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Bible Sanctification - "The Progressive Work of a Lifetime"

Maintaining Progress

Step 10: "Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it."

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Am I Dead?

As I continue to take my personal inventory, I must ask myself, "Am I living as a dead man?" Paul describes this experience in his letter to the Galatians: "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). Do I go to the "cross" when my children, wife, or others irritate me? Do I surrender myself to God in times of these (and other) temptations? Do I always choose to serve God, rather than my own selfish desires? Do I trust that God will deliver me from these things when I die to myself, and choose to obey Him?
When I do what I can, even if it isn't much, I've found that God is always there to do His part. This is one of my favorite quotes: "The heavenly intelligences will work with the human agent who seeks with determined faith that perfection of character which will reach out to perfection in action. To everyone engaged in this work Christ says, I am at your right hand to help you. As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings." {Christ's Object Lessons 332-333}
But, what about when I don't "die" (surrender myself to God), and I fall? Am I willing to promptly admit my mistake to God and to the person I've harmed? Today, It's easy for me to admit it to God, because I've learned to trust Him. But it's usually harder to admit it to people. Yet, it sure makes me feel better about myself when I do. Try it! "It works if you work it, and YOU ARE WORTH IT!"
My prayer for you today is "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." (Ephesians 3:17-21)

Am I Standing Firm?

"If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall" (1 Corinthians 10:12). "Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak" (Mark 14:38).
My Loving Heavenly Father is my constant companion, ever sending impressions of His will for me. I believe that He would never lead me in any way other than I would choose to be led -- if I could see the end from the beginning, as He does. When I surrender my carnal will to His all-knowing will, life is so much better. I still have difficult situations to deal with. But, I have the peace of God, knowing that He is right there with me, giving me guidance every step of the way. This is why it is my desire to continually seek His will, and choose to follow the impressions He gives me. I can always trust Him to provide a way for me to do what He asks. Even though I don't always do it, it is my deepest desire to live my life in humble submission to His will. This is why I continue to make an introspective inventory of my life, praying for wisdom and strength, and then making amends when I am convicted of my mistakes.
I believe that this process of recovery is synonymous with the process of Bible sanctification. Because of this, I have found this quote to be meaningful:
Why do we not dwell more upon this? Why do we not strive to make it easily understood, when it means so much? Why do not Christians open their eyes to see the work God requires them to do? Sanctification is the progressive work of a lifetime. The Lord declares, "This is the will of God, even your sanctification" (1 Thes 4:3). Is it your will that your desires and inclinations shall be brought into conformity to the divine will? (Selected Messages, Vol 3, 202.3)

Five Maintenance Components

As I continue to take a daily personal inventory of myself, I first consider my relationship with God. Am I still yielding my will to His? Do I still trust Him enough to surrender my self to Him in the moment of temptation?
Then I must consider my human relationships. Is there anyone whom I have wronged that I've not made amends to? If so, not only do I need to pursue the making of amends, but it's also helpful to try to identify why I did that. Are my basic needs, as a human being not being met?
The book, "Serenity, A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery" identifies five components (starting on page 67) of this ongoing recovery process:
1) Are my basic human need for love, acceptance, and security being met? And do I even recognize those needs?
2) What are my feelings? Am I hiding feelings of grief that need to be expressed? Am I having feelings of rejection? I especially need to watch for feelings of resentment because "resentment covers anger, anger covers hurt, hurt usually covers fear, and ... the deepest fear is that our basic human needs are not going to be met."
3) Am I using any codependent and/or addictive means of trying to get my needs met? Am I manipulative or over controlling? Am I perfectionistic or compulsive? Am I playing the martyr or the victim in sick relationships? Am I trying to "rescue" or enable other people's sick behaviors? If I'm doing any of these, I need to consider what personal needs am I trying to meet by these bogus means.
4) Am I holding appropriate boundaries and am I respecting the boundaries of others? There is a delicate line between being too rigid and keeping people out when needed. It's also a delicate line between being too fragile and letting people into my life as needed. Can I say yes when I should say yes, and say no when I should say no? And, do I respect other's yeses and noes regarding their boundaries? If I've violated boundaries, I need to make amends, where possible.
5) Do I admit my wrongs promptly? If not, the temptation is to rationalize my wrongs. If I do that, these may become resentments against others which will likely sabotage my recovery.

Reassessment

A wise person once said that it is not the occasional deed, or misdeed, that determines our destiny. Rather, it is the general direction of our life.
When I make a mistake -- when I stumble and fall -- the temptation is to think that I've lost my salvation and that I may as well just continue down that evil path. But that really is just a temptation, from a "roaring lion" (1 Peter 5:8) that has no teeth! The truth is that our God is "compassionate and merciful" and I trust Him to work in my life for the best. I love Him and want to serve Him with all my heart. So, when I sometimes mess up, it's not because I want to turn away from Him. It's because I failed to surrender to Him in the moment of temptation. There really is a difference.
So, what do I do when I fail? I promptly admit my mistake, apologize where needed, and move on with life. But, some may ask, is it really that simple? My answer is, It's only that simple if don't want to call God a lier, when he said, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1John 1:9) Rather than believing the father of lies, I choose to believe my loving Heavenly Father of mercy and love.
The Lord[Jehovah] is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
The Lord is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust.
Our days on earth are like grass;
like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
The wind blows, and we are gone -
as though we had never been here.
But the love of the Lord remains forever
with those who fear him.
His salvation extends to the children's children
of those who are faithful to his covenant,
of those who obey his commandments!
(Psalm 103:8-18) NLT

