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Purification -- Step 7

Purification

Step 7: "Humbly asked Father God to remove our shortcomings."


In Humility, I ask...

During my 25 years of "acting out" in my addiction, I would often ask Father God to remove my "shortcomings". In fact, I would plead with Him to "just take it away" most every time I fell. But, as I reflect on those pleadings now, I see that I was more arrogant than humble in my approach to God. I wanted Him to do it all and I wanted Him to do it now! I wanted Him to take my will, without my willingness to give it to Him. I was unwilling to admit the extent of my issues to anyone, not even to God or myself. And yet, I was demanding of Father God to fix me. I wasn't at all ready to have God remove my defects of character, even though I thought I was.
Jehovah says "My son, give me thine heart..." (Prov 23:26). If I were to hold out to you a gift in my hand, but not release it from my grasp as you attempted to take it, would it really be a gift? "Please take it", I would continue to urge. And yet, I would not release my grip. This is what it was like for me as I continually asked Father God for deliverance from my issues, while being unwilling to let them go.
In recovery, my arrogance and pride are gradually turning to willing submission to Father God's will -- humility. It is my experience that God removes my "shortcomings" only as fast as I am willing to let them go. This is not only a passive submission, but an active determination to choose a better course of action for my life -- one temptation at a time -- one day at a time. "To make God's grace our own, we must act our part. His grace is given to work in us to will and to do, but never as a substitute for our effort. As the Lord co-operated with Daniel and his fellows, so He will co-operate with all who strive to do His will." (PK 486-487)

His Ways are True and Faithful

A man`s goings are established of Jehovah; And he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For Jehovah upholdeth him with his hand. (Psalms 37:23,24)
I have been acquainted with many people who, like me, have begged Father God to remove their shortcomings, to no avail. Some have become quite bitter because they are still plagued by these sins that so easily beset us. We claim the text, For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13). But we tend to assume more than was likely intended, expecting God to work in us without our cooperation. Let's look at it again, in context:
Wherefore [Father] God also hath highly exalted [Jesus], and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. (Philippians 2:9-16).
This passage speaks of worship, humility, and striving -- through fear and trembling -- to obey Father God through Jesus Christ our savior. It seems to me that, when I cooperate with God, like this, He then works in me according to His good pleasure, in His way, which is in my best interest. Of course I can't see the "end from the beginning", as He does. But, I've seen enough of His positive working in my life to trust that He is making all things new, and that His ways are true and faithful (Rev 21:5).
Jehovah says, I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will counsel thee with mine eye upon thee. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding; Whose trappings must be bit and bridle to hold them in... (Psalms 32:8,9). In my humble opinion, it's all about cooperating with Father God, in humility. I don't expect (or even want) Him to force me to go His way as the rider forces his horse with bit and bridle. What about you? Have you been expecting God to change you, without your cooperation, as I, and many others, have?

Running For The Incorruptible Crown

I like how Paul likened Christian growth to the running of a race:
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: (1 Cor 9:24-26)
As we come out of denial (step 1), trusting Jesus to be our guide (step 2-3), and start learning to live our lives according to His perfect will (step 3), we discover that our Father and His Son are full of compassion, wisdom, and love. We begin to see that the way of the cross (denial of self), while painful, is the only way to grow and excel spiritually. It's the only way to actually "win" the "race".
Now, I can say I'm a follower of Christ and I can say all the right things to make people think I am, but am I really...? I may even try to "run the race" of life on my own, and in my own strength. But when I do, I make a lot of mistakes and hinder the overall progress of Christ's "team". As Paul put it, I run as one that beats the air. It's like Jesus said, "...without me, you can do nothing" (John 15:5).
But when I co-operate with Father God, when I listen to His "still small voice" (1 Kings 19:12) saying "this is the way, walk ye in it" (Is 30:21), and turn my will over to Him (step 3) by choosing to obey, then He works in me to "will and to do of his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13) Ellen White put it this way:
"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." {COL 332-333}
So, when I am weak (all the time) I find my strength in the Lord, as I trust I trust Him and obey His biddings.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Cor 12:9-10)

Authority Over The Enemy

Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; (Acts 3:19)
"My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stand in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me the strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen." (Alcoholics Anonymous p. 76)
As we repent and become converted, we do need strength to do Father God's bidding, but just how does that work? In my 25 years of practicing my addictive behavior, I continually asked God for more strength of will to resist those temptations that so easily beset me, but to no avail. Yet, in recovery, as I surrender my will to His, during those temptations, He always gives me the victory.
So... what changed? Using my will to surrender myself to Father God, more than for fighting the temptation was key. But, I have received some additional insight from a study of these words of Jesus: Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:19).
Let's look at just a piece of this verse: "Behold, I give unto you power... over all the power of the enemy...". The word "power" is used twice in this verse, right? Well, when looking at the original language (Greek), we see that two different words were used. The first word is "exousia", which could have been translated as "authority". The second word is "dunamis", which could have been translated as "ability".
Look what happens when we use this alternate translation: "Behold, I give you authority over all the ability of the enemy". Do you see what a difference that makes?! While in my addictive behavior, I was asking God for the ability to resist the ability of the enemy. I realize now that just isn't going to happen, and it never did. But what does happen is that, as I surrender my will to Father God's, He gives me the authority to say "NO" to the enemy, as I say "YES" to God. Now that's the authoritative power I need :-)
"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you..." (James 4:7-8)

Humbly Trust and Ask...

