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Living for the Lord

in a Wicked World

(With special reference to family living)

Richard Hollerman

·        What does God want for your life?

·        How is the world the enemy of your spiritual life?

·        How can you live in this sinful world,
without compromise?

·        How can you overcome with God’s power?  

Devoted Christians may long for circumstances that are “ideal” for their walk with the Lord.  They may wish they were in an ideal marriage with ideal children.  Surely then living the Christian life would be enhanced!  They may wish for a perfect job where fellow-workers are all God-fearing, sweet, and kind. Surely then it would be easier to maintain a constant sense of God’s presence!  They may wish for plenty of time, adequate money, a comfortable house, and agreeable friends—and with all of this, surely their Christian life would be positive and fulfilling!

The trouble is that few of us have the ideal situation. Most of us must live in less-than-ideal circumstances and a few of us must live in horrible life circumstances.  Particularly when a person comes to Christ after living in a totally worldly environment and among worldly people, he may be forced to live in difficult conditions even after his conversion.  How is it possible to live a deeply spiritual life when one must be in a worldly marriage, family, and environment?  How can one survive spiritually when he has a compromising job or must live with an abusive and unspiritual spouse?

We can all see that this is a perplexing situation, thus we may reluctantly conclude that living the Christian life is not really possible if one must be surrounded by unspiritual and compromising circumstances.  But God doesn’t require the impossible.  We must admit that the Lord does make demands on us as His children and servants: He requires us to set our mind on heavenly things (Colossians 3:1-2), to seek first His kingdom and righteousness (Matthew 6:33), as well as to live out our life as a devoted husband or wife, father or mother (Colossians 3:18-20; Ephesians 5:22-33).  He also says that we need to hold down a job (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, pay our bills (2 Thessalonians 3:7-13; Romans 13:8), have contact with the ungodly people around us (1 Corinthians 5:10; Mark 16:15), and live in the world (John 17:11).  How does one solve this dilemma? 

Let’s first discuss what God really wants for your life.  Then we’ll look at the sad reality of what the world is like that is far different from what God wants.  Finally, we’ll be prepared to offer a few suggestions how to function in a fallen and sinful world, without compromise.

God’s Desire for His People

       1.      Our primary focus in life is to be God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Whoever we are and whatever our situation, God wants us to put Him first, before family and friends. As Paul put it, Jesus is to have “first place in everything” (Colossians 1:18)!  He is to be our very life (Colossians 3:4; cf. Phil. 1:21), for “if we live, we live for the Lord” (Romans 14:8).  Jesus will accept no rival for our affections and attention!

Christ Jesus declared, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37; cf. Luke 14:26).  This would mean that we must always consciously place the Lord before husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter.  We must give priority to God, before friends and extended family (cf. Luke 14:26).  Wherever we live and whatever our station in life, let us determine to put God first!

       2.      We must be guided by the infallible Word of God.

Regardless of our situation in life, we must always find our guidance, directions, and orders in the inspired, authoritative, and life-giving Word of the living God.  Jesus said, “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). If we will be judged by the Lord’s Word, we can see why this should be our priority and why we should take its teaching with seriousness.

God’s Word is the transcript of God’s will since He inspired its writing, and we must abide by all that God reveals to us in His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12-13; Acts 17:11; Matthew 4:4).  We should spend time reading the Scriptures, studying its pages, memorizing its verses, meditation on its meaning, and sharing its content.

       3.      We must explicitly obey the will of God even when this is difficult and painful.

Sometimes it isn’t convenient to take God’s word seriously.  Numerous situations present themselves that make obedience hard or nearly impossible.  However, God “Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust” (Psalm 103:14).  He knows the complex situations that we face and doesn’t require the absolutely impossible. Scripture says that “His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

God allows these complex and difficult situations to arise to test our commitment to Him under adverse conditions.  You may remember that God had Israel travel in the desert for forty years.  What was His purpose in this?  “. . . the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not” (Deuteronomy 8:2).  God allows these adverse circumstances to reveal our heart, to determine whether we will obey or disobey His will even when the obedience may be difficult.

However, we have this confidence: God will now allow us to face a situation where we are required to sin, but he will give us a way of escape (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13).  Just look for a way around a temptation to sin and refuse to acquiesce to the sin.

       4.      God wants us to arrange our life and friendships the best we can to promote holiness and minimize worldliness.

Although we can’t change some negative elements of our life, we can and must change what we can.  For instance, Paul writes, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (1 Corinthians 15:33).  He also says that Timothy should live out his life “with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).  He goes on to tell Timothy that he should “avoid” certain men who profess godliness but are living in sin (3:1-5). 

In other words, we should shun bad and compromising companions, while we should seek holy and godly friends.  If one has been into drugs, or has been involved in sexually immoral relationships, or has fallen into drunkenness, he should now run from those who take drugs, those who are involved in lustful activities, and those who habitually get drunk.  These kinds of friends will pull you down and make holy living difficult or impossible.  Proverbs states, “Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man, or you will learn his ways and find a snare for yourself” (22:24-25).  This shows the power of bad influence.  Be willing to leave everyone who is a temptation to you and your righteous living (cf. Mark 28-30).  It is better to be alone with the Lord than have a lot of friends if our spiritual life suffers.

