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I was surprised to learn on Monday that Christianity Today was running four reviews of my new book The Hole in Our Holiness. I consider it a sign of respect that they think the book deserving of this kind of analysis. I’m grateful too for the invitation to round out this week of reviews with a response of my own. Though I’m hesitant to respond—because rejoinders often appear (or are!) defensive and thin-skinned—I’ll venture a few thoughts on each review.

Erik Raymond has written the sort of review every author enjoys. He understands the book, appreciates the book, and recommends the book. I’m particularly grateful that Raymond sees, and agrees with, my emphasis on grace-based effort and my use of various confessions. Since both of these points were criticized by others in this series, it’s good to see not everyone considered these elements to be mistaken. I’m thankful for Raymond’s kind, encouraging review.

Mark Labberton and Tyler Braun hit on different themes, but both have written the same sort of review. They like a lot about the book, but would have said more or less in some areas. Since the book was short, 146 under-sized pages, there is certainly more that could have been said about a number of important issues. Labberton wishes I would have said more about what lies beneath the biblical call to holiness (and our dismissal of it) and the public implications of a holy life. It’s hard to know how to respond to this criticism except to say I addressed some of both, but could have done more. I could have talked more about consumerism and social justice and (especially) the kingdom, as Labberton suggests. I also could have talked more about abortion, statism, and religious liberty. Holiness touches on all of life, so almost any topic would have been fair game. As a pastor, I addressed the sorts of issues I see people struggling with most and the issues talked about most directly and most frequently in the New Testament. That leads us to recurring concerns with sexual immorality, relational sins, and vices associated with the breaking of the Ten Commandments.

Braun’s concern is that The Hole in Our Holiness may be too much like “a seminary textbook” and not do enough to reach out to those far from Christ or falling away from God. He fears I may be too entrenched in a Reformed Christian subculture to relate to outsiders. I suppose all those critiques will hit the mark with some readers. Some people will think the book is too heady. Some people will think it references the Reformed confessions too often. Some people won’t feel comfortable handing it out as an evangelistic tool. On the other hand, some people will think I’ve only skimmed the surface of a very deep topic. Some people in the Reformed community will think I haven’t engaged the confessions enough. Some people will consider the book ideal for struggling sinners. It depends on your expectations. I’m not meaning to dismiss Braun’s concerns, except to suggest that they strike me as largely personal preferences. He would have liked less interaction with the Reformed tradition and more emphasis on drawing “back to Christ those who are too lost in their own sin and shame to see beyond it.” Not surprisingly, the latter is precisely what Braun sets out to do in his own book on holiness. The main critique with my books seems to be that I wrote the book I did instead of the book he did.

A Puzzling Take

Mark Galli’s review is the most puzzling. While he thinks the book is helpful and nuanced, he also concludes that it is “best forgotten as soon as possible.” Galli acknowledges that holiness, like his favored pastime of golf, requires a certain type of effort. You do have to practice different elements of your swing, even if concentrating too hard ends up ruining your timing. But otherwise, he urges us to stop looking at ourselves, stop examining ourselves, and stop trying to be holy. Instead, we should start looking for the neighbor and move toward him with the “rhythm of grace.” He contends that the conscious pursuit of a righteous life leads inevitably (his emphasis) to judgmentalism and arrogance. The proof is in the Puritan pudding—“their passion for holiness led inevitably to self-righteousness.” In short, Galli believes “a conscious and purposeful pursuit of holiness is about the worst way to go about it.”

