In the past year or so there has been a significant discussion on the relationship between justification and sanctification in the Reformed blogosphere. One of the participants of that discussion and arguably one of the most articulate voices in evangelical Christianity is Pastor Kevin DeYoung who wrote blog posts in that conversation, and now has written a very helpful book titled The Hole in our Holiness Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness.
At the heart of DeYoung's book is the Gospel. He teaches that, "Any gospel which says only what you must do and never announces what Christ has done is no gospel at all" (11). DeYoung's concern is a valid one as much of the preaching many of my friends have grown up on was preaching that focused only on what they were supposed to do in their Christian life rather than on what Christ has done in His work on Cross and in the Resurrection.
One of the most neglected truths in Christianity and arguably one of the most important truths for every Christian to understand is definitive sanctification (our positional identity in Christ), and how it does not eliminate the need for continuing "progressive sanctification." DeYoung notes, "In Christ every believer has a once-for all positional holiness, and from this new identity every Christian is commanded to grow in the ongoing-for your whole life process of holiness" (32). David Peterson notes that "Believers are definitively consecrated to God in order to live dedicated and holy lives, to his glory." In other words, sanctified is what Christians are and what they must become.
Chapter six is one of the most helpful chapters in the book and will help believers to understand how the Gospel empowers them to live the Christian life. Here DeYoung argues that "faith is operative in both--in justification to receive and rest, and in sanctification to will and to work" (85). Piper notes that, "I don't wait to kill my sin, I don't wait passively for the miracle of sin-killing to be worked on me, I act the miracle." DeYoung notes that, "Christians work they work to kill sin and they work to live in the Spirit" (89).
One of the more helpful discussions in the book is on union with Christ. Union with Christ is the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation not only "in its application but also in its once-for-all accomplishment in the finished work of Christ" (95). "Our progress in the pursuit of holiness comes largely from understanding and appropriating our union with Christ" (100). "Union with Christ means God's power for our us working in and through us" (112).
Union with Christ begins with the Holy Spirit's work of faith and regeneration within people's hearts, whereby they are grafted into Christ and His living body, the church. By the Holy Spirit, Christ dwells in His people and nourishes them with the gospel through preaching and the holy sacraments so that by grace they may live to please God. This truth not only applies to our understanding of holiness but also our view of ethics as the restoration of God's image in those united to Christ is the goal of the gospel, the purpose of salvation, and the full expression of the Christian life.
One of the other helpful comments by DeYoung is the following: "To run hard after holiness is another way of running hard after God. Just as a once-for-all, objective justification leads to a slow-growth, subjective sanctification, so our unchanging union with Christ leads an ever-increasing communion with Christ" (123). Calvin taught that union and communion with Christ are realized only through Spirit-worked faith. Communion is actual, not because believers participate in the essence of Christ's nature but because the Spirit of Christ unites believers so intimately to Christ that they become, as it were, flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone. From God's perspective, the Spirit is the bond between Christ and believers, whereas from our perspective faith is the bond. One of the Spirit's principal operations is to work faith in the sinner.
Only the Spirit can unite Christ in heaven with the believer on earth. Just as the Spirit united heaven and earth in the incarnation, so in regeneration He raises the elect from earth to commune with Christ in heaven and brings Christ into the hearts and lives of the elect on earth. Thus, communion with Christ is always the result of the Spirit's work- a work that is astonishing and experiential rather than comprehensible. The Holy Spirit is the link that binds the believer to Christ and is the channel through which Christ is communicated to the believer.
Faith unites the believer to Christ by means of the Word, enabling the believer to receive Christ as He is clothed in the gospel and graciously offered by the Father. Calvin notes, "We ought not to separate Christ from ourselves or ourselves from him," but participate in Christ by faith, for this "revives us from death to make us a new creature."
By faith the believer possesses Christ and grows in Him. What's more, the degree of this faith exercised through the Word determines his degree of communion with Christ. Calvin notes that "everything which faith should contemplate is exhibited to us in Christ." The believer who excels in piety learns to grasp Christ so firmly by faith that Christ dwells in his heart, though He remains in heaven. The pious live by what they find in Christ rather than what they find in Christ.
Hole in our Holiness is a very helpful book that will help Christians to not only understand the importance of holiness, and their positional standing as adopted sons and daughters of God, but also how to grow to be like Christ by the grace of God. Hole in our holiness is a great book for the new Christian who is just learning what Christianity is all about. Hole in our holiness will help the seasoned Christian to understand why they need to continue to grow to be like Christ and to fight against sin by the grace of God. Pastors should put Hole in our holiness in the hands of their people to help them to understand what holiness is and how to grow in the grace of God.
