Thoughts on Sanctification
|"This is my journey through recovery, showing how my Creator is using the the 12-Step Christian recovery model to give me relief from the behaviors that bring me pain." --Sid|
"For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee." (Isaiah 54:10 )
When we begin on our road to recovery/sanctification, we may have some serious reservations about God, often because of people in authority who have let us down, or even abused us. They may have even been people who should have been Godly examples to us. As a result, we tend to see God in the same light. But as we progress through the recovery process and begin to experience positive results, the God of our understanding gradually changes. We come to know and love the God of infinite love and compassion.
Instead of dwelling on questions like, "Why did God allow these bad things to happen to me?" we become thankful that He is always present with us, especially when bad things happen, protecting us from even worse things, and holding us in His arms of loving kindness. We begin to dwell more on questions like, "How could God love me so much that He would risk His eternal life by dying on the cruel cross to save a wretch like me?" Instead of seeing God as a tyrant, through those who have abused us, we begin to see Him more as the God who loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3 ), who will never leave us, nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5 ). We begin to see God as the one who will ultimately take us out of this world of sin and death, and give us eternal life with him.
Instead of seeing God as vindictive, wanting to punish us for our sins, we begin to see Him as the one who died a cruel death on the Roman cross to pay the penalty for our sins. And, just as He had victory over the grave and lives again, so does He now live to give us victory over our behaviors that bring us so much pain. Of course, we do have a part to play, not in paying the price of our sins, but in cooperating with God as He offers deliverance from our sins. As we choose to serve God; as we choose to give Him our will, in times of trial and temptation, we thereby die to our own selfish desires. As a result, He can then raise us to newness of life by giving us the victory over those sins that have so easily beset us in the past.
And, not only in times of trial and temptation is He there for us, but throughout each and every day He is ever sending us messages through our thoughts to help us with even the smallest of challenges and choices that come our way. He doesn't do this to control us. No, He only wants to help make life better for us. Whether we choose to die to our preferences and live to His infinite wisdom is totally up to us. No matter what we choose to do or say, He is always there to lead us and guide us in the best possible direction, which we would choose anyway, if we knew the beginning from the end, as He does.
"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:1-3 )
With a God like this, why wouldn't we want to pursue this process of sanctification? Why wouldn't we want to share this Good News with others?
"Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs." (Step 12)
I have discovered that prayer, meditation, and a conscious contact with God need not end with my morning devotions. More and more in my work and relationships I realize the value of continuing to seek the will of God, as I make the many choices that each day requires. So today I'd like to share some practical ways in which I maintain contact with God and seek His will in my daily life.
In my work, I often find myself stuck trying to resolve a seemingly insurmountable problem. In times like this, I claim the promise, "If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking" (James 1:5 ). Then, like Saul in his hour of calamity, I pray, "... Lord, what would you have me to do? ..." (Acts 9:6 ). Then, as I think through that problem again, the solutions eventually begin to come. I don't always realize it at first, but later, it occurs to me that my prayers were answered. That's when I praise God and give Him thanks and honor.
In my relationships, things always go better when, rather than venting my frustrations (or stuffing them), I surrender them to God and ask for wisdom and strength to make better choices in dealing with difficult situations. A good example of this is that day when I received a "Rude Email"...
I invite you today, to claim the promises of God, as you surrender your heart to Him and see for yourself just how much better your day will go. May God richly bless you, is my prayer, in Jesus name, amen.
"Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out." (Step 11)
"If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." (1 John 1:10 ). "My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous." (1 John 2:1 ). "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9 )
This is why I need to continue to take personal inventory, promptly admitting my mistakes. Even though I've been in recovery for many years, and I don't do the things I once did, I still make mistakes. I'm still a sinner. Inappropriate thoughts may come to me at anytime, tempting me to all sorts of actions and/or thoughts. But is that sin, temptation, or both?
"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15 ). This is good news. Apparently it's OK, even to be expected, that temptation will come regularly. But what should I do when it is pressing down on me? "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16 ). When I do this, I can claim the promise, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." (1 Corinthians 10:13 ). Just as my Example and Savior had the victory over every temptation by surrendering His will to his Father's, so do I have the victory when I surrender my will to God's, and trust in His promises of deliverance.
