Summary: A sermon focused on OT on how the church is to be culturally distinct (Material adapted from Daniel Overdorf's book, What the Bible Says About the Church: Rediscovering Community, chapter 2 Culturally Distinct, pg. 49- 63)
God calls his people to remain distinct from our culture. To be distinct is to be different in nature from something else, more than just being different. Often say that we are to be different from our culture and this is correct. However, there are many individuals and groups that are different from the norm but they are not different because they are living for God.
Reminds me of the Muppets Take Manhattan where the son of a Broadway producer wants to produce Kermit’s show. The son keeps saying that we wants to do something different for his first show. The father says, “If you want to do something different, then put jello down your pants.” That is different but that is probably not what God would want us to do.
In another Muppet Movie, Kermit is talking with Gonzo. Gonzo says that he is so different that he is a freak. Kermit tries to comfort Gonzo by saying that Gonzo is distinct. Gonzo replies that he is not distinct but rather extinct. Good point here. If we do not maintain our distinctiveness from the world around us we will be extinct in a short time.
Thesis: Let’s talk about the call to be distinct
The Call to Distinctiveness
A community set apart
The roots of God’s call for His people’s distinctiveness stretch back into the OT. Discussed how God was creating a people for his very own through the covenant with Abraham. This idea develops further through the covenant with Moses and the Israelites after they leave Egypt. One important aspect of God’s idea of community involves the distinctiveness of His people from the surrounding culture. Read Exodus 19:5, 6
Its covenant with God required Israel to be distinct from the normal social, cultural, and ethical patterns of the day.
A distinctiveness based on allegiance to God.
God sought believers devoted solely to Him. This devotion would set the Israelites community apart, be different in nature from all the other nations.
God desires much the same today concerning the church. From Ephesians we see that Paul addresses the letter to the saints (holy ones) in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus (1:1). Paul explained that Christ loved the church to make her holy (5:26). Christians live in a distinct manner because, in Christ, we have put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (4:24).
Similar to God’s call to the Israelites, His call for the distinctiveness of the church grows from our identity in Christ. Because we serve God and Him only, we stand out from the culture.
Like the Pharisees Jesus confronted, who sought distinctiveness by setting numerous boundaries that set them apart from the culture, churches today often seek to stand out by keeping extra biblical rules that draw lines between them, society and even other churches. Churches define themselves by how they dress, what style of music they listen to, or what petitions they sign. More than all of this, our distinction should come as a by product of living and functioning as a Christ like holy community. Our sole identity should not be, “We are the church that boycotts such and such,” but “we are the church who seeks to reflect Christ in all we say and do.”
The Implications of the call to distinctiveness
Now we are not minimizing the external distinctives we are just making sure we understand why we are distinct. While the church’s distinctiveness grows from an allegiance to God rather than from outward expressions, the church’s allegiance to God certainly holds great implications for external behavior and moral stands.
Distinctiveness in the OT Law
God’s call for the OT Israelites holiness required them to guard themselves from the pagan behaviors common to their surrounding culture. Numerous OT laws grow from this understanding. Just look at one instance
Leviticus 18, 20. Here God outlines several prohibitions concerning sexual behavior. Not going to look at this in detail because it is not polite to discuss in mixed company. Question: Would not the command to remain faithful to marriage be enough? Why would God outline such specific prohibitions? He tells us why. Read Leviticus 20:22-24, 26
God gave specifics on all of this (even though it is gross) because the pagan nations “did all these things.” To maintain purity, the Israelites must set themselves apart from these things of the surrounding nations. God calls his community to be holy. Holy means separated, set apart, or consecrated. Holiness has to do with setting boundaries and making distinctions: some things are acceptable to God, some things are not. Holiness, which grows from allegiance to God, necessarily includes purity in external behavior.
Another particular issue that receives much emphasis in the OT relates to the intermarriage of the Israelites with those of surrounding pagan nations. If the Israelite families grew intermeshed with these pagans, the relationships would dilute the holiness and distinctiveness of God’s people. Read Deuteronomy 7:1-4