When to Separate from the Disobedient

If you aren't growing in Christ like you know you should be and if you don't possess true freedom and life to the full in Christ, one road block very well could be the place and people you call "church".

Regarding my messages where I teach that the Bible says we are to separate from the disobedient and where I explain why I left the institution called "church", someone commented:

"Disconnecting from community is actually less faithful than being part of a flawed community. You interpret scripture anyway that suits your needs. Your examples of where we are to separate from sinners are not necessarily Christians and certainly not a call to leave church. We are meant to come together, all our messiness and acts of hypocrisy - God commands that."

I agree that Scripture does not teach we are to separate from believers simply because they stumbled, or because they are imperfect. If that were the case, I would have had to separate from myself a long time ago. It's not those who stumble and repent who we are to separate from, but rather those who are willfully and knowingly practicing sin and disobedience, false Christianity, hypocrisy, those who do not love the truth, the self-righteous, and also those who love the world.  Tragically, just as the Bible prophesied, most of today's "churches" are filled with these kinds of "believers".  I was one of them for many years until God called me "out".

A Shocking Prophecy from A.W. Tozer

Let me go out on a limb a little bit and prophesy. I see the time coming when all the holy men whose eyes have been opened by the Holy Spirit will desert worldly evangelicalism, one by one. The house will be left desolate and there will not be a man of God, a man in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, left among them. As it stands now, the man who sees this condition of worldly evangelicalism is written off as being somewhat fanatical. I would like to live long enough to see that time when the men and women of God—holy, separated and spiritually enlightened—walk out of the evangelical church and form a group of their own; when they get off the sinking ship and let her go down in the brackish waters of worldliness and form a new ark to ride out the storm.
— A.W. Tozer, Author - The Dangers of a Shallow Faith

If Tozer were alive today, He would see that indeed his prophecy is coming true.  It is currently estimated that one million people per year are leaving the institution of the "church".  Even George Barna, the man who knows more about the condition of the world-wide church than anyone, has also left the institution we call the "church".  What does that tell you? 

A recent email I received from a subscriber:

Dear Michael, I would like your opinion on something I am struggling with. I know ultimately that this is between me and God but any insight would be appreciated. I have this persistent feeling that I should go back to the church I was attending previously. I have been searching for a church for a long time with not much luck. I left my previous church because I wasn't learning anything and it only has a Sunday service, no prayer meetings or discipleship. Basically, I feel it's a dead church and I wanted more for me and my children. Would God want me to stay there? I see the watered down doctrine and the sin there. My mind cannot perceive why I should go back but I certainly don't want to rely on my own understanding and be disobedient. I have struggled with this for a while and cannot seen to be at peace about it. Any thoughts? Thank you and God bless.

My Reply:

In 27 years of being a Christian, I have grown more outside the “church” than I ever did inside of it. When I finally had the courage to leave, it’s as if heaven opened all it’s doors to me. I think most Christians forget that Christ is coming back only for a pure virgin bride and she better not be hanging out with the disobedient when He comes for her. We were warned to separate and have nothing to do with those who hold to a form of godliness but deny it’s power (2 Tim 3:5), those who claim to know God but by their actions deny Him (Tit 1:16).
— Michael Chriswell

The New Testament mentions one time about not forgetting to meet together (Heb 10:25). And yet, today's preachers are preaching the "no man is an island" message as if it's the only wing on the bird.  It's because they are losing customers every year and they are panicked.  Those buildings are expensive to maintain and those salaries add up quickly each month.  If the customers go, so does the salary.  Their message is out of balance and I  believe so is their motivation.

They completely disregard the much higher number of also writtens at the bottom of this post, which say there will be terrible times in the last days, which we are actually in (the early church was NOT), and the good reasons to separate.  

I last stepped foot in the charismatic church that I was regularly attending over two and a half years ago.  Previous to being introduced to that church, I was already in a season of intense study of the Word of God and learning to seek Him with all of my heart.  I was growing at an amazing pace as the Lord just kept opening my eyes more and more and teaching me the deep truth's of His word.  As the Father opened my eyes more and more, I began to see that in spite of claiming to have the corner on the "Spirit filled Life", the people in the church were not at all living the same way the Lord was telling me to live, and as the Bible very clearly commands. And yet, the whole church was filled with people speaking in tongues, giving "words of knowledge", being "slain in the spirit", focused on healing, and chasing the supernatural.  I became very confused.

As people got close to me and opened up to me, I would see the deception, the compromise, and the sin they were living in.  Over time, I confronted eight different people on issues ranging from having seances, drunkenness, inappropriate gossip, falsely prophesying, complete life discontentment, unequally yoked relationships, coarse joking, listening to false prophets, blatant unforgiveness, love of money, etc.  Out of the eight people I confronted, not one of them had ears to hear the truth.  Each one had a different justification for the sin they were living in.  A few accused me of being too radical, too serious, or just too legalistic.  Others simply turned against me.  

