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|
" 1 "Do not judge others. Then you will not be judged. 2 You will be judged in the same way you judge others. You will be measured in the same way you measure others.
3 "You look at the bit of sawdust in your friend's eye. But you pay no attention to the piece of wood in your own eye. 4 How can you say to your friend, 'Let me take the bit of sawdust out of your eye'? How can you say this while there is a piece of wood in your own eye?
5 "You pretender! First take the piece of wood out of your own eye. Then you will be able to see clearly to take the bit of sawdust out of your friend's eye." (Matthew 7:1-5 )
This is a hard lesson to learn. I've spent most of my life trying to extract the sawdust in your eye -- telling you what's wrong with you -- while ignoring the chunk of wood in my own eye -- my own issues. I'm beginning to learn to deal with my own stuff. And, one of the ways I do that is to consider all those whom I have harmed and become willing to make amends to them.
Rather than judging their misbehavior and their motives, I must choose to forgive them for what they have done to me, while relying on God to give me an heart of forgiveness. This is important because there is no way that I can make effective amends with someone that I won't forgive.
"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:14,15 )
Looking at this from the positive side, it becomes a win-win-win situation:
As this healthy cycle of forgiveness and amends continues, love grows where hatred once flourished and we become more and more able to help each other, in healthy and loving ways, with those remaining splinters...
"Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all." (Step 8)
"I will sprinkle clean water on you... Your filth will be washed away... I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart... I will put My Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and... obey my regulations... I will cleanse you of your filthy behavior..." (Ezekiel 36:25-29 ) NLT. "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;" (Hebrews 10:16 )(Hebrews 8:10 ).
Intellectually, I know God's law is the law of love, and I assent to it. but my heart has been stony cold. Like the man of Romans 7 (Rom 7:14-23 ), my character is defective. I need the love of God written on my heart -- in my character. And so, I ask myself, "How can I cooperate with God's love? How can I give Him permission to remove my defects of character? How does He do that? What will it cost me? And, am I entirely ready to let God do this work of transformation in my heart. How do I become that intimate with God?"
I believe that it "boils down" to how honest I am, about my weaknesses, with myself, God and others. And, do I really trust God enough to fully surrender to Him and to His will when He calls to my heart? Recognizing my powerlessness, Am I willing to be "crucified" to self and alive to Christ (Galatians 2:20 )? Will I say, "Lord what would you have me to do?" (Acts 9:6 ) And then, will I choose to obey, knowing that: "The temptations in [my] life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than [I] can stand. When [I am] tempted, he will show [me] a way out so that [I] can endure." (1 Cor 10:13 )
Each time I practice these principles, not only does He give me the victory (Praise God!), but I also believe that He writes more of His laws of love in my heart, in my character. Those new behaviors of love become part of who I am (an heart of flesh) and those old behaviors of selfishness (stony heart) become less of who I am. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Cor 5:17 ) May it be so in my life and in yours...
"Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you." (Ezekiel 36:25-27,29 )
"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings." (Step 7)
I need often to consider if I really am ready for God to remove ALL my defects of character.
"With the Lord’s authority I [Paul] say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes" (Ephesians 4:17-23 ).
"But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him" (Colossians 3:8-10 ).
"We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires" (Romans 6:6-12 ).
The question remaining is, am I willing to cooperate with God in this process of dying to my old ways that bring only pain and learning (by God's grace and power) to live as a new creature in Christ. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Cor 5:17 )
I want less and less of the old man holding me back and bringing me pain and grief, and more and more of the new man, allowing God to bring me peace and joy. How about you?
"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character." (Step 6)
"We are as sick as our secrets. Our ego takes over control of our lives and when that happens our minds get very sick. Then we hurt people and our minds will always justify our actions. Our minds will give us rationalization and excuses that we are justified in doing what we are doing." (Audrey Shenandoah, a member of the Native American tribe: Onondaga)
"People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy." (Proverbs 28:13 )
I was a master at keeping the real me concealed from most everyone who knew me. But those deep, dark secret areas of my life were eroding my mind, my soul, and likely my body as well. As long as I was unwilling to be honest about what I was really like, what I was really feeling, my life only got worse.
But as a result of a deep moral inventory, I began to admit to myself just how much garbage had collected in my soul. And, not only did I cry out to God in contrition and confession (1 John 1:9 ), but I also became more and more convicted that I must confess my faults to another human being (James 5:16 ).
This was probably the most painful time of my life. I don't know who coined the phrase "No Pain, No Gain", but I've found it true in so many areas of my life -- especially when it comes to recovery. I testify to you today that "gain" in cooperating with God has been much more than, worth the pain of surrender.
It wasn't until I began to be honest with myself, with God, and with at least one other human being that my healing began. We are promised that we will be healed as we confess our faults to one another and pray for one another (James 5:16 ), and I've found this to be true.
But at that time, I did not know that relief would come as a result of my confession. I only knew that I had a deep conviction that I must do it. Satan wants to hold us in bondage through our isolation. He knows that if we let our secrets out, he will begin to lose his hold on us. Friend, I invite you now to break satan's hold on you by entering into this ancient Christian tradition of confession. "It works, if you work it, and YOU ARE WORTH IT!"
"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." (Step 5)
"There's nothing wrong with me. It's everyone else that's messed up!" Have you ever seen that kind of attitude in others? Have you ever felt that way yourself? I sure have -- on both accounts.
It's easy to compare ourselves with what we see in other people. When we do that, it may temporarily make us feel better about ourselves. So, we rationalize more and more of our bad behaviors. Since "Joe Blow is a lot worse than me", I must be OK. But this arrogant way of thinking is not helpful to our relationships or to our sense of well-being.
When I consider the pure life of Christ and His great moral standard written in His Holy Law, my life doesn't look so good. It is only with this perspective that I can begin to judge my true moral condition.
Of course, there is danger in this approach too. When I realize just how far I am from being like Jesus, it can be a real downer. The powers of evil would love to take this opportunity to sink me into depression and to trigger even worse behavior, pulling me even further from Jesus. But that is not what we need.
There's a ditch on both sides of the road. We need to stay out of both the ditch of complacency and the ditch of depression. So, what would be the middle-of-the-road approach? I need to be aware of my strengths and my weaknesses and deal with them in healthy ways. By God's grace and power, He can turn my weaknesses into strengths. That's why He said, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9 ).
"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" (Hebrews 12:1-7 )
"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (Step 4)
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