Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Glorious Road Home: Learning to Suffer for Jesus

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, cc 2.0
Audio Message

As we consider today the glorious road home, we can often feel confused, by the difficulties we face, the addictions, the sorrows, and the challenges. Sometimes we wonder, is this difficult way, really right? This brings to mind a poem by Rosalind Goforth, it goes like this:

“Is this the right road home, Lord? The clouds are dark and ominous,

The stony path is hard to walk, Each step brings fresh pain.

I thought the way would be brighter? And that the sun with warmth would glow,

And joyous songs from play overhead. Is this really the Right Road Home?

Yes my child, replied Jesus: This very path I trod, The clouds were dark for me,

The stony path was sharp and hard. I didn’t walk by sight, but by faith

That at the end, the sun shines bright, Forever, where there is no more night or pain, 

And glad hearts rest from earth’s fierce fight, it is the Right road Home!” -Rosalind Goforth, in Sunday School Times (revised) 

There is a road set before us. But it’s not like the other roads we see, and travel on. This is a spiritual road. It’s a difficult road. It means dogged fighting, it means intense spiritual warfare. It means denying yourself, and serving Jesus. This is the road I call you to today.

As a partner with God in ministry, I beg you to follow this road, 2 For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.

But I give you this warning: We will have to endure many difficulties along the way. Indeed, all of you are now struggling in various ways, to remain clean and sober, and to pursue a new life.

Now, at the beginning, will be the hardest time to stay clean and sober. Now will be the hardest time to follow Jesus. We must patiently endure trials, hardships, calamities. Each of these three are slightly different.

Trial – God is testing our faith through a difficulty, and when the difficulty passes, we find our faith purified like a fire purifies metal, and we’re more mature and joyful after the trial is over

Hardship – Hardship is something we have to endure, usually over time. Maybe our baby’s mother is just cruel to us, and won’t let us see our son or daughter. Or we’re afflicted with serious back pain for a season. Those are hardships. And all we can really do is endure them, and cry out to God for help in the difficulty.

Calamity – the dictionary definition of a calamity is ‘a great misfortune or disaster, as a flood or serious injury.’ As a Christian insane stuff will happen. And you’ll be amazed by what you’re having to go through. This is like, losing a family member. Or discovering we have cancer. Or we get fired from a great job. Calamity is a world shaking event.

Being Transformed
But there is another dynamic at work. Over time we begin to see a glorious, beautiful road of recovery open up before us. We see that Christ is slowly but surely transforming us into the likeness of God. And it’s so beautiful. There is peace, and serenity in our souls, after so many years of brokenness, and sorrows, and addictions.

But we have to walk the walk. We have to really live for Jesus, and prove it by how we live.

2nd Corinthians 6 indicates how we show ourselves to be true Christians.

Verse 6 says: “…by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love.

And verse 7 says “God’s power is at work in us.” There is actually God inside us, changing us. That’s amazing. 

The World Doesn't Know Us
The people of the world around us don’t get It. It doesn’t make sense to them. They wonder why we don’t go indulge in sin with them, they think we’re superstitious fools. They don’t understand the mystery of Christ.

Which is why… verse 8 says: “We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us.”

v.9: “We are ignored, even though we are well known.” The world doesn’t want to hear from us or listen to us. They mock us on television and in the news. They call us hypocrites, and take one example, like Westboro Baptist church, or a megachurch prosperity teacher and use it to slander every Christian in America. We’re called bigots because we don’t agree with certain lifestyles. They call us judgmental, because we live by the ethical standards of the Bible.

If you’re a new Christian today, welcome to the struggle. It isn’t easy. But we can still love these people, even if they hate us. We don’t ever have to hate them back. In fact, we return hate with love.

Struggles of this Fallen World
V.9 continues: “We live close to death, but we are still alive.” –All of us in this room know what it’s like to live on the edge of death. I mean, we were parked there. There was a little run down diner sitting on the edge of the earth, right at the face of a cliff and we got up each day and dared that abyss to eat us, when we were in addiction. Now it’s time to leave the diner of self-destruction.

When I was active in addiction I called it the halfway hotel, that little dump on the edge of destruction where I cut myself to pieces with drugs, day by day, piece by piece. One day I had to get up, and walk out that door forever.
“We have been beaten, but we have not been killed.” The Center for Studies on New Religions found in a recent study that Christianity is the #1 most persecuted religion in the world. They found that in 2016 over 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith. Thankfully in the United States we still enjoy religious liberty. But for many in 50 countries, according to Open Doors USA, they can either be arrested for owning a Bible, or face deadly persecution if they profess Christ. Few of us have ever been beaten for being a Christian, like Paul talks about in 2nd Corinthians 6. But who knows what the future holds. Perhaps some of us may be lucky enough to suffer in that way for Christ. 

And verse 10 says: “Our hearts ache, but we always have joy.” As a Christian my heart aches often in this world. I look upon the lostness and troubles in the world, and my heart aches. Yet at the same time I have this inexpressible joy in my heart, as I turn my eyes to Jesus. The Bible says that in the last days the love of many will grow cold. We must continue to have love. Instead of looking at the chaos in the world, return your eyes to the beauty and perfection of Jesus our King. 

Having an Eternal Perspective
V.10“We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others.” Some of us were wealthy in the past. Some of us owned our own businesses, and some of us had houses, cars, and money. But all that wealth couldn’t stop the drugs from taking over. Wealth is fleeting in this life. And there is no way to take a single dollar with us into the next. We do 80 to 90s years at most in this life. It’s very short. So we have to fix our eyes on eternal things. Many of us put as our number one goal in life to get money, to try to get rich. And it’s a dumb goal because we all grow old and die. Better to focus on gathering wealth in heaven, by serving Jesus.

Do you think we’re just faking all this? Do you think we do this just for the fun of it? If I thought it was fake, and Jesus wasn’t really real, I’d be out there partying and doing whatever I want. Jesus Christ is really God and He is really alive, right now. And I know there are only two places I can go, heaven or hell. There is no 3rd option. So I serve Jesus today, because I want to live in paradise forever.

