The Hole in Our Holinessby Kevin Deyoung
Length: Approximately 5 hours.
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As Christians, we are called to be holy, as God makes clear in 1 Peter 1:14-16. For most of us, this seems like a challenging request to fulfill, but it is expected of us. In this book, Kevin DeYoung gives us a look at what holiness looks like in our lives and how we get there.
Who should read this?
This book is for anyone who calls themselves a Christian. It doesn’t matter if you feel like you don’t need holiness, or if you feel like you are on your A-game, or if you, like myself, try to be holy but feel yourself falling short, this book has something for you.SUMMARY
Kevin DeYoung writes in a way that is, in the words of John Piper, “ruthlessly Biblical”, but is also easily understandably by the average Christian. The use of the word “holiness” in the title may scare some away for fear of hyper-Biblical language, but DeYoung does a good job at keeping confusing terminology to a minimum.
The book is written in a way so as to first defend the idea that we – that is, the Church as a whole – are lacking in holiness, working its way through our need for holiness, the possibility of being holy, and finally how to be holy and what that looks like. It is written in such a way, however, that one barely notices the transitions, because they are woven together so well.
An honest reading of the Bible will clearly reveal to anyone that God expects holiness from His followers. After all, He is holy, and for us to enter into His presence, we must be holy. The Bible also seems to imply that holiness is perfectly obtainable for us. Many Christians, however, don’t seem to believe this, acting and even talking as if holiness is wishful thinking.
Some might be so bold as to say that we will be made holy when we meet Jesus face-to-face, which is true, but it falls short of the full truth. Few dare to agree with the Bible in saying that holiness is possible. DeYoung is one person who dares not only to say this, but to say that it is achievable for any Christian, not just for the spiritual elite.
The first few chapters are spent defending the idea that the Church is lacking in holiness. For this, DeYoung cites primarily the personal experiences of himself and others he knows, but he also allows the reader the chance to test their own holiness with a three-question, Bible-based pop quiz. This chapter also touches on what holiness is and what it isn’t.
Next, we read about why holiness is important to people who calls themselves believers. If 1 Peter 1:14-16 isn’t enough, DeYoung goes through entire lists of Scripture passages that indicate a need for holiness. He even admits that these lists could be longer, filled with even more verses to support his argument. Quite frankly, further evidence is unnecessary.
Okay, so let’s say you acknowledge that God calls us to be holy, but this simply isn’t truly possible to us this side of eternity, right? Wrong! DeYoung reminds us that the definition of holy actually has nothing to do with perfection – something that is impossible in this life – but means that we are to be set apart. God is perfectly holy because he is perfectly set apart, among countless other perfections.
He knows that we cannot obtain this, so to think that He would command such in His Word is, quite frankly, absurd. One might argue that we are only able to be holy because of Christ working in us, and this is true, but this still is meant to occur in this life, not the next. It is possible.
Finally, DeYoung spends the majority of the book looking at what holiness actually looks like and how we achieve it. As just mentioned, it is ultimately only possible through Christ working in us, but there are still things that we do in our quest for holiness. We aren’t benchwarmers for Jesus, we are active participants on His team. Throughout this section he uses Scripture – sometimes a lot of Scripture – to continuously support his points.
The book concludes with a small section of study questions for you to ask yourself, as well as a listing of every Scriptural reference in the book. To get an idea for the amount of Scripture used, DeYoung has quoted from every one of the books of Moses and the books of wisdom, two of the books of history, two major prophets and a minor prophet, and all but four books of the New Testament.
To say I enjoyed this book would be an understatement. The pop quiz in the first chapter was a bit of a lesson in humility for me, as well as a huge wake-up call. I think this was intended, both to get the readers’ attention and also to make a point. Driving home the point, several of the points he references, especially the ones on page 12, I can further attest to through my own experiences. If there is anyone who finds themselves unable to agree with these points, I’ll either call their bluff or inform them that they are incredibly blessed.
This book’s biggest strength is its existence. I have a to-read list a mile long, and I became painfully aware while reading this book that few, if any, of those books are about holiness. This is because so few people write about holiness, which in turn is because so few people, relatively speaking, desire it. Although such books do exist, they are not common, so another book on the topic, as long as it is based primarily in Scripture, is more than welcome.
This leads to another point. This book is, indeed, firmly rooted in the Word of God. As mentioned earlier, there are quotes from almost every book in the New Testament, as well as large portions of the Old Testament as well. There are literally lists of Scripture quotes in some chapters driving home the point again and again. If you don’t believe the word of a man – and the words of any human should be taken with a grain of salt, anyway – you should believe the Word of God when it is so clearly laid out in front of your face.
Unfortunately, this incredible use of Scripture can, paradoxically, be a bad thing, too. Those lists are helpful – when you are looking at them. Then you encounter another list and the previous list is gone from your mind. I honestly don’t remember much from the lists of Scripture, I just remember the sheer quantity of it. On the bright side, though, this is the only weakness that I can find in this book, and it is a pretty weak weakness.
This book was absolutely vital. If anything, we need more like it. We are all called to be holy, but society calls us to do what we want – and what we want is often the opposite of being holy. Society is fine with this, many churches are fine with this (as long as we don’t dive headfirst into blatant sin), and even our closest Christian friends – the ones who are meant to challenge us and push us towards holiness – are also perfectly fine with this.
We’ve reduced holiness to a few fairly simple commands – “Don’t drink, smoke, cuss, or chew, or hang around with those that do” – and we think we’re good to go. What went wrong was we stopped looking at what God expects and started looking at what the world expects, and we started compromising. The perceived uptightness of the Puritans wasn’t the cool thing to do, so we relaxed a few rules here and there, until they became so relaxed that anything goes.
If the Church is to be the light of the world, this needs to change. I don’t claim to know where to draw a line between holiness and unholiness, and in most aspects, neither did DeYoung. However, it is clear that being holy means not following the world, and instead following God once more. It may not be the cool thing to do in this world, but both DeYoung and myself can guarantee that we absolutely will not regret it in the life to come.
“The hole in our holiness is that we don’t really care much about it.” -p.10
“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.” -p.14
“Any gospel which purports to save people without also transforming them is inviting easy-believism.” -p.30
“Because when it comes to growth in godliness, trusting does not put an end to trying.” -p.91
“But I’ve written this book to make you hopeful about holiness, not make you hang your head.” -p.107