How Does Sanctification Work? by David Powlison, Free for CAPC Members
David Powlison dispels the myth that there is a “key to sanctification” and then lays the biblical groundwork for spiritual growth.
Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image (Moody 2014) released this month.
Your book is titled Made for More. Is it going to tell me that I need to be doing more? Because, frankly, I’ve already got enough! I’m a wife, mom, teacher, and writer. I can’t handle anymore. How can Made for More be good news for women?
“I believe the American evangelical church tends to speak to women primarily in terms of their womanhood. There are lots of reasons for this, but it has led to women missing a huge chunk of what God intends for them as his image bearers.”This is a really important question. I think Christian women tend to one of two extremes–we either feel overwhelmed by our responsibilities and roles or we feel restless in them and don’t think that we are doing enough for the Kingdom. For me, the issue isn’t that we aren’t doing enough but that we don’t understand the significance of what is already happening in our lives. The good news is that our lives are already invested with purpose and meaning by the simple fact that we are made in God’s image. But until we understand this–until we understand ourselves in relationship to God’s nature–we will continue to be restless and empty, no matter how productive we are or how effectively we fulfill our roles. In this sense, Made for More is not a call to do more but a call to discover that we already are more.
The central idea of your book is that women are created in the image of God–that we are image-bearers. As you studied the many implications of that truth, what was most freeing or helpful to you personally?
On a grand scale, it was incredibly freeing to learn that my life has order and purpose. One of the things that I struggle with, maybe because of my personality, is wondering how I’ve ended up where I have. I’m the kind of person who looks back on her choices and thinks “Well, if I hadn’t done such and such, then I could have… If I hadn’t gotten married so young, maybe I would have gone to grad school… If we’d waited to have kids, maybe we’d have traveled more…” Whatever. Part of being an image bearer means believing that God has a specific purpose in creating you as you–He is reflecting certain aspects of His nature through your life–but it also means believing that He has a specific purpose in guiding your life so you will be able to reflect that purpose. Your identity isn’t the result of some “existential Rube Goldberg machine.” God is sovereignly guiding your steps to make you the image bearer that you are meant to be.
On a more day to day scale, I really needed to understand the truth that my work (no matter what it is) reflects God’s work. There are certain kinds of work that I absolutely dread but that are necessary to daily existence. Two that I think of right off the top of my head are cleaning and filing. Knowing that God himself does this kind of “maintenance” work over creation–that he washes his world with rain and makes sure that every bird and bush is in its proper place–makes these mundane chores more glorious somehow. I ‘m not simply washing dishes; I’m doing what God himself does.
How could the American evangelical church benefit from embracing the full imago dei of women? In what ways might the church need to change?
One reason I wanted to write this book was because I believe the American evangelical church tends to speak to women primarily in terms of their womanhood. There are lots of reasons for this, but it has led to women missing a huge chunk of what God intends for them as his image bearers. For example, we tend to craft our women’s discipleship programs around being women–we study Esther and Ruth and have discussions about body image and encourage each other to better fulfill our callings as wives and mothers. But by making womanhood our focus, we can easily miss the big picture; we can easily miss Christ. The beauty of the gospel is that Jesus Christ is actively transforming everything about me to his likeness; that includes my womanhood, to be sure, but it is not limited to it.
This is a very nuanced thing and I felt the tension even in writing the book–here I was writing a book for women that wasn’t about womanhood. I had to find a way to contextualize to them as an audience but not define them exclusively by their gender. My hope is that we can begin to think about our discipleship structures this way too. How can we engage women, not simply as a gender category, but as image bearers destined to bear Christ’s likeness?
Can you point to some women–historical or contemporary–who have inspired you by the ways they’ve embraced their full identity as image bearers? Role models?
The women who most inspire me are women who don’t even seem to know they are embracing their full identity as an image bearers. They are simply living fully-orbed, multi-dimensional lives consumed with Christ and dedicated to serving God and others. I grew up on stories of women like Amy Carmichael and Mary Slessor, and as an adult, I’ve come to greatly respect Joni Eareckson Tada. Here is a woman, who by all standards will never measure up to our cultural expectations for womanhood and who could easily be defined by her inability and pain. And yet, I can’t think of another “role model” who is more fully alive, more fully reflecting the glorious, generous nature of God than she does.
Much of the contemporary discourse about women and the church centers around gender roles, the “work/life” balance, and theological debate about a few New Testament passages. You don’t weigh in on those topics. Why not? Do you believe a woman’s primary role is in the home?
The main reason I don’t address these issues is because I feel like we have beaten them to death and are no further along than when we started. In many ways, these debates are often founded on false premises and are rarely about gender alone. Can we really answer questions of where a woman should work if we don’t have an imago dei understanding of work to begin with? Certainly, I have my own convictions about specific roles and applications, and at times I have argued passionately for them, but my greater passion is seeing both men and women come to understand themselves in terms of God’s identity. So to answer your question, do I believe a woman’s role is in the home? Yes. But I also believe a man’s role is in the home. As image bearers, we are called to be life-giving, productive people who steward creation like our life-giving, productive God. Our homes are an essential part of that calling and anything that undermines them–selfishness, anger, apathy, or laziness–must be confronted head-on. Because ultimately, as we must all affirm, a woman’s “primary role” is to be an image bearer of God.
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