The presence of God among his people sets them apart

How will anyone know that you look favorably on me–on me and on your people–if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.”

Exodus 33:16

This is a passage in Exodus where God reveals his glory to Moses. Almost all of the commentary on this passage focuses on God’s revelation of himself to Moses, and how Moses was permitted to see at least a portion of God’s presence.

However, what is sometimes overlooked is why this was necessary for God to do at all. He didn’t have to reveal himself to Moses. But if we look more closely at what had preceded this event, we see Moses questioning God about exactly how this takeover of the land of Canaan was supposed to work.

It appears that Moses was of the opinion that the people could not accomplish this on their own, that God would somehow need to provide some sort of miraculous help. Moses asked God whom he would send to accompany this collection of former slaves into the land that he had promised them. He wanted to better understand how God would accomplish his purpose with them, reminding God that this rag-tag group consisted of the people God had originally called to himself.

If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor. And remember that this nation is your very own people.”

Exodus 33:13

God responded that he himself would accompany them.

The LORD replied, “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest–everything will be fine for you.”
Then Moses said, “If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place.

Exodus 33:14-15

Moses reveals that if the miraculous help they had received when they left Egypt does not continue, then they are better off remaining in the desert. If God was not to accompany them, then what would distinguish them from any other nation?

Moses correctly states that it was God’s presence among them that set them apart. They were to be a unique people due to their unique relationship with the Creator.

In the same way, it is God’s presence among his people today that sets us apart from all other nations. While his kingdom is universal in scope, the unique relationship of believers with our Creator should cause us to act and think in ways that are distinct from our respective cultures. It is his presence that causes us to be the salt preservative in the decaying world, the light amidst the darkness of ignorance.

Ultimately we are set apart and holy, not because of what we do or who we are in ourselves, but because of who he is and what he chooses to do through us.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

To walk in holiness, we must exchange the old man for the new man

… you are to put off concerning the former behavior the old man that is corrupt according to the desires of the deceit, and to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new man, which, according to God, was created in righteousness and kindness of the truth.

Ephesians 4:22-24

The way Paul conveys this instruction to the Ephesian believers is fascinating to me. He is conveying this idea that striving for holiness or being set apart is as simple as them taking off their old desires and putting on their new practices as if they were to imagine changing out an old worn-out coat for a new and durable one.

This new way of life is set apart from its opposite: the way of the world.

So I tell you and encourage you in the Lord’s name not to live any longer like other people in the world. Their minds are set on worthless things. They can’t understand because they are in the dark. They are excluded from the life that God approves of because of their ignorance and stubbornness.

Ephesians 4:17-18

This set-apartness was to come from being united with Messiah. Paul expresses this principle all throughout the book of Romans (and elsewhere). For believers to unite with Messiah was, in essence, to die to oneself and be united to him in new life, alternatively being described as clothing oneself with him.

Romans 6:4 We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may walk in newness of life.
Romans 8:29 For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.
Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
Romans 13:14 Instead, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.

Since the new man is representative of actions that represent the Messiah, then the old man being taken off, the one corrupted with its own desires, is likewise represented symbolically by Adam.

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. …

What is sown is perishable; it is raised imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being;” the last Adam a life-giving spirit.
The spiritual, however, was not first, but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so also are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so also shall we bear the likeness of the heavenly man.

1 Corinthians 15:22; 42-49

To bear the likeness of the heavenly man was to put off the sinful desires, ignorance and stubbornness of the darkness of this world, and instead put on the righteous thinking and deeds of the Messiah by remaining obedient to him as Lord. Believers were to consider themselves as having been resurrected to new life in Messiah.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires. Do not present the parts of your body to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and present the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness.

Romans 6:12-13

This is the walk of holiness that is set before every believer today, as well: to present ourselves to God with each new day as those who have been resurrected from our old, sinful ways into a new life of righteousness.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!

