The Cost of Identifying with Christ
Shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus solemnly told the twelve: “Ye shall drink indeed of my cup.” He was referring to the bitter cup of persecution, suffering and death. The first of the disciples to drink of that cup was James, the son of Zebedee. The early church had begun to grow remarkably when “about that time Herold the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.” Acts 12:1-2
James paid the ultimate price of true discipleship: he gave his life for the One Whose blood purchased eternal life for him. But James was not the only disciple to drink of the cup. In fact, of the eleven faithful ones of the twelve, only John lived to old age. All of the others died as martyrs. They followed the pattern of James Zebedee who set the example of the total identification with Christ.
Today, some two thousand years later, few, if any, within the United States die for their faith in Christ. In spite of this, identification with Jesus Christ should be the objective of every believer. But how is this possible? And what does it mean to “identify with Christ?” Some answers can be discovered in the Biblical doctrine of separation.
One of the most provocative words in the Christian vocabulary is “separation.” The very mention of this word is often the spark which ignites a very un-Christian argument. Ironically, disagreement betweeen Christians about “separation” usually results in only one thing: it separates them!
The Bible does not define “separation” as clearly as many Christians do. All too often, sincere, well-meaning believers have taken it upon themselves to take up where the Word of God left off; and they have created lists upon lists of things “separated Christians” do not do. This common practice has resulted in the formation of a false doctrine of separation. This “doctrine” would be perfectly acceptable were it not for one problem: it was invented by men. Colossians 2:20-23 “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.“
This “false doctrine of separation” is a negative doctrine. The Biblical doctrine, however, is both positive and negative. A careful examination of key passages bear this out. So, over the next few days we will delve into this topic of separation using the Word as our guidebook on this topic.