Outside the Camp

One of the most compelling emotions we feel as humans is the desire to belong, to be included. For some of us, the exclusion from popular cliques in school remains as painful childhood memories. We sometimes spend a lot of money for memberships to various groups so that we can be a part of the club. Nobody truly wants to be an outsider, despite the claims and lifestyle of some. I enjoy riding motorcycles, and this yearning to belong is evident among bike riders perhaps more strongly than anywhere else. The clubs and gangs, each with special colors and logos signifying membership, provoke strong loyalty and are sometimes fiercely defended. And yet, one sees the occasional rider with the “Lone Wolf” patch on his back, proudly proclaiming independence from the notion of belonging to any group. I would suggest that such a declaration, manifested in many forms in society, is simply a cry of pain from a wounded person who has given up trying to fit in. No person is free from the desire to belong; we are hard-wired from birth to crave acceptance and companionship from our peers. The Creator God said that it is not good for man to be alone; anyone who claims otherwise is damaged goods. And since every one of us is damaged in some way, thanks be to God that His healing power can transform any life that is submitted to the leadership of His Son Jesus Christ.

As with all good things, this divinely imparted need to belong can be corrupted, resulting in corrosion to our soul and a stunting of our maturity. Food is good but we are warned not to allow our stomach to become our god. Sex is good but it can consume us if we seek to satisfy our God-given appetite outside of the boundaries that He established. So it is with our need to be accepted. The apostle admonishes us in the letter to the Hebrews to “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together.” (Heb.10:25) And yet, one of the requirements of mature discipleship is the ability to forsake the need for acceptance and peer-approval. This same book of Hebrews includes a brief but weighty call to this place of separation:

Therefore go to him (Jesus) outside the camp and bear His reproach. (Heb. 13:13)

In order to obey this admonition, we must determine what this ‘camp’ is and what manner of reproach Jesus suffered as a result of His separation from it. Does this camp refer to society? Is the scoffing of sinners who do not know God the reproach spoken of in Hebrews 13:13?
Certainly we are commanded as disciples of Christ to separate ourselves from what the bible calls the world. The world simply means secular society that rejects the things of God and that is not subject (at the present time) to the Kingdom of Heaven. Most evangelical Christians would agree, at least intellectually, with the concept of separation. I qualify my statement with the words “intellectually” and “concept” because far too many people who claim to be evangelical Christians are merely agreeing mentally with the parts of the bible that are comfortable to them and calling this “Christianity.”

Mental assent is a great enemy of faith; agreeing with the concepts of a separated life while essentially living like everyone else is worse than rejecting them. When one considers that the average church member is subject to little or no persecution for his or her faith, and the fact that the western church is losing the battle against secularists, atheists, and militant leftists who hate Christianity, it is easy to see that the modern church is failing to accomplish its purpose of being salt and light. Most of the church is comfortably ensconced in their Sunday-morning church template, having little or no prayer life (until they fall into need.) They agree with many biblical positions, but their beliefs have not translated into a thoroughly changed lifestyle as expressed by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. They hold a modern, mostly secular world view regarding life decisions, education, the spending of resources and time, and they encounter little resistance from society because they pose no threat to anyone.

Paul tells us that all who seek to live Godly lives will suffer persecution, and he experienced the reproach of godless society. In acts 16, Paul was brought before the civil authorities by men who were exploiting a woman possessed by a familiar spirit by making money off her fortune-telling ability. In essence, the men accused Paul and Silas of forcing their religion on them. (Sound familiar?) The two Apostles were beaten without a trial for bringing deliverance to a victimized girl. Paul suffered this kind of persecution at the hands of the civil authorities frequently, and yet the majority of the intense resistance he encountered in his ministry came not from the heathen but from Jewish religious authorities. In fact, much of the trouble Paul got into with the secular Roman authorities was stirred up by the religious establishment.

This is the same scenario that Jesus encountered. Because He was sent to the House of Israel, Jesus did not often come into contact with Gentiles. And yet, it was by Roman authority that He was put to death. What was His supposed crime? He was brought before the civil authorities by the religious leaders of His day for proclaiming that He was the Son of God. Pontius Pilate, the Roman authority who presided over Jesus’ trial and who ultimately sentenced Him to death, did not want to harm Him because he found no wrong-doing in Him. But it was the religious Jews who demanded that Jesus be crucified.

Like Jesus and Paul (and many thousands others; see Foxes Book of Martyrs), all who seek to proclaim Truth will find themselves in the cross hairs of both civil and religious authorities. And while today it is often the civil authorities who are most visibly persecuting the true Church, there is also great resistance coming from organized religion against what God is saying and doing at this hour as He prepares His Church for the return of His Son. Being treated unjustly by society for living according to the principles of scripture is painful to be sure but it should be expected. Jesus taught us that if they mistreated Him, then they would also mistreat us. But resistance from within the church itself is another matter entirely, and yet it is a biblical and historical fact that organized religion puts up the greatest resistance to what the Holy Spirit is doing at any given time.