2 Corinthians 5:17

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The steep price of obtaining purity of heart

Flee from youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

2 Timothy 2:22

As Timothy was a young leader within the Yeshua movement of Judaism, Paul was encouraging him to focus on being a positive example to the believers. His commitment to the Messiah would need to be evident in every aspect of his being so that people would sense his sincerity, thereby spurring confidence in his teaching, and honor towards his Lord.

This admonition comes amidst a discussion on faithful workers versus those who had been spreading falsehood among believers. Paul was encouraging Timothy to stick to these basics of kingdom living to ensure he would remain separated from falsehood. He uses a metaphor of the varieties of uses of household utensils to illustrate his point.

Now in a large house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of clay. Some are for honor, and some for dishonor. If anyone therefore purges himself from these, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, and suitable for the master’s use, prepared for every good work.

2 Timothy 2:20-21

To pursue righteousness, Paul argues, one needs only to focus on faith, love and peace within the community of Messiah. This will breed pureness of heart among the believers and all will be encouraged.

While this may come across as being too simplistic, it certainly was not an easy task for the early believers. Maintaining faith in an environment of doctrinal oppression and intense persecution was a lifestyle of daily challenge. Demonstrating real love not only for the brethren but also those who were opposed to the gospel of the kingdom was a monumental task. And pursuing peace with everyone who was essentially against the teachings of Yeshua required the deepest levels of reliance on the spirit of God working in them to establish God’s kingdom in that generation.

Yeshua demanded his followers have purity of heart, but this purity of heart would come at a steep price. Paul himself suffered intense persecution, and he knew it was a reality for believers who were separating from falsehood, but that they should remain steadfast in their faith.

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you remain in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.

2 Timothy 3:12-14

Being set apart for God’s use, a gold or silver utensil to be used for honorable purposes, required a refining process that would test them at every turn until they came forth in their purified quality, ready and useful to God for his special purpose in each and every opportunity. This is the end result and the goal of holiness; being set apart for God’s use.

How like those early believers we should strive to be! By demonstrating righteousness through faith, love, and peace, we will be honoring their memory along with their sacrifice and example through intense persecution. But we will also be honoring the God who calls us to the same life of useful work in our generation. As his people become set apart for his use, he is glorified in every age and his kingdom continues to fill the earth.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here.

The promises of holiness require active separation from unrighteous practices

Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.

2 Corinthians 7:1

Paul’s admonition here is for cleansing our ourselves from everything that can defile our body and spirit. This, he says, is working toward complete holiness; that is, with holiness as the fulfillment, the end goal, of this cleansing.

However, the motivation for this goal comes from some promises he has just mentioned. Since this is the first verse in chapter 7 in our Bibles, this must mean he mentioned some promises at the end of chapter 6. What promises is he referring to?

Well, the direct answer comes when we review verses 17 and 18: “I will receive you,” and “I will be your father and you will be unto me for sons and daughters.”

These are, indeed, amazing promises. But these promises are contingent on this cleansing, a setting apart of some sort. Let’s review the passage in full to see the context:

Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What agreement has Christ with Belial? Or what portion has a believer with an unbeliever? What agreement has a temple of God with idols? For you are a temple of the living God. Even as God said, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “‘Come out from among them, and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘Touch no unclean thing. I will receive you. I will be to you a Father. You will be to me sons and daughters,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

2 Corinthians 6:14-18

I know this passage has classically been used for the purpose of warning believers not to marry non-believers, and while that is certainly a commendable ideal, that is not the context of this passage; marriage is no where in Paul’s sights here.

The real message is that separation from non-believers is required in any type of joint-effort where a compromise of God’s principles would become involved. Believers are not to join in any effort or activity where the Name or character of God would be maligned or disdained.

As an example, in Paul’s day, it was customary to invite friends to go out to dinner, so to speak, in a temple of a local deity. A fellowship meal in an idol’s temple was the equivalent of going out to eat in a restaurant today. It was also an accepted practice to purchase meat in the local market that had first been offered to an idol. These were such serious issues that Paul devotes a whole chapter (chapter 8) in his first letter to the Corinthians to these practices.