       5.      God wants us to be an active member in the Body of Christ.

We know that it is difficult sometimes to even find people of God who have been genuinely saved and are living in faith, obedience, and holiness.  Few are on the narrow path that leads to life, while many are on the broad way that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14).  Many have searched for years to find fellow-believers who are authentic and serious in their commitment, and are yet searching.

But, ideally speaking, God does want us to be in close, intimate, living fellowship with true believers who are on that narrow way and are determined to reach the destination of eternal life!  In this world of compromise and religious apostasy, we know it may be difficult for you to find even a small fellowship of genuine Christians with whom to worship, study, and share life, but this should be a goal, if at all possible.  The Christian is a member of Christ’s body and has a part to play in the working of that body (cf. Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27).  If one does have the sweet intimacy and loving support of other brothers and sisters, along with the leadership of godly overseers, he will be able to grow and face the trials of life much better.

       6.      The Lord wants us to be separate from the world and its evil ways.

Again and again in Scripture, we are warned to “not be conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2), to be “unstained by the world” (James 1:27), and to not be “a friend of the world” (4:4).  John warns us, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15-17). 

Regardless of our circumstances, let us determine to keep from the world’s thinking and living according to the evil ways of the sinful world that is at war with God and His truth.  Paul writes, “The wisdom of this world is foolishness before God” (1 Corinthians 3:19).  He also says that we must guard our hearts from the philosophy of the world: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).  We must be different!  The Lord says that we are to be “transformed” by the renewing of our mind in the ways of God (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:21-24).

       7.      Determine to make the changes you can to put God and His kingdom first.

While it may be true that you can’t do everything you would like to alter your circumstances according to the will of God, you should do what you can, to the extent you can, to avoid the wrong and do the right.  Pray that God will open up doors of opportunity so you can leave a compromising job, or discontinue humanistic education, or leave worldly friends and family.  Go to great lengths to make your situation harmonize with the will of God.  When you became a Christian, you “escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust” and you “escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:4; 2:20).  This should motivate you to make your practical life reflect your new life in Christ.

  • If you are in an immoral relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend, break off this fornication entirely!  “Flee immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18).  
  • If you have a job that requires you to sin in some way, you need to immediately resign from this position so that you will not offend the Lord.  “Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning” (1 Corinthians 15:34).  
  • If you are involved in compromising education, be willing to forsake this pursuit and perhaps find another acceptable educational choice.  “The wisdom of this world is foolishness before God” (1 Corinthians 3:19).  
  • If you are a mature son or daughter in a sin-filled home (with evil music, media, cursing, slander, etc.), this may be time to leave and launch out on your own, perhaps with the help of fellow-disciples.  Jesus said, “There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive . . . along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30).  
  • If a brother or sister is married to an unbeliever, one must stay in this relationship, but if the unbeliever insists on forsaking the marriage, Paul says: “If the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace” (1 Corinthians 7:15).  
  • If a parent or spouse wants you to eat a diet of unhealthy and physically harmful food, you may need to kindly refuse in your commitment to God.  “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).  
  • If your cousin wants you to turn the radio to worldly music, or turn the television on to worldly programming, or access immoral internet sites, you must refuse to be pressured to do wrong.  We should never “yield to” or “listen to” people who would cause us to compromise the holy ways of God (cf. Deuteronomy 13:6-11).  
  • If your fellow-workers want you to do some dishonest, immoral, or unlawful activity, be willing to say No, with definite meaning!  “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” (Ephesians 5:11).

A World that is Far from God

Every Christian must live and function in an imperfect world and this often brings temptations and trials into his life.  Paul says, “You would have to go out of the world” to avoid those living in sin (1 Corinthians 5:10).  Enemies of our soul are all around us and sometimes we can’t avoid this exposure.  Jesus explained that His followers would need to live in the world, although they were not to be part of the world (cf. John 17:11, 14, 18). He said in His prayer to the Father, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:15-16).  Just as Jesus was not part of the world although He lived in it, so His followers are not really part of this fallen world system, although they must carry on their everyday life in the world.

How does Scripture describe this world in which we live?  What kind of circumstances must we endure while we are on earth and away from our true Home in heaven?

       1.      The world is guilty of sin and unrighteousness.

The world is under God’s righteous judgment and holy wrath because of sin.  In fact, those in the world live in sin and are unforgiven of those sins (Ephesians 2:1-3; 4:17-19).  They actually live in the realm of sin (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 3:7).  As long as we live on earth, we will be in the midst of people who are living in the realm of sin.  Some of this sin is unconscious, while much of it is known and deliberate.

       2.      The world does not have a fear of God.

Paul describes the guilt of all people by saying that “there is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18).  Since it is “by the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil” (Proverbs 16:6), we see the end result of not having a wholesome honor, respect, and fear of the Lord: Sin will have no hindrance.

Most people are quite content to live a life without God or, if they do know of God’s existence, they surely do not want God to change their life, nor do they want to order their life according to His will.  The Christian, in contrast, will be one who does fear God and this will have a dramatic effect on his life (Matthew 10:28; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:17; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

       3.      The world has little interest in taking the Word of God seriously.

Although many homes do have a Bible somewhere on the shelf, most people are merely interested in referring to the Scriptures on special occasions.  They do not read and certainly do not deeply study the Word of God—for their own blessing and the benefit of others.  Children generally are not taught the Bible in their youth, therefore they are not interested in discovering the will of God in the Scriptures themselves as they grow to maturity.  Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).  But most are content to live their lives according to what society dictates rather than what God commands.

