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|
When I humbly ask God to remove my shortcomings, it's gratifying to read God's response to my request in His Holy Word...
"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." (Ezekiel 36:25-27 ). "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13 ).
But I must also remember that God will not do these things without my cooperation. I must remember that, in Philippians 2, verse 12 precedes verse 13: "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12 ). I must remember that the first part of James 4:7 precedes the second part: "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7 ). So, I no longer question God's willingness and power to save me from those sins that so easily beset me. I only question my willingness to cooperate with Him so that I can become the man that He would have me to be.
"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 )
"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings." (Step 7)
"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)
Some may call it "Navel Gazing", but Solomon said it this way, "Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD." (Lamentations 3:40 ).
"If you do not change your direction,
you will end up where you are headed.
Have you considered where you are
headed lately?" -anonymous
I remember that sunny day in June of 1994, almost like it was yesterday. It was just the evening before that I had for the first time given my will over to God in the moment of one of my worst temptations. As I look back at that event now, I see it as the beginning of my recovery from 25 years of sexual addiction. You may think that I should have been joyous about this wonderful victory in Christ. In a way, I was. But, now that I was beginning to understand how to end my life-long destructive habits (by co-operating with God -- Step 3), God began to show me just how sick I really was. Memories of my past behaviors came flooding into my thoughts.
At that time, I wasn't at all familiar with the the 12 steps. But as I look back at that experience now, I can clearly see that God was leading me into the 4th step on that day. The weight of my sins was so great that I don't think I could have been able to stand it if I had no hope of a better life for the future. But because of the victory of the previous day, I knew that "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13 ). It was on that same day that I began to be convicted about confession, repentance, and amends, even though I had no idea that those too were part of the 12 steps.
Prior to recovery, I used to think that I was OK. I felt that it was everyone else who caused all my problems. But today, I believe that at least 90% of my troubles are caused by my own bad choices. I used to think that, as I grew spiritually, there should be fewer of my own issues that I needed to deal with. But as I started into recovery I began to understand this principle a little better: "The closer you come to Jesus, the more faulty you will appear in your own eyes." (Steps to Christ, p. 64).
Even now, after many years of recovery, I have to ask myself often, "Am I seeing my faults? How proud am I of my spiritual growth? Am I drifting away from Jesus?" When I stop to think about it, I have to admit that I am still a sinner in need of a Savior (1John 1:8 ). Oh it's true that, by the power of God in my life, I no longer "act out" in my major addiction and I no longer entertain the thoughts that brought me into that addiction. But that doesn't mean that I'm not still a sinner (1John 1:10 ). No, I still must take the time to consider where my life is spiritually. As I become more aware of my faults, I become able, by the power of God, to deal with them (Philippians 4:13 ).
Don't be afraid to take a "searching and fearless moral inventory" of yourself, because God will give you strength to bare it, and He WILL provide ways to help you to deal with your issues. He longs to give you a life of victory over those sins that so easily beset you (Hebrews 12:1 ). So, pray the prayer of the Pslamist when he said, "Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation." (Psalms 27:9 ) and believe that He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5 ). Will you let Him work in your life today?
"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (Step 4)
Not only is the God of my understanding my Savior, Friend, and Guide, but He is also my loving King. He accepts me just the way I am, no matter how low I've sunk into my dependencies. But He does even more! He provides the will and the means to restore me to sanity, as I turn my will over to His in total surrender to His guidance.
"For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him." (Philippians 2:13 ).
As I began to understand this principle and to practice it, God began delivering me from my dependencies. Each time that I surrender to Him (admitting to myself and God my powerlessness) as temptation comes to me, He gives me the victory! He never fails me. What an Awesome GOD!
You too can have this kind of freedom! "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." (Eph 3:20-21 )
"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." (Step 3)
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