I find Galli’s review puzzling because I wonder if it really means what he says. Either he is speaking with a lot of hyperbole, or we have two completely different ideas of what it means to pursue holiness. If I wake up in the morning, give myself a holiness score of 6, and then commit myself to get to 6.5 by the end of the day, that would be disastrous and silly. But what if I am struggling with lust and pray for God’s help that I might fight the urge to click where I shouldn’t click, and embrace my identity in Christ as chosen and beloved, and believe God’s promises about the pure in heart—is that also the “worst way” to go about holiness? I never describe holiness as a scorecard. In fact, though Galli says I provide no definition of holiness, I describe it chiefly as the pursuit of Christ himself. Is it really a dreadful thing for Christians to be intentional about wanting to be more like Jesus? I know that’s not where the gospel starts, but haven’t a myriad of Christians through the ages considered that at the heart of discipleship?

The language of inevitability also strikes me as misplaced. Is it really the case that everyone who has ever aspired to holiness ends up suffering from spiritual pride? To be sure, we all continue to sin, and pride is one of the ways we do. But Galli seems to be saying more than this. To simply point out that those who pursue holiness still have pride is a truism. We all still suffer from pride. Galli suggests, however, that pride is most prevalent in those who most consciously pursue holiness. Really? Is this always the case? Every Methodist, every pietist, everyone from the Dutch Second Reformation, everyone in every religious order, everyone in our churches deliberately trying to kill sin in their lives—all of them are essentially self-righteous hypocrites? Galli must be thinking of the pursuit of holiness in the worst possible caricature. Are Jerry Bridges and J. I. Packer—two men who have written extensively about the pursuit of holiness—especially judgmental and arrogant? The men and women at my church who strive each day to wage war against the flesh and grow in grace do not fit Galli’s description.

And the Puritans? Galli’s comment is either overstated or unfair. Besides the historical presumption of making such a sweeping claim against “the Puritans” (as if their theology and behaviors were monolithic), it is terrifically uncharitable to suggest, without naming a single example, that as a group they were especially marked by censoriousness. As in any church or any tradition, some who went by the name Puritan were no doubt arrogant and proud. But some lived lives of which the world is not worthy. We do ourselves no favors when we tear down all our heroes because they walked the earth on clay feet.

Most damaging to Galli’s thesis is the record of Scripture itself. If the call to pursue holiness is best forgotten, why does the Bible remind us of it so often? What do we do with Hebrews 12:14 and its language of “striving” for holiness? What do we do with Paul’s language of “fighting” and “toiling” and “pressing on”, or Peter’s language of “making every effort,” or Jesus’ language of “striving” to enter the narrow gate? And what about the exhortation in Philippians 4 to “think about these things” and “practice these things”? None of these descriptions envision a morbid navel-gazing. But they all envision that the Christian life involves the conscious and purposeful putting off of sin and putting on of holiness. Of course, we never achieve this perfectly or without the presence of indwelling sin, but that doesn’t lead the biblical writers to reject the conscious pursuit of holiness or the possibility of living a holy life pleasing to God and worthy of emulation.

In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus assumes that asking for forgiveness would be a daily occurrence, as would praying that we might be delivered from evil and led not into temptation. The mystery of the Christian life is that Christ expects us flee sin and the devil, but does not expect us to rid ourselves of either on this side of glory. Repentance is a way of life and so is the pursuit of godliness. I wish every Christian could be reminded of these two things. And I wish they were less controversial than they have become in our day.

This article also appeared online at Christianity Today.

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47 thoughts on “Striving After Godliness Should Not Be So Controversial: Responding to the CT Reviews”

  1. The reviews and the response both make me more excited to read the book. I will say that Galli’s response reminded me of Gerhard Forde’s explanation of a Lutheran take on sanctification in one of those 5 views books. He was basically critical about the whole project of having a “theology of sanctification” because sanctification is just getting used to our justification. So, we should focus on justification and sanctification will follow. Now, that sounds good, and really, thinking about the grace of the Gospel leads holiness, but, as you point out, it doesn’t seem like Paul got the memo because he seems to talk about it a lot.

    Well, thanks again for the piece!

