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|
Once we've begun to come out of denial about our true moral condition, and are learning to put our full trust in God, it is likely that we will experience a conviction to be fully honest with ourselves, God, and trusted friends about those sins that so easily beset us (Hebrews 12:1 ).
The thought of confession may bring us a great deal of fear. Are we now willing to take ownership of our weaknesses, or is fear of the unknown persuading us to stuff all this mess back into those dirty closets of our lives that we just pulled them out of during our introspective processing?
We may be fearful to admit these things even to ourselves because we're not sure that we can forgive ourselves. But, as we choose to accept our past and current issues as our own, we take yet another step toward freedom. Our load of shame is reduced. (Romans 12:3 )
We may be fearful to admit our ungodliness to the Holy God of the universe. But we must remember that He already knows anyway. And even so, He loves us so much that He came into this sinful world as a man and died to pay the penalty for our sins. Our God loves us so much that He accepts us just the way we are, no matter how low we've sunk into our foolishness. But, we need not fear to confess to God the exact nature of our wrongs, for... "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1John 1:9 )
We may be exceedingly fearful to confess the results of our introspection to another human being because of what they may think of us or what they may say to us or to others as a result of our sharing. Because of this, we do need to be very careful to choose a listener (or listeners) wisely. It needs to be someone experienced in the recovery/sanctification process that we can trust. But, when we find the right person, and push through our fear, confessing the exact nature of our issues, there comes a feeling of relief that these things are no longer our dark secret. Someone else now knows about it. This angers the forces of evil, who had a great advantage over us while we were in isolation. (James 5:16 )
It feels (and is) good to come out of our isolation and into the freedom of being able to at least begin to talk about our dysfunction. Confession has greatly accelerated the healing process for myself and many others who I know. It can do the same for you, my friend, because YOU ARE WORTH IT!
Listen to what Jesus said about your worth: "Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:" (Luke 12:6-8 )
"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." (Step 5)
When cutting an onion, certain enzymes are released which tend to bring tears to our eyes. Generally speaking, people look for all kinds of ways to avoid this pain. I've heard of people wearing goggles or cutting the onions under water, as well as many other ways to avoid the unpleasant effects of onion cutting. Some claim that cutting onions may actually have medicinal benefits. Proponents of natural healing have long taken advantage of these benefits.
Quoting Eva Wilson, "When looking at the symptoms of [a] cold, it is ironic that we would treat this ailment with an almost like-with-like therapy." In a similar way, it may seem ironic that we would treat our sin-sick condition by making "a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves". Generally speaking, we'd rather ignore our problems so we don't feel the pain. This therapy (moral inventory) has been likened to the pealing of an onion, in that as we peal back each layer (issue) of our lives, we discover another "layer" that we need to deal with. And, I've found that to be true in my own recovery process. But today, I'm thinking of another way to look at this process.
As we become more and more surrendered to God, resulting from the recognition of our need and our trust in a loving God, it seems like He "cuts" through those "layers" of our "onion" of dysfunction . This process is painful. It exposes hidden layers of stuff we have been in denial (or forgotten) about and it stings the eyes of our understanding, bringing many tears. But ironically, through all of this cutting pain, we find restoration of our souls to God through the release of the healing "enzymes" of acknowledgment of our sins which so easily beset us (Hebrews 12:1 ).
When we embrace this healing process, rather than putting on the "goggles" of denial, we are divinely propelled into the more advanced steps of healing and recovery, such as confession, amends and witnessing, which all lead to a more fulfilling life, with greater peace, joy and love. IMHO, I think that the pain of introspection (or cutting onions) is well worth the gain. Praise God!
"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (Step 4)
The apostle Paul said, "... I die daily" (1 Corinthians 15:31 ) and, "My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20 ).
