Jesus

Book Review: The Hole in Our Holiness (Kevin DeYoung)

Where have all the Christians striving to be holy disappeared to? Why do so many Christians now think it’s old-hat to live a holy life? Somehow it’s become more widely accepted that Christians don’t need to work hard to be like Jesus Christ. This isn’t just a crying shame; it’s depressingly unbiblical. Yet it isn’t surprising, as believers increasingly allow themselves to be absorbed into the world’s system without so much as a second thought. In general, most professing Christians seem to believe that holiness isn’t worth pursuing. The subject has managed to become controversial even, but that didn’t stop author Kevin DeYoung from tackling it in The Hole in Our Holiness. And perhaps best is how Kevin does, as Pastor John Piper quaintly states on the back cover, “This book is vintage DeYoung–ruthlessly biblical.”

Kevin aims to answer three questions in the book:

  • “What does it mean to be holy?”
  • “Why should we care?”
  • “And how can we change?”

Every Christian and every church should ask those questions, and learn the answers well. We must know what it means to be [holy] like God, why it’s critical to care, and what is necessary for us to make progress toward holiness. As written on the book’s inside flap, discussing holiness is more and more important because “too few Christians look like Christ and too many don’t seem all that concerned about it.” Yet after finishing THIOH, I’m refreshed and enthusiastic…not despondent or discouraged, to join DeYoung in what should be the Christian’s response to I Peter 1:14-16.

If you didn’t catch it before, this holiness stuff is controversial. In a world where more and more people, including Christians, call evil good and good evil…Kevin’s arguments and challenges are timely and a necessary wake-up call. At the beginning of THIOH, Kevin compares what he thinks is the general Christian’s attitude toward holiness to what his is toward [outdoor] camping, that it’s for “other people” to do and enjoy. He further suggests that Christians who give up pursuing holiness do so because there seems to be too little return for the investment. Yet any thinking like that about holiness ignores the reality that holiness is the same thing as obeying God! DeYoung even begs us to consider Heaven as a huge reason why Christians should be thirsty for holiness, as Heaven will be a holy place. He asks, “If you don’t like it (holiness) now, why would you then?”

If that isn’t striking enough, the second chapter got me thinking as it lays out the truth that God saves sinners so they will be like Him. And it makes sense, given the explanation [in chapter 7] that Christians are to be who they are….. in Christ! The problem is, as outlined in chapter three, that so many Christians (myself as well) tend to stray toward rule-keeping, generational imitation, generic spirituality, looking for our true selves (silly!), and perhaps worst of all, the world’s system. Instead, as chapter four declares, we should be more like Jesus Christ as the years go by. We should have a life increasingly marked by biblical virtue, and regularly enjoy a clean conscience because we’re in such lock-step with the Savior that our accounts are short with Him and the Spirit’s fruit in us is abundant!

And what of God’s laws (chapter 5)? You can’t really have a conversation about holiness without thinking of the Torah, the Ten Commandments, where God especially describes His character through commands. Yes, Christians absolutely are not under the [Mosaic] law, but under grace (Romans 6:14). However, Kevin makes a very valid point that holiness requires that we know, understand, and obey God’s laws…not as a means to be saved, but to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) You just can’t do that without obeying Him, and we obey by following His laws! You can’t separate love from law, and vice versa. Even the apostle Paul wrote that he wouldn’t have known sin had it not been for the Law (Romans 7:7).

Squirming yet? Well you can relax a bit now. Kevin does encourage us with the fact that Christians actually please God! We don’t do this on our own of course, but because we are in Christ, and God is pleased with Christ, what Christians do is actually capable of pleasing Him! We should remember that [chapter six] point every single day. We should also always remember we can’t do anything, let alone be holy, without the Spirit’s power, the gospel truth, and faith in Jesus Christ (chapter 7). And on the flip side of that, God gave us wonderfully functional minds and bodies so we could work at becoming more holy! Holiness is really a spiritual workout, not something God spoon-feeds us (I Timothy 4:7-8), so it shouldn’t catch Christians by surprise that becoming more holy isn’t exactly easy! Yet the rewards, the spiritual dividends are worth every bit of eternity they’re paid into.