V.10“We own nothing, and yet we have everything.” Everything I have belongs to God. I have nothing. I didn’t join the Salvation Army to get rich, believe me, it doesn’t work like that. I joined the Salvation Army to do God’s will. I’m going to serve Jesus, and be very rich in the next life, in good deeds, and service to the lost. I’ve got a plan here. I’m following Jesus, because God is making a new heavens and a new Earth where we will be immortal.

Do you get that? It’s real. I’m telling you it’s real. I’ve experienced Christ. I’ve seen him change my life, from being near death, in and out of detox, jails, and hospitals, from living years in the blackest depression, addicted, enslaved, body collapsing, suicide always on my mind, and yet Jesus Christ heard me when I cried upon His name, and He saved me. 

The Remaking of All Things
The City of God, the New Earth, it’s all real. There will be golden fields, and grassy meadows, and mansions for each of us to live in, God will be everywhere with us, Jesus will talk to us, and all knowledge will be available to us. We will sing, dance, and praise Jesus, and be filled joy, euphoria, with bliss. And it will never have to end, it will never have to break to suffering or pain. The joy and peace and love and happiness of the City of God will be endless. We will be there with Jesus. We will be conscious. I’ll still be me; you’ll still be you. And if you’ll give your life to Jesus, and turn from all your sins, and fight through the struggles of this life, you’ll be given a crown of glory when you arrive in paradise.

But the other is also quite real, hell. It will be blackest darkness. You will be conscious. You’ll know that being sent there was just of God, because of your sins. You’ll suffer because God is not in hell and fires of His judgment roar. There is only pain in hell, not the slightest good feeling, not even for a moment. And you’ll know, that there is no way out. You’ll know that it’s now too late to repent and believe in Jesus. The window of opportunity will have closed forever.

Which is why I say again: Today is the day of salvation! Today, if you feel the Spirit of Christ moving in you, respond to His voice and take up your place in His kingdom. He is calling you to be part of his holy temple, the body of Christ.

The Temple of God
2nd Corinthians 6:16-18 says, these are the words of God: “I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.[e]
17 Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord.
Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you.[f]
18 And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

Christ our Lord will make you part of his temple. He removes all of our sins. He causes us to be reborn, but not born of a mother and father, but born of God. Jesus can and will transform you completely. If you feel His grace urging you to call on Him, do so now: Call on the name of Jesus Christ. Believe ‘Jesus can help me!’ He is your Savior, your Redeemer, Your new birth, and your King forever. Turn away from sin and be holy set apart, and God himself will be your Father.

I see the road before us. It’s a high way, with light shining down through the tree tops. We see the road looks difficult and winding steadily upward toward heaven. And we see the other road, the easy road, that leads down into darkness. Come with me, on the road of sorrow and suffering, follow Jesus, onto the steady difficult road upward toward the light. Be brave my brothers, I know what you’ve been through, I know the deep dark sorrows of your hearts and how you’ve suffered in addiction. Now, come with me, as we follow Jesus, one so well acquainted with sorrow. You’ve suffered much in addiction, now suffer in a new way by suffering for Jesus. Follow Him, in joy, in struggle, in wins, in losses, in victories in defeats, in trials, afflictions, and battles, follow Jesus Christ, the one who suffered for us, and obey His call. Learn from Him, for He is the great holy redeemer, learn from the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords! Follow Him as we go, on this bitter-sweet journey home, trudging the road of happy destiny, all the way to the gates of the kingdom of heaven on Earth. 

Related Posts:
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  5. Quick Fact Sheet: Four Points to Consider
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  7. Believing in the Miraculous: The Work of Jesus Christ on the Cross
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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Twelve Steps and Jesus: Steps 10 through 12

Click here for post on Steps 1 through 5

So we’ve talked about the first 9 steps used in fellowships like AA, NA, GA, and so on. These steps work. And every single person in this room who is in this program needs to work those steps with a sponsor, because we need a psychological change to sustain true recovery. Showing up at church once a week, and hitting a meeting here and there isn’t enough. All the trauma, the hurt, the brokenness inside ourselves, and around ourselves that we’ve done to others is a cancer that eats away at us. And all that trauma causes us to give way to the impulse of self-destruction. We sabotage our own recovery, even when things are going well, we’ll go back out, because we’ve never faced our past, we’ve never cleaned up the wreckage, and gotten right with God. So that’s why we work those steps 1 through 9.

Now let’s talk about steps 10, 11, and 12.

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

Step 10 is essentially saying, as an addict in recovery it’s my job to continue to practice steps 4 through 9 on a daily basis. I’ve been given a simple spiritual toolkit. So I gotta crack it open and use it. Is something bothering me? Then use the step 4 tool, put it on paper, and then grab the step 5 tool, share what’s going on with someone. Is my crap behavior getting me in trouble again? Then pull out those step 6 and 7 tools, identify the character defect, selfishness, pride, ego, whatever it may be, and ask God to remove it. Did I hurt someone? Did I make someone angry? I go to my toolkit, pull out the step 8 and 9 tools, and I go directly to that person one on one, and I ask for forgiveness, and let them know it won’t happen again. Step 10 is making the steps my daily lifestyle.

Step 11 says: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out.

The problem with a lot of folks in AA is they don’t work this step, they don’t continue to grow in their understanding of who God is. This step is huge. This is how we learn to walk with Jesus our Savior.

The two great communication tools between God and man, prayer and meditation. I try to pray for an hour a day, I don’t always succeed, but pick a time that’s good for you, some are early risers, for me I prefer to pray late at night. And talk to God, praise Him, pray for others, pray for yourself. Then we got meditation. I like to lay down in bed with my Bible, and just invite God to speak to me through the scriptures. And I’ll just page through the word and see what He has for me.