Wherever you are in your walk with God, I encourage you to pick up this important new book by DeYoung, because it will help you to think through what the Bible teaches on holiness and expose as it has done with me the areas in my own life that need to be addressed as I continue to grow in the grace of God. May this book by Pastor DeYoung do for our generation what J.C. Ryle's Holiness continues to do today instructing people in the holiness of God and the majestic truth of our union with Christ.
Title: The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness
Author: Kevin DeYoung
Publisher: Crossway (2012)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Crossway book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Kevin DeYoung, a Michigan pastor, has established himself as a young traditionalist. Unlike many of his peers, who want to "emerge" or "re-vision" the church, DeYoung hangs on to tradition and orthodoxy in his vision of what church should be. Don't misunderstand: I mean that as a compliment, and DeYoung defends that position well.
In The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap Between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness, DeYoung is once again looking backward, trying to recover something that seems to be lost on the church of today. "The hole in our holiness is that we don't really care much about it." Teaching about holiness is rare or watered down to the level of moralism or self-help. The church today, as rule, has failed "to take seriously one of the great aims of our redemption and one of the required evidences for eternal life--our holiness."
Some of the emphases of modern evangelicalism have detracted from a focus on holiness. I applaud the new social awareness evangelicals have shown in addressing poverty, abortion, creation care, human trafficking, and other concerns. But as DeYoung points out, "you will find few explicit commands" in scripture telling us to care for social needs, "but there are dozens and dozens of verses that enjoin us . . . to be holy as God is holy."
By the same token, modern evangelicals like to talk about friendship with Jesus, saying that Christianity is not about religion but relationship. I agree, and I think DeYoung does too, to a certain extent. But as he points out, "It sounds really spiritual to say God is interested in a relationship, not in rules. But it's not biblical. From top to bottom the Bible is full of commands. They aren't meant to stifle a relationship with God, but to protect it, seal it, and define it." DeYoung turns to C.S. Lewis for insight on what it means to delight in the laws of God. It is a "delight in having touched firmness, like the pedestrian's delight in feeling the hard road beneath his feet after a false short cut has long entangled him in muddy fields."
Lest you think DeYoung lays on the guilt throughout the book, I assure you he doesn't. He holds out hope for believers, specifically our hope in Christ. A life of holiness is to be who we were made to be as new creations. Christ living in us gives us the ability to do that which God demands. And cultivating holiness is done by "boring and out-of-date" practices: "The way to grow in your relationship with Jesus is to pray, read your Bible, and go to a church where you'll get good preaching, good fellowship, and receive the sacraments."
The Hole in Our Holiness is not an easy read for Christians comfortable in their worldliness. But what a great reminder of the truth of who we are and a challenge to be who we are. DeYoung writes, "Do not strive after holiness because you cower in dread of God. Strive after holiness because you are confident you already belong to God." Even though you may not feel like it, if you are a believer you are holy. God has made you holy. DeYoung gives some direction for us to delight in and live in that holiness.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy.
on September 11, 2012
I'm a little lost at how to review this. If these chapters were separate blog posts from Kevin's blog, DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed, then I would have probably linked to almost everyone of them in my Today in Blogworld feature. By themselves each one is tremendous. Kevin is a tremendous writer and it shows throughout this book. He has a way of making you laugh, punching you in the gut, applying the gospel, and then making you laugh again as you close the book up and go about living your life all the while having been profoundly changed throughout.
There is nothing in this book that leaves me shaking my head and saying, "whoa, this dude has gone off the deep end". The correctives that he mentions are needed and helpful. Personally, I appreciate him saying, "It's not wrong for a sermon to conclude with something we have to do." (54) And I further agree with him that those of us within the gospel-centered movement can without an equal emphasis on holiness end up "confused, wondering why sanctification isn't automatically flowing from a heartfelt commitment to gospel-drenched justification". (91)
So why am I confused in how to review this? Mainly because this is a book review and not a review of several separate blog posts put together. In my opinion the book is confused as to its audience and overall purpose.