The chapter on immorality (8) could have been its own book. You won’t finish that chapter without experiencing some conviction. And I could go on and on discussing the book, but you probably get the idea of what The Hole in Our Holiness brings to the table by now. We need its every challenge, encouragement, and wake-up call.

Kevin’s message is essentially that holiness requires a close relationship with the Savior (chapter 10). It requires taking seriously God’s demands that we be like Him. And it takes great courage and boldness to practice personal separation from the world and its God-less system (I John 2:16). If you’re a believer that’s convinced it’s time to care more about really following…really obeying the God who created and saved you, please pick up a copy of The Hole in Our Holiness as soon as possible and prepare for an intense look at your heart. You need it, just like I did.

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The “No-Touch” Policy

When I was in middle school, the administration instituted a No-Touch policy. I can’t speak to whether or not there was some kind of increase in physical altercations or anything morally inappropriate going on among the members of the student body, but it was decided that touching should be outlawed. You might imagine how all the young folks poked fun at the dictate; I wouldn’t be surprised if the policy actually caused the reverse intended effect. Nonetheless I think there’s a lot of wisdom in such a policy; I actually wish it was something that dating Christians considered more seriously. Ah yes, the always interesting subject of what Christians in pre-martial relationships should or shouldn’t do. Care to know where I stand? Want to be challenged? Ready for a perhaps intense discussion? Whether you’re a man or woman, young or old, even in a relationship or not… I wish to present the platform that the Bible supports the idea of dating or engaged Christians not touching each other.

To touch, or not to touch?

To touch, or not to touch?

Now before diving into my points, I will answer the question that may very well be on your mind already. Yes, Christine (my wife) and I touched before being pronounced husband and wife. But before you come at me with your hypocrisy pitchforks, I readily confess it wasn’t the right thing to do. It also wasn’t exactly serious, but we did touch. Early on though we made an effort to reign in that area of our relationship. I composed a three-page document detailing what I thought were quality principles to govern ourselves by based on what the Bible teaches. Feel free to download the finished product here actually, just know that the contents are by no means perfect; we didn’t follow everything to a T, and you might even get a chuckle or two from what I came up with. I want to direct your focus nonetheless to the first Do not bullet under the first major point, which reads: [Do not…] Touch each other, at all.

dating_rule

I put this together over 3 years ago.

Christine and I praise the Lord that our purposeful compromising hardly went further than leaning on each other’s foreheads while we were doing wedding and honeymoon planning. Are you thinking, “Why’s that such a big deal?” I’ll spend the rest of this article trying to explain my case.

I was floored to read that author Kevin DeYoung agrees with me about having a no-touch [dating] policy in chapter eight of his book The Hole in Our Holiness. We both think that Christians in general don’t give the idea much thought, and especially the millennial generation. Yet the truth is ladies and gentlemen that dating is a mere commitment to find out if you will ultimately become committed. It saddens me so much to see Christians conducting their relationships in the same ways unsaved people do. They hold hands. They hug intimately. They press up against each other. They pet one another. They even kiss. And that’s just what you see in public. I shudder to consider what sometimes goes on in secret. And why is it that parents and the church seem to frown upon this conduct less and less? I suggest that we’ve allowed ourselves to be more concerned about the opinion of dating Christians than the need to hold such Christians accountable to the teaching of Scripture. It’s no secret that more and more young believers are giving themselves over to pre-marital intimacy, and the Lord is not pleased!

