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Archive for September, 2012


In Cool Runnings, Yul Brenner asks Jr. “Look in the mirror and tell me what you see?” The idea is that you live in accordance with your self-identity.

That is essentially where Kevin DeYoung goes, without the Cool Runnings reference, in the 7th chapter of The Hole in Our Holiness. He hits on our new identity in Christ, or in union with Christ. He gives us a concise version of Walter Marshall’s classic The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification. Marshall sees sanctification as the result of our union with Christ.

In a sense, this goes into what the gospel produces. Our union with Christ is why we are justified, sanctified and empowered by the Spirit. But I am getting ahead of myself, and DeYoung.

Our union with Christ is a much neglected doctrine. But recent releases by people like Robert Letham, J. Todd Billings and Maurice Roberts are trying to rectify this. Our union with Christ brings us all the blessings of God found in salvation (Eph. 1:3). If we are not “in Christ” we have none of these many blessings.

It is not a spatial thing. We are not physically joined to Jesus, as if we are chained together, super glued together or some such thing. DeYoung notes three things our union with Christ implies: solidarity, transformation and communion. Covenant Theology understands that all are born “in Adam”, in covenant solidarity under his headship. As a result, we are fallen, guilty and sinning. The new covenant gives us a new head. We are in covenant solidarity in Christ so that His obedience is ours (Romans 5).

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In the 6th chapter The Hole in Our Holiness, Kevin DeYoung shifts gears to talk about the process of sanctification. He had been addressing the need for holiness, the motives and the patterns of holiness in Scripture. So, what is supposed to happen so that we become holy? What is God’s part? Do I have a part in all this?

Years ago I read Hannah Whitall Smith’s The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life. DeYoung mentions it at the end of the chapter. It was part of the Higher Life teaching that used to characterize Keswick teaching. It is passive in sanctification. It assumes consecration is the only part we play in growing in holiness (Packer talks about this at length in Keep In Step With the Spirit). Sadly, some people today seem to hold a similar position.

“It’s possible to be completely biblical and still less than helpful- especially when it comes to pursuing holiness.”

Consecration is necessary, but insufficient for our growth in holiness. This chapter is about the effort we exert. But it is not a do-it-yourself project. The chapter is largely about the Spirit, the Gospel and faith.

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Is there a reasonable hope for godliness for the Christian? Can we please God?

In the 5th chapter of The Hole in Our Holiness, Kevin DeYoung addresses this very question. He starts with the qualifications for office. The standards can seem so high that most men feel unqualified. They humble us. Taken absolutely, they disqualify everyone but Jesus. How are we to sort this out?

“It’s one thing to be humble about our piety. It’s another thing to think piety is impossible.”

At times we tend to flatten out holiness. We see it as static, not dynamic. It is part of our dynamic life with God. As we affirm our depravity, and the remnant of indwelling sin, we can start to think that we can obey God. We start to think we cannot please God.

But Scripture doesn’t talk that way.

And if we don’t think carefully and biblically, our lives are stunted.

He wants us to consider Zechariah and Elizabeth. They were righteous, walking blamelessly before God. That is not justification. That is sanctification.

Consider Job. He was called blameless and upright. Again, sanctification.

It isn’t just the Old Testament. Jesus expected people to put his words into practice (Mt. 7:24). James basically said the same thing (James 2:22-25).

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If we ignore the imperatives of Scripture, there is a Hole in Our Holiess. This is the premise of the 4th chapter in Kevin DeYoung’s book.

By and large, we hate commands. We don’t like being told what to do. Kids don’t like to listen to the parents or teachers. As adults we don’t like to listen to our bosses. We don’t just “question authority” we undermine and resist it.

“God cares enough to show us his ways and direct our paths. … Divine statues are a gift to us. God gives us law because he loves us.”

While others may try to lord it over us, God’s intention is good. It is evidence of love, but we read it as hate. The problem is not with Him, but us. Even as Christians, there is resistance not only to particular commands at particular moments, but to the Law period.

The Church has wrestled with the Law for quite some time. Scholars have landed in various positions. Among Calvinists, this is one of the many practical differences between Covenant Theology and New Covenant Theology. Historically, Reformed Theology has had a 3rd use for the law. We hold to a 3-fold distinction in the law that NCT rejects. We recognize the moral law, the civil law and the ceremonial law. They cannot ultimately be separated from each other. But they are distinguished and have a different relationship to Christ. The moral law reflects the character of God, and transcends all administrations of the covenant. The civil law is the application of the moral law to the nation of Israel as a theocracy, and includes the punishments for breaking particular laws. The ceremonial law is about the removal of guilt and pollution from breaking the moral law. It is also about maintaining the separation between Israel and the nations.