And as we do that daily, we’re looking to improve our conscious contact with God. Conscious contact is like, being aware of God throughout the day, and a lot of times I’ll just talk to God throughout the day, in my mind. And God communicates back, through people, through looking out the window and seeing a beautiful sunny day, and through thoughts that come. But the best part of growing in conscious contact with God is feeling the joy of His presence.

Ultimately the goal with step 11 is to understand what God’s will is for us each day. We need knowledge of His will. Like for me, when I was sober about 18 months, I really wanted to become a Baptist minister. But every time I tried, it seems like the doors were closing in front of me. So I prayed God what is your will for me as far as a career? And boom, God led me into the salvation army. I didn’t choose the Salvation Army, in fact I wanted something more hip and cool, maybe some fancy college apologetics ministry, so I could seem important to the culture and all that, but God said nope, Salvation Army is where I want you. So I followed. We’ve got to pray and check our decisions on God’s will.

And finally, we seek power from God. That’s capital P power. Our problem has always been lack of power over dope and drink. It was our king and god. God gives us power to be free from addiction, if we do our part by following His will.

Lastly, Step 12 says: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The ultimate goal of the twelve steps is that you would have a spiritual awakening. The goal is that your attitudes, ideas, your mind and your whole approach to life would be transformed.

Now do you see why so many people will go to meetings for a few months, then relapse? They never worked the steps, they never had the psychic change, the spiritual awakening, so they sat there, trying to turn magically into a Ford F150 by sitting in the garage. But it never happened. So they got wasted again.

If you sober up a car thief, what do you get? A sober car thief. If you send a retail thief to college, they’ll come back and steal the company. We need to work the steps, duh. That’s what changes us internally. The meetings help us grow through that process and stick with the victory, but we need the steps.

So if we’ve had the spiritual awakening, we’ve worked the steps, then the goal is to share the message of recovery with others. We work with others. When a newcomer is looking for a sponsor, we go up to them and offer to take them through the steps. We go on 12 step calls with friends in the program to help someone who has relapsed. We visit people in the hospital. We do service work, pick a home group, and help out with that home group faithfully. And we look to practice all the principles, the various twelve steps in all areas of our lives. That’s the whole deal. And I’ve heard many old timers in recovery say: When nothing else helped me, and I was feeling miserable and wanting to drink or drug again, they went and worked with someone else, helped someone else, and that saved them, because they got their sick mind off themselves. So working with others is a big deal.

Those are the twelve steps, and they work. They were put together by drunks and junkies for the purpose of helping themselves, and then it spread across the world, because it works. So work those steps, and know the name of your higher power, which is Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Should a Christian fight in a War?

This is a very difficult question.  Should a Christian fight in a war?  Should a Christian serve in the military?  And what about on a national level?  Is it ever appropriate for nations to go to war from a Christian perspective?  

I would've considered myself a pacifist back in 2012-2014.  I held to a very libertarian viewpoint of war, that wars should only be fought defensively by a nation.  And that a Christian should never, under any circumstances fight, even to defend him or herself.  

Then I listened to a transcript from a C.S. Lewis book, which included one of his lesser known works called "Why I am Not a Pacifist."  If was a transcript from a speech that C.S. Lewis gave to a pacifist society in Great Britain during World War II.  

C.S. Lewis pointed to a simple question: When Jesus said turn the other cheek, could he really have been referring to every conceivable situation possible?  Or can we have a wider view of things, and understand it from a greater vantage point?

Yes, we must.  Because I realized that perched from my high, smug moral superiority on the issue of peace and war, that if I were prime minister of Great Britain, during World War II, faced by the scourge of Nazism, and the horrifying, precision of the death camps where Jews and Christians were being systematically exterminated, what then would my policy be?

Would I have been like Neville Chamberlain, meeting diplomatically with Hitler, and be so excited when I returned to Great Britain in 1938, to cry: "Peace in our time!"  Only to find moments later, Hitler breaks his diplomatic promises and invades Poland anyway.  Pacifists tried to cow Hitler, they tried to be diplomatic. I'm sure the media praised them, for being so diplomatic and so reasonable.  But, they were wrong.  They were fools.  And their endless demands for diplomacy left Europe near helpless as Hitler marched through Poland and France and the Scandinavian nations.  

I realized over time that C.S. Lewis was right.  It's not as simple as pacifism. It's not as simple as anti-war.  It's not a simple as 'never, ever fight back.'  It's not as simple as 'turn the other cheek', surprisingly enough.  

A certain part of me wants to cry out "Yes it is that simple!" I'm a black and white kind of guy.  I don't see a lot of gray area.  In fact it bothers me when people try to push this idea of "rays of sunlight shining through the glass" and "many ways to the summit" sort of crap.  To me, it's dishonest and betrays a desire to shift the truth to fit our own desires.  It's often a lot of fancy language and high sounding ideas that are a cover up for a simple desire to change what the word says, and change it to fit our preferences.  I cannot abide it.  But with this issue of war and the just war, it's not as black and white.  

I realize there is no simple answer, in most situations.   But it's not a question of personal convictions either.  It's a question of God's word.  That's the unmovable rock.  Every stupid opinion is my head is sloshing back and forth, most of them wrong and dumb, always changing, susceptible to all kinds of biases, and nonsense. But the word of God says what it says.  I may not be understanding it quite right, but I can always go back to studying verse after verse, chapter after chapter, attempting diligently to put each piece together, to understand what God is saying.  

Should nations go to war? I think, yes, nations can go to war, if it's a defensive war.  I would even say that a pre-emptive action is sometimes necessary, think of the Six Day War, when Israel was about to be invaded, and the Israeli Air Force destroyed their enemies air forces in a surprise attack.  This leveled the field, so that when the Arab nations invaded, Israeli had a chance to win.  

Should a nation invade a sovereign country for the purpose of conquest?  No, I don't believe so.  An offensive war, for the goal of military gain is not ethical.  