Perhaps the number one reason dating or engaged Christians should not touch each other is for the simple fact that they don’t belong to each other. I’m sure you’ve heard that before. Someone you’re interested in always belongs to God and is someone else’s child before they’re ever your husband or wife. And I won’t agonize over the semantics of using the terms boyfriend and girlfriend. The fact remains that beginning to date someone doesn’t suddenly make them exclusively yours. And you won’t find any support in Scripture for intimacy prior to marriage. What you do find is verses like I Timothy 5:1-2, below.

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.

I know the concept of dating is nowhere to be found in what Paul wrote to Timothy. However, I believe the above verses specifically address the issue of intimacy prior to marriage since all Christians are commanded to regard each other in all purity. This is what God says. So those of you who think pre-marital, intentional touching isn’t a big deal, please explain to me how the last three words of those verses alone ever begin to condone hand-holding, hugging, kissing, or anything else along such lines for dating Christians? Unbelievers engage in those ways because they don’t have a hint of interest in doing things God’s way! But God’s redeemed are different, and thus their relationships should be. What’s more valuable…the opinion someone (Christian or not) has about purity in a dating relationship, or what God thinks of our behavior? I don’t know about you, but I’m inclined to fear the One able to destroy the soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28)!

I also can’t help but be disappointed when I hear or know of dating Christians that claim they can control themselves. Well, God speaks to the impossibility of that in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Sure, that verse is addressed to Israel, but it rings no less true for any human being…even born-again Christians. Why, when we fallen humans are so quick to rationalize our sin, do we not think there’s something terribly wrong when dating Christians are touching one another? There’s one word to describe the attitude that you can control yourself in a pre-martial relationship where touching is permitted: prideful. And you might as well toss dangerous in there too.

Another thought… Why should a Christian want on their conscience the knowledge that they were at all intimate with someone they were dating, especially if the relationship ultimately ceases? This goes for the guy and the gal. A believer’s job is to help protect the purity of whomever he/she is dating for the sake of the person that will ultimately marry him or her, not to take advantage of him or her. If it actually is you who becomes married to said person…wonderful, but what if it isn’t? Does this reality not cross our minds anymore? There’s plenty of time and opportunity to figure out intimacy after the wedding; God never tells us to try to figure out physical compatibility before-hand. And there’s a reason for that; sex is meant above all else for God’s glory, and second to bless a married man and woman (Hebrews 13:4).

I’ll point out at least one more verse about this subject, Romans 13:14.

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

If you’re a Christian dating another Christian, I challenge you to explain how touching your boyfriend or girlfriend is anything other than self-gratification. Allow me to save you the time and trouble; you can’t. And yes, I regret even the forehead-leaning that Christine and I did a few times. I would have never done that with her outside of dating, and I sure wouldn’t have wanted someone else that she might have dated to do so either. Yet somehow it seems when Christians can say they’ve arrived to the point of dating someone, that somehow becomes a license for them to be licentious. It’s as though we think, “Alright, we got to the dating stage; we can do whatever we want now and act like we’re married!” Well, I think I speak for many other Christians when I say it’s great to see a believing man or woman begin dating, as it seems to be a process that more and more avoid nowadays. However, I believe with my whole heart that God isn’t the least bit impressed when couples dishonor the marriage bed by acting as though they’re already there. I don’t need to get into all the obvious physical reactions that take place when people, let alone dating Christians, touch; I’m here to simply plead that you stop if you are…or that you encourage others to stop if you’re observing it. My goal here certainly is not to condemn anybody, but simply to encourage that we get back to pleasing the Lord with our relationships…not ourselves.

