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|
"Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24 )
Even though the results are often painful, I need to search my own heart regularly, asking my Creator to show me where I am failing. Without His assistance, It would be easy for me to say, "I'm OK. It's everyone else that's the problem." But, I have to keep reminding myself that it's not my job to take other people's inventory. I need God to search my heart -- to take MY inventory. I need to listen to His evaluation of my life and I need to honestly own my weaknesses and my mistakes.
Yeah, it can be hard, but the alternative is a lot harder. It may seem easier to just stuff my garbage -- pretend it doesn't exist. But, when I do, sooner or later it comes out in destructive ways that damages myself and others. I don't want to do that anymore. I want to take responsibility for my mistakes, deal with them, and move on to a better life.
"Humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you." (1 Peter 5:6-7 )
"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (Step 4)
The Bible teaches that all things work together for good for those who follow God (Romans 8:28 ). It also says that we should glory in tribulations (Romans 5:3 ). So, how does that work when a loved one is murdered? How does a person, who was molested daily as a child for years, glory in that kind of tribulation? When a person is raped, how does that work together for good? Is God sadistic, or what?
It appears to me that there is a lot of anger towards God in a lot of people, for seemingly good reasons. In Christians, this anger is often hidden -- stuffed down deep inside. It's just not cool to be angry with God, when you're a Christian. But whenever we stuff things that are troubling us, rather than dealing with them, it's like cancer. Those hidden malignant cells grow and grow until we are no longer able to function normally. Eventually, it becomes excruciatingly painful.
We don't want to deal with it, because it's painful to talk about it. But the pain of not dealing with it will eventually overwhelm us. So, why not talk about it? Why not be honest about our relationship with God? My God is big enough to handle being yelled at. When we talk things out with each other, and pray for one another, we come out of isolation. The enemy hates it when that happens because that's when he begins to lose his fiendish grip on us (James 5:16 ).
So, what about a God who lets bad things happen? Why is that? Why doesn't He just zap those murderers, rapists, and pedophiles? Those people are soooo sinful!! What about a God who lets sin happen? Why doesn't He just zap all those sinners? Why doesn't He give them all (Romans 3:23 ) (including you and me) what they deserve -- death -- right now?! (Romans 6:23 ). Why did Jesus humble Himself to become flesh and bones in this sinful world -- forever giving up some of His Divine attributes? Why did He risk His eternal life and die the second death to pay the penalty for my sins, instead of giving me the eternal death that I deserve? Why did He allow sin to raise its ugly head in the first place? And, why, when the great controversy is ended, will sin NEVER EVER raise its ugly head again?
May I suggest that the answer to all of these questions can be summed up in one word? IMHO, the reason is "LOVE". God loves us so much that He values our freedom of choice more than He values His own life.
It is freedom of choice that that allows the rapist, murder, and pedophile to do all their dastardly deeds. It is freedom of choice that has brought all pain and suffering into this world. But, when tribulations come, and God's will is restricted by the evil will of humans and fallen angels, we can be assured that God is suffering right along with us (Matthew 25:40 ). We can be assured that God will do everything He can to bring us out of that tribulation. We can be assured that, if we allow Him, He will deliver us from those sins that so easily beset us (Hebrews 12:1 ). Let us never forget that it is freedom of choice that can bring us out of this world and into Heavenly places. That, my friend, is why I choose to surrender my will to a God who lets bad things happen. My God not only loves, but His character is what defines love. That's my God!!
"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." (Step 3)
Having been in recovery since 1994, I have to wonder if God has restored me to sanity yet. What exactly does it mean to be sane? Albert Einstein once defined insanity as, "Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results." I sure did a lot of that while practicing my additions, but am I still living my life like that? By God's grace and power, I no longer practice my addictions, but does that make me sane?
Is there anyone that is sane that I can compare my life to? Well, there may be others, but the only person I know for sure that is sane is Jesus. And, when I compare my life with His, I come up wanting... So, does this mean that God hasn't restored me to sanity, as I hoped for?
I don't think sanity is like a light switch that's either on or off, but more like a light control that God turns (with our cooperation) from darkness to more and more light. When I look at it that way, I can honestly say that God is restoring me to sanity, and this is greatly encouraging :-) But, unlike the light control on my wall, God's "light control" has no limit as to the brightness of light (sanity) that can be dialed up.