I became so upset about what I was seeing that I would even cry in frustration over it.  "How can people worship you on Sunday morning like this Lord, claim to love you, cry crocodile tears during worship service, and then live like the heathens in the world?" Finally I said, "Father, I can't do this anymore."  As I prayed about the church and what to do, the Father directed me to Luke 11:11.  "Which of you Father's, if his son asks for a fish, would give him a snake?"  I wanted to give the pastor the courtesy of letting him know of what I experienced and that it was wide spread and serious.

Here's my email to my former pastor:

Dear Pastor, there's no easy way to explain all that has transpired in my walk of late, so I won't. But the reason I'm leaving the church can best be summarized by this.  For months I began seeing things in the lives of others, in the church, who claim to be  true "Spirit Filled" followers of Christ and yet who had chronic areas of rebellion or sin or deceit.  

Every church has hypocrites and lukewarm believers, but of the groups I was in, it became overwhelming to see.  As you know, when I stumbled into a sin, I cried for 3 days in brokenness because I dishonored The Lord in that one moment. Hate for blatant sin burns in me, and I am not able to live like that.  I am not able to live in rebellion or disobedience to God.

When these people came to me, I presented the truth of Scripture to them and admonished them to obey the truth.  None of them wanted to hear it.  Two of them even ran to you to get a second opinion on my rebuke.

I was so confused on how the people that claim to have the corner on the "Spirit filled" life can continue to sit in church week after week, and live outside the will of God, all the while thinking they are saved.  That is not the true Gospel that I see in the Scripture at all.  I don't see the "new creations" in seasoned believers of MANY years.  Something is terribly wrong pastor!

After reading and studying for over 100 hours on this subject now, I have a much better understanding of the doctrine of the Charismatic church and I do not agree with it.

I'm deeply concerned about the drastic separation I see between faith and faithfulness in so many in the church and I hope you'll give this some serious consideration.  

Bless you Pastor!

It was hard to work up the courage to leave because I had become the connecting point for a good number of people, and I had even been connected to leadership.  But, I made the leap and left immediately, sticking to my convictions, and keeping my conscience clear before God and man.  I genuinely loved and enjoyed knowing some of these people and so for several weeks it felt like I had been through a spiritual divorce.  My pastor never even replied to my email and after seeing a friend of mine a few weeks later, he said, "Michael is not only wrong, he is dead wrong."

I somewhat expected a response like that.  What I didn't expect was the REVIVAL that happened in my heart afterwards.  The Lord indeed rewarded my obedience big time, by pouring out his grace into my heart and life in extraordinary ways.  He knew that what I did was difficult and He was gracious to encourage me for doing the right thing.

In a fallen world like ours, unity is no treasure to be purchased at the price of compromise. Loyalty to God, faithfulness to truth and the preservation of a good conscience are jewels more precious than gold of Ophir or diamonds from the mine. When confused sheep start over a cliff, the individual sheep can save himself only by separating from the flock. Perfect unity at such a time can only mean total destruction for all. The wise sheep, to save his own hide, disaffiliates. “Divide and conquer” is the cynical slogan of Machiavellian political leaders, but Satan knows also how to UNITE and conquer.
— A. W. Tozer - Divisions Are Not Always Bad

I have not belonged to a "church" since, but I am very much a part of the true body of Christ (Luke 8:21, 1 John 3:6-10). My church family now spans all over the globe, and the Lord has done so much that there's no way I could even tell it all to someone.  Paul used letters to connect to his family, and I use voice recordings, video, email, and meetings.

On January 25th 2015, the Lord inspired me with the idea to start making personal "sermons" for people that contact me in their brokenness.  Before each recording, I pray and ask the Lord to give me bread from heaven for this child of His.  The results have often been amazing to them and to me!  As of today, I have likely made more than 2,000 recordings for people.  The email testimonials of lives changing are sometimes so wonderful that they make me cry with joy and praise to our Father!  Here is one from a sister in South Africa, just two days ago.  She was living in extremely difficult darkness when she first contacted me many months ago.  She was suicidal on an every other day basis.

Michael, I have been so blessed to have found your challenge! I get renewed hope and your messages build my faith so much. And your recorded message was SO encouraging to me, I cried. You and Persis have been hand picked for this ministry. I have never understood the depths the way you teach them, you make it so easy to understand and apply it to my life, and your faith and excitement makes me so excited! I have changed so much since I started the challenge and our very first email. I have such a renewed hope, a joy, a passion, a love and faith like I have never experienced before! I share Jesus with everyone now. Some people think I am a bit weird, but I think if I just plant the seed, Jesus will let it be watered. Now when someone asks, How are you? I can say blessed! Amen! I never knew how people could say that - now I know.

