Book Review: The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung


The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling The Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness (Crossway, 2012) by Kevin DeYoung is a book that seeks to biblically answer the many questions surrounding the personal holiness of the Christian. In an evangelical culture where the phrase ‘Gospel-Centered’ is pasted on many book covers and church descriptions, DeYoung wrestles with what Gospel-centrality means and doesn’t mean for the pursuit of holiness.

DeYoung begins the book to show that there seems to be a gap in Christians today, particularly young Christians, between believing the truth of the Gospel and living holy lives. He uses the helpful illustration of his feelings towards camping. He lives in an area where everyone camps. DeYoung, while acknowledging that camping is for some people, does not like camping. This, according to DeYoung, is how many seem to view personal holiness; as something for certain people but not for everyone.

DeYoung goes on to say, “My fear is that as we rightly celebrate, and in some quarters rediscover, all that Christ has saved us from, we are giving little thought and making little effort concerning all that Christ has saved us to.” With this, DeYoung begins to lay a foundation for the importance of personal holiness as seen in the Scriptures (Romans 16:19, Revelation 21:8, Hebrews 12:14, etc).

For the remainder of the book, DeYoung fleshes out what personal holiness looks like. He looks at the purpose of salvation in Chapter 2, showing that the saved are to display Christ to the world through holy living. In chapter 3 he clearly shows what holiness is not and what it is according to scripture. Chapter 4 may be the most important chapter in the book. There DeYoung deals with a proper reading of the imperatives and indicatives of Scripture. He shows that the whole Bible, including the law, is important for Christian living. DeYoung puts the law in it’s proper place, showing that “the good news of the gospel leads to gracious instructions for obeying God.”

Chapter five shows pleasing God as an important motivation for personal holiness. Chapter 6 describes tackles proper motivation and place of the effort of the Christian in holiness. Chapter 7 deals with the oft neglected doctrine of union with Christ as essential for personal holiness. Chapter 8 directly addresses with sexual immorality and the Christian life. In Chapter 9 DeYoung shows the difference between union with Christ and communion with Christ, showing the necessity of cultivating a life of abiding in Christ. Chapter 10 ends on an encouraging note as DeYoung reminds the reader that personal holiness is a slow progression over time.

DeYoung writes very clearly. He is obviously a well educated theologian, but he labors to make difficult doctrines clear for the common reader. This is seen most clearly in his chapter on union with Christ. He follows the Puritan’s he commends in Chapter 1 by showing the necessity of deep thinking for proper living and, in this case, for personal holiness.

Another strength is the Biblical approach to applying the gospel that leans neither toward legalism or licentiousness. It is a temptation among many to ignore the imperatives (‘do this’) of Scripture as if the gospel was only in the indicatives (‘you are this’). DeYoung clearly shows that there are many motivations to holiness that we find in the Scripture. While justification is the first and foremost motivation, it is not the only motivation. Other motivations include the pleasure of God, the promises, and the warnings of the Bible.

DeYoung’s chapter on sexual immorality is necessary in our Christian culture today. He addresses head on one of America’s greatest idols. He shows the particular sinfulness of sexual sin while giving practical advice for Christians, especially young ones, who are struggling.

The final strength of the book is the study questions given for each chapter. This book will be a great resource for one-on-one discipleship, small group settings, youth groups, etc. DeYoung’s questions for further study help the reader press deeper into the issues and apply the truths to personal life.

The only critique of the book is that DeYoung’s claim that Christian’s today do not care much about holiness could have been better supported by some outside sources. There is much background surrounding this book that may have helped to shed light on the concern. DeYoung and Tullian Tchividjian had a helpful blog exchange over some of the issues that concern DeYoung, including motivations for Christian living, justification, sanctification, etc. Showing some different perspectives would have bettered the book.

Overall, The Hole In Our Holiness fills the gap between Gospel passion and our pursuit of godliness by giving a sound biblical understanding of sanctification in the Christian life. It is very accessible for Christians of all walks of life and is a great tool for growing in godliness.


All Things For Good

Yesterday we looked at Romans 8:28- And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. We saw how Paul’s logic in this section of scripture is that since God is faithful in the fullness of our salvation (v.29-30) we can be assured of his faithfulness in our present trials. The practical outworking of this promise is that nothing can harm the child of God (v. 31ff).

There are MANY ways in which God is faithful to work our trials for our ultimate good. Here are a few…

(The following is from the blog of Justin Taylor) ‘Jared Wilson, in Gospel Deeps, writes that “while we may not be satisfied with what God has revealed about his purposes in suffering, we cannot justifiably say he has not revealed anything about his purposes in suffering. We may not have the answer we are laboring for, but we do have a wealth of answers that lie in the same field.”

