Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sully Notes 15 | The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness Part 1 of 3

Emmaus City Sully Notes 15 Part 1 of 3 Holiness Worcester MA Acts 29 Soma Christian Reformed Church Faith Repentance Christlikeness

Sully Notes 15: Books in 25 minutes or less

Sully Notes are more than a book review. They are meant to provide you with direct quotes from some books I've read in the last year, so you can get a taste of the overall theme of the book and then begin to chew on what your life might look like if you applied what you read. 

Here are links to the previous Sully Notes books:

3DM Missional Community Trilogy Sully Notes
Special Sully Notes

Emmaus City Church Sully Notes 15 Part 1 Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 Christian Reformed Church Holiness Faith Repentance GraceAfter including Tim Chester's You Can Change: God's Transforming Power for Our Sinful Behavior and Negative Emotions as the previous Sully Notes, I felt like Kevin DeYoung's The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness was a solid complement. Both books focus on who God has created us to be, and how He has given us His Word and His Holy Spirit to equip and empower us to become more like Jesus. DeYoung recognizes that while the Gospel is good news that God saves us through the life and work of Jesus, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit so that we will be witnesses and image-bearers of Him in word and deed. He doesn't leave us to be who we can be on our own strength. He calls us to much more in trusting God to be holy just as Jesus did by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Hole in Our Holiness | Sully Notes 15: Part 1 of 3 


Chapter One | Mind the Gap 

"Any gospel which says only what you must do and never announces what Christ has done is no gospel at all. ... (but we need) to take seriously one of the great aims of our redemption and one of the required evidences for eternal life our holiness. J.C. Ryle, a nineteenth-century Bishop of Liverpool, was right: 'We must be holy, because this is one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world. ... Jesus is a complete Savior. He does not merely take away the guilt of a believer's sin, he does more – he breaks its power (1 Peter 1:2; Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:9; Hebrews 12:10).' ... (When) we rightly celebrate, and in some quarters rediscover, all that Christ has saved us from, are we giving thought and making effort concerning all that Christ has saved us to?" – pgs.10-11

"In Revelation 21 we get a stunning glimpse of the new heaven and new earth ... The new Jerusalem is glorious it shines with the radiance of God's presence. The new Jerusalem is safe – there is no more suffering, no more chaotic sea, and no more closed gates (because there are no more enemies). And ... the new Jerusalem is holy not only has the bride been purified but the dimensions of the city suggest that heaven is a reconstituting of the Holy of Holies. In some popular conceptions of the afterlife, God's love gets reduced to unconditional affirmation. But ... God's love is always a holy love and his heaven is an entirely holy place. Heaven is for those who conquer, for those who overcome the temptation to abandon Jesus Christ and compromise their faith (Revelation 21:7; see also Revelation 2-3)." – pgs. 13-14

"'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you' (Matthew 28:19-20a). The word 'observe' means more than 'take notice of.' It means 'obey.' ... We are teaching the nations to follow his commands. The Great Commission is about holiness. God wants the world to know Jesus, believe in Jesus, and obey Jesus. We don't take the Great Commission seriously if we don't help each other grow in obedience. And yet, how many of us usually think of holiness when we think of mission work? How easy is it to be content with leading people to make decisions for Christ instead of focusing on making disciples of Christ." – pgs. 15-16

"We (can be) scared of words like diligence, effort, and duty. ... (Do we) know how to preach the good news and still strongly exhort to clean ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit (2 Corinthians 7:1)? We know legalism (salvation by law keeping) and antinomianism (salvation without the need for law keeping) are both wrong, but antinomianism feels like a much safer danger. Then there's the reality that holiness is plain hard work, and we're often lazy. We like our sins, and dying to them is painful. Almost everything is easier than growing in godliness. So we try and fail, try and fail, and then give up. It's easier to sign a petition protesting man's inhumanity to man than to love your neighbor as yourself. It's one thing to graduate from college ready to change the world. It's another to be resolute in praying that God would change you." – pg. 19

"There's no need to tear down what is good and true just because something else good and true may be missing. Jesus commended the churches in Revelation where they were faithful and then challenged them where they were in spiritual danger. ... (But) we don't have to pretend everything else is wrong to recognize we don't have everything right. There (can be) a gap between our love for the gospel and our love for godliness." – pg. 21 

