Book Review: The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung

kevin-deyoung2

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.

Advertisements

Why?


“Why?”

When I ask that question to the guys in our high school small group, they know exactly what’s happening. We are getting at the root of the symptoms. For example…

Why do you find it so hard to read your Bible?”

“Because I don’t have a lot of time.”

Why don’t you have a lot of time?”

“Because I do a lot of other things?”

Why do you do a lot of other things?”

“Well, some things I have to do, like school, homework, chores. But, to be honest, I waste a lot of time (Insert ‘hobby’ here).

Why?”

“Because it’s comforting, relaxing, I like it, etc.”

“Do those things, which aren’t bad in themselves, satisfy you?”

“No”

Why not?”

“I guess they can’t satisfy.”

Why not?”

“Because they’re earthly things. Earthly things don’t satisfy”

Why not?”

“Because Jesus is the only one who satisfies.”

But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14 ESV)

Delighting In The Grace Of God


Forgetting, Abusing, or Delighting in the Grace of God (Part III of III)
(Part I | Part II

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. -1 Corinthians 15:1-2

In the gospel, Jesus lived the perfect life that we could not live, died the sinner’s death that we should’ve died, then rose again 3 days latter, conquering death and giving eternal life to all who turn from their sin and trust in him. Paul reminds us hear that this gospel is more than just a conversion experience in the life of the believer. The person who receives the gospel by faith also stands in it, and is made holy by it. The gospel is the power of God for the entire Christian life.

The purpose of the law of God is to show us our sin (Rom. 3:20). The commands of God show us that we can never measure up on our own. We see the wretchedness of our sin and are brought low by God’s standards. The gospel (good news) enters the picture and shows us that the only was we can be saved from that sin is by the free grace of God in Jesus Christ.

The proper understanding of law and gospel in the Christian life is that it’s “a cycle of law and gospel where we move from our guilt and need to God’s grace and provision and then back to the law as a joyful and free obedience.” (Joe Thorn, Note To Self, p.31)

If we forget the grace of God and misconstrue the law, we become Pharisees, carrying burdens we cannot bear and putting those burdens on others. If we totally neglect the law under the guise of God’s grace, we cheapen that grace and ignore obedience to God.

The proper understanding is that, “the gospel creates what the law requires.” (Jared Wilson, Gospel Wakefulness, p.136) When this ‘clicks’ in our minds and hearts, we delight in the freedom of God’s grace; the freedom to joyfully obey the God who has saved us.

Think of the Christian life as a tree. When the tree is deeply rooted in rich soil, it bears fruit (Jn. 15:4). The gospel is the root. The obedience to God’s commands is the fruit. Obedience is a natural overflow of a heart that has received, stands in, and is being made holy by the gospel.

When there is no root, the tree is dead. You may be able to staple some fruit to it, making it look as if it is a fruit bearing tree, but it’s dead. So it is with the person who attaches works of obedience to their life while forgetting the grace of God. Since there is no root, there is fake fruit; meaningless works of self-righteousness.

When there is no fruit, there is a fake root. So it is when the one who claims to have received the gospel, but who’s life is contrary to godliness. That person is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (Jn. 15:6)

Delight in the free grace of God in Jesus. His death and resurrection frees you from the burden of obeying the law for your righteousness. His death gives you his righteousness. His resurrection raises you and empowers you to joyfully obey your loving Father.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. -Philippians 3:12-16

 

The Grace-Abuser

Forgetting, Abusing, or Delighting in the Grace of God (Part II of III)

Anything less than intentional effort on our part to obey the author of our freedom from the law is an exploitation of grace, a “cheapening” of it, that in fact may reveal we not only don’t understand grace but have not received it either. Jared Wilson, Gospel Wakefulness, p. 138

The grace-abuser thinks that since Jesus died on the cross to pay for his sin, living a life of obedience to God’s commands isn’t a big deal. He may affirm that holiness is important, but in reality he thinks that there is no point in trying since it’s all up to God anyways. Why not sin so that the grace of God may abound? (Rom. 6:1). He abuses the free grace of God in Jesus by using it as an excuse for a sinful life.

To the grace-abuser, the scripture says…

No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:6-10 ESV)

One can claim a past encounter with Jesus Christ as evidence of salvation. In fact, those types of encounters are important testimonies of God’s grace. But what John tells us here is that the practices of your life; the evidences of righteousness or unrighteousness reveal wether or not you are actually born of God. The fruit of your living reveals the root of your soul.

