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Bible Sanctification - "The Progressive Work of a Lifetime"

Ministry and Practice

Step 12: "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."

Gratefully Vigilant

Gratitude
Early in recovery there came to me a burning desire to share with others what amazing things the Lord had been doing in my life. My gratitude to God and to those who showed me the way was overwhelming. But, for fear of what people would think or do, I wasn't able to share, as I would have liked. It was years later when I discovered a Christian 12-Step group. I wasn't interested, at first, because I had heard many negative comments about groups like this. But, when I came to realize that 12-Step taught the very same things that I had been learning (by the grace of Christ), I decided to give it a try. It was there that I found the safe, warm place that I needed so that I could share the wonderful victories that God was working in my life.
No sooner does one come to Christ than there is born in his heart a desire to make known to others what a precious friend he has found in Jesus. (Steps to Christ, p. 78)
Vigilance
When I think of the last part of Step 12, "we tried ... to practice these principles in all our affairs", the one word that comes to mind is "vigilance". One dictionary definition is, "The quality or state of being watchful and alert to danger or trouble". I have spent much of my time, since the beginning of my recovery in 1994, studying, praying about, and contemplating just what it is that causes me to gain the victory over those sins that so easily beset me. The apostle Paul put it this way,
"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us," (Hebrews 12:1).
In a practical way, I've often wondered how can I concisely describe the way this works (when I work it) in my own life. Let me start by saying that I believe that I have been in error on two opposite extremes. The first was when I used vigilance in my personal determination to beat those temptations, expecting God to help me do it my own way. For 25 years, this didn't work for me. The second was when I used vigilance in my devotion to God; well at least I paid Him lip service, expecting that He would remove the temptations from me. But neither of those methods brought lasting victory over my negative behaviors. It is only when I am vigilant in my devotion to God (willing to do things His way), and (at the same time) vigilant in my determination to resist the temptation with all the power that I have (no matter how little that may be), that God gives me the victory. James said it this way:
"He gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, 'God opposes the proud but favors the humble.' So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world." (James 4:6-8).

Witness & Practice

Witness:
Jesus said, "... Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you." (Mark 5:19) A response of Paul: "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; ... And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." (1 Timothy 1:12-17)
I was nearly four years into recovery when I first read though the steps of 12-Step recovery. As I read, I was amazed at how these steps paralleled my own experience, as God had led me through these very same steps! But, one thing was missing. For some time, I had been feeling the need to share what God was doing in my life. However, because of the nature of my primary addiction, I didn't know how to "safely" do that. Christian 12-Step recovery groups provided that "safe" place that I needed. Then, as my recovery process progressed, I began to be able to share more freely. As a result, I have taken advantage of many more witnessing opportunities. This is why I share with you today. I believe that what God is doing in my life, He wants to do for you as well.
Practice:
Paul: "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified." (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
Some believe that, in the process of recovery/sanctification, our carnal human nature is somehow removed and our default behavior becomes spiritual. However, I haven't found that in scripture, or in my own personal experience. I have, however, found the process to be progressive (Great Controversy 470.1). Those "sins that so easily beset me" no longer control me. They are more easily resisted through my surrender to God. But my Christian walk is still a battle - a battle against my self - "the greatest battle that was ever fought" (Steps to Christ 43). Knowing this helps me to remain focused on my Savior, my friend, and my God, Jesus Christ. For, without Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5). But, with Him, I can do all things that He wills (Philippians 4:13).
I invite you to join me in my commitment to more closely follow Jesus.

Why Do I Do It?

The year was 1994. Having sunk lower than a snake's belly in my behaviors, I heard something that gave me hope. I heard the testimonies of several individuals who were, by the power of God, having consistent and lasting victory over temptation to do those things that had controlled them for many years, and had brought them and others a great deal of pain. Could it be, I wondered, if there might be a way out of my painful behaviors, which had controlled me for 25 years?
As I began to realize my powerlessness, and the all-powerfulness of a LOVING God who wanted to deliver me from my addictions, I began to become willing to surrender my heart and my life to Him. Just as soon as I began to surrender myself to Him in the moment of temptation, He began to deliver me. I began to have victory over temptations that I had previously believed to be impossible. What Jesus said about Him being the vine is certainly true: "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." (John 15:5). And, it's also true that, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13).
I PRAISE GOD for His faithfulness to deliver me from my besetting sins as I choose to trust and obey Him. This is why I write, speak, mentor and facilitate small groups. I have a burning desire to share this spiritual awakening that I am having with others. If you wish, you can read more of my testimony of the power of the will and of other lessons in recovery.