      4.      The world is selfish in orientation rather than focused on God and others.

The Word of God describes our condition in these terms: “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6).  Instead of being utterly interested in what God says so they can obey His will, people generally go their “own way” and follow their own will.  This is a chief characteristic of our age!  People generally are willing to make their own decisions, chose what pleases them, use their own reasoning to weigh alternatives, and use their own heart as the final judge of right and wrong.

In contrast, the true follower of Jesus has repented of this self-focus and now seeks to be focused exclusively on Jesus: “He [Jesus] died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:15).  Paul says, “Not one of us lives for himself,” for “if we live, we live for the Lord” (Romans 14:7-8).  We live for Jesus rather than living for ourselves.  This has a profound effect on all of the choices we make in life and our entire lifestyle.

       5.      The world is unholy but the believer is a saint (holy one) who seeks to grow in holiness.

The apostle Paul describes in graphic terms the unholy lives that people live in the world.  As we read this description, we can easily see that this is the kind of society in which we live in our own age: “. . . being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventers of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful” (Romans 1:29-31).  In another passage, Paul says that people will be “lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1-4).

Paul plainly says that people like this are “unholy” (2 Timothy 3:2).  Instead of being separated from sin or set apart from the world, people of the world are living in sin and they are part of the world.  Other lists of sins are also given in Scripture to describe society that is away from God (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; etc.).

The Christian, in contrast, is called a “saint” which comes from a Greek word that means “separated” or “set apart.”  The believer has been set apart from the world and its sinful ways and has been separated to God and His will (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; Colossians 1:13; Acts 26:18).  The Christian earnestly seeks to grow in holiness (the state of being separated from sin to God, truth, and righteousness), and without this, “no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).  Holiness is absolutely essential to enter God’s coming Kingdom!

       6.      The world is interested in the material, physical, and temporal rather than the spiritual and eternal.

Jesus describes a man whose attitude is very common in our age.  This foolish man said to himself, “Take your ease, eat, drink and be merry” (Luke 12:19).  Paul also said that many say, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32).  This is a very limited focus, one that people around us usually have. They are interested in the here and now and give little thought to what may happen after death.  They are “now” focused rather than “eternity” focused. Television, internet, newspapers, and magazines will testify to the focus on food, clothes, drink, and entertainment that occupies the minds and fills the hearts of the public. 

In contrast, Paul says, “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).  When we live around people of the world, including many religious people, let’s remember that many of them are thinking about this life rather than the life to come.  This will greatly affect their life perspective and choices.

       7.      The world is associated with the present earthly kingdom but the Christian is consumed with the Kingdom of God.

People of the world and people of God are in two entirely different realms.  They operate according to two different perspectives, they have different rulers, they have different likes and dislikes, and they have different destinies.  The earthly kingdom is a “domain of darkness” (Colossians 1:13) and Satan is called “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; cf. 14:30; 16:11).  In contrast, God’s heavenly kingdom is the domain of light (Ephesians 5:8-14; Acts 26:18).  When a citizen of light is living in the midst of citizens of darkness and dwelling on earth—the realm of death—we can see that difficulties arise.  The Kingdom of Christ or God (Ephesians 5:5) belongs to Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:13) and is governed by God through His kingdom principles and instructions (cf. Matthew 5-7).  Jesus plainly said, “My kingdom is not of their world . . . My kingdom is not of this realm” (John 18:36).

       8.      The world is composed of people who do not know God and they often seek to exert influence on the Christian to lead him astray.

The truly saved man or woman, boy or girl, is living in a hostile environment.  The believer is living in a foreign land.  When a person travels this earth and stays for a time in another country, he is never really a part of that country. His citizenship is elsewhere and he doesn’t put down roots to make the country of visitation his home.  Likewise, the Christian is an alien and stranger on earth since he really belongs to heaven (1 Peter 2:11; Philippians 3:20-21).  During our stay on earth (1 Peter 1:17), we are merely “strangers and exiles on earth,” like Abraham (Hebrews 11:13-16).

Unbelievers do not really understand the Christian and his perspective.  John says it this way: ‘The world does not know us, because it did not know Him” (1 John 3:3).  People really didn’t know the identity, the nature, and the origin of Jesus Christ when He walked on earth.  Neither do people know us!  In the same passage, John says, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are” (1 John 3:1a).  If people knew that true Christians were sons and daughters of the Living God and knew of their glorious destiny, they would be shocked and astounded.  But because they can’t really appreciate this fact, they may treat us like everyone else. Scripture says that they are “surprised” that we do not live the way they live; consequently they may “malign” us to others (1 Peter 4:3-5).  When they can’t persuade us to follow in their worldly focus and lifestyle, they speak evil of us (Matthew 5:11-12).