The grace-abuser’s mistake is not in over-emphasizing the grace of God. No one can ever over-emphasize the free grace of God in Jesus Christ. His mistake is in misunderstanding the work of grace in his life. Grace was never intended to be a free pass to sin. Instead, the grace of God in Jesus Christ defeats sin, bringing about new life.

Romans 6:4- We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Romans 6:6- We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

Loving Christ means hating the sin that killed him and pursuing holiness with grace-fueled effort. The Christian life is one of toiling and striving with all of Christ’s strength (Col. 1:29). It means working out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works (Phil. 2:12-13).

Don’t cheapen the cross by making it an excuse for your unrighteous living. The price he paid was far too costly to be abused in such away. Love Jesus and hate sin.

Part I: The Grace-Forgetter

The Grace-Forgetter


Forgetting, Abusing, or Delighting in the Grace of God (Part I of III)

The Grace-Forgetter

The grace-forgetter relies on obeying the law for salvation. He may affirm salvation by grace alone in theory, but in reality he is like the Judaizers in Galatia. Paul tells them in Galatians 1:6-7- I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.

Their “different gospel” was adding the outward act of circumcision to the free grace of Jesus. Today, it may be Jesus+Bible reading, Jesus+reading a lot of books, Jesus+church attendance, Jesus+mission trips, and the list goes on. These are good things! But they earn you nothing.

Trying to obey the law for righteousness always leads to hypocrisy (Matthew 23:27-28). So when Jesus came to preach the free grace of God in Himself, the legalistic church people got angry. The accusation always goes something like this: “You talk about Jesus wiping away sin and forgiving everybody who trusts in him. Doesn’t that just encourage people to sin? After all, they’re forgiven. You need to tell them about holy living too.” The problem is that “gospel and…” is no real gospel at all. If you pay for it, it’s not a gift. It’s a purchase. And if you purchased it, grace is null and void.

The grace-forgetter’s mistake is not in valuing the law of God; the commands of scripture. His mistake is misunderstanding the purpose of the law. The intent of the law was never, obey to earn righteousness. Paul tells us in Galatians that’s God’s promise of the gospel to Abraham, received by faith, was give 430 years before the law was even given! So what’s the purpose of the law? It is meant to show us our sin:

But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. (Galatians 3:22 ESV)

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20 ESV)

If you read this and think, “What about works!” you may have forgotten grace.

If, in your prayer time, you recite your resume of righteous deeds to God like the Pharisee in Luke 18, you may have forgotten grace. Or worse, you may have never tasted the living water of free grace in the first place (John 7:37-38)!

Instead, be like the tax collector in Luke 18 who, well aware of his sinfulness, could not even lift his eyes to God, but humbly cried out in faith, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” He left justified by the free grace of God in Jesus.

Quit Scrounging.

I’m a scrounger. You won’t find a single coin in my car. You probably won’t find one under any of our couch cushions either. It’s not because my wife and I are neat-freaks. It’s because I have already found and put to use any loose change that has found it’s way into the nooks and crevices of our stuff.

I learned the art of scrounging in high school when I had to start buying my own stuff. My scrounging ability increased in college. Now, married with 3 kids, I am a Jedi Master of Scrounging. I’m the guy at Starbucks who makes you wait in-line because I have to count out 162 pennies for my tall black coffee.

This is spiritual, I promise…

You see, when you scrounge you dig deep into hidden areas to find something that is of value. You devote time and exertion to gathering enough change to purchase something. Then, you take your findings, lay them before the cashier, and hope that there is enough.

Our flesh tells us to do the same with God: Get right with your maker by finding out what he commands you to do then doing it to the best of your ability. You dig deep within your heart and muster up all of the righteousness you think you have, count it up, and lay it on the counter.

But God is not impressed. Why?

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it (James 2:10). Because We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away (Isaiah 64:6). Because No one is righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:10).

When you approach God with your righteousness, which is an illusion, you are guilty of spiritual scrounging. You have failed to realize that you have nothing to offer. You have failed to realize the gospel.

Likewise, when you sit complacently in despair knowing that you can’t measure up, but failing to see that the price has been paid on the cross by Jesus, you are guilty of spiritual scrounging.

