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|
"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)
"One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, 'Would you like to get well?'" (John 5:5-6 ) Likewise, God asks us today, "Would you like your defects of character to be healed?" Of course we do, right?
But wait... Are we really ready to co-operate with God in this healing process? Do we have any idea just how far-reaching this decision could be? Are we willing to accept the lifestyle changes, the attitude changes, and the trials (healing crisis) that will come to us during this healing process? Is it worth the trouble?
As a participant in this process since 1994, I can answer with a resounding YES! It is oftentimes a painful process. The rather overused phrase "No Pain, No Gain" applies here too. James put it this way, "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." (James 1:2-4 ). And Paul said it like this: "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love." (Romans 5:3-5 )
It is my understanding that the only thing we will take to Heaven is our character. It is good to recognize our character flaws and to confess them, but those things will avail us little unless we choose to co-operate with God in the "progressive work of a lifetime", the sanctification of our character. As we do that, God works in us "to will and to do of his good pleasure" -- we become more like Jesus! (Philippians 2:13 )
Lord, whatever it takes, please make me whole and healthy, and show me how to cooperate with you in this process.
"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character." (Step 6)
After taking an honest moral inventory of our lives, it is tempting to take on a great deal of shame, as we begin to realize how horrible our behaviors have been. If we stop here, the weight of this shame and guilt can be too much to handle. It could even push us deeper into our addictions, or worse. That's why we need to do more than just admit (confess) these things to ourselves. There are two additional Bible principles we need to consider.
Second:"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 )
Wow! That is so powerful! God says that, just admitting our mistakes to Him, is enough to have forgiveness from Him. To know we are forgiven greatly reduces our shame and guilt. So, why not go ahead and enter into this ancient Christian tradition of confession? God knows you better than yourself, so what do you have to lose? The only thing I lose, when I confess, is my guilt and shame. What I gain is forgiveness and peace. By this act I also become more accountable to God. As a result, I'm less interested in doing the same bad behavior again.
Third: Not only should we admit our mistakes to ourselves and to God, we must also: "Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results" NLT(James 5:16 ).
By admitting my weaknesses to at least one other person, I become more accountable. I need that. I really believe that you are only as sick as your secrets. By being more open about these things, we tend to be less bound by the sins that have so easily beset us. A safe place to make these confessions is at a 12-Step meeting. This is one of the biggest reasons I like 12-Step groups. It gives me a place that I can be honest, without fear of gossip.
The control that our sick behaviors have over us can be broken through confession. Please don't let your secrets destroy your life any longer. God has a better way :-)
"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." (Step 5)
"There's nothing wrong with me. It's everyone else that's messed up!" Have you ever seen that kind of attitude in others? Have you ever felt that way yourself? I sure have -- on both accounts.
It's easy to compare ourselves with what we see in other people. When we do that, it may temporarily make us feel better about ourselves. So, we rationalize more and more of our bad behaviors. Since "Joe Blow is a lot worse than me", I must be OK. But this arrogant way of thinking is not helpful to our relationships or to our sense of well-being.
When I consider the pure life of Christ and His great moral standard written in His Holy Law, my life doesn't look so good. It is only with this perspective that I can begin to judge my true moral condition.
Of course, there is danger in this approach too. When I realize just how far I am from being like Jesus, it can be a real downer. The powers of evil would love to take this opportunity to sink me into depression and to trigger even worse behavior, pulling me even further from Jesus. But that is not what we need.
There's a ditch on both sides of the road. We need to stay out of both the ditch of complacency and the ditch of depression. So, what would be the middle-of-the-road approach? I need to be aware of my strengths and my weaknesses and deal with them in healthy ways. By God's grace and power, He can turn my weaknesses into strengths. That's why He said, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9 ).
"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" (Hebrews 12:1-7 )
"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (Step 4)
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