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|
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)
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)
"Have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
'My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.'
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?" (Hebrews 12:5-7 )
It was the morning after the evening of my first victory in Jesus when it was as if my whole sinful life passed before me. God brought back to my conscious memory all of my sinful thoughts and actions of my previous 25 years of practicing my addictions. The realization of the depth of my wretched life of sin was nearly overwhelming.
For years I knew that I was powerless over my addictions and that my life was out-of-control, but this was different. This was a deep, heart-felt inventory of my dreadfully sinful condition. I am extremely thankful that God didn't lay this heavy load on me before my first victory through surrender to Jesus. If He had, it would likely have crushed me, since I had no hope of ever conquering my evil behavior.
But that wasn't the case now. I had the keys to victory. I had experienced (for the first time in my life), absolute surrender to God in the midst of temptation. And, even though it was extremely hard to face my past, I knew that Jesus was holding my hand. I knew that I no longer had to live in my past, but instead I could move on to a brighter tomorrow, through constant surrender of my will to Jesus. Praise God!
I have no other explanation as to why this spiritual inventory happened, other than it must have been God. Looking back to that experience now, I see that it was an absolute necessity that I go through the pain of being totally honest with myself about my condition. It prepared me for the next conviction that God soon brought to me.
"He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me" (2 Corinthians 12:9 ).
"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (Step 4)
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6,7 ).
It's relatively easy to say that I choose to turn my will and life over to the care of God. But, in a practical sense, what does that really mean? My tendency is to want to control people, situations, things, and myself. The paradox is that, the more I try to be in control, the more out-of-control I feel. I become anxious and irritable. I lose the peace of God and I lose control over more and more of my life.
Conversely, when I let go of the control that I desire, turning it over to God, trusting that He really does have my best interest at heart, things begin to change -- for the better. I become less anxious for the future, less worried, and less irritable (Philippians 4:6 ). I feel less inclined to try to control people and situations. Through all of this, I actually gain more control over my own life, by cooperating with God -- choosing to be led by Him. Then, the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7 ) returns.
I wonder if maybe this is the experience that the apostle Paul was referring to when he said, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20 ).
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:6,7 )
"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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