BOOK REVIEW: “Acting the Miracle” Edited by Dr. John Piper and David Mathis
GOD’S WORK AND OURS IN THE MYSTERY OF SANCTIFICATION
Book Review by David P. Craig
There are various aspects to the biblical doctrine of sanctification – essentially becoming more like Jesus “conformed to the image of Christ” (Romans 8:29). Theologians often talk about two aspects of our becoming like Christ: Definitive sanctification and Progressive sanctification. Definitive sanctification is our legal status with God whereby we become righteous in God’s sight upon our conversion and justification in Christ Jesus. This book focuses on the Progressive sanctification aspect. It addresses the issue of how we actually progress in actual holiness as we live by faith in Jesus.
There are seven helpful chapters in this book by some excellent scholar/pastors:
(1) David Mathis gives the introduction which focuses on the complexities of sanctification and how it relates to our justification and union with Christ.
(2) John Piper defines sanctification by grounding its reality in the holiness of God and the sinfulness of humanity. He provides a wonderful exegetical study of Romans 8:28-30 and answers the question: “What is the Place of Sanctification in the Process of Salvation?”
(3) Kevin DeYoung examines what should motivate our sanctification. He gives a very practical explanation from Colossians 3 that seeks to balance the element of justification, duty, and gratitude in the context of grace as we seek to be more like Jesus. He points out that our greatest incentives in the pursuit of holiness are theologically based on our identity in Christ. Sanctification is diverse and there is a multiplicity of reasons for this diversity, but it all stems from our union with Christ as we grow in our understanding of and application of His grace.
(3) Ed Welch (a well-known biblical counselor) tackles three specific issues: (a) Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder; (b) Depression; (c) and Panic Attacks. He gives examples of how to care for individuals who manifest these symptoms, there causes, and how people who struggle with these battles can grow in Christ-likeness. Welch shows how Scripture can be used to help men and women with existing sin by addressing their souls and minds with the gospel.
(4) Jarvis Williams gives an articulate biblical theology of how we can pursue a practical maturity in the gospel by (a) Understanding God’s action for us in and through Christ is the foundation underneath our sanctification; (b) By four distinct means of grace – the Word of God; preaching to yourself and meditation; fervent prayer; and suffering; (c) Understanding how God’s action for us and in us through Christ leads to the miracle of our sanctification.
(5) Russell Moore gives a wonderful explanation of the many ways that the Church – participation in the Local Body of Christ – providing the communal context necessary for our maturity in Christ. He gives a solid case for the corporate aspect of our sanctification from First Corinthians 4-6.
(6) John Piper answers many question with relationship to our present and future glorification. Among the questions he addresses are these: How do we go about ‘pursuing the holiness without which no one will see the Lord’? How do we strive to enter through the narrow door? How do we dethrone and kill canceled sin? His goal in this chapter is to demonstrate “how this grand process of sanctification is leading to the predestined glory where the beauty of holiness fills the earth.”
(7) The appendix consists of transcript of a conversation with all the contributors addressing how they each go about pursuing personal devotional and prayer time from the September 29, 2012 Desiring God National Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
I highly recommend this book for all Christians who are concerned about the goal of the Christian life – conforming to the image of Christ – and the practical ramifications of this conformation as we transform into His likeness and bring Him glory for the salvation and joyous sanctification of a multitude of people throughout the Earth.