Kevin DeYoung

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.

Book Review: Crazy Busy (Kevin DeYoung)

Several Sundays ago, despite never having heard the name Kevin DeYoung, I was delighted to see the bulletin announcement for our church’s January 2014 men’s leadership breakfast series. It detailed that we’d be using Kevin’s latest book, Crazy Busy, to help us broach a topic that precious few seem to know how to effectively. I thought, “Wow, this sounds perfect for our [busy] guys!” I was eager to purchase my copy from our assistant pastor, along with the study guide, and I’m about to complete my second read-through. Sinful busyness is a topic about which we need to be challenged and encouraged.

The book is divided into three sections: three dangers about busyness to avoid (chapter 2), seven diagnoses to consider for why you’re busy (chapters 3-9), and a conclusion that encourages believers to absolutely do one thing to get on the road to being biblically busy instead (chapter 10). After all, it’s not bad to be busy. But why you are is of utmost importance, because sinful busyness will inevitably tear you apart spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Crazy Busy can help you see your schedule differently. Each chapter is an easy read. You won’t necessarily relate to every issue Kevin tackles (chapter 6 is intended for parents), but every page contains comments that will challenge your mind and encourage you to reconsider the choices you’re making regarding your daily and weekly agendas.

The main reason Crazy Busy instantly drew me in is that Kevin doesn’t try to hide his own failures when it comes to how he’s had, and sometimes still has, a crazy busy life for the wrong reasons. From the onset, Kevin makes no bones about the fact that he wrote Crazy Busy especially for himself, and also as his best attempt to cause us to think about the biblical ramifications of being an unbiblically busy Christian. I always appreciate when Christian authors don’t act as though they’ve arrived regarding what they write about. He also never suggests to have composed Crazy Busy to be a magic bullet manual on how to cure sinful busyness. He’s not capable of that, and makes it clear immediately. In fact, he hilariously mocks one book in particular that tries to do just that. His well-timed, gentle sarcasm and jokes about being a laboring American Christian are a breath of fresh air to me. Often as I read through the 118 pages, I thought… “Wow, this guy is the real deal. He’s not afraid to just say what we often think but hesitate to verbalize or publish in writing for lame fear of being looked at funny or as though we had a mental disorder.”

Content-wise, Kevin does a wonderful job of putting the spotlight on just about every conceivable reason why a 21st-century western Christian would be unbiblically busy. Not everything of course, but the pertinent matters are there. Whether it’s wrestling through a gauntlet of pride manifestations, the sinister belief that all Christians must do everything, the critical concept of establishing and maintaining clear priorities, the dangers of technological addiction and dependence… Kevin has it covered. And there’s no way, if you’re wondering how to tame your own life, that you can read Crazy Busy without coming away with valuable wisdom. It actually reminds me of an adult Sunday School class I sat in at church a few years ago about I Corinthians. One hour in particular, our assistant pastor emphasized that every last thing we do must be Bible-based (I Corinthians 10:31), and Crazy Busy is another helpful extension of that study we shared, obviously in this case from the perspective of Kevin DeYoung.

What stuck out to me the most is how in chapter 5, DeYoung highlights a small portion of Mark 1 to explain how in spite of Jesus being God in the flesh, even He didn’t do everything He possibly could. I wouldn’t be surprised if Christians today (including myself) would criticize Jesus for that; His disciples did after all. But God gave Him a mission, and our Savior stuck to it. The reality is that no Christian is Christ, and the sooner that we realize that we can’t be…nor does God expect us to be, the better. Kevin does very well to explain how this truth applies to us in our sin-cursed daily living.

I’m looking forward to covering this book in my church’s Men’s Leadership Breakfast series. The accompanying study guide is available at the book’s website for free, and we’ll be using it for sure. We need to discuss what Kevin does about sinful busyness just as frankly, and encourage each other toward actual change! It’s exciting to anticipate how God’s grace will do this not just in each of us breakfast participants, but in every believer who reads Crazy Busy.