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How Does Sanctification Work? Paperback – May 31 2017
The process of sanctification is personal and organic--not a one-size-fits-all formula.
Many popular views try to reduce the process of Christian growth to a single template. For example, remember past grace. Rehearse your identity in Christ. Avail yourself of the means of grace. Discipline yourself. But Scripture portrays the dynamics of sanctification in a rich variety of ways. No single factor, truth, or protocol can capture why and how a person is changed into the image of Christ.
Weaving together personal stories, biblical exposition, and theological reflection, David Powlison shows the personal and particular ways that God meets you where you are to produce change. He highlights the variety of factors that work together, helping us to avoid sweeping generalizations and pat answers in the search for a key to sanctification. This book is a go-to resource for understanding the multifaceted, lifelong, personal journey of sanctification.
From the Publisher
David Powlison (1949–2019) was a teacher, a counselor, and the executive director of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation. He received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and was also the senior editor of the Journal of Biblical Counseling. He wrote a number of books, including How Does Sanctification Work?; Making All Things New; and God's Grace in Your Suffering.
About the Author
David Powlison (1949-2019) was a teacher, a counselor, and the executive director of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation. He received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and was also the senior editor of the Journal of Biblical Counseling. He wrote a number of books, including How Does Sanctification Work?; Making All Things New; and God's Grace in Your Suffering.
- Publisher : Crossway (May 31 2017)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 128 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1433556103
- ISBN-13 : 978-1433556104
- Item weight : 143 g
- Dimensions : 13.34 x 0.81 x 20.32 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: #500,190 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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I would gladly recommend this book to Christians who have become discouraged in their pursuit of sanctification. We often try to grow in our holiness by committing to a list of spiritual disciplines or focusing on a bunch of scriptural truths to fuel our efforts. Powlison does not discount the need for fostering godly habits and cleaving to God’s Word but he suggests that sanctification is a complex process in which we are growing towards greater childlike love for God and generous love for others. To do so, we need to be thoroughly familiar with the Bible and how to appropriately apply biblical truths to our current circumstances. Furthermore, when we are looking to counsel a fellow believer, we need to learn the art of dispensing wise advice customized to the specific individual’s situation instead of haphazardly giving out advice without careful thought.
In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a review copy of this book from Crossway.
However, there are certain themes that are common to every person’s experience of being shaped and taught by God, and here is where Powlison shines. At every step in the book, he uses scripture, and then stories, to teach and illustrate how God is at work. The strength of the book for this reader lies in these two things: the biblical threads that Christians share in common, and the use of narrative to guide the reader’s awareness of these shared elements.
Powlison has tackled a subject that is often misunderstood, oversimplified, or distorted in our day and has presented a profound and liberating treatment of progressive sanctification. This book is straightforward, understandable, and very helpful and encouraging for new or mature Christians.
This book definitely belongs in every Christian’s hands.
Thank you to Crossway for providing a complimentary copy of this book through the Blog Review Program.
Top reviews from other countries
That being said, the first eight chapters contain some excellent material that I will be incorporating not only into my own life, but into my toolbox of material to use in helping others. The best material for me was in:
> Ch. 6, "What Changes You?" - He has a simple, practical grid of the basic "Five Factors of Sanctification."
- Foundationally, God changes you.
- Secondly, The Word of Truth changes you.
- Third, Wise People change you.
- Fourth, Suffering and Struggling changes you.
- Finally, You change.
"Constructive change occurs through the interplay of these five factors: God, Scripture, other People, Life Circumstances, and the Human Heart."
"Foolishness either overcomplicates or oversimplifies."
> Ch. 2, "Is there One Key to Sanctification?" This is his great critique of the idea that there's a master-key to the Christian life, some fool-proof, secret principle that changes everything for everyone. We tend to think that the thing that revolutionizes everything for me, must be "the key" for everyone. But we're too complex and the Word and life is too diverse for there to be one master key solution. "Theological fads and fashions come and go" - but part of the counsel of God was never intended to give us the benefits of "the whole counsel of God." New days come and new challenges arise, and we have to keep on pressing on. Our variety of needs and the varieties of helps necessarily defy "reductionism." There is no single key.
"Progressive sanctification is about how we live in between God's laying the cornerstone and setting the capstone."
> Ch. 3, "Truth Unbalanced and Rebalancing" - If I might reword David's principle, slightly, In ministry, we over-emphasize one aspect of truth for the sake of application. In David's words, "Ministry unbalances truth for the sake of relevance; theology rebalances truth for the sake of comprehensiveness." We can only say one thing at a time and a person, practically, can only work on one thing at a time. So we make much of a single thing, and then always try to bring it back into alignment with the whole of life and the whole counsel of God.
"You do not build a house with only one tool in your toolbox when God gives you a truckload of tools. But you use your tools one at a time, the right tool for the right job."
"In the long run, a single truth harped on will disappoint even its devotees."
> 5. "We Are Sanctified By Remembering Our Justification." Throughout the book, David Powlison has been coming back to the concrete, recent example of a sanctification key, advocated by many: Remember the past grace of justification; Repreach the gospel to yourself every day; Realize that you are accepted by God because of the merits of Christ, not your own. In this chapter he highlights that this is certainly one of the tools in our toolbox - sometimes this is the very thing we need for progress in sanctification. But it is but one part of a larger whole. A greater point to always have in mind is that God is for us: He was, is, still is, and always will be for us. Don't just look to past grace, but also to present grace and future grace, as well as many other useful motivations.
David's personal testimonies in chapters 7 and 8 are rich. He weaves in the interplay of the five agents of change. Very good.
