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The “hole in our holiness” is that evangelicals don’t look particularly holy, and, despite the flood of gospel–centered discussions, there seems to be a greater focus on personal depravity than on the pursuit of holiness. Looking to right the balances, Kevin DeYoung presents a popular–level treatment of sanctification and union with Christ, helping readers to see what matters most—being like Jesus. He shows how one canbe like Christ in being joined to Christ. The market is ready for DeYoung’s timely book, ready to avoid legalism and ambivalence, and they are ready for someone to articulate the inextricable relationship between grace and holiness.
An encouragement to pursue holiness
Ok, being honest, I found this book difficult. Despite being a book of only 146 pages with an easy, readable and engaging style, it has taken some considerable persistence to finish it. As I began to read, I was unconsciously talking to myself, something along the lines of, “actually I have enough on my plate right now, and the last thing I need is some book making me feel guilty because I’m not good enough and telling me I need to do more, which I’m absolutely NOT going to do…but then I know I will feel guilty about not doing it. Thanks, but no thanks”. It was a bit of a slap in the face then, when the author promptly answered my little speech, almost as if he knew exactly what I was going to say…
Kevin DeYoung, the author, doesn’t understand the attraction of camping. Is it possible that I feel the same way about holiness he asks? “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…it’s not your passion. The pursuit of holiness feels like one more thing to worry about in your already impossible life. Sure, it would be great to be a better person, and you do hope to avoid the really big sins. But you figure, since we’re saved by grace, holiness is not required of you, and frankly, your life seems fine without it.” Well, he certainly hit that nail on the head.
He goes on to explain that the “hole in our holiness” of the title is that we don’t really care about being holy. Indeed holiness appears to have taken on negative connotations, and not only in the secular world. Many Christians seem to have a problem with holiness as well. It appears to have been brushed under the carpet in a bid to avoid accusations of religious legalism and the pitfalls of works based faith; effort has become a four–letter word (something the author addresses). Kevin writes clearly and intelligently, providing extensive Biblical references to support his observations, enabling the reader to follow his line of thought and check for themselves whether it is consistent with biblical teaching. By asking and answering questions such as, “Why did God save you?”, “Why should we obey the Law?”, and “Where did we get this hole in our holiness?” Kevin helps us to understand exactly what holiness is, and just as importantly, what it isn’t. And just in case you’ve switched off already, expecting to be made to feel constantly guilty, then take heart, Kevin has written this book “to make you feel hopeful about holiness, not make you hang your head.”
The last thing I expected as I read this book was a growing sense of excitement and joy. To pursue holiness is biblical. God wants me to be holy. I found that the more I (made myself) read the more my excitement grew. Whilst fully accepting that I am by nature sinful, pre–disposed to messing up and getting it wrong (a problem common to all of us unfortunately) still God’s word tells us repeatedly to pursue holiness. Is He asking the impossible, somehow setting us up to fail? No. As Kevin explains, “the Bible clearly teaches that holiness is possible. This is good news, not bad news. You have permission to see evidences of grace in your life. You are allowed (and expected) to be obedient. You will never be perfect in this life. You cannot do anything to earn God’s love. But as a redeemed, regenerate child of God you don’t have to be a spiritual failure. By the mercies of God you can ‘present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship’. Rom 12.1.”
Suddenly it is not about a long, torturous list of things I must/must not do, but the pursuit of God; a God who is holy. The fresh realisation that this life is a preparation for eternity in heaven with Him transforms that pursuit into a desirable and truly exciting thing, as we work in unity with His Spirit to be prepared for our eternal, heavenly home.
Reading this book was a bit like having a conversation I absolutely needed to have, but didn’t want to. I’m so thankful I did.
A reluctant like!
I didn't like this book because it pinpointed many of my sins and failings. But then, for that reason, it is an excellent book as it helps me to apply Romans 13:14. Read and be convicted!