I think had DeYoung decided he wanted to only write a book about the hole in the gospel-centered movement and our lack of emphasis and promotion of holiness then it'd have been better. Or even if he wanted to write a book simply on holiness and how it comes about. But I think he tried both and it didn't seem to fit together. Honestly, it reads kind of like an associate pastor that finally gets to preach and decides to try preaching 4 sermons in the time frame of 1.
That is why I am conflicted. If you were to ask me, "What is the main thesis of the book" I think I would say that DeYoung believes that there is a hole in our gospel and that we need to start emphasizing personal holiness as well as gospel passion. And as he points out that hole in the gospel he wants to fill it with a robust theology of holiness. The book is an attempt to point out the hole and then fill it.
But does he do it?
Time will tell. Part of me wants to say that the book is awesome and one of the better books written in the last couple of years. But the other part of me wonders if it is just a bunch of really awesome truths and statements that wind up simply jarbled around in my skull but not as life transforming as they could have been had I been given a few pegs to hang them on.
Part of me does not even want to mention that criticism. The book is superb for the most part and I would feel comfortable putting it in the hands of anyone in our congregation. It is, as Piper says on the back cover, "ruthlessly biblical". And I would never discourage anyone from buying a book that is ruthlessly biblical. There are whole paragraphs in the book that inspired me, encouraged me, convicted me, and drove me to re-examine ways that I say things. The book has proven helpful for me. I'm simply left wondering if the lack of cohesiveness and confused audience will get in the way of leaving a lasting impact.
At the end of the day, though, I would highly recommend this book. It's possible that the lack of cohesiveness is a problem with my brain and not Kevin's typewriter. He's a tremendous author, speaker, and seems to be a humble man of God. So, I'd be happy to chalk the fault up entirely to myself. And I would greatly encourage you to shuck out 10 bucks and get a copy for yourself.
on September 6, 2012
Deyoung is one of my favorite of the "young" Reformed resurgence writers. He writes with clarity, conviction, and a pastor's heart. Far too many of the members of the evangelical church act as if holiness is an optional extra and as a fellow pastor, I see that attitude all the time. This book offers helpful, biblical medicine to what ails the modern evangelical. Highly recommended!
on September 4, 2012
I like Kevin DeYoung and so I pre-ordered his latest book, The Hole in Our Holiness (2012). DeYoung issues a stern warning to Christians who ignore the pursuit of holiness for whatever reason they may cite. He writes, "No matter what you profess, if you show disregard for Christ by giving yourself over to sin--impenitently and habitually--then heaven is not your home" (p. 14). He goes on to suggest that the pursuit of holiness, or obedience to God, is at the heart of the Great Commission. He further seems to caution against the stream of the current "gospel centered" movement that says that if we truly understand the gospel, we will by extension grow in holiness represented by writers like Tullian Tchvidjian, Michael Horton, Paul Tripp (and I would say Martin Luther). Some of his caution is appropriate, I believe, to avoid antinomianism (lawlessness).
Someday, I want to read a book like this and feel hopeful. Too often, the message in books like this is that 1) growth in holiness is a part of the Christian life, 2) BUT you are truly justified by faith alone, 3) BUT keep the rules, and 4) IF you are not, maybe you are not really a Christian. It is hard to feel like I am measuring up to God's requirements after reading a book like this (here's a hint: I'm not, which is why I am fully dependent upon the blood of Christ).
On the whole, I do think this is a good book. He's right that Christians must consider whether they are truly pursuing righteousness. Good trees do bear good fruit. I do believe in progressive sanctification, particularly as described by David Powlison (which DeYoung talks about later in the book). His chapter, "Saints and Sexual Immorality", is particularly good. I wish I had read it, and lived it out, before I married. I am glad that I read it now. So is his discussion of union with Christ. These two topics are worth the price of the book.
Still, though I believe that the pursuit of holiness is absolutely essential to the Christian life, I agree with the guys from the White Horse Inn that before understanding our responsibilities (imperatives), we must first understand what Christ has done for us (indicatives) and continue to go back to the cross again and again when we are unsure. I would recommend this book, but perhaps encourage you to read it alongside something by Tullian Tchvidjian (e.g., Surprised by Grace) and pray for grace and growth in holiness.
on November 15, 2012
If you are in the "Young, Restless, and Reformed" crowd, you're probably very familiar with Kevin DeYoung. He's kind of a "poster child" for the movement because... well, he's young and Reformed. I'm not sure about the "restless" part, however. At any rate, DeYoung has some influence in the "neo-reformed" movement (my thoughts on that term here and here). Kevin DeYoung has written or edited some very good books and also reflected on issues related to missional theology that I am not convinced of. No matter what, DeYoung is a hardworking pastor-author who obviously cares deeply about Jesus, the gospel, and the church.