Many people are actually surrendering their entire life to Christ, quitting ungodly jobs, leaving bad relationships, waiting on marriage for God's best, stopping their addictions, sacrificing their worldly dreams, humbling themselves, forgiving others, forgiving themselves, getting free, and most importantly following the teachings of Christ to become a true disciple.  

Recently, I joked with my wife Persis telling her that I think maybe God has made me a stumbling block to legalistic, deceived, and compromising Christians.  I don't fit the mold for someone living the blessed life in America. I'm a divorced, remarried, non-tithing, non-denominational, non-Sabbath keeping, non-tongue speaking, non-church attending man who absolutely believes I can indeed lose my salvation if I do not endure in faith all the way to the end.  These things already made me an odd ball at most churches.  However, when I left the church it would get even worse because God began to open my blind eyes to the great errors I was believing simply because everyone else believed them.

And what is the result of all these radical and strange facets of my Christianity?  A tree is known by its fruit.  I regularly have days where I feel I'll have a spiritual heart attack if my Father blesses me any more.  The more "radical" my thinking has become, the closer the Lord has come to me.  Oh, and so has the devil.

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on Him in TRUTH.
— Psalm 145:18

What if when the Father and Son look down at the pastor and church you love so much, they see nothing but compromise and you are embracing it?  What if your pastor always stops just short of bringing the full word of God, which is distorting the truth?  What if he always seems to back off from preaching the hard messages of sin, unforgiveness, hell, obedience, faithfulness, purity of heart, victory over sin, holiness, etc.?  Does Jesus then look at the throne and say, "Father, did you notice that pastor "so and so" almost preached the full truth of our word today?  He's getting closer each week.

What if the people that have been going to your church for years are all lukewarm, disobedient, half-hearted, money-loving, entertainment worshiping, compromising Christians? What if behind the smiley faces on Sunday and Wednesday, the people in the congregation aren't growing, aren't holy, aren't faithful, aren't obedient, aren't separated from the world, aren't living in the fear of God?  Is God pleased with that?  Should you continue to be a part of that?

What if what you call a good church, a good pastor, a good fellowship group, a good bible study, or a good Christian, isn't what the Father calls it?  Then you will have enmity between you and Him.  God is gracious and He makes room for our ignorance for a time, but the time will come when He sees we are knowingly choosing to rebel against His truth.  You will know your tree by it's fruit.  If you are at enmity with the Father, you will not have the rest, contentment, freedom from sin, peace, answered prayers or joy that Jesus our Lord promised.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
— Isaiah 5:20

The Call to Separate from the Foolish and Disobedient

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. (Psa 1:1)

LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, (Psa 15:1-4)

I do not sit with deceitful men, nor do I consort with hypocrites; I abhor the assembly of evildoers and refuse to sit with the wicked.  (Psa 26:4-5)

He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. (Pro 13:20)  

Stay away from a foolish man, for you will not find knowledge on his lips. (Pro 14:7)

A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again. 
(Pro 19:19)

Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended.  (Pro 22:10 )

Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.  (Pro 22:24-25)

Do not speak to a fool, for he will scorn the wisdom of your words.  (Pro 23:9)  

Men of perverse heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with evil.  (Psa 101:4)

No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence.  Every morning I will put to silence all the wicked in the land; I will cut off every evildoer from the city of the LORD. (Psa 101:7-8) 

I hate double-minded men, but I love your law.  Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God!  You reject all who stray from your decrees, for their deceitfulness is in vain. (Psa 119:113,115,118)

But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, "Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.' I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.  (Luk 10:10-12)

"Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.  (Mat 7:6)

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. "Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues.  (Mat 10:16-17)

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn "'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  (Mat 10:34-38)

When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. (Mat 10:23)

"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.  (Mat 18:15-17)

Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.  (Joh 2:23-25)

When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying. Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: "We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.  (Act 13:45-46)

But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul LEFT THEM. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.  (Act 19:9)

Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.  (Rom 1:32)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (Rom 12:9)  

I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.  (Rom 16:17)

But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."  (1Cor 5:11-13)

Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." (1 Cor 15:33)
 
Note:  In the next verse, remember that "unbelievers" are not just people who say they don't believe in Jesus.  They are also "Christians" who deny the Lord by walking in darkness and disobedience, those who do not obey his words. (See Mat 7:21-27, Luke 6:46, John 8:51, 2 Tim 2:19, 1 John 1:6, 1 John 2:4, Titus 1:16)  This should be pretty obvious after reading the rest of these verses.