It is also mentioned as a primary restriction required of new believers from the Jerusalem Council decision:

Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals, and from blood.

Acts 15:20

To remind the believers of the severity of this command, Paul, as he is known to do, quotes from several selections of torah, or God’s instruction, to make his point:

  • Leviticus 7:21 – If you touch anything that is unclean (whether it is human defilement or an unclean animal or any other unclean, detestable thing) and then eat meat from a peace offering presented to the LORD, you will be cut off from the community.”
  • Leviticus 11:8 – You may not eat the meat of these animals or even touch their carcasses. They are ceremonially unclean for you.
  • Leviticus 26:11-12 – I will live among you, and I will not despise you. I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people.
  • Ezekiel 37:27 – I will make my home among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

He pulls together principles rooted in the holiness of God; avoiding ceremonial uncleanness is the model, the example, of how believers were to ensure they were continuing to pattern their lives in the assemblies of Messiah. If they did so, God would be among them.

Uncleanness went beyond just animals to other sanitary practices among the people of God, from bodily fluids to accidentally touching dead bodies. But the principle was the same: separating oneself from these things was an act of holiness, which by its very definition means to be set apart.

Paul is using that same established torah logic among the believers in Corinth to remind them of their unique position among their generation, and that they should not forfeit their standing with God on the accepted conventions and customs of the day. According to Yeshua’s admonition of Matthew 5:8, believers were to have a pure and blameless heart at all times. Separation from unclean practices was necessary to achieve this.

How can we apply this same principle in our day? What types of accepted conventions in social discourse today compromise the principles of God and his character? What activities demean and denigrate God’s glory, yet are considered “ok” by the rest of our society?

These are the things we are to avoid being “yoked” together (i.e., going along with) non-believers for the sake of fellowship. We cannot be united with them in those things because they compromise God’s integrity and honor.

However, Paul’s admonition is that when we do actively separate ourselves, when we cleanse ourselves from these things, then we are truly behaving like God’s sons and daughters, and only then will he will be present among us. This is the fulfillment of the promises when we take decisive actions to maintain our holiness out of godly respect and honoring of him.

Becoming Set Apart through the Simplicity of Prayer

Core of the Bible Episode 12 – Becoming Set Apart through the Simplicity of Prayer

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of holiness, or being set apart, and the necessity of regular intimate conversation with God that directs our lives.  

Yeshua stated it this way:

“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you. And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the [nations] do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Pray, then, in this way…” Matthew 6:6-9

In the Core of the Bible paraphrase, I have expressed this as, “Make every effort to pray in a private place, simply and sincerely.”

Let me say at the outset of our time together today that this is not meant to be a comprehensive teaching on prayer. There are many different aspects to prayer that could take a much longer time to cover in greater detail; however, I would like to focus on this specific teaching of Yeshua, as I believe it boils a lot of the extraneous information about prayer down to its essentials.

Every culture has an understanding about prayer, and there are many different expressions of this practice. Some traditions are very ritualistic and have designated prayers for specific days. Some produce prayer books for different types of prayers for different things. Prayer can be individual or collective. Even with the various Christian traditions, we have prayers during a collective time of worship and teaching.

While these traditions are not necessarily harmful in and of themselves, they tend to obscure the simplicity with which Yeshua taught his disciples in how to pray.

We learn about many aspects of prayer by looking more closely at the parameters of Yeshua’s instruction. There are specific things to avoid, actions to do, and expected outcomes.

For example, in Matt. 6:5, he states:

“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward.

So here is an admonition of what NOT to do: don’t pray publicly for the sake of being seen as more righteous than others. Notice, he doesn’t say that we shouldn’t pray in public, but that we should check our motives.

Instead, he instructs that we should “go into your inner room, close your door” when we pray. This ensures we are not putting together fanciful orations for the sake of impressing others; there is no on there except you and God.

The outcome of this private practice is that “your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you.” What’s interesting to consider is what type of reward is being mentioned here.  