Witnessing

"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:18-20)
When I was a teenager, and well into my 20s, it was common for me to feel guilty for not distributing Christian literature or participating in other church functions that required me to witness to others. I've never been a great outside salesperson and it was frustrating to feel shamed for not participating in this type of activity. It seemed like I was being told that it was my duty to do these things. But it was drudgery for me.
Looking back to those days, from where I am today, I understand better why it was such drudgery. I was trying to do witnessing when I hadn't even come to the realization that I was powerless over my problems. I hadn't even begun to experience Step 1.
Today however, having had a spiritual awakening, I am grateful to realize that an integral part of my recovery process is in witnessing to others what great things God does in my life, as I choose to cooperate (trust and obey) with His loving leading.
I can now appreciate what the apostle John said: "they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony..." (Revelation 12:11)
I could not overcome, if it were not for Jesus and His infinite sacrifice for me, and His total willingness to save me from my sins. Out of love and gratitude for all He does for me, I now feel compelled to testify to others of God's amazing grace. And not only that, but as I consider all those I have harmed in the past, it makes me all the more determined to do all that I can to help as many as possible now and in the future. And not only that, but by the word of my testimony I become less and less likely to re-enter my past harmful behaviors.
That is why I strive to bring these messages of hope to the hurting and why I choose, through the power of God, to practice these Gospel principles in all that I do -- trusting that my loving Higher Power will be with me always, "even unto the end of the world. Amen."

Why Practice These Principles?

In my humble opinion, the Biblical principles of sanctification/recovery provide a road map to spiritual and emotional wellness. In my own experience, these principles have been, and continue to be, my most valuable resource in building a saving relationship with God, and in building closer personal relationships with my family and others.
Because of this, I cannot help but witness to others of my wonderful Savior, who not only continues to save a wretch like me, but who also gives power to overcome as I surrender to His will and His Lordship in my life. My desire is to choose surrender more and follow my own foolish pathways less. How about you?
"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:" (John 1:12) "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." (Revelation 12:11)

Why Choose God?

"For the mountains may depart, and the hills be removed; but my lovingkindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall my covenant of peace be removed, saith Jehovah that hath mercy on thee." (Isaiah 54:10)
When we begin on our road to recovery/sanctification, we may have some serious reservations about God, often because of people in authority who have let us down, or even abused us. They may have even been people who should have been Godly examples to us. As a result, we tend to see God in the same light. But as we progress through the recovery process and begin to experience positive results, the God of our understanding gradually changes. We come to know and love the God of infinite love and compassion.
Instead of dwelling on questions like, "Why did God allow these bad things to happen to me?" we become thankful that He is always present with us, especially when bad things happen, protecting us from even worse things, and holding us in His arms of loving kindness. We begin to dwell more on questions like, "How could God love me so much that He would risk losing His "only begotten Son" to save a wretch like me?" Instead of seeing God as a tyrant, through those who have abused us, we begin to see Him more as the God who loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3), who will never leave us, nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). We begin to see God as the one who will ultimately take us out of this world of sin and death, and give us eternal life with him.
Instead of seeing God as vindictive, wanting to punish us for our sins, we begin to see Him as the one who died a cruel death on the Roman cross to pay the penalty for our sins. And, just as He had victory over the grave and lives again, so does He now live to give us victory over our behaviors that bring us so much pain. Of course, we do have a part to play, not in paying the price of our sins, but in cooperating with God as He offers deliverance from our sins. As we choose to serve God; as we choose to give Him our will, in times of trial and temptation, we thereby die to our own selfish desires. Then He will raise us to newness of life by giving us the victory over those sins that have so easily beset us in the past.
And, not only in times of trial and temptation is He there for us, but throughout each and every day He is ever sending us messages through our thoughts to help us with even the smallest of challenges and choices that come our way. He doesn't do this to control us. No, He only wants to help make life better for us. Whether we choose to die to our preferences and live to His infinite wisdom is totally up to us. No matter what we choose to do or say, He is always there to lead us and guide us in the best possible direction, which we would choose anyway, if we knew the beginning from the end, as He does.
"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:1-3)
With a God like this, why wouldn't we want to pursue this process of sanctification? Why wouldn't we want to share this Good News with others?

Show Off or Witness?

"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 concerns 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." So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns 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?

Character Development

"Holy and reverend is his name. The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all they that do his commandments: His praise endureth for ever." (Ps. 111:9-10)
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."
AMEN.

Share the Power

"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 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. "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen." (Jude 1:24-25)

The Best Part

Because of the pain we face, many of us enter into the process of recovery to find victory over those sins that most easily beset us, and this is good. But what we discover, as we get deeper into the recovery (sanctification) process, is that we are having a profound spiritual awakening, and this is the best part.
After the difficult work of becoming more honest, learning to trust more, and consecrating ourselves to God, we can now begin to rejoice with the Psalmist, for "It is a good thing to give thanks unto Jehovah, And to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High;" (Psalm 92:1). Our joy becomes unrestrained, for we desire "To show forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, And thy faithfulness every night, For thou, Jehovah, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands." (Psalm 92:2,4). "Sing unto Jehovah, bless his name; Show forth his salvation from day to day." (Psalm 96:2).
More and more, as I practice these principles of sanctification in all areas of my life, I find not only healing for myself but healing in those around me as well. My relationships with God and with people continue to improve. No, these relationships are not perfect, but as I grow, by the grace and power of God, I rejoice in the increasing peace and happiness I find.
"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen." (1 Timothy 1:15-17)

Step 12: "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."