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|
"The Lord... is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance... Be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. Beware lest ye..., fall from your own steadfastness." (2 Peter 3:9,14,17 ). "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:" (1 Peter 5:8 ).
As a Christian, I have learned many good things about confession, repentance, amends, and perhaps the most important: surrender. But, knowledge isn't enough. God provides the opportunities. He prompts me to action. Then, I must choose to align my will with His and continually seek Him. As a result, He then works in me "to will and to do according to His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12,13 ).
In spite of all of this, when I fail to choose His way, He never leaves me nor forsakes me (Hebrews 13:5 ). All I need to do is admit my mistake to God, and to anyone else (James 5:16 ) I may have wronged. When I do that, God "is faithful and just to forgive [my] sins, and to cleanse [me] from all unrighteousness"! (1 John 1:9 ). Others may, or may not, forgive me. That's between them and God.
After I confess and make amends, I am assured that I have done my part. Since Jesus paid the price (death) for my sin (Romans 6:23 ), God releases me from guilt. Therefore, I choose to reject the temptation to beat myself up for my sins of the past (shame). Instead, I continue to diligently seek God's will, trusting that He still loves me, and is still showing me a better way to live :-)
"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Romans 12:2 ). "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen." (2 Peter 3:18 )
"Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it." (Step 10)
"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up." (James 4:10 )
Once we've become willing to make amends, it is time to follow through with the next shame-reducing act of actually making amends with those who won't be further damaged by our doing so. I think it important to consider our motives for this communication with those whom we have harmed. Are we truly sorry for what we have done? Or, are we just doing it because we feel pressured to do so? Can we honestly say with the apostle Paul, "I am crucified with Christ: neverthless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20 )? Are we really ready to humbly admit our mistakes to those we have harmed and do what we can to make amends?
Maybe they have also hurt us. Are we ready to forgive our enemy and to extend the first bits of agape love to them, by making amends? (Matthew 5:42-48 ). Note that loving (agape) our enemy does not necessarily mean that we will ever become close (emotional) friends (philia). What it does mean is that we will have unconditional respect, courtesy, and well-wishing for everyone, including those who have harmed us. This is not an emotional response. This is a decision to do, not only what is best for the other person, but what is in our best interest as well. You see, it is never in our best interest to hold grudges and to be unforgiving, because these things destroy the peace is our privilege to enjoy otherwise.
Is it within our power to make the decision to love/forgive our enemies? I would say "Yes". However, I must quickly add that it is NOT likely within our power to carry out that decision. This is where the proper use of our will comes into play, for "with God, all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26 ) (Mark 9:23 ). And, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13 )
When we make amends, we will likely have fear about the outcome. Will the recipient of our amends lash out at us? Will our reputation suffer? In my personal experience and in the experience of others whom I've discussed this with, there is very seldom a negative outcome. Most people I have written to have not responded at all. But, those who have responded have had a favorable response. To my knowledge, my reputation has not suffered. To the contrary, people seem to appreciate the fact that I take ownership of my mistakes and do what I can to make amends.
"Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again." (Luke 6:38 )
"Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." (Step 9)
It seems to me that there are at least two ways to deal with guilt and shame. The most common method seems to be to just stuff it -- pretend that it never happened. This doesn't seem to work to well, because in our heart of hearts, we know that it did happen, and it never really goes away. There seems to be some evidence that a result of stuffing it is lot like acid, eroding us from the inside out -- emotionally and sometimes even physically. Some claim that there are a number of debilitating diseases largely caused by trying to forget and to conceal the garbage in our lives.
Fortunately, there is a better way. We know that if we confess our sins to God, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness (1 John 1:9 ). But, we also have another shame-reducing tool, called "amends". As we become willing to make amends to those whom we have harmed, we begin to expel more of that acidic shame from our emotional and physical being.
Have you ever used baking soda and water to clean up battery acid? If so, you've seen the rather violent reaction between those two chemicals. And, you've seen the results -- cleaned battery terminals. It is much the same as we become willing to make amends. It can be a violently painful experience, but the result is the neutralization of the acidic shame that we had been harboring. Of course this does not change our history. The deed was still done, but now it becomes easier to forgive ourselves and not let the past control our present and future.
Once I have confessed my sin to God and have done what I can to make amends with those I've harmed, I have no reason to carry guilt and shame any longer. By Jesus' death on that old rugged cross, the penalty was paid for my sin. By that amazing gift He cleanses me of guilt. Then by following Christ's direction in Matthew 5:23,24, I am also cleansed of shame.
If, after that, I still feel shamed, I know that an enemy is tempting me to hold that shame and I must surrender that feeling to God. He is faithful and just to deliver me from even that :-).
"So, if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God" (Matthew 5:23,24 ). There are some, however, that will not reconcile with you. In that case, "do all that you can to live in peace with everyone" (Romans 12:18 ).
"Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all." (Step 8)
"Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin... Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." (Psalm 51:1-10 ).
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9
"Christ is the source of every right impulse.
He is the only one that can implant in the heart
enmity against sin. Every desire for truth and purity,
every conviction of our own sinfulness,
is an evidence that His Spirit is moving upon our hearts."
(Steps to Christ, 26)
When I'm entirely ready to have God remove my character defects, it's a natural next-step to ask Him to do it. However, the way He does that is sometimes unexpected and often painful. My tendency is to want God to sprinkle some "pixy dust" on me and POOF, I'm all better! But it hasn't happened to me yet :-) What has happened is according to Hebrews 12:5-11. God has given (and still gives) me consequences for my bad choices. Forgiveness (in my case) seldom removes all the consequences. And I have some doubt that my character would actually be changed much if all consequences were removed. In my estimation, some of the ingredients of character transformation are: consequences, accountability, right choices (strong hard battles with self), and complete reliance upon God for my strength.
... My child,[b] don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child. As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. (Hebrews 12:5-11 )
"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings." (Step 7)
Merriam-Webster defines repentance:
1: to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one's life.
2 a: to feel regret or contrition. b: to change one's mind.
Repentance can be hard because change is hard. We get comfortable with the way we do things -- the way we live. But, after discovering that some of the ways we've been living are not as it should be, God calls us to repentance -- a willingness to let go of those destructive behaviors, so that God can remove them from our lives.
The apostle Paul said, "... Pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have... For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death." (2 Corinthians 7:9,10 )
Jesus says,"... Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners" (Mark 2:17 ). "... There is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!" (Luke 15:7 )
"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character." (Step 6)
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