Because an unsaved person does not know God, his mind and heart are far from Him and his entire perspective is different from the God-focused and Scripture-based life of the Christian (Ephesians 2:1-3; 4:17-19).  Generally, the Scriptures teach that the Christian must not be “bound together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14)—for “what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?  Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15).  Because of this, God commands, “Come out from their midst and be separate” (v. 17).  While we must necessarily have contact with people of the world to carry on our living and to influence others for the Lord and His righteous ways (cf. Matthew 5:14-16; 28:18-20), we must not have intimate and close relationships with people of the world (1 Corinthians 15:33; Proverbs 13:20). 

But, on the other hand, the Christian is also commanded to be obedient to one’s parents, to be submissive to one’s husband, to treat one’s wife with sacrificial love, to care for needy parents, and to teach and train one’s children (cf. Ephesians 5:22-33; 6:1-4; Colossians 3:18-21; 1 Timothy 5:3-16; Titus 2:4-5).  The believer often must live in close contact with evil family members while at the same time seeking to carry out the commands to be separate from close contact with unbelievers.

How to Function in this Sinful World

By now, we can see the problem that exists for us:  How can we live a fruitful and abundant life, carrying out the will of the Lord, and also keep from being “stained by the world” by keeping a distance from the world (James 1:27)?  We know that this requires much wisdom and a delicate balance.  On the one hand, we must live in the world; on the other hand, we are not to be in intimate fellowship with the world.  How can we accomplish this when we must hold down a job, when we must continue to live in a family setting, when we must seek some kind of education, and when we must carry on our business in the world? 

We might be tempted to think that becoming a hermit is the only possible way!  We may assume that the only way to remain uncontaminated is to live in the deserts, as did John the baptizer (Luke 1:80).  At least there we would have high walls of protection from the “world” and be able to spend our days in work and contemplation and prayer! 

But this “separatist” attitude would be an attempt to leave the world, whereas Jesus prayed to His Father, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).  While it is true that Satan seeks to destroy us (1 Peter 5:8) and he uses the world to accomplish his wicked ends (1 John 2:15-17), we are called to be in the world, and lovingly and compassionately take the good news of Christ to those in the world.  Our Lord went on to pray, “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:18).  How then can we make the best of this “in the world” arrangement to which we are called?  How can we be “in” the world without being “of” the world?

       1.      Live as close to Jesus Christ as you can be wherever you may live and wherever you may travel.

Our relationship with the Lord Jesus should be so intimate and intense that we recognize His presence wherever we may be.  This realization is a powerful incentive to so live that He will not be ashamed of us (1 John 2:28) but will praise us (1 Corinthians 4:5).  If we live with the knowledge that Jesus and God abide with us at all times, we will be able to transform situations with the calm and peaceful confidence of His presence (cf. Matthew 28:20; 1 John 4:12-13).  When Paul was imprisoned and awaiting probable death, he wrote, “All deserted me . . . but the Lord stood with me and strengthened me” (2 Timothy 4:16-17).  Although others departed, Paul took comfort in knowing that the Lord was with him.  This confidence can also help us to live in the world without being part of the world.

       2.      Be fortified in your spirit as you have a continual intake of God’s saving truth in His Word.

The only way for us to face the world and the evil one is to be immersed in the Word of God!  The Word produces faith (2 Timothy 3:15), saves (James 1:21), cleanses the heart (John 15:3), and sets us apart from sin (John 17:17).  God’s Word helps us to grow (1 Peter 2:2), keeps us from sin (Psalm 119:11), reveals truth (Psalm 119:160), gives us encouragement (Romans 15:4), and builds us up in the faith (Acts 20:32).  Read it, study it, memorize it, meditate on it, and keep it!  With this strength, you will be better able to withstand the propensity to conform to the world.  When we are spiritually fortified with God’s truth in our spirit, we will be able to evaluate all events, people, situations, and movements according to God’s own view and standard.

       3.      Sincerely pray to God the Father for your strength and wisdom.

We need God’s presence and power to live in this fallen and corrupt world.  Therefore, we need to keep in constant communication with God our Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit (Matthew 6:9; John 14:13-14; Jude 20).  Paul often emphasized the privilege and need for prayer as well as praying for his readers that they may grow in the Lord and please Him in all respects (cf. Colossians 1:9-12; Ephesians 1:16-19; 6:18-19). 

As you move through life in the world, keep close to the Lord through prayer, supplication, as well as thanksgiving.  When you don’t know what to do, pray for understanding.  When you need strength to meet a temptation, pray to the Lord for His help. When you don’t know what to pray for in the situation or even how to pray, bring your heart before the Lord, knowing that He will see you through (Romans 8:26-27).

       4.      Be filled with the Spirit of God and produce the fruit of the Spirit.

Paul commands us to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), just as the early believers were (cf. Acts 4:31).  We particularly need to be “strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16).  The Spirit of God will enable us to encounter the world with divine power or strength and thereby be able to stand firm against the evil forces of Satan (cf. Ephesians 6:10-18).  The Spirit will enable us to overcome sin (Romans 8:13), overcome the flesh (Galatians 5:16), and overcome the world (cf. 1 John 5:4).  The Spirit produces His fruit in our lives that will make our character far different from the evil nature of unbelievers (contrast Galatians 5:19-21 with vv. 22-24). 

