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|
It's challenging to be real with myself. There are always temptations to either, think more highly of myself than I should, or to beat myself up for my foolishness. But God calls us to be honest -- to be real. I need to realize and acknowledge my weaknesses, while praising God for the strength and the victories He gives me.
"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 ). "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8,9 )
When I come to God, realizing that I am a sinful mortal man, approaching the almighty God of the universe, I come in humility, asking Him to remove my character defects. For, all I have to offer Him is my will (choosing to follow Him, while knowing that I can't do it on my own) and my great need. But, because of the amazing sacrifice that Jesus became for me, I can "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that [I] may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16 ). And that's infinitely more than I deserve. PRAISE GOD!
"Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." (2 Peter 1:2-4 )
"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings." (Step 7)
It's pretty easy to say that I'm ready for God to remove all my defects of character. Likewise, it is also easy to ask Him to take away those sins that so easily beset me. And, I'd like to think that all I have to do is ask God to put the proverbial bit in my mouth and lead me around like a horse, according to His good pleasure. But I remember what God said about that: "Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle..." (Psalms 32:9 ). And then I remember Romans 6...
"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof." (Romans 6:1-3,11-12 )
I see now that this involves me more than my lazy SELF would like. In fact, this means death to my SELF. And, just like Jesus voluntarily laid down His life to pay the penalty for my sins, so must I choose to die to my old behaviors that have led to my defects in character. It seems that it is when I die to SELF that God works to remove my defects of character.
In a practical sense, it works for me like this... A temptation comes... It could be any kind of temptation that tries to lead me into sin. I recognize my powerlessness). I believe in Christ as my only hope of victory. Then I choose to surrender my will and life to my Savior, and ask Him what I should do (Acts 9:6 ). This is how I die to SELF. Rather than SELF stubbornly battling with satan for the victory, I must use my will to surrender SELF to God. This is when He gives me the victory! This is how, I believe, God transforms my character -- a little at a time. More about the will...
You may wonder if this will work for you. I challenge you to try it. Taste and see that the Lord is good, then He will do exceedingly more for you (and through you) than you have ever imagined (Ephesians 3:20 ).
"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character." (Step 6)
"And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry." (Luke 15:20-24 )
That's my God! He doesn't even wait for our confession. He loves us so much that He runs to meet us wherever we are, no matter how low we have sunk, throwing His arms of love around us. Not only God, but "Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." (Luke 15:10 ).
So, why is it that we tend to be so reticent to be honest and confess to our self, to God, and to at least one other trusted human, our true condition? For me, I think the answer can be summed up in one word -- fear.
We all have a deep need to be accepted, appreciated and loved. Also, we all have a tempter -- an enemy. Satan and his evil host will do everything they can to take us down with them.
Just as the Prodigal expected to, at best, become one of his father's servants, so the enemy tells us that we will be rejected and hated if we come confessing our faults -- being honest about who we really are. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Satan is a liar, my friend! This is the truth: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9 ). Not only that, but healing also comes as we confess (in a safe venue) to others. That's why the Bible says, "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 ).
Christian 12-Step, other confidential small groups, and trusted Christian friends provide that kind of safe place where we can confess and be prayed for. Praise God for small spiritual groups!
"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." (Step 5)
As Christians, we believe that, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9 ). So, why then should we make "a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves"? Doesn't God just erase our past? No. He forgives and cleanses, but He doesn't give us amnesia.
It's been said that, the most powerful thing we can do for the kingdom of God, is to witness to others of the way that God is working in our lives to heal our dysfunction. If that's true, then how are we going to do that if we can't remember what our dysfunction was? How are we going to overcome, not only by the blood of the Lamb, but also by the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11 ), if we have no testimony of what we used to be like?
I know that, for me, I have a choice. Either I can choose to continue to evaluate my life (and deal with it), or I will revert back to the insane cycle of repeating the same negative behaviors over and over again, while expecting different results.
"Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light." (Luke 11:35-36 )
"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (Step 4)
"Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth." (Mark 9:23 )
God had delivered Mike from most of his chemical addictions, but his addiction to nicotine was stronger than ever. It was especially hard in the small town in which he lived. Safeway was the only grocery store and because of the way the store was arranged, he had to walk right by the cigarettes in order to get to the groceries.
He had tried the "5-day plan", patches and every other method of quitting that he had heard of. He quit smoking many times, only to pick them up again at a weak moment. Mike was about to give up when, as he was reading in his Bible, a story caught his attention. It was the story of blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52 ).
As Jesus was leaving Jericho one day, with the typical large crowd of noisy people surrounding Him, blind Bart happened to be sitting beside that same road begging. When he asked a passer-by what all the commotion was about, he was told that it was Jesus of Nazareth.
That was all Bart needed to know. You see, Bart had heard of the love of Jesus, and knew he could trust Him. He believed that Jesus could bring healing to him. So, he immediately began to cry out, "Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me!" Many told him to be quiet, but he cried out all the more, "Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me!" Finally Jesus heard Bart's pleas for help, came to him, and healed his vision.
This was exactly what Mike needed to know. Hope began to well up in his heart. Since Jesus healed Bart of his blindness, then surely He would heal Mike of his nicotine addiction. It was then that he purposed in his heart, that whenever he was tempted, he would cry out, "Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me!" Seriously, he really did do this -- verbally, out loud! He told me, "People look at you funny when you do that in Safeway... but you don't smoke cigarettes. No, you don't smoke cigarettes."
After Mike began to trust in God enough to surrender himself to Jesus in his weakness, he never smoked another cigarette -- for the rest of his life.
It may not be nicotine, but we all have negative behaviors that easily beset us. Friends, it matters not what your weakness is. Jesus is willing, able, and longing to deliver you too. You can trust Him. Even if you turn away from Him, He will never leave you, nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5 ).
"And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way." (Mark 10:52 )
"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." (Step 3)
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