millennial

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.

Without Books, My Growth is Stunted

In November 2013, I pointed out that without a [Bible-reading] plan, I’m not in the word of God. I wrote that because I know reading the Bible isn’t an option for the Christian, and I also know how my flesh likes to operate. It’s not that I would fail to read altogether without a plan, but using one aids me greatly in studying more effectively. There’s another side to that coin however, which I wish to tackle now for your admonishment: without books, my [spiritual] growth is stunted.

books

Read a good book lately?

The previous comment does not mean I allow books to replace the Bible. I won’t by the grace of God and neither should you. No amount of wisdom available in the books our Christian brothers and sisters publish, as wonderful as it can certainly be, will ever come close to working in our lives as does the inspired work of our almighty, all-wise God. Human words are mere human words, a reflection if anything of the God that gave us the ability to communicate; they are not divine, not able to pierce to the division of soul and spirit, or discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). If we ever wonder what book will help us grow, to become more like Jesus Christ in this way or that, I hope our first inclination is to peer into the Bible and study what God says. God’s all-powerful words change hearts, nothing else. You and I must never forget that.

Nonetheless… well-written, relatable, well-thought-out, biblically-sound books are one of our heavenly Father’s many grace gifts to us His children. As the limited beings we humans are, God does not nor has He ever expected us [individually] to understand, let alone apply, His Scriptures completely on our own. Otherwise there’d be no point to listening to sermons or attending any kind of Bible study. It would be silly for the all-knowing, loving, eternal God to burden broken, finite people with such an impossible task. But that’s why God’s given us books too, tools that enable the believers that use them effectively to understand Him, the teachings of Scripture, and themselves, better. Such books often cause me to think, “Wow, how have I missed this in the Scriptures for so long?!”, or, “No fair! How was [the author] able to pull that truth out of those verses?!..” The problem is, you won’t have such thoughts if you aren’t reading.

“But I hate reading!”, you might ironically respond. Yeah, it wasn’t long ago that I too hated the thought of reading a book. I could never get into the classic novels in high school, though we were required to write reports about them, and I allowed those sour experiences to bring any possible future reading I might do to a grinding halt. Thankfully that years-long cycle ended in 2009, though developing a solid habit puttered even still until just last year. In 2013,  I determined to read at least a chapter or ten pages in a book every single day. I praise the Lord for success in pursuing that goal, and I refuse to ever look back. The spiritual dividends are too precious to me, and so I’m not really tempted to ever hesitate again along these lines. And I’ve written this article to encourage you to read books and benefit similarly.

What are the benefits, you ask? There are many, but I think the list of three below boils them down fairly well.

  1. You see the truths of Scripture through the author’s eyes. God teaches us through other people, not ourselves.
  2. You learn from what God has taught an author through their experiences. After all, through many trials  do we enter the kingdom of God…and it’s great to learn how others handled theirs! (Acts 14:22)
  3. You are discipled by the author. Has it ever occurred to you that [Christian] book-reading is a form of discipleship? The author doesn’t need participate in your local fellowship; you can learn from what they write!

Now I’m not about to frighten you with the insistence that you do exactly as I, but if book-reading hasn’t characterized your life lately, I want to challenge you to go through at least one in 2014. It doesn’t have to be something difficult, or 300-pages long. Anything that seems like it may help you or at least be interesting will do. The key, as I’ve learned, is simply doing it. Why don’t you just do it too? You might be surprised how your attitude changes about reading after the fact.

I’m happy to recommend a book if you’re not sure what’s out there. By all means comment below or contact me on Twitter or Facebook (available on the right-hand side!). Regardless fellow Christian, I hope you are or will become motivated to help yourself grow, to increase in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:18). And you can do so by reading a book!

A Brief Response to Ken Ham & Bill Nye Debate

Yesterday, Bill Nye “The Science Guy” joined Answers in Genesis president and co-founder Ken Ham on-stage at the wonderful Creation Museum to debate the concept, “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era?” If you didn’t watch the live online stream and still wish to see it, the archive recording is available below. Bill Nye participated to support the theory of evolution, while Ken Ham defended the biblical [Genesis] account of creation as pertains to the origins of life and material. I enjoyed watching the debate, and below is a brief list of my personal reactions.