"There is a reason that 'Don't be afraid" (in all its variants) is the most common command in all of Scripture."
There is also a beautiful section in the last chapter describing the contrast between the peace of the believer exemplified in a text like Psalm 23, and the "anti-psalm" emptiness of the unbeliever whose life ends at the end of the valley of the shadow of death.
Very good, but a bit disappointing to me. Powlison is true physician of the soul. When he speaks I want to listen.
I would recommend Kevin DeYoung's, "The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness" as an additional and very satisfying book on this subject.
How are you relating right now to Jesus? Did you see the “you” and the “right now?” We’re all different and in different places in our lives, also in the ways we turn to Jesus and trust him. The gospel of Jesus is rich and varied, with so many facets meeting us in our so multiple needs.
We have been thinking about our “union with Christ.” Not so long ago we were sure that such an amazing and beautiful reality must be way off in the future, at the end of the chain of our “way of salvation,” the ordo salutis. When we go to heaven without any remaining sin, then we’ll see how all Jesus has done for us comes together, that was how we used to think. Then John Murray and others began to show us how union isn’t at the far end but at the very beginning of new life in Jesus. That means that our forgiveness/justification and our godly growth/sanctification belong together, both gifts from the Jesus to whom we belong.
For people who know our theological history that could be alarming though. Wasn’t that what the Reformation 500 years ago was all about? Before, people thought that the main thing was to do the best you can, and then it could be maybe that God would answer that with forgiveness and blessing. But how can you tell when you’re doing enough? The more spiritually alert you were, the less sure. Then came Martin Luther and that breakthrough insight: yes the Lord is holy and you aren’t, but Jesus is! It’s his righteousness that he gives you, and now you can be confident that God is on your side, that when things go wrong it isn’t because he’s mad at you, but probably he’s giving you some kind of “fatherly chastisement.”
Isn’t that wonderful, that firm foundation of the Lord’s unfailing love for you! Being totally sure that what we so desperately need right now is right there in the gospel. Isn’t that all we’ll ever need? In some ways it is, but aren’t we still supposed to grow in our godliness? We’re called to love the Lord with all our hearts and our neighbors as ourselves—now that’s not easy, is it? Luther gave us a real start, but we have to add that now we give our hearts to respond to our Lord’s love with whole-hearted life-changing obedience, right? Lutherans tend to want to stick with #1, forgiveness, and we Reformed want the bigger package. But to do that means work, putting together the loving presence of your Jesus and doing those hard things in your life.
That’s the history, but where are we right now? Way back when I became a believer, it was about “what if you were to die tonight?” That is, in the next six hours how much change can you pull off? Not much, so dying tonight was totally about forgiveness. Back then there was also a lot of teaching about the end of the world and the suffering that would happen then. Most believed Jesus would take us out of that before it got too bad. Interesting, but what if we haven’t arrived yet at the end? So our combo of “tonight” and “sometime way off,” wasn’t much for “what if I have to get up tomorrow morning,” which so far is what life is about.
Sure, people became believers, and were decent afterwards. But did the Jesus gospel really have much to do with their lives? Even if they did their thing and read the Bible every day? Friend Rosemarie tells the world that I have “an eclectic fashion statement.” I really like my bright pink shirt and also my Navaho green bola—so I wear them together. If each is great, then together they have to be stunning, right? Well, they do leave people stunned, eclectically.
So here’s a remarkable Biblical doctrine, say justification, and here’s someone struggling with loneliness. Justification has to be the answer, right? Both are important, so don’t they have to fit? Bone up on justification and watch what happens: not much. Loneliness is a lot about not having a clue about relating to people, how does you forgiveness fit that? Eclectic?
John Leonard’s Get Real helps. When you’re getting to know a not-yet-believer, what do you talk about? Here’s John’s profound answer: it depends! It depends on what’s so hard for him, you learn that by Listening! Then you bring a piece of the gospel to him, one of the “many facets of the gospel!” That is, something out of your own hard life and how the Lord has been blessing you through it, from some part of what Jesus has done for you. I don’t believe John tells us how many facets there are, he’s still collecting them.
John is mostly about not-yets. Now comes David Powlison’s How Does Sanctification Work? He’s about “you, yourself and I.” What’s so hard for you right now? Where is that piece of the Bible that helps you understand and go on to live? Look hard for it, don’t be satisfied with eclectic. That’s going to take prayer and trust in Jesus. Jack Miller taught us to have prayer answered right away: Lord, show me my sin. Now add a David one: show me where I am and how Jesus is there for me. Justification may not be it, don’t look for a cure-all, see how the Lord came in the Bible to people with different lives and gave them exactly what they needed. Talk to other believers too.
I’m glad that biblical counseling came along, people and Bible together, Jay! I’m glad that urban ministry also arrived, now we can learn how to think like a missionary by going only a few miles: see how people different from you are blessed through the gospel in ways you never knew; Harvie! Manny! (Underneath all that comes from seeing the culture under the Bible, how it meets people in that mindset or mess or foolishness. Thank you Meredith Kline, Ray Dillard, Dan McCartney and Doug Green).
Can we count on preachers to model that for us: they know where their people are, don’t they? They can’t preach to fit all those needs at once, but wouldn’t it work to show the basic How? We all can do better with giving them feedback, right? Those liberals just about invented Eclectic, they could see some need and make up a story about it, not bothering with the Bible. We have to watch that we’re not doing Eclectic the other way around though, doing the Bible right and mumbling about how it works. That’s why the Lord has raised up those questioning millennials for us, making clear that what we’re doing so far isn’t much help.
As usual I’m better at spotting the problem than giving the answer. But at least I can give you the beginning: read David’s book!