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|
There's no better way to participate in the process of sanctification than to follow Jesus. The apostle Peter walked with Jesus for years. He saw first-hand the love of God through His only begotten Son. Jesus helped Peter walk through the healing process of honesty, trust in God, consecration, surrender, introspection, confession, repentance, and amends. Peter understood and recognized sanctification as the "progressive work of a lifetime".
The question is, just how much faith did he have? How far did he trust God to work in him to will and to do of His good pleasure? When life got really hard for Peter, this is what happened: "And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly." (Matthew 26:71-75 )
I'm glad that Peter promptly admitted his mistake, when he was convicted... But wait, Judas also admitted his mistake in denying Christ and then went out and killed himself. What's with that?
Unlike Peter, Judas had not been participating in the process of sanctification during his years of walking with Jesus. Rather than confessing his issues and letting Jesus help him deal with it, he stuffed that mess deep within himself. Then, when he made a really big mistake and realized it, all that garbage that he had been stuffing came out all at once and it was too much. He wasn't willing to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow (really follow) Jesus (Matthew 16:24 ).
I find it really interesting that the word translated "deny" which Jesus used in (Matthew 16:24 ) is the same Greek word that Matthew used to describe Peter's denial in Mt 26:71-75. I need to more consistently deny my "self" in the same way that Peter denied Christ. When I fail to do that, I fall -- no question about it. But when I fall, I get up again, admit my mistakes, as did Peter, and continue to cooperate with God in this lifetime-process of sanctification. It's a choice that I must make to survive.
How about you? Jesus is knocking right now at your heart's door too (Revelation 3:20 ). Will you answer? Do you trust Him enough to deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Him? Keep coming back to Jesus. No matter how low you sink, Jesus, with open arms, is longing for you to come home (Luke 15:11-32 ).
"Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it." (Step 10)
"And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold." (Luke 19:2,5,6,8 )
When Jesus abides in our hearts, our attitudes change. Our selfishness and greed turn to love and generosity. Instead of defending our sins against others, we confess our mistakes and make amends to those whom we have harmed. Just as Jesus said to Zacchaeus, "make haste... for today I must abide at thy house", He says to us today, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:20 )
Some questions now come to my mind.
It is always my choice as to who I will listen to and how I will live my life. It is your choice too. How will you choose to live your life today?
"Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." (Step 9)
" 1 "Do not judge others. Then you will not be judged. 2 You will be judged in the same way you judge others. You will be measured in the same way you measure others.
3 "You look at the bit of sawdust in your friend's eye. But you pay no attention to the piece of wood in your own eye. 4 How can you say to your friend, 'Let me take the bit of sawdust out of your eye'? How can you say this while there is a piece of wood in your own eye?
5 "You pretender! First take the piece of wood out of your own eye. Then you will be able to see clearly to take the bit of sawdust out of your friend's eye." (Matthew 7:1-5 )
This is a hard lesson to learn. I've spent most of my life trying to extract the sawdust in your eye -- telling you what's wrong with you -- while ignoring the chunk of wood in my own eye -- my own issues. I'm beginning to learn to deal with my own stuff. And, one of the ways I do that is to consider all those whom I have harmed and become willing to make amends to them.
Rather than judging their misbehavior and their motives, I must choose to forgive them for what they have done to me, while relying on God to give me an heart of forgiveness. This is important because there is no way that I can make effective amends with someone that I won't forgive.
"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:14,15 )
Looking at this from the positive side, it becomes a win-win-win situation:
As this healthy cycle of forgiveness and amends continues, love grows where hatred once flourished and we become more and more able to help each other, in healthy and loving ways, with those remaining splinters...
"Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all." (Step 8)
Jesus said, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" (Matthew 7:7-11 ).
Well now, that seems pretty easy. I'll just ask God to remove my shortcomings, and He’ll do it. That’s perfect! I’m in charge. That's what I want. I'll be my own god and God will be at my beck and call. But, now let's contrast that notion with what He said later in the same chapter:
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:21-23 ).
Oh, does He mean that I actually have to do something? I thought God was supposed to do everything for me, without my participation. What's up with that? Isn't salvation a free gift? Won't God work in me to will and to do His could pleasure (Philippians 2:13 )? Sure He will, but not without my cooperation. Remember what Paul said a few verses earlier: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5 ). And, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12 ).
I can ask until kingdom come, without success. It is only when I listen to God's still small voice (1 Kings 19:12 ), trusting that He will enable me to do what He asks, and then choose to obey, that my life is changed. By opening the door of my heart in this way, Jesus is made welcome to come into my heart, remove my shortcomings, and renew my character.
Listen to how Jesus says it: "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne." (Revelation 3:19-21 )
"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)
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