My primary motivation for wanting to discuss this touchy subject is because I’ve been there. I’m responsible for making many ungodly decisions in years past, and committing many foolish sins against women. I praise God those sins are under the blood of Christ, but that doesn’t mean God suddenly reels in the necessary consequences. The details of what I’ve done aren’t important, but I understand at least somewhat how a man’s mind operates; and most others are likely similar to me as far as what they would do in the moment. Yet each of those moments in my life was a transgression against a holy God that clearly commanded me to not do what I was doing. This is an impassioned plea for you to wake up and smell the immoral coffee. A hand-hold leads to a hug. A hug leads to more physical closeness. Physical closeness leads to a kiss…and you get the picture. Go ahead and deny; assert that this doesn’t apply to everybody. But I’m not stupid; I know what the Bible teaches and what it says about the human heart. And above all else, God knows everything we do, and surely is not mocked (Galatians 6:7). If you’re dating and truly want to please God instead of yourself, I urge you to heed this warning before something awful happens!

Do you still think it is OK for dating Christians to touch? If so, why? How do you react to the Bible verses and principles I pointed out? (There could be many more, mind you.) How about those of you in a relationship? What do you think about all this? Are you perhaps observing dating Christians touching? I’d like to hear from you as well! In the end, in spite of the decisions my wife and I made prior to being married…I will always support a no-touch policy for Christians who are dating. No sin; no regrets.

The Deception of Hype

After over 25 years, praise the Lord I’m finally starting to catch on. I’m still guilty of buying into it at times, and likely will be somewhere down the road. (That happens when you love technology and grow up living an entertainment-led lifestyle.) Yet each time I do inevitably leads to some measure of disappointment and/or frustration. And altogether I’m thankful that the word of God has been helping me, as only it can, to expose the spiritually-sinister concept known as hype for what it really is and how the enemy uses it.

hype

Does not come from God

You know what I’m talking about millennials. The people hired to market and advertise the products and services for hundreds of companies around the world are geniuses at drawing us in to their schemes. It’s such an obvious manifestation of what I John 2:15-17 teaches that it’s maddening that we often don’t seem to notice our own participation. The reality is that marketers and advertisers don’t do their jobs for our benefit. If anything, I’m sure these professionals laugh all the way to the bank while they gloat about just how painless it really is to jar us loose of our dollars in exchange for their flawed products and services. Congratulations to them, and shame on us!

I John 2:15-17
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but however doe the will of God abides forever.

Those verses don’t speak well of man. Frankly there’s nothing to speak well of concerning man. It’s pitiable that the very temptations which Adam and Eve gave in to in the garden, bringing upon us the Fall, are the exact same temptations that incite our sin several thousand years later. Also don’t forget that A&E were perfect before disobeying; they were merely capable of disobeying. Adam and Eve bought the serpent’s hype, as do we, year after year. And Satan’s playbook hasn’t changed. It hasn’t needed to. Our sins always fall under at least one of the sin pillars: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

I highlight these truths especially because Christmas is almost upon us. You know, that day on the calendar when many believers pretend that they care more about the purposeful incarnation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ than about acquiring more and more “stuff”. It’s interesting and telling how Christ doesn’t mince words speaking to this subject in Luke 12, “Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (vv.13-15) Christ, as He always did, went straight to the heart of the matter. Man by nature has an insatiable greed for the world’s things, but what Jesus said applies also to putting so much stock into having some thing in the first place. Paul addresses this succinctly as well at the end of Colossians 3:5, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” In other words, convincing yourself that life won’t go on until you have some thing is nothing more than idolatry. It’s the belief that some thing will satisfy you more, or better, than Jesus Christ Himself. Ouch! This would characterize the majority of my 28+ years of life.

And isn’t it ironic that for these products, whether as seemingly small as a Starbucks latte or as significant an investment as an iPad Air, over time you inevitably discover one or more aspects that just don’t measure up to the hype…that fail to meet your expectations…that cause you to feel disappointed? (My examples may not apply to you; if so, insert what you know does.)  But of course, marketing and advertising will never warn you about such things. That would never be to their benefit. It’s their job to build up hype to insane decibels, to loudly drum up your expectations, and to convince you that your life will be finally fulfilled after point of sale. Again, that is not for your benefit. Each time you experience this disappointment or frustration with some thing, it should be a reminder that Christ is incapable of disappointing or frustrating us, at least not in a way that isn’t our own fault.