Chapter Two | The Reason for Redemption

"Maybe you've thought about how God saves us, or what we must do to be saved, or when you were saved. But have you ever considered why he saved you? There is more than one right answer to that question. This Bible says God saved us because he loves us (John 3:16). It also tells us that God saved us for the praise of his own name (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14). Those are two of the best answers to the why question. But there is another answer just as good, just as biblical, just as important. God saved you so that you might be holy. Pay attention to the purpose statement in this passage from Ephesians: 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him ... that we should be holy and blameless before him (Ephesians 1:3-4). God chose us for salvation in eternity past and sent Christ to save us in history and gave us the gift of faith by the working of the Holy Spirit in our lifetimes so that we might be holy. ... As J.I. Packer put it, 'In reality, holiness is the goal of our redemption. As Christ died in order that we may be justified, so we are justified in order that we may be sanctified and made holy.'" – pgs. 23-24

"Distinctive holiness has been God's plan for his people in both Testaments: 'You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:4-6a).' Do you see again the reason for divine deliverance? God saved the Israelites unto holiness. God set them free from slavery to the Egyptians so they might be free to walk in his ways. They were to be a nation of people set apart, so sanctified, so holy that they might as well have been priests – every last one of them. Every Christian in every church ought to live out this same priestly identity (1 Peter 2:9). It's the reason God has rescued us: 

  • 'Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began' (2 Timothy 1:8-9). 
  • 'For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness' (1 Thessalonians 4:7). 
  • ' ... Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish' (Ephesians 5:25-27).  
  • According to Jesus, 'Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven' (Matthew 7:21). It's possible to profess the right things and still not be saved. Only those who do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom. And this means hearing Jesus' words and doing them' (Matthew 7:26). 
  • Many passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 teach that 'the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.' We find this same emphasis in Galatians 5:19-21. It's the consistent and frequent teaching of the Bible that those whose lives are marked by habitual ungodliness will not go to heaven. To find acquittal from God on the last day there must be evidence flowing out of us that grace has flowed into us. 
  • In particular, 1 John outlines several criteria for determining whether we truly belong to God. Not only will those born of God confess the Son (1 John 2:23; 4:15) and believe that Jesus is the Christ (5:1), they will also keep God's commandments (2:3-4), walk as Christ walked (2:5-6), practice righteousness (2:29), and overcome the world (5:4). 
  • Paul wants us to see that faith is the instrumental means for being right with God. Nothing contributes to our salvation. The only ground is the righteousness of Christ. James, on the other hand, wants us to see that evidences of godliness must accompany true faith. We are justified by faith alone, but the faith that justified us is never alone. Paul is describing true and living faith; James is arguing against a false faith which consists in nothing but spiritually dead intellectual assent (vv. 17, 19, 20, 26).
  • ... in Hebrews we see that holiness – what some theologians call 'definitive sanctification' – is a gift we receive through the gospel (10:10, 14). But Hebrews 12 is about the practical outworking of this positional holiness. The holiness of Hebrews 12:14 is not a holiness we receive but a holiness we 'strive' for. This makes sense given the context of discipline in the first half of chapter 12. The Hebrews were professing Christians suffering for their Christianity and in danger of making a shipwreck of their faith (10:39). So God the Father disciplined them, so that they might be trained by it into righteousness (12:11). God was intent on making his children holy, because holiness must mark out all those who would have fellowship with a holy God." pgs. 25-27 

"The faith that joins you in Christ and makes you right with God is a faith that works itself out in love (Galatians 5:6). On the last day, God will not acquit us because our good works were good enough, but he will look for evidence that our good confession was not phony. It's in this sense that we must be holy. ...  (Belgic Confession 1561) 'it is impossible for this holy faith to be unfruitful in a human being, seeing that we do not speak of an empty faith but what Scripture calls 'faith working through love.'" pg. 29 

Chapter Three | Piety's Pattern

"The word 'holy' occurs more than 600 times in the Bible, more than 700 when you include derivative words like holiness, sanctify, and sanctification. You can't make sense of the Bible without understanding that God is holy and that this holy God is intent on making a holy people to live with him forever in a holy heaven. ... We are called to be holy because God is holy (Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 1 Peter 1:15-16). Our holy God sets us apart to live in a way that reflects, however imperfectly, his holiness." pgs. 31-32

"In Acts 20:32 and 26:18 the 'sanctified' ones appears to be a synonym for true Christians. Elsewhere, the 'saints' are those who have been 'sanctified in Christ Jesus' (1 Corinthians 1:2). So Paul can equate being sanctified with being washed and being justified (6:11). When we are joined to Christ by faith, he becomes to us our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1:30). In this way of thinking, every Christian is sanctified. We are already set apart, no longer common or profane. Some theologians call this gift of holiness through union with Christ our 'definitive sanctification.' But this definitive sanctification does not eliminate the need for continuing 'progressive sanctification.' In Christ every believer has a once-for-all positional holiness, and from this new identity every Christ is commanded to grow in the ongoing-for-your-whole-life process of holiness (Philippians 2:12-13). As David Peterson puts it, 'Believers are definitively consecrated to God in order to live dedicated and holy lives, to his glory.' In other words, sanctified is what we are and what we must become." pgs. 32-33

