David Powlison: When Jesus crosses paths with you, he reveals you for who you are. In response to him, people change—either making a turn for the better or taking a turn for the worse. A turn for the better means that Christian growth, or sanctification, is happening. But this is not the result of a single template of change. Because situations and persons come unscripted, fluid, and unpredictable, Jesus engages each person and situation in a personalized way. What are the sources of true change, and how does God work in those factors to transform your life? God himself changes you “It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) God intervenes in your life, turning you from suicidal self-will to the kingdom of life. He raises you in Christ when you are dead in trespasses and sins. He restores hearing when you are deaf (you could not hear him
David Powlison: Who are you? What gives a man his identity? On what foundation are you building your sense of self? Your answer, whether true or false, defines your life. Wrong ways of defining who we are arise naturally in our hearts, and the world around us preaches and models innumerable false identities. What are the ways men get identity wrong? Perhaps you construct a sense of self by the accomplishments listed on your resume. You might identify yourself by your lineage or ethnicity, by your marital status or parental role. Your sense of self might be based on money, on achievements, on the approval of others, on your self-esteem. Perhaps you think that your sins define you: an angry man, an addict, an anxious people-pleaser. Perhaps afflictions define you: disability, cancer, divorce. In each case, your sense of identity comes unglued from the God who actually defines you. Who God says you are God’s way of sizing up a man
David Powlison: Sanctification Is a Lifelong Process Often our practical view of sanctification, discipleship, and counseling posits a monochromatic answer and takes the short view. If you memorize and call to mind one special Bible verse, will it clean up all the mess? Will the right kind of prayer life drive all the darkness away? Will remembering that you are a child of God and justified by faith shield your heart against every evil? Will developing a new set of habits take away the struggle? Is it enough to sit under good preaching and have daily devotions? Is honest accountability to others the decisive key to walking in purity? Will careful self-discipline and a plan to live constructively eliminate the possibility of failure? These are all very good things. But none of them guarantees that three weeks from now, or three years, or thirty years, you will not still be learning how to love rather than lust. We must have
This post is adapted from How Does Sanctification Work? by David Powlison: 1. God himself changes you. This is foundational to all. “It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). He intervenes in your life, turning you from suicidal self-will to the kingdom of life. He raises you in Christ when you are dead in trespasses and sins. He restores hearing when you are deaf (you could not hear him otherwise). He gives sight when you are blind (you could not see him otherwise). He is immediately and personally present, a life-creating voice, a strong and strengthening hand. All good fruit in our lives comes by the Holy Spirit’s working on scene. Jesus said it was better if he went away, because the Holy Spirit would come (John 16:7). The Holy Spirit continues to do the things that Jesus does—continually adding to the number of books that could be
This post is adapted from How Does Sanctification Work? by David Powlison. “Just . . .” We are all tempted to oversimplify. We long for one “key” truth, a “secret” principle, the foolproof technique, some life-changing experience that makes everything different from now on. If only there were some one thing to make Christian growth certain! But there is no single key. You often hear people say things like “He should just remember that . . .” Or “If only she would just do . . .” Or “If I could just experience . . .” You’ve probably said things like that yourself. I certainly have. Preachers, teachers, counselors, authors, and friends instinctively gravitate toward naming some truth, some spiritual discipline, some action step, or some experience as the key that will unlock everything. The phrase “Just . . .” is a tip-off. But there are no “Just [do x, y, or z]” solutions to the puzzles of our sanctification.
CCEF faculty member Dr. David Powlison responds to the question “can I be saved if I am living in constant, secret sin?” For more information, visit our website at http://www.CCEF.org.
In this brief video clip David Powlison explains what role the local church plays in our sanctification. (HT: Desiring God blog)
David Powlison’s essay “The Pastor as Counselor” (available free online) is far and away the best thing I have ever read on the role of pastor-elders in counseling God’s people. It was originally published in For the Fame of God’s Name and is reprinted in CCEF’s The Journal of Biblical Counseling. At our church we have read through it together as an elder council, and I’d encourage other churches to do the same. I also wish every seminarian could read through this at least once. Here is one section directed to pastors on their unique role in counseling: The uniqueness of your message is easy to see. But you already know this. I won’t rehearse the unsearchable riches of Christ, or the 10,000 pertinent implications. But I do want to note the uniqueness of your message by contrast. Every counselor brings a “message”: an interpretation of problems, a theory that weighs causalities and context, a proposal for cure, a goal that defines thriving