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|
You may not know me, but I know everything about you (Psalm 139:1 ). I know when you sit down and when you rise up (Psalm 139:2 ). I am familiar with all your ways (Psalm 139:3 ). I even number the very hairs on your head (Matthew 10:29-31 ), for you were made in my image (Genesis 1:27 ).
In me you live and move and have your being, for you are my offspring (Acts 17:28 ). I knew you even before you were conceived (Jeremiah 1:4-5 ). I chose you when I planned creation (Ephesians 1:11-12 ). I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live (Acts 17:26 ). You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14 ). I knit you together in your mother's womb. (Psalm 139:13 ) and brought you forth on the day you were born (Psalm 71:6 ).
I have been misrepresented by those who don't know me (John 8:41-44 ), but I am not distant and angry. I am the complete expression of love (1 John 4:16 ) and it is my desire to lavish my love on you simply because you are my child and I am your father (1 John 3:1 ).
I offer you more than your earthly father ever could (Matthew 7:11 ) for I am the perfect father (Matthew 5:48 ). Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand (James 1:17 ), for I am your provider and I meet all your needs (Matthew 6:31-33 ).
My plan for your future has always been filled with hope (Jeremiah 29:11 ), because I love you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3 ). My thoughts toward you are as countless as the sand on the seashore (Psalm 139:17-18 ) and I rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17 ).
I will never stop doing good things for you (Jeremiah 32:40 ), for you are my treasured possession (Exodus 19:5 ). I desire to establish you with all my heart and all my soul (Jeremiah 32:41 ) and I want to show you great and marvelous things (Jeremiah 33:3 ).
If you seek for me with all your heart, you will find me (Deuteronomy 4:29 ). Delight in me and I will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4 ), for it is I who gave you those desires (Philippians 2:13 ).
I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine (Ephesians 3:20 ) for I am your greatest encourager (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 ). I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ). When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you (Psalm 34:18 ). As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to my heart (Isaiah 40:11 ).
One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes and I'll take away all the pain you have suffered on this earth (Revelation 21:3-4 ).
I am your Father, and I love you even as I love my son Jesus (John 17:23 ), for in Jesus, my love for you is revealed (John 17:26 ). He is the exact representation of my being (Hebrews 1:3 ). He came to demonstrate that I am for you, not against you (Romans 8:31 ) and to tell you that I am not counting your sins (2 Corinthians 5:18-19 ).
Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled (2 Corinthians 5:18-19 ). His death was the ultimate expression of my love for you (1 John 4:10 ). I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love (Romans 8:31-32 ). If you receive the gift of my son Jesus, you receive me (1 John 2:23 ) and nothing will ever separate you from my love again (Romans 8:38-39 ).
Come home and I'll throw the biggest party heaven has ever seen (Luke 15:7 ). I have always been Father, and will always be Father (Ephesians 3:14-15 ). My question is this: “Will you be my child?” (John 1:12-13 ). I am waiting for you (Luke 15:11-32 ).
Love, Dad - the Everlasting Father - the Prince of Peace - the Almighty God.
"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)
A wise person once said that it is not the occasional deed, or misdeed, that determines our destiny. Rather, it is the general direction of our life.
When I make a mistake -- when I stumble and fall -- the temptation is to think that I've lost my salvation and that I may as well just continue down that evil path. But that really is just a temptation, from a "roaring lion" (1 Peter 5:8 ) that has no teeth! The truth is that "The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy... The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him... He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust." (Psalm 103:8-14 ).
I need not buy into the enemy's lie, because "the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him" (Psalm 103:17 ). And I do fear and honor God. I do love Him and want to serve Him with all my heart. So, when I sometimes mess up, it's not because I want to turn away from Him. It's because I failed to surrender to Him in the moment of temptation. There really is a difference.
So, what do I do when I fail? I promptly admit my mistake, apologize where needed, and move on with life. But, some may ask, is it really that simple? My answer is, It's only that simple if don't want to call God a lier, when he said, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1John 1:9 ) Rather than believing the father of lies, I choose to believe my loving Heavenly Father of mercy and love.
8 The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
9 He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
10 He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
12 He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
13 The Lord is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
14 For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust.
15 Our days on earth are like grass;
like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
16 The wind blows, and we are gone—
as though we had never been here.
17 But the love of the Lord remains forever
with those who fear him.
His salvation extends to the children’s children
18 of those who are faithful to his covenant,
of those who obey his commandments!
(Psalm 103:8-18 ) NLT
"Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it." (Step 10)
My carnal nature drives me to be a troublemaker. I have strong opinions. I want others to agree with me, but this attitude is rebuked by Jesus, when He said, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." (Matthew 5:9,23,24 )
When I make appropriate amends, it brings peace between me and God as well as the satisfaction of knowing that I've finally done the right thing. It is a tremendous relief from guilt, shame, and remorse. This peace sometimes includes a restoration of a favorable relationship between me and another person. But it never includes an erasing from my memory, or the memory of others, of past mistakes. Those serve (among other things) to remind us that without God, we can do nothing (John 15:4,5 ). And, in my opinion, that's good.