In typical Hebraic fashion, Yeshua is contrasting this reward with the type of reward previously mentioned when he was speaking about hypocritical prayer. The reward of the hypocrite is to be publicly recognized as righteous, or lifted up in the eyes of others as they selfishly put on a show for the benefit of being recognized by others. That is their reward: the brief recognition by others. This idea also fits neatly within the context Yeshua mentioned just prior to this teaching on prayer, which is a teaching on private giving, as well.

For the truly righteous who pray in private, however, the blessing comes from God, not people, and it also implies the blessing will be personal and private, just like the prayer was. And in contrast to the temporary nature of the recognition of others, this reward will be lasting. Through this, it appears that Yeshua is conveying the personal and intimate nature of prayer, that it should be passion we pursue rather than a show that we put on for others.

While Yeshua he did pray openly among others, typically giving thanks for food and drink or most notably with his “high priestly prayer” with his disciples in John 17, by and large Yeshua demonstrated a separation from others in his own prayer life.  

Mark 14:32 – Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he told his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”

Luke 6:12 – During those days he went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God.

Luke 11:1 – He was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.”

So we can see that Yeshua did demonstrate a practice of personal prayer apart from others, even during his time of public ministry with his disciples.

Another practice Yeshua admonishes us to avoid is to ramble excessively in prayer, calling up every random thought and desire to place it all before God. This was something that the contemporary pagan religions practiced, and he was urging his followers not to follow the practices of the surrounding nations, a common Old Testament them, as well.

Matthew 6:7  “When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

It’s simple: the reason we don’t need to review every little detail of our petty lives is because, ultimately, God already knows what we need.

So if prayer is not about asking God for what we need, then what is it for? In the following verses in Matthew 6, Yeshua lays out an appropriate method or outline of prayer to ensure those who seek him would be approaching him in a manner that honors him while not demeaning the petitioner.

In the frontier culture of colonial America, a maxim of the basics of education became reduced to the concept of the three R’s: Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic. Now, while the three R’s of the prairie schoolhouse education summed up its basic tenets, in like fashion, I submit for your consideration that prayer, as taught by Yeshua, can also be summarized with three R’s:

– Recognition: we need to recognize God for all he is, for all he has done, and all he is doing. Acknowledging his authority and purpose helps us keep our perspective.

– Repentance: confession and repentance are not only good for the soul, they are a requirement. This is the opportunity to make sure we are being open and honest with God about all conflict in our lives.

– Request: with the correct perspective of God, and a humble heart of repentance, we are now in a state in which we can request what’s appropriate and necessary in our lives, not just flippant and shallow desires of the moment. God has promised to meet our needs, not our wants.

Let’s compare these three simple principles with Yeshua’s model prayer, what has come to be known as the Lord’s Prayer, to see how these characteristics are exemplified.

——-

Matthew 6:9 – “Pray, then, in this way”:  

It amazes me that even though Yeshua specifically showed his disciples how to pray when he was asked, that we still choose instead to follow all sorts of man made prayer ideals. We have prayer campaigns, 40-days of prayer, prayer vigils, prayer with fasting, prayer beads, prayer chains, prayer groups. Clearly we have a need and a desire to pray; why don’t we just simplify everything and listen to our Master provide us the instruction we need?

In his model prayer, Yeshua begins with the first R: recognition.

“Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.”  

That’s it! Not a long list of how amazing, how beautiful, how wonderful he is. We can leave that to the Psalmists, and for our own meditation on those qualities of his. These may be offered in sincerity of praise to him, but in some ways, they can come across as simply a way of buttering him up before we ask for what we want.

Instead, for prayer purposes, Yeshua keeps this recognition of God simple: he is in heaven, which means he is above and beyond the comparatively trite and finite existence we experience. He therefore has the ability to see beyond what we can see and to apprehend what would be best for us in any given situation.  

Additionally, his Name (his character) is holy, that is, set apart from everything and everyone else. Recognition of these factors demonstrates our understanding that we are in communication with the one true God of the universe.

