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|
Early in my recovery process, God laid on my heart many situations for which I needed to make amends. Even though it was a very painful process to go through, I felt much better about myself for making the list and following through with the amends. Since that time I have continued to take personal inventory, and when I was wrong, promptly (well, usually I've been prompt :-) admitted it -- once I recognized my mistake.
But when it's me that has been wronged, am I able to see whether or not I have anything to make amends for in that situation? I think that sometimes I may be unable to see my own mistakes through the pain that I suffer as a result of other people's words and/or actions. This may be where forgiveness comes into play. I doubt whether I can truly make amends in the case where I have not forgiven that person for what they have done to wound me.
"Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." (Colossians 3:13 )
There could be other times when I am over-sensitive to my actions and may choose to make amends when no amends are needed. This is less-likely, but I need to be careful to seek, and to stay in, God's will.
I'm coming to believe that forgiving doesn't mean excusing or forgetting the wrong. And it doesn't mean a removal of consequences. But it does mean a change of attitude on my part. It means that I begin to wish the offender well. It means that I pray that my offender may find healing through recovery, so that they may find the peace and joy that I am finding in the Lord. It means that I want to see my offender as an erring child of God, such as I. It means... that I am becoming willing to make amends.
"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:" (Matthew 6:14 )
"Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all." (Step 8)
"Now, no discipline is pleasant, but God's discipline is for my own good, so that I may be a partaker of His holiness, thereby bearing the peaceful fruit of righteousness." (Hebrews 12:1-11 -- paraphrased by Sid).
"Since so many have gone before me, participating in the life-changing experience of recovery in the Lord, it behooves me to learn how to lay my issues at the foot of the cross, and look to Jesus for my deliverance.
When I think of Jesus, I see a man who endured much harder trials and temptations than I ever have. He endured all this hardship for the joy of knowing that as a result of His sacrifice, I would have the opportunity for an eternal life of peace and happiness with Him. When tempted to think that I have it bad, I remind myself that I have never resisted temptation to the degree of sweating great drops of blood, as did Jesus.
Neither should I despise the discipline of God, because He does it out of His infinitely pure love for me. As I am teachable in this discipline, God deals with me as His child. But if I refuse His discipline, I become more like a bastard than a child of God.
My earthly parents disciplined me according to their limited understanding, and out of their dysfunctional past, and maybe even for their own pleasure, yet I gave them respect and learned from them. How much more then should I respect and honor the infinitely wise Creator God who loves me so much that He gave His only Son to die for me that I may have life eternal?
"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings." (Step 7)
"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin." (Romans 6:1-7 )
So, I have to ask myself, "Is my 'old man' crucified with Christ?" Repentance calls us to full consecration to God and His leading because "half measures availed us nothing" (Alcoholics Anonymous p. 59). Andrew Murray described this commitment as the key to a Spirit-filled life, when he said, "Being filled with the Holy Spirit is simply this -- having my whole nature yielded to His power. When the whole soul is yielded to the Holy Spirit, God Himself will fill it." (Absolute Surrender p. 12)
Isn't it time "That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." (Ephesians 4:22-24 ). Of course, to let go of those old dependencies is easier said than done. But, as I consider the way God has stepped in to help me whenever I surrender to Him in the moment of temptation, I continue to move forward in faith, trusting that He will never ask me to do anything that He will not provide a way for me to accomplish. (1 Cor 10:13 )
"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character." (Step 6)
One of the facets of fifth-step confession is the acknowledgment of what went wrong in our family of origin, as well as in our parent's families of origin. There is something about family dysfunction that tends to repeat itself, when we don't acknowledge those problems. Stuffing the garbage of our past by trying to forget it does not bring us healing. It only sets us up to repeat the sins of our ancestors.
"...visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation..." (Exodus 20:5 ).
But when we admit our family sins to ourselves, to God, and to another human being, those sins lose a lot of the power that they once held over us. This must be why James said, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16 )
This facet of confession has helped me to recognize the unfulfilled love-hungers of my childhood as part of the reason why I sought love in all the wrong ways for many wasted years of my life. Today, I realize that confession is a God-given tool to help me release my past sins and move on to a better, more fulfilling future.
"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." (Step 5)
A friend of mine tells the story of a farmer who has just spent the entire day working his fields on his tractor. It was a long, hot, day for the farmer, and since his tractor had no cab, he was covered with dirt. He had worked well past dusk, and parked his tractor out in the barn. So now, he has only the faint light from the farmhouse windows to lead him home. He begins to notice that he is dirty and so dusts himself off. But, as he gets closer and closer to the light, he sees more and more just how dirty he has become, all along, continuing to dust himself off, as best he can.
So it is with life. For years and years, as many of us have acted in foolishness, we have accumulated more and more "dirt". As we moved deeper and deeper into our destructive behaviors, darkness came in to hide from us the reality of just how "dirty" we really were. Then, as we engage in the process of sanctification by admitting powerlessness (John 5:19,30 ) and His all-powerfulness (John 15:5 ) and start to surrender our will and our life to Him (Acts 9:1-6 ), we begin to walk toward the light of Heaven. In so doing, we now begin to see more and more just how "dirty" we have become (the illumination of introspection). More and more, we come out of denial about our true condition. More and more, God gives us the grace and strength (1 Corinthians 10:13 ) to, not only understand, but to also deal with (dust off), the deep, dark, issues in our lives.
Even though it has been painful for me to go through this process (since I've been very 'dirty'), I praise God for introspection because the grace of God is much more abundant than ALL of our sins (Romans 5:20 ). As I have been learning to cooperate with Him, He continues to "dust me off" and to bring me closer and closer to the light of Heaven, through Jesus Christ my Savior. My prayer is that it may be so for you too.
"All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits. Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established." (Proverbs 16:2-3 )
"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (Step 4)
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