Let's Read: The Hole in our Holiness — The What and Why of Holiness

Monday, 22nd February 2021
Image: lets-read-the-hole-in-our-holiness-the-what-and-why-of-holiness

The What and Why of Holiness

By Davy Ellison

One Christmas morning I lifted a present that confused me—it was small, but heavy, hard and cold. I deduced it was metal and thought it might have been a pocket tool. When I unwrapped it I quickly realised it was a book stamper. However, I could not figure out how to put it together. I spent ages trying to connect only two pieces. All of this drama was due to the lack of instructions. If there had simply been a piece of paper explaining what it was, with a diagram of how to put it together, it would have been a lot simpler.

When it comes to living the Christian life, God has not made the same mistake. Rather, we have been granted all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). God has not left us to figure out the Christian life alone—he has given us instructions. God has granted us his word, which reveals who he is, what he has done and who we are to be in light of it all. As we noted last time, the reason for our redemption is our holiness. Kevin DeYoung explains, “You can’t make sense of the Bible without understanding that God is a holy God and that this holy God is intent on making a holy people to live with him forever in a holy heaven” (p. 31). As a consequence, he goes on to argue, “So whatever the Bible teaches, we should believe. And whatever it commands—by precept, example, story, or song—we should do” (p. 52).

What is Holiness?

As we seek to explore what holiness actually is it might be helpful to very briefly identify some things that it is not. DeYoung highlights five (p. 33–38), but here are the two that struck me: 

  • True holiness does not equate with mere rule keeping, it does not consist of simply doing the “dos” and avoiding the “don’ts”.
  • True holiness is not a generic spirituality. True holiness is not the same as “being spiritual”. True holiness is not a state of mind or religious vocabulary.

The blogger Tim Challies shares a fascinating story about how the Bank of Canada, in their battle against counterfeit currency, actually make their experts spend their time studying legal tender. By studying the real thing you learn to identify the fake thing. So, perhaps the best way to figure out what true holiness looks like is to explore, learn and study what true holiness is. Again, DeYoung mentions five but two are particularly noteworthy:

  • True holiness is the renewal of God’s image. Genesis teaches us that humanity has been made in the image of God, but with Adam and Eve’s first sin the image was marred. It was not completely removed, but rather distorted. It is only God who is truly holy—“This is why it’s so critical that Christians know the character and work of the one they worship. If you want to know what holiness looks like, look at God” (p. 39). In Colossians 1:15 we are told that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. In Romans 8:29, Paul explains that Christians are being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. As DeYoung summarises, “The whole goal of our salvation is that we should be conformed to the image of God’s Son” (p. 47). Since Jesus is the image of God, our being conformed to his image is not just a growth in holiness but a renewal of God’s image.
  • True holiness is obedience. This is something of a dirty word in some Christian circles—obedience is to be distained, for we live in freedom by grace! But DeYoung offers an appropriate warning at this point: “We can talk all day long about our love for God, but if we do not keep his commandments we are liars and the truth is not in us” (p. 45).

Holiness is not a list of “dos” and “don’ts”, or copying others, or even being known as super-spiritual. True holiness is having the image of God renewed in us as we are conformed into the image of Jesus. True holiness is having a clean conscience concerning our behaviour, thoughts and attitudes. Holiness is obedience to God’s Word.

Pause for Reflection

Where do you think the church (in years gone by and today) have gone wrong in explaining what holiness is?

Why Bother with Holiness?

I think DeYoung has hit the nail on the head when he suggests that “One of the reasons why I think Christians get tired of hearing about the law is because they never hear why they should obey the law” (p. 56). We must then tackle the question of “why?”

Surely one of the main motivations for holiness should be the fact that God sees everything! At the end of Ecclesiastes, the Preacher concludes that all mankind can do is fear God and keep his commands, for God will eventually bring every deed into judgement (Eccl. 12:13–14). This truth is reiterated in Hebrews 4:13: “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Nothing is hidden from God’s sight. God sees all that is done—surely that should motivate us to live in a way that honours and glorifies him.

