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|
"He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." (Proverbs 28:13 ). "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 ).
"Perhaps the single greatest barrier to recovery is the inability to be honest". (Steps to Serenity, page 46)
"The only reason why we do not have remission of sins
that are past is that we are not willing to humble our hearts
and comply with the conditions of the word of truth.
Explicit instruction is given concerning this matter.
Confession of sin, whether public or private, should be heartfelt
and freely expressed." Ellen White (Steps to Christ, 38)
My unresolved issues isolated me from other people and from God. But, as I began to be honest with myself, God and with others, those barriers of isolation began to come down. I started to feel better about myself - my sense of shame was reduced. A common saying in 12-Step is, "We are only as sick as our secrets". There is a lot of truth to this.
Friend, if you are encumbered with a load of guilt and shame, I invite you to enter into this ancient, Christian tradition of confession. Jesus died on that cruel, old rugged cross to pay the penalty for your sins, and mine. And He is longing now to bless us with a new and better life, but He needs us to come out of denial and confess our sins.
For, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:8-9 )
"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." (Step 5)
It has been said that our eyes are the window to our soul (Matthew 6:22-23 ). Does it make you nervous when people don't look you in the eye? It does me. It especially bothers me when a dog won't look me in the eye. I once had a dog like that. I couldn't trust him. If there was anyway he could get through the gate or over or under the fence, he'd be gone. He wouldn't even think of coming when I called. A dog I have now is just the opposite. He always looks me in the eye. It's as if he is trying to see what I'm thinking. If I give him the look he wants, he's immediately in my lap. We're nose to nose and he's expecting some loving attention.
I want to be more like my dog in my relationship with my Benevolent Master. As I look into His eyes of Infinite Love -- though I only see dimly now (1 Corinthians 13:12 ) -- I always find the look that I want. It's the look of acceptance, no matter how bad my behavior has been. It's the look of understanding, having been tempted in all points like I am (Hebrews 4:15 ) (Hebrews 2:18 ). It's the look of compassion. It's the look of forgiveness. It's the look of unconditional Love.
More than all of this, when I look into the eyes of Love, I see the eyes of Infinite Holiness. I am thankful for the dimness of my vision, for no sinful being, with clear vision, can look into the eyes of Holiness and live. Saul, on the road to Damascus, was blinded by only a partial exposure to the Holy eyes of Jesus (Acts 9:1-6 ). The contrast between the light of Holiness and Saul's character was so extreme as to cause a searching moral inventory of his sinful life.
And so it is with me. I no longer fear to look into His eyes of Holiness, because I trust Him to dim my vision so that I will only see as much as He gives me strength to bare. And I trust Him to clean me up, as I cooperate with Heavenly agencies. That's my God! You can trust my God :-)
"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (Step 4)
For me, turning my will and my life over to the care of God consistently is pivotal. Without this constant trust in God and surrender to His will, it is impossible for me to continue my recovery process. It is impossible for me to be engaged in the sanctification process. Oh, I may go through the motions..., but if I'm not surrendered to God, I'll make a mess of it all.
When I AM surrendered to God in all my known choices, it is God who works in me to will and to do His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13 ) and that is infinitely better than I could do on my own.
When bad things happen (and they surely will), I must remember that God uses these faith-trying experiences to teach me patience -- to strengthen my character (James 1:2-4 ), as I constantly trust and obey my Loving Heavenly Father's leading. Painful though it can be, I know that I need all the character development that I can get. It is hard to "count it all joy... (vs 2)" and to "glory in the tribulations" (Romans 5:3 ) in the heat of the trial. But as I trust in God and obey His leading, I do have joy that, through it all, God is right there with me, helping me, protecting me, working in me to do His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13 ) -- changing me to be more like Jesus. What could be better than that?
"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." (Step 3)
Have you ever been treated inappropriately by people who seem to be, or even claim to be, God's chosen vessels on Earth? What about the abusive parent who tried to put the "fear of god" into you? What about the look-good-on-the-outside church member who gossips behind your back about you? What about the church officer who won't help you in your time of need (Luke 10:30-32 )? And, what about a church pastor who accuses you of the unpardonable sin because you question his theology?
Have you ever wondered why so many bad things happen to you? Have you asked, "Where was God when...?", or wonder, "Why did God let that happen to me?", or even dare to think, "Why did God do that to me?!" As a Christian, it may seem unthinkable to to voice these questions, but I have discovered that these concerns are common -- even among seemingly devout, church going, Christians.
It is a great temptation to distrust God when things like these happen. It's easy to start believing that God really doesn't care about "me". We may even come to believe that God is abusive. Because of this, Step 2 is a difficult step for many -- even for Christians.
Yet, we feel this great need for help and comfort from a power greater than ourselves. In Step one, we admitted that we were powerless and out-of-control. So now, we really need a greater power, who will restore us to sanity (Step 2). But, is the God of our understanding willing, or even able, to do that for us? Maybe not.
But wait. Is the God of our understanding really the true God? Is it possible that the powers of evil have used their servants, masquerading as Christians, to convince us that God is evil?
If that is true, then one might ask, "Why doesn't God do something about it?" Why doesn't he step in and remove that pastor who teaches lies and makes false accusations? Why doesn't God stop the abusive parent from harming his/her children? Why doesn't He remove those unhelpful church officers from their positions? WHERE IS THE JUSTICE!! In considering possible answers to those questions, it may be helpful for us to look at a bigger, more encompassing, question: When Adam and Eve first sinned, why didn't God just wipe them out and start over again with me? Certainly I would have made better choices... or... would I?
More and more, I am coming to believe that God values our freedom of choice above most everything. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to serve a god who doesn't give me a choice as to whether I serve him or not. I am trying to see more of the big picture -- the great controversy between Christ and satan. It is satan and his servants that bring evil to us in this world. Those people who should be examples of God's love and mercy (professed Christians) are not choosing God's way when they abuse us. They are choosing to listen to another voice -- the voice of evil.
I shudder to think of how many times I have listened to the wrong voice and treated others in a less-than-Christian-like way. And, I am thankful that God does not strike me down for making bad choices. So, why do I want Him to do evil to other people who also make bad choices? That's just not God's way. "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9 ).
I must agree with Paul when he said, "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:11-13 ). I invite you to look, with me, at Psalms 23 where God promises to be with us in the "valley of the shadow of death" and where He promises to "prepare a table" for us in the presence of our enemies.
"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever." (Psalms 23:1-6 ).
This is the God of my understanding -- a God of love and mercy. This is the God that is restoring me to sanity. This is the God I love. Won't you join me now in serving the true God of Love?
"Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." (Step 2)
Egotistic: Thinking very highly of oneself; vain; boastful; indifferent to the well-being of others; basically... selfish.
Altruistic: benevolent; considerate; generous; humanitarian; kind; basically... self-sacrificing.
The Christian walk, to me, seems to be one of a lifetime of progression. It often begins with a highly egotistical view of life with a perception that "I am the center of my world. It's all about me". Then, as we allow the love of God to constrain us (2 Cor 5:14 ), we become less focused on ourselves and more focused on God; more interested in the welfare of others; more altruistic.
For me, a great place to start (and keep coming back to) in this process is to remind myself of the words of Jesus, when He said "I can of mine own self do nothing... I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father" (John 5:19,30 ). That's humbling... Why should I think more highly of myself, than Jesus thought of Himself? I want to be more like Jesus :-)
"For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." (Romans 12:3 )
"We admitted we were powerless over our problems, that our lives had become unmanageable." (Step 1)
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