I just read The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung. This is a simple read in terms of style and length, but this may be one of the most challenging books I’ve read recently. I found myself nodding my head in agreement and at the same time sinking in my chair with conviction.
The title begs the question, “What is the hole in our holiness?” DeYoung emphatically says, “The hole in our holiness is that we don’t really care much about it” (10). He explains that passionate pursuit of holiness is not often emphasized in most churches. Many people enjoy a sermon that is a “pick-me-up” to start the week. There is little or no discussion of the holiness of God and his demand for his people to live righteous lives. There are also those who receive a heavy dose of Stop it therapy which leads to guilt and conviction of sin, but the preaching lacks a gospel focus and exhortation to trust Christ.
During college, God opened my eyes to the centrality of the gospel in all things. I had been a Christian a long time, but essentially believed the gospel was simply what one believed in to be saved. Christ died for my sins and by trusting in him I receive eternal life. Holiness then, was up to me. I believed that it was my job to make myself like Christ and that I needed to do good things like read the Bible and pray to make God happy with me. Eventually I learned that God is pleased with us when we do good, but the righteousness of Christ is the only thing that grants me acceptance before him. Holiness and Christlikeness is the work of the Spirit as I rest in what God has done for me in Jesus.
I spend much time teaching and preaching that righteousness is not something we generate, but something we are given in Christ. Through trust in the gospel we are given the perfect righteousness of Jesus. However, if I am not careful, I can give off the unbiblical notion that there is no place for genuine Christian effort. I am passionate about the gospel and DeYoung’s words have stuck with me, “Shouldn’t those most passionate about the gospel and God’s glory also be those most dedicated to the pursuit of godliness?”
DeYoung advocates a gospel driven pursuit of holiness. “They (Christians) need to be rooted in gospel grace. They need to believe in the promises of God. And they need to fight, strive, and make every effort to work out all that God is working in them.” Essentially, he says to believe in the gospel and the power of God to change you and still work hard to pursue Christ by saying no to sin and yes to righteousness.
The Hole in Our Holiness will resonate with many college students and young adults. So instead of a video game marathon until 2 a.m. how about you read this book. Over the next couple weeks I will post a few short excerpts to fuel your discussion.
By his grace may you reflect the holiness of Christ.