The fact of the matter is that the people who create the products we love and believe we can’t do without are no different from us. They’re the same flawed, sinful human beings who make mistakes, rebel against their Creator, and often live for self. I always shake my head in disbelief when I hear people suggest that company executives aren’t foolish or stupid enough to make decisions that ultimately cause great damage to, if not the downfall of, their brand(s). And it’s certain that as a result, the products they produce will reflect those realities. Why then do we join them as though we share the same goals?

How does it aid our walk with Christ, and how is it God-honoring, to spend a few dollars every morning on whatever wake-up magic that promises to start our day off just right? What happened to God’s law being the daily delight of our hearts? How does it aid our walk with Christ, and how is it God-honoring, to purchase every new iteration of a particular smartphone or tablet? What happened to the great gain of godly contentment? How does it aid our walk with Christ, and how is it God-honoring, when we wake up at some insane hour the morning after Thanksgiving…or camp outside a certain store, just to exchange dollars for some piece of junk that will inevitably disappoint or not even be used six months later? What happened to separation from the ungodly acts of the unbelieving world?

I’m hardly suggesting that Christians shouldn’t have fun with things, or purchase things. After all, God created everything, and there’s still good to be enjoyed in spite of sin and the curse. There’s nothing wrong with owning a tablet, a smartphone, new clothes, jewelry, some kitchen tool…whatever tickles your fancy. There is something wrong, however, if you consistently believe the enemy’s lies that you have to have some thing… that your problems will be solved, or that you’ll finally be happy… by having some thing (i.e. buying into hype), and subsequently you do whatever is necessary to possess such things.

The bottom line is that only Christ can and does satisfy, and only He is able to deliver us from these hype hooks! Recall the temptations Christ was victorious over in the wilderness. Satan tempted Him with the suggestion of turning stones to bread because He was hungry (lust of the flesh); Satan tempted Him with rule over the world’s kingdoms (lust of the eyes); and Satan tempted Him with fame and a following if He would only jump off the temple’s pinnacle and rescue Himself with God’s angels (pride of life). Yet with Scripture the Lord Jesus defeated Satan, and so must we, along with of course depending fully upon His grace and making Him the treasure of our hearts. Not things.

Christ alone can fill your heart with true joy. The Pharisees and Sadducees wanted hype, but got simply Christ Himself. That’s really what we need, Jesus Christ Himself. That’s how it should be. He alone must be the object of our faith that we simply can’t live without. Anything else will inevitably disappoint and/or frustrate. Thus, this 2013 Christmas season [and beyond], be wary of the world’s hype, as used by the enemy!

Without A Plan, I’m Not In The Word

Lord-willing, it’s going to be 2014 before we know it. The calendar seems to flip faster every year, and our to-do lists don’t seem to get any shorter. That’s why I hope Christians, millennials especially, are investing proper time in a relationship with the Christ they claim to follow. We’re never guaranteed tomorrow after all. As for me and this topic matter… In the past four years, God’s grace has enabled me to grow leaps and bounds. I use that terminology because my life prior to 2009 less than resembled a true follower of Christ. Sometimes I still think that’s the truth, but I shall refrain from self-pity. In any case, this growth hasn’t just happened; it’s required expending serious time and energy into studying God’s word.

How are you faring along these lines fellow millennial? Are you regularly spending time with God, gleaning from His Word and inviting it to examine your heart? Reality check. If you aren’t; you won’t grow. To be like his master, a disciple must learn from him. If you’re not listening, you’re not learning. If you’re not learning, you’re not growing. Nothing can replace reading what God has said and revealed to us in the Bible with respect to experiencing spiritual growth. On a humorous note…I was skimming a blog piece recently about a similar topic. The author described a true scenario in which a young man (likely a millennial) approached him in church one day asking, “Can you recommend a good book that will help me grow spiritually?” The author pointed straight at the book already tucked in his hand. What do you think that was? It’s sad at times how we de-emphasize the word of God!

