Sunday, May 14, 2017

Twelve Steps: A Christian Process for Healing and Transformation

Cc 2.0 via Flickr
Foundation Scripture: Romans 8:1-13

Accompanying Video: 

Audio Presentation:

Our lives are beautiful, astonishing, powerful series of moments that end up defining who we are and what our legacy in life will be. We live in a miraculous world, and we live lives of miracles, victories, defeats, and transformations.

Though many in our world today chock up their lives to random chance and coincidence, as Christians we know there are greater things at work than mere happenstance. Life is a gift. It’s a gift from God. And especially the lives we live today, here in the United States, we have all we want to eat, we have good jobs, friendly communities, and reasonable government. We should be so very grateful for what God has given us.

The greatest gift we’ve ever received, that impacts our lives in the most incredible way is the gift of the grace found in Christ Jesus. The word says: “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,[b] God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.” -Romans 8:1-3

Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe. As we look at ways we can grow in grace, and methods or practical recovery and healing, we must remember that we do everything out of Jesus Christ. If we begin by trying to force growth and healing in our lives, we won’t get anywhere. But if we seek to grow based on the love and relationship we already have in Jesus then we will succeed. We should always be cautious to live out of what we’ve already received in the riches of Christ Jesus. Jesus substituted himself for us. He’s transformed his life and witness to us, as a jacket, a coat of righteousness that we put on every day. We have full relationship with God through Christ. We all have full relationship. We have full adoption into the family of redeemed humanity. We have the Holy Spirit working in us, on us, and through us. All of this comes from Christ alone, not from ourselves. We can do nothing to add to it.

But as a result of what Christ has completed in us, we desire to live a godly, holy life. We want desperately to live the way God wants us to live, because of the incredible gift we’ve received. We’re so happy, so amazed, so grateful for to God, we want to live just the way he has asked us to live.

So today I’d like to share with you some ways to grow in God’s grace. These principles are taken from God’s word, translated through a process called the twelve steps. The twelve steps are Christian in origin, having been developed from the teachings of a 19th century Christian movement called the Oxford groups. These Oxford groups were Christians attempting to live their faith better. And I hope from this message we’ll find some “spiritual tools” to help us live as faithful Christians.

The first principle if something we should all try to understand and grow in, because it’s the foundation of all Christian growth. This principle is the principle of surrender. This is something William Booth talked about a great deal. It’s so vital to what we do. Essentially surrender is about the full, 100% admission that we are powerless, and in need of God’s provision. Apart from God, we can do nothing. But surrender is practical, in that we can practice it.

It can be as simple as a prayer. Lord, I surrender. I can do nothing apart from you. I’m powerless Lord. I need you, nothing more, nothing less. Linked to surrender is humility. If we aren’t humble, then we can never grow or achieve anything. Because someone with pride and ego assumes they already know everything. They can’t be taught anything.

Ego can lock us in a cell, alone by ourselves, unwilling to admit we need help, unwilling to admit we need to change, and for much of the secular world, it’s a prison where they will stubbornly refuse that love and guidance of God.

In my years of wayward struggle, my ego was out of control. But there is one thing that can break down ego: It’s suffering. God gave me exactly what I needed to hit rock bottom and lose all false ego. And once that ego is gone, at the bottom, it’s just you and your sins. There is no barrier between us anymore. Just me and what I’ve become. That’s when calling out to Jesus becomes a real possibility. For Christians like ourselves, we can practice surrender by falling on our knees before God. We can practice humility and surrender by lowering ourselves before God and declaring our full dependence on Him. I encourage you to let your knees hit the floor before our Lord. Stay there. Allow the Lord to dig deep into your and flatten out that ego within. Invite the Lord to do so. Cry out to Him, and weep, and ask for willingness.

Interestingly enough, in recovery programs surrender is step 1 of the process.

Second principle that we can practice in our lives is that of total commitment. God must have all there is of William Booth said the founder of the Salvation Army. God must have all there is of us. All of us. Not just some. Do we practice that? Or do we set aside certain parts of our lives? God you can have this part, but the sex life is my business. God you can have this part of me, but I’ll handle the finances. God you can have the spiritual part, but I’ll handle how I treat my husband, my wife, my kids.

There are no conditions in this agreement between God and man. There are no negotiations. We give our whole lives to God. Practically this means that we look to turn both our will and our entire lives over to God. But what does that mean? To turn our will over to God, is to say that we will now check our decisions against what God wants us to do.

Most people tend to function in our lives attempting to fulfill three basic desires within ourselves: security instinct, social instinct, and sexual instinct. We push our way through life trying to fulfill our desire for safety, which manifests in trying to buy a house, trying to find a good job and so on. Socially, we look for friends, for close relationships with family and coworkers. And in our sexual instinct we look to connect with someone of the opposite sex. Those things aren’t bad. Those are the three dimensions of life. But all of those areas can become problematic if we aren’t living out of the 4th dimension of life, which is the spiritual realm.

