How Does Sanctification Work? ~ A Book Review

Romans 8:28-30 is a profound passage that when rightly considered can create a godly outlook upon life because it shows God’s roles and purposes. More than merely being comfortable in life circumstances, these verses allow us to find confidence in the Lord and contentment in His ongoing work of sanctification in whatever circumstances surround our lives. The concept of sanctification in the Christian life is continually reaffirmed in Scripture but is often suppressed in the outcomes of our lives. Involving some of the grandest of theology and the most intimate of our life details, the process of the Lord’s progressive sanctification necessitates awareness. To that end, David Powlison has brought together major points in his recent book How Does Sanctification Work?.
As executive director of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation, David Powlison is well-known in the Biblical counseling movement. He has written several books in this realm, most notably Speaking Truth in Love and Seeing with New Eyes. However, he has also written a large variety of miniature booklets aimed at dealing with various issues (anger, worry, stress, etc.).
Dealing with such issues that come from his role in the biblical counseling world, writing a book about sanctification in a person’s life is not a great reach. In fact, it is logical that Powlison would both see the need for such content and be able to address it because his book is premised upon one conclusion that can be seen in the biblical counseling world: There is no one size fits all process, but rather the Lord’s work of sanctification is manifested differently according to their needs and circumstances. However, the author recognizes it is not enough to simply establish this point, but instead hopes to go more deeply in a way that establishes both how God works and how believers respond.
Powlison fixates upon five factors that work to initiate change in a believer: truth, suffering, others, the individual, and God. One of the unique aspects of this particular writing is that the author’s probing forces readers to look beyond our common catchphrase responses to hardships and frustrations that present themselves. We are prone to simply say something similar to “God is sovereign and will work it out” or “He has his purposes” or “You simply need to stop being selfish and start serving others.” I’m sure each of us could contribute readily to the list. Instead, of merely relying upon these meaningless catch phrases, David Powlison compels readers to go deeper.
Certainly, some of those cliches are not untrue, but they alone provide little comfort, conviction, or even compassion. So what does the author do to probe deeper? He provokes thoughts of theology. For a short book (about 130 pages) there are various points in which the book is heavy reading because he addresses topics such as justification, righteousness, sanctification, and progressive sanctification, causing readers to meditate upon them. He balances this heavy reading with lighter reading that includes a number of personal stories that not only demonstrate his points but also urge believers to go beyond the traditional responses and instead look to God.
Sanctification for Powlison then is more than about a person being a good person but carries a person to the Lord Jesus Christ and His believers. It’s not about a process, it is about a person. Unfortunately for many, this is not the conclusion they would like because it means that ministry is not efficient. Instead, it is messy, requiring more time and more effort. Whether working with others or examining ourselves, the process of sanctification requires patience, exertion, and resolution. Such is the beauty of being involved in the Lord’s work.
To purchase How Does Sanctification Work? click here. If you are interested in other works by David Powlison, click here.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at no cost for the purposes of review. However, my review is the result and response of my own reading of the book and was in no way influenced by outside sources.