Set Apart for God: Leading a Virtuous Life

Do you know what it means to be set apart for God? Here are 4 questions to ask yourself. 

What does it mean to be set apart for God? This is a concept dating back to the Exodus and precludes the saving work of Jesus. As believers, we are called to be different than the world and culture around us. It’s easy, especially in modern society, to find ourselves blending in more than sticking out.

Today, I’m covering the Biblical basis of being set apart and how it ultimately points to Christ, and challenging you with 4 questions to determine whether you are a bright light standing out, salt of the earth, or whether you diluting your testimony by looking like everyone else.

Let’s jump in and explore what it means to be set apart, to live counter-culturally to what’s going on around us. To be holy in the sight of God and how we need to examine whether or not we’re being set apart for God’s purpose or whether we’re just blending in and not really standing out and standing up for Christ, for God in our lives and those around us.

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Today we are in Holy Week as we head into Easter, I really want to take the time to talk about this concept of being set apart. This concept originates with the people of Israel and has carried through to the New Testament in how we are as Christians supposed to represent ourselves, represent our faith, be the light to the darkness, and show Jesus in all that we do, how we’re supposed to illustrate Christ within.

When I was a baby Christian, I was in the young adults group and there was a guy in the group who cursed a lot. He even cursed when he was praying. Even as a baby Christian who was still on milk, I knew the very basics of Christianity, and it bothered me. It stirred me in the wrong way. It felt very inconsistent with who God was and who he called us to be. 

At the time, let me be really clear, I was definitely not a poster child for super Christianity. I was making so many mistakes. I was doing so many things with my own self and my own image that were terrible. In hindsight, I can’t believe I did things like wearing a dress to Sunday services that were definitely not appropriate for church.

We all have to learn and we all have to be sanctified in our own time. But this guy had been a Christian for a while and it really bothered me that he chose to use these very specific four-letter curse words that he used when he was praying. I’m not talking about dang or darn. I asked him one time and I was like, “I don’t understand. I don’t understand why you’re doing this. It doesn’t feel like what God wants from us.” 

He does talk about us being true in our speech and not having any profanity. His answer showed his immaturity in hindsight. I think that the lesson here is that we often do things that are considered acceptable in our culture, but that are grievances to God.

What I would love to do today is talk about what it means to be set apart and then share with you some thoughts I have on things you’re doing, and things you’re saying.  To encourage you really to examine whether or not those things you’re doing are causing you to be set apart for Christ or causing you to blend in and really diluting your faith and your ministry and your journey. I want to help you examine how we can let God transform those things inside of us. 

In honor of the Passover and the holy week of Easter coming into all these things, let’s remember that God led the Israelites out of captivity. They’d been in captivity for over 400 years. He leads them out, he does all of these miracles and he leads them out. Almost immediately really they start forgetting who God is. 

They start returning to the pagan ways that they’re used to and even outside of the culture, they’re still doing those culturally inappropriate things. God creates the concept of being set apart because of the fact that we as humans are incapable of being fully holy in front of a fully righteous God. God gives them these commandments and these laws really to illustrate how they can attempt to be set apart from the culture around them that is seeking to pull them in and suck them back into those sinful and pagan behaviors. 

God also gives them these as well to paint the picture that without Jesus it’s impossible for us to be set apart, to be holy in spite of our efforts and our works. Anything that we try to do on our own, our striving and trying so hard to be everything we think is perfect, it’s still not possible. The set-apart laws are designed to show us how fully reliant we are upon Jesus, upon the salvation of Jesus. 

I think this is such a timely message because we’re getting ready the next few days to remember the crucifixion and celebrate the resurrection and this is the tenet of our Christian faith. This is everything that it hinges on. That Jesus was God, that he died for our sins and he rose on the third day. The basic tenet of the faith. I want to encourage you to be set apart. I want to encourage you not to be like the lost Israelites trying to be like the culture around them because, in this day and age, our culture is quite disturbing at times.

There are a lot of things going on, and I don’t want to get into the specifics. That’s not really what I have time for today, but you probably know what I mean. Things that are considered normal, considered acceptable now, that 50 years ago, 100 years ago would’ve been considered sinful and not appropriate to the way we live our lives. I think that in many ways the Christian faith has gotten very much watered down. 

