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|
The apostle Paul said, "... I die daily" (1 Corinthians 15:31 ) and, "My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20 ).
Death to self is counter-intuitive in the me-centered world we live in today. Death to self is counter-intuitive to me because I want to be the center of my world. However, I am finding that I am unable to see into the future in order to make the best decisions for today. In fact, I can do nothing without God. Why would I think that? Look at the words of Jesus: "The Son can do nothing of Himself... I can of mine own self do nothing" (John 5:19,30 ) and "... without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5 ). So, who am I to think I can do what Jesus said He can't do?
Look at what Isaiah said, "The Lord will always lead you. He will meet the needs of your soul in the dry times and give strength to your body. You will be like a garden that has enough water, like a well of water that never dries up" (Isaiah 58:11 ).
A wise person once said, "God never leads His children otherwise than they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning and discern the glory of the purpose which they are fulfilling as co-workers with Him." (Ministry of Healing 479). and, "... this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory." (Colossians 1:37 )
As I consider this evidence and my own anecdotal experiences of God's leading in the past, I can't help but choose to continually invite God/Christ/the Holy Spirit to live in me. I choose death to self that I may experience the secret of death: Christ in me, the hope of glory for the future, peace in the present, with acceptance and forgiveness for my past failure.
What about you?
"We admitted we were powerless over our problems, that our lives had become unmanageable." (Step 1)
"Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." (Isaiah 1:18 ).
This is the power greater than myself that I choose to believe is restoring me to sanity. This is the God who gives me hope of a better future. This is the God who invites us to come and be with Him. But for some, because of their history, this god is seen as a controlling god. The god of many people's understanding might be symbolized by a cowboy who rides us and controls us with the bit he puts in our mouth. But that's a tactic of the enemy. My God is different than that. "The Lord says, I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control." (Psalms 32:8,9 ). My God is not a god of force. He honors our freedom of choice even more than His own life.
Jesus says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30 ).
I have a friend who lives near a wilderness area. He and his wife obtained a permit to harvest some trees in an area where vehicles were not allowed off-road. Somehow they found a human yoke, which is very different from those used for oxen. There was no strapping into this yoke. It was designed for two people who would push against it with their chest. In the middle was a rope that connected to a metal clamp used to drag a log. This required a lot of communication, cooperation and trust between my friend and his wife. If one chose to turn right while the other chose to turn left, they would simply fall out of the yoke. So, one of them had to lead and the other had the choice to either follow intently, or lose their connection, through the yoke, to their spouse. I think it works much the same way with the yoke that Christ asks us to wear. He is always available to us, waiting to yoke us with Him. He longs to help us carry our load of responsibilities. All we need to do is to cooperate, listening intently to His "still small voice" (1 Kings 19:12 ). Then, as we choose to follow Him in His yoke, He makes the impossible possible. His yoke truly is easy.
Since I believe that Christ would never lead me in any way I would not choose to be led, if I could see the future as He can, I want to yoke up with Him. Then, as we share the load in that yoke, I know that He is well able to take us through any trouble that might get in our way. And, since He never makes mistakes, I trust Him to take the lead in His yoke. As He promised, I find rest for my soul in His yoke.
"Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." (Step 2)
"... The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do... I can of mine own self do nothing... I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." (John 5:19,30 )
It's amazing to me that my Lord and Savior -- who healed the sick, raised the dead, and sacrificed His life for me -- would say that He can do nothing without His father. As I ponder the implications of that statement, I am humbled. How could I possibly be so proud as to think I can somehow do more than Jesus? For, without Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5 ).
The Psalmist said it well: "I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart." (Ps 38:6,8 )
I'm a "Can-Do" kind of guy. I love my family. I love my work. And I can enjoyably do many things. But, in all my doings, I am painfully aware that I have limitations. My sinful nature is not gone and I can't fix it. Many years of cultivating my sinful nature have strengthened it far beyond what I was born with, and it is still present within me (Romans 7:17-21 ).
The more I understand my limitations, the more I am willing to surrender those things as unmanageable, and lean on Jesus to give me the strength that I need for today. As I practice this, God works in me to change me to become more and more like Jesus. That's just what I need!
"We admitted we were powerless over our problems, that our lives had become unmanageable." (Step 1)
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever." (Ps. 111:10 )
I am quoting heavily today from an address delivered to the teachers and students of Battle Creek College on November 15, 1883 by Mrs. E. G. White. It was published in the Review and Herald in 2 parts on August 19 & 26, 1884. You may read it in it's entirety here. All of today's quotes can be found there.
