1 Peter 1:14-16
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
What do you do with verses like these?
Texts like this one can be a little intimidating. Perhaps you grew up in an environment where holiness was strictly taught, defined in massive detail, and staunchly expected. Or maybe the opposite is true. You may never have given the subject a second thought. As Christians there is no getting around places like 1 Peter 1, or the many others texts in Scripture that call us to holiness that reflects the God we worship.
Holiness has become somewhat “out of vogue” in the church world. A massive amount of literature is being published, bought, and read on subjects like grace, the gospel, and Christian living. These are all great things. But the subject of holiness seems to be one that is not often addressed. Perhaps a fear has developed because of the skeletons in the closet on the subject; as holiness was defined for a couple of generations in the 20th century as abstaining from things like playing cards, makeup, movie theaters, or specific beverages.
To address this need, Pastor Kevin DeYoung has recently written the book The Hole in Our Holiness. He explains what he means by the title early in the book:
The hole in our holiness is that we don’t really care much about it. Passionate exhortation to pursue gospel-driven holiness is barely heard in most of our churches. It’s not that we don’t talk about sin or encourage decent behavior. Too many sermons are basically self-help seminars on becoming a better you. That’s moralism, and it’s not helpful. Any gospel which says only what you must do and never announces what Christ has done is no gospel at all. So I’m not talking about getting beat up every Sunday for watching SportCenter and driving an SUV. I’m talking about the failure of Christians, especially younger generations and especially those most disdainful of “religion” and “legalism,” to take seriously one of the great aims of our redemption and one of the required evidences for eternal life–our holiness…My fear is that as we rightly celebrate, and in some quarters rediscover, all that Christ has saved us from, we are giving little thought and making little effort concerning all that Christ has saved us to.
I have always enjoyed DeYoung’s writing. He’s a fellow Gordon-Conwell alumnus, graduating with his M.Div in 2002, a year before I arrived on campus to pursue mine. He’s authored around a dozen books, with a few more to be released in 2013. He is very well-read, quotes extensively from church history (especially the Puritans), and is very funny. His take on the subject of holiness is pastoral, humble, and challenging. This book includes a chapter on the subject of sexual purity for Christians (“Saints and Sexual Immorality”) that is perhaps the best (and most pastoral) treatment of the subject I have read.
After defining and clarifying holiness from a biblical standpoint, the last half of the book focuses on practical ways to engage holiness in one’s own life. Much of the book serves to clarify misnomers on the topic, and challenges the reader to take a fresh look at what it means to live a godly life. He doesn’t stop there. The later chapters are very practical, and as I finished the book I felt like I had a grasp on what he was attempting to communicate and how I could apply the biblical lessons to my everyday life. You don’t end the book feeling condemned or depressed in the least. I would recommend this book, and anything written by DeYoung. He’ll make you think.