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 Father 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 [the Son of God], 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 God is my faithful Creator (1 Peter 4:2,19).

"Be Clean"

When I humbly ask Father God to remove my shortcomings, it's gratifying to read God's response to my request in His Holy Word...
And I[Jehovah] will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep mine ordinances, and do them. (Ezekiel 36:25-27). For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13).
But I must also remember that Father God will not do these things without my cooperation. I must remember that, in Philippians 2, verse 12 precedes verse 13: Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12). I must remember that the first part of James 4:7 precedes the second part: Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7). So, I no longer question Father God's willingness and power to save me from those sins that so easily beset me. I only question my willingness to cooperate with Him so that I can become the man that He would have me to be.
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 3:20-21)

Humbly Ask Him...

Jesus said, And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. (Matthew 21:22). Faith seems to be a large factor in whether we receive what we ask for, but in considering how we ask..., it may be well to consider this story:
"Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: 'I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don't cheat, I don't sin, and I don't commit adultery. I'm certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.' But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, 'O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.'"(Luke 18:9-13). My tendency is to be more like the Pharisee, looking on the faults of others, rather than humbly admitting my own weaknesses. But listen to what Jesus said about that, "I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." (Luke 18:14).
Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; (Acts 3:19). These "times of refreshing" come to us as we admit and surrender our issues to Father God. Whenever temptations to those sick behaviors come, is when the "rubber meets the road". That's when I must decide to put my will entirely on the side of God and trust in Him for deliverance. It is only then that He will work in me "both to will and to do of His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13). When we do our part, we can be assured that Father God will do his part. That is how, I believe, He removes our shortcomings. Each time we cooperate with God in this way, we are gradually transformed to become more and more like Jesus. And that is my goal. Is it yours?

Just Ask?

Jesus said, "Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
You parents - if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him." (Matthew 7:7-11).
Well now, that seems pretty easy. I'll just ask God to remove my shortcomings, and He'll do it. That's perfect! I'm in charge. That's what I want. I'll be my own god and God will be at my beck and call. But, now let's contrast that notion with what He said later in the same chapter:
"Not everyone who calls out to me, 'Lord! Lord!' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, 'Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.' But I will reply, 'I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God's laws." (Matthew 7:21-23).
Oh, does He mean that I actually have to do something? I thought God was supposed to do everything for me, without my participation. What's up with that? Isn't salvation a free gift? Won't Father God work in me to will and to do His could pleasure (Philippians 2:13)? Sure He will, but not without my cooperation. Remember what Paul said a few verses earlier: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5). And, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12).
I can ask until kingdom come, without success. It is only when I listen to God's still small voice (1 Kings 19:12), trusting that He will enable me to do what He asks, and then choose to obey, that my life is changed. By opening the door of my heart in this way, Jesus is made welcome to come into my heart, remove my shortcomings, and renew my character.
Listen to how Jesus says it: "I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne." (Revelation 3:19-21)

Humility

In my carnal nature, I would arrogantly ask Father God for more strength, so I could fight my temptations my way. But God invites me to humbly come to the foot of the cross (Matthew 16:24), realizing my own powerlessness and His all-powerfulness (John 15:1-5), willing to let go of those old behaviors that bring me pain (Hebrews 12:1), humbly asking Father God to remove my defects of character.
An example of this kind of humility can be found in the experience of king David, after he fell with Bathsheba, when he said, Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: According to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions; And my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, And done that which is evil in thy sight; That thou mayest be justified when thou speakest, And be clear when thou judgest. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; And in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts; And in the hidden part thou wilt make me to know wisdom. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, That the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, And blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; And take not thy holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; And uphold me with a willing spirit. (Ps 51:1-12)
"One of the most earnest prayers recorded in the Word of God is that of David when he pleaded, 'Create in me a clean heart, O God.' Ps. 51:10. God's response to such a prayer is, A new heart will I give you. (Ezekiel 36:26) This is a work that no finite man can do. Men and women are to begin at the beginning, seeking Father God most earnestly for a true Christian experience. They are to feel the creative power of the Holy Spirit. They are to receive the new heart, that is kept soft and tender by the grace of heaven. The selfish spirit is to be cleansed from the soul. They are to labor earnestly and with humility of heart, each one looking to Jesus for guidance and encouragement. Then the building, fitly framed together, will grow into a holy temple in the Lord." (Our High Calling, 159.2)
This is the kind of humility that I want to exemplify in my life. How about you?