       5.      Keep innocent in your spirit and do not partake of the evil around you.

Although we may live in the world, God wants us to have an innocent spirit about us that is uncontaminated by the perverse and perverted world around us (cf. Acts 2:40; Matthew 17:17).  Paul tells us that we should be “wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil” (Romans 16:19).  He also writes, “Do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Corinthians 14:20).  We should be like babies in evil, innocent of the depth of wickedness in the world.

We need not know and should not know the depth of evil in this world.  Jesus commends certain ones in the assembly at Thyatira for they “did not know the deep things of Satan” (Revelation 2:24).  We need not know the evil around us to live a productive and fruitful life.  The world says that we should expose ourselves to sin of all kinds so that we have a personal knowledge of what the world is like; God says to avoid knowing the evil to keep the mind pure.   Paul writes, “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret” (Ephesians 5:11-12).  If we dirty our minds with the world’s sordidness, our own heart will be contaminated.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

       6.      Be separate from the wicked ways of the world.

Speaking in a practical way, the Christian who aspires to holiness must distance himself from all sin in whatever form it manifests itself.  You may have seen the picture of the three chimpanzees--one covering its ears, the next covering its eyes, and the third covering its mouth.  The caption reads: “Hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil.”  This is good counsel to the saint of God.  In the Mosaic Law, God made certain requirements “to make a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean” (Leviticus 10:10; 11:47).  Although the Levitical ordinances are no longer bound on us, the principle would say that God indeed wants us to make distinctions between the evil ways of the world and the righteous ways of God. 

We must be careful to avoid the deeds of the flesh for they will prevent one from entering the Kingdom of God and will bring God’s holy wrath (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:3-7).  In contrast, the believer will add the fruits of righteousness to his life that he might be like God and the Lord Jesus (Galatians 5:22-25; Ephesians 4:2-3; Philippians 2:1-5; Colossians 3:12-17; 1 Peter 3:9-12; James 3:17).  People should be able to see a radical difference between society at large and the believer.

       7.      Seek to be as Christlike and holy as possible, particularly in a family setting.

This counsel may be very difficult to implement but it needs to be done with care and thoroughness.  Probably this is one of the most problematic situations the Christian will encounter.  Some years ago, we wrote a book on this very subject, Following Christ in Family Conflict.  (This presently is unavailable.)

Consider the many scenarios that might arise.  A son or daughter, perhaps about sixteen years of age, turns to Christ but is part of a worldly family.  Or a husband or wife comes to the Lord but is married to a worldly spouse.  Maybe a father or mother has a worldly son or daughter who refuses to accept Jesus as Lord.  Brothers and sisters also may be living worldly lives and a Christian must somehow endure this relationship until he or she is old enough to leave.

The problems posed by this close family relationship may be varied and many, such as:

  • The television with its perverse programming might be on most of the time. 
  • The radio with its sports and worldly music may often be heard under the roof. 
  • Tapes and CDs of rock, country, hip hop, and other worldly music may be loudly played in the hearing of the Christian. 
  • Some families may allow fornication, may also allow adultery (either directly or through remarriage), and maybe even homosexuality may be tolerated. 
  • Sexual compromises may abound. 
  • Probably immodesty will be prevalent, when parents or siblings walk around half clothed. 
  • Probably junk food and other unhealthy food will be served, as it is in most households, and the Christian may be expected to partake.  Pornography—either in print or on the internet—may be easily seen. 
  • Especially prominent may be sins of the speech—slander, gossip, foolish talking, complaining, speaking too much, etc. 

In this kind of worldly family setting, what is the Christian to do?

The best scenario is that all of the members of the household come to Christ and begin to live a holy life with Jesus Christ at the center!  But reality says that this usually isn’t the case.  Jesus was clear that in many or even most cases, His truth and gospel will bring division and even chaos into a family rather than sweet unity and togetherness (cf. Matthew 10:21, 34-38; Mark 13:12-13; Luke 12:51-53; 21:16-17).  We must remember that even in Jesus’ case, his family and relatives often were not sympathetic to His mission and He had to choose His own priorities over them (cf. Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:20-21, 31-35; 6:4; John 7:5).

Some believing wives are married to unbelieving and worldly husbands and they may not repent of their sins.  The wife should seek to be the “model” wife, filled with humility and kindness and modesty, and perhaps this will lead to her husband’s conversion (cf. 1 Peter 3:1-6; 1 Corinthians 7:12-16; Colossians 3:18).   The husband should be filled with love and care and gentleness, and maybe this will bring his wife to the Lord (1 Peter 3:7; Ephesians 5:25-33; Colossians 3:19).  Parents should do all they can to bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, and hopefully this will lead to their salvation (Ephesians 6:4; 2 Timothy 3:15).  A Christian son or daughter may even have some influence on the parents if he or she is loving, submissive, and respectful (Ephesians 6:1-3).

       8.      Seek to insulate yourself in a family arrangement that is worldly in nature.

If a spouse doesn’t know the Lord and lives a worldly life, we know that this is not grounds for divorce (Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:11-12).  In this case, the Christian must live an exemplary life before the partner, with the hope that he or she will eventually come to Christ.  However, always do the right and never do the wrong in this kind of situation.  Peter tells the wife to be submissive to the unbelieving husband, but he also writes that she must always “do what is right without being frightened by any fear” (1 Peter 3:6).  The Christian wife must do the right and never do the wrong in this setting.  Too many misguided professing Christians counsel a wife to obediently sin for her husband if he requires this, but this is God-dishonoring and blasphemous counsel!  The husband also must do all he can to win the wife but must never sin. 

