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|
"Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin... Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." (Psalm 51:1-10 ).
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9
"Christ is the source of every right impulse.
He is the only one that can implant in the heart
enmity against sin. Every desire for truth and purity,
every conviction of our own sinfulness,
is an evidence that His Spirit is moving upon our hearts."
(Steps to Christ, 26)
When I'm entirely ready to have God remove my character defects, it's a natural next-step to ask Him to do it. However, the way He does that is sometimes unexpected and often painful. My tendency is to want God to sprinkle some "pixy dust" on me and POOF, I'm all better! But it hasn't happened to me yet :-) What has happened is according to Hebrews 12:5-11. God has given (and still gives) me consequences for my bad choices. Forgiveness (in my case) seldom removes all the consequences. And I have some doubt that my character would actually be changed much if all consequences were removed. In my estimation, some of the ingredients of character transformation are: consequences, accountability, right choices (strong hard battles with self), and complete reliance upon God for my strength.
... My child,[b] don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child. As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. (Hebrews 12:5-11 )
"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings." (Step 7)
Jesus says, "I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see." (Revelation 3:18 )
When I ask myself, "Do I want God to remove my defects of character?", my first thought is, "Of course I do! Just take them away, Lord!" But, as I continue to ponder Rev 3:18, I realize that there will be pain involved in this transformation of my character. Just as gold is purified with fire, so my character is tried and purified with the fire of trials and affliction. Is that really what I want?!
This makes character transformation harder than it first appears. But wait... is it really...? In holding on to my defects, I sacrifice "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding" (Philippians 4:7 ), for temporary pleasure. But, in choosing to let God work in whatever way is best for me (Philippians 2:13 ), I "buy" my eternal happiness by being "tried in the fire" of trials now.
Since the beginning of my recovery (1994), I have many times been through the "fire", and I can testify to you today that the pain is truly worth the gain :-) God is good! "The Lord... is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent." (2 Peter 3:9 ).
The apostle Paul reminds us too, that when the going gets real hard, God carries us: "The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure." (1 Corinthians 10:13 ).
I don't know about you, but I want a character of pure gold, and if that means sacrificing current pleasure for an infinitely bright future, then so be it. Lord, I come to the foot of the cross, asking that your will may be done in my life today...
"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13 )
"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character." (Step 6)
I remember well how hard it was to admit my issues when my recovery process began back in 1994. It was probably the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. After my first real victories in the Lord, I began to get a clue as to how bad my behaviors had become.
As I confessed these things to God, I believe it was Him who convicted me that I must also confess my problems to another human being (James 5:16 ). You see, at that time, I knew nothing of the 12-Steps and I had a negative opinion of the program. Yet, there was this incredibly strong force within convicting me of my need to talk about my issues with another person. But, the fear of doing that was nearly overwhelming. Much of my dysfunction was hidden to most everyone. So the idea of coming out of that isolation was very frightening.
When finally I became willing to talk, it took hours to make my confession, but it wasn't because my list was long. It was because every word that came out of my mouth was strained with fear and enveloped with sobs of sorrow.
One might wonder, "Is it really worth all the pain?" Looking back on that experience now, I have to say that I don't believe that my recovery process could have continued without it. So yes, it is worth any cost.
This is just one way in which I have co-operated with God in His extreme makeover of me. All the credit and glory go to Him. He's not finished with me yet. This extreme makeover is the "progressive work of a lifetime"(3SM 202)-- sanctification(1 Thes 4:3 ). I can't do it without God and He won't do it without my co-operation.
"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." (Step 5)
As I seek to take a moral inventory of my life, one of the things I must deal with is guilt. Knowing that I am a sinner (1 John 1:8-10 ), I need to ask myself some questions:
I fearlessly make this inventory of my life because I know that His "grace is sufficient" and His "strength is made perfect" (2 Cor 12:9 ) in my weakness. He is able to turn my weaknesses into strengths. "I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13 ). And, He "will never leave" me, "nor forsake" me (Heb 13:5 ).
"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (Step 4)
"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." -- C. S. Lewis
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice — the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. (Romans 12:1 )
Having accepted my own powerlessness (John 5:19,30 ) and began to accept God as my only hope of living a victorious life (John 15:5 ), I learned that by giving my will to God I could have victories over all of my temptations.
Once I began practicing these first three steps, God began leading me through all the other steps, before I even knew what they were. If the thought of having to do 12 steps in order to deal with your pain frightens you, don't worry. It's these first three (I Can't..., God Can..., I Choose to let Him...) that really make the difference between a life of failure and a life filled with victory! Come, and experience the power!
Remember that "God has said, I will never fail you. I will never abandon you." (Hebrews 13:5 )
"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." (Step 3)
For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Phillipians 2:13 )
For many this is a very difficult step. Often, this is because of the way we were treated as a child. But, Jesus said that "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes" (Mark 9:23 ). But, I must ask myself, "Can I believe?". Many times, I must pray, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24 ). I believe that Jesus will never leave us, nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5 ) and that He will continue to be with us till "the end of the world" (Mt. 28:20 ).
"Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." (Step 2)
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