Humble Boldness

It's challenging to be real with myself. There are always temptations to either, think more highly of myself than I should, or to beat myself up for my foolishness. But God calls us to be honest -- to be real. I need to realize and acknowledge my weaknesses, while praising Father God for the strength and the victories He gives me.
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Romans 12:3). For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith Jehovah. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8,9)
When I come to Father Jehovah, realizing that I am a sinful mortal man, approaching the almighty God of the universe, I come in humility, asking Him to remove my character defects. For, all I have to offer Him is my will (choosing to follow Him, while knowing that I can't do it on my own) and my great need. But, because of the amazing sacrifice that Jesus became for me, I can "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that [I] may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16). And that's infinitely more than I deserve. PRAISE GOD!
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Peter 1:2-4)

Create in me a clean heart

"Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin... Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." (Psalm 51:1-10).
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
"Christ is the source of every right impulse.
He is the only one that can implant in the heart
enmity against sin. Every desire for truth and purity,
every conviction of our own sinfulness,
is an evidence that His Spirit is moving upon our hearts."
(Steps to Christ, 26)
When I'm entirely ready to have Father God remove my character defects, it's a natural next-step to ask Him to do it. However, the way He does that is sometimes unexpected and often painful. My tendency is to want God to sprinkle some "pixy dust" on me and POOF, I'm all better! But it hasn't happened to me yet :-) What has happened is according to Hebrews 12:5-11. God has given (and still gives) me consequences for my bad choices. Forgiveness (in my case) seldom removes all the consequences. And I have some doubt that my character would actually be changed much if all consequences were removed. In my estimation, some of the ingredients of character transformation are: consequences, accountability, right choices (strong hard battles with self), and complete reliance upon God for my strength.

Discipline - for a Peaceful Harvest

The following is my paraphrase of Hebrews 12:1-10 =>
"Since so many have gone before me, participating in the life-changing experience of recovery in the Lord, it behooves me to learn how to lay my issues at the foot of the cross, and look to Jesus for my deliverance.
When I think of Jesus, I see a man who endured much harder trials and temptations than I ever have. He endured all this hardship for the joy of knowing that as a result of His sacrifice, I would have the opportunity for an eternal life of peace and happiness with Him. When tempted to think that I have it bad, I remind myself that I have never resisted temptation to the degree of sweating great drops of blood, as did Jesus.
Neither should I despise the discipline of Father God, because He does it out of His infinitely pure love for me. As I am teachable in this discipline, God deals with me as His child. But if I refuse His discipline, I become more like a bastard than a child of God.
My earthly parents disciplined me according to their limited understanding, and out of their dysfunctional past, and maybe even for their own pleasure, yet I gave them respect and learned from them. How much more then should I respect and honor the infinitely wise Creator God who loves me so much that He gave His only Son to die for me that I may have life eternal?" (A paraphrase of Hebrews 12:1-10, by Sid Nash)
"No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening - it's painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way" (Hebrews 12:11 -NLT).

The Laws of Love in Your Heart

This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith Jehovah, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; (Hebrews 10:16)(Hebrews 8:10).
Intellectually, I know God's law is the law of love, and I assent to it. but my heart has been stony cold. Like the man of Romans 7 (Rom 7:14-23), my character is defective. I need the love of Father God written on my heart -- in my character. And so, I ask myself, "How can I cooperate with God's love? How can I give Him permission to remove my defects of character? How does He do that? What will it cost me? And, am I entirely ready to let God do this work of transformation in my heart. How do I become that intimate with God?"
I believe that it "boils down" to how honest I am, about my weaknesses, with myself, God and others. And, do I really trust God enough to fully surrender to Him and to His will when He calls to my heart? Recognizing my powerlessness, Am I willing to be "crucified" to self and alive to Christ (Galatians 2:20)? Will I say, "Lord what would you have me to do?" (Acts 9:6) And then, will I choose to obey, knowing that: "The temptations in [my] life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than [I] can stand. When [I am] tempted, he will show [me] a way out so that [I] can endure." (1 Cor 10:13)
Each time I practice these principles, not only does He give me the victory (Praise God!), but I also believe that He writes more of His laws of love in my heart, in my character. Those new behaviors of love become part of who I am (an heart of flesh) and those old behaviors of selfishness (stony heart) become less of who I am. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Cor 5:17) May it be so in my life and in yours...
And I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep mine ordinances, and do them. And I will save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the grain, and will multiply it, and lay no famine upon you. (Ezekiel 36:25-27,29)

Step 7: "Humbly asked Father God to remove our shortcomings."