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|
I mark the beginning of my recovery process at a camp meeting in June of 1994. It was there that I began to understand and practice the third step in conjunction with the first two. The very day after my first real victory, as a result of third-step surrender, an incredible burden of my past mistakes came flooding in on me (Step 4). A few days later (after confessing to God), I confessed my faults to another person (a very difficult Step 5). It wasn't long after that (a week, maybe) when I began to think of all the persons I had wronged, but never made amends to (Step 8).
What continues to be amazing to me is the fact that, at that time, I had absolutely no knowledge of what the steps of the 12-Step program were. And frankly, I had a negative opinion of the program because it didn't seem to help a person, whom I knew very well, who used to attend. But, in spite of that, God was leading and convicting me in those very same steps in my own life.
As I made this list of all the persons I had harmed, it was difficult to become willing to actually make amends. In my mind (intellectually), I knew that it was the right thing to do (Matthew 5:23,24 ), but emotionally it was very scary. I didn't want to become vulnerable. All my life prior to this I always shunned any situation that would require my vulnerability. But now this unhealthy reserve was beginning to break down, largely because of my fifth-step sharing that I had already done. Even though this was all very hard, it helped me to become more honest, vulnerable, and more accountable for my past mistakes. All these things helped to reduce my feelings of shame and have been an integral part of my recovery process. For this I am very grateful and praise God :-)
"Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all." (Step 8)
"Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 18:4 ).
As a young child, I was trusting and willing to be led, with little questioning. But as I became older and more experienced, I became less and less trusting of others -- at least partially because people showed themselves to be less than trustworthy.
However, in a spiritual sense, Jesus calls on me to reverse this process, becoming more and more trusting in Him, not only as my Savior and substitute, but also as my ever-present help in trouble (Ps 46:1 ), and my trusted Guide (Ps 32:7,8 ). I claim God's promise to give "grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5 ). "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." (1 Peter 5:6,7 ). Since I believe that that He cares for me, I know that I can trust Him, and so I humbly ask Him to work in my heart to change my character to be more and more like Jesus.
"And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him." (1 John 5:14,15 ).
So... just what is "according to His will"? Instead of conforming to my culture, He wants to transform me to be more and more like Him (Romans 12:2 ). He wants to deliver us from this evil world (Gal 1:4 ). He wants to sanctify me (1 Thes 4:3 ). He desires me to be full of thanksgiving (1 Thes 5:18 ). With well-doing, He wishes me to silence the ignorance of the foolish (1 Peter 2:15 ). It is better to suffer for well-doing than for evil doing (1 Peter 3:17 ). He wants to deliver me from human lusts that I may do His perfect will, trusting that He is my faithful Creator (1 Peter 4:2,19 ).
"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings." (Step 7)
In this passage, it appears to me that David is entirely ready for God to remove his character defects:
I weep with sorrow; encourage me by your word.
Keep me from lying to myself;
give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.
I have chosen to be faithful; I have determined to live by your regulations.
I cling to your laws. Lord, don’t let me be put to shame!
I will pursue your commands, for you expand my understanding.
Teach me your decrees, O Lord; I will keep them to the end.
Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions;
I will put them into practice with all my heart.
Make me walk along the path of your commands,
for that is where my happiness is found.
Give me an eagerness for your laws rather than a love for money!
Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word.
Reassure me of your promise, made to those who fear you.
Help me abandon my shameful ways; for your regulations are good.
I long to obey your commandments! Renew my life with your goodness.
(Ps 119:28-40 )
Now, I must ask myself, "Am I as entirely ready for God's intervention in my life, as David seems to be?" Or, am I still clinging to some of my old ways? Am I ready for ABSOLUTE SURRENDER to God, so that I may live in ABSOLUTE PEACE and in the confidence of believing that He would never lead me in a way that I would not choose, if I knew what He knows? "...Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." (Mark 9:24 ) How about you? Can you identify with David? Are you entirely ready...?
"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character." (Step 6)
A common recovery phrase is, "We're only as sick as our secrets". But like most catch phrases, you can only carry that so far...
I once knew a man who, because of inappropriate behavior with a minor, was fearful of being incarcerated. Because of his fear alone, he revealed to me much of what he had been involved in. He wanted recovery, so he could tell the judge how well he was doing -- hoping for mercy. I shared with him my own recovery story and invited him to get involved with the 12-Step program. He did actually go to group -- once. But, when he found out that the minor (now an adult) was not going to press charges, he lost interest in recovery. He never again went to a meeting, and he never spoke with me after that.
This man did what seemed to me to be an honest confession, and he did a decent moral inventory, so what went wrong? Well, he pretty much ignored the first 3 steps. He didn't understand his own powerlessness and, because of so-called Christians who were abusive to him, he wasn't too sure if he wanted God to rule over him. So, there was no way he was ready to surrender his life to God. Fear of negative consequences can be a good motivator, but if that is the only motivation, failure is the likely result.
Early in my recovery process, I was filled with fear that I might face some very negative consequences for my past actions. But because I was already committed to recovery through surrender to my Loving Heavenly Father, that fear served to move me into a deeper, more complete recovery process. Even though it was very painful then, now I am thankful for that experience.
I have found that when we are honest with ourselves, with God, and at least one other person, our recovery process is greatly accelerated. I think this is what James was talking about, when he said, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16 ). And I am so thankful that, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9 ).
IT WORKS IF YOU WORK IT, AND YOU ARE WORTH IT!
"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." (Step 5)
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