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Sunday, January 04, 2009

I Want You To Grow Spiritually 11: Get Tough on Sin

"Encourage one another daily . . . so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." -- Hebrews 3:13

Consider getting involved in a 12 step program or just do a Step 4 -- a Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory. Pursue holiness with reckless abandon. There are times when we are our own worst enemy when it comes to our spiritual lives. Sometimes we sabotage our own spiritual health by not taking sin seriously.

Firstly, do not do this alone. Do it with a counselor or pastor -- someone who you can absolutely come clean with and who is absolutely committed to confidentiality. Pick someone that you can safely tell the deepest, darkest secrets of your soul and that will provide you grace, because that is what Jesus gives you -- day after day after day after day. Consider making an appointment with an Anglican or Roman Catholic priest.

OK. Some of you are resistant and just won't talk to someone about this. Use a journal. Get it all out on paper. Then burn it.

I just want to steer you away from just doing this as a mental exercise. Bring your sin out of the darkness, out of the secret places of your soul and bring them into the light where you will receive God's forgiveness for all of them.

Sure. God knows them and has forgiven them. But your experience of that forgiveness will change dramatically when you confess outloud to another.

There are several recognized ways of doing a step 4. Here's a simple one: How to Work Step Four in AA | eHow.com.

Step 4 from AA's 12 Step program is one way to deal with sin and shortcomings. Another way is to use John Wesley's Holy Club questions. Wesley met in small groups with his brother Charles and other friends for bible study, communion and to examine the state of their souls. They would use these questions:

1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
2. Do I confidentially pass on to others what has been said to me in confidence?
3. Can I be trusted?
4. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?
5. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
6. Did the Bible live in me today?
7. Do I give the Bible time to speak to me every day?
8. Am I enjoying prayer?
9. When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?
10. Do I pray about the money I spend?
11. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
12. Do I disobey God in anything?
13. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
14. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
15. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
16. How do I spend my spare time?
17. Am I proud?
18. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?
19. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
20. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
21. Is Christ real to me?

Another test for Self-Examination
The following questions are taken from Salvation Army Orders and Regulations for Soldiers, 1950:

1. Am I habitually guilty of any known sin? Do I practice or allow myself in any thought, word or deed which I know to be wrong?
2. Am I the master of my bodily appetites so as to have no condemnation? Do I allow myself in any indulgence that hurts my holiness, growth, obedience, or usefulness?
3. Are my thoughts and feelings such that I wouldn't be ashamed to hear them published before God?
4. Does the influence of the world cause me to act, or feel or say things that do not show the love of God?
5. Am I doing all in my power for the salvation of sinners?
6. Am I fulfilling the vows and promises I have made before God in the past?
7. Does what I do as a Christian match what I say about being a Christian?
8. Am I consious of any pride in my life?
9. Do I conform to the fashions and customs of this world or do I show that I despise them?
10. Am I in danger of being carried away with worldly desires to be rich or admired?

1 John 1:8-10 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

This is part 11 in a 20 part series on spiritual growth. If you feel like you are not growing deeper in your faith or relationship to God, if you are not loving and serving others more, if you have a sense of 'stuckness' in your spiritual journey, and you really want to grow ——— the answer might not be to try harder. All too often I have heard the same solutions offered over and over — 'All you have to do is have daily devotions, pray more, read more of the Bible, be in worship every week and get more involved in the church.' In other words try harder.

Sometimes that doesn't work and I'm going to offer some suggestions that might help you move forward.

Previous Installments:
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 1: Give Up Daily Devotions
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 2: See A Counselor
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 3: Spiritual Direction
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 4: Get A New Church
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 5: Go On Retreat
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 6: Fight A Spiritual Battle & Win
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 7: Take A Seminary or College Class
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 8: Take Communion Weekly
I Want You To Grow Spiritually 10: Observe The Daily Office & Church Year

Note: Part 9 isn't published yet. I'll get to it eventually.

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