Should Christians fight in the military?  I think that Christians can certainly do that.  In fact many Christians do just that.  I think the only denomination/cult that teaches against military service are Jehovah's Witnesses.  I recall in the scriptures that Roman soldiers came to John the Baptist and asked him, "What should we do?"  

From Luke 3:14 (NIV) Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

John the Baptist, the second greatest man ever to live, who prepared the way for Jesus, was asked by soldiers, what they ought to do, in regard to repentance.

John could've said, "You need to leave the profession of soldiering, you need to give up your life of soldiering. You need to become a pacifist."  John the Baptist didn't say that.  Instead he gave instructions within their profession: "Don't extort money, and don't accuse people falsely, and be content with your pay."

Should Christians fight in the military?  They may do so.  I would not want to do so, unless I was serving as a military chaplain, or a medic.  I strongly desire not to kill anyone, ever.  

Now, should Christians serve in the military, in an evil army?  Say, Nazis?  I don't believe so.  When people are being exterminated by the millions, a Christian must resist that. 

These ethical situations are not simple. But they are navigable with God's word, and a discerning Spirit within.  

This post was part of the July 2018 Synchroblog on the topic of Just War and Pacifism. Here are links to others who contributed this month. Go read them all!

K. W. Leslie – Just War: Vengeance Disguised as Righteousness
What God May Really Be Like – Is God a Warmonger or a Pacifist?
Layman Seeker – Disarmed and Harmonious
Tim Nichols – If you Love Sheep …
Scott Sloan – Holy War and Manifest Destiny in Light of the Cross
Done With Religion – For God and Country
Justin Steckbauer – Should Christians Fight in a War?
Jeremy Myers – It’s Not Personal; It’s Just War

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  5. To Those Who Overcome: How to Be Free from all Sin
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Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Missing Piece of the Puzzle in Evangelicalism: Holiness before the Lord

There is a missing element, a missing piece of the puzzle in modern day evangelicalism.  I've always felt that.  But I couldn't figure out what it was.  I thought for a while that perhaps it was a missional attitude, an emphasis on evangelism.  I was really, really sure for a while that it was zealous missional evangelism.  But now I realize that I was way off.  The missing piece of the puzzle was always right in front of me, actually.  It was inscribed on the altar of every Salvation Army corps I attended, where it said: "Holiness unto the Lord."  

I never understood what that meant.  In fact I asked several people, and they didn't know what it meant either.  Holiness preaching and teaching has largely left holiness movement churches.  Very, very few pastors preach holiness anymore.  It's a lost teaching.  It's the missing piece of the puzzle.  It's what I've been aching and yearning for in my spiritual life, day in and day out.  I've wanted it so badly, but it's always seemed just out of reach.  So what does it mean, to be holy to the Lord? 

The scriptures say, 1 Peter 1:14-16 (ESV) "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”"

Holiness is the work of God in us, as we yield to the Spirit of Christ, who conforms the inclinations of our heart, and our outward conduct toward holy (set apart) living.  

Too many Christians today are living in active, willful sin.  And it needs to stop.  This is not how the Christian life is to be lived. We must repent (turn away from evil) and stop sinning.  God has called us to a holy life in Christ Jesus.  

Jesus Christ has washed away our sins.  But we must be careful not to dirty our robes (Revelation 3:4).  Thankfully, even if we sin after having come to know Jesus, we can bring those sins before God, ask for forgiveness in Jesus, repent, and we are washed clean once again (1 John 1:9).  So it's never too late to repent, as long as we're here on Earth, and still alive in the flesh.  But once we stand before God, we will be judged according to how we lived (2 Cor 5:10).  And for us pastors and teachers, we'll be judged with greater strictness (James 3:1).  

So what are the common sins we struggle with today?  Sexual sin is the big one, and the various layers of it: Top layer would be adultery (sleeping with another man's wife, or another woman's husband), fornication (having sex with your boyfriend or girlfriend before marriage), and masturbation.  Repent of those first.  And ask God for help in doing that, day and night.  The next layer is pornography, get free from that.  Finally, the last bastions are fantasizing (playing images through in your mind) and lusting in your heart (indulging in staring at a scantly clothed man or woman).  Break free from those.  

Sex really comes up first because it's the area most of us try to get away with, because the urges are so powerful. But honestly, if we live in sin like this, we're not going to be going to eternal life in heaven, we're going to be going to outer darkness.  We'll be conscious there. And we'll know that we're never leaving.  I'm not trying to use scare tactics.  I'm just telling you what the word of God says.  Take it seriously. 

I know some teachers may have taught you that you can never lose your salvation. They lied to you, and that doctrine simply isn't in the word of God.  The Bible talks again and again about falling away and shipwrecked faith, and we're urged constantly to "continue" in the faith and "abide" (remain) in Christ (1 Timothy 4:1, Rev 2:4-5, 2 Cor 11:3, 2 Peter 2:20-22, Romans 11:19-22, Matthew 24:10-13, John 15:1-8).

Other sins that are fairly common are stealing, lying, mistreating parents, being a lukewarm Christian, watching certain R-rated movies, smoking cigarettes, using drugs, drinking to get drunk, manipulation of others, cussing, idolatry (putting something before God), envy, divisions/dissensions, fits of anger, and so on (Galatians 5:19-21). 

As it says in the scriptures, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (ESV) "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."

We often avoid these lists of sins like the plague.  Why do we do that?  It's in the word of God.  We shouldn't be afraid of it.  It's the truth.  And if it bothers the church body, so be it, maybe we need to be bothered a bit more.  

God has called us to holiness.  So we must be holy, as He is holy. That does not mean generating our own holiness through human effort.  Not at all! We've been gifted with the righteous, perfect holiness of Christ.  We wear it like a garment, like a robe around us each day.  We simply must walk in a way that we aren't smearing the mud of sin all over the righteous robe.  

We've been adopted by God, and grafted into the body of Christ. We call God daddy! So if we've really received these promises, we should walk in beautiful, humble, meek holiness. As it is written, 2 Corinthians 7:1 (ESV) "Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God."

