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|
"Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man." (Colossians 4:5,6 )
It seems to me that there are at least three ways in which I need to be reconciled in the process making amends.
First, I need to be reconciled to God. Without this, I have little reason to pursue recovery. Without Him, I am powerless to do any good thing (John 5:30 ) (John 15:4,5 ). And because "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13 )
Second, part of what being reconciled to God means, is to actually do what He says (John 14:15 ). And one thing that He says is "Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." (Matthew 5:23,24 ). So, whenever possible and appropriate, I need to make amends to those whom I have offended -- with the hope of reconciling that broken relationship, where appropriate and when the other person is willing.
"If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." (Romans 12:18 )
Third, knowing that I have done all that I can do to reconcile myself to God and with others, I can then have the peace that comes from reconciling myself with my own conscience. "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7 )
"Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." (Step 9)
Immediately following "The Lord's Prayer", Jesus said, "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
It is hard for many of us to become willing to make amends to at least some of the people we have harmed because of our lack of forgiveness -- due to what they have done to us. We may still think they deserved what we did to them. And really, they probably did, because "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23 ), right?
But wait a minute... I have a friend who I've often heard saying, "It's a 2-way street". It's easy to forget that "all have sinned" (Romans 3:23 ) & (Romans 5:12 ) and that means me to! And since the natural result of sin is death (Romans 6:23 ), I deserve to die just as much as that person whom I don't want to forgive. Now that's a sobering thought. From that perspective, I really can't put myself above that person anymore, because I'm just as much a sinner as he/she is!
I must remember that vengeance is the Lord's. He will repay, and I shouldn't (Romans 12:19 ). And even though "the wages of sin is death... the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23 ). And that doesn't just apply to me. It also applies to everyone who has wronged me. So why shouldn't I forgive them, just as God forgives me?
Forgiveness is a decision. It’s an action of the will. It’s handled just like any other temptation. Yes, just as we can be bound by sins that easily beset us, so we can also be bound by lack of forgiveness. But, forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting that wrong was done. I think it is more about allowing for other people's mistakes just as I would like others to allow for my mistakes. Hmm... that sounds a lot like the Golden Rule, from a different perspective. Maybe we should also have the Golden Rule of Forgiveness: "Forgive others, as you would have them forgive you".
"Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." (Colossians 3:12-13 ). "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any, that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses" (Mark 11:25 ).
"Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all." (Step 8)
During my 25 years of "acting out" in my addiction, I would often ask God to remove my "shortcomings". In fact, I would plead with Him to "just take it away" most every time I fell. But, as I reflect on those pleadings now, I see that I was more arrogant than humble in my approach to God. I wanted Him to do it all and I wanted Him to do it now! I wanted Him to take my will, without my willingness to give it to Him. I was unwilling to admit the extent of my issues to anyone, not even to God or myself. And yet, I was demanding of God to fix me. I wasn't at all ready to have God remove my defects of character, even though I thought I was.
God says "My son, give me thine heart..." (Prov 23:26 ). If I were to hold out to you a gift in my hand, but not release it from my grasp as you attempted to take it, would it really be a gift? "Please take it", I would continue to urge. And yet, I would not release my grip. This is what it was like for me as I continually asked God for deliverance from my issues, while being unwilling to let them go.
In recovery, my arrogance and pride are gradually turning to willing submission to God's will -- humility. It is my experience that God removes my "shortcomings" only as fast as I am willing to let them go. This is not only a passive submission, but an active determination to choose a better course of action for my life -- one temptation at a time -- one day at a time. "To make God's grace our own, we must act our part. His grace is given to work in us to will and to do, but never as a substitute for our effort. As the Lord co-operated with Daniel and his fellows, so He will co-operate with all who strive to do His will." (PK 486-487)
"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings." (Step 7)
I need often to consider if I really am ready for God to remove ALL my defects of character.
"With the Lord’s authority I [Paul] say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes" (Ephesians 4:17-23 ).
"But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him" (Colossians 3:8-10 ).
"We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires" (Romans 6:6-12 ).
The question remaining is, am I willing to cooperate with God in this process of dying to my old ways that bring only pain and learning (by God's grace and power) to live as a new creature in Christ. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Cor 5:17 )
I want less and less of the old man holding me back and bringing me pain and grief, and more and more of the new man, allowing God to bring me peace and joy. How about you?
"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character." (Step 6)
"We are as sick as our secrets. Our ego takes over control of our lives and when that happens our minds get very sick. Then we hurt people and our minds will always justify our actions. Our minds will give us rationalization and excuses that we are justified in doing what we are doing." (Audrey Shenandoah, a member of the Native American tribe: Onondaga)
"People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy." (Proverbs 28:13 )
I was a master at keeping the real me concealed from most everyone who knew me. But those deep, dark secret areas of my life were eroding my mind, my soul, and likely my body as well. As long as I was unwilling to be honest about what I was really like, what I was really feeling, my addictions only got worse.
But as a result of a deep moral inventory, I began to admit to myself just how much garbage had collected in my soul. And, not only did I cry out to God in contrition and confession (1 John 1:9 ), but I also became more and more convicted that I must confess my faults to another human being (James 5:16 ).
This was probably the most painful time of my life. I don't know who coined the phrase "No Pain, No Gain", but I've found it true in so many areas of my life -- especially when it comes to recovery. I testify to you today that "gain" in recovery has been much more than, worth the pain.
It wasn't until I began to be honest with myself, with God, and with at least one other human being that my healing began. We are promised that we will be healed as we confess our faults to one another and pray for one another (James 5:16 ), and I've found this to be true.
But at that time, I did not know that relief would come as a result of my confession. I only knew that I had a deep conviction that I must do it. Satan wants to hold us in bondage through our isolation. He knows that if we let our secrets out, he will begin to lose his hold on us. Friend, I invite you now to break satan's hold on you by entering into this ancient Christian tradition of confession. "It works, if you work it, and YOU ARE WORTH IT!"
"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." (Step 5)
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