The grace of God in Jesus is radical. To those who are in Christ It says both, ‘You will never be MORE loved by God than you are now. So stop trying to earn acceptance.’ and ‘You will never be LESS loved by God than you are now. So stop wallowing in self-pity! Look to Christ!’

If you are in Christ, God says to you, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  And respond like Paul when he heard these words, Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

 

 

Additional Resources:
Deconstructing Moralism by Tullian Tchividjian
Is The Main Thing The Only Thing? by Joe Thorn 

Lust & Dressing Immodestly

This past Sunday in church, we unpacked Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:27-30 where He spoke about the sin of lust and the heart condition that motivates it.  As a follow-up this week, I wanted to post a couple of resources that might be helpful. Yesterday’s post was primarily intended for men and dealt with the temptation to view pornography.  Today’s post is primarily intended for women, and deals with the issue of dressing immodestly.

This is a touchy subject, but an important one.  The purpose is not to judge anyone or set arbitrary standards for what is or is not “modest dress”.  In fact, this is not even to say that we have a particular problem with this in our fellowship.  The purpose is simply to remind you that how you dress does in fact affect how your brothers in Christ are able to fight against the sin of lust.

This article was originally posted on the sbcvoices.com blog on June 1st, 2011 by Jared Moore, and was entitled “Dressing Immodestly? 9 Negative Responses You Encourage”

 

Ladies, I want you to know that you do not encourage one single positive response from men whenever you dress immodestly. If you choose to bring attention to yourself sexually by dressing immodestly, you encourage these 9 negative responses:

1. A denial of your mind. By encouraging men to look at you sexually, you encourage them to not think about the fact that you have a mind. If a man does not care about your mind, he does not care about you.

2. A denial of your value. You are more valuable than your physical appearance and your sexual availability. Your value comes ultimately from your Creator (Gen. 1:27). By encouraging men to focus on you sexually, you do not encourage them to value the main elements that make you valuable in God’s eyes.

3. A denial of your need for provision. Although we live in a growing egalitarian society, Christian women should want their husbands to be their primary providers (1 Tim. 5:8, Eph. 5:28-29). Whenever you encourage young men to look at you as a sex object, you encourage them to not consider how they can provide for you as faithful Christian husbands.

4. A denial of your need for protection. In the Scriptures, husbands are expected to protect their wives (1 Pet. 3:7). When a man is looking at you sexually, and he is not your husband, he is unconcerned about protecting you. If he was concerned about protecting you, he would desire to protect you before he looked at you sexually. In other words, marriage and protection are a result of love, and come before sex.

5. A denial of your value as God’s image-bearer. When you encourage men to view you as a sex object, you encourage them to see you as created in the likeness of something less than the image of God. You might be a little higher than the animals in their eyes.

6. A denial of God’s value in creating all the elements that make you a human being. If you are a professed Christian, then you represent Christ in all that you do, including in how you dress. By portraying yourself as a public object for sexual lust, you encourage young men to value your appearance above everything else about you; thus, you encourage them to only value God’s creating ability in your outward appearance. Every element of you was fearfully and wonderfully made, not merely your outward appearance (Gen. 1:27, Ps. 139:14).

7. A denial of your humanity. Your humanity includes more than you being viewed as an avenue for sexual lust. If you are stripped of everything except your sexual worth, then you are diminished to something less than human, slightly above an animal, if that. If you think deeply about this, thousands of women are being sold into the sex trade every year. Their “owners” value them only in a sexual way. Why would you voluntarily encourage men to only value you in a sexual way?

8. A denial of your good works. If you encourage a man to look at your body instead of your good works, you encourage him to selfishly use you instead of enjoying the Lord (1 Tim. 2:10). You should rather encourage a man to enjoy the Lord through enjoying you sexually within marriage; instead of encouraging men to sinfully enjoy you without enjoying the Lord. It is impossible for men to enjoy the Lord by looking at you as a sex object.

9. A hiding of God’s glory. When you encourage men to check out your body instead of your face, you encourage them to look at you sexually, an act that only your husband should participate in. If you are a Christian, your goal should be to encourage others to run to Christ. By encouraging men to look at you sexually, you encourage them to run to sin, instead of communicating by your modesty that your body is not for sexual immorality, but is for the Lord (1 Cor. 6:13). You are not your own, for you were bought with the blood of Christ (1 Cor. 7:23). How you dress either reveals this truth or hides it.