David said, "... I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me" (Ps. 51:3 ). Humility, in my opinion, was one of David's greatest traits of character. Even though he sinned greatly, he was willing to humble himself and to admit his mistakes. Humility is something that I was only starting to learn as I began to make amends in earnest. But, I've been grateful to discover that, as I choose to be lead of God, He works in me to do what I can not do without Him (Philippians 2:13 ).
Making amends is hard. I really don't like to do it. So, when I am tempted to arrogantly insist upon my own way, I choose instead to acknowledge and surrender those feelings and ask God to help me to be a peacemaker instead. When I do that, I find that God honors my decision, softens my heart, and assists me in changing my attitude.
When we make a mistake and amends are needed, There are at least four categories (identified in the book "Steps to Serenity") of people that we should consider: 1) People who are close to us (family, close friends, etc.) to whom we can go to immediately. 2) Those to whom, for many possible reasons, only partial disclosure should be made. 3) For some, we may need to wait awhile before attempting amends. Maybe I need to give them and/or myself some time to "cool off". 4) Those whom we should never contact. This could be the case for certain types of relationships that should not be restored.
I remember a letter that I wrote to an individual that I just couldn't bring myself to deliver. So, I asked a pastor friend to help me. Looking back I see this as one of the smartest things I've ever done. I felt a great need to make amends. But, what I didn't understand, was that amends should NOT be made when to do so would injure others. I am grateful to this trusted friend for pointing out to me that this particular amends would not be beneficial to anyone, but would instead be harmful to several. I do think that it was important for me to write the letter. I also think that it was good for me to share that letter confidentially with a trusted friend. But, to go any further than that would have been a mistake.
"Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." (Step 9)
When conviction comes that I have wronged someone, the temptation is to argue with that conviction. Maybe (I think to myself) what I did/said was justified by the circumstances. Maybe that other person deserved what I did/said to them. Maybe that person also wronged me, and my lack of forgiveness toward that person is blinding me to the fact that I too was wrong and need to make amends.
The real question is, am I willing to do what Jesus said? "Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." (Matthew 5:23-24 ). Zacchaeus must have recognized the importance of this step when he said, "... Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold" (Luke 19:8 ).
Do I trust God enough to let Him "both to will and to do of his good pleasure" in my life? (Philippians 2:13 ). Will the pain of obedience result in something good for me? Will making amends make me a better person? Am I so committed to recovery that I will do whatever it takes to become a person of integrity -- a person that others can trust?
When I first practiced this step, I was scared, very scared, because I had to face up to some really bad things that I had done. I spent many tear-filled hours agonizing with God to help me to come to the place of being willing to make amends. I had no idea how these people would react to my acknowledgment of wrong doing, and to my apologies. I was about to put myself into a place of vulnerability, and it was very uncomfortable. But I knew, that in order to continue in my recovery process, I must become willing to do what ever it takes to cooperate with God as He worked to repair my broken life. Would these people whom I have wronged accept my amends, or would they reject me and crush me even further. Would it even be appropriate to contact all of these people? For now, I just needed to decide whether I am willing - no matter what the consequences would be. Do I really believe that God will only lead me in ways that I would choose to be led, if I could see the end from the beginning, as He can?
I praise God that I did decide to make amends, no matter what the cost. Even now, looking back at that decision, I have no regrets. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Only one question remains: If God is convicting you to make amends, do you trust Him enough to see you through this challenging time, and to do what He is asking of you? Will you surrender your will to His, trusting that it is for your ultimate good?
"Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all." (Step 8)
During my 25 years of "acting out" in my addiction, I would often ask God to remove my "shortcomings". In fact, I would plead with Him to "just take it away" most every time I fell. But, as I reflect on those pleadings now, I see that I was more arrogant than humble in my approach to God. I wanted Him to do it all and I wanted Him to do it now! I wanted Him to take my will, without my willingness to give it to Him. I was unwilling to admit the extent of my issues to anyone, not even to God or myself. And yet, I was demanding of God to fix me. I wasn't at all ready to have God remove my defects of character, even though I thought I was.
God says "My son, give me thine heart..." (Prov 23:26 ). If I were to hold out to you a gift in my hand, but not release it from my grasp as you attempted to take it, would it really be a gift? "Please take it", I would continue to urge. And yet, I would not release my grip. This is what it was like for me as I continually asked God for deliverance from my issues, while being unwilling to let them go.
In recovery, my arrogance and pride are gradually turning to willing submission to God's will -- humility. It is my experience that God removes my "shortcomings" only as fast as I am willing to let them go. This is not only a passive submission, but an active determination to choose a better course of action for my life -- one temptation at a time -- one day at a time. "To make God's grace our own, we must act our part. His grace is given to work in us to will and to do, but never as a substitute for our effort. As the Lord co-operated with Daniel and his fellows, so He will co-operate with all who strive to do His will." (PK 486-487)
"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings." (Step 7)
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