Book Review: How Does Sanctification Work?

BLOG How does Sanctification Work

In How Does Sanctification Work?, David Powlison examines the topic of sanctification and its practical outworking in the Christian life. Powlison points out that sanctification is described as having past, present, and future tenses in the Christian walk of faith. We know that Christ has accomplished salvation for us and made us acceptable to God at a distinct point in history and we know we will be made perfectly holy when He returns. However, how should we aim to grow in our sanctification as we live out our everyday lives? Powlison argues that sanctification is much less a defined process but involves a combination of five factors: God Himself, His Word, wise counsel of others, circumstances, and our own heart to shape us into a deeper relationship with Him and others around us. Thus, sanctification is not a process that we can actively manage or force but a gradual progression in understanding how God is working in our lives through various means. Another vital point that the author makes is that we often subscribe to one-dimensional, generic responses to those who seek our help in discussing their progress in sanctification. However, Powlison warns that dispensing one-liners carelessly is rarely helpful and may even lead to greater confusion in trying to ascertain how God is moving in our lives. Instead, Powlison argues that when we allow ourselves to be shaped by Scripture and the Spirit, we can be more aware and in-tune with how God is working in our lives and those around us. The author devotes much of the material to examining moments in his own life and those around him to show how God uses ordinary moments to bring about greater spiritual maturity.

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.

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