  2. Jeanie S says:

    Galli’s review seems very emergent in nature. The only way we can overcome the trials that are before us is the pursuit of holiness. I just read on another blog how many Christians and Non-Christians like to play the Pharasie Card just like our politicians like to play the race card. I read your book and I thought it was one of your best that I have read. I think what is interesting is when a Christian pursues holiness, others are convicted. They either run into the light or want to remain in the darkness. Just like God’s holiness convicts us all, we are either afraid or like Isaiah we are undone.

  3. Thomas Karrer says:

    Brother, your replies to those who critisized your book are very charitable. Nothing like Luther. And in our day, that’s probably a good thing! It urks me that Christian leaders could be so narrrow-minded as they reviewed your book, and that any of them could have more negative than positive things to say about it. Do people really expect every book written on every subject to perfectly address every facet of that subject? Sigh… I know that I have done the same thing in my own life. Hence my appreciation for your charitable spirit. May the Lord graciously provoke to repentance those leaders who had the wonderful opportunity to review and then recommend your work to a Church that seriously needs it; and who did not see and exult in the treasure found in it. Thank you, Kevin, for your labor of love.

  4. Judd Rumley says:


    Thanks for the book. I have already given away a copy. It is nowhere near a seminary text book but it serves as a practical guide to Philippians 2:12-14.

    Is it me or are we just rehashing the old free grace issues of the late 90’s? It seems like there will always be the free grace folks on one side, legalists on the other, and gents like yourself in the middle who hold a balanced perspective. Of course there are many on the continuum. It is surprising some reformed pastors are leaning the way of free grace. I guess I am learning the Ecclesiastes 1:9 is really true :)

    Keep up the great work and nice post on Monday Morning humor (11.26).


  5. Kevin, thank you for this excellent response. “Most damaging to Galli’s thesis is the record of Scripture itself.” When the Bible clearly takes one approach, and our theological grid encourages us to take another, which will we choose? I’m grateful that you’re clearly and faithfully addressing this faddish and all-too-common approach to sanctification, which mixes a dangerous cocktail of helpful insights and anti-biblical conclusions.

  6. Wesley says:

    Sorry to hear that you have had to even respond to such supercilious reviews bro. I am not familiar with Galli’s work or ministry but his statements re: the pursuit of holiness seem to beggar belief. It’s sad to note (yet again) another example of what Carl-bomb (Trueman) said a short while ago about the Puritans becoming the new “whacking-boy” of many evangelicals today .
    Appreciate your pointed yet charitable response all the same to such bollocks. Appreciate you and your ministry very much bro.

  7. Sam says:

    In all frankness, i found the least helpful review to be TGC’s.

  8. Chris Greer says:

    To Kevin’s last comment, ” I wish holiness was less controversial than it is today”, I completely agree. But all the more reason for a clear presentation of Biblical holiness to blow away the fog. Thank brother De Young

  9. Brian Lum says:

    Galli’s comments regarding holiness is a complete disregard of Scripture. His assumption that pride can result from pursing holiness is true, but we can also become prideful and puffed up by our good works as well. I have seen and experienced it first hand working in a Christian social justice ministry. But I believe as we examine ourselves in the light of Scripture and we allow the Holy Spirit to take the Scriptures and apply them to our lives, we realize even more our need for Christ and that should result in humility towards God and our fellow man. The call to holiness is not a call to pride, rather it is the opposite. It is a call to the broken and humble to receive healing and forgiveness.

  10. Meribeth says:

    This caught my eye simply because I have been wondering this week if the Holiness of God is where we need to start our journey to the cross. If we don’t grasp the holiness of God will we ever see our own need of unholiness? I have just read your book, just do something and was encouraged by it, so this book will be on my next list. Looking at His holiness sure causes me to look in my own heart and by His grace discover my own need.

  11. That the call to holiness is so controversial in our day is an indictment on modern evangelicalism…

  12. Greg M says:

    The thought I had with Galli’s response (and his example about the Pharisee and the tax collector) was that though holiness and repentant humility are related virtues, they are still distinct from one another. Believers should aspire to both, without letting one completely obscure the other.