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." (2Co 6:14-17)

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.  (Eph 5:3-7)

Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."  (Eph 5:11-14)

Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.  (1Th 5:21-22)

And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.  (2Th 3:2-3)

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.  (2Ti 3:1-5)

Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message. (2Ti 4:14-15)

To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.  (Tit 1:15-16)

Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.  (Tit 3:10-11)

But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and HATED WICKEDNESS; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy." (Heb 1:8-9)

When to Unite and When to Divide (A.W. Tozer)

When to unite and when to divide, that is the question, and a right answer requires the wisdom of a Solomon.

Some settle the problem by rule of thumb: All union is good and all division bad. It's that easy. But obviously this effortless way of dealing with the matter ignores the lessons of history and overlooks some of the deep spiritual laws by which men live.

If good men were all for union and bad men for division, or vice versa, that would simplify things for us. Or if it could be shown that God always unites and the devil always divides it would be easy to find our way around in this confused and confusing world. But that is not how things are.

To divide what should be divided and unite what should be united is the part of wisdom. Unions of dissimilar elements is never good even where it is possible, nor is the arbitrary division of elements that are alike; and this is as certainly true of things moral and religious as of things political or scientific.

The First Divider

The first divider was God who at the creation divided the light from the darkness. This division set the direction for all God's dealings in nature and in grace. Light and darkness are incompatible; to try to have both in the same place at once is to try the impossible and end by havng neither the one nor the other, but dimness rather, and obscurity.

In the world of men there are at present scarcely any sharp outlines. The race is fallen. Sin has brought confusion. The wheat grows with the tares, the sheep and the goats coexist, the farms of the just and the unjust lie side by side in the landscape, the mission is next door to the saloon.

But things will not always be so. The hour is coming when the sheep with be divided from the goats and the tares separated from the wheat. God will again divide the light from the darkness and all things will run to their kind. Tares will go into the fire with tares and wheat into the garner with wheat. The dimness will lift like a fog and all outlines will appear. Hell will be seen to be hell all the way through, and heaven revealed as the one home of all who bear the nature of the one God.

For that time we with patience wait. In the meanwhile for each of us, and for the church wherever she appears in human society, the constantly recurring question must be: What shall we unite with and from what shall we separate? The question of coexistence does not enter here, but the question of union and fellowship does. The wheat grows in the same field with the tares, but shall the two cross-polinate? The sheep graze near the goats, but shall they seek to interbreed? The unjust and the just enjoy the same rain and sunshine, but shall they forget their deep moral differences and intermarry?

To these questions the popular answer is yes. Union for union's sake, and men shall be brothers be for a' that. Unity is so devoutly to be desired that no price is too high to pay for it and nothing is important enough to keep us apart. Truth is slain to provide a feast to celebrate the marriage of heaven and hell, and all to support a concept of unity which has no basis in the Word of God.

The Spirit-illuminated Church

The Spirit-illuminated church will have none of this. In a fallen world like ours unity is no treasure to be purchased at the price of compromise. Loyalty to God, faithfulness and truth and the preservation of a good conscience are jewels more precious than gold of Ophir or diamonds from the mine. For these jewels men have suffered the loss of property, imprisonment and even death; for them, even in recent times, behind the various curtains, followers of Christ have paid the last full measure of devotion and quietly died, unknown to and unsung by the great world, but known to God and dear to His Father heart.

In the day that shall declare the secrets of all souls these shall come forth to receive the deeds done in the body. Surely such as these are wiser philosophers than the religious camp followers of meaningless unity who have not the courage to stand against the vogues and who bleat for brotherhood only because it happens to be for the time popular.

Wise Sheep

"Divide and conquer" is the cynical slogan of Machiavellian political leaders, but Satan knows how to unite and conquer. To bring a nation to its knees the aspiring dictator must unite it. By repeated appeals to national pride or to the need to avenge some past or present wrong the demagogue succeeds in uniting the populace behind him. It is easy after that to take control of the military and to beat the legislature into submission. Then follows almost perfect unity indeed, but it is the unity of the stockyards and the concentration camp. We have seen this happen several times in this century, and the world will see it at least once more when the nations of the earth are united under Antichrist.

When confused sheep start over a cliff the individual sheep can save himself only be separating from the flock. Perfect unity at such a time can only mean total destruction for all. The wise sheep to save his own hide disaffiliates.

Power lies in the union of things similar and the division of things dissimilar. Maybe what we need in religious circles today is not more union but some wise and courageous division. Everyone desires peace but it could be that revival will follow the sword.

This article is part of A.W. Tozer's book God Tells The Man Who Cares