Ken Ham/Bill Nye Creation/Evolution Debate

1) Alleluia! Praise God, millions have heard the good news!
I laud brother Ken Ham for his many instances of sharing the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ so boldly, clearly, and necessarily…with bits of personal testimony. I was touched and full of praise to our almighty God when Ken made such comments, because he couldn’t have had a more perfect opportunity to offer them to such a wide audience. Many now have heard the good news of Jesus Christ come to earth as the Son of God to die for filthy sinners such as I!

I do wish that Ken would have asserted from the get-go when Mr. Nye started making his “Ken Ham’s model” and “Ken Ham’s flood” comments that creation and the flood, etc, are God’s doing and responsibility. Bill’s real issue is with the Bible and its Author, not Ken Ham and/or AiG. Ken did clarify that towards the end of the evening, but it would have been helpful to do so earlier. Alas, no debater is ever perfect.

2) Bill Nye clearly knows nothing about the Bible.
I thought it was very interesting, given that this was a debate, that Mr. Nye couldn’t demonstrate knowing much of anything about what the Bible actually says or teaches. Ken Ham obviously knows plenty about evolution and associated ideas. Bill’s most ardent comments to refer to God’s word came in the form of “That ancient book written 30 centuries ago translated into American English.”, as if that gives evolution any credence. He even tried to accuse Ken Ham of cherry-picking verses and passages that only he liked in order to support creationism. I thought this was very sad, and it’s really indicative of the atheist community at large. Most that deny the existence of God seem to know nothing about the Bible, or argue against it based on things they’ve merely heard, or cherry-pick verses themselves that the majority of the time are taken out of context in order to support their claims.

3) Brother Ken and Bill Nye both demonstrated that man will never come to know everything.

Then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out.
Ecclesiastes 8:17

Ken Ham is perfectly content knowing man won’t discover the majority of the universe’s facts. It’s just the way it is; God intended it that way, as you read from Ecclesiastes above. Sadly, the self-proclaimed reasonable man, Mr. Nye, declared that all his joy comes from the endless pursuit of this knowledge. And for what? Sure, many discoveries are wonderful to come upon and do well to benefit society, but if Bill is correct in that there’s nothing left after this life…what’s the point? Ken asked that as well. Thankfully there is an eternity of indescribable joy awaiting believers in Jesus Christ as we fellowship in Heaven, and I sincerely hope that The Science Guy will come to know Jesus as his Savior and thus join us for it!

4) Believers must be courteous and gracious, no matter how much unbelievers scoff and mock.
I was encouraged that neither Bill Nye nor Ken Ham ever resorted to character assassination during the 2.5 hours or so of speaking. I wasn’t encouraged by Mr. Nye’s arrogant and ignorant scoffing at the Bible, and belittling of Ken and “his followers” by basically suggesting that young earth creationists are loopy whacko-birds. This is a great reminder for Christians. I really wouldn’t be surprised if there were chat-rooms across the internet filled with Christians and non-Christians engaged in bitter slandering, being altogether cantankerous to one another during the debate. But the Ham/Nye forum serves as a needed reminder that Jesus Christ commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39) and to show perfect courtesy to all (Titus 3:2). Scoffing right back at scoffers does not please God. Mocking mockers right back dishonors the name of our Savior. Truly born-again Christians will do well to remember this.

5) The absolute truth of God’s word will never change no matter how many debates take place here on earth.
It’s so comforting that Jesus Christ [and the truth of His word] is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). That means we never have to worry about debates, and whether the Christian involved manages to win or not, or if they looked good. We can leave the silly mainstream media outlets to analyze that nonsense. Yet the truth of the Bible will never waver; its contents will always be the truth, even if only one Christian were to be living on earth at some point. So though Ken Ham is a gifted apologist and was unlikely to falter in presenting his arguments, I hope no follower of Christ actually worried about the reputation of God by the time all was said and done last night.