  13. John Dunn says:

    The exhortation to “strive for holiness” (Heb 12:14) can never be separated from the exhortation to “obtain the grace of God” (v 15). And these dual imperatives must never be ripped from the context of the entire passage, which declares that the New Covenant community does not sit under the shadow of Sinai for it’s ethical teaching or instruction.

    Rather, the Church has been brought to the foot of the risen Lord’s new heavenly mount, Mt Zion, from where he pours out, not a renewed code, but the very Spirit of God written upon the tablets of human hearts (2 Cor 3:3), so that the New Covenant community would serve and walk in the new Way of the Spirit and not in the old and obsolete way of the written code (Rom 7:6, Gal 5:18), to the end that we as Christ’s Body may produce the true eschatological Spirit-wrought fruit of the Law’s dim shadow . . . Love (Rom 13:8-10, Gal 5:22-23).

    Sadly, the historic nationalistic Confessions do not acknowledge these glorious eschatological realities of the New Covenant. The Saints are called and commanded to walk in the new Way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. But sadly, the historic confessions place the saints back under Sinai’s Law and say very little about Mt. Zion’s new Way of the Spirit.

  14. Wolfgang Musculus says:

    See my comments on Trevin’s “Puritan Paralysis” TGC post. I appreciate DeYoung’s heart and he has mostly great things to say, but this approach is a branch out of the Puritan error in the doctrine of assurance.

    Calvin had it right, assurance is the essence of faith and all striving for holiness allows for double assurance. Antinomianism, indifference to sin with a profession of faith, is the real issue that Christians should be concerned about. Once the proofs of salvation venture further than a check for antinomianism, and a personal (not assent to knowledge) faith in Christ then the Christian treads on a slippery slope of subjective introspection that relies on the strength of their faith and works rather than the strength of the Object of their faith… Christ. We are not saved by grace through faithfulness but by grace through faith in Christ’s faithfulness, yet by God’s grace we will pursue faithfulness and rejoice to do so.

  15. Brett Mitchell says:

    Thanks Kevin,

    I downloaded your book after reading Braun’s review. I have only read the first two chapters but I am really excited about the way you are communicating the importance of personal holiness. I am a Salvo with recent studies in aspects of Christian holiness from a Wesleyan perspective. I find your book to offer a rich perspective on the need for both justification and sanctification of all believers. I will look forward to reading you blogs to see what else you may bless me with.


  16. Andrew says:

    Galli is just Brian McLaren in disguise, IMO he should not be editting CT as his views are not reflective of 90% of Christians.

  17. Jack says:

    Must we write reviews of reviews? At what point do we just let people say what they say and move on with it. I bet most of Galli’s arguements were refuted in the book itself and if people just read reviews instead of reading books, chances are they won’t have read the Hole in Our Holiness at all.

  18. Davidathome says:

    Andrews comment is a bit off the mark in my opinion, as are some others above. Theres a huge gulf between the two, and Galli is to be commended for some things he has done quite well. I wish Kevin had emphasized the positive aspects of Galli’s review–but no doubt this was because of space constraints. I admit though that I cancelled my CT subscription a few years ago because of the general direction it seemed to be going.

  19. I’m a rock-ribbed, hard-core, othodox, obnoxious Lutheran.

    And I approve of these remarks.

    : )

  20. Mel says:

    I rarely take Christian reviews seriously unless they are warning of heretically stuff like The Shack. For the simple reasons that you have mentioned of the various reviews.
    At least the odds of getting something that made sense were increased with the multiple reviews at once.

    Often I am disappointed with the reviews on The Gospel Coalition site because they are usually done by one single reviewer and it just ends up being something that they would have written differently themselves. Well that doesn’t allow for much variety of voice or even the ability of the Holy Spirit to use different styles to reach a wider range of people. If I wanted to read a book written by that person then I would. Usually I don’t though they take that tone in their reviews.

