A Post About A Book About Sanctification

“To be sanctified is to have your faith simplified, clarified, and deepened.” Writes David Powlison, author of How Does Sanctification Work. “You know God. You love God. How other people are doing matters increasingly to you. Becoming more holy means, [among other things], that you are becoming a wiser human being.”

He goes on: “You are learning how to deal with your money, your sexuality, your job. You are becoming a better friend and family member. When you talk, your words communicate more good sense, more gravitas, more joy, more reality.”

“You are learning to pray honestly, bring who God really is into the reality of human need. It means you live in more clear-minded hope.” And finally, “You know the purpose of your life, roll up your sleeves, and get about doing what needs doing. You are honestly thankful for good things. You honestly face disappointment and pain, illness and dying.”

According to Powlison, Sanctification does not simply boil down to vaguely thinking about one’s Justification. Although the scriptures say “remember your Justification,” it does not mean that each time I sin, my responsibility is simply to remind myself that I am fully, freely, and forever forgiven because of the work of Christ on the cross.

And it does not simply mean that we try super-hard to be super-good outside of the power of the Holy Spirit. According to Powlison, our whole salvation was purchased by Christ, for Christ, and is accomplished through Christ, including our Sanctification. As we “remember [our] Justification,” we submit to the Spirit whom Christ sent, and the Spirit conforms us, over the course of a lifetime, to the likeness of the Christ whose righteousness is already imputed onto us.

There is absolutely no version of Sanctification that happens outside of relationship with other people. Powlison lists ‘accountability relationships’ as an indispensable resource that the Spirit uses to hammer us into the likeness of Christ. Sanctification involves using all of the ‘tools’ that He has given us. Powlison writes that we are given a ‘truckload’ of tools, and none of them are end-all-be-all; neither accountability nor ‘spiritual warfare’ nor ‘rooting our identity in Christ’ are individually efficacious to root out our sin nature. God has bestowed us with a ‘truckload’, and we submit to His work by using all of them.

There’s no ‘formula’ for Sanctification whereby we follow seven simple steps and come out the other side as a new creation. The process is always scattered, unfolding at a rickety pace, in fits and starts, as we stumble and grasp at straws before submitting again to the Spirit whose work isn’t scattershot and rickety. The essence of Sanctification, he says, is submission to the Spirit – we “remember our Justification” when we allow our Justification to bear its fruit; because we are Justified in Christ, the Spirit comes to us to Sanctify us, completing the work of the cross.

The call to Sanctification and the call to live on mission are essentially the same thing, Powlison writes. God does not simply Sanctify us because it pleases Him for us to reflect the perfect righteousness of His Son (although this is one reason), but because it pleases Him for His elect to draw others into the fold by embodying a righteousness that proves contagious, that gets others God-sick. Our Sanctification, which others see as they know us through the years, is one means by which God seeks out the lost. Sanctified people are de facto missionaries because they are being sanctified, publicly, and it causes people to want to know the God who does the Sanctifying.

Sanctification takes place chiefly in the context of discipleship: you are sanctified as you are discipled, and you are sanctified as you disciple. If we are not being discipled by other believers who are being Sanctified, then we are likely not growing in grace, and we are likely not being “transformed, from one degree of glory to another, into the image of Christ”. And, if we are not discipling others, Christian and non-Christian, then we are probably not being changed by grace. Sanctification is for sinful people, and our ongoing struggles with sin do not derail our Sanctification. But sluggardliness can.

If we are hiding from community and accountability, we are probably hiding from God, even if we think we aren’t. We are conformed together, the passage from Ephesians says, into His image, and we need each other.

Knowing that there is no formula by which Sanctification plays out challenges us to seek out every opportunity to submit to the Spirit’s work in us. This means that every opportunity to share the gospel with someone – say, a homeless person that you have an opportunity to buy lunch for – is to be used for the kingdom. It is not simply a good thing to do, it’s part of the Spirit-wrought process whereby we grow into our identity in Christ.

To paraphrase Powlison, Sanctification is what happens as the Spirit works out the life of Jesus in our own lives. Even if we have jobs and homes and pets, we are, in essence, itinerant evangelists who insert ourselves into the life of our communities as witnesses to the gospel of grace.

“Ministry ‘unbalances’ truth for the sake of relevance; theology ‘rebalances’ truth for the sake of comprehensiveness,” Writes Powlison. “Put another way, because you can only say one thing at a time, a timely word must be a selective word focusing on the need of the moment. And this selective focus produces a kind of imbalance.”

He concludes: “But stepping back from the need of the moment, many things can be said, and this larger theological picture helps us maintain balance.” So it goes with Sanctification.

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How Does Sanctification Work can be purchased on Amazon and probably other places, too.

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Thirty-Three Propositions from Eph. 2:1-10

Eph. 2:1-10 reads as such:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

There are some things to be derived from this passage. These are thirty-three of them:

  1. Paul’s readers were previously “dead” in their “trespasses”.
  2. Paul’s readers were also previously “dead” in their “sins”.
  3. They used to “walk” in their “trespasses” and “sins”, but not anymore.
  4. When they “walked” in their “trespasses” and “sins”, they did so “according to the ways of this world”.
  5. When they “walked” in their “trespasses” and “sins”, they did so “according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens”.
  6. The “ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens” is “the spirit now working in the disobedient”.
  7. Both Paul and his readers previously lived among “the disobedient”.
  8. When they lived among the disobedient, they “in our fleshly desires”.
  9. When they were living “in our fleshly desires” among “the disobedient”, they “carried out the inclinations of their flesh.”
  10. When they were living “in our fleshly desires” among “the disobedient”, they also “carried out the inclinations of our … thoughts”
  11. During the time when they lived “in our fleshly desires” among “the disobedient” and carried out the “inclinations” of their “flesh” and “thoughts”, they were “children under wrath”.
  12. When they were “children under wrath”, they were so in the same way “as the others were also”.
  13. God is “rich in mercy”.
  14. God had “great love” for Paul and his readers.
  15. God “made us alive with the Messiah”.
  16. God did this even “though we were dead in trespasses”.
  17. The reason that God “made us alive with the Messiah” is “because of His great love that He had for us”.
  18. Paul’s readers “are saved by Grace”.
  19. God raised Jesus “up and seated” Jesus “in the heavens”.
  20. God raised us up “together with Christ Jesus” and “seated play the immeasurus in the heavens”.
  21. He did this to “display the immeasurable riches of His grace.”
  22. The “immeasurable riches of His grace” are displayed “through His kindness to us”.
  23. The “immeasurable riches of His grace”, which are displayed “through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus” will be displayed “in the coming ages”.
  24. Paul’s readers are saved by grace “through faith”.
  25. To be “saved by grace through faith” is something that “is not from yourselves”.
  26. To be “saved by grace through faith” is “God’s gift”.
  27. Paul’s readers are not saved “by/from works”.
  28. The “faith” through which Paul’s readers are “saved by grace” is not, itself, a work.
  29. Because Paul’s readers are “saved by grace through faith”, which is “not from yourselves” and “not from works” but is “God’s Gift”, thus “no one can boast”.
  30. Paul and his readers are “God’s workmanship”.
  31. Paul and his readers were “created in Christ Jesus”.
  32. “Good works” is that for which Paul and his readers were “created in Christ Jesus”.
  33. The “good works” for which Paul and his readers were “created in Christ Jesus” were “prepared beforehand that we should walk in them”.

Most of my posts are extended comedy routines about things I find important, but not this one. I could write for ages about why Eph. 2:1-10 is funny, and important, but today it can speak for itself. Go do some good works that God prepared beforehand.