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|
Early in my recovery process, God laid on my heart many situations for which I needed to make amends. Even though it was a very painful process to go through, I felt much better about myself for making the list and following through with the amends. Since that time I have continued to take personal inventory, and when I was wrong, promptly (well, usually I've been prompt :-) admitted it -- once I recognized my mistake.
But when it's me that has been wronged, am I able to see whether or not I have anything to make amends for in that situation? I think that sometimes I may be unable to see my own mistakes through the pain that I suffer as a result of other people's words and/or actions. This may be where forgiveness comes into play. I doubt whether I can truly make amends in the case where I have not forgiven that person for what they have done to wound me.
"Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." (Colossians 3:13 )
I'm coming to believe that forgiving doesn't mean excusing or forgetting the wrong. And it doesn't mean a removal of consequences. But it does mean a change of attitude on my part. It means that I begin to wish the offender well. It means that I pray that my offender may find healing through recovery, so that they may find the peace and joy that I am finding in the Lord. It means that I want to see my offender as an erring child of God, such as I. It means... that I am becoming willing to make amends.
"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:" (Matthew 6:14 )
"Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all." (Step 8)
Jesus said, "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." (Matthew 21:22 ). Faith seems to be a large factor in whether we receive what we ask for, but in considering how we ask..., it may be well to consider this story:
"Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’"(Luke 18:9-13 ). My tendency is to be more like the Pharisee, looking on the faults of others, rather than humbly admitting my own weaknesses. But listen to what Jesus said about that, "I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." (Luke 18:14 ).
"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." (Acts 3:19 ). These "times of refreshing" come to us as we admit and surrender our issues to God. Whenever temptations to those sick behaviors come, is when the "rubber meets the road". That's when I must decide to put my will entirely on the side of God and trust in Him for deliverance. It is only then that He will work in me "both to will and to do of His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13 ). When we do our part, we can be assured that God will do his part. That is how, I believe, He removes our shortcomings. Each time we cooperate with God in this way, we are gradually transformed to become more and more like Jesus. And that is my goal. Is it yours?
"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings." (Step 7)
It is only by the mercies of God that we have come this far by faithfully following His leading through this healing process of recovery/sanctification. Now, we are invited to get ready for God to remove our defects which we so painfully identified and confessed. In getting ready, the apostle Paul portrays a state of humility, when he said, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." (Romans 12:1 ).
When we are entirely ready to let go of our defects of character, this "sacrifice" is holy and acceptable unto God. Paul continues, "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Romans 12:2 ). It is so easy to get entangled with worldly pursuits. But, we must remember that, whatever we behold, we become like. In order to be renewed to be more like Jesus, we need to behold Jesus a whole lot more, and the things of this world a whole lot less. Thus, our minds are renewed. God heals our defects of character. Thereby, we are transformed to become more and more like Jesus. Surely that must be "good, and acceptable", as the "perfect will of God" works both in us and through us.
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:" (Philippians 2:5 )
"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character." (Step 6)
Jesus says, "But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted." (Matthew 23:11-12 )
The temptation is often to speak of our own "great works" -- trying to make ourselves look good to others -- maybe even in an attempt to make ourselves look better than others. We may even do it to try to make us feel better about ourselves. But Jesus gives us a strong warning against this kind of communication. Why? Well, I don't think He is being arbitrary. I'm convinced that He only wants the best for us.
When I try to hide the real me by focusing only on my good points (I might even exaggerate), those sins that so easily beset me gain power in my life. Worse yet, when I deny the existence of those weaknesses, there is no way that they can become strengths. It is only by facing my weaknesses and dealing with them -- in the strength of Jesus Christ -- that those weaknesses can be changed into strengths. That's why, in recovery circles, it is often said that "we are only as sick as our secrets".
When I give others a false picture of my life, it does them no good either. It could make them feel more inadequate and worthless if they think I have it all together, when they are hurting so badly as well. So what good is that?!
Why do we play these foolish games anyway? Why don't we just be honest with ourselves, with God, and with those we trust? When we do that, our weaknesses begin to loose their power over us and others will gather hope as they see the change in us. Then we can all praise God together :-)
"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 )
"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." (Step 5)
Planning trips can be most enjoyable, because of the anticipation of seeing (and learning) new things or maybe even enjoying again, places we've been before.
When I travel, it's not a fearful thing for me to look at the map to study where I've been, where I am, and to plan where to go next, and how to get there. In fact it's fun thing. Occasionally, it can be painful because I made a wrong turn, or failed to make the right turn. It may even cause frustration to my passengers, or to those who may be waiting for me at my destination. But, it's always good to get back on the right road and continue on toward my destination.
So, why then are we so fearful (when we travel the road of life) to study the map of where we've been, where we are, and where we want to go? Why do we naturally shrink from the idea of charting a new course for a better life?
"... My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" (Hebrews 12:5-7 )
It is painful to remember where I made wrong turns in my life, and how I caused pain for other people. But I must remember 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's like getting back on the right road again, and that's a good thing :-)
Why should I continue to drive in circles around the polluted slums of the inner-city, when I can follow the road map to the beautiful forests with fresh air? Likewise, why should I continue to live in the guilt and shame of the past when God has provided a road map to a better, more fulfilling life?
Why should I be fearful of taking inventory of my life -- no matter how dysfunctional it has been -- no matter how low I've sunk in depravity? God has a thousand ways to untangle our sinful lives and to make us new creatures in Christ. Won't you join me today in making a fearless moral inventory?
Let's chart a new course today that will bring us a more fulfilling life. "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31 ). So let's plan our trip to Heaven...
"... I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end... Call upon me, ... and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall... find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And... I will turn away your captivity" (Jeremiah 29:11-14 )
"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (Step 4)
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