Another motivation should be our love for Jesus Christ. Jesus is unashamed in calling his disciples to keep his commandments for love of him. In John 14:15, Jesus says “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” We will do all manner of things for those people whom we love, Jesus rightly asks for the same kind of devotion.

Another motivation is also found in John’s Gospel: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:10–11). Fullness of joy—do you want a life full of joy? Do you want to live life the way it was supposed to be lived? Are you keen to do all you can to experience the joy you desire? Then, says Jesus, live a holy life.

DeYoung concludes: “God doesn’t command obedience ‘just cuz’. He gives us dozens of specific reasons to be holy. God can prescribe many different medicines for motivation . . . You could probably find a hundred biblical reasons to be holy” (p. 60–61).

Pause for Reflection

Is it better to offer positive or negative motivations to holiness? Why, or why not?

What motivations would you offer for the following sins: greedy with money, gossip, pride?

    Blog Archive

Let’s Read: Spurgeon the Pastor: Recovering a Biblical and Theological Vision for Ministry Let's Talk: Surviving Ministry Staff & Students Favourite Books of 2022 Let's Read: Spurgeon the Pastor: The Church Gathered BYE Teams Hugh D. Brown Lectures How I spent my sabbatical Let’s Read Spurgeon the Pastor: The Church Identified 1st Year Reflections from Andrew and Debbie Second Year Placement (Josh and Glenn) Final Year Reflection: Chris Banks Let’s Read Spurgeon the Pastor: The Church Functioning New Library Books (April 2023) Easter Reflection 2023 Irish Baptist Historical Society Lecture Report on the Life of Hugh Orr Let's Read: Spurgeon the Pastor: The Church Multiplying Friends of the College May 2023 Let's Read: Reflections on Spurgeon the Pastor by Geoff Chang Student Reflections on Graduation 2023 Where will our students will be serving this summer? Pray Without Ceasing: A Week of Summer Prayer 2023 Reflections on returning to Peru Recognition Service Report 2023 Commencement Service Report 2023 Cross Cultural Report in Ireland Cross Cultural Reports 2023 2 Short Book Reviews Let's Read: Keeping Your Children's Ministry On Mission: Practical Strategies For Discipling The Next Generation by Jared Kennedy Let's Read: When Children Become Brothers And Sisters What's in a name? Evangelism Teams 2023: Coleraine and Keady Evangelism Teams 2023: Castlederg and Tobermore Let's Read: Welcoming and Safeguarding Book Review: Weakness Our Strength A Strange Man from Another World
Let’s Read: The Path to Being a Pastor: A Guide for the Aspiring Graduate Updates Tribute How to Avoid Becoming a Graceless Theological Thug Let's Read: The Path to Being a Pastor Hugh D. Brown Lectures—Understanding and Applying Zephaniah Book Review: Children of Abraham: A Reformed Baptist View of the Covenants by David Kingdon Graduate Updates: Laetitia Let's Read: The Path to Being a Pastor (chapters 5-12) New Books in the Library Friends of the College—March 2022 Graduate Updates: Andrew Let's Read: The Path To Being A Pastor (chapters 13-23) Deacons The Risen Christ Changes Everything Why Four Gospels? Let's Read: The Path to Being a Pastor (Chapters 24–27) The College Graduation MA Missions Module Reflection Student Reflections (first and second year) Book Review: The Crucible of Leadership Let’s Read: Why Should We Love the Local Church? (Introduction) Let’s Read: Why Should We Love the Local Church? (Introduction) Friends of the College: September 2022 Let’s Read: Why Should We Love the Local Church—You’re Beautiful Commencement Report Cross Cultural Placements 1 Cross Cultural Placements 2 Cross Cultural Placements 3 Let’s Read: Why Should We Love the Local Church—Beauty Demonstrated 1st Year Reflection (Ana Rut) Evangelism Teams 2022 (Armagh and Cavan) Evangelism Team 2022 (Ballycrochan & Comber) Let's Read: Living Beautifully Let's Read: Why Should We Love The Local Church “Always winter and never Christmas” Three Kings
