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.
It is not generic spirituality.It is Christian spirituality rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. I should say it is not weird spirituality either- like crystals or handling snakes.
It is not finding your true self. This is popular today. But biblical holiness is about the restoration of God’s image in you, not your quest for individuality. Your “true self” is often more in line with your flesh, not the Spirit. Authenticity is over-rated. Sometimes your feelings need to be put to death, just like your thoughts or desires.
It is not the way of the world. The world is not really interested in your piety, but often throws up road blocks. Sometimes it does have proper values. For instance, DeYoung notes, we can approve of the West’s intolerance for racism and Islam’s intolerance for homosexuality even if we don’t embrace their solutions to the problems. The world, as a system, is opposed to truth and biblical morality. The farther a culture moves away from the gospel, the more messed up the morality of that culture is (see Rom. 1:18ff). So, worldliness tends to call good evil and evil good.Worldliness is a big problem in the West. It has crept into us. When we try to live obediently, there is no party to congratulate you.
“Worldliness is whatever makes sin look normal and righteousness look strange.”
What Holiness Is
It is being renewed in God’s image (Col. 3:10). If we want to know what true holiness looks like, we are to look at God. We are to be patterned after Him. Jesus is at work, thru the Spirit, to make us like He is.
It is a life marked by virtue instead of vice. DeYoung lays out some of the passages that note vices and virtues. We are being changed from a life dominated by vice to one characterized by virtue. We too often think it is marked by particular causes. It isn’t. You may be active in particular causes because you are holy (like the pro-life movement), but today it is common to associate holiness with activism.
It looks like a clean conscience. Our conscience matters. The more biblically informed our conscience, the better it functions. The law is written on our hearts. When we violate it, it will accuse us. Or excuse us if it is not biblically informed. Holiness is not concerned with your reputation because you have nothing to hide.
It is obedience to God’s commands. Love for God, according to Jesus, results in obedience. A good relationship between a father and son results in obedience on the part of the son. The Law does not have the power to sanctify us. But as we are sanctified we increasingly obey the law. I know of people who try to toss out the Law, focusing on love. But Paul, in Romans 12, defines love using the Law. Of course he does, that is what Jesus did. The Law hangs upon the commands to love God and love your neighbor. The Law is not opposed to love. To think so means you either don’t understand the Law or don’t understand love.
“Obeying the commandments is how we fulfill the law of love, and love is at the heart of holiness.”
It is Christlikeness. He is the perfect image of God. The good God works everything toward is making you like Jesus (Romans 8:28-9). In Jesus, we have a personal example of holiness. He was submissive to the Father, compassionate toward sinners, angry with the self-righteous etc. He was tempted in every way like we are, but never sinned. He always loved God with all He had, and He always loved His neighbor as Himself.
That gives us a better idea of what holiness is and isn’t. Perhaps you realized you were running down the wrong path. That’s okay. Now is the time to get on the right path.