His latest book, The Hole in Our Holiness is a book about the issue of sanctification. It's a short (159 pages!) popular-level book that addresses the issue of how Christians reflect on sin and holiness and how the gospel interacts our approach to becoming conformed to the image of Christ. It's semi-exegetical, doctrinal, and very practical. In other words, it has many of the marks of a good pastoral approach, IMO. The list of well-known pastors, scholars, and even professional football players who endorse the book is amazing (John Piper, Randy Alcorn, Michael Horton, Nancy Guthrie, C. J. Mahaney, and Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins).
Does the book live up to hype of the endorsements?
On many levels, I found The Hole to be very, very good. It addresses a significant problem facing the church... a lack of concern for personal holiness. And yet DeYoung also does a good job of avoiding the common pitfall of true legalism (he discusses the difference between what is real legalism and what is just called legalism) or perfectionism. If you are looking for a work addressing the issue of Sanctification from a semi-traditional Reformed perspective, this is a good popular treatment of the issue. DeYoung takes time to clarify the differences between Justification and Sanctification that are hallmark issues for those who are of the Protestant Reformed.
DeYoung starts the book by discussing what he says is "the reason for redemption." After acknowledging that God has saved us because he loves us and for his own glory, he reminds us that Eph. 1:3-4 indicates that "God saved you so that you might be holy." This, then, serves as the starting foundation for where DeYoung is going.
I think it's safe to say that today's evangelical world is full of people who simply do not believe that our lifestyle and our approach to holiness matters much. We see it all around us and if you are in a church that has people in it, you'll likely run into the same issue that the apostle Paul found himself dealing with (cf. Romans 6). If we preach "grace," people can easily assume that since it's all grace, their lifestyle doesn't matter! And if we preach "works," we're on dangerous ground of missing the gospel! There's a fine line. But I appreciate how DeYoung discusses this tension. He writes,
"In all this it bears repeating that God is the one working in us, giving us the desire and ability to obey. We earn nothing. We are promised everything. But don't be so scared of works-righteousness that you make pale what the Bible writes in bold colors. We are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). And we were created in Christ Jesus for good works (v. 10). Any gospel which purports to save people without also transforming them is inviting easy-believism."
I was surprised at how balanced this book was, to be honest. I was expecting it to read a bit more "hard-edged" in trying to provide the tension to the radical grace that, for example, is discussed in Tullian Tchividjian Jesus + Nothing = Everything (review here). I was expecting more of what I would call "legalism," but was pleased to see DeYoung helpfully balance his call to holiness with statements like this,
"when it comes to sanctification, it's more important where you're going than where you are. Direction matters more than position..."
This is helpful because DeYoung rightly understands that the positional nature of a Christian is in Christ. He's more concerned that Christians are moving forward towards Christlikeness. I appreciate that balance.
All in all, I think DeYoung's book is important and should be ready by many. There are points where I would differ with his approach or conclusion, but they are minor and if anything, this has been great food for thought and has brought about an important discussion within some of the circles I travel in.
on August 27, 2012
The Hole in Our Holiness is a book that asks a question as well as answering one. That question is "Does holiness matter?" The answer that many today would answer is "No, not really." The answer of the author is an emphatic "Yes." Holiness does matter. It matters a lot.
The strengths of DeYoung's book can perhaps best be assessed by the false notions that it puts to rest. The book courageously attempts to tackle an increasing problem in the church today: subtle "gospel-centred" lawlessness. While some of the author's casual references to sin are unnecessary and unhelpful, the net effect of the book is to greatly recover the beauty and glory of God's law. A sampling of quotes gives a taste:
God's law is an expression of his grace because it is also an expression of his character. (54)
All our sins are offensive to God and require forgiveness. But over and over the Bible teaches that some sins are worse than others. (71)
Love does not equal unconditional affirmation. Love entails the relentless pursuit of what is for our good. And our good is always growth in godliness. (73)
When it comes to growth in godliness, trusting does not put an end to trying. (91)
First, the main goal in all relationships is to glorify God, not to get as close to sinning as possible. We aren't salvation minimalists interested in getting away with something. (114)
A complete disregard for holiness indicates that we do not have fellowship with Christ and are not in him (127).