Particularly difficult is the case of a minor child who comes to Christ but he or she lives in a worldly home that is filled with dozens of evil, harmful influences.  Let the Christian young person do all that is possible to avoid and insulate himself or herself from the worldly music, worldly internet, worldly TV, worldly radio, and worldly conversation.  Maybe the only safe place is the bedroom where one may find a measure of refuge from the constant bombardment of evil influences and satanic enticements.  Maybe just leaving the house for a time when the world is very much on display is a temporary solution.  Diligent study of the Word and meditation on its precepts are essential.  Do whatever is needed to ensure your continual relationship with the Lord and submission to His Word.

Sometimes the worldly influences are so intense and the temptation to revert to sinful thinking and behaving is so strong, that the Christian must take unusual measures to ensure faithfulness to the Lord and prevent falling away.  Each situation may be different:

  • A Christian minor son or daughter may request to live in the home of a devoted Christian family.
  • A saved son or daughter who is old enough may need to depart to live on their own.
  • A child may need to spend more time in a bedroom to avoid the heavy worldly, sexual, and perverse influences of the family.
  • A son or daughter may need to leave the home on occasion when special times of worldliness occur (parties, swimming events, drunkenness, loud music, etc.).
  • Christian parents may need to request that a disobedient and rebellious son or daughter leave the home to bring some peace to the rest of the family and to prevent adverse influence on the other children.
  • A Christian husband may need to exercise his headship by imposing limitations on his wife if her sin  is disruptive and prominent. A Christian wife may need to directly refuse to comply (though with a submissive spirit) with the sinful, evil, lustful, wicked demands of the husband.
  • The believing husband or wife may need to distance themselves from the evil in the house by retreating to a bedroom, the basement, or another room.
  • Parents may need to exercise their authority to forbid worldly music, TV, radio, internet, literature in the home.
  • Perhaps an arrangement can be made in which the unbelieving family members agree to limit the prominent sins that disrupt the peace and tranquility of the home.

These measures may be difficult to implement.  Thankfully, even some families that do not know God and His Word will be willing to work with the Christian to limit the exposure of sin and the influence of worldliness.  If the Christian is loving, kind, thoughtful, helpful, yet firm, the unbelieving family members may allow some peace in the home.

       9.      Seek Christian education rather than the secular and humanistic state educational system of the world.

One of the most pervasive influences for harm in life is the humanistic, relativistic, secular, anti-God, unscriptural, immoral, rationalistic, and entertainment-focused education of the world.  Besides this, education has become a virtual “god” to many educators and it is hard to avoid falling for this idolatry because of the emphasis on grades, the emphasis on higher education, and the competition between students, with the encouragement of the educators.

If at all possible, the believer should seek Christian education as an alternative.  If you are Christian parents, home schooling is a viable option, and some two million students are now taught in their homes in the United States.  Perhaps there are a few religious schools worthy of the name “Christian,” but most are similar to the public schools with their entertainment, sports, immodesty, and the influence of compromising teachers.  It may be difficult for a twelve-year-old to escape the public schools without his parents’ permission and help, but maybe older young people who profess Christ could persuade the parents to allow Christian education of some kind. 

Advanced education is also a drastic problem.  It has been said that some four out of five (80 percent) of young people from “Christian” homes who go through four years of higher education “lose their faith.”  These statistics would be for conservative evangelicals.  The evolutionary lies, the pleasure orientation, the relativistic perspective, the gross immorality, the sports and immodest clothes, the humanistic focus, and much more exerts such an influence on these young people that they succumb to the pressure and thereby turn from any interest in “Christianity” in any form.  Do all you can to avoid this pitfall that has destroyed millions!

       10.  Do not be bound together with unbelievers.

The power of influence is great!  Proverbs says, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (13:20).  We also read, “Do not be deceived; ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (1 Corinthians 15:33).  We can see why Paul would emphasize the importance of being separated from close and intimate relationships in the world:

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?  Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). 

This would seem to forbid the Christian from marrying an unbeliever, or becoming business partners with an unsaved person, or being part of a labor union.  These kinds of alliances would tend to compromise the ways of God.  Only join yourself with strong and devout believers who are consistent in their walk with God!

       11.  You may need to physically distance yourself from some friends and family members who are in sin.

This can be a very difficult matter in a family setting, but it is somewhat easier in other settings.  God in His Word does point out that we should separate ourselves from some people and some situations.  Notice a few of these instructions:

·         “Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not discern words of knowledge” (Proverbs 14:7).

·         “Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man” (Proverbs22:24a).

·         “Avoid such men as these [sinners]” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

·         “Come out from their midst and be separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17).

·         “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, not sit in the seat of scoffers!” (Psalm 1:1).

·         “He who practices deceit shall not dwell within my house; he who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me” (Psalm 101:7).

·         “My son, do not walk in the way with them [sinners].  Keep your feet from their path” (Proverbs 1:15).

