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|
After taking an honest moral inventory of our lives, it is tempting to take on a great deal of shame, as we begin to realize how horrible our behaviors have been. If we stop here, the weight of this shame and guilt can be too much to handle. It could even push us deeper into our addictions, or worse. That's why we need to do more than just admit (confess) these things to ourselves. There are two additional Bible principles we need to consider.
Second:"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 )
Wow! That is so powerful! God says that, just admitting our mistakes to Him, is enough to have forgiveness from Him. To know we are forgiven greatly reduces our shame and guilt. So, why not go ahead and enter into this ancient Christian tradition of confession? God knows you better than yourself, so what do you have to lose? The only thing I lose, when I confess, is my guilt and shame. What I gain is forgiveness and peace. By this act I also become more accountable to God. As a result, I'm less interested in doing the same bad behavior again.
Third: Not only should we admit our mistakes to ourselves and to God, we must also: "Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results" NLT(James 5:16 ).
By admitting my weaknesses to at least one other person, I become more accountable. I need that. I really believe that you are only as sick as your secrets. By being more open about these things, we tend to be less bound by the sins that have so easily beset us. A safe place to make these confessions is at a 12-Step meeting. This is one of the biggest reasons I like 12-Step groups. It gives me a place that I can be honest, without fear of gossip.
The control that our sick behaviors have over us can be broken through confession. Please don't let your secrets destroy your life any longer. God has a better way :-)
"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." (Step 5)
"Have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
'My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.'
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?" (Hebrews 12:5-7 )
It was the morning after the evening of my first victory in Jesus when it was as if my whole sinful life passed before me. God brought back to my conscious memory all of my sinful thoughts and actions of my previous 25 years of practicing my addictions. The realization of the depth of my wretched life of sin was nearly overwhelming.
For years I knew that I was powerless over my addictions and that my life was out-of-control, but this was different. This was a deep, heart-felt inventory of my dreadfully sinful condition. I am extremely thankful that God didn't lay this heavy load on me before my first victory through surrender to Jesus. If He had, it would likely have crushed me, since I had no hope of ever conquering my evil behavior.
But that wasn't the case now. I had the keys to victory. I had experienced (for the first time in my life), absolute surrender to God in the midst of temptation. And, even though it was extremely hard to face my past, I knew that Jesus was holding my hand. I knew that I no longer had to live in my past, but instead I could move on to a brighter tomorrow, through constant surrender of my will to Jesus. Praise God!
I have no other explanation as to why this spiritual inventory happened, other than it must have been God. Looking back to that experience now, I see that it was an absolute necessity that I go through the pain of being totally honest with myself about my condition. It prepared me for the next conviction that God soon brought to me.
"He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me" (2 Corinthians 12:9 ).
"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (Step 4)
Speaking to Jesus, "Peter insisted. 'Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!'" (Matthew 26:35 ). But, early the next morning, "Peter denied [knowing Jesus] in front of everyone. 'I don’t know what you’re talking about,' he said.... Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. 'I don’t even know the man,' he said... Peter swore, 'A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!'..." (Matthew 26:70,72,74 )
I find it very interesting that the Greek word translated "deny", which Matthew used to describe Peter's denial of Christ, is the same word that Jesus used, when He said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." (Matthew 16:24 ) (Mark 8:34 ) (Luke 9:23 ).
Rather than a smooth elevator ride to Heaven, Christianity involves a battle -- against self -- a denial of the clamors of my flesh, in surrender to my omnipotent, loving Heavenly Father. Jesus gives us more-than-ample examples of this process in His own life.
Consider Jesus in Gethsemane when He said, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death... And he... fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt... He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done." (Matthew 26:38-39,42 ). He didn't have to go through with this plan, but He chose to deny Himself and accept the will of His father.
When He was taken captive by the angry mob, He had the power to set Himself free and destroy them all. But He denied His divine power, only using it to heal an ear of His enemy.
When He was sentenced to be purged with the Roman Scourge, He could have said, "Enough! No more!", and set Himself free, but instead He denied Himself and was beaten, near to death.
When He was nailed to that old rugged cross, He could have called ten-thousand angels destroy the world and set Him free, but instead He denied Himself, trusting in His father to make all things right, and good, in the end.
Yes, denial of self can be painful and very hard, but it's also true that, "The heavenly intelligences will work with the human agent… Christ says, I am at your right hand to help you. As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings" (Christ's Object Lessons 332-333).
"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." (Step 3)
Jesus said (in John 15), 1-3 "I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn't bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.
4"Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can't bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can't bear fruit unless you are joined with me."
5-8"I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples."
9-10"I've loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you'll remain intimately at home in my love. That's what I've done—kept my Father's commands and made myself at home in his love."
11-15"I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I'm no longer calling you servants because servants don't understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I've named you friends because I've let you in on everything I've heard from the Father." (John 15:1-15 ) Quoted from "The Message" Bible.
"Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." (Step 2)
My human tendency is to consider myself well-able to handle whatever life brings to me. I want to be in control, but when I consider the awesome power and goodness of God, I can't help but resonate with the Psalmist, when he said, "Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed." (Psalms 6:2 ).
It is a central paradox in the process of sanctification, that admission of powerlessness is key to receiving victory in Jesus. The apostle Paul said it this way: "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9,10 ).
My choice is plain and simple. I can continue to hold onto (wishful or imaginary) control of people and things, or I can admit my weakness, let go of my control issues, and allow God to work in me, and through me, to will and to do according to His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13 ). I need to consider the resultant stress-level of each of these choices. Shall I continue to fight for control, or would I rather let go and let God give me peace and joy?
"We admitted we were powerless over our problems, that our lives had become unmanageable." (Step 1)
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