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|
After taking an honest inventory of my life, the conviction to to accept the truth and honestly confess these things was huge!
The forces of evil desire to hold us in isolation, with the deep, dark secrets of our lives hidden. Why?
The ancient Christian tradition of confession encourages us to come out of isolation and into the light of God's immeasurable grace by being honest about our true condition.
Being honest is often hard. I don't want to look like I'm a bad person. I want to have a good reputation. But, I've found that the benefits of practicing confession far outweigh the risk of looking bad. Why?
"People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy." (Proverbs 28:13 )
"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." (Step 5)
When cutting an onion, certain enzymes are released which tend to bring tears to our eyes. Generally speaking, people look for all kinds of ways to avoid this pain. I've heard of people wearing goggles or cutting the onions under water, as well as many other ways to avoid the unpleasant effects of onion cutting. However, there is evidence that cutting onions may actually have medicinal benefits. Proponents of natural healing have long taken advantage of these benefits.
Quoting Eva Wilson, "When looking at the symptoms of [a] cold, it is ironic that we would treat this ailment with an almost like-with-like therapy." In a similar way, it may seem ironic that we would treat our sin-sick condition by making "a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves". Generally speaking, we'd rather ignore our problems so we don't feel the pain. This therapy (moral inventory) has been likened to the pealing of an onion, in that as we peal back each layer (issue) of our lives, we discover another "layer" that we need to deal with. And, I've found that to be true in my own recovery process. But today, I'm thinking of another way to look at this process.
As we become more and more surrendered to God, resulting from the recognition of our need and our trust in a loving God, it seems like He "cuts" through those "layers" of our "onion" of dysfunction . This process is painful. It exposes hidden layers of stuff we have been in denial (or forgotten) about and it stings the eyes of our understanding, bringing many tears. But ironically, through all of this cutting pain, we find restoration of our souls to God through the release of the healing "enzymes" of acknowledgment of our sins which so easily beset us (Hebrews 12:1 ).
When we embrace this healing process, rather than putting on the "goggles" of denial, we are divinely propelled into the more advanced steps of healing and recovery, such as confession, amends and witnessing, which all lead to a more fulfilling life, with greater peace, joy and love. IMHO, I think that the pain of introspection (or cutting onions) is well worth the gain. Praise God!
"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (Step 4)
Once we've learned to admit our powerlessness (John 5:19,30 ) and assent to God's all-powerfulness (Zephaniah 3:16-17 ), then we need to take action. But the action I took kept me bound in my addictions for 25 years.
I would continually try to try harder to resist the devil. I was in charge, trying to do hand-to-hand battle with the devil and I was the loser. Trying harder is a dialog between us and satan. How foolish is that?!
It wasn't until I began to surrender myself to God, in each moment of temptation, that I began to experience real victory. What's the difference? Rather than dialoging with satan, when I surrender my will to God, the dialog is between me and God. As a result, God has a dialog with satan. When that happens, satan loses and I win. But I only win because I admit my powerlessness, assent to God's all-powerfulness and take the action of submitting my will to God's. Then, God fights the battle for me -- and wins!
Deliverance does not come in my strength, but rather in my weakness (2 Cor 12:9 ). That's faith. That's why it was said of the people of faith in Hebrews 11 that, "out of weakness [they] were mad strong [and] waxed valiant in fight" (Hebrews 11:34 ).
He understands my weaknesses, "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb 4:15-16 ). All I ever have to ask, in times of temptation, is "Lord, what would you have me to do? (Acts 9:6 ). Whenever I do this -- with a surrendered spirit -- He gives me the victory. The victory is the Lord's, but it only happens with my cooperation. I can do nothing without Him (John 15:5 ), but "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13 ).
One of my favorite authors has made numerous statements supporting this step of surrender. Here are just a couple. "When the Spirit of God takes possession of the heart, it transforms the life. Sinful thoughts are put away, evil deeds are renounced; love, humility, and peace take the place of anger, envy, and strife. Joy takes the place of sadness, and the countenance reflects the light of heaven… The blessing comes when by faith the soul surrenders itself to God." (DA 173). "As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings." (COL 333).
And so, I must frequently ask the question, "Who’s in charge?" Is it me, or am I choosing God as, not only my Savior, but my Lord as well? This is my prayer: "Thine, O LORD is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all." (1 Chronicles 29:11 ) -- Especially me.
"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." (Step 3)
Since I realize my own powerlessness to deal with those sins which so easily beset me (Hebrews 12:1 ), it is imperative for me to find a power greater than myself that can (and is willing to) deliver me from these things. Without that Higher Power, I would have no hope -- no reason for living -- because my sins bring me so much pain.
Being raised in a Christian home, I've always given the God of the Bible credit for being the Creator and sovereign Lord of the universe. I knew too that Jesus died to pay the penalty for my sins. But it's been a gradual process for me to come to understand His unlimited love for me, and just how to co-operate with His loving power as He works to "restore me to sanity".
For many it is difficult to trust the God of our understanding because our understanding of God came from our experience with the "higher powers" that ruled over us during our childhood. Even though I had relatively good parents, it has been helpful for me to make a "disconnect" between God, as I now understand Him, and the "higher powers" of my childhood. Today, because of my growing relationship with the God of the Bible, I realize that He really is the Higher Power that loves me without measure and would never do anything to me that is not in my best interest.
Today I believe that, if I could see the end from the beginning, I would not choose to be lead (or ruled over) by any other god or by any other means. And, I believe that nothing can happen to me without His permission.
" And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:28,38,39 )
"Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." (Step 2)
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