There is a balance in all of this.  We know that Jesus did speak with and have some association with unbelievers, particularly with the open-minded and receptive.  He didn’t cloister Himself away from those in sin (cf. Luke 7:36-50; John 3:1ff; 4:7-42; Matthew 9:9-13).  But he didn’t have this kind of association just for fellowship but to reach them with the message of repentance and salvation.  Jesus said, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10; see also the case of Nicodemus [John 3:1ff] and the Samaritan woman [John 4:7ff].)

The point is that we may need to have some distance between us and others when the temptations to sin are great, when the influence is strong, when there is no real point to the relationship, or when we are being dragged down spiritually.

       12.  Never allow another person to pressure you to disobey God and sin.

As sad as this may be, we must acknowledge that some of our closest friends as well as family members may seek to make you compromise your Christian convictions.  Some may do this unintentionally, believing that they are normal and you are abnormal in your beliefs and practices.  Others may know what you believe and even what the Scriptures teach, but still they will try to make you “bend” the ways of God to fit their own agenda or comply with their unrighteous requests.

Many examples of this may be suggested:

  • A friend may offer drugs or cigarettes to you.
  • Parents want you to join them in the living room and watch a foolish or immoral TV program.
  • A humanistic teacher may give a homework assignment to read a worldly novel.
  • A father may want you to participate in sports.
  • Friends may encourage you to go to a school dance.
  • A mother may urge you to eat unhealthy foods that she has prepared.
  • Parents may expect their Christian son or daughter to participate in family traditions during the holidays.
  • A husband may insist that the wife not read her Bible, nor  pray, nor meet with the saints.
  • A wife may beg her husband to attend a compromising denomination with her.
  • A husband may want his wife to wear a swim suit, shorts, form-fitting, or transparent clothing that is immodest and improper.
  • A wife may want her husband to take her to a worldly movie.
  • A friend may want you to join him in some worldly recreational activity.

The Christian living among family members, acquaintances, or working associates must diligently refuse to comply with every pressure to compromise the ways of the Lord.  The believer must be willing to “refuse evil and choose good” (Isaiah 7:15).  Just as Jesus “loved righteousness and hated lawlessness” (Hebrews 1:9), so the follower of Jesus must have this same holy perspective.  Paul says, “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). 

If we have been called by God, we need to walk according to His righteous ways, without being swayed in our beliefs and holy lifestyle.  Scripture declares, “If sinners entice you, do not consent” (Proverbs 1:10).  Never consent to sin to please another person!  Gently, kindly, but firmly, be willing to say, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

       13.  Avoid the many ways that Satan seeks to distract and destroy us.

Peter warns us that we are to be alert to spiritual danger, for Satan is our “adversary” and he “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour,” therefore “resist him, firm in your faith” (1 Peter 5:8-9).  The only way for us to not be influenced by the devil is to not be “ignorant of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11).  We are in a spiritual battle for our soul, thus Paul gives this warning: “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11; cf. vv. 12-17).  Satan has thousands of years of experience in leading people astray, thus we must be well prepared to know his “schemes” and resist his entreaties.  Make sure that you have God’s spiritual armor on each day as you face this dreaded foe.  And always remember that God is far greater than the devil.

      14.  Replace the evil around you with the spiritual, good, pure, and true.

Many of you may live in the midst of evil of all kinds.  This sin and degradation comes to us in different forms and ways: from the music in our hearing, from the television programming, from the conversations we listen to, from the education we receive, from the internet, from the radio, from computer games, from newspapers and magazines, from movies, as well as from friends and acquaintances.  If we take in all of this evil, we are bound to fall! Instead, let us fill our mind and heart with God’s truth.  Paul says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).  We renew our mind by the truth of God from the Word of God that is inspired by the Spirit of God!

Instead of dwelling on the evil, the sinful, the worldly elements of life, determine to fix your mind on the pure and true.  Paul gives us this counsel: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8). 

This may mean different things to different brothers and sisters.  Instead of worldly literature, focus your attention of God’s Word and edifying books.  Instead of listening to worldly music, learn to sing praise to God yourself and perhaps listen to CDs of edifying, uplifting a cappella music.  Instead of watching the worldliness and immorality on television, turn off the set (better yet, throw it out), and spend your time serving the Lord, reading something helpful, or conversing with fellow-believers.  Instead of seeking worldly education that compromises your spirit, seek more edifying education that enlightens the mind and nurtures your skills.  Instead of eating junk foods and other harmful foods, learn to eat healthful and nutritious foods.  Instead of engaging in worldly conversations, try to turn the encounter into something helpful and encouraging.  Be an instrument for good in the world and especially around your family and friends.

      15.  Separate yourself from worldly, compromising, worldly religious organizations.

America is one of the most church-going nations in the world, and churches broadcast their programs on TV as well as radio.  At least in the Bible-belt, a series of church buildings may be found on a single street.  The trouble is that many of these denominations and churches are filled with false doctrines, compromising preachers, worldly entertainment, and humanistic methods.  Instead of drawing the members closer to God and His Word, such organizations dilute the mind with half-truths, corrupt the spirit with counterfeit religion, and delight the senses with carnal displays.  Many churches compromise the truth by leading people to the broad way that leads to destruction rather than the narrow way that leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14).