Death to self is counter-intuitive in the me-centered world we live in today. Death to self is counter-intuitive to me because I want to be the center of my world. However, I am finding that I am unable to see into the future in order to make the best decisions for today. In fact, I can do nothing without God. Why would I think that? Look at the words of Jesus: "The Son can do nothing of Himself... I can of mine own self do nothing" (John 5:19,30 ) and "... without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5 ). So, who am I to think I can do what Jesus said He can't do?
Look at what Isaiah said, "The Lord will always lead you. He will meet the needs of your soul in the dry times and give strength to your body. You will be like a garden that has enough water, like a well of water that never dries up" (Isaiah 58:11 ).
A wise person once said, "God never leads His children otherwise than they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning and discern the glory of the purpose which they are fulfilling as co-workers with Him." (Ministry of Healing 479). and, "... this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory." (Colossians 1:37 )
As I consider this evidence and my own anecdotal experiences of God's leading in the past, I can't help but choose to continually invite God/Christ/the Holy Spirit to live in me. I choose death to self that I may experience the secret of death: Christ in me, the hope of glory for the future, peace in the present, with acceptance and forgiveness for my past failure.
What about you?
"We admitted we were powerless over our problems, that our lives had become unmanageable." (Step 1)
"Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." (Isaiah 1:18 ).
This is the power greater than myself that I choose to believe is restoring me to sanity. This is the God who gives me hope of a better future. This is the God who invites us to come and be with Him. But for some, because of their history, this god is seen as a controlling god. The god of many people's understanding might be symbolized by a cowboy who rides us and controls us with the bit he puts in our mouth. But that's a tactic of the enemy. My God is different than that. "The Lord says, I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control." (Psalms 32:8,9 ). My God is not a god of force. He honors our freedom of choice even more than His own life.
Jesus says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30 ).
I have a friend who lives near a wilderness area. He and his wife obtained a permit to harvest some trees in an area where vehicles were not allowed off-road. Somehow they found a human yoke, which is very different from those used for oxen. There was no strapping into this yoke. It was designed for two people who would push against it with their chest. In the middle was a rope that connected to a metal clamp used to drag a log. This required a lot of communication, cooperation and trust between my friend and his wife. If one chose to turn right while the other chose to turn left, they would simply fall out of the yoke. So, one of them had to lead and the other had the choice to either follow intently, or lose their connection, through the yoke, to their spouse. I think it works much the same way with the yoke that Christ asks us to wear. He is always available to us, waiting to yoke us with Him. He longs to help us carry our load of responsibilities. All we need to do is to cooperate, listening intently to His "still small voice" (1 Kings 19:12 ). Then, as we choose to follow Him in His yoke, He makes the impossible possible. His yoke truly is easy.
Since I believe that Christ would never lead me in any way I would not choose to be led, if I could see the future as He can, I want to yoke up with Him. Then, as we share the load in that yoke, I know that He is well able to take us through any trouble that might get in our way. And, since He never makes mistakes, I trust Him to take the lead in His yoke. As He promised, I find rest for my soul in His yoke.
"Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." (Step 2)
"... The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do... I can of mine own self do nothing... I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." (John 5:19,30 )
It's amazing to me that my Lord and Savior -- who healed the sick, raised the dead, and sacrificed His life for me -- would say that He can do nothing without His father. As I ponder the implications of that statement, I am humbled. How could I possibly be so proud as to think I can somehow do more than Jesus? For, without Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5 ).
The Psalmist said it well: "I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart." (Ps 38:6,8 )
I'm a "Can-Do" kind of guy. I love my family. I love my work. And I can enjoyably do many things. But, in all my doings, I am painfully aware that I have limitations. My sinful nature is not gone and I can't fix it. Many years of cultivating my sinful nature have strengthened it far beyond what I was born with, and it is still present within me (Romans 7:17-21 ).
The more I understand my limitations, the more I am willing to surrender those things as unmanageable, and lean on Jesus to give me the strength that I need for today. As I practice this, God works in me to change me to become more and more like Jesus. That's just what I need!
"We admitted we were powerless over our problems, that our lives had become unmanageable." (Step 1)
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