Here’s an outline of ten reasons he identifies in God’s Word:

  1. To remind us that the world is broken and groans for redemption [Rom. 8:20-23].
  2. To do justice in response to Adam’s (and our) sin.
  3. To remind us of the severity of the impact of Adam’s (and our) sin.
  4. To keep us dependent on God [Heb. 12:6-7].
  5. So that we will long more for heaven and less for the world.
  6. To make us more like Christ, the suffering servant [Rom. 8:292 Cor. 1:54:11].
  7. To awaken the lost to their need for God [Ps. 119:6771].
  8. To make the bliss of heaven more sweet [Rom. 8:181 Pet. 4:13Ps. 126:5Isa. 61:3].
  9. So that Christ will get the glory in being our strength [John 9:32 Cor. 4:7].
  10. And so that, thereby, others see that he is our treasure, and not ourselves [2 Cor. 4:8-9].

See Jared C. Wilson, Gospel Deeps: Reveling in the Excellencies of Jesus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), pp. 114-120 for an elaboration of each point.’

Find yesterday’s sermon audio Here (excuse the poor quality. We had a technical difficulty)

Another great resource I would highly recommend is Suffering and the Sovereignty of God ed. by John Piper and Justin Taylor. The Book is based upon conference messages available for free here. 

Women Exhorting Women

In our service yesterday, we looked at Titus 2:3-5, and discovered a list of character qualities that older women are to be building intoyounger women.  Here’s a resource that might prove helpful to those who desire to take up the mantel of mentoring those younger than yourself.

Carolyn Mahaney has put together an audio series that can be downloaded as MP3s (as well as PDFs of the message outlines) from the Sovereign Grace website.  If you prefer reading books to listening to messages, then check out Mahaney’s Feminine Appeal from Crossway Books.  I highly commend both of these resources for “older” women looking to be obedient to the call to “teach what is good”.



The audio series is called “To Teach What Is Good”, and the message titles are:

(Click on a message title to read its description or to download the free        MP3.)

1. A Fresh Look at Titus 2

2. Loving My Husband

3. Loving My Children

4. Being Self-Controlled

5. Being Pure

6. Being Busy At Home

7. Being Kind/Doing Good<!–

8. Being Subject to My Husband

Resources for Understanding Service

Isaiah 58 teaches us that true and genuine worship includes the whole of the Christian life. When we trust in Christ and center on His gospel we can’t help but pour out compassion on the hungry, poor, homeless and enslaved. We will seek to meet physical needs and, most importantly, the spiritual need of the good news of Jesus.

In this post, I simply want to give you a few resources to help cultivate your heart for those in need. The desire at NewBranch is for the church to be serving in community. The elders and staff are working on a number of different ways for BASE groups to serve.

In the meantime, use these resources to prepare-

Yesterday’s Sermon: A Test of True Worship- Isaiah 58
Good News to the Poor- John Piper
A Fast for Waters That Do Not Fail: Part IPart II– John Piper
A 13-Part Sermon Series on Service by Tim Keller

The Gospel and the Poor by Tim Keller
Social Justice and The Gospel: Part IPart II

When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert: Read a review of the book HERE
Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road by Tim Keller

Ministries Mentioned in Yesterday’s Sermon
StreetGrace and Innocence Atlanta: Focusing on ending child-trafficking in Atlanta
The Lazarus Project: I meant to mention this yesterday. It is a feeding ministry of Trinity Life Church in Lawrenceville, GA.

The Kingdom of Heaven

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44

You may have heard the adage, “You are so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly good.” My guess is that it originated to describe people who claimed to be spiritual but never really did anything for Jesus. That’s a struggle that we all face; It’s a lot easier to talk the talk without walking the walk.

But the problem is not that we are too focused on the kingdom of heaven. It’s that we are not focused enough. Jesus’ words in this short parable show as that when we truly grasp the kingdom of heaven, we will do whatever it takes to obtain it.

What is the kingdom of heaven? Matthew is the only gospel that uses the phrase “kingdom of heaven.” It is interchangeable with the phrase used by the other gospel writers, “kingdom of God.” It’s much more than the after-life. It is the presence of God here and now.

This kingdom was ushered in by Jesus Christ. John the Baptist knew this when he preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). Matthew goes on to identify John the Baptist as “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’”

Later on in chapter 3 Jesus identifies himself as the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies: “‘The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.’ From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”

The treasure of God’s kingdom is Jesus.

If you are reading this, you are probably a Christian. And you are probably thinking, “Well, yeah. This is basic stuff: Jesus is everything.” If Jesus is your treasure, there is no sacrifice too great for Him. What is keeping you from that field? Is it money? Comfort? Popularity? A career?

I think a lot of us feel stuck. We have tasted the sweetness of the gospel. We have been redeemed by a gracious God. But all too often we have traded in the treasure of Jesus for lesser things. According to Jesus, there is no middle ground. If He is not your treasure, something else is your idol.

Don’t settle for lesser things. Notice that the man in this parable not only sacrificed everything, he did it joyfully. He, like Paul, counted all things loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus the Lord (Philippians 3:8). I plead with you to do the same, for there is no true joy apart from Christ.