Both God’s kingdom and his will are equated in this verse. I’ve talked about this before in previous teachings. The kingdom coming is God’s will being done on earth. If his kingdom is heaven, and his will is accomplished there, then his kingdom on earth is anywhere his will is being accomplished on earth.

If our prayer is based on these facts: that God is all knowing, that he is set apart from this corruptible world, and that accomplishing his will is the expansion of his kingdom on this earth, our prayers would have a much different tone and form of expression, would you agree?

Now on to the second R: request.

“Give us this day our daily bread.”  

While this is a request, it only comes on the heels of recognizing who the provider of bread is: the one true God. By requesting our daily provision be met, we are assenting to his ability to provide it. This is a request that is contingent on our understanding of God’s power and authority.

It is also an understanding that this bread is only a provision within the context of accomplishing his will and purpose on this earth. We have no right to expect God’s provision if we are simply living for ourselves and our own selfish desires.

Next, Yeshua provides another key aspect of prayer with the other R: repentance.

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  

Forgiveness can only come after repentance; repentance of our actions that have offended God or repentance of our actions that have hurt others, or repentance of others who have hurt us. While forgiveness is a topic we can explore in and of itself, in the context of this prayer, Yeshua clearly is making the point that God is not obligated to forgive us if we are not willing to forgive others. He makes that clear just a few verses later:

Matt. 6:14-15 – For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive yours.

God does not want us to be hypocritical, and certainly not within our prayers. In fact, all of this teaching on prayer is within the overall context of avoiding hypocrisy: we should not make a big show of our giving (vss.1-3), we should not make a big show of our praying (vss. 5-7), and we should not make a big show of our fasting (vss. 16-18). (Fasting will be another topic for another day). These are all things the religious leaders loved to do, and Yeshua is condemning these practices because their hearts were not right. They wanted to look good in front of others when they had corrupt hearts that could not ascertain the true needs of others. They sought the hollow approval of men rather than the true approval that only comes from God.

By contrast, a heart that is right with God will be satisfied within its own domain; it won’t need the approval and affirmation of others in order to be justified. It knows it’s right with God and it won’t be swayed by external judgment.

Back to Yeshua’s model prayer, he continues with another request:  

‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  

Very few people actually enjoy tests. In grade school I certainly never enjoyed tests, especially ones I was not prepared for. I would scramble for answers and hope some of the multiple choice options made sense so I could muddle my way through. If it was math or another subject where I had to show my work, I would need that much more preparation to ensure I could pass the test. And that was the idea: knowledge of the upcoming test would (or should) have forced me to learn the material more thoroughly.

But I can also say that when I was actually prepared for a test because I did know the material, I was not concerned with the process of taking the test; in fact, I kind of enjoyed it because providing the right answers gave me a sense of satisfaction. It also confirmed for me that I truly was familiar with the material. When I was prepared, I didn’t mind the test and I knew after the test that I was going to get a good grade.

In like fashion, God tests his people; not to see them fail but to show them how much they know about themselves and their own abilities.

Deuteronomy 8:2 – Remember that for forty years the LORD your God led you on your journey in the desert. He did this in order to humble you and test you. He wanted to know whether or not you would wholeheartedly obey his commands.

Testing is also a refining process, where the impurities are drawn off of precious metals by heating them up to a liquid state. Once the “dross” is drawn off, what remains of the original metal is now a more purified condition.

Proverbs 17:3 Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but the LORD tests the heart.

Psalm 66:10-12 – For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us like silver. You led us into the net; You laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but You brought us into abundance.

Job 23:10-12 Yet He knows the way I have taken; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have followed in His tracks; I have kept His way without turning aside. I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my daily bread.

2 Pet 1:6-7 – now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more precious than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

In Yeshua’s prayer, he is encouraging us to petition God that, by his mercy, we would be spared, not from ALL testing, but from hard testing and to be delivered from evil that exists along the way. But there’s no guarantee that would be the case. This clause in this model prayer is just a reminder, an ongoing understanding that we always need to be prepared; God can test us at any time. How familiar are we with his ways? Through testing, large or small, we will be shown what we know and if how we have patterned our life matches his purposes.