The fear of God has been the greatest strength and weapon toward holiness in my life thus far.  And yes, the fear of the Lord is widely mentioned in the New Testament, as well as the Old (Luke 12:4-5, Matthew 10:28, 1 Peter 1:17, 2 Cor 5:11, Acts 10:35, Hebrews 11:7).  The fear of the Lord, and the trembling before God, realizing God can send me to heaven or to hell, that has sent me fleeing toward holiness.

For those of you who think God was a consuming fire in the Old Testament, but that he really mellowed out in the New Testament, quick question, have you read Revelation? Yeah, the part where God sends fiery judgments and utterly destroys the world for it's wickedness? (Revelation 15)  God hasn't changed. We've changed, we've become provincial, concerned with what people think, and we want to twist the message of the Bible.  But it doesn't need to be twisted.  It needs to be preached as it's written. 

Holiness is a gift from God.  Cry out in prayer for true holiness.  Fast and pray for holiness once or twice a week.  Invite a mindfulness of God, recognize God's presence with you throughout the day, as brother Lawrence did, and allow that presence to transform your conduct.  Pray and then take action.  Seek out resources, support groups, accountability partners, Christian counseling, and whatever God may lead you to, to have victory over sin, and receive holiness from God.  

Holiness is perfect love, a transformation of our heart, the inclinations of our attitudes toward a great, overcoming desire to do the right and live in the right and walk closely with Jesus, to love Jesus with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbors deeply, with real love.  Holiness is ultimately about true, perfect love.  A godly love, for God and the people we serve.  

Be patient with this process of holiness. Allow months, and years for it's growth.  But do not procrastinate either. Allow God to transform you.  Fight for holiness, by yielding to God.  Surrender to the filling of God, and invite Him to save you from yourself.  Give your whole heart to God, and He will transform you in all holiness to completeness in sanctification. By this, when you stand before God, and your judged or rewarded, based on how you lived, you can be confident to know that God will see you in robes that are unsoiled, and pure, because of our great glorious savior Jesus Christ. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Orthodoxy, Orthopathy, and Orthopraxy: Know it, Feel It, Live It

The Christian faith is not mere ideas, not a series of facts or depictions of reality, no, it's more. It's alive, and burning brightly like a fire.  It's not mere emotions either, there's daily practice to it, a true walking and living of it.  Yet it is not about doing, but it is about believing, and not just a vague emotion or vacant assent to, but there is a deep, specific, clear set of concepts, fact and truths in which we yield our minds to.  And at the center of these three areas of truth, feeling, and living, we find a person, the person, the God-man Jesus Christ. 

We're surprised a great deal, surprised by Him.  Surprised from behind, by our love for Him.  We're surprised by joy.  Surprised by peace.  Surprised by trials.  And amazed by our own inability to come to know Him in our own efforts.  We're amazed by our failure and amazed by the fact of our total dependency on Him for anything good to be in us.

There are tears that flow. They flow deeply and meaningfully. There are truths, truths that run so deep, and cut through so many layers of society, of philosophy, of history, and deep into the mind.  And joy in the knowing. Mysteries that God delights in revealing to us. There is a difficult practice, a fighting, a warring, a yielding to God. 

Too often we fail to explore.  We get up and leave, just before we ought to.  There is so much to explore with our God.  There is such a journey of relationship, when we willingly engage with Him. Let us consider it...

Orthodoxy, to know. Of course my favorite thing is to know. I love knowledge, I love wisdom.  I love to study and learn. The greatest truths are to be discerned in the words of God.  To know is to understand the world.  To know is to understand what is wrong with the world.  To know is to see the truth beyond all the lies and propaganda of our world.  Christianity is paradox. The obvious answer of this world seems right, but then we realize the paradox, that it is not. We always have to think twice. Thinking once, the gut reaction leads us one way, then the second thought, well, that's where we realize the paradox.

"If we will not learn to eat the only food that the universe grows...then we must starve eternally." -C. S. Lewis

Jesus said, I am the light of the world.  Jesus said I am the bread of life. Jesus said I am the resurrection and the life. Jesus said I am the good shepherd.  He said I am the gate for the sheep.  I am the true vine.  I am the way, the truth, and the life.  

Without orthodoxy there is no Jesus, without Jesus' words, there is no Jesus.  Without the Bible, there is no Jesus.  Jesus is discovered in orthodoxy, in truth, and the knowing of it.

"Poetry too is a little incarnation, giving body to what had been before invisible and inaudible."
C. S. Lewis

Orthopathy, to feel.  We are not mere machines, programmed with data. We do not simply assent ourselves to core truths, no matter how important they are, they are not the end.  To know God is to feel Him.  To know God is to feel His presence with us.  To know God is to feel deeply the emotions of life, the joys, yes and the sorrows. 

"There is a road from the eye to heart that does not go through the intellect." -Gilbert K. Chesterton

Those first Christians, in the ancient Roman empire, doused in kerosene and set afire to light the streets of Rome, they felt the pain.  Those first Christians, arrested by Nero, and sent to the lions, they felt the pain of their death. But perhaps they felt something else, as they saw the glory of the kingdom of God... they felt love. And joy.  And peace. 

I long to feel God and to commune with God.  But there is little communion with God in a vacuum, though the times I've felt him most deeply have been in times of personal prayer and meditation, turning my eyes to Jesus. But I feel God, when I serve God.  I feel God, when I'm at work for God.  I feel God when I preach the gospel.

And God communicates to us through experience.  He speaks to us through the larger events of life. 

“Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message.” 
-Malcolm Muggeridge

To experience God is what we are hoping for in this Christian life.  To really have relationship with God is the goal.  In daring to go deeper in emotion, do we find a new depth to our relationship with God.  But emotion in a vacuum, with minimal truth or action, is a recipe for disaster, milquetoast therapeutic deism can result, or even prosperity gospel, or simply superficial Christianity, a cherry picking of feel good verses. 