Please don’t lose heart if this isn’t a strength in your life right now. 2014 is ripe with opportunity to turn that right around! And what better way to get started than with a tangible, reasonable plan?

readingplan

I started with this!

I’m not afraid to admit that without a plan in front of me highlighting a portion of Scripture to read on a daily basis, my flesh will kick in and do its dirty business. I simply won’t spend any meaningful time with the Lord. I know myself too well to be willing to stop using a plan. I can be very lazy. I’m definitely selfish, and I certainly don’t have a stellar reading comprehension. Those facts and more wouldn’t combine for a positive result in light of the non-negotiable need for me to be like Mary…sitting at the Savior’s feet and listening. A plan helps me be accountable to myself. It gives me the nudge I need to keep going. With a plan, I don’t start doing things arbitrarily, and I learn about God’s wonderful plan and narrative for mankind so much more. If that’s shocking to you so be it, but I believe each believer must decide on his/her own what is necessary to do the right thing. I’ve decided that I need a pre-developed plan in order to be effective in studying the Scriptures.

This year I chose the tried-and-true cover-to-cover strategy. Genesis to Revelation, every verse in the order published. That’s a heavy dose of Old Testament doctrine I’ll tell you! And believe you me, I struggled as I always do in going through the Prophets. The Pentateuch, Psalms, and Proverbs? I love the stuff. The Prophets? I probably couldn’t answer a single Jeopardy clue on those books. Regardless, I’ve overall enjoyed my 2013 Bible reading. I will finish Ephesians tomorrow. I’m actually about three weeks ahead of the schedule, and should finish near the second week of December if I remain on pace. (Somehow I was able to push further when I was in Numbers?…)

prophetclue

Eh… lifeline please?…

Next year I already know what I’m using, and I’m pretty stoked for it. When I read The Disciplines of a Godly Man (a.k.a. “How I Fail” by <insert your name here>) I discovered a plan in the back that’s actually topical in nature. Why does that excite me? Well somehow I seem to learn better and apply truth better when I’m studying a specific subject matter. I don’t know how the author of the plan managed to break down the entire Bible in that way, but I’m really looking forward to it. It starts with the concept of Beginnings. I’ll be curious to see how the Spirit changes me to be more like Jesus Christ through the Word with this approach if the Lord gives mankind (and me) a full 2014.

Great resource!

Does every day using a Bible-reading plan result in tremendous fruitfulness? Oh how I wish. But if that was the case, it wouldn’t be the fruit of the Spirit, now would it? We’re sinful creatures. We daily rebel against our Creator God, and that includes times we think are our good days. If you read the Bible 24/7, you still wouldn’t have come close to being fully like Jesus Christ by the time He took you home. I don’t point that out to discourage, but instead stress how all the more critical it is to be regularly reading the precious word of God. Failing to do so only makes the moment-by-moment war with the spiritual forces of darkness, and the flesh, that much more precarious.

Is it easy to commit to a plan to read through the Bible in 365 days? No, but I’m very thankful that God has placed the necessary influences in my life, and showered me with plenty of grace, to be able to do so. And I wish to admonish you to do the same. What obstacle or obstacles are you allowing to come between you and your Savior in this way? Video games? TV? Movies? Sports? Something else? What are you choosing to do, or not do, that’s preventing you from consistent face-to-face time with the Lord that laid down His very life in exchange for yours? Don’t shy away from whatever self-examination you might need to do in order to get there. I certainly had to. Most of us probably have to at some point or another.

As far as what plan to choose… the options are many. Ask someone for a recommendation (pastor, friend, family member). Just try something! Ask someone to hold you accountable. And in 2014, God I know (because He promises) is prepared to bring many spiritual blessings into your life. He wants a relationship with you because He’s a relational God. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by. Read through the Bible in 2014!