Probably the most significant result of practicing the principles learned in the Christian 12-Step process, is the development of a Christ-like character. And, for me, that is of the utmost priority because it is my understanding that my character is the only thing I can take to heaven. Steps 10, 11, and 12 summarize what it takes to continue that character development process.
"Character cannot be bought; it must be formed by stern efforts to resist temptation. The formation of a right character is the work of a lifetime, and is the outgrowth of prayerful meditation united with a grand purpose. The excellence of character that you possess must be the result of your own effort. Friends may encourage you, but they cannot do the work for you. Wishing, sighing, dreaming, will never make you great or good. You must climb. Gird up the loins of your mind, and go to work with all the strong powers of your will. It is the wise improvement of your opportunities, the cultivation of your God-given talents, that will make you men and women that can be approved of God, and a blessing to society. Let your standard be high, and with indomitable energy, make the most of your talents and opportunities, and press to the mark."
"True liberty and independence are found in the service of God. His service will place upon you no restriction that will not increase your happiness. In complying with his requirements, you will find a peace, contentment, and enjoyment that you can never have in the path of wild license and sin. Then study well the nature of the liberty you desire. Is it the liberty of the sons of God, to be free in Christ Jesus? or do you call the selfish indulgence of base passions freedom? Such liberty carries with it the heaviest remorse; it is the cruelest bondage."
Having been on both sides of this 'fence', I can testify that this is true. Before recovery, I was indeed subject to the cruelest bondage of satan. But in recovery, I have begun to enjoy the freedom that only can be found in Christ.
"Stand up for Jesus, young friends, and in your time of need Jesus will stand up for you. "By their fruits ye shall know them." Either God or Satan controls the mind; and the life shows so clearly that none need mistake to which power you yield allegiance. Every one has an influence either for good or for evil. Is your influence on the side of Christ or on that of Satan? Those who turn away from iniquity enlist the power of Omnipotence in their favor. The atmosphere that surrounds them is not of earth. By the silent power of a well ordered life and a godly conversation, they may present Jesus to the world. They may reflect Heaven's light, and win souls to Christ."
The 12-Step process is a tool that is successfully used by many, including myself, to turn our hearts from the service of self and satan to the service of God and a life of useful fulfillment.
"There can be no more important work than the proper education of our youth. We must guard them, fighting back Satan, that he shall not take them out of our arms. When the youth come to our colleges, they should not be made to feel that they have come among strangers, who do not care for their souls. There should be fathers and mothers in Israel who will watch for their souls, as they that must give account. Brethren and sisters, do not hold yourselves aloof from the dear youth, as though you have no particular concern or responsibility for them. You who have long professed to be Christians have a work to do to patiently and kindly lead them in the right way. You should show them that you love them because they are younger members of the Lord's family, the purchase of his blood."
"Teachers, what opportunities are yours! What a privilege is within your reach of molding the minds and characters of the youth under your charge! What a joy it will be to you to meet them around the great white throne, and know that you have done what you could to fit them for immortality! If your work stands the test of the great day, how like sweetest music will fall upon your ear the benediction of the Master, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.'"
"We are living in the perils of the last days. All heaven is interested in the characters you are forming. Every provision has been made for you, that you should be a partaker of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. Man is not left alone to conquer the powers of evil by his own feeble efforts. Help is at hand, and will be given every soul who really desires it. Angels of God, that ascend and descend the ladder that Jacob saw in vision, will help every soul who will to climb even to the highest heaven. They are guarding the people of God, and watching how every step is taken. Those who climb the shining way will be rewarded; they will enter into the joy of their Lord."
"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)
As we meditate upon the perfections of the Saviour,
we shall desire to be wholly transformed
and renewed in the image of His purity.
There will be a hungering and thirsting of soul
to become like Him whom we adore.
(Steps to Christ, 89)
The times of prayer and meditation in my own experience have been (and continue to be) a blessing to me throughout my recovery process. It's a time when I process my thoughts and feelings with God and seek to understand what His will is for me in my life today. It's a time for me to study and seek to understand the writings of inspired writers. It's a time for me to ask God if there are any sins that I have neglected to confess. And, it's a time for me to dwell on the incredible work that Jesus has done and is doing on my behalf.
I invite you to join me in a commitment to more deeply enter into the process of prayer and meditation.
"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)
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