I wonder how many of us God would look at and say we are lukewarm. This is a question I ask myself frequently, “God, am I lukewarm? Would you rather toss me out? Am I not being set apart enough? I’m not striving enough for the holiness that is available to me that you offer in Jesus?” I would love to ask you four questions and kind of dig into these four different things, to help you start thinking about areas in your life, in which case you either are set apart or you’re blending in.

Set Apart for God: Do People Know You’re a Believer?

The first thing I’m going to ask you is, if you met a stranger, would they be able to tell within a five-minute conversation with you if you’re a believer? This doesn’t mean that you need to share the gospel with them within five minutes. On the contrary, I think that sharing the gospel with unbelievers is something that needs to be done in the context of a relationship just like Jesus modeled with his disciples. 

But also, is there something about you in the five minutes that says that you’re different, even if you don’t come out and say it? Is it the language that you use? Is it the things that you talk about? Is it the way you look, the way you dress, what you’re doing with your time? Would people be able to tell? Do you seem different or do you seem just like everybody else?

Set Apart for God: What Are You Involved In?

The second thing I would like for you to ask yourself is what are you involved in? 

I didn’t know this growing up, but there was a girl in my school and I remember that she was really good at gymnastics but her parents would not let her try out to be a cheerleader. I always wondered why because she was really talented. Come to find out later that she was Jewish and the Jewish people celebrate their Sabbath from Friday evening to Saturday evening. Her parents would not let her participate in any activities that fell in that time period. 

What are you involved in? What are you doing with your time that might not be indicative of your relationship with God, your relationship with Christ? I don’t know what this could be. This could be the hobbies that you have. It could be things you’re doing with your time when you should be doing something else. Are you involved in anything that makes you look more like everyone else around you? Or does it make you look like you belong to Christ? 

Set Apart for God: What Are You Saying No To?

The third question I have is sort of similar to this, but it’s another side of that question. What are you saying no to? What are you denying that is culturally appropriate around you? Are you taking the time to say to yourself, I’m not going to do this because if I do this thing, if I take this action, it’s not going to make me set apart, it’s going to make me seem like everyone else. It’s going to dilute my ministry, dilute my faith, dilute my testimony because it makes me seem like I am not of God with God in, in God, essentially.

Set Apart for God: How Are You Presenting Yourself?

The final thing I’m going to ask you is specific to your image: how are you presenting yourself? I mentioned at the beginning of this episode that when I was a very young Christian, I wore things to church that were not appropriate. I can remember one occasion specifically I had on a fitted dress and it was sleeveless and it was pretty low square cut. 

I went over to say hi to my neighbor, and his mom was visiting and she was a Christian. Later that week he told me that his mom said to him, “I can’t believe she’s going to church in that. Is she really going to church in that?” It was the wake-up I needed to realize that my actions were not in line with who I was now professing to be.

I think that how we look is a journey that we need to take with God. I think that he changes us and he sanctifies us and he brings us to awareness in his own time. I’m not here to be your Holy Spirit, he does his job perfectly and I am perfectly content to leave it to him.

I do want to encourage you to consider if there are things about your appearance, and how you present yourself to others that are not set apart. Things that are too culturally acceptable, that are too simple, and too the same as everybody else. What one thing could you change to help yourself look a bit more set apart?

Again, I don’t expect you to do things the way I do things. I would love for you to just pray on this, take this to God, and ask Him. 

Final Thoughts on Being Set Apart for God

I would like to leave you with here are these four questions to ask to see if you are striving towards being set apart or you’re settling into being just like everybody else, blending in with a culture around you, exhibiting a lifestyle that you don’t actually believe in your heart. 

Number one: would five minutes with a stranger, tell them you are a believer? Number two: what things are you involved in? Number three: what are you saying no to, to be set apart? Number four: how does your image and presentation of yourself reflect who you are on the inside and are you set apart or blending in? 

I would just love for you to pray. I want you to pray specifically Psalm 139, verses 23 and 24. I’m going to pray it over you:

Search me, oh God, and know my heart. Try me and see, try me and know my anxieties and see if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. Lord, I would pray that these women reading or listening today would pray, would just seek you in this prayer and open themselves up to let you search them, to letting you find their anxieties, find their sinfulness that they don’t know about, and lead them in a way that is everlasting and joyful and cause them to be set apart so that they can be on fire for you. Be a light to the lost world for you, and they can be a hero of the faith and lead their path. Just walk that path they’re leading, run that race strongly. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

Set Apart or Blending In? How God Calls Women to Lead a Virtuous Life

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