But when does it become sin? When does it become a mistake that I need to promptly admit? For me, it becomes sin if I entertain the temptation, rather than surrendering it to God. Oftentimes, it becomes sin even before I even realize that I was being tempted. One way this happens is when someone (usually one of my kids) says or does something that ticks me off. My tendency is to react without thinking things through and realizing that I'm being tempted to an inappropriate response.
When this happens, not only should I promptly admit it, but I also need to consider why this caught me by surprise. I can think of two possibilities.
1) If this type of reaction (behavior) is so ingrained in me that I habitually do it, I need to go back to Step 1 -- admit my powerlessness -- and continue on through the following steps of recovery to deal with this.
2) It may be that I'm not as in tune with the voice of God, through my conscience, as I thought I was. If this is the case, it would be a strong symptom of my lack of commitment to quality one-on-one time with God. The solution really isn't that complicated. I just need to spend more time in prayer and Bible study.
By beholding God, we become more like Him. As a result, we are much less likely to "go off half-cocked". "For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image." (2 Corinthians 3:17-18 ). May it so be in my life, and in yours, today.
"Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it." (Step 10)
In considering the making of amends, I think it prudent to also consider what core attitudes and beliefs led me to do what I now need to make amends for. In other words, I want to know what attitude and beliefs I should have in order to prevent myself from doing (or saying) stuff that I will be sorry for later.
One time, for family worship, we read a story about a couple teenagers -- Howie and Joe. Howie had a summer job, but Joe convinced Howie to take the bus with him (using Howie's money) to another town where he promised that a job would be waiting for them, with his uncle. Howie reluctantly agreed, only to find out that Joe's uncle had no work for them and didn't want them hanging around. Then Joe convinced Howie to pay his bus fare to go home (there wasn't enough money for 2 tickets), promising to mail money back to Howie when he got home. Of course, the money never came. Worse yet, Howie couldn't find work, and nearly starved before money arrived from his dad.
My first thought was that Howie was very gullible and shouldn't have let Joe take advantage of him like that. But the rest of the story was that God miraculously provided for Howie's basic needs throughout this ordeal. So, why did God do that, considering Howie's foolishness, in letting Joe take advantage of him? I suppose there could several answers to that question. After all, God is all-loving and not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9 ).
In considering what we (or Howie) should do when people mistreat us, who better to ask than Jesus? Here are some interesting comments of His (Luke 6:27-38 ):
This is so contrary to our culture. But, as a result of all this selflessness, Jesus makes some really great promises to us (Luke 6:35-38 ):
I'm pretty sure that, if I were to follow this advice, I would never have need to make amends again. But if I fail to do that, this same counsel that Jesus gave us, will lead me to make amends as needed.
But, you may say, "it's just not in me to be so utterly selfless. How can I possibly become as Jesus directs?" I would say, "We don't get there all at once." "Sanctification is the progressive work of a lifetime" (Ellen White -- Selected Messages, Vol 3, 202.3). And these 12 Steps are a working framework for that process, and so is the little book "Steps to Christ".
"Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." (Step 9)
" 1 "Do not judge others. Then you will not be judged. 2 You will be judged in the same way you judge others. You will be measured in the same way you measure others.
3 "You look at the bit of sawdust in your friend's eye. But you pay no attention to the piece of wood in your own eye. 4 How can you say to your friend, 'Let me take the bit of sawdust out of your eye'? How can you say this while there is a piece of wood in your own eye?
5 "You pretender! First take the piece of wood out of your own eye. Then you will be able to see clearly to take the bit of sawdust out of your friend's eye." (Matthew 7:1-5 )
This is a hard lesson to learn. I've spent most of my life trying to extract the sawdust in your eye -- telling you what's wrong with you -- while ignoring the chunk of wood in my own eye -- my own issues. I'm beginning to learn to deal with my own stuff. And, one of the ways I do that is to consider all those whom I have harmed and become willing to make amends to them.
Rather than judging their misbehavior and their motives, I must choose to forgive them for what they have done to me, while relying on God to give me an heart of forgiveness. This is important because there is no way that I can make effective amends with someone that I won't forgive.
"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:14,15 )
Looking at this from the positive side, it becomes a win-win-win situation:
As this healthy cycle of forgiveness and amends continues, love grows where hatred once flourished and we become more and more able to help each other, in healthy and loving ways, with those remaining splinters...
"Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all." (Step 8)
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