Living Holy in the World

by Mike Ratliff

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. (1 Peter 4:1-2 ESV)

Even though genuine Christians are new creations and have been purchased out of the world through the redemptive work of Christ on the Cross, as they attempt to live godly lives in the temporal, they will come under tremendous pressure to compromise by reverting back to the fleshly way of dealing with life. This way of reacting to circumstances, both good and bad, has emotions as its catalyst motivated by a form of self-righteousness that is manifested through self-exaltation and self-protection. Here we witness ourselves reacting to the good and bad in a way that is little different than we did prior to our salvation. We may even attempt to justify our actions by proclaiming that we are only seeking justice. Pride is the culprit behind this and when we stumble into these sins it is because we are not spirit-filled and, therefore, not humble.

In the city in which I live there is a railroad company seeking to build an intermodal facility just a mile or so from my neighborhood. Also, there is great concern for how the truck traffic will impact our neighborhoods and the city infrastructure. What is so galling for most of us is the attitude of its proponents, which is that its construction is inevitable and there is nothing we can do to stop them. I find myself becoming quite enraged over this if I am not careful. However, I have examined myself to see what is motivating this. I can find nothing in my resistance to this that is not self-protective and self-focused and all of it motivated by pride with a temporal focus. It is as if I totally forget who is totally in charge of the Universe and that the Christian’s focus must be eternal.

Living in this age, prior to the age to come, is the proving ground for the believer. God uses this life to mature His children, growing them in Christlikeness. We err when we become so temporally focused that we view these sorts of things as if the eternal is not awaiting us. How are we to then live in this evil age?

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. (Titus 3:1-3 ESV)

The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Titus is a short letter, but it is filled with some very deep teaching about how the Christian is to live and minister in a difficult time and place. In the passage above we read Paul’s instruction to Titus to teach to his congregation about living holy lives in the world. It begins with a exhortation for each of us to be submissive to rulers and authorities. This principle is taught throughout the New Testament. The Christian is to obey the government authorities God has placed over them to the extent that their commands are not to disobey God. This is part of a Christian’s testimony (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:12-17). The obedience spoken of in v1 is referring to the believers obeying magistrates.

What does it mean that the Christian is “to be ready for every good work”? This is a contrast between the genuine believer who is saved unto good works and the false teachers who are “unfit for any good work” (Titus 1:16). One of the purposes of the cross is to create a people “zealous for good works” (2:14). These good works then would be those done by the Spirit-filled Christian (Ephesians 5) because no one can do them who operate in the flesh.

The Christian is “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (v2). Christians are to exemplify these godly virtues in their interactions with all people whether they are fellow believers or not. In fact, the emphasis in the way this phrase is worded in Greek is that Paul is telling us to be this way to mankind in general.

All believers were once lost sinners. We have all committed heinous, sinful acts. Therefore, we should be humble in our interactions with the unsaved. Without God’s grace, we would be just as wicked as the worst sinner.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7 ESV)

Here we see that we are in Christ because of God’s mercy, not because we somehow earned or deserved it. We were spiritually cleansed through the “washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” What does this mean? The Greek word translated as “washing” is λουτρόν or loutron. It literally means “bath.” In Ephesians 5:26, it is used metamorphically of the Word of God as the instrument of spiritual cleansing. Here in Titus 3:5 we see the close connection between cleansing from sin and regeneration. Other passages which speak of this are John 3:8, Romans 6:4, and 2 Corinthians 5:17. Salvation brings divine cleansing from sin and the gift of a new, Spirit-generated, Spirit-empowered, and Spirit-protected life as God’s own children and heirs. The Holy Spirit is agent of the “working of regeneration” (Romans 8:2). At salvation, believers are blessed abundantly, beyond measure (Acts 2:38, 39; 1 Corinthians 12:7, 11,13; Ephesians 3:20; 5:18).

The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (Titus 3:8-11 ESV)

Christians should devote themselves to good works. These are works of spirit-filled compassion. These are works of obedience to God with a joyful heart. These are denying self in humble Christlikeness. This requires one to become Spirit-filled (Ephesians 5). The Greek word used in Ephesians 5:18 for “filled” carries two connotations that both apply to the Holy Spirit filling the believer. The first describes the sail of a boat being filled with wind so that it can move as directed by the pilot. The Spirit-filled believer is filled with the wind of the Holy Spirit to move in obedience through each day as directed by God. The other connotation is that of salt permeating meat through the preserving process. The Spirit-filled believer becomes full of the Holy Spirit as they live self-denied and obedient lives full of joy and humility. This is the Spirit-filled walk and this is the requirement to live holy lives in this evil age.

The Spirit-filled believer will not be involved in the foolishness Paul listed in the passage above, however we do need to learn how to deal those who do. In vv10-11, we read of the one who stirs up division. At least once each week I receive an email or comment that the sender obviously meant to cause me to become discouraged or defeated or both. Most of these people sending these at one time or another were allowed to comment here, but lost that right when they refused to repent of the false teaching or their attempt to divide us through whatever they were trying to say. I dealt with them and then prayerfully put their emails on the block list. There is a way that seems right unto man, but it is not God’s way. Most think that what I did there was wrong, but according to vv10-11 above this is how we are to deal with those who refuse to repent of their destructive words and actions.

