Skip to comments.The Hole in Our Holiness
Posted on 06/29/2014 3:32:21 AM PDT by HarleyD
I have a growing concern that younger evangelicals do not take seriously the Bibles call to personal holiness. We are too at peace with worldliness in our homes, too at ease with sin in our lives, too content with spiritual immaturity in our churches.
Gods mission in the world is to save a people and sanctify his people. Christ died that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised (2 Cor. 5:15). We were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him (Eph. 1:4). Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:25-27). Christ gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:14).
J.C. Ryle, the Bishop of Liverpool from the nineteenth century, was right: We must be holy, because this is one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world Jesus is a complete Saviour. He does not merely take away the guilt of a believers sin, He does moreHe breaks its power (1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 12:10). My fear is that as we rightly celebrate, and in some quarters rediscover, all that Christ saved us from, we will give little thought and make little effort concerning all that Christ saved us to.
The pursuit of holiness does not occupy the place in our hearts that it should. There are several reasons for the relative neglect of personal holiness.
1) It was too common in the past to equate holiness with abstaining from a few taboo practices like drinking, smoking, and dancing. In a previous generation godliness meant you didnt do these things. Younger generations have little patience for these sorts of rules. They either dont agree with the rules or they figure theyve got those bases covered so theres not much else to worry about.
2) Related to the first reason is the fear that a passion for holiness makes you some kind of weird holdover from a bygone era. As soon as you talk about swearing or movies or music or modesty or sexual purity or self-control or just plain godliness people get nervous that others will call them legalistic, or worse, a fundamentalist.
3) We live in a culture of cool, and to be cool means you differentiate yourself from others. That has often meant 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 holiness has nothing to do with these things. Theyve willingly embraced Christian freedom, but theyve not earnestly pursued Christian virtue.
4) Among more liberal Christians a radical pursuit of holiness is often suspect because any talk of right and wrong behaviors feels judgmental and intolerant. If we are to be without spot or blemish it necessitates we distinguish between what sort of attitudes, actions, and habits are pure and what sort are impure. This sort of sorting gets you in trouble with the pluralism police.
5) Among conservative Christians there is sometimes the mistaken notion that if we are truly gospel-centered we wont talk about rules or imperatives or exhort Christians to moral exertion. To be sure, there is a rash of moralistic teaching out there, but sometimes we go to the other extreme and act as if the Bible shouldnt advise our morals at all. We are so eager not to confuse indicatives and imperatives (a point Ive made many times) that if were not careful well drop the imperatives altogether. Weve been afraid of words like diligence, effort, and obedience. Weve downplayed verses that call us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), or command us to cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit (2 Cor. 7:1), or warn against even a hint of immorality among the saints (Eph. 5:3).
I find it telling that you can find plenty of young Christians today who are really excited about justice and serving in their communities. You can find Christians fired up about evangelism. You can find lots of Generation XYZ believers passionate about precise theology. Yes and amen to all that. But where are the Christians known for their zeal for holiness? Where is the corresponding passion for honoring Christ with Christlike obedience? We need more Christian leaders on our campuses, in our cities, in our seminaries who will say with Paul, Look carefully then how you walk? (Eph. 5:15).
When is the last time we took a verse like Ephesians 5:4Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgivingwhen is the last time we took a verse like this and even began to try to apply this to our conversation, our joking, our movies, our you tube clips, our t.v. and commercial intake? The fact of the matter is if you read through the New Testament epistles you will find very few explicit commands that tell us to evangelize and very few explicit commands that tell us to take care of the poor in our communities, but there are dozens and dozens of verses in the New Testament that enjoin us, in one way or another, to be holy as God is holy (e.g., 1 Peter 1:13-16).
I do not wish to denigrate any of the other biblical emphases capturing the attention of younger evangelicals. But I believe God would have us be much more careful with our eyes, our ears, and our mouth. Its not pietism, legalism, or fundamentalism to take holiness seriously. Its the way of all those who have been called to a holy calling by a holy God.