Jesus Was Tempted -- Just Like Me

"If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." (1 John 1:10). "My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous." (1 John 2:1).
This is why I need to continue to take personal inventory, promptly admitting my mistakes. Even though I've been in recovery for many years, and I don't do the things I once did, I still make mistakes. I'm still a sinner. Temptations to inappropriate thoughts may come to me at anytime, tempting me to all sorts of actions and/or thoughts. But is that sin, temptation, or both?
"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15). This is good news. Apparently it's OK, even to be expected, that temptation will come regularly. But what should I do when it is pressing down on me? "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16). When I do this, I can claim the promise, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." (1 Corinthians 10:13). Just as my Example and Savior had the victory over every temptation by surrendering His will to his Father's, so do I have the victory when I surrender my will to God's, and trust in His promises of deliverance.
But when does it become sin? When does it become a mistake that I need to promptly admit? For me, it becomes sin if I entertain the temptation, rather than surrendering it to God. Oftentimes, it becomes sin even before I even realize that I was being tempted. One way this happens is when someone says or does something that ticks me off. My tendency is to react without thinking things through and realizing that I'm being tempted to an inappropriate response.
When this happens, not only should I promptly admit it, but I also need to consider why this caught me by surprise. I can think of two possibilities.
1) If this type of reaction (behavior) is so ingrained in me that I habitually do it, I need to go back to Step 1 -- admit my powerlessness -- and continue on through the following steps of recovery to deal with this.
2) It may be that I'm not as in tune with the voice of God, through my conscience, as I thought I was. If this is the case, it would be a strong symptom of my lack of commitment to quality one-on-one time with God. The solution really isn't that complicated. I just need to spend more time in prayer and Bible study.
By beholding God, we become more like Him. As a result, we are much less likely to "go off half-cocked". "For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord - who is the Spirit - makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image." (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). May it so be in my life, and in yours, today.

Keep Coming Back!

"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 )

The Rude Email

One day, many years ago, 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.

Mistakes Happen...

There's no better way to participate in the process of sanctification than to follow Jesus. The apostle Peter walked with Jesus for years. He saw first-hand the love of God through His only begotten Son. Jesus helped Peter walk through the healing process of honesty, trust in God, consecration, surrender, introspection, confession, repentance, and amends. I think Peter understood and recognized sanctification as the "progressive work of a lifetime".
The question is, just how much faith did he have? How far did he trust God to work in him to will and to do of His good pleasure? When life got really hard for Peter, this is what happened: "And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly." (Matthew 26:71-75)
I'm glad that Peter promptly admitted his mistake, when he was convicted... But wait, Judas also admitted his mistake in denying Christ and then went out and killed himself. What's with that?
Unlike Peter, Judas had not been participating in the process of sanctification during his years of walking with Jesus. Rather than confessing his issues and letting Jesus help him deal with it, he stuffed that mess deep within himself. Then, when he made a really big mistake and realized it, all that garbage that he had been stuffing came out all at once and it was too much. He wasn't willing to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow (really follow) Jesus (Matthew 16:24).
I find it really interesting that the word translated "deny" which Jesus used in Matthew 16:24 is the same Greek word that Matthew used to describe Peter's denial in Mt 26:71-75. I need to more consistently deny my "self" in the same way that Peter denied Christ. When I fail to do that, I fall -- no question about it. But when I fall, I get up again, admit my mistakes, as did Peter, and continue to cooperate with God in this lifetime-process of sanctification. It's a choice that I must make to survive.
How about you? Is Jesus knocking at your heart's door also? (Revelation 3:20). Will you answer? Do you trust Him enough to deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Him? Keep coming back to Jesus. No matter how low you sink, Jesus, with open arms, is longing for you to come home (Luke 15:11-32).

No Drifting

As we progress through the process of sanctification, there come times when things seem to be going well. During those times, it is easy to let life in this busy world control us, and maybe even numb us to spiritual things. When this happens, it behooves us to "... listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it" (Hebrews 2:1). To "drift away" could easily cause us to fall back into our sins of the past.
That's why it is important for me to take time daily for introspection -- asking God to convict me of sin in my life and then I must promptly admit it and deal with it, according to His will. This brings me peace, and peace is exactly what I need, in order to face another day in this crazy hectic world.
"For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished. So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak?" (Hebrews 2:2-3)

Peace or Folly?

"I will hear what God Jehovah will speak;
For he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints:
But let them not turn again to folly.
Surely his salvation is near them that fear him,
That glory may dwell in our land."
(Psalms 85:8-9)
With God's promise of peace, comes a condition. As I progress through these healing steps, I must not become complacent with my progress, but continue to evaluate my direction in life. I must remember that I am but dust (Ps 103:14), and continually ask myself, "Am I still following, still surrendering to God? Or, am I beginning to return to my folly?".
Without a continuing self-evaluation it is easy to fall into the lie that we can manage our own lives, now God has worked to bring us to a better place. It would be easy to slip back into denial of our true human condition. And, in so doing, lose sight of God as being our only source of power to continue in our progressive healing process.
"God is my strong fortress; And he guideth the perfect in his way." (2 Samuel 22:33). "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13).
Step 10: "Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it."