“To the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.”
This verse from Paul’s letter to Titus is a stark reminder of just how much, and exactly why, we need Jesus. The message is directed to “the defiled and unbelieving.” To be clear, all of us who have sinned (which is all of us) fall under the defiled category. Paul makes this very clear in several of his epistles in the New Testament. We are all sinners in need of saving. But the distinguishing factor here is the second word – unbelieving. Those who do not know or do not believe in Jesus. Those who have not recognized their own depravity. Those who do not believe they need saving.
To these people, Paul says, nothing is pure. Nothing is holy. No good work that they do, no matter how it may seem from the surface, can never be truly good for it is done with the wrong intentions. For those who don’t believe, good works may be an act of vanity, just trying to gain attention or feel good about themselves. On a deeper level, it may also be an attempt at redemption. People do good works to “make up for” the rest of their actions. This is not really good at all, it’s an attempt to earn salvation through good works, which we know isn’t possible.
The truth, according to Paul, is that unless it is done through Christ, no good work is really good. Even if someone claims to be a Christian, but their way of living says the opposite, it’s merely an act. Until someone is truly and wholly repentant and dependent on the redemption of Christ, they’re simply not capable of good. No one is good but God, according to the very words of Christ. So how can good be accomplished apart from him?
Stop trying to save yourself with good deeds. Let the blood of Christ save you, let the Son of God redeem you. Only then will your goodness truly be good. Only then will your purity truly be pure. Only then will your holiness truly by holy.
I know that I am defiled by sin. I know that I need the saving love of Jesus to redeem me. Help me not to try to do good out of my own pride or vanity, but only through the love of Christ. I know that only then is my good truly good.
In Jesus’ Name,