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|
"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin." (Romans 6:1-7 )
So, I have to ask myself, "Is my 'old man' crucified with Christ?" Repentance calls us to full consecration to God and His leading because "half measures availed us nothing" (Alcoholics Anonymous p. 59). Andrew Murray described this commitment as the key to a Spirit-filled life, when he said, "Being filled with the Holy Spirit is simply this -- having my whole nature yielded to His power. When the whole soul is yielded to the Holy Spirit, God Himself will fill it." (Absolute Surrender p. 12)
Isn't it time "That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." (Ephesians 4:22-24 ). Of course, to let go of those old dependencies is easier said than done. But, as I consider the way God has stepped in to help me whenever I surrender to Him in the moment of temptation, I continue to move forward in faith, trusting that He will never ask me to do anything that He will not provide a way for me to accomplish. (1 Cor 10:13 )
"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character." (Step 6)
One of the facets of fifth-step confession is the acknowledgment of what went wrong in our family of origin, as well as in our parent's families of origin. There is something about family dysfunction that tends to repeat itself, when we don't acknowledge those problems. Stuffing the garbage of our past by trying to forget it does not bring us healing. It only sets us up to repeat the sins of our ancestors.
"...visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation..." (Exodus 20:5 ).
But when we admit our family sins to ourselves, to God, and to another human being, those sins lose a lot of the power that they once held over us. This must be why James 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 )
This facet of confession has helped me to recognize the unfulfilled love-hungers of my childhood as part of the reason why I sought love in all the wrong ways for many wasted years of my life. Today, I realize that confession is a God-given tool to help me release my past sins and move on to a better, more fulfilling future.
"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." (Step 5)
A friend of mine tells the story of a farmer who has just spent the entire day working his fields on his tractor. It was a long, hot, day for the farmer, and since his tractor had no cab, he was covered with dirt. He had worked well past dusk, and parked his tractor out in the barn. So now, he has only the faint light from the farmhouse windows to lead him home. He begins to notice that he is dirty and so dusts himself off. But, as he gets closer and closer to the light, he sees more and more just how dirty he has become, all along, continuing to dust himself off, as best he can.
So it is with life. For years and years, as many of us have acted in foolishness, we have accumulated more and more "dirt". As we moved deeper and deeper into our destructive behaviors, darkness came in to hide from us the reality of just how "dirty" we really were. Then, as we engage in the process of sanctification by admitting powerlessness (John 5:19,30 ) and His all-powerfulness (John 15:5 ) and start to surrender our will and our life to Him (Acts 9:1-6 ), we begin to walk toward the light of Heaven. In so doing, we now begin to see more and more just how "dirty" we have become (the illumination of introspection). More and more, we come out of denial about our true condition. More and more, God gives us the grace and strength (1 Corinthians 10:13 ) to, not only understand, but to also deal with (dust off), the deep, dark, issues in our lives.
Even though it has been painful for me to go through this process (since I've been very 'dirty'), I praise God for introspection because the grace of God is much more abundant than ALL of our sins (Romans 5:20 ). As I have been learning to cooperate with Him, He continues to "dust me off" and to bring me closer and closer to the light of Heaven, through Jesus Christ my Savior. My prayer is that it may be so for you too.
"All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits. Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established." (Proverbs 16:2-3 )
"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (Step 4)
"If only my children would do what I tell them, I wouldn't yell at them." "If only my wife would be reasonable, I wouldn't be so grumpy." "If only women would dress modestly, I wouldn't have these impure thoughts." "If only I was stronger, I could deal with all these temptations." "If only God would take these temptations away, I could be good."
Does this sound familiar? Is it true that what we really need is deliverance from the problems of this life? If so, then why did James say, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." (James 1:2-4 ). Listen to what Paul says about the "if onlys": "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." (1 Corinthians 10:13 ). If these words of Scripture are true, then maybe we need to look for a different cause of our behaviors that bring us (and others) pain...
Could it be that it is more important how we handle temptation, than what we are being tempted by? Could it also be true that temptations could actually be a tool to strengthen our moral character, if they are handled appropriately? And, is it true that God really does prevent us from being tempted beyond what we are able to deal with, when we surrender our will to Him? Based on Scripture, and my own personal experience, I believe the answers to all these questions to be true.
Without a Higher Power to help us, we have no chance of fully dealing with our issues. But, as we learn to cooperate with the loving God of creation, we can become the kind of persons that He created us to be. I totally agree with Paul, when he said, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13 ). In the moment of temptation, when I realize my powerlessness, accept His all-powerfulness, and surrender to Him, asking, Lord what would you have me to do (Acts 9:6 ), He really does deliver me from evil, in the presence of my "enemies" (Psalms 23:1-6 ). And, I believe, He strengthens my character, in that process.
So, what about counting it all joy when we're tempted (James 1:2-4 )? I'm not quite there but, I'm getting closer... How about you?
"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." (Step 3)
For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13 )
For many this is a very difficult step. Often, this is because of the way we were treated as a child. But, Jesus said that "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes" (Mark 9:23 ). But, I must ask myself, "Can I believe?". Many times, I must pray, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24 ). I believe that Jesus will never leave us, nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5 ) and that He will continue to be with us till "the end of the world" (Mt. 28:20 ).
"Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." (Step 2)
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