Let’s Read Irish Baptist College Conference (Online) From Intern to Undergraduate (Emily Middleton) Let's Read: The Hole in our Holiness — The Reason for Redemption Baptists and Revival in the Long 18th Century Second Year Placements From Intern to Undergraduate (Josh Brown) Let's Read: The Hole in our Holiness — The What and Why of Holiness Final Year During A Pandemic 2nd Year Placement Experience Friends of the College 2021 Update The Art of Reading More Books Let's Read: The Hole in our Holiness — The Real Possibility of Holiness A Basic Easter Fact The Servant King Podcast Let's Read: The Hole in our Holiness — You Are Holy Third Year Reflection Gospel Guardians: Protecting the Purity of the Gospel for Future Generations Graduation 2021 Book Review: Succeeding at Seminary Let's Read: The Hole in Our Holiness — A Work in Progress Why the Irish Baptist College is Vital to the Health of the Association A Good News Story: The Ministry Partnership Scheme Why Study the Biblical Languages? Profit in Toil: A Short Message on A Level Results Day Let's Read: Small Preaching Recognition Service Report 2021 Sin Forgiven: Nourishment for Life and Joy for Living Let’s Read: Small Preaching—The Character of the Preacher Commencement Service Report Placement God Rejoices over His People: A Meditation on Zephaniah 3:17 Let’s Read: Small Preaching—Constructing the Sermon Evangelism Teams: Newcastle and Brannockstown Evangelism Teams: Stonepark and North Belfast Christian Fellowship First Year Reflections (Reuben and Andrew) Some New Books Let’s Read: Small Preaching—The Craft of Preaching Let's Read: Small Preaching—What is God Saying? A Christmas Reflection on John 1 - ‘The coming of the light’ Christmas Reflection on John 1 - ‘Life, Light & Glory’
Time to read Genesis...again Friends of the College - January 2020 Friends of the College - January 2020 Finances Tribute to Marion Craig The Resilient Pastor: Surviving & Thriving in Ministry Just a Blow-in? What is new on the shelves at IBC? Friends of the College - February 2020 Four Reasons to Study Theology Academically From Spain to Moira Testimonial Financial Update Friends of the College – March 2020 Irish Baptist Historical Society: The Mayflower Thomas Patient: the Father of the Irish Baptist Church Testimonials The Pastors’ Conference: An Encouraging Privilege Testimonials (part-time studies) In the worst of times: COVID-19 and the Book of Ruth Friends of the College - April 2020 The Long Wait: Victory Delayed Testimonials - Preparation for Ministry and Evening Classes The Leadership Podcast Testimonials - Ladies Study Fellowship The Leadership Podcast (part 2) Friends of the College - May 2020 Reflections from the Student Chairman Why do we teach the Old Testament? Reflections on first year at IBC Friends of the College - June 2020 Why do we teach Romans? IBC Placement Is Church History a Thing of the Past? Friends of the College - July 2020 Friends of the College – August 2020 Friends of the College September 2020 Recognition and Graduation Service Introducing the Irish Baptist College’s New Logo Commencement Service Friends of the College - October 2020 Filled with the Spirit: Soundings in Luke’s Theology of the Holy Spirit The Famous Five: The Abiding Relevance of the Solas of the Reformation Friends of the College - November 2020 The Importance of Theological Training in Fulfilling the Great Commission First Year Reflections — Tim Houston Singing: The Place of Theology in Corporate Worship New Library Books Friends of the College – Unite to Pray – December Christmas Reflections
Agree and Close notice.

By continuing on our website you agree with our Privacy Policy and to the use of cookies by third party plugins. Find out more here