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|
As long as we think we can deal with our behaviors that bring us pain, such as food issues, drugs, alcohol, porn, sick relationships, etc., we just stay on the roller coaster of denial. Like the "prodigal son", who "hit bottom" when he ended up at the hog farm, starving nearly to death (luke 15:11-32 ), many of us have let our issues get so out-of-control that we feel like there is just no way out. But, the irony of recovery is that when our resources run out, when we finally give up on doing things our own way, that's when God is able to step in and do for us what we are unable to do for ourselves.
Like the apostle Paul, it is good for me to admit that "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t" (Romans 7:18 ). But, when we honestly admit our weakness, Jesus says to us, "Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God" (Mark 10:27 ).
"We admitted we were powerless over our problems, that our lives had become unmanageable." (Step 1)
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works..." (Matthew 5:16 ).
Now, I don't know about you, but that text scares me. It sounds like Jesus is saying that I should show off to people because my works are really great. But, all my righteousness is as "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6 ). And even if God has blessed me enough to have a light worth shining, I still have a problem with showing off. You see, in my lifetime, I've been exposed to a lot of people who seldom talk about anything other than their "great" accomplishments. And, in my carnal nature, I've done some of that too. Maybe that's why it makes me sick when I hear it now. I guess that's why I consciously resist any urge to talk about any "good" thing I might have done, or said.
But hold on... Is that really what Jesus meant? What about the rest of that text -- "...and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16 ). Wow, that changes things... That takes the focus off me and gives glory to God. I'm more comfortable with that. But still, it makes me nervous, because my works really aren't that great. So let's look at another saying of Jesus to see if it helps.
In Mark, chapter 5, the story is told of how Jesus cast a bunch of demons out of this wretched man and into a nearby heard of pigs. Love for Jesus immediately sprung up in this man's heart. He pleaded with Jesus to become one of his disciples. But Jesus said, "No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” 20 So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns[a] of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them." (Mark 5:18-20 ).
That really makes me re-think my position on this. When I consider all that God has done for me during my years of following Him, I have to admit that I really do have some experiences that are worth sharing. My love for Jesus is great, because I have been forgiven much (Luke 7:47 ). The truth is that I am driven to share with others the great things that God has done (and is doing) for me. What about you? Do you also have stories of God's grace and mercy in your life that may inspire others?
"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)
Like most people, I have thirsted for love, security, self-worth, success, and peace. But, I sought to quench that thirst by looking for these things in all the wrong places.
I drank of self-gratification, but only thirsted for more...
Now as I deny myself, I find self-worth.
I drank of worldly success, but only thirsted for more...
Now as I give for the benefit of others I find true success.
I drank of inappropriate relationships, but only thirsted for more...
Now as I build healthy relationships, I find love.
I drank of the control of myself and others, but only thirsted for more...
Now as I relinquish my "throne" to the Creator, I find peace.
I drank of the accumulation of stuff, but only thirsted for more...
Now as I -- through prayer and meditation -- seek God, I find security.
The deepest thirsting of my soul is quenched by my gracious, loving Lord and Savior, who said: "Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life" (John 4:13-14 ). Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow!
"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)
"The Lord... is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance... Be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. Beware lest ye..., fall from your own steadfastness." (2 Peter 3:9,14,17 ). "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:" (1 Peter 5:8 ).
As a Christian, I have learned many good things about confession, repentance, amends, and perhaps the most important: surrender. But, knowledge isn't enough. God provides the opportunities. He prompts me to action. Then, I must choose to align my will with His and continually seek Him. As a result, He then works in me "to will and to do according to His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12,13 ).
In spite of all of this, when I fail to choose His way, He never leaves me nor forsakes me (Hebrews 13:5 ). All I need to do is admit my mistake to God, and to anyone else (James 5:16 ) I may have wronged. When I do that, God "is faithful and just to forgive [my] sins, and to cleanse [me] from all unrighteousness"! (1 John 1:9 ). Others may, or may not, forgive me. That's between them and God.
After I confess and make amends, I am assured that I have done my part. Since Jesus paid the price (death) for my sin (Romans 6:23 ), God releases me from guilt. Therefore, I choose to reject the temptation to beat myself up for my sins of the past (shame). Instead, I continue to diligently seek God's will, trusting that He still loves me, and is still showing me a better way to live :-)
"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Romans 12:2 ). "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen." (2 Peter 3:18 )
"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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