What follows is a collection of 20 quotes that caught my attention as I read Kevin DeYoung's forthcoming book The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap Between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness (Crossway; August 31, 2012):
On the last day, God will not acquit us because our good works were good enough, but he will look for evidence that our good confession was not phony. Its in this sense that we must be holy. (29)
Its all too easy to turn the fight of faith into sanctification-by-checklist. Take care of a few bad habits, develop a couple good ones, and youre set. But a moral checklist doesnt take into consideration the idols of the hearts. It may not even have the gospel as part of the equation. And inevitably, checklist spirituality is highly selective. So you end up feeling successful at sanctification because you stayed away from drugs, lost weight, served at the soup kitchen, and renounced Styrofoam. But youve ignored gentleness, humility, joy, and sexual purity. (34)
The world provides no cheerleaders on the pathway to godliness. (38)
How awful it would be to inhabit this world, have some idea that there is a God, and yet not know what he desires from us. Divine statutes are a gift to us. God gives us law because he loves. (50)
Expecting perfection from ourselves or others is not what holiness is about. (66)
We can think its a mark of spiritual sensitivity to consider everything we do as morally suspect. But this is not the way the Bible thinks about righteousness. . . . For those who have been made right with God by grace alone through faith alone and therefore have been adopted into Gods family, many of our righteous deeds are not only not filthy in Gods eyes, they are exceedingly sweet, precious, and pleasing to him. (6970)
One of the main motivations for obedience is the pleasure of God. If we, in a well-intentioned effort to celebrate the unimpeachable nature of our justification, make it sound as though God no longer concerns himself with our sins, well put a choke on our full-throttle drive to holiness. God is our heavenly Father. He has adopted us by his grace. He will always love his true children. But if we are his true children we will also love to please him. It will be our delight to delight in him and know that he is delighting in us. (74)
Of all the crazy things Paul said, 1 Corinthians 4:4 may be the most jolting. Heres the apostle Paul Mr. Wretched Man That I Am, Mr. There Is No One Good, No Not One and he tells the Corinthians, I am not aware of anything against myself. Seriously?! You cant think of anything, Paul? Not a single idol buried somewhere under ten layers of your subconscious? Now lets not miss the next line: but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. So Paul isnt claiming to be okay just because he feels okay. But he is saying he has a clear conscience. He obeys God and sticks close to his Word. This doesnt mean hes perfect. No doubt, hes bringing his sins daily before the Lord to be cleansed from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:89; Matthew 6:12). But hes not walking around feeling like a spiritual loser. Hes not burdened with constant low-level guilt because hes not doing enough or because he detected a modicum of pride over lunch. (7576)
Sanctification is not by surrender, but by divinely enabled toil and effort. (90)
Some Christians are stalled out in their sanctification for simple lack of effort. They need to know about the Spirits power. They need to be rooted in gospel grace. They need to believe in the promises of God. And they need to fight, strive, and make every effort to work out all that God is working in them. Let us say with Paul, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me (1 Corinthians 15:10). Without this biblical emphasis, well be confused, wondering why sanctification isnt automatically flowing from a heartfelt commitment to gospel-drenched justification. Well be waiting around for enough faith to really get the gospel when God wants us to get up and get to work (Philippians 2:1213). Because when it comes to growth in godliness, trusting does not put an end to trying. (9091)
The Bible is realistic about holiness. Dont think that all this glorious talk about dying to sin and living to God [Romans 6] means there is no struggle anymore or that sin will never show up in the believers life. The Christian life still entails obedience. It still involves a fight. But its a fight we will win. You have the Spirit of Christ in your corner, rubbing your shoulders, holding the bucket, putting his arm around you and saying before the next round with sin, Youre going to knock him out, kid. Sin may get in some good jabs. It may clean your clock once in a while. It may bring you to your knees. But if you are in Christ it will never knock you out. You are no longer a slave, but free. Sin has no dominion over you. It cant. It wont. A new King sits on the throne. You serve a different Master. You salute a different Lord. (105)
Ive written this book to make you hopeful about holiness, not make you hang your head. (107)
Union with Christ means Gods power for us working in and through us. (112)
To run hard after holiness is another way of running hard after God. (123)
Which brings us to one of the most important axioms about holiness: when it comes to sanctification, its more important where youre going than where you are. (138)
You shouldnt take your spiritual temperature every day. You need to look for progress over months and years, not by minutes and hours. (138)
Sincere biblical repentance is as much a work of grace as not sinning in the first place. To err is human, to make progress is divine. (144)
A dying world needs you to be with God more than it needs you to be with it. Thats true for me as a pastor and true for you as a mother, father, brother, sister, child, grandparent, friend, Bible study leader, computer programmer, bank teller, barista, or CEO. Your friends and family, your colleagues and kids they dont need you to do miracles or transform civilization. They need you to be holy. (144145)
Holiness is the sum of a million little things the avoidance of little evils and little foibles, the setting aside of little bits of worldliness and little acts of compromise, the putting to death of little inconsistencies and little indiscretions, the attention to little duties and little dealings, the hard work of little self-denials and little self-restraints, the cultivation of little benevolences and little forbearances. (145)
1) It was too common in the past to equate holiness with abstaining from a few taboo practices like drinking, smoking, and dancing.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.