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|
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged." (Colossians 3:18-21 )
A wise writer once said that if a person can be a Christian at home, he/she can be a Christian anywhere, implying that there is no harder place to be a Christian than at home with our families. At home we tend to let down any façades we may carry with us when we are in public. In so doing, we are more likely to hurt those we love the most -- sad, but true.
Of course, God is always there for us, ready to deliver us from those temptations, before we hurt others. But sometimes we fail to surrender our will to God, and thus lose the victory we could have had. When that happens and we hurt a family member, the temptation is to just move on and pretend that it didn't happen. Or, we might justify our behavior, claiming that they deserved what they got. But this tends to weaken (and could eventually destroy) our family relationships.
On the other hand, when we admit our mistakes and make amends with those we have wounded, our family relationships are strengthened. Not only that, but when at least one family member starts practicing these principles, others are likely to follow suit, as they are convicted by the Holy Spirit. This can change the whole dynamics of the family -- for the better.
Making amends is always hard, but the resultant peace in our home is well worth the pain. And whenever we make a decided effort to do as we are led by the Holy Spirit, God adds His blessing and assistance to make it all possible. Without Him, we can do nothing good (John 15:5 ), but with Him, we can do all things! (Philippians 4:13 ). For us, this is "impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible." (Mark 10:27 ).
"Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." (Step 9)
1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn't love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn't love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would have gained nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
8 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! 9 Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 10 But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:1-13 ) NLT
No matter how much I strive for excellence in my life and occupation, if I have not love for those around me, all my other efforts are in vain. Even if I give large amounts of money, and even time, to help those in need, without love, it's worthless. And even if I do many good deeds, but am unwilling to forgive and make amends, to those whom I have wronged, my good deeds are of no lasting value.
Sometimes, those whom I have wronged first wronged me. And, they may even still be doing similar wrongs to me and to others. So, will I choose to separate the sin from the sinner? I realize that I am no more deserving of forgiveness than they are. I wonder, if a person is worthy of forgiveness, do they actually need forgiveness? I'm not sure...
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.
"Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all." (Step 8)
"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 )
"My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stand in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me the strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen." (Alcoholics Anonymous p. 76)
As we repent and become converted, we do need strength to do God's bidding, but just how does that work? In my 25 years of practicing my addictive behavior, I continually asked God for more strength of will to resist those temptations that so easily beset me, but to no avail. Yet, in recovery, as I surrender my will to His, during those temptations, He always gives me the victory.
So... what changed? Using my will to surrender myself to God, more than for fighting the temptation was key. But recently, I received some additional insight from a study of these words of Jesus: "Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you." (Luke 10:19 ).
Let's look at just a piece of this verse: "Behold, I give unto you power... over all the power of the enemy...". The word "power" is used twice in this verse, right? Well, when looking at the original language (Greek), we see that two different words were used. The first word is "exousia", which could have been translated as "authority". The second word is "dunamis", which could have been translated as "ability".
If we use this alternate translation, we have this: "Behold, I give you authority over all the ability of the enemy". That makes a BIG difference to me! You see, in my addictive behavior, I was asking God for the ability to resist the ability of the enemy. I realize now that just isn't going to happen, and it never did. But what does happen is that, as I surrender my will to God's, He gives me the authority to say "NO" to the enemy, as I say "YES" to God. Now that's the power I need :-)
"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you..." (James 4:7-8 )
"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings." (Step 7)
After discovering what my issues are, and confessing them, I realize that, of myself, I can do no good thing (John 5:19,30 ). And, I know that without God's help I will surely fail (John 15:5 ). But, do I have the faith and trust in God to repent -- to believe that "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13 )
For 120 years, God used Noah to plead with the people to repent, and join Noah in the safety of the ark. "And now the servant of God made his last solemn appeal to the people. With an agony of desire that words cannot express, he entreated them to seek a refuge while it might be found. Again they rejected his words, and raised their voices in jest and scoffing." (Patriarchs and Prophets 97.3) They would not get into the boat. They refused to let go of their issues and enter into the safety of the ark.
Today, God pleads with us, just as He did with the people of Noah's day, for "The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent" (2 Peter 3:9 ). And So, I must ask myself, "Will I get in the boat?" Will I choose to let go of my "comforts" that I may find true peace and happiness? Or, will I continue to cling tenaciously to my old ways -- doing the same destructive things over and over again, expecting different results?
What about you? Are you ready to let go, and let God...? Are you ready for God to remove your defects of character? If so, "God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others" (2 Corinthians 9:8 ). "In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation" (1 Peter 5:10 ). "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20,21 )
"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character." (Step 6)
"He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." (Proverbs 28:13 ). "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 ).
"Perhaps the single greatest barrier to recovery is the inability to be honest". (Steps to Serenity, page 46)
"The only reason why we do not have remission of sins
that are past is that we are not willing to humble our hearts
and comply with the conditions of the word of truth.
Explicit instruction is given concerning this matter.
Confession of sin, whether public or private, should be heartfelt
and freely expressed." Ellen White (Steps to Christ, 38)
My unresolved issues isolated me from other people and from God. But, as I began to be honest with myself, God and with others, those barriers of isolation began to come down. I started to feel better about myself - my sense of shame was reduced. A common saying in 12-Step is, "We are only as sick as our secrets". There is a lot of truth to this.
Friend, if you are encumbered with a load of guilt and shame, I invite you to enter into this ancient, Christian tradition of confession. Jesus died on that cruel, old rugged cross to pay the penalty for your sins, and mine. And He is longing now to bless us with a new and better life, but He needs us to come out of denial and confess our sins.
For, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:8-9 )
"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." (Step 5)
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