I really like the way this author writes simply and he has a sense of humor. Very interesting reading and very beneficial for living a life that Christ requires us to live. Helps one to know what is required to become like Christ.
Kevin DeYoung is the the Senior Pastor at University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan. Kevin is the author of several books including his most recent, The Hole in our Holiness.
The title of this book is of course a play on words the "hole" that exists in our holiness is that the average Christian doesn't seem to care much for holiness, or the real crux of the matter is that they don't understand it. Who knows why this happens? Maybe the pursuit of holiness seems legalistic? Maybe it feels like one more thing to worry about in an already overwhelming life? Maybe the emphasis on effort in the Christian life appears unspiritual? Or maybe people have been trying really hard to be holy and it's just not working?
Whatever the case, the problem is clear: too few Christians look like Christ and too many don't seem all that concerned about it.
Hole in our Holiness is a book for those who are ready to start taking holiness more seriously, it's for people who are ready to be more like Jesus, and it's for people who are ready to live in light of the grace that produces godliness.
As a pastor I am always critiquing books based on how "heady" and "weighty" they come across. I am always looking for books to recommend to the congregation and I am pleased to say that Kevin's voice is very sociable. Listening to Kevin's voice is like being in a conversation with a friend. This book is not a brow beating where the author rakes you over the coals and scorns you for not being "holy enough." Rather, DeYoung writes a book that is both to the point and inspiring that I think most people will find refreshing.
Thanks so much to Crossway who provided this book for a fair and honest review.
The Hole in Our Holiness (by Kevin DeYoung) is a book that is written about an often neglected topic in contemporary Christianity: personal holiness. We speak much of being "gospel-centered" in our circles. We have ideas and programs that are "community oriented." Indeed, we speak a lot of "social justice" these days as well. How come, then, churches - and individual Christians - do not place as high an emphasis on personal holiness as they do on all of these other topics? Holiness is one of the most frequent topics of the Scriptures, spanning every genre, Old Testament and New. And yet we seem to speak of it very little...why?
Pastor DeYoung aims to answer that question and many related ones in his short book (159 pages) on holiness. From the outset, I must say that this is a dense book. I expected a popular-level treatment and call to return to holiness; what I received was a careful defense of holiness itself. While there are pastoral sections to the book which do an admirable job of offering encouragement to live holy lives, the balance of the book focuses upon solid, academic, defense of holiness from the Scriptures. This isn't so much a book about holiness as an application of the Scriptures per se (though don't get me wrong, there is a great deal of that), but instead it is a book which is a Biblical theology and defense of the very concept and idea of holiness itself.
In a bold statement right at the beginning of the work, DeYoung argues that "The hole in our holiness is that we don't really care much about it" (p.10). DeYoung uses the analogy of camping to speak of how we treat holiness - some folks love to camp, many others do not: "Is it possible you look at personal holiness like I look at camping? It's fine for other people. You sort of respect those who make their lives harder than they have to be. But it's not really your thing...the pursuit of holiness feels like one more thing to worry about in your already impossible life" (p.10).
What follows is a brilliant assessment of where this loss of holiness has come from - it hasn't always been this way, so why are we here? Two important reasons stood out to me. The first is that our churches often contain folks who aren't saved - visitors, those who haven't yet understood the Gospel, etc. "One reason God's holy people do not pursue holiness is that they have not yet been born again by the Holy Spirit. Some pollsters and pundits look at the worldliness of the church and conclude that being born again doesn't make a difference in how people live. We should come to the opposite conclusion; namely, that many churchgoers are not truly born again" (p.18).
Secondly, DeYoung notes that "Our culture of cool is partly to blame. To be cool means you differentiate yourself from others. That often means pushing the boundaries with language, with entertainment, with alcohol, and with fashion. Of course, holiness is much more than these things, but in an effort to be hip, many Christians have figured that holiness has nothing to do with these things. They've willingly embraced Christian freedom but without an equal pursuit of Christian virtue" (p.18).
From this point forward, the book moves into a section examining the Biblical data for holiness. Verse by verse, DeYoung notes the fact that "the Bible could not be any clearer. The reason for your entire salvation, the design behind your deliverance, the purpose for which God choose you in the first place is holiness" (p.26).
What is holiness then? What does it look like? Pastor DeYoung tells us in both positive and negative examples:
1) Holiness is not mere rule keeping.