Orthopraxy, to practice. Is being a follower of Jesus just on Sunday morning?  No.  Living it is the hard part, day in and day out.  I suppose that's why I was drawn to Methodism, which emphasized the daily practice, a method of living differently.  I want so badly to really live out my faith.  I want to make sure it's real.  I'm not messing around here being a Christian, I'm deadly serious about it, and I'm going to make the maximum impact for the kingdom of God.  That's what it's about. 

I want to live it.  I want to pray an hour a day. I want to faithfully attend a small group.  I want to head over to Bible study. I want to ready my Bible, literally every night before bed!  I want to witness faithfully for an hour a week to people I don't know.  I want a real praxis. And I will do it.  I will, God willing. 

Orthodoxy, orthopathy, and orthopraxy. It all fits together, to form a true worldview that is functional in all areas of life and mind. 

"Order your soul; reduce your wants; live in charity; associate in Christian community; obey the laws; trust in Providence." -Augustine, ancient theologian

Related Posts:
  1. Fasting and Prayer: Why You Should Fast Twice a Week
  2. An Investigation of the Biblical Concept of Hell
  3. Why Do I Exist? A Quick Look at the Human Life
  4. What is the equation that shows us how to inherit Eternal Life?
  5. How to Repent of all Sins in your Christian Life
  6. Should I Tithe 10% to my Church?
  7. God will Uphold His Army: Standing on the Truths of God's Word
  8. God's Fingerprint on Reality: Emotions of Life
  9. To Those Who Overcome: How to Be Free from all Sin
  10. How to Serve as a Leader in Christian Ministry

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Pilgrim's Forest: An Allegorical Dream of Fallenness

Despair, yes, ruin... and self destruction. These are things common to our world.  Something inside of us, an impulse draws us toward the wrong, even when we know the right.  Something inside, it's not even a decision, but an impulse takes us away.  It causes us to sabotage that perfect relationship.  It causes us to leave that great job.  It sends us back to the bottle after years sober.  It's an impulse, that of self-destruction.  

This cancer permeates reality. Yet reality persists.  It's laced through the rotting stump, in the forest of this world.  It cuts through in the wild fire triggered by the lightning strike.  It leaves ashes.  But life persists, somehow.  

After all, don't we exist in a temporary reality, a broken, fallen place?  I can see the straps and trappings and duct work, I can see all the equations and temporal realities and time space phenomenon that hold it all together just begging to come crashing down.  I see it when a storm rushes across the horizon.  I see it when lightning cuts through the dark clouds.  I feel it when the ground shakes beneath me during an earthquake.  The clock is ticking on this entire universe.  It is destined to be burned, and remade. 

Long ago, I fled into a shimmering sphere, a beautiful mysterious expanse in the woods outside the door of my life as it was. I had dreams about it, I wrote about it, but I'm not sure I ever really understood what it was, until now.  It was the mirage world, the alternate universe hidden all around us, the world of self-ruination. I finally understand what it was, that world I entered twenty years ago.  One day, I went into that deep dark woods, with shimmering lights within it.  

It was so beautiful. Yet so foreboding.  I felt the fascination, and also the terror. That majestic woods, the lanterns and golden lights hanging from the trees, the bizarre mysteries I encountered there.  I recall it so clearly now.  And of course the dangers, the deadly nature of the forest, and all that I encountered there...

It was a labyrinth of extremes, beautiful and hideous. It was safe and warm, yet cold and treacherous.  A reality that consumed my life, like a virus.  It was growing, and growing.  

It was a complex metaphor, appearing in my dreams, in my stream-of-consciousness writing, and in my mind's eye as I'd look off into the backyard.  

I was inexorably drawn to it, and I was convinced it was a positive good.  I was certain, that the journey through the forest, to the center of the reality, this vortex, would lead to paradise and salvation for my soul.

I recall an episode of Star Trek Voyager, where the crew thought they had encountered a wormhole back home, but they realized that there was some kind of deception taking place.  But as they got closer, they all fell victim to the seductive appearance and the belief that might finally make it home.  As they sailed into the wormhole, they didn't realize, they were sailing into the belly of a giant monster seeking to devour them and their ship.

The mystic forest, was a bait and switch, a trap door reality.  And beyond the gentle flickers of light and beautiful scenery there was great danger.  It was a trap.  And monsters would soon seethe through the doors of the reality to attack and kill me.  

That's where I went.  And I knew that I had to get to the meadow at the center.  I'd seen it in my dreams.  So I went deeper and deeper into this forest. I chased a mysterious owl through the forest, as well as a beautiful butterfly that kept appearing here and there.

I think I finally realize what this forest was... the great vortex of self destruction.  I recently viewed a movie called Annihilation, a rather gruesome, dark movie.  In this movie, there is an expanding sphere called the shimmer. Many went inside, and were lost in it. It was expanding, threatening to destroy the entire world.  So they sent a last team inside of it, five of them, and they discovered a beautiful reality, yet also deadly, and dangerous.  And the story bounces between the self-destruction of the main characters and the saga of their journey into the shimmer. I don't recommend watching this movie, it's very dark, even demonic, with brutal, disgusting scenes of murder and death within the shimmer, as well as adultery and demented sex scenes.  But it did help me understand something from my past...

I recall in my dream, the story of the forest, there were tornadoes ripping through fields, and terrifying sojourners along their way.  The tornadoes were vortexes perhaps, vortexes to hell, that I only nearly escaped.  But after that I went underground, to a place of crystal miners.  And they were mining the crystals surrounding the center of the forest, which had broken to bear broken fields.

I went deeper, and deeper.  I had been chasing an owl through the forest all that ways.  And then something terrible happened... I encountered myself, a dark version of myself.  It was almost like A Wrinkle in Time, and the dark version of Charles Wallace.  And I wrestled with the evil twin of myself, and defeated the evil twin.  The owl turned evil, and attacked the butterfly.  But the butterfly though crushed, appeared once again, and the owl was defeated.  And then the woods broke, and the forest disappeared, and the meadow came into view.