Altogether, I’m so thankful that Ken Ham reached out to Bill Nye “The Science Guy” to do this, knowing full well that there would very likely be no change of heart on Bill’s part. That wasn’t Ken’s responsibility anyway, nor is it his ability. That’s the Spirit’s job, and God’s decision whether or not Mr. Nye ever repents and believes in Jesus Christ. For now, Nye will continue in his God-given days convinced that he’s the reasonable one and the authority on all things scientific. But let us Christians pray that this man will humble himself before the God he’s rejecting and put his trust in Jesus Christ. Let us also continue to intercede for brother Ken and AiG as they press on to share the truth of God’s word as it relates to both observational and historical science. Last night was all about authority, which lies clearly and only with God’s word.

Recommended book: The Lie: Evolution/Millions of Years (Ken Ham)

Book Review: Just Do Something (Kevin DeYoung)

Most Christians ask, “What is God’s will for me?” at some point in their lives. It certainly isn’t wrong to ask that question; Christians should care about God’s will, but it is wrong when pondering it and/or looking for it causes the believer to take eons to make what really should be simple decisions. The millennial generation especially has seemed to master the art of agonizing over the litany of life’s questions, significant or small, and Kevin DeYoung’s Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach To Finding God’s Will is an excellent tool that can help you get back on the proper decision-making track.

It’s impressive how, with such an intimidating subject matter that can be very difficult to dissect, Kevin manages to present a great number of effective illustrations and straightforward trains of thought to help us understand God’s will better and think more biblically about it. Kevin suggests that Christians waste immeasurable, unrecoverable amounts of time waiting for God to show them the way, and spend sadly little time actually doing anything. I tend to agree with that. Kevin makes it clear that God has a plan for each of us, but that it isn’t God’s plan for us to know that plan in its every detail. And it shouldn’t surprise us that because Christians want to know, we’re driving ourselves nuts choosing what to have for breakfast, or where to live.

DeYoung covers a variety of topics in Just Do Something, beginning with how the realities of God and His character actually shape the carrying out of His will (ch.2). He moves on to emphasizing reasons why believers want to know God’s will (ch.3), why some reasons are wrong (ch.4) how we should handle following God’s will (ch.5), the ways Christians manage to make decision-making such an arduous process (ch.6), suggestions for practical actions to take and avoid in disseminating God’s will (ch.7), how to apply biblical wisdom (Scripture, counsel, and prayer) to decision-making (ch.8), and much more. And I knew Kevin wouldn’t fail to nail me in my struggle of being a timid, analytic second-guesser with tainted emotions. Thanks for that brother.

Don’t misunderstand though. Kevin’s goal is never to encourage doing whatever comes to mind at any time regardless of the potential consequences, and he doesn’t do that. He absolutely does advocate, as he should, for Christians to apply Scriptural truth and principles when making certain decisions. The key there is certain. When it comes to non-moral matters such as where to live or attend college, what career path to take, whether to buy or rent, whether to serve your church in this way or that way, etc, God is never going to write in the sky what He ultimately determined for you. Almighty God did, after all, give mankind a fully functional brain to make choices.

Yet reality is that Christians in general don’t make decisions well, myself included. We want our ducks all in a row. We don’t want to take risks. We simply like to know if it’s what God really wants, and what the long-term ramifications will be. The problem is if that was reality, we wouldn’t depend on God at all, let alone fully. We would lean on our own understanding, not that of the God who knows past, present, and future, and predestined what He knows is best for each of us. Kevin pounds this home in each chapter, and I appreciate the necessary reminders. And of course he never fails to supplement the book’s great content with his trademark humor, and personal anecdotes. Apparently Kevin’s grandfather has influenced him much in this area, because you’ll encounter him several times throughout JDS.

In the end, while some of Kevin’s claims are perhaps debatable, overall I think he’s spot-on with his theology about what God’s will is, and how Christians ought to be walking in it. So, if you’ve wanted to understand better what in fairness is a difficult concept, Just Do Something is a very good resource that sheds further light on the teachings of Scripture. Is it God’s will that you read it? Well, that’s for you to decide.