Book Review: The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung

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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.

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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. 

Why Church Planting? New England

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Part 4 in the series ‘Why Church Planting?’ (Part 1|Part 2|Part 3)

Toward the end of last summer, God began to re-stir a passion in my heart. I was with a group of students from NewBranch at a local missions camp we participate in each year. The last worship service of the camp was a time of intense prayer for each other, for those we had ministered to, and for ourselves.

While asking God to humble me and use me, he made it crystal clear that church planting was my calling. I thought of one of my favorite passages of scripture, Isaiah 6:1-8. After being wrecked by the holiness and grace of God, Isaiah responds to the call. Verse 8 reads:

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

That was my response to a God who has saved me by his grace through Jesus Christ. “God, wherever you want me to go! Just let me serve you!” After that moment Lauren and I began to talk, think, and pray about where God would have us. Church planting was always a seed in my heart. Now that God had give life to the seed, we felt the urgency of pursuing the process.

New England kept coming up. I had heard of the need in the area from a pastor who left his ‘booming’ church in the Bible belt to pastor in rural Vermont. But to be completely honest, New England? “No way,” I thought. “Surely there are other friendlier and warmer places that need churches.” There are, but when God says “jump” you say “how high?”

On the way to church one Sunday in September, I was praying for clarity on the subject. Heading out west was an idea. Planting locally was an idea. Thankfully, the confirmation of God was undeniable that morning. God is sending us to New England to plant a church.

God is stirring my heart for the least churched area of the nation; a land with such a rich gospel history that is in need of, and hopefully on the verge of, spiritual awakening.

Can I humbly ask you to pray for me and my family? Pray for strength, preparation, discernment, wisdom, etc. Pray for timing. We plan on moving there in 2 1/2-3 years. Will you also commit to pray for New England? Ask how God would have you be a part of taking the gospel these people. Take a few minutes to read How New England Is The New American Missional Frontier by Jared Wilson.

Here are some more resources to help educate you and guide your prayers… (via Jared Wilson)

Loving Muslims

Yesterday we discussed Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 where He exhorts His followers to love both our neighbors and our enemies.  Regardless of our emotional response to 9/11, we’re commanded to love Muslims.  This doesn’t mean we need to acquiesce to their beliefs, but that we simply “move towards them” as the Good Samaritan did in Luke 10.  We are to move towards Muslims that the Lord has placed in the middle of the road upon which we are travelling, and seek to live out the Gospel in front of them in both word and action.  This is what it means to love Muslims….to care for them, to pray for them, to minister to them, to share the Gospel with them, and to put their needs and concerns above our own personal needs and concerns.

The International Mission Board has provided some excellent resources to help us with this at www.lovingmuslims.com.  Check out the following videos that came from that site.  In addition, you will find prayer guides, small group studies, and links to some excellent resources on how to share the Gospel and “move towards” Muslims with the Gospel both in our own communities and around the world.

Let’s set aside our personal offenses and biases and obey our Master to love on Muslims.

 

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-

Sermons:
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

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

Books:
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