    Often I base my decisions on Amazon reviews where the more negatives by people that clearly do not comprehend scripture the more I am interested in what the book must have said to offend them.

    That said, I have already bought your book but you could seriously do with some more negatives on Amazon. ;-)

  21. Wolfgang Musculus says:

    Another thought. I don’t think it’s helpful to imply that #1, This topic hasn’t already been controversial and #2 That’s it’s a debate solely between liberal and conservative Christians. As far as I can tell, “Calvinists” (more accurately “Puritanists”) have yet to reclaim the Reformation (Calvin’s) view on assurance. This debate about holiness in the Christian life is inseparably fused together with assurance doctrine. The Marrow Controversy was the last bastion defending the Reformation view of assurnace from erroneous Roman Catholic assurance doctrine; doctrine that many Puritans indirectly accepted and taught parallel to the doctrines of grace… talk about confusing! In this case, Calvinists need to be… Calvinists.

  22. J Summitt says:

    Well said, Mr. DeYoung. And thank you for your book; well thought, Scriptural material toward the pursuit of holiness should be more welcomed and less controversial. Seek ye first…

  23. The only caveat to these remarks would be that there is a tendency in modern American Evangelicalism, and to what extent it is present in Calvinist circles, I let the reader decide, is that it is VERY easy to let sanctification drift away from justification. By this I mean, that sanctification is ALWAYS the working of Christ in our lives, in fact Christian sancification IS Christ in action in our lives, through His appointed means of grace: Word and Sacrament.

    There is a tendency, a very, very bad tendency, for Evangelicals to relegate “justification” to the “day I decided to follow Jesus” rather than recognizing that justification is not only the “one time event” but a “plu perfect” event [Greek readers will understand].

    It is a past act that that continues to this very minute and hour to have profound consequences for our lives as Christians.

    If we ever permit the “striving to holiness” to drift away from the reality of the ongoing work of Christ through the Spirit in our lives, and the ongoing forgiveness of sins we all desperately need, we will have fallen into a pit from which we can never extract ourselves.

  24. Leslie Jebaraj says:

    Kevin DeYoung says that he finds Galli’s review puzzling. It is puzzling to him, I think, because he hasn’t read this yet:

  25. Diane Stortz says:

    Not a scholar, not Reformed, just a Bible reader. Isn’t holiness at its core simply the result of obeying the Father out of a heart of love because it pleases him and because Jesus died so we could? I loved the book.

  26. Ben P. says:

    Thanks for your response Kevin. Honestly I think both Mark Galli’s and your perspectives are needed. I actually think Galli’s analogy of a golf swing is pretty profound and accurate. It takes enormous discipline and effort to become a professional golfer. A world-class golfer has spent thousands of hours of grueling training to perfect his swing. But in the end, it’s true that the golf swing has to become a natural extension of your body. You can’t be thinking about every part of it or you will fail. There is a natural rhthym to living by the spirit, a rhthym of grace. I think there is a definite analogy to holiness. the fruit of the spirit naturally comes out of a tree that has been transferred to the new creation. To your point, none of this is devoid of effort. Dying to yourself and living in the new creation is a self-conscious decision. But Kevin don’t you think there is something to his analogy?

  27. Randy in Tulsa says:

    John Dunn, where did Jesus get the two greatest commandments? From Deuteronomy and Leviticus. When did Jesus become the Word? In the beginning, even before the Old Testament. Why does the psalmist have such a love for God’s law? Because God’s gracious, merciful spirit had changed his heart. (Read Psalm 119 as one long example.) How were saints saved in the Old Testament? By grace through faith – See Paul’s example of Abraham.

    Jack – why write a review of a review of a review?