The western church is in great peril. Many denominations have been permeated by liberalism and secular humanism and are openly questioning foundational doctrines such as the Divinity of Christ and the inerrancy of Scripture. There are enormous numbers of Christians who are buying into the “seeker sensitive” movement which, along with the “emergent church” movement, bears little resemblance to the biblical Church built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. These rapidly growing movements have intentionally stripped the Gospel of its inherent offense in an effort to make unbelievers comfortable on the one hand, and to appeal to “cool and relevant” hipsters on the other. A basic tenant of both groups is the idea that the presentation of the Gospel must be changed to make it “relevant” to fallen society, a wholly unbiblical premiss that James calls “spiritual adultery.” These types of movements are laying the foundation for the great falling away that Paul prophesied would take place in the last days. Now we are even seeing the “Insider Movement” which teaches Christian missionaries to offer Muslims a form of Christianity that blends with Islam. All four groups are teaching what Paul called “doctrines of devils” which are an abomination to God!

Those with a more traditional, fundamentalist perspective often imagine that they are the true keepers of the Faith, and in fact they are to be commended for holding fast to many of the foundational truths of Christianity. And yet they also cling to religious templates that in many ways are based more on the traditions of men than on the Word of God. They sing about flying away to a mansion just over the hilltop, and of a “meek and mild savior” who will take them away to heaven to live forever. At the same time most of them vehemently resist the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which foundational to New Testament Christianity.

Fundamentalist doctrine ignores the clear teaching of the bible that Jesus is returning with His saints to establish His kingdom on the earth, and that He is coming as a conquering King with blood on His robes to execute judgment on the wicked leaders of the earth. The fact is, the religious fundamentalists of Jesus’ day failed to recognize Him because they wanted a conquering King and didn’t understand that His first coming was as a suffering servant. The religious fundamentalists of our day will be offended in Him because they want the gentle servant who takes them all away to heaven, not realizing that He is returning as King in a hostile takeover of world government as He brings justice to the earth. Fundamentalists rightly demand that we revere scripture as inspired by God, and yet fundamentalists are responsible for the most vicious attacks against Spirit-filled leaders of the prayer movement, against the prophetic, and against those who do not teach a pre-tribulation rapture or other common fundamentalist end-time doctrines that are not supported by scripture. Jesus told us that it is not possible to put New Wine into old wineskins, and the old wineskin of traditional fundamentalism cannot contain what the Spirit is currently doing to prepare the Church for her greatest hour of trouble and glory.

So what does it mean to go to Jesus outside the camp, bearing His reproach? The camp refers to the established religious status quo, what Jesus called the old wineskin. In Old Testament times prior to King David, there was a literal camp with pitched tents surrounding the Tabernacle. David’s son, Solomon, built a permanent temple within the city of Jerusalem. When the apostle tells us that Jesus was crucified outside the city, it is a picture of His rejection by the religious establishment. We are told to go to Him “outside the camp” and bear His same reproach… that is, we will only find true intimacy with Him outside of the boundaries imposed by the modern religious establishment, and we will have to bear the same reproach that He bore. That reproach is rejection, misrepresentation, and persecution by the religious establishment.

The “camp” may be our denomination, church, family, or friends who resist what God is calling us to. You may say, “My family and friends would never resist my walk with God!” And if you are right, as long as your walk doesn’t threaten the status quo and challenge the template of Sunday morning ‘churchianity.’ But strive to live your life based on the Sermon on the Mount- extended prayer time done in private, fasting, honoring marriage as God defines it, giving of your money and other resources, blessing your enemies, forsaking the American dream of a successful career with a big house and fancy car in order to devote your life to wholeheartedly serving God- and you may find many in your circle of influence to be less than supportive. And as the return of the Lord nears, this rejection of true discipleship is going to greatly increase. Consider this shocking statement from Jesus:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. (Matt. 10: 34-36)

Mike Bickle, director of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, MO, has said that most of the resistance to the global 24/7 prayer movement has come from church leaders, not from unbelievers! Imagine Christians being opposed to a prayer movement! The bible is full of admonitions regarding crying out to God day and night, to praying without ceasing… and yet when one man answers the call of God to implement night and day prayer, he is publicly criticized and consistently encouraged by other leaders to “tone it down.”

There is no such thing as radical Christianity. There is only biblical Christianity as defined by Jesus and taught by the Apostles. Paul calls this “reasonable.”

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)

Living a life separated to God is not radical! We have left biblical Christianity so far behind that to our modern minds, much of the disciplines taught and practiced by Christ and the early church leaders are now considered to be radical and offensive. God is calling forth a generation of youth with burning hearts who are crying out to God day and night, forsaking a secular lifestyle and the so-called American dream to follow the Lamb, and in many cases they are facing stiff resistance from parents and friends who have lived lukewarm, secularist lives for years.

The shaking has begun; we are entering into a time of unprecedented global pressure and the gray area between Light and Darkness is going to disappear. We are going to have to choose whom we will serve and obey. We must be prepared for an onslaught of resistance and persecution as we take a bold stand for Jesus and for biblical Christianity. We are going to have to follow the example of Jesus, Paul, the apostles, and many fathers of the faith that have gone before us, and be willing to leave the camp of man-made religious templates. It is only in this place that we will find the intimacy with the Lord we crave, and it is here that the true Church will be formed into the Bride who has made herself ready.

Jesus is returning as the triumphant King, Bridegroom, and Judge. He has promised to share His throne with all those who overcome the world. The mainstream church world will not agree with or support this, and so Jesus in His infinite wisdom is going to allow a time of great shaking and pressure to purify His Church. Right now He is preparing disciples who will lead the way when this darkest hour falls upon the present age. Let us go to Him now, outside the camp, bearing his reproach. It will be so worth it all!