"We like getting lists. Some of us like getting beat up and then being told exactly what needs to be done to become a true spiritual giant. This sort of exhortation seems promising at first, but it proves ineffective in the long run. Mere rule keeping is not the answer because holiness cannot be reduced to a little ethical refurbishment." pg. 34

"True spirituality means being transformed by the Spirit through communion with the Father and the Son. If you are interested in spirituality, your priority should be to grow in the holiness that comes from the Spirit. Righteousness is the goal of Christian discipleship. ... To be saved by the Spirit's converting grace, sealed by the Spirit's absolute guarantee, and sanctified by the Spirit's indwelling power – that's what it means to be spiritual." pgs. 35-36

"The world stands for everything that opposes the will of God. In its simplest form, this means 'the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions (1 John 2:16, The Message). Or to put it another way, worldliness is whatever makes sin look normal and righteousness look strange. ... holiness comes with a cost. Sure, you can focus on the virtues the world likes. But if you pursue true religion that cares for orphans and promotes purity (James 1:27), you'll lose some of the friends you were so desperate to make. Become a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, requires you to resist the world which wants to press you into its mold (Romans 12:1-2)." pgs. 37-38

"Adam and Eve were created in God's image, after his likeness (Genesis 1:26). But in Adam's sin, the human race was given over to corruption (Romans 5:12-21). We are still image-bearers (Genesis 9:6; James 3:9), but the image has been distorted (Genesis 6:5, Ecclesiastes 7:29). The goal of sanctification is the renewal of this image. The holy person is being renewed in knowledge after the image of the Creator (Colossians 3:10), which means growing in righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:24). This does not happen all at once, but rather, we are transformed into the image of God from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18). God is holy, most basically being holy means being like God. 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." pgs. 38-39

" ... the conscience is not infallible. We can have an evil conscience that doesn't turn away from sin (Hebrews 10:22). We can have a seared conscience that no longer feels bad for evil (1 Timothy 4:2). We can have a weak conscience that feels bad for things that aren't really bad (1 Corinthians 8:7-12). And we can have a defiled conscience that loses its ability to discern right from wrong (Titus 1:15). The conscience is no substitute for the Bible and must never be in opposition to it. But a good conscience is a gift from God. As we pursue holiness we must always be mindful of God's voice speaking to us through a tender conscience informed by the Word of God. It will lead us not into temptation and will deliver us from evil." pgs. 41-42

"From top to bottom the Bible is full of commands. They aren't meant to stifle a relationship with God, but to protect it, seal it, and define it. Never forget: first God delivered the Israelites from Egypt, then he gave them the law. God's people were not redeemed by observing the law, but they were redeemed so they might obey the law. 'By this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments' (1 John 2:3). 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 (1 John 2:4). If we love Jesus, we'll obey his Word (John 14:23)." pg. 45

" ... historically the church has put the Ten Commandments at the center of its instruction for God's people, especially for children and new believers. For centuries discipleship instruction (catechesis) has been based on three things: The Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. If you wanted the basics of the Christian faith, you learned these three things." pg. 45

"If holiness looks like the restoration of the image of God in us, then it shouldn't be surprising that holiness also looks like Christlikeness, for Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) and the exact imprint of his nature (Hebrews 1:3). The whole goal of our salvation is that we should be conformed to the image of God's Son (Romans 8:29). We see in Jesus the best, most practical, most human example of what it means to be holy. He is our model for love (John 13:34), our model for humility (Philippians 2:5-8), our model for facing temptation (Hebrews 4:15), our model for steadfastness in the midst of suffering (1 Peter 4:1-2), and our model for obedience to the Father (John 6:38; 14:31). We see all the virtues of holiness perfectly aligned in Christ. He was always gentle, but never soft. He was bold, but never brash. He was pure, but never prudish. He was full of mercy but not at the expense of justice. He was full of truth but not at the expense of grace. In everything he was submissive to his heavenly Father, and he gave everything for his sheep. He obeyed his parents, kept the law of God, and forgave his enemies. He never lusted, never coveted, and never lied. In all that Jesus Christ did, during his whole life and especially as his life came to an end, he loved God with his whole being and loved his neighbor as himself." pgs. 46-47

Next post: Sully Notes 15 | The Hole in Our Holiness Part 2 of 3

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