  28. tricia says:

    Why must anyone review a book? Surly as readers we are capable of choosing what and what not to read. Reviewers tend to bring much of their own personal preferences,world view,emotions etc.into any book review,and are sometimes very dismissive.In this age of ease,pick up the book,if it has something of worth read it, if not give it as a Christmas present.

  29. Andrew Hall says:

    Mark Galli: “Is it really the case that everyone who has ever aspired to holiness ends up suffering from spiritual pride? … Galli suggests, however, that pride is most prevalent in those who most consciously pursue holiness.” I find this incredible. If there is anything I am learning, it’s that trying to seriously be holy–which I think is about learning to truly *love* God and others well, because sin is by nature self-referential and self-serving, while love considers others–is the most humbling process there is. Anyone who tries to earnestly repent of something and fight against sin will experience greater temptation and see just how far they have yet to go. After 10 years in Christ I feel more aware of my sin now and more dependent on the cross now than I have at any point in my life.

  30. GeoffC says:

    I don’t know who Galli is, but what he is groping towards is not a problem with Kevin’s book, but a problem with the Reformed understanding of sanctification. The ultimate goal of the Christian life is not holiness but righteousness, that is obedience to Christ, or to put it another way love to God and man. Holiness is a by-product of pursuing righteousness, not the other way around as Paul clearly states:

    “Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.” Romans 6:19 (NIV)

    Holiness is a subset of righteousness that enables us to be useful to God for good works.(2 Tim 2:20.

    But this understanding of Christian growth as moving toward holiness rather than righteousness is entrenched in Reformed systematics and its unbiblical, forensic-only definition of justification (as N.T. Wright has correctly identified).

  31. Lois W says:

    I read the book eagerly, excited that an author whom I trusted to be Biblical was writing about holiness. What is more Biblical? “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (I Peter 1:16) I had planned to review Holiness on Amazon, but decided not to, because I couldn’t find a way to express my quibbles, and didn’t want to detract from the solid merit and vast importance of this book! But I will attempt it here: it is a matter of tone. Kevin DeYoung is a clear and careful writer, who always has Scripture in view. That is why we all enjoy his blog. Yet I missed, in this book an embedding of this teaching about holiness in the ongoing work of the Spirit, who leads out the “sensibilities of the soul” in Jonathan Edwards’ phrase, who begins to transform our affections. We must strive hard, but in that prayerful, Spirit-dependent (Kevin is very clear here!) striving, something happens, over time. The discipline of opening our Bible every day becomes a hunger to meet our Savior in His Word. A discipline to deny some bodily comfort or desire opens the way for God to make us feel how infinitely more desirable is a clean conscience, and sweet fellowship, with our Father-God and precious Savior. It is effort–mostly, I find, an effort in constant vigilance, in having ears that are open to the Spirit’s promptings, in being quick to obey, and quick to repent when I have disobeyed. The effort is an effort of faith, of the Spirit, not the flesh. To quote John Piper, “Saving faith is sanctifying faith.”

  32. Alan Wilkerson says:

    I haven’t read your book but its on my ‘to do’ list. As far as the critique about being “Reformed”? Well, you are. Tyler’s book is written for the Millennial’s who are a breed apart and just because your book doesn’t intersect their experience/take on life, doesn’t in anyway lessen the import of your book.

    Alan Wilkerson

  33. Susan says:

    Galli wrote a very positive review of De Young’s book, What is the Mission of the Church?, however. No ‘emergent’, McLaren follower would like THAT book.
    Maybe it’s time for everyone to go back and read Leviticus. If there’s one thing established there it is the holiness of God and how seriously he takes sin. That’s what struck me in a big way when I read through it with my child (as we were reading through the Bible together).

    It’s a problem when pastors don’t identify much of anything as sin. If congregants aren’t hearing it and aren’t reading the Bible they are not as exposed to God’s instruments of conviction. After all, many pew sitters don’t even possess God’s indwelling Spirit who convicts of sin. Once convicted about sin we need to be on our knees begging for God’s help to repent and change our ways.