Some more resources on this topic…
Don’t Waste Your Life: A sermon on Philippians 1 preached by Tyler Recker at NewBranch
Don’t Waste Your Life: Book by John Piper (FREE PDF version)
Crazy Love: Book by Francis Chan
Radical: Book by David Platt. I have yet to read it but it has been highly recommended

The purposes of a Christian counter-cultural community

God’s people are to live out their lives as a counter-cultural community whose citizenship is ultimately God’s Kingdom. (Mark Driscoll)

In their excellent book Vintage Church, authors Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears create a compelling picture of what a Christian counter-cultural community looks like and what it’s primary purposes should be.

They impart a three-fold purpose that gives us a snapshot of what we should look like as followers of Christ in the world and time in which we live. They are indeed counter-cultural in that they are the opposite of what our culture believes and teaches.

As you read these three purposes, try and picture how they will be played out in the context of your family, your BASE group, and in our church.

There are a few questions listed below each one to get you thinking along these lines. I would encourage you to discuss them at your next family meal, or BASE Group meeting, or even to take time to record them and pray over them in your spiritual journal.

Purpose 1: To worship God by obeying Scripture.

  • To what extent is Scripture the primary influence of your life?
  • How is the primacy of Scripture displayed in your family (BASE Group, church, etc.)?
  • How is God worshiped and glorified by our obedience to His Word?
  • How do those who do not know Christ in our lives respond when we obey Scripture instead of peer pressure, or personal desires?

Purpose 2: To train younger generations in misisonal living so that there is a legacy of faith.

  • What are you doing right now to train up younger generations in misisonal living?
  • What is our church doing?
  • What is your BASE Group doing?
  • How you can be more involved in what is already being done? How can you get something new started?
  • In what ways do we train up younger generations for missional living?

Purpose 3: To provide lost people with an alternative and attractive way of life with Jesus and His people.

  • How does your life attract other people to Christ?
  • Do you think people are attracted to Christ when they come to our church or to your BASE Group? Why or why not?
  • In what ways do we provide lost people with an alternative and attractive way of life with Jesus and His people?

Would anyone care to venture some answers to some of these questions in the comments section? Or does anyone else have questions or comments to add that will help us unpack the meaning of this three-fold purpose even more?

Filling up the Afflictions of Christ: Why I Think You Should Read This Book…

I love biographies and I love John Piper. Fortunately, Dr. Piper has a series of biographical books entitled The Swans Are Not Silent. Each one of these short books contains 3 biographical sketches of historical saints who have committed their lives to the advancement of the Gospel.

The most recent book is Filling up the Afflictions of Christ: The Cost of Bringing the Gospel to the Nations in the Lives of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson, and John Paton.

We see the ground work for this book on page 15: “Christ’s suffering is for propitiation; our suffering is for propagation. In other words, when we suffer with him in the cause of missions, we display the way Christ loved the world and in our own sufferings extend his to the world. This is what it means to fill up the afflictions of Christ (Colossians 1:24)”

Piper reveals the bold and biblical truth that God uses suffering to advance his gospel. He begins with a biblical ground work. Passages like Matthew 10:17-18:

“Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to the courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.”

Piper goes on to say, “Suffering was not just a consequence of the Master’s (Jesus’) obedience and mission. It was the central strategy of his mission.”

These are bold words about God’s purpose for sufferings. So, instead of simply reviewing the contents of the book, I want to give you a few reasons I think you should read it for yourself…

1. “First Bible, Then Biography”
While the bulk of this book 118-page focuses on the lives of Tyndale, Judson, and Paton, the introduction seeks to show that God’s use of suffering to advance the gospel is not just a church history thing, it’s a Bible thing. The first 26 pages are devoted to laying this ground work including the exposition of Collisions 1:24.

2. Church History
Church history shows us God’s faithfulness in pursuing His mission. These biographical sketches are no exception. By God’s grace, we have an english Bible today because William Tyndale made it his life goal to translate it. By God’s grace, the once cannibalistic island of Aniwa worships Jesus because of John Paton. By God’s grace there is a Burmese Bible and 3,700 Baptist congregations in Myanmar who trace their origins to Adoniram Judson. We should know and share these stories.

3. We Need a Bigger View of Suffering
On page 112 Piper says, “My hope for this book is that our hearts and minds have been shaped more deeply by the work of the Spirit so that when the crisis comes, we will be guided more by the ways of God and less by the worldly assumptions of security and comfort.”

4. It’s Free
A less spiritual but valid reason. You can get the book for free in PDF format HERE. Also, the biographical sketches are based on lectures given each year at the Desiring God Conference for Pastors. You can read/listen below:

Always Singing One Note- A Vernacular Bible: Why William Tyndale Lived and Died
-How Few There Are Who Die So Hard- Suffering and Success in the Life of Adoniram Judson: The Cost of Bringing the Gospel to Burma
-You Will Be Eaten By Cannibals- Lessons in the Life of John G. Paton

5. Because We Should All Ask Ourselves..
“Are you sure that God wants you to keep doing what you are doing? For most of you, he probably does. Your calling is radical obedience for the glory of Christ right where you are. But for many of you, the stories in this book are among a hundred things God is using to loosen your roots and plant you in another place. Some of you he is calling to fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, to fall like a grain of wheat into some distant ground and die, to hate your life in this world and so to keep it forever and bear much fruit.”