Examine any church of which you have been a member and compare it with the simple but powerful body of Christ revealed on the pages of your Bible.  See the book of Acts as well as the New Testament letters for a description of the body of Christ and instructions how the members should walk.  If you see a great contrast between what you’ve known and what the Scriptures reveal, be willing to renounce the church and seek a more Biblical fellowship.  Study intently the Scriptures so that you may rid yourself of countless false ways that your former religious institution may have taught you.

      16.  Seek true people of God who are walking in love and truth and maintaining a pure and holy walk with the Lord.

Not only should you turn from compromising and counterfeit churches, but you should earnestly desire to be united with true Christians who have genuinely been saved from sin and are walking in God’s truth and righteousness.  The psalmist prayed to God, “I am a companion of all those who fear You, and of those who keep Your precepts” (Psalm 119:63).  Many find this ideal to be a daunting task since religious compromise seems to be rampant and true Christianity, modeled after the New Testament, is rare.  Articles we have written should help but still it will not be easy.  (See our study, Come Out and Come Together!)

I am reminded of the account in Acts in which Peter and John had been imprisoned and instructed to not teach in the name of Christ.  When these apostles were dismissed from the Jewish authorities, where did they go?  Luke tells us: “When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them,” and after this they all prayed to the Lord for strength and boldness (Acts 4:23ff).  These apostles knew where to go—to their own believing companions!

When the winds of adversity, the storms of trials, and the influence of Satan is strong, we need the encouragement and strength that brothers and sisters in the Lord can give (cf. Hebrews 10:24-25).  We also need them to fortify ourselves in our battle against sin (cf. Hebrews 3:12-13).  It helps to know that we are not alone in this world—that there are others (a few others) who also are walking the narrow way that leads to life, who have the same convictions and lifestyle, who have put God first in their life, and who are willing to live radical lives for Jesus!

Reminders in your Quest
for a Practical Holiness in Life

Let’s remind ourselves of a number of the basic principles in Scripture that should help to motivate us to persevere under hardship and live a life entirely devoted to God and His will:

1.      Live a life of faith in God and the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:1; 2 Corinthians 5:7; Romans 1:17).  

2.      Read the Word of God regularly and know it thoroughly (Matthew 4:4; John 12:48; Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 3:15-17).  

3.      Obey God as He reveals His will through His Word (John 14:15, 21-24; 1 John 2:3-6, 17; 3;22, 24; 5:2-3).  

4.      Surrender your will, deny yourself, and lay down your life to follow Jesus (Mark 8:34-38; John 12:25-26; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15).  

5.      Resist Satan and flee from his temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8-9; 1 John 5:19).  

6.      Remember that you are a soldier of Christ in a deadly-serious spiritual war that you must win! (Ephesians 6:10-18).  

7.      Avoid evil companions that would drag you down spiritually (1 Corinthians 15:33; 2 Corinthians 6:14-17; Proverbs 13:20; 22:24-25).  

8.      Cultivate relationships with good and faithful brothers and sisters in the Lord (Romans 1:8-12; 12:10; 2 Timothy 2:22; Hebrews 3:13; 10:24-25; Psalm 119:63).  

9.      Always place God and His will above and beyond every other relationship, including family and friends (Matthew 12:46-50; 10:34-38; Luke 14:26-27).  

10.  Arrange your living situation and physical surroundings to make them the most conducive to live a devoted life of service to the Lord and to avoid evil influences (1 Corinthians 10:13, 31; 1 Thessalonians 5:22).  

11.  Continually set your mind and heart on heavenly, eternal things rather than earthly, temporal things (Matthew 6:33; Colossians 3:1-4; Philippians 3:19-21; 4:8).  

12.  Be willing to lose your job if it requires you to sin in some way or be around overpowering worldly influences (Philippians 3:7-10; Luke 9:9; James 4:4).  

13.  Be prepared to lose money and material things to follow the Lord fully (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 10:21-27, 28-30).  

14.  Never forget that the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is your bitter enemy and you must choose to love God rather than the world (1 John 2:15-17; James 4:4; Romans 12:1-2).

Trust in the Lord and Serve Him
Faithfully in Life!

Many of us find ourselves in hard circumstances and wonder how we can spiritually survive without being swallowed up by Satan and his powerful forces.  We may have a deep desire to live a holy life and make an impact in this world of sin, but so many influences around us militate against our lofty desires.  We don’t know how to escape this “rat race” in the modern world that is at enmity with God.

Hopefully some of the things we have shared with you will help you in this worthy fight in the present warfare (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5).  Do not give up! Press on the battle!  Be willing to  “suffer hardship” as “a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3).  Take all of the measures you possibly can to eliminate the evil influences in your life and to adopt the measures that will build you up in the faith.  Remember, only those who walk in holiness will see God in heaven (Hebrews 12:14; cf. Matthew 5:8)!  It will be worth your faith and effort one Great Day!

* * * * * * *

Are you determined to follow the Lord fully even in this sinful and fallen world?  Are you willing to repent of your faithlessness and disobedience?  Are you willing to repent of your compromises?  Are you willing to purpose to put God and His Kingdom first in life, whatever sacrifices this may mean?  Please write for further information by requesting the following titles and then act upon what you learn.  Trust in God and be willing to act—and He will surely help you to live for Him!