“Typically, this has meant that the moral law (e.g., the Ten Commandments) is directly normative, but the civil and judicial aspects of the law point to what is true for all people at all times.”

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In the third chapter of The Hole in Our Holiness, Kevin DeYoung looks at the pattern of piety found in Scripture. It is not enough to know we are called to holiness, but we also need to know what it looks like, and doesn’t look like.

Holiness means separation. That is the bottom line. God sets us apart from the rest of humanity in two ways. First, we are definitively set apart at justification. We are set apart as Gods’ people. So, every Christian is sanctified. But God continues to set us apart from the world morally. This is progressive sanctification. You don’t have one without the other. Both of these are a result of grace.. The first is an act of grace (one time event) and the second is a work of grace (a process) according to the Westminster Confession of Faith.

What Holiness is Not

It is not rule keeping. Holiness certainly includes obedience. People often get off course by thinking about non-biblical rules. We are set apart for God. We are to obey his law. Jesus was not too keen on the Pharisees for neglecting God’s law from man-made traditions. It is not about dancing, whether or not you drink a beer with dinner, or have the occasional cuss word slip out when you smash your thumb with a hammer. It is about gentleness, not getting drunk, and having lips used to edify and express gratitude.

“Holiness is more than middle class values. … checklist spirituality is highly selective.”

It is not generational imitation. Some people think it is having the standards and practices of an earlier generation. It could be the 1950’s in Amercia, Calvin’s Geneva or the Puritan’s England. This is what got the Amish in trouble. DeYoung notes that the 50’s may have had a better standards of sexual decency. But when it came to race relations, not so good. Just an example. We are trying to apply the timeless law in our time, not recreate another time.

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While considering what to study in our men’s group this Fall, one of the books I read was Family Shepherds by Voddie Baucham. It covers some of the same ground as The Masculine Mandate. But this book has a very different feel to it, handles things in a different order and has a more distinct agenda(s) than Rick Phillips’ book did. Since I pretty much read them simultaneously, I have a hard time not comparing them.

Family Shepherds reflects Voddie’s personality and ministry, just like Rick’s book reflects his. I’ve read another book or two from Voddie, and this is similar in tone and agenda. He has a prophetic bent (Rick’s, perhaps from his time as a tank commander, is more kingly). Voddie is not afraid to get into the reader’s business. Rick also stands firm on his views, but is less “in your face” about it.

Voddie’s ministry is marked by a few drumbeats. One of them is vitally important, particular in the context in which he ministers. The other is one I have some sympathies, but aren’t as passionate and dogmatic about as he is.

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In the second chapter of his new book, The Hole in Our Holiness, Kevin DeYoung addresses the reason(s) for our redemption. He does not think there is only one biblical answer. He mentions God’s love and God’s glory. I would say that with respect to God himself, the reason is His love. He redeemed us because He loved us. With respect to creation (including humanity) He redeemed us for His glory, to receive glory for His grace. Both of these are prominent in Ephesians 1. There is something else that is significant in Ephesians 1, as DeYoung notes: holiness. With respect to us, God redeemed us to make us holy.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

I am not sure why so many think holiness is optional. Wanting to be a Christian with wanting to be holy is like wanting a hamburger without wanting the hamburger patty. Biblically it just does not make any sense. In Ephesians, it sets up the call to sanctification that flows out of justification. Sometimes in response to a works-centered religion, people can so press justification by faith alone, that they forget or ignore that such a faith is never alone. Sometimes in our pushback against the legalists in various holiness movements we forget that obedience is not the problem. As Paul stresses in Titus 2, grace teaches us to obey God. It is not an excuse to disobey God, or be careless about how we live.

God is passionately committed to your holiness, even if you don’t seem to be so at the moment. The Scriptures tell us this. Christ died with this goal in mind. DeYoung notes this as an emphasis in both covenants: Exodus 19:4-6; 1 Peter 2:9;  Eph. 2:8-10; 5:25-27; 2 Tim. 1:8-9; 1 Thess. 4:7.

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