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Hole in our Holiness – by Kevin DeYoung
Selected Quotes Chapter 5 – the Pleasure of God and the Possibility of Godliness.
- It’s one thing to be humble about our piety. It’s another to think piety is impossible. The truth is God’s people can be righteous—not perfectly, but truly, and in a way that genuinely pleases God.
- With all the best intentions, we tend to flatten the biblical view on holiness until we squeeze out the dynamic nature of life with God. In an effort to own up to our own abiding sinfulness and highlight the gospel of free grace, we remove any notion that we can obey God or that he can delight in our good works.
- So we end up believing something like this: “I am a spiritual failure, but, praise God, Jesus came to save spiritual failures like me! I cannot obey God’s commands for one nanosecond. I never truly love God with all my heart or my neighbor as myself. Even my righteous deeds are like filthy rags. If you could see my heart, you’d see that my sins are as bad as anyone else’s or worse! I am a spiritual screw-up through and through, unfaithful to my faithful God. But the good news is, God has saved me because of Christ’s death and resurrection. I am his adopted child, forgiven and clean. Nothing I ever do can make God love me any more—or any less—than he already loves me in Christ. Even though I continue to sin, I can never disappoint my heavenly Father, for he looks at me and sees the righteousness of his beloved Son. What unspeakable good news!”
- “So what’s wrong with this [previous quote above]?” you may ask incredulously. Well, as a general statement confessing sin and clinging to the righteousness of Christ, it is absolutely true and beautiful. If I heard a paragraph like this my first reaction would be to praise God for such a powerful reminder of gospel grace. But if someone asked me to probe deeper, I’d caution that this statement is not very careful.
- If the possibility of holiness is so plain in the Bible, why do we find it so hard to believe? Probably the biggest reason is because we equate obedience with perfection.
- But I get hung up on all that seems to be required of me to be a great dad, a super husband, a fabulous prayer warrior, a tremendous evangelist, and a devoted social activist. I always feel like I could pray more; I could evangelize more; I could share my resources more. But God doesn’t expect us to be the best in everything in order to be free from paralyzing guilt. As we saw in chapter 2, it’s our Christlike character that counts.
- But God does not expect our good works to be flawless in order for them to be good. If God only accepted perfect obedience from his children, the Bible would have nothing good to say about Job or David or Elizabeth or anyone else except for Jesus. I like what the Westminster Confession of Faith says about good works. On the one hand, sanctification will always be imperfect in this life. There will always be remnants of corruption in us. But by the power of the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, true believers will genuinely grow in grace. Our good works are accepted by God, not because they”“are “wholly unblameable and unreproveable in God’s sight,” but because God is pleased through Christ to accept our sincere obedience, although it contains many weaknesses and imperfections. God not only works obedience in us by his grace, it’s also by his grace that our imperfect obedience is acceptable in his sight. And even the smallest act of obedience is an event worth celebrating. Perhaps we are slow to see any good in us because we don’t understand how bad we were. Your tiny spiritual life may seem less negligible when you consider that it comes from a heart that used to be spiritually dead. That you and I have any law-abiding willing and doing is a miracle of God’s grace.
- Many Christians believe that all their righteous deeds are nothing but filthy rags. After all, that’s what Isaiah 64:6 seems to say: even your best deeds are dirty and worthless. But I don’t think this is what Isaiah means. The “righteous deeds” Isaiah has in mind are most likely the perfunctory rituals offered by Israel without sincere faith and without wholehearted obedience.
- It is a dangerous thing to ignore the Bible’s assumption, and expectation, that righteousness is possible. Of course, our righteousness can never appease God’s wrath. We need the imputed righteousness of Christ. More than that, we cannot produce any righteousness in our own strength. But as born-again believers, it is possible to please God by his grace. Basically, whenever you trust and obey, God is pleased.3
- More importantly, this kind of spiritual resignation does not tell the truth about God. A. W. Tozer is right: From a failure to properly understand God comes a world of unhappiness among good Christians even today. The Christian life is thought to be a glum, unrelieved cross-carrying under the eye of a stern Father who expects much and excuses nothing. He is austere, peevish, highly temperamental and extremely hard to please.4 But this is no way to view the God of the Bible. Our God is not a capricious slave driver. He is not hyper-sensitive and prone to fits of rage on account of slight offenses. He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Ex. 34:6). “He is not hard to please,” Tozer reminds us, “though He may be hard to satisfy.”
- What sort of father looks at his daughter’s homemade birthday card and complains that the color scheme is all wrong? What kind of mother says to her son, after he gladly cleaned the garage but put the paint cans on the wrong shelf, “This is worthless in my sight”?”