I realize what happened... the forest was the matrix of self-destruction, death, and brokenness in my soul.  The boy journeying through the forest was me.  At the center of the forest was the consummation of self-destruction, death.  The various encounters in the forest were delusions and hallucinations and false realities of the broken-state, mirroring and distorting true reality.  The monsters attacking me in the forest were Satan and the evil ones.

Yet something was frightfully necessary about the journey inward.  If I had fled from it, it would've invaded the real world and destroyed my life.  But by turning and going bravely into the depths of it, I was able to face it, fight it, and defeat the true enemy deep within this vortex: The brokenness in my soul, and the old self, the old man, the man of sin, within each of us, that must be put to death, for us to be reborn, and drawn into the new kingdom of Christ.  We must each face the darkness, and defeat it.  If we run from it, it consumes our waking states, if we turn and face it, and march on it's black gates, we have a chance, to defeat the evil in ourselves, in Christ, and crucify the old self, and become entirely new.   

I recall in the dream, in the vision of the forest, the underground cavern... where I saw the great figure standing above the waters... and the butterfly that kept appearing, and leading me away from danger... and the vision of counting the stars and the dialogues with the little boy named Luz, these were encounters and protection provided by God, as He came to me, protected me, and guided me toward the black darkness of caverns, where He would bring me to the point of ruin, and teach me to cry out to His son Jesus for salvation.  

At that moment, the fallen forest was destroyed, the false self was put to death, and the new self was born.  Do you know what's interesting?  The story doesn't end there.  What happens next, in the next two books I wrote, is that the boy became a man, was given a new name, fell from a city of delusions, and woke up in a broken world under siege by a dark kingdom.  Just a dream?  Another delusion? Or a metaphor to waking up in a real world in the midst of a fierce spiritual war? 

Related Posts: 
  1. Journey of the Christian through the Forest called Earth
  2. What is the matrix?
  3. Living in the Suburban Sprawl (Mountains beyond Mountains)
  4. Ancient Doorways in the Brickhouse: Fields of Green in your Dreams
  5. Depression & Meaninglessness: Where is God in the depths of sorrow?
  6. The Awe of Dreams & the Surreal
  7. Big Picture: The Solution to all the Problems of Earth
  8. What is the meaning of Life?
  9. You Oh Lord are my Strength: The Manifold Provision of God
  10. Daybreak: Examining the Problem of Pain

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Twelve Steps & Jesus: Steps 6 through 9

Click here for post on Steps 1 through 5

Previously we talked about steps 1 through 5, about how we want to admit our powerlessness over the drugs and alcohol, and that paradoxically because of that surrender we are then able by God’s grace to come to believe that God can free us from the mentality of addiction and commit our lives to serving and obeying God. Those are steps 1 through 3

Then importantly we talked about the fourth and fifth step, about the importance of being free from the baggage of the past, by putting it all down on paper, and then sharing it with a trusted friend or sponsor. When we did that, we felt the weight of the past lifted from our shoulders, and the sunlight of God’s spirit come into our hearts and lives.

Now we consider steps 6 through 9.

Step 6 says: “We Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”

Step 6 is simply recognizing our former ways of living life, that didn’t work. Selfishness, anger, self-pity, being inconsiderate of others, those ways of living our lives failed us. They landed us here. So we recognize that we’ve got some defects of character, and we become willing for God to remove them. That’s the hard part, is becoming willing. Because pride wants to get in the way. But we have to humble ourselves and overcome that pride if we want to get well. Which leads us to step 7.

And Step 7 says: “We Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.”

So if we’ve recognized our character defects, mine was always fear, selfishness, and self-seeking, pride, ego, and manipulation. I always tried to play the game to make things go my way, and then they wouldn’t go my way, and then I’d flip out. Recognizing that stuff in myself was very, very hard.

Even today I can struggle with pride, and ego, when it should be all about Jesus, sometimes I make it about myself. And that’s not acceptable if I want to stay well. We have to recognize these things in ourselves. And once we do, then we take them to God. Because we can’t remove these defects of character. Only God can.

So then we ask God to remove them. Usually people will pray this prayer: "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 stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen."

Then we watch for opportunities to live differently. And each day we consider how we’ve lived at the end of the day, taking an inventory of our day, to see if we lived as the new man, or if we slipped back into old ways of thinking. We continue that process, in prayer, and in taking action and over time God removes all our character defects and makes us like Jesus.

If steps 4,5,6, and 7 are about getting right inside ourselves, then steps 8 and 9 are about getting right with the people around us.

Step 8 says: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”

So if we’ve done our 4th and 5th steps, we have the list of the people we’ve harmed already. If not, then it’s pretty simple to point out who we’ve hurt. For me it was mom, dad, my sister, my grandparents, several close friends, and a few bosses and coworkers. We make a list of how we hurt these people, and we become willing to make things right.

Step 9 says: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

It’s pretty simple, but not easy. We go to the person we hurt, for me, we’ll take the example of my dad. I went to my dad. And now, from my perspective, my dad has hurt me far worse than I ever hurt him. There’s things I won’t go into right now, but it was difficult to come humbly to my dad and apologize for what I did. Because I would prefer to hear apologies from him.

But that’s not the purpose of the 9th step. It’s about cleaning up our side of the street. They may leave their side of the street dirty, but that’s not our problem. Never, ever, ever, when your doing an amends, never ever bring up anything they did wrong. Your there to clean up your side of the street. You can’t control what they do.

So like with my dad, I talked about how I stole from him, used him for money, manipulated him, and hurt our relationship. I didn’t bring up the divorce, or the fights we had, because its about my cleaning up my mess. And I apologized. I told my dad I was wrong, asked for forgiveness, and I also asked how I could make it right. Part of that was agreeing to regularly spend time with my dad, and call him. That’s what he wanted as part of the amends. We do that again and again with people we’ve hurt, and its interesting, you know the promises that they read in AA? Those are in the big book right after the 8th and 9th step. And the promises say “by the time we are halfway through we will know a new freedom.” And people always wonder: “halfway through what?” If they’d read the big book, it means halfway through their 9th step amends!

