Today’s message text of January 11, 2015 from Melvin Gaines:
When it comes to coffee, I consider myself to be a connoisseur. I’ve been drinking coffee for over thirty years now. When it comes to being a connoisseur, thirty years of coffee drinking is a firm qualification. I started with cups of Maxwell House brewed in heated glass coffee pots that would turn coffee into a dark sludge over time. I drank my coffee back then with heaps of CoffeeMate non-dairy creamer and sugar. At that time, my idea of a good cup of coffee was a hot, fresh cup. Over time, I have learned that my standards for coffee were only related to my limited knowledge. I had tried other brands of coffee sold in department stores, but they now pale in comparison to my first cup of Starbucks coffee about ten years ago. From that point on, I knew that I had not yet had my most delicious, enjoyable cup of coffee until right then and there. Some people think the Starbucks brand is very, very, very strong coffee…and they’re right. Some don’t like the taste of Starbucks, and they’re entitled to their own opinion. Just about everyone who knows me, however, knows that I love a delicious cup of Starbucks. It’s a special quality of coffee that, thus far, is better than any other coffee I have ever tasted. Today, as a coffee connoisseur, I can say without hesitation that Starbucks coffee and its many different flavor variations, is a coffee that is set apart from all other coffees I have ever tasted, and they’re a lot of people who would heartily agree!
To be set apart from all others means to have distinct characteristics within such a differentiation. Those characteristics are either earned on their own merit, or they are assigned by someone based upon qualifying criteria. In either case, the distinction has a meaning and a purpose.
To be set apart is much more than proclaiming something as different or even better than the norm. According to God, to be set apart means much more than being different or being better. His criterion for being set apart comes down to how He values those who follow Him and trust in Him:
1.) A relationship with Jesus Christ is something special.
14 But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through the cross, and I to the world. 15 For both circumcision and uncircumcision mean nothing; what matters instead is a new creation.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.
With the knowledge that Jesus Christ desires a relationship with you because He loves you, one can only conclude that it is a special relationship. It’s far more than ordinary.
2.) Christ makes it clear that you are different from those who do not believe in Him.
There is a distinction between believers in Christ and unbelievers in Christ. It is clear and unmistakable, and it has everything to do with who Christ is. Christ is righteous, and in our relationship with Him, we are also righteous.
2 Corinthians 6:14-18
14 Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 15 What agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement does God’s sanctuary have with idols? For we are the sanctuary of the living God, as God said:
I will dwell among them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be My people.
17 Therefore, come out from among them
and be separate, says the Lord;
do not touch any unclean thing,
and I will welcome you.
18 I will be a Father to you,
and you will be sons and daughters to Me,
says the Lord Almighty.
3.) Allowing the relationship with Christ to transform you to His likeness.
To be set apart involves changing from your old self to not only become a new creature, but a creature that becomes more and more Christ-like every day.
1 Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
19 For through the law I have died to the law, so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ 20 and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
4.) Being conscious of God’s call and living with awareness of His presence and His return.
Jesus Christ has declared His distinctive presence and, through His promises, declares that we all have something to look forward to–His return. With that, we have much to live for as we continue to minister to others according to His Great Commission.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
1 About the times and the seasons: Brothers, you do not need anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know very well that the Day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3 When they say, “Peace and security,” then sudden destruction comes on them, like labor pains come on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brothers, are not in the dark, for this day to overtake you like a thief. 5 For you are all sons of light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or the darkness. 6 So then, we must not sleep, like the rest, but we must stay awake and be serious. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, we must be serious and put the armor of faith and love on our chests, and put on a helmet of the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.
While God calls each believer to live as if Christ’s return is imminent, He calls us to perform tasks here on earth for His glory.
11 And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ. 16 From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.
The people listed here in Ephesians are hardly the only people that Jesus Christ has appointed, or selected, to be involved in training. They are only a part of the picture. Elders are an important part of the church in that they are the spiritual heads of the church congregation. Even with this spiritual authority, elders are to always remember that Christ is the head of the church, and while they are set apart for service by Jesus Christ, they still remain under Christ’s authority.
To be set apart as one called by God comes with credentials that only God can provide for an elder:
5 The reason I left you in Crete was to set right what was left undone and, as I directed you, to appoint elders in every town: 6 one who is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of wildness or rebellion. 7 For an overseer, as God’s administrator, must be blameless, not arrogant, not hot-tempered, not addicted to wine, not a bully, not greedy for money, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, righteous, holy, self-controlled, 9 holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it.
1 Timothy 3:1-7
1 This saying is trustworthy: “If anyone aspires to be an overseer, he desires a noble work.” 2 An overseer, therefore, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, 3 not addicted to wine, not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy— 4 one who manages his own household competently, having his children under control with all dignity. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a new convert, or he might become conceited and fall into the condemnation of the Devil. 7 Furthermore, he must have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he does not fall into disgrace and the Devil’s trap.
Notice that while all believers in Jesus Christ have the rights and privileges of membership in God’s family, not every believer can be an elder. These verses describe the pre-qualifications of an elder, and the ultimate qualification is God’s calling of that individual to lead and serve. If God’s calling is not part of the picture, the person cannot truly be set apart for service by God. Anything done would be according to his own strength, which would be outside of God’s will for Him and for the church. There are no exceptions to this.
To be set apart is a huge responsibility. Elders have a responsibility because of their spiritual role in the church. They are called to lead and lead-by-example, to be peacemakers, to pray for the church and its members, to teach sound doctrine and to make decisions for the health and welfare of the church.
To be set apart is to live for Jesus Christ with a purpose.
Copyright © Melvin Gaines