    Here’s the book by Jerry Bridges that brings grace into the equation, so that self effort is not the focus.

  34. Susan says:

    Oops, correction to my post (above). It was Collin Hansen of CT who wrote the good review of DeYoung’s Mission book. Galli did write a good article pointing our the problems with Bell’s book, Love Wins. The article: A Bridge too Far, is far from ‘emergent’…. quite the opposite.

  35. famous says:

    Did you hear the one about the Lutheran pastor who died happy because he did no good works?

  36. Phil says:

    I tend to think all our efforts at achieving holiness amount to nothing but filthy rags and will do absolutely nothing to make us acceptable before almighty God. That said, our crippled efforts at holiness that flow in response to the grace we have freely received through Jesus Christ are surely a pleasing sacrifice of worship.

  37. Mike says:

    I loved Mark’s review.

  38. Scott Leonard says:

    As you study and meditate on passages like Romans 6-8, you find Paul spending a lot of time and words instructing us to do some things. And in light of how he describes his struggles against sin (most magnified, I believe, when he fails to appropriate the moment by moment provision of the Holy Spirit), it seems he is saying we may need to pay a lot of attention to HOW we “put to death the deeds of the flesh.” (Rom. 8:13) In these chapters you find him saying things like, “let not,” “present yourselves,” “present your members….resulting in sanctification.” (Rom. 6:19) he is describing the learned process of walking in the Spirit, and in the Gal. 5 passage, he spends a lot of time describing the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit, and how if you walk by the Spirit’s enabling, you can see victory in the battle of the flesh and the Spirit! Sounds like a lot of careful attention to me, boys and girls!

    The good news is that when we live in Romans eight, we experience the progressive rest Christ intended when he joined himself to us in regeneration.

  39. Rupert, REC says:

    The Hole in DeYoung’s Holiness… most able review. Once again, no understanding of how justification and sanctification relate because there is no understanding of iustitia aliena. Books like De Young’s will always be controversial because legalism is a rejection of Christ’s satisfaction and sufficiency. It should be scandalous to the lover of grace in the person of Christ.

    It is not as much a matter of speaking about holiness, but the order and relationship that must be explicit as it relates to the righteousness of Christ as it relates to sanctity.

  40. Mitchell Hammonds says:

    I honestly have no problem with pursuing “holiness” but the more I try to do it the more I find out exactly how much I fail at it. So I live life at peace, in view of Christ’s forgiveness, and “do” when the opportunity arises… but then again I let many opportunities go without lifting a finger as well. My problem with this subject is many of these books actually portray “holiness” as something achievable by “doing.” Holiness is something God declares us to be and completes in His own time through Word and Sacrament. Not by our doing. Meanwhile, I get to simply live the life He’s given me fully confident that He is working to complete what He began.

  41. Scott Leonard says:

    Mitchell, as I have said elsewhere, my flesh will never get any better until the day I die. But the reason Paul lays out very detailed arguments in Romans 6 through 8 is because there is a means of putting away sin our life. It was accomplished at the cross. Paul says that because our old man died with Christ at the cross and we rose in him, we have the power to say no to send every time it raises its ugly head. This is why Paul commands us in Romans 6:12 not to let sin reign in a mortal body. Understanding Romans allowed me to see awesome victory, consistent victory, in areas that I used to struggle all the time. And I am honestly talking about years victory. At any moment I could trip up and give in to the flesh, but by God’s grace he has taught me how to allow the Spirit to execute the victory won at Calvary. I honestly believe that many many pastors do their people and the Scriptures an injustice I not teaching them clearly what Paul laid out in Romans 6,7 and 8 as the means of victory over sin. How can they miss it when Paul begins chapter 6 by saying “What shall we say then, are we to continue in sin….?” The great news also though, is that as I stumble day after day, God still accepts me and I am still righteous because of Christ. Justified forever!

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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