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|
"For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:14-24 )
The apostle Paul well described the feeling of powerlessness that is so essential to the healing process of recovery and restoration -- sanctification. Even now, with many years of recovery behind me, I must recognize my own powerlessness in order to continue to walk the narrow path that leads to heaven. Some think that strange, but Jesus strongly indicated that He practiced this same discipline. "But Jesus never sinned", you might say, and that's right. The Bible is very clear about this (Hebrews 4:15 ). Otherwise, He would not have been the perfect sacrifice for my sins.
I wonder if one of the reasons that Jesus never sinned was because He recognized the powerlessness of His own human flesh. Look at what He said about that: "... Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself..." (John 5:19 ). Not only did He admit his own powerlessness, but He also spoke of His reliance on His Father God. "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." (John 5:30 ).
In a similar way, Paul went beyond the recognition of, not only his powerlessness, but his sinfulness too: "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin." (Romans 7:25 ) "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (Romans 8:1-4 )
Friends, as strange as it may seem, there is hope of a better life when we recognize and admit our own weaknesses. "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12:9 ). "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you." (1 Peter 5:10 )
"We admitted we were powerless over our problems, that our lives had become unmanageable." (Step 1)
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." (Romans 1:16,17 )
When we experience the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the resultant growth through recovery/sanctification, we cannot resist the conviction to share our experience and to continue to choose to practice the principles we've learned. This is not only my desire, but the desire of every Christian who enters into the process of sanctification.
The Christian 12-Step program is just one of many models used to help us understand this process and to engage with it. 12-Step is not just for addicts. It is for all sinners, who feel their need of a Savior. It is for those who are able to recognize their weaknesses and long to experience the power of God to turn their weaknesses into strengths.
There will never be a better time to experience the grace and the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ -- not only of being forgiven through grace, but also in experiencing the power to become more and more like Jesus. Our Christian 12-Step fellowship can help facilitate your transformation. We'd love to have you join us this Saturday morning.
"Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs." (Step 12)
"All who are under the training of God need the quiet hour for communion with their own hearts, with nature, and with God. In them is to be revealed a life that is not in harmony with the world, its customs, or its practices; and they need to have a personal experience in obtaining a knowledge of the will of God. We must individually hear Him speaking to the heart. When every other voice is hushed, and in quietness we wait before Him, the silence of the soul makes more distinct the voice of God." Ministry of Healing, p. 58
In my life, it is very easy to let all my busyness -- work, family, ministry, and more -- crowd out "the quiet hour for communion with ... God". It is easy to forget that it is actually in my best interest, both long-term as well as short-term, to spend this time in contemplation of my standing with God and with those near me. But my days are always better when I get up in time to spend the time I need in quiet communion with God -- reading His Holy Word, praying, seeking His will, and listening for His still, small voice. When I start the day with God, it seems like I stay closer to Him all through the day. Not only is this good for me, but it is good for those around me as well because I'm more likely listen to God's leading and follow in His ways.
I want God to "to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13 )in my life, but I must remember that He will not do that against my poor choices. I must continually choose to accept the choices of His "good pleasure". I must continually choose to trust and obey His leading. It is then that He steps in and makes it all happen in ways that I have no power to do. Praise God! All of this is much more likely when I start the day in His hands.
"Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work." (2 Thessalonians 2:16,17 )
"Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out." (Step 11)
One day, as I read an email, I felt my anger rise, as I perceived that the writer was trying to shame me. What made it worse was that another person was CC'd in that message. Being put down like that is hard to take, especially when I don't believe the accusation is justified. My immediate reaction was to pound out a reply on the keyboard. But when I read what I wrote, I decided I'd better not send that, so I erased it and pounded out another reply. Over and over again, I continued to type and erase, -- all the while asking God for wisdom as to what I should say -- until finally I sent something. As my anger subsided I got back to what I was doing before that rude interruption.
It wasn't too long after that when I began to be convicted that I had made a mistake in getting angry over this situation. As a result, I confessed to God that, yes, rather than allowing that anger to control me, I should have surrendered it to Him. Then I accepted the forgiveness that He offered (1 John 1:9 ).
Later on, it occurred to me that I may also need to apologize to the person I sent the email to, as well as the other person I had CC'd. But, after all the revisions I had made to that message, I forgot what it was that I finally sent. Eventually, I looked in my sent items and found it. I was quite relieved to find that I had not said anything inappropriate and therefore didn't need to write an apology. Remember that I had prayed for wisdom during that whole process. It was gratifying to realize that, in spite of my anger, God answered my prayer and saved me from what could have been a very embarrassing apology.
I'm sorry to say that there have been previous times when I didn't pray over a hasty email reply and had to go back and apologize later. But God is good. He is always faithful to provide a way of escape when we are tempted (1 Cor 10:13 ). The question is, will we surrender to Him in the moment of temptation? This time, it was a partial surrender. Next time, I want to go all the way with God.
"Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it." (Step 10)
"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up." (James 4:10 )
Once we've become willing to make amends, it is time to follow through with the next shame-reducing act of actually making amends with those who won't be further damaged by our doing so. I think it important to consider our motives for this communication with those whom we have harmed. Are we truly sorry for what we have done? Or, are we just doing it because we feel pressured to do so? Can we honestly say with the apostle Paul, "I am crucified with Christ: neverthless 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 )? Are we really ready to humbly admit our mistakes to those we have harmed and do what we can to make amends?
Maybe they have also hurt us. Are we ready to forgive our enemy and to extend the first bits of agape love to them, by making amends? (Matthew 5:42-48 ). Note that loving (agape) our enemy does not necessarily mean that we will ever become close (emotional) friends (philia). What it does mean is that we will have unconditional respect, courtesy, and well-wishing for everyone, including those who have harmed us. This is not an emotional response. This is a decision to do, not only what is best for the other person, but what is in our best interest as well. You see, it is never in our best interest to hold grudges and to be unforgiving, because these things destroy the peace is our privilege to enjoy otherwise.
Is it within our power to make the decision to love/forgive our enemies? I would say "Yes". However, I must quickly add that it is NOT likely within our power to carry out that decision. This is where the proper use of our will comes into play, for "with God, all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26 ) (Mark 9:23 ). And, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13 )
When we make amends, we will likely have fear about the outcome. Will the recipient of our amends lash out at us? Will our reputation suffer? In my personal experience and in the experience of others whom I've discussed this with, there is very seldom a negative outcome. Most people I have written to have not responded at all. But, those who have responded have had a favorable response. To my knowledge, my reputation has not suffered. To the contrary, people seem to appreciate the fact that I take ownership of my mistakes and do what I can to make amends.
"Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again." (Luke 6:38 )
"Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." (Step 9)
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