seek on his own to find God's unique work for him.
- Always remember that we are resident aliens in this world.
"He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the alien