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|
"There's nothing wrong with me. It's everyone else that's messed up!" Have you ever seen that kind of attitude in others? Have you ever felt that way yourself? I sure have -- on both accounts.
It's easy to compare ourselves with what we see in other people. When we do that, it may temporarily make us feel better about ourselves. So, we rationalize more and more of our bad behaviors. Since "Joe Blow is a lot worse than me", I must be OK. But this arrogant way of thinking is not helpful to our relationships or to our sense of well-being.
When I consider the pure life of Christ and His great moral standard written in His Holy Law, my life doesn't look so good. It is only with this perspective that I can begin to judge my true moral condition.
Of course, there is danger in this approach too. When I realize just how far I am from being like Jesus, it can be a real downer. The powers of evil would love to take this opportunity to sink me into depression and to trigger even worse behavior, pulling me even further from Jesus. But that is not what we need.
There's a ditch on both sides of the road. We need to stay out of both the ditch of complacency and the ditch of depression. So, what would be the middle-of-the-road approach? I need to be aware of my strengths and my weaknesses and deal with them in healthy ways. By God's grace and power, He can turn my weaknesses into strengths. That's why He said, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9 ).
"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" (Hebrews 12:1-7 )
"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (Step 4)
Step 3 is all about what one author calls, "the divine principle of co-operation, without which no true success can be attained" (PK 486-487). I mark the start of my recovery at the time that I began to understand and practice this principle.
The great deceiver would have us either do it our way, relying on our own strength. Or, he would have us think that God will do all for us, without our cooperation. I see these as the deceiver's two deep ditches on either side of the straight and narrow road of sanctification ("the progressive work of a lifetime"), leading to a life of peace, joy, fulfillment, and love -- but not without trials and temptations :-)
Here are some supporting Bible texts:
Maybe another way to phrase this would be, "Divine behavior modification therapy". Whatever we call it, I can't live a worthwhile life without it!
Here is a detailed study about will power with my personal testimony of how this divine principle of cooperation works, along with a printable study-guide.
"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." (Step 3)
"And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David. And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David. And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you? They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him." (Matthew 20:30-34 )
Just as our gentle, loving Savior opened the eyes of these blind men, so does His amazing grace work in our hearts to restore us to sanity as we recognize our powerlessness and persistently pursue His healing touch. But, it is so often the case that we have not because we ask not (James 4:2 ). Jesus says, "ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:24 ). "For with God nothing shall be impossible." (Luke 1:37 )
It is hard to admit my powerlessness and then humble myself further to ask for help from my Higher Power. My human tendency is to want to be the master of my own destiny. But, I've come to realize that this pompous attitude got me into my helpless state in the first place. So, it certainly is not going to save me now. It is only as I humbly submit myself to God -- seeking His will -- that I have any hope at all of restoration.
"Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Galatians 1:3-5 )
"Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." (Step 2)
"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." (Psalms 51:5 ). "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:24 ). Though sinless, Jesus said that even He "can do nothing of himself" (John 5:19 ), so why do I pretend that I'm OK? Why do I think that, after being saved by Grace, I can now live my life on my own? Why do I think that I can be the master of my own destiny?
For 25 years, I insanely fought my sinful nature in the same way -- expecting different results every time temptation came. But, just has 2+2=4 -- every time I figure it -- so did I continue to get the same results -- failure, guilt, and shame -- every time I tried to solve my problems MY way. I thought I could fight it myself. I thought God would give me more strength of will so that I could have the victory in MY strength. But, I continued to get the same results -- wretched failure.
It was only when I began to accept the impossibility of having enough strength to fight this on my own, honestly admitting my need, that I was ready to accept the power of God in my life to give me victory over those sins that so easily beset me. It was only when I began to accept that I am a wretched creature that a path to healing began to open up to me. I began to find a new way to use my will power -- not so much in fighting, but more in trusting the Highest Power to lead me in the paths of righteousness. To Him, I give all the honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
"We admitted we were powerless over our problems, that our lives had become unmanageable." (Step 1)
In my humble opinion, the Biblical principles of sanctification/recovery provide a road map to spiritual and emotional wellness. In my own experience, these principles have been, and continue to be, my most valuable resource in building a saving relationship with God, and in building closer personal relationships with my family and others.
Because of this, I cannot help but witness to others of my wonderful Savior, who not only continues to save a wretch like me, but who also gives power to overcome as I surrender to His will and His Lordship in my life. My desire is to choose surrender more and follow my own foolish pathways less. How about you?
"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:" (John 1:12 )
"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." (Revelation 12:11 )
"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)
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