Book Review of "Sanctification: The Christian's Pursuit of God-Given Holiness"
Updated: Apr 26, 2019
Any sort of review should be conducted objectively where the work either rises or falls upon its own merits. Full disclosure, I know the author of this work, Mike Riccardi. As a student I've sat under his teaching and as a past member of Grace Community Church I've sat under his preaching. Let the reader take that for what it’s worth.
Availability: This work can be found at Grace Books. A search in amazon may produce some results, but just so you know you'll pay almost twice the amount there. To my knowledge, this work was published in house by Grace Books (affiliated with Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA of which John MacArthur is pastor).
Overview: Understand that this book is not a theological thesis, but is an introductory primer. It places the glorious doctrine of sanctification at a level that is accessible to the average Christian. Clocking in at less than 50 pages of actual content (a final section is added of FAQ’s), even “non-readers” can breeze through this in a few evenings. Mike has done a fantastic job of keeping his eye on the target, getting there quickly, and wrapping things up in a tight little bow.
Argument: Mike’s explanation of sanctification is three-fold. First, sanctification is a divine work of Almighty God. Second, sanctification is the holy duty of every believer. Third, the means by which a Christian pursues sanctification are given in the Word of God and enabled by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Method: This is why this particular work soars above other similar works. Mike drenches his arguments in scripture. You will notice that there are complete sections of biblical references and direct quotations in place of his own words. Mike simply lets the Bible speak for itself. Take note of this. If I might enter my own opinion here: Any work that attempts to convince the reader of a particular theological view or doctrine should be able to do so through Scripture. This is very different than using Scripture to advance an argument (a nuance that I hope to address at a different time).
Critique: I have only a single critique of this work. The first chapter assumes that the reader is an avid reformed blog follower or at least someone that currently follows debate among contemporary pastors/theologians. There is quite a bit of reference to a debate between Kevin DeYoung and Tullian Tchividjian back in 2011. If you are unaware of this debate, have no fear. Outside of the theological blogosphere, most people took little notice. You can find DeYoung's article and viewpoint here, and catch up on Tchividjian's argument here. In reality some readers may find the discussion distracting or even confusing. I am hoping for a second edition that helpfully redacts this introductory content.
Recommendation: As a pastor, I want to get useful tools into the hands of the people that I have been entrusted with. There are so many "Christian" self-help books out there that are barely useful in kindling a fire. This is not one of those works. I cannot recommend this book enough. The doctrine of sanctification is the lifeblood of Christian living. We are called to be holy, set apart, separate unto God. How that is accomplished and what that looks like are necessary questions (and questions that every pastor deals with on a weekly basis). Those questions are clearly articulated in this book.
Every month I try to promote a book for the congregation to which I serve. I look forward to putting this into the hands of Christ's saints. This is a book for new believers as well as “seasoned” saints. Mike has given Christ’s Church a wonderful gift. I pray that you obtain a copy and are blessed by it.