Today for Leadership Journal, I had the privilege of interviewing one of my favorite pastors and authors, Kevin DeYoung of University Reformed Church in Lansing, Michigan. If you haven’t read DeYoung’s books, Just Do Something, Why We Love the Church, and Hole in Our Holiness, well then you need to read them. You should also follow his blog, where he posts excellent, balanced content on the life of the Church.
One of the questions I asked Kevin was related to the tension between grace and the pursuit of holiness:
There is a tension in the New Testament. On the one hand we are told, over and over again, that sanctification is all of grace. And yet there are a lot of active verbs which urge Christians to strive and toil and work in pursuit of holiness. How do pastors balance this in their preaching?
In one sense, no balance is necessary. We can’t work too hard and we can’t emphasize grace too much. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:10 are instructive: “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” Pastors need to boldly preach all the indicatives of the New Testament. We are dead to sin, raised with Christ, heirs with Christ, seated with Christ, in union with Christ. And we must also boldly preach all the imperatives of the New Testament. The basic ethic in the New Testament is “be who you are.” First we know who we are positionally in Christ, and then we are told to progressively grow into that reality. The entire event—definitive sanctification and progressive sanctification—is from God’s grace. But this doesn’t nullify making every effort in the pursuit of holiness (2 Peter 1:5; Hebrews 12:14).