It's one thing to sin your heart out, mumble a few sorrys, and get on with life. It's quite another thing to hate your sin, cry out to God, and make a spiritual U-turn. (140)
Over and over throughout the book, DeYoung affirms one great truth: namely that love for Jesus is both the beginning and the goal of the Christian life. He maintains, however, that true love for Christ will always and only co-exist with the practice of holiness.
Where our theology is not careful, our Christian lives are often adversely affected. (65)
Only by knowing our position in Jesus can we begin to live like Jesus. (94)
We aren't interested in being virtuous just to be good people. Our first love is Jesus. Holiness is not ultimately about living up to
a moral standard. It's about living in Christ and living out of our real, vital union with him. (98)
When it comes to sanctification, it's more important where you're going than where you are. Direction matters more than position. (138)
One of the most defining characteristics of DeYoung's book is its counter-cultural tone. DeYoung advocates a true gospel that shapes culture rather than being shaped by it. He calls believers to a vigilant, active faith that champions God's law for the glory of his name. He calls us to a radical pursuit of godliness because of our love for Christ:
Brothers and sisters, we must be more vigilant...Are we any different than the culture? Have we made a false peace with ourselves whereby we have said, we won't do the things you do or be as sensual as you are, but we will gladly watch you do them for us? [...] I fear many of us have become numb to the poison we are drinking. (120)
DeYoung puts his finger on the heart of holiness in one his final paragraphs. In arguably the best practical paragraph in the book, he declares, "Holiness is the sum of a million little things" (a quote inspired by Scottish preacher Horatius Bonar). In so doing he recovers the unique daily concern of holiness and, in my opinion, indirectly critiques those constantly levelling criticism at conservative strains of evangelicalism. Holiness, he affirms, is concerned with "the setting aside of little bits of worldliness and little acts of compromise, the putting to death of little inconsistencies and little indiscretions" (145). Holiness is true beauty, true internal godliness. Holiness matters because grace does.
DeYoung's book challenges to a practical Christianity. Although primarily aimed at those who have bought into a cheaper view of grace at the expense of God's law, the book will stimulate all to a fresh respect and love for true holiness. Its message is relevant and scriptural, and a challenge to fill the hole for the glory of God's kingdom.
::::: Published by Crossway Books. Also available from their website here.
on August 27, 2012
"The Bible could not be any clearer," DeYoung writes. "The reason for your entire salvation, the design behind your deliverance, the purpose for which God chose you in the first place is holiness." Holiness is not an option. (Heb. 12:14) "The hole in our holiness is that we don't really care much about it."
He traces how we got to this point of holiness not being cool, the old taboos. He notes that holiness is hard and we are lazy. He is careful to distinguish the holiness that is reckoned to us because of the righteousness of Christ and the holiness commanded of us so many times in the Bible.
He writes about what holiness is not, such as a moral checklist or being flawless. He clarifies what holiness is, such as a renewal of God's image in us, and a life of virtue. He notes that it is only possible for those in Christ.
DeYoung is adamant on the importance of holiness in the believer's life. "No matter what you profess, if you show disregard for Christ by giving yourself over to sin - impenitently and habitually - then heaven is not your home." And, "A complete disregard for holiness indicates that we do not have fellowship with Christ and are not in him."
Some might argue that living a holy life is not possible. DeYoung is convinced we can walk in a manner worthy of our calling (Eph. 4:1). We can be trained to live in a way that is holy and acceptable to God (Rom. 12:1). We must "toil," struggling with all our energy, as Christ works in us (Col. 1:2).
He adds four practices that move us in our oneness with Christ and he ends with a section on repentance.
His explanation of "in Christ" is the best I've read. And understanding that is important because, "Union with Christ fundamentally and irrevocably changes our relationship to sin." Sin no longer has dominion.
Every few years a book comes out about which I feel so strong I'll buy copies to give to others to read. This is such a book. One of the reasons God saved me is that I might be holy (Eph. 1:3-4). Like many, perhaps, I'd lost sight of that in this culture which is so unholy. This is a book I'll reread, write in, discuss, and work at living out its contents.
Are you passionate in your pursuit of holiness? If you are, this book will be great encouragement. If you're not, this book will certainly jolt you into thinking again about your life, your actions, and pleasing God.