So, am I sane or not? Maybe that's the wrong question. Maybe a better question would be, "Am I continually allowing God to turn up the "light" of my sanity?" When I look at it that way, I see that it's really about my own choices. God isn't the limiting factor. He's cranking that "light control" up, giving me as much "light" as I will accept. It's me that that limits the "light" of God's sanity in my life, by my poor choices. And it's me that allows God to improve my saneness, as I choose to trust and obey Him.
Even when I don't have the power to trust and obey, somehow God makes it all possible, as I choose to trust and obey Him. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
"For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2Corinthians 4:6 ). "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1:7 )
"Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." (Step 2)
I'm a pretty healthy guy. I eat well, like to hike the mountains, and often do tasks around the our one-acre home that require a good deal of muscle power. But, a few years ago, due to over-confidence in my power, I pulled a muscle in my lower-back. All of a sudden, I realized just how fragile my "power" is. Even the simplest of tasks became difficult. Working out at the gym became impossible. Walking was slow and arduous. Even the simple task of tying my shoes was barely possible. I had to admit my powerlessness and ask my family and my chiropractor for help. This sudden change from power to powerlessness resulted from overconfidence in my ability. I'm thankful that my body healed, but it took at least a month.
Have you ever been over confident in your power to do the right thing, or to not do the wrong thing then, all of a sudden, find yourself failing and falling? I have. Have you ever been over confident in your ability to control people or things and then all of a sudden find those people rebel against your control and/or find things falling apart. I have. I think it's human nature (especially for men) to want to be in control of people around us, of things, and of our behaviors. But, in our over confidence, we often find our "kingdom" slipping out of our control.
Jesus said, "... without Me, you can do nothing" (John 15:5 ).
The irony is that as long as we hold on to that allusion of power our lives tend to become more and more out of control. And, at some point, we sink so low that we begin to admit just how fragile and powerless we really are. We begin to realize that our lives have become unmanageable. Just as my pulled muscle disabled my whole body, the realization of my true condition of powerlessness can disable my whole emotional being.
"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" (James 5:16 ). "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 ). "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13 ).
For some, who haven't found this hope, the realization of powerlessness can lead to physical self-destruction. But there IS hope. When we learn to be honest about our problems and we admit our powerlessness over them, we are then able to reach out to God and trusted friends for help. That's how our healing begins. It takes time. Be patient with yourself. I've been in recovery since 1994 and I wouldn't trade my recovery experience for anything. "It works if you work it, and YOU ARE WORTH IT!"
"We admitted we were powerless over our problems, that our lives had become unmanageable." (Step 1)
"For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee." (Isaiah 54:10 )
When we begin on our road to recovery/sanctification, we may have some serious reservations about God, often because of people in authority who have let us down, or even abused us. They may have even been people who should have been Godly examples to us. As a result, we tend to see God in the same light. But as we progress through the recovery process and begin to experience positive results, the God of our understanding gradually changes. We come to know and love the God of infinite love and compassion.
Instead of dwelling on questions like, "Why did God allow these bad things to happen to me?" we become thankful that He is always present with us, especially when bad things happen, protecting us from even worse things, and holding us in His arms of loving kindness. We begin to dwell more on questions like, "How could God love me so much that He would risk His eternal life by dying on the cruel cross to save a wretch like me?" Instead of seeing God as a tyrant, through those who have abused us, we begin to see Him more as the God who loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3 ), who will never leave us, nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5 ). We begin to see God as the one who will ultimately take us out of this world of sin and death, and give us eternal life with him.
Instead of seeing God as vindictive, wanting to punish us for our sins, we begin to see Him as the one who died a cruel death on the Roman cross to pay the penalty for our sins. And, just as He had victory over the grave and lives again, so does He now live to give us victory over our behaviors that bring us so much pain. Of course, we do have a part to play, not in paying the price of our sins, but in cooperating with God as He offers deliverance from our sins. As we choose to serve God; as we choose to give Him our will, in times of trial and temptation, we thereby die to our own selfish desires. As a result, He can then raise us to newness of life by giving us the victory over those sins that have so easily beset us in the past.
And, not only in times of trial and temptation is He there for us, but throughout each and every day He is ever sending us messages through our thoughts to help us with even the smallest of challenges and choices that come our way. He doesn't do this to control us. No, He only wants to help make life better for us. Whether we choose to die to our preferences and live to His infinite wisdom is totally up to us. No matter what we choose to do or say, He is always there to lead us and guide us in the best possible direction, which we would choose anyway, if we knew the beginning from the end, as He does.
"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:1-3 )
With a God like this, why wouldn't we want to pursue this process of sanctification? Why wouldn't we want to share this Good News with others?
"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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