2) Holiness is not yearning for the good 'ole days.
3) Holiness is not simply being "spiritual."
4) Holiness is not "finding yourself."
5) Holiness is not following the ways of this world.
1) Holiness looks like the renewal of God's image in us.
2) Holiness looks like a life marked by virtue instead of vice.
3) Holiness looks like a clean conscience.
4) Holiness looks like obedience to God's commands.
5) Holiness looks like Christ-likeness.
DeYoung's comments on God's commands resonated with me particularly because of this powerful reminder: "Never forget: first God delivered the Israelites from Egypt, then he gave them the law. God's people were not redeemed by observing the law, but they were redeemed so they might obey the law" (p.45).
Speaking later in the book, DeYoung reminds us not to be overly "humble" about our piety. Too often we speak as if all we are is dirt and mud and that there is nothing of us which is pleasing to God. But DeYoung ably points out that this isn't the portrait that the Bible paints of the redeemed: "It's one thing to be humble about our piety. It's another to think piety impossible. The truth is God's people can be righteous - not perfectly, but truly, and in a way that genuinely pleases God" (p.64). Continuing in thought, "It sounds humble to say, 'I cannot obey God for one nanosecond in my life,' but it's not true. Acting like holiness is out of reach for the ordinary Christian doesn't do justice to the way the Bible speaks about people like Zechariah and Elizabeth, who 'were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statues of the Lord' (Luke 1:6)..." (p.65) and then DeYoung gives example after example of others who served God well - not perfectly, but well. Indeed, "God does not expect our good works to be flawless in order for them to be good" (p.67).
While there is a whole lot of data in this book about holiness, DeYoung is at his best in chapters such as "Saints and Sexual Immorality," in which he applies all that we've learned about holiness to our current sex-saturated culture and gives stern but loving warnings for Christians to not be a people of their times in this regard. "When it comes to sexual immorality, sins looks normal, righteousness looks very strange, and we look a lot like everybody else" (p.120). Again, the challenge is given: "Sexual immorality is everywhere to see, and too few of us with the mind of Christ are bothering to close our eyes" (p.121). Ouch! But the longer I am a pastor the more I observe that there is some truth in this statement. We must recover a view of holiness that truly sets apart the people of God from the wanton immorality of the world.
There is much more that could be said of course, but hopefully I've outlined many of the broad strokes of this book above. Simply put, if you are wanting a Biblical panorama of what holiness looks like Biblically, this would be a great place to start. It's not easy reading. At times I wished for more practical application, but it is well worth your time and will provide ample challenges as you delve deeper into this oft-neglected topic in the Christian life.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I wish to note that the publisher of this book, Crossway, provided it to me at no cost as a review sample. That said, my review is in no way influenced or controlled by them and thus I write my review of this book with honesty and integrity.)
Why is it that Christians often repel rather than attract others to their Savior? The answer seems to lie with the inconsistent or contradictory lives of those who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ. There is no greater need in the Church today than for Christians to live holy lives. Unfortunately, many of us are turned off by words like "holiness" and "sanctification" because they seem hopelessly impractical. Or we may think of them as what God has already done for us, thus relieving us of any responsibility to pursue them ourselves. In the spirit of Jerry Bridges' earlier work, "The Pursuit of Holiness"," Kevin DeYoung has presented us with a straight-shooting challenge to "chase after" holiness. He does so in an easily readable style that forces the reader to take a long, hard look at his own life of holiness. DeYoung draws a clear distinction between the position and the practice of the believer, demonstrating God's provision and our responsibility. While God provides all that is needed for us to pursue lives of holiness, our task is to appropriate that provision on an ongoing basis. Although God's grace is always the source, DeYoung points out that holiness is hard work requiring due diligence on the part of the follower of Jesus Christ. The author's discussion on the need for genuine repentance is not done with a "preachy" tone and is especially helpful. The sheer smallness of this volume (160 pages) may persuade some to check it out. They will not be disappointed. There is a list of study questions at the end of the book that may be helpful for small group discussions or personal reflection. DeYoung also makes good use of biblical quotes and other source material from Puritan to contemporary writers. This may be the most personally helpful book I have read this year. Coupling it with Greg Gilbert's "What Is the Gospel?" would make a wonderful gift for someone looking for solid spiritual footing. 5 Stars! Highly recommended!