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Remaining Holy In An Unholy World

Hebrews 12:14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

The holiness of God is an exceedingly high standard. One that He holds us to. While it is true that God accepts us solely through the merit of Jesus Christ, God’s standard for our character, our attitudes, affections and actions is to “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16). We must take this command seriously if we are to grow in holiness. But the challenge of course is, How to live a holy life surrounded by an unholy world?

John 17:15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.

Jesus never intended for us to be removed from the evil of this world, but that we should learn to live holy, sanctified lives in it. We are to be the salt of the earth and a light that shines brightly in dark places. And for all Christians, to one extent or another, this is an incredible challenge. Every day we face unholiness amongst those we work and live with, and from what we see before us on the television and internet. It seems that wherever we go we are confronted with an unholy culture that lives far from the ways of God. Unless Christians are prepared for such evil assaults on our mind and heart, we will have great difficulty maintaining personal holiness.

James said that part of a true religion is keeping ourselves “from being unspotted by the world” (James 1:27) and Paul urged us to “come out from among them and be ye separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17). How should the believer respond when he or she finds themselves surrounded by the unrelenting pressure of a sinful world?

Instead of withdrawing from contact with the world, we must strive to resist its influence. We must dwell deeply and daily in the Holy Scriptures and develop strong convictions about what God has said to us therein. Are we then prepared to live by those convictions? If not, we will have no solid grounding on which to build a holy life but be tossed to and fro by all the talk and temptations of this world. Our convictions must be strong enough to withstand the taunts and teasings of those around us, and the pressures they put on us to conform to unholy ways. And don’t be surprised when they come. As Paul reminds us, “all who live a godly life in Christ will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

It may be helpful in living according to our convictions to identify ourselves with Christ openly so others will have no doubt where we stand and who we follow. This may not deter us from receiving ridicule from others, but it will help them understand why we do not participate in their behavior. This always needs to be done gently and with a spirit of love.

But even though we resolve to develop strong convictions about holy living based upon God’s word and openly and lovingly let others know that we follow Christ, we will still find ourselves subjected to the pollution of unholy surroundings. Everywhere.

Psalm 119:9 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy Word.

The Bible is our best defense against this pollution. It will cleanse our minds of the defilement of the world if we meditate on its teachings. And the greater the defilement the more we need to seek His Word!

I have made it my goal for this coming year to saturate my mind with God’s Word more than any previous year, and to set about memorizing Scripture in a systematic and fruitful way, so that in 2024, under the leading and help of the Holy Spirit, I will become a woman who knows and applies the Scriptures well. Especially in light of the fact that I live in a crooked and degenerate culture. Will you join me in this holy endeavor?

Now God has allowed us to live in an unholy culture so that we may be ‘salt’ and ‘light’. We are to be concerned not just about our own salvation and pursuance of holy living, but also of those around us. We are to be the bearers of the Good News of salvation. Witnesses to testify concerning Jesus, the light of the world. A Christian who shares their faith in genuine concern for another person is not likely to be corrupted by that person’s immorality. And through loving concern, God may graciously grant their salvation. Our interest in others is not to denounce their sins, for our own holy lives will bring sufficient rebuke. Our interest is primarily to help them see their need for a Savior.

Ephesians 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Here we are to be wise about the company we keep. Let’s bear in mind that we become like those we spend our time with. So, in order to live holy lives, we need to ask ourselves, ‘who are the best people to be around that will encourage me to live a holy life set apart for the service and glory of God?’ The days are evil, so encouragement is crucial. Just as a student will thrive under the gentle hand of encouragement by their teacher when they are struggling, so too does our spirit, in trying times, need to be lifted up and motivated to keep going on the Christian journey. Without encouragement we will lag and lose heart.

2 Peter 2:7-8 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked; for that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds.

Finally, there may come a time when the corrupt environment that we find ourselves in becomes too much, as was the case with Lot. Such may be the situation when for example, we are continuously exposed to immorality or underhanded business dealings, whereby we are being pressured to break the law or behave in a way contrary to Christian principles. In these cases, we should prayerfully consider leaving that ungodly situation.

Maintaining personal holiness in an unholy world is difficult. The above-mentioned suggestions are not intended to make the problem easy, but to offer some practical help for a problem that is not getting any easier. Above all, we must look to Jesus, who was Himself, “holy, harmless, undefiled, set apart from sinners and made higher than the heavens.” (Hebrews 7:26).

Together let’s claim His promise that “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Heavenly Father, give me the courage to obey Your Word and to boldly live it out amongst people who do not follow You. Show me what to say to those who challenge my faith. Help me to speak with love and concern for the salvation of souls. Amen.

About Jennifer Woodley

Jennifer is an Australian freelance writer who lives in a small rural town in sunny Queensland. She is passionate about encouraging others on their journey with Christ through writing and mentoring. Jennifer is a school chaplain, wife, mother of three adult sons and loving grandma of one adorable grandson. More of her writing can be found at www.inhisname6.com and www.faithwriters.com.

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  1. An excellent passage that applies here is II Timothy 2:22-26. It is too long to quote here, but I encourage you to look it up.

  2. Dear Jennifer,
    Thank you for writing this article. It conveyed an important message, along with fantastic scripture.
    God Bless~

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