As I work my way through Powlison’s book How Does Sanctification Work?, I have been repeatedly impressed. The biblical insight is amazing, the practical aspects are encouraging, and the balanced approach is encouraging.
In my last post I mentioned the coming of snow. I can happily say that snow it did! We received about a foot of snow during the evening. It is beautiful, a small spark of God’s incredible beauty, wisdom, and graciousness. As I type this, I am sitting near a warm fire with BBC’s Planet Earth II playing in the background. I am not sure why I am telling you this, but now you know!
Back to sanctification. Chapter two begins with a question, “Is there one key to sanctification?” My understanding of sanctification would have answered with a qualified answer. Yes, of course there is one key! This key may be multifaceted, but it boils down to the basics of being a follower of Jesus Christ.
This, of course, is simplistic and utilitarian thinking, and unbiblical. Powlison provides nine typical “keys” that we often hear (or that I often say). He makes the point, “These nine assertions becomes problematic only when we lapse into saying, ‘Just remember this one thing…Just rehearse…Just make sure…Just ask…If you will just do…’”. (Powlison, 25)
What are the nine keys? Here they are:
- “Remember that God is sovereign and is working all things for good in those who love him.” (emphasis his, Powlison, 24)
This one is a go-to for myself. When something bad is happening, I relish God’s control of the situation. While it may be difficult to fathom or understand its implications, God truly is in control. The problem lies when we focus on this to the exclusion of the other biblical truths about our God.
- “Rehearse and remind yourself of your identity in Christ.” (Powlison, 24)
A few people seem to focus on this aspect of the Christian life. It is so important, and it is one of Paul’s emphases in the book of Ephesians. I typically hear this in conjunction with conquering sin. If you just saw yourself in Christ you wouldn’t sin! While this may be a help, it is certainly not the
- “Make sure you are in honest accountability ” (emphasis his, Powlison, 24)
Depending on the flare of the church, this one can be huge! Accountability is certainly a vital part of growth in holiness. Yet, it is not everything. Some seem to suggest that having an accountability partner will alleviate all sins.
- “Avail yourself of the means of grace.” (emphasis his, Powlison, 24)
By ‘means of grace’ Powlison means “corporate worship and sacraments, and maintain[ing] daily Scripture reading and prayer.” (Powlison, 24) This would be second on my list. I love the way Scripture reading and prayer can be completed, almost like a chore that can be checked off my daily to-do list. I encourage people to spend time in God’s Word and in prayer daily. It is a great way to grow, but in and of itself it is not the complete way to sanctification.
- Wage spiritual warfare against the predator of your soul.” (emphasis his, Powlison, 24)
The spiritual warfare movement received more attention in the past than it does today (perhaps). Ephesians 6:10-18 warns believers about this war and how to fight it. I just began working through William Gurnall’s The Christian in Complete Armor, and in the beginning he mentions the seriousness of the conflict.
- “Get busy serving others with the gifts the Lord has given you.” (emphasis his, Powlison, 25)
This one brings me back to my fundamental Baptist days. Some seemed to think that service equaled holiness (thankfully not everyone felt this way!). The more you do, the more holy you are. If you share with others the Gospel then of course you are a great Christian! God has gifted each believer with a gift (or gifts, as is the case) to be used for the edification of believers, evangelization of the lost, and the exaltation of our Savior.
- “Remember that you are accepted by God as his child and that he fully forgives your sins through the shed blood of Jesus.” (Powlison, 25)
This is a wonderful truth that as a Christian we can never get over! Our sins, which were scarlet, are now white as snow! What a glorious reality! This, in its entire splendor, is not all there is to the Christian life. There is so much more!
- “Ask the Lord to give you his Holy Spirit that you might walk in his ways.” (Powlison, 25)
Frequently the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of the believer is downplayed. We love the Holy Spirit; he helps us live the righteous life. Through the Holy Spirit we are able to pray to our Heavenly Father.
- “Set your hope fully on the grace to be revealed at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Powlison, 25)
This is a look to the future grace that will be all for all believers. And I cannot wait for this! But, this is not the
Powlison’s work is already so helpful. As I continue to work through it, I hope to share it with you!