We as Christians are called to live in the Spirit. The rest of the world lives in the flesh, attempting to manipulate people and circumstances to fulfill their three basic desires for security, socializing, and sexual desire.

The word says:” Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” -Romans 8:5-6

To turn our will and our lives over to God is to live in the Spirit instead of the flesh, meaning as we live day by day we’re looking to fulfill God’s desires for us, instead of our own petty interests. Are you living that way? If not then I encourage you to commit yourself anew to our Lord, and to begin to consider in your mind: What is God’s will for me in this situation? What would God want me to do right now? It’s not so hard. In fact the more you practice it, the more natural it becomes. This is God-consciousness, what some call a conscious contact with God on a daily basis.

So first we surrender, step 1. And step two and three are the process of coming to believe, and then commiting oneself to attempt to obey the will of God in their daily life. How do we know the will of God? We study his word carefully and know his teachings on various issues.

Many of you probably already practice both surrender and practicing the will of God. Now I’d like to share with you a tool that will transform your entire life.

It’s called the process of taking a personal inventory. For those of you out there today who have been through a lot of traumatic experiences in your life, of you’ve gone through hard times, I can’t recommend this process enough to you. I’m absolutely amazed by the power of putting things down on paper. The act of writing out what we’ve been through is a process by which our soul is cleansed from past struggles.

When we go through hard times, trauma, depression, sorrows, and addictions it’s like we accumulate wreckage in our minds. And pretty soon that wreckage piles up to the point that we can barely function on a daily basis. We begin to live and feel as if we’re constantly surrounded by a cloud of doom. That cloud comes from these piled up past traumas.

So if you’ve got piled up sorrows from the past, grab a notebook and pen, or open up a word document on your computer and start writing. Write down exactly what happened. Honesty is vital in this process. If we rewrite history or leave the worst parts out, we won’t find any healing. But if we share the real truth about what has happened, and what our part was in it, then we’ll find healing. Once we’ve written all these things down, and when I did this I had over fifty pages, we take it to someone we trust deeply. It could be a trusted friend or pastor. And we read what we wrote to them and talk about what happened. This second part of confessing it is vital. The act of telling another person, for some reason, is the part that really clears this stuff out. Then we pray, thanking God for setting us free from these past harms, and many like to burn the pages as a symbol that in Christ all of these things are gone. Set free. He has set us free.

Those are steps four and five. Six and seven are steps that help those seeking healing to identify character defects, like fear, inconsideration, and selfishness, and to begin to practice the opposite of those harmful attitudes. The principle is inventory, matched with confession.

The final principle I’d like to share with you today is called reconciliation. As a non-believer, and an addict I hurt many people in my life. I think my family is who I hurt the worst. But also my extended family. And my close friends, coworkers, and college teachers. When we practice reconciliation, a biblical concept, we go to those we have harmed in the past and we ask for their forgiveness. But in addition, we also ask how we can make it right. They call this making amends.

I’d encourage you to consider in your life, how you’ve hurt others. It’s best I think to start with family. And then consider friends as well. How can I make it right with these people? How can I make amends for the wrongs I’ve done to them? This is probably the hardest part of the principles we’ve talked about so far. It’s very humbling (step 1) to go to family members and friends and admit the wrong we’ve done. But are we so proud? Do we have so much ego?

What would Jesus do? Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, a task seen as below the dignity of any decent person. Jesus did it. I never wanted to admit I was a drug addict. To admit that was to hurt my ego. It was to admit who I really was. But when I did, it changed everything. In the same way, most don’t want to admit they are sinners, and it’s humbling and ego crushing to do so, but once we admit it, we become open to the healing found in Jesus Christ. Making amends encompass steps eight and nine.

Ten, eleven and twelve have to do with continuing to practice the principles already discussed, to continue to grow in communion with God, and to carry the truth to others who don’t yet have it. Let me add this truth: Often when we are depressed, struggling, about to fall apart internally the solution is for us to serve someone else. It’s a paradox I know, but oddly enough, getting out of ourselves and focusing on someone else cures that internal sorrow.

In conclusion, the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans chapter 7: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! -Romans 7:21-25

In the journey of your life, in those moments that come that define who we are and how we live, remember that you are called to live in the Spirit. In this beautiful, amazing, shocking, awe inspiring adventure of our lives we will see so many things, come to know many people, and witness great shifts in society, and in ourselves. Consider how you live, and obey that wonderful Holy Spirit within. God will not lead you astray. He has given us the spiritual tools we need. Surrender, turning our will over to God, inventory, confession, and making amends are all gifts from God in Christ Jesus. Jesus loves us because we have received Him as our savior. As a result and a response to this wonderful completed relationship, let us live our faith and grow as Christians through the timeless principles found in the word of God.

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