My brethren, let us devote ourselves to good works, to be ready to do them as the Holy Spirit fills our spiritual sails to move us in obedience to our Lord and God.

Soli Deo Gloria!

13 thoughts on “Living Holy in the World

  1. Pingback: Living Holy in the World - Reformata

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with you.

    My greatest desire is to become a leaf that is blown by the wind of the Holy Spirit. The leaf never asks the wind where it is going, why it is going – all it knows is the joy of being carried on the wind.

    Like you, I was also confronted by a situation in our neighbourhood. About 6 years ago, our government put up a fully-fledged Criminal court about 1km away from our home.

    At the time, there were petitions and local
    Neighbourhood Watch folk campaigning against it. Initially, I felt afraid and went along with them and tried to fight against them. We have such violent criminals in South Africa, sadly too many, and the thought of not only them being in the locality, but their buddies as well, was really frightening. The other problem is that our police often are slack or get bribed and these guys escape and the easiest place to hide would be in some nearby garden or worse in someones home!

    I had to go to the Lord about it eventually (I should’ve done this right at the beginning, but back then I did not know how to live like this. To cut a long story short, I gave the situation to the Lord, and know implicitly, that there is nothing that will happen to us that He does not already know about, and everything in our lives is under His hand and we will deal with it with Him and in Him. Armed with this heart knowledge, we can get on with living our lives.

    The amazing thing is, we don’t even know the court is there unless we drive past it.

    It is learning to submit to Him in everything for everything inside you and around you too and allow Him to move you where He will, to do what He will have you do.
    Bless you brother!:-)


  3. Amen Jessie! Yes, God is sovereign. He is totally in control. We cannot fall back into the bondage of fear which makes us temporally focused and self-protective. These things defeat us and keep us from being spirit-filled. God keeps His promises so why do we fall for the lies that drive us to despair at times? Let us not do that. Thanks for the blessing!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  4. Was Paul being self protective, self focused and motivated by pride when he used the law to his advantage as a Roman? Certainly we are to obey the laws of the land but also we can use these laws and courts to protect ourselves from theft of our rights given to us by the governments of our land but do not make “my rights” an obsession.

    When I see how our government is closing our local hospitals and centralizing health services and the bureaucrats and politicians say it’s a done deal or when I see our local council doing the exact opposite to their election platform, I get angry and rightfully so because these people are forcing their evil agendas on us against our popular will. But before I fly off the handle I recall Psalms 37 and get on with my day.

    37:1 Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.

    37:2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.

    37:3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.

    BTW, we have a temporay (10 years now) railway shunting yard one mile from my home and there is nothing that can be done about the noise because RR come under federal laws. The owners of the half million dollar estates whose front view looks acroos the road onto the tracks full of RR cars and idling engines are enraged. When weather conditions are right, still and foggy or breeze out of the north or east, at one mile distance we have to stop conversing until the engines have stopped blowing their whistles.

    Also regarding Titus 3:8 “devote themselves to good works”: All my references use the word ‘maintain’ instead of ‘devote’. Using your translation could lead some to support a “works” religion. Devotion to works could lead one away from devotion to our Lord.


  5. Thanks Paul. Yes, we have to balance this out. Paul using his Roman citizenship to avoid being killed or beaten is quite a different thing from being self-protective about temporal things.

    The intermodal thing is being supported by the city government because they want the “tax revenue” from it. However, no one on the city council who supported this thing will be reelected nor will the mayor. I have been around the block long enough to know that no one really keeps their promises. However, our job is to react to these things the way our Lord would. Justice is being perverted all around us. What are we to do?

    I am in no way advocating works righteousness. Good works are the natural outcome of the Spirit-filled life. This is the focus of all of Paul’s writings on this.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  6. Sometimes it is a fine line. There are those of us who stand on the Word of God and try to show others the apostasies that are abounding, only to find ourselves judged as “judgmental.” Motive and heart are the areas that we must take to the Lord and examine for ourselvles. Otherwise, the flesh rises up and takes over. Walking in the Spirit is paramount to living in an ungodly world, Mike! Thank you for the sometimes bitter pill!


  7. Mike said: “I am in no way advocating works righteousness. Good works are the natural outcome of the Spirit-filled life. This is the focus of all of Paul’s writings on this. ”

    Mike, with all certainly I know that you do not advocate works righteousness and agree that good works flow from a Spirit-filled life. What I was trying to express is the fact that some can and do use translations and paraphrases that validate their claims of good works righteousness. Because of this, the use of the word “devote” is a poor choice IMHO. It can be these small wedges that eventually open the door wide to the wrong path.


  8. Yes, I understand Paul. I looked at several commentaries on this passage before I wrote this article. However, I did not look up that particular word in the Greek because it seemed to me that Paul’s emphasis here was a contrast between the genuine Christian and the false Christian and that major difference between the two was that real Christians are devoted to good works while the false Christians were devoted to themselves. In any case, that is a good point and we do need to be careful about things like this. Thanks for the reminder brother.


  9. Yes, thank you Mike. Things are really coming together so quickly that it is very distracting and despairing. I need to continually remind myself that God is in control and Jesus is always with us to the end of the age. That is very comforting. God Bless. Deb


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