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|
A common recovery phrase is, "We're only as sick as our secrets". But like most catch phrases, you can only carry that so far...
I once knew a man who, because of inappropriate behavior with a minor, was fearful of being incarcerated. Because of his fear alone, he revealed to me much of what he had been involved in. He wanted recovery, so he could tell the judge how well he was doing -- hoping for mercy. I shared with him my own recovery story and invited him to get involved with the 12-Step program. He did actually go to group -- once. But, when he found out that the minor (now an adult) was not going to press charges, he lost interest in recovery. He never again went to a meeting, and he never spoke with me after that.
This man did what seemed to me to be an honest confession, and he did a decent moral inventory, so what went wrong? Well, he pretty much ignored the first 3 steps. He didn't understand his own powerlessness and, because of so-called Christians who were abusive to him, he wasn't too sure if he wanted God to rule over him. So, there was no way he was ready to surrender his life to God. Fear of negative consequences can be a good motivator, but if that is the only motivation, failure is the likely result.
Early in my recovery process, I was filled with fear that I might face some very negative consequences for my past actions. But because I was already committed to recovery through surrender to my Loving Heavenly Father, that fear served to move me into a deeper, more complete recovery process. Even though it was very painful then, now I am thankful for that experience.
I have found that when we are honest with ourselves, with God, and at least one other person, our recovery process is greatly accelerated. I think this is what James was talking about, when he said, "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 ). And I am so thankful 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 ).
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)
As I seek to take a moral inventory of my life, one of the things I must deal with is guilt. Knowing that I am a sinner (1 John 1:8-10 ), I need to ask myself some questions:
I fearlessly make this inventory of my life because I know that His "grace is sufficient" and His "strength is made perfect" (2 Cor 12:9 ) in my weakness. He is able to turn my weaknesses into strengths. "I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13 ). And, He "will never leave" me, "nor forsake" me (Heb 13:5 ).
"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (Step 4)
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6,7 ).
It's relatively easy to say that I choose to turn my will and life over to the care of God. But, in a practical sense, what does that really mean? My tendency is to want to control people, situations, things, and myself. The paradox is that, the more I try to be in control, the more out-of-control I feel. I become anxious and irritable. I lose the peace of God and I lose control over more and more of my life.
Conversely, when I let go of the control that I desire, turning it over to God, trusting that He really does have my best interest at heart, things begin to change -- for the better. I become less anxious for the future, less worried, and less irritable (Philippians 4:6 ). I feel less inclined to try to control people and situations. Through all of this, I actually gain more control over my own life, by cooperating with God -- choosing to be led by Him. Then, the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7 ) returns.
I wonder if maybe this is the experience that the apostle Paul was referring to when he said, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless 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 ).
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:6,7 )
"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." (Step 3)
Since I realize my own powerlessness to deal with those sins which so easily beset me (Hebrews 12:1 ), it is imperative for me to find a power greater than myself that can (and is willing to) deliver me from these things. Without that Higher Power, I would have no hope -- no reason for living -- because my sins bring me so much pain.
Being raised in a Christian home, I've always given the God of the Bible credit for being the Creator and sovereign Lord of the universe. I knew too that Jesus died to pay the penalty for my sins. But it's been a gradual process for me to come to understand His unlimited love for me, and just how to co-operate with His loving power as He works to "restore me to sanity".
For many it is difficult to trust the God of our understanding because our understanding of God came from our experience with the "higher powers" that ruled over us during our childhood. Even though I had relatively good parents, it has been helpful for me to make a "disconnect" between God, as I now understand Him, and the "higher powers" of my childhood. Today, because of my growing relationship with the God of the Bible, I realize that He really is the Higher Power that loves me without measure and would never do anything to me that is not in my best interest.
Today I believe that, if I could see the end from the beginning, I would not choose to be lead (or ruled over) by any other god or by any other means. And, I believe that nothing can happen to me without His permission.
" And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:28,38,39 )
"Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." (Step 2)
At the beginning of my recovery process, I was painfully aware of my powerlessness, knowing that victory over the behaviors of my primary addiction was impossible if I failed to realize that I was out-of-control of my life. I knew that I couldn't possibly cooperate with my Higher Power to get the victory that I so desperately needed if I thought for one minute that I could resist my temptations by myself! But, what about now...?
During my many years in this recovery process, my Higher Power has enabled me to have a multitude of victories over those sins that have so easily beset me (Hebrews 12:1 ). The temptation now is to let pride come in and to think more highly of myself than I ought to (Romans 12:3 ). So, I must remind myself of the words of Jesus (my Higher Power) ..., "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself..." (John 5:19 ). "I can of mine own self do nothing..." (John 5:30 ). He also said "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." (John 15:5 ).
Lord, remind me, when I think too highly of myself, that I am powerless without You. And when I am tempted to behaviors that will bring me pain, remind me that You are the Vine (Highest Power), from which all my strength comes.
"We admitted we were powerless over our problems, that our lives had become unmanageable." (Step 1)
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