How Does Sanctification Work eBook

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Author: David Powlison

Many popular views try to reduce the process of Christian growth to a single template: Remember past grace. Rehearse your identity in Christ. Avail yourself of the means of grace. Discipline yourself. But Scripture portrays the dynamics of sanctification in a rich variety of ways. No single factor, truth, or protocol can capture why and how a person is changed into the image of Christ. 

Weaving together personal stories, biblical exposition, and theological reflection, David Powlison shows the personal and particular ways that God meets you where you are to produce change. He highlights the variety of factors that work together, helping us to avoid sweeping generalizations and pat answers in the search for a key to sanctification. This book is a go-to resource for understanding the multifaceted, lifelong, personal journey of sanctification. 


  • Introduction

  1. God Meets Us with His Promises
  2. Is There One Key to Sanctification?
  3. Truth Unbalanced and Rebalanced
  4. God Meets Us with His Commands
  5. We Are Sanctified by Remembering Our Justification
  6. What Changes You?
  7. My Story (1)
  8. My Story (2)
  9. The Story of Charles
  10. The Story of Charlotte
  11. The Journey

General Index
Scripture Index


About the author:

David Powlison, M.Div., Ph.D. David was the Executive Director of CCEF before his death, a faculty member at CCEF and the Senior Editor of the Journal of Biblical Counseling.  He wrote numerous articles on biblical counseling and on the relationship between faith and psychology. 


“There’s nothing more invigorating in your walk with Jesus than getting up every morning and getting actively engaged in your own sanctification. To partner with the Spirit of Christ in your own change, growth, and maturity is a wonderful way of ‘making it your ambition to be pleasing to him.’ And I’m so excited that David Powlison shows the reader how to do just this in his remarkable new book How Does Sanctification Work? I give it a hearty thumbs-up!”  ~Joni Eareckson Tada, founder and CEO, Joni and Friends International Disability Center; author, A Spectacle of Glory and Beside Bethesda 

“Every Christian leader or writer or pastor should have David Powlison whispering in his ear, ‘God’s Word is deep and rich . . . don’t just sit on one paradigm—teach the full counsel of God.’ This book will do that for you.”  ~Paul E. Miller, executive director, seeJesus; author, A Praying Life and A Loving Life

“To know David Powlison is to know a man who is growing in the sweet fruit of sanctifying grace. To witness his ministry is to see one whom the Lord is using to sanctify many. That is why I am so grateful for How Does Sanctification Work? One of the most crucial areas of debate among Christians today concerns the doctrine of sanctification. David’s is a voice of sound, biblical wisdom in the midst of much confusion. If you are looking for a book on sanctification that is profoundly personal, biblically balanced, and deeply relevant, then this is it.”  ~Heath Lambert, senior pastor, First Baptist Church of Jacksonville; author, A Theology of Biblical Counseling and Finally Free

“When I think about wise men who have shaped my life and thinking, David Powlison consistently rises to the top. His thoughtful and incisive insight into the human heart and what makes sanctification work is something each of us desperately needs. David recognizes that for all the conversation and writing which have taken place on the topic of sanctification, what seems to be left out is you! David helps bring his personal story and others’ narratives into the discussion surrounding sanctification, and in so doing reminds us of the multifaceted way God works in people’s lives. Grab this book today, read it and soak it in, and join David and many others in the process of becoming more like our Savior.”  ~Jonathan Holmes, pastor of counseling, Parkside Church; author, The Company We Keep: In Search of Biblical Friendship

Sanctification is a very long word. Though many Christians would be able to give a simple definition such as ‘growing in holiness’ or ‘becoming like Jesus,’ few have given much thought to the dynamics of how it happens—how it works. In How Does Sanctification Work?, Powlison helpfully identifies five ways our growth in holiness happens. The principles are grounded in Scripture and illustrated by a transparent look at how it has ‘worked’ in his own life. And this is an encouragement for us to see how it—no, how God’s Spirit—is at work in our lives, too.”  ~Timothy Z. Witmer, professor of practical theology, Westminster Theological Seminary; pastor, St. Stephen Reformed Church, New Holland, Pennsylvania; author, The Shepherd Leader and The Shepherd Leader at Home

“In this book, David Powlison sets out a case against simplistic statements that sanctification can be reduced to a ‘just do this’ or ‘just believe that’ kind of process. Doing what he always does so brilliantly, he shows us how the riches of Scripture get applied to the details of life. Personal, practical, and bursting with fresh and important insights, here is a book to help God’s people become more like Christ.”   ~Steve Midgley, executive director, Biblical Counselling UK; Senior Pastor, Christ Church Cambridge

“Sanctification is essential to fulfilling our greatest calling in life: namely, to love God with all our hearts and love our neighbors as ourselves. David has not only set forth the essential themes of this process but also described many of the spiritual nuances that guide our steps through this blessed transformation.”  ~Ken Sande, founder, Peacemaker Ministries and Relational Wisdom 360

“Sanctification is a life-and-death matter. What David Powlison offers in this book is no mere how-to manual on having your quiet time. Instead, behind this straightforward title lies an explosively powerful and practical theology of human transformation. This book is deep enough to instruct those who have spent their lives agonizing over how sanctification really works, and accessible enough to guide those who have never had the question cross their minds. In short, this book will leave you fundamentally changed for the better.”  ~Alasdair Groves, director of counseling, CCEF New England

How Does Sanctification Work? will refresh the souls of all who desire to grow in authentic holiness. The reader will find no ‘one-size-fits-all’ formulas here, but rather the wise, biblical counsel of a refined theological mind as to how sanctification takes place through our relationship with God and the people that God has placed in our lives—to variably and uniquely shape our souls for our ultimate home with Christ. This is a wise and beautiful book.”  ~R. Kent Hughes, visiting professor of practical theology, Westminster Theological Seminary