The Hole in Our Holiness
By Kevin DeYoung
Crossway, 2014, 160 pages
The overriding theme of the entire Bible can be found in the initial pages of Genesis in the story of Cain and Abel. After the fall, the Lord provided a way to Him through the sacrifice of an innocent victim, a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, the Savior to come:
“…Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.” – Genesis 4:2-5
Abel offered the substitutionary sacrifice demanded by God but Cain approached the Lord with the works of his own hands. We all know the rest. The message of man’s sinful nature and his inability to save himself is repeated throughout the Bible, as well as the message of God’s provision of a sacrificial substitute, ultimately manifested in the life, death, and resurrection of God the Son, Jesus Christ. But sinful men continue to defy God’s Way, offering up their own “good” deeds as the means to their salvation.
I’ve referred to the Gospel – salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone – many, many, many times in my posts. Many Catholics and other religious unbelievers would respond, “That’s just cheap grace. The Bible says we must also do our part and obey the Lord in order to merit Heaven.” Yes, the Bible does speak about obedience and striving for holiness (sanctification) so what is the relationship between faith and works?
We could never possibly be “good” enough to merit Heaven, which is why Jesus paid the penalty for our sins on the cross. You must be justified by accepting Christ before you can be sanctified in Christ. Catholics and other religionists would like to put the cart before the horse and say obedience/sanctification is rewarded with justification. No, Cain, that ain’t how it’s done! But after accepting Christ as Savior, then what?
When the Lord revealed to me that I was a sinner, dead in my trespasses and sins, I accepted Christ and was overjoyed that the perfect righteousness of my Savior had been imputed to me. But does that mean I am now free to sin and disobey my Lord because He has redeemed me?
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” – Romans 6:1-2
If a person professes that they have accepted Christ but has no fruit, no change in their life, it can be assumed their conversion was not genuine. A child of God should want to constantly strive to emulate the Lord by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit through the cleansing of His Word. Being “in Christ,” we can resist sin and be obedient to Him. Yes, we’re going to fail – often – but the Lord requires that we keep at it, through His power, by staying in prayerful communion with Him.
“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:13-16
In “The Hole in Our Holiness,” Pastor Kevin DeYoung looks at the place of charity and works in the life of a believer. DeYoung does a very good job of breaking it all down with some very helpful, practical, Biblical advice. There’s a few times he allows his Reformed theology to take center stage but it’s not a huge distraction. If you’re curious how faith and works fit together, this short, easy-to-follow book would be a beneficial primer.
“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” – Romans 6:11-14