The pursuit of holiness is even more dangerous than you think.
And, pursued biblically, it is unspeakably more rewarding than you imagine. This is the message at the heart of The Disciple of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness, a follow-up and complement to his The Pursuit of Holiness (see yesterday’s post).
This is quite possibly the finest, most well-written, clearly articulated, enjoyable and accessible book on sanctification and its pursuit that I have ever read. By accessible, I mean that it is a book I think I could give to just about anyone, from the newest convert to the mature saint, and they would be able to understand it—and not only understand, but richly benefit from it.
Future Grace, by John Piper, used to be my primary go-to book for working with people on sanctification, but this has now surpassed it, in my opinion. The chief strength of this book is its repeated emphasis on the gospel as the foundation for all progress in Christian discipleship and maturity, rather than viewing the gospel simply as the entry point into discipleship. It is thoroughly biblical, pastorally written, easily applicable, and enormously practical without being flimsy and parochial.
Some important excepts:
“We must not put the gospel on the shelf once a person becomes a new believer. He or she will have just as difficult a time believing that God relates to us every day on the basis of grace as a person has believing that God saves by grace instead of works. So we must not only preach the gospel to ourselves every day, we must continue to teach it and preach it to those whom we may be discipling in some way… . Discipleship must be based on God’s grace” (82).
“The gospel, applied to our hearts every day, frees us to be brutally honest with ourselves and with God. The assurance of His total forgiveness of our sins through the blood of Christ means we don’t have to play defensive games anymore” (23).
“God is not impressed with our worship on Sunday morning at church if we are practicing ‘cruise-control’ obedience the rest of the week. You may sing with reverent zeal or great emotional fervor, but your worship is only as pleasing to God as the obedience that accompanies it” (120).
“This standing in Christ’s righteousness [through imputation and justification] is never affected to any degree by our good-day or bad-day performance. Unless we learn to live daily by faith in (that is, by reliance on) His righteousness, however, our perception of our standing before God will vary depending on our good or bad performance” (50).
If it is any indication, the way I mark the matters of highest importance—things I absolutely need to remember—in the books I read is by dog-earing the pages (after highlighting, underlining, etc.). Typically, in a book of this length (242 pp.), I would probably dog-ear 3 or 4 pages.
I dog-eared 16 pages in The Discipline of Grace. I absolutely loved this book.