I received an advanced reading galley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. Note that I read a galley and some of the quotes above may be changed in the final edition of the book.
on September 16, 2012
One of the most encouraging trends I've seen recently is a renewed concern over holiness. While, historically, holiness has always been a matter of extreme importance, it's one that recently has been neglected (something another book on this subject made clear). So what's the problem? The problem, as Kevin DeYoung sees it, is "we don't really care much about it" (Location 115).
If his new book, The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness, is any indication, DeYoung wants to change that.
In this book, DeYoung offers careful criticism and wise counsel to a generation that may be a bit too comfortable with the gap between their passion for Christ and their pursuit of godliness.
According to DeYoung, holiness--and the Christian life--is really about one thing: Obedience to Christ. "Is obedience what your church is known for?" he writes. "Is it what other Christians think of when they look at your life? Is this even what you would want to be known for?" (Location 144)
This might seem harsh, or even legalistic to some, but it's important. We like to be known for being "relevant," or bringing a greater sense of creativity to our churches or being active in seeking the welfare of our communities--and these aren't bad things in and of themselves. But these are no sure sign of a pursuit of holiness, any more than loudly proclaiming your gospel-centeredness to all the world can be. If our lives are marked by ongoing patterns of unrepentant sin, all the creativity, good deeds, contextualization, or "taking a stand for Christ" won't do us a lick of good, because the call is not to those things explicitly, but to holiness:
"There are a hundred good things you may be called to pursue as a Christian. All I'm saying is that, according to the Bible, holiness, for every single Christian, should be right at the top of that list. . . . If you read through the instructions to the New Testament churches you will find few explicit commands that tell us to take care of the needy in our communities and no explicit commands to do creation care, but there are dozens and dozens of verses that enjoin us, in one way or another, to be holy as God is holy (e.g., 1 Pet. 1:13-16)." (Location 251, 260)
Again, that might seem harsh, but it's important. As important as being good stewards of all that God has put in our care is, and as important as caring for the needy is, they're not the goal per se. The goal is obedience. It's what we teach, model and encourage:
"The Great Commission is about holiness. God wants the world to know Jesus, believe in Jesus, and obey Jesus. We don't take the Great Commission seriously if we don't help each other grow in obedience. . . . Jesus expects obedience from his disciples." (Location 188, 197)
DeYoung's emphasis on holiness is much-needed and rarely overstated. This is not a book written from an ivory tower of arrival. It's more of a desperate plea from a fellow pilgrim seeing so many around him going off track. He wants us to remember that the purpose of God's saving work is not so that we may fight the war on poverty, or be better stewards of creation, or any other number of things: He saves us so that we might become holy.
It means that we take hold of our identity in Christ, which is the fruit of our justification in Christ, and out of that identity and become progressively sanctified in, by, and for Christ.
How does this happen? DeYoung explains it as being through "Spirit-powered, gospel-driven, faith-fueled effort."
This expression, built upon the idea behind Phil. 2:12-13, is essential to progressing in the pursuit of holiness. Because we are empowered with the supernatural power fo the Holy Spirit, we need not feel disheartened and defeated, giving up the fight. Because, in Christ, we can actually please God, we don't have to see God as a cruel taskmaster waiting for us to screw up. We are justified by faith and "by faith we make every effort to be sanctified. Faith is operative in both--in justification to receive and rest, and in sanctification to will and to work," writes DeYoung (Location 1238).
This is one of the strongest elements of DeYoung's book--that "work" and "faith" are not in opposition when it comes to growing in godliness. We're not justified by our works, and indeed, it's not our work that even truly makes us godly--it's Christ's work in us that makes it possible. Nevertheless, we pursue, we grow, and we live in the tension of working out our own salvation, knowing it is God at work in us to make it possible.
Equally strong is his emphasis on our union with Christ as being the source of our strength in holiness. He writes
"The whole of our salvation can be summed up with reference to this reality. Union with Christ is not a single specific blessing we receive in our salvation. Rather it is the best phrase to describe all the blessings of salvation, whether in eternity past (election), in history (redemption), in the present (effectual calling, justification, and sanctification), or in the future (glorification)." (Location 1381)
Simply, because we are united with Christ, our relationship to sin is different. Where we were once enslaved to it, we are not empowered to fight against it--to put it to death. And while we are never free from its effects or the struggle against it in this world, we can fight with full vigor.
