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.
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Review 2 for The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness - eBook
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.)
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Review 3 for The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness - eBook
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!
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Review 4 for The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness - eBook
God commands the church to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). We are to live holy and godly lives until the coming of the Lord Jesus (2 Peter 3:9). Yet, there have not been many sermons and/or books on holiness. The only that has come close is Jerry Bridges' classic, The Pursuit of Holiness. Then comes Kevin DeYoung's latest book, The Hole in Our Holiness, which bridges the gap of our love for the gospel and the desire to be holy.
What is the hole in our holiness? DeYoung says, that it is when Christians love gospel-centered living, but think that holy living maybe too legalistic. When we think of holy living, it usually begins with what do I need to give up. DeYoung says that holiness is being obedient to Jesus Christ. Being holy is honoring God in every aspect of our lives.
DeYoung writes, If we abide in Christ we must walk in the same way he walked (1 John 2:6). No abides in Christ keeps on sinning (3:6). Whoever does not love does not have eternal life abiding in him (3:15). Whoever keeps the commandments abides in God and God in him (3:24). If we love another, God abides in us and we abide in God (4:12, 16)...A complete disregard for holiness indicates that we do not have fellowship with Christ and are not in him.
One thing that DeYoung does share that if we fail in holiness, we can receive grace and forgiveness from Jesus. However, just because we can get forgiveness from God, it does not mean we have a license to sin as some people define grace.
I was delighted that DeYoung wrote this book. I believe this will indeed be a classic book on holiness that every Christian, new or maturing, would benefit from. I highly recommend this book.
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Review 5 for The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness - eBook
In The Hole in Our Holiness, author Kevin DeYoung opens with a problem he has both experienced in his own life and noted in the Christian culture around us; there is a gap between our passion for the gospel and our practice of holiness. DeYoung diagnoses this discrepancy and thereby presents the reader with the direction of his book. DeYoung wants to inform the reader of the foundations of holiness as they are taught in the Bible and then encourage application in light of those truths. Pastor Kevin writes, and preaches for that matter, with thoughtful theological acumen and poignant pastoral insight and these distinguishing characteristics are conveyed in The Hole in Our Holiness, making it a very helpful book.
The Foundations of Holiness
DeYoung begins his book by sketching out some helpful foundations about holiness. He provides a theological definition of holiness as well as a Biblical account of this virtue. His discussion of what holiness is and what it is not makes for profitable distinctions. He proceeds to give a helpful defense of both the need and benefits of a healthy view of holiness.
The author finds a good balance to this sometimes burdensome topic by encouraging the reader with good reasons for pursuing holiness as well as offering the refreshing idea that godliness is both possible and very pleasing to God. Chapter Six is a transitional chapter which moves the reader from the more theoretical and theological early chapters to the remaining ones which are more practical. In this bridging section DeYoung explains what he believes holiness should look like and how it should be pursued: sanctification, or growth is holiness, is accomplished through Spirit-powered, Gospel-driven, Faith-fueled effort. And this effort begins with and is accomplished by our union with Christ.
The Fighting for Holiness
The final three chapters deliver some practically helpful thoughts on fighting the good fight of becoming Christ-like in our holiness. DeYoung deals with the pervasive and perpetually problematic sins that are sexual in nature. Without sounding ‘preachy’ or coming across as naive, this pastor of University Reformed Church in Lansing, Michigan addresses the issues surrounding sexual immorality. He is realistic but not relativistic as he works hard to show that he understands-personally-the difficulties but recognizes the Bible is clear on the issues.
The book nears conclusion with some advice on actions we can take to promote holiness through the time-tested and traditional disciplines of the Christian faith. Encouragement is presented in the last chapter with a compelling admonishment to gauge and monitor our holiness, to be quick to sincerely repent, and understand this is a process that must continue until our time on earth is up.
With conciseness and clarity, DeYoung explains and expounds what holiness is with a solid stream of Biblical evidence. His shepherding skills are evident as he applies these truths in a way that is accessible and applicable. This is an important book on the sometimes confusing concepts associated with Christian obedience or growth in holiness and is a helpful contribution to the Christian’s lifelong sanctification. I recommend it.
I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of review.
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Review 6 for The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness - eBook
“The Bible could not be any clearer,” DeYoung writes. “The reason for your entire salvation, the design behind your deliverance, the purpose for which God chose you in the first place is holiness.” Holiness is not an option. (Heb. 12:14) “The hole in our holiness is that we don't really care much about it.” He traces how we got to this point of holiness not being cool, the old taboos. He notes that holiness is hard and we are lazy. He is careful to distinguish the holiness that is reckoned to us because of the righteousness of Christ and the holiness commanded of us so many times in the Bible. He writes about what holiness is not, such as a moral checklist or being flawless. He clarifies what holiness is, such as a renewal of God's image in us, and a life of virtue. He notes that it is only possible for those in Christ. DeYoung is adamant on the importance of holiness in the believer's life. “No matter what you profess, if you show disregard for Christ by giving yourself over to sin – impenitently and habitually – then heaven is not your home.” And, “A complete disregard for holiness indicates that we do not have fellowship with Christ and are not in him.” Some might argue that living a holy life is not possible. DeYoung is convinced we can walk in a manner worthy of our calling (Eph. 4:1). We can be trained to live in a way that is holy and acceptable to God (Rom. 12:1). We must “toil,” struggling with all our energy, as Christ works in us (Col. 1:2). He adds four practices that move us in our oneness with Christ and he ends with a section on repentance.
His explanation of “in Christ” is the best I've read. And understanding that is important because, “Union with Christ fundamentally and irrevocably changes our relationship to sin.” Sin no longer has dominion.
Every few years a book comes out about which I feel so strong I'll buy copies to give to others to read. This is such a book. One of the reasons God saved me is that I might be holy (Eph. 1:3-4). Like many, perhaps, I'd lost sight of that in this culture which is so unholy. This is a book I'll reread, write in, discuss, and work at living out its contents.
Are you passionate in your pursuit of holiness? If you are, this book will be great encouragement. If you're not, this book will certainly jolt you into thinking again about your life, your actions, and pleasing God.
I received an advanced reading galley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. Note that I read a galley and some of the quotes above may be changed in the final edition of the book.