That is his goal for us, that our lives match his purposes. Many times I have heard Christian leaders say we should be seeking to become more “Christ-like.” To that I say: be careful what you wish for. If that’s the case, then we can look at the life of the Messiah and see that it was filled with testing: in the wilderness with hunger and visions, battling doctrine with the religious leaders, having his sanity questioned with his friends and family, and ultimately going willingly to one of the most publicly humiliating and gruesome deaths imaginable. He did all this because it was within God’s purpose for him.

Are you ready for that level of testing? Because if you are desiring to be more Christ-like, you can likely expect more of that.

Finishing  up our brief review of Yeshua’s model prayer, in most of our English versions of this passage, a final aspect of this teaching ends once again with a recognition of God’s authority and power:

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’

Some scholars think this was a sentence that was added to the text by over zealous scribes. While that may or may not be the case, it brings the model prayer full circle by ending with the same level of recognition with which it begins: God is all powerful and holy, and all of our prayers should also be enclosed within that understanding. Notice, in this  outline that Yeshua provides us, there can be no request without that recognition, and there can also be no request without repentance. Therefore, our repentance and requests are contingent on the recognition of God’s person and purposes.

Prayer should be a core practice that comes from the very center of a believing heart. It is the one place and time where our focus should be solely on communicating with the all-powerful Creator of the universe, conveying requests aligned to his purposes with truly repentant and humble hearts. Because it is so significant, it should be a time set apart from everything, and everyone, else. In this intentionally isolated place and time, we have no masks to hide behind, no one to impress, and nothing to offer except our barest hopes for strength during testing and aspirations to be purified through all.  

“…[A]nd your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you.”

We hold on to that promise of Yeshua, that the Father sees and rewards those secret and genuine longings of our spirits to be submitted to him in fulfillment of his will and purpose. Those rewards may be different what we expect; however, whenever they come to pass, we can be confident they will exceed our wildest ideas of what they could possibly be, and they will last for eternity.

Well, once again, I hope I’ve been able to provide you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. Holiness is a requirement for every believer. Prayer is the simplest method of maintaining our set apart condition in this world, as we seek God’s heart in authentic communication with him. Our holiness, or set-apartness, in this world stems from the very testing and refinement that God conducts within us on a regular basis, as we rely on him and submit to his will.

We need to keep in mind that holiness is one of the concepts that is integral within the core of the Bible qualities of kingdom, integrity, vigilance, trust, forgiveness and compassion. It is my hope you will continue to review with me these aspects of human expression that, I believe, God expects of all people.  

Have questions about todays topic, or comments or insights you would like to share? Perhaps you have found this podcast helpful or encouraging. If so, I would love to hear from you and include listener comments in future episodes, so feel free to email me at coreofthebible@gmail.com.  

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How to prepare ourselves to be set apart for God’s use in any situation

In a large house there are dishes and bowls of all kinds: some are made of silver and gold, others of wood and clay; some are for special occasions, others for ordinary use. Those who make themselves clean from these things will be used for special purposes, because they are dedicated and useful to their Master, ready to be used for every good deed.

2 Timothy 2:20-21

Holiness is about being sanctified or set apart for God’s specific purposes. In the example that Paul uses here with Timothy, there is also an ongoing refinement that is similar to recognizing the differences between ordinary plates for everyday use and fine china that would be used for special occasions. There is a cleansing process that he mentions: “those who make themselves clean.”

Sanctification, or being set apart, is partly a process that God conducts and partly a process that we are responsible for, as well.

Ephesians 2:10 – God has made us what we are. He has created us in Christ Jesus to live lives filled with good works that he has prepared for us to do.

Psalm 119:9 – How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.

In the grand sense, God has set us apart by drawing us to faith in Messiah so that we may do the good things he has prepared for us to do. But by continuing to sharpen our obedience to God’s word, we also distinguish ourselves from those in God’s household who are content to remain simply with their sanctification from the world.