"Sin may get in some good jabs. It may clean your clock once in a while. It may bring you to your knees. But if you are in Christ it will never knock you out. You are no longer a slave, but free. Sin has no dominion over you. It can't. It won't. A new King sits on the throne. You serve a different Master. You salute a different Lord." (Location 1539)
The Hole in Our Holiness is among the most challenging books I've read in the past year. It's so easy to get caught up in just going along with whatever everyone else thinks is funny or cool, for example. But when holiness is our goal, we wind up seeing things differently. Maybe not always right away, but inevitably, we will see our preferences change. The jokes we would have laughed at a year ago may make us weep. The books we may have read may now make us shudder. The movies or TV shows... you get the idea.
The point is we need to pursue holiness--genuinely and faithfully. We need not worry about whether or not people call us prudes or fundamentalists. The world doesn't need Christians to be cool--they need us to be holy. If you want to be encouraged and challenged in your pursuit of holiness, I'd highly encourage reading The Hole in Our Holiness.
on March 19, 2015
Over the past few years I’ve often pondered who would be the leaders in Reformed theology leaders in the coming years. After all, R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur are in their mid-70’s and John Piper is 69. Sinclair Ferguson, Alistair Begg, Derek Thomas and Tim Keller are in their 60’s. Albert Mohler and Michael Horton are in their 50’s. Certainly Kevin DeYoung, who already has written several quality books at age 37, is in the mix to be among our future leaders, along with Matt Chandler and younger leaders such as Trip Lee.
I recently re-listened to this book, which was the first of DeYoung’s books I had read when it was first published in 2012. Some of the content in this book was similar to his excellent message “Do Not Love the World” from the recent Ligonier National Conference
DeYoung, who does an excellent job of using scripture throughout the book to reinforce his points, writes that we tend to be neglectful of the pursuit of holiness, even though Jesus expects obedience from us. God saved us so that we may be holy. To be holy means to be separate, to be set apart from what is common. Holiness is a key theme in the Bible. In general, however, a concern for holiness is not apparent in most of our lives. Holiness is not an option for the believer. However, DeYoung points out that many Christians have given up on sanctification, a theological term for growing in our holiness.
Christians should not even have a hint of immorality in their lives. We are to be holy as God is holy. (1 Peter 1:15). But DeYoung writes that there is a gap between our love for the Gospel and our love for godliness
Our pursuit of holiness does not diminish the fact that we are saved by faith alone. Justification is the root while holiness is the fruit. We should not confuse justification and sanctification. We shouldn’t confuse DeYoung’s discussion about personal holiness for legalism.
DeYoung discusses what holiness is (to be like God) and what it is not (worldliness). He discusses having a good or clean conscious and illustrates that with practical illustrations around boundaries in dating or the movies we watch.
He discusses the role of the law in the life of the believer and the so-called lordship salvation (we are saved by grace so can’t we live as we would like?). He states that we can please God, but only because of what He has done for us. Whenever we trust and obey God is pleased.
DeYoung writes that all sins are offensive to God, but some sins are worse than others. He asks if born again Christians can displease God and then answers by indicating that God is displeased when His people sin, and as a result He disciplines us.
The author looks at how the Holy Spirit works in our holiness and how the Gospel aids us in our holiness. We shouldn’t neglect the importance of our effort and work. We shouldn’t “Let go and let God”.
DeYoung includes a helpful section on union with Christ. It reminded me of one of my favorite professors Dr. Phillip Douglas at Covenant Seminary covered this topic in his Spiritual and Ministry Formation course.
DeYoung writes that the Christian life is a fight, but if you are in Christ, it is a fight you will win.
He offers helpful insights in discussing sexual immorality, talking about what we are doing and seeing. In today’s sex saturated culture sexual impurity seems normal to us. This is not so in the scriptures. The sexually immoral are mentioned as not inheriting the kingdom of God in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
DeYoung defines sexual immorality as any sexual activity outside of marriage between and man and a woman. Despite what our culture says, God says our bodies belong to Him.
Along with union with Christ is communion with Him. John Owen says that communion is mutual relations between us and God. We abide by obeying and obey as we abide. We commune with God by praying.
DeYoung closes the book by discussing the role of repentance in the pursuit of holiness. He states that it is more important where we are going than where we are now.
Throughout this helpful book DeYoung mentions the Puritans often. Other books that I have read and would recommend to you around this subject are R.C. Sproul's Pleasing God and Jerry Bridges The Pursuit of Holiness.
Finally, enjoy this article from Tony Reinke of Desiring God featuring twenty helpful quotes from the book: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/20-quotes-from-the-hole-in-our-holiness