In Paul’s example, these are the plates used for ordinary purposes, for the basics of eating and drinking, for the rough and tumble of everyday existence. These are the plates and bowls that have chips and cracks, that have rough edges, blemishes and marks from use. They are serviceable in the uses they are designed for, but they all carry evidence of that use, and are not as likely to be used for special occasions.

By contrast, the gold and silver plates and cups are those which would be used for specific events that are noteworthy; the holiday gatherings with friends and family, or the formal dinners with respected individuals and guests. Paul is implying that, apart from God’s sanctification from the rest of the world, we can “cleanse ourselves” further from rough, ordinary use into something that is useful to God in special ways. But this has to be an intentional purpose on our part, something we choose to do by disciplining ourselves in his word to create and maintain the luster and polish required of the fine china.

The context of this passage helps us frame a reference for this concept, as Paul had just mentioned previously:

2 Timothy 2:15 – Make every effort to present yourself approved to God, an unashamed workman who accurately handles the word of truth.

The making of the effort to present ourselves unashamedly to God demonstrates our willingness to manifest the great gifts that God has given us. Of course God can use any vessel for his purpose, fine china or regular plates, but the fine china is designed for the most special of occasions to bear the finest foods. Why not seek to improve the opportunities for God to use you by setting yourself apart in ways that allow him to use you in any situation?

True holiness stems from the presence of God, his words, living within our hearts

Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant, for I am with you,” says the LORD.

Jeremiah 46:28

The one thing that set ancient Israel apart from their neighboring tribes and countries was that their God was present. While other kingdoms and countries had their gods, their idols, and their temples, Israel actually had the God of the universe with them.

God allowed himself to be present within their Mishkan, the portable sanctuary that traveled with them. His presence resided in the Most Holy Place, by all accounts hovering above and within the ark of the covenant, which contained the tablets of the Ten Words, the Ten Commandments.

This covenant, these Ten Words, are what separated Israel from their neighbors. This is what made them holy; they were to abide by the actual commands of God, written with his own finger, etched eternally into stone.

There was no fanciful prophetic vision or private revelation; these words had been conveyed to the entire assembly of Israel at once as he himself spoke these words from Sinai. Everyone heard his voice, everyone felt the weight of his presence and struggled with the fear, real fear, at hearing the resounding and penetrating voice of God.

On the morning of the third day, thunder roared and lightning flashed, and a dense cloud came down on the mountain. There was a long, loud blast from a ram’s horn, and all the people trembled.

Exodus 19:16

For they heard an awesome trumpet blast and a voice so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking. They staggered back under God’s command: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” Moses himself was so frightened at the sight that he said, “I am terrified and trembling.”

Hebrews 12:19-21

Israel was born of revelation, a revelation to an entire people at once. This is what set them apart, and this was the heart of their most sacred place and artifacts that they carried with them throughout their wilderness journeys and into the land promised to them.

To this day, what sets God’s people apart is this covenant, the Ten Words. There is no equal among the religious communities of the world,

The illustration for us through what is pictured in the wilderness journeys of Israel is that just as God resided within that Most Holy Place above the ark of the covenant, God’s very presence resides within these Ten Words, the Ten Commandments. As we seek to fulfill these commands, then we are truly following in the footsteps of our Lord, the Messiah Yeshua.

“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 5:17-19

This is the everlasting covenant that remains forever. The “new” covenant ushered in through Yeshua is a martyr’s covenant of dying to self so that the words of the everlasting covenant can be lived through us. It places this covenant in the hearts of those who would receive them, those who are called by his Name and who live and abide by its precepts because it makes up the very essence of who they are.

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

Jeremiah 31:33

This is holiness, being set apart for the purposes of God. He is present within the words of his covenant, and as the covenanted words are in our heart, he is present within us.

God is present. This sets us apart. This makes us whole. This is the essence of his kingdom on the earth.

Becoming more set apart for God’s purposes by being more intentional with his instruction

Blessed is the person who does not follow the advice of wicked people, take the path of sinners, or join the company of mockers. Rather, he delights in the teachings of the LORD and reflects on his teachings day and night.

Psalm 1:1-2

A life that is set apart in holiness has its roots in the torah, or the instruction, of Yahweh. This constant input of God’s teachings is what generates within us a desire to do what honors him and directs us to deal fairly with others.

Since we are commanded to be holy, a practical understanding of what it means to “meditate” or “reflect on” his teachings can benefit our spiritual growth and nourishment.

Firstly, if our review of God’s instruction is to be constant, it must be comprehensive. We should be reviewing all of God’s word on a regular basis, not just cherry-picking our favorite verses. At a minimum we should be reviewing all of the Bible at least once a year.

Secondly, our review should be intentional. We have to set apart time each day to be successful. Like any relationship, there has to be constant interaction in order for the relationship to grow. The psalmist uses the language of “day and night” to convey the constancy of this meditation in God’s word.

Thirdly, this review should be meaningful. We need to be critically engaged with God’s instruction, not just passing popular scripture memes on social media.

While there are different learning styles, we can have various levels of meaningful engagement depending on how we choose to interact with the word. Reading or listening to an audio version engages one level of our critical insight. By reading while listening to an audio version, our comprehension grows on multiple levels. We can also read the word out loud, interacting through sight, speech and hearing. By committing meaningful passages to memory and reciting them over and over (i.e., “hiding God’s word in our heart,” Psalm 119:11), we have our most intimate and meaningful application of this engagement.

In our day and culture here in America, we have a large variety of versions and translations to choose from. We also have many different media options from print, to online, to apps for our mobile devices. We have audio versions and video versions that can be listened to and viewed regularly. If any generation has the ability to be steeped in God’s word, it is our current information-rich society.

In what ways can you be more engaged with God’s instruction? Perhaps experimenting with different levels of interacting with his word through the media options available to us can provide fresh perspective and renewed insight. The more intentional we are in learning from his guidance, the more set apart and available for his purposes we become.

Contemplating the Source of all holiness sets believers apart

Give to Yahweh the glory his name deserves. Worship Yahweh in [his] holy splendor.

Psalm 29:2

Within this psalm is a description of God’s awe-inspiring power displayed in the majestic outworking of his Creation. He is extolled in the demonstration of the power of a mighty storm, in which echoes of the all-consuming Flood of Noah are hinted at.

Our own holiness, or separation from the world, is derived from our perspective and meditation of God as the Creator of all. Amidst a people who have no recognition of any God, or who are self-absorbed in the creations of their own making, believers stand apart in our honoring of the one true God of the universe. In so doing, we ourselves become set apart.

We must recognize that our holiness is derived from his holiness and majesty. If we lose sight of who he is, we become less set apart. Conversely, as we honor him and ascribe to him the glory that his name deserves, then we are elevated into a position of strength and purpose that rises far above our mundane existence.

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.”

1 Peter 1:15-16

Remaining in the Way

And there will be a highway called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not travel it—only those who walk in the Way—and fools will not stray onto it.

Isaiah 35:8

In the time that these words were written, what was called a highway was what we would consider today a well-trodden trail. It was a definitive path that left no doubt as to the right way to go. Being on this trail brought with it a sense of confidence: all one had to do was to follow the trail to reach their destination.

The path of holiness is here called the Way. When one is on this path, one is separated from the rest of humanity that is choosing to follow its own desires.

Depending on which version of the Bible you may read, the last part of the verse can be viewed in a couple of meaningful ways. In some versions, like the Berean Study Bible quoted here, it gives the impressions that the fool will not accidentally stray onto it. This would imply that the Way is intentional; one chooses to be on it and does not fall upon it by whim or chance.

There are also versions that provide a different shade of meaning, such as “even a fool will not stray from it.” This gives the meaning that the Way is so clearly defined that even if one is foolish they have the ability to remain on the path.

In either view, the Way is something that is distinct from where the rest of the world travels. Being on the Way of holiness means one is traveling within a way of life that is intentionally set apart for God’s purposes, and this Way can keep even our foolish inclinations in check.