So in conclusion, work the steps in order. I’m still available to help anyone who wants to work on their 4th and 5th step. I’ve had two residents talk to me about that, and I’m still willing to help anyone with that. So come see me. I’ll also help you with the character defects portion or help with making the list of amends.

Do this process, just do it. Do it with a good sponsor. And you’ll see big changes in your life, and this will provide the foundation for a lifetime of recovery. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Twelve Steps and Jesus: Steps 1 through 5

The twelve steps are by far the most effective method of permanent recovery from drugs and alcohol ever developed. That’s why we make use of them here, in your workbooks, and that’s why twelve step fellowships like AA, NA, and GA have sprung up across the globe.

We’re going to today look at steps 1 through 5 of this process, and hopefully you’ll be able to gain a better understanding of the steps and how they function toward recovery.

Of course we must always remember that the greatest help to recovery and new life is Jesus Christ himself, as displayed in the gospels.

So let’s look at step one: "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol/drugs–that our lives had become unmanageable."

Surrender is the key
Recognition of Powerlessness
Willingness to see the reality of total brokenness 

What does it mean to make an admission of powerlessness? Its to admit that we can’t do it ourselves. We admit that we can’t overcome addiction alone. Let’s be real, many of us have tried time and again to quit, and we couldn’t on our own.

The Big Book of alcoholics anonymous refers to it this way:

“The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so called will power becomes practically non-existent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.” –Big Book, pg. 24

So, step 1 is a difficult thing. None of us like to admit we are powerless over anything. We want to think that we have it all under control. It’s only humility after a lot of suffering in active addiction that gets us to admit step 1.

Next we consider step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

So if we’ve become powerless over the drugs and the drink, then we need to discover a power outside ourselves that is stronger. Step two is about the process by which we come to believe that God can restore us to sanity. Because to drink and use drugs until we’re near death is insanity. And this power greater than ourselves, God, is the only one who can remove the addiction problem from our soul.

We had always tried to quit on our own will power. We would swear off and say “I’ll never do that again.” And that’s how most normal people quit drugging or drinking. They just quit. But with an addict, we can’t just quit. We always go back. So the solution is to seek God and be broken free by the power of God. 

Essentially this is a realization that God can do what I can’t
Builds upon a recognition of personal powerlessness
Begins to point the key to recovery away from self and toward God

Step 3 says: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

The Big Book says pg 14: “Simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid. It meant destruction of self-centeredness. I must turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all.”

There’s no way around it. If we really want to be free from addiction for life, then it means turning our will and life over to God. And that is a decision we make.

Essentially what this is, is a design for living that works in rough going. According to the big book, on pg 15. “There is scarcely any form of trouble and misery which has not been overcome among us.”

Bill Wilson, the creator of the 12 steps, thought to himself, when he had finally accepted these facts and taken his 3rd step prayer: “These were revolutionary and drastic proposals, but the moment I fully accepted them, the effect was electric. There was a sense of victory, followed by such a peace and serenity as I had never known.” Pg. 14. 

While step 1 was a recognition of our own ability to force ourselves out of addiction
And step 2 was a recognition that a force beyond ourselves is the only way to escape addiction
Step 3 is the point at which we recognize God is real, that only God can break the chains of addiction
Then we turn our will (our choices) and our life (our future) over to God

But it’s important to remember that faith without works is dead. Which is why after taking the 1st three steps we have go on into steps four and five.

Step 4 says: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

I’ve worked with many guys on the twelve steps. And I would always get every excuse under the sun for why they don’t want to do a 4th step inventory.

“I want to leave the past in the past.”

“I don’t need to do an inventory I’ve already talked about it with others.”

And a million excuses. But the truth is they’re afraid. They know if they open up all those memories from the past, of all the things they’ve done, it will be painful. And it is painful. But when we keep all of that stuff locked in the past, it eats away at us, and the pain of it, even locked away in our minds, leads us back to addiction.

Which is why we have to do this step thoroughly. We have to get a notebook and fill that thing up with these memories and stories. We absolutely have to, because these memories and experiences are the key to why we feel miserable when we’re sober. They affect our present mind, even though they exist in past memories. These are traumatic experiences that fill our present with pain, post-traumatic stress, intense anxiety, and depression. We have to bring them into the light, and then the pain disappears.

So on the screen here you’ll see an example of how I was taught to do the 4th step inventory, and I’ll just walk you through the process. If you’ve got a notebook with you, just jot down this diagram on some paper and use it in the future. 

Most never do this and wonder why they keep relapsing
An honest personal inventory forces us to see who we really are, good and bad
This takes guts & courage to do

If we are brave enough to do this, we will be transformed by the process

Finally we reach step 5 which states: “We Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

So very simply, this is where you take what you’ve written and share it with your sponsor, or a pastor or priest. You read through everything you wrote, and share the memories, and the pastor or sponsor provides feedback on the various resentments, fears, and harms to others.

I want to let you know that while I’m here I’d be willing to hear any of your 5th step inventories if you’d like. My office is on the 2nd floor. I’m sure others staff here might be willing to hear such an inventory as well, though you’d need to ask that person directly. Or if you prefer, go to some outside AA and NA meetings, and see if you can find a sponsor to do the steps with. That is probably the best way to go about this. 

Take your 4th step inventory and read it to a trusted individual (preferably a sponsor)
Discuss the issues involved
Leave nothing out, even talk about the very worst things that have happened
After completing this step, spend some time alone reflecting on what was said

So I’d really encourage you to work all of the steps. The truth is, if I had just started going to church, and I never attended AA or NA. And if I hadn’t worked the steps with my sponsor, I would’ve relapsed, and probably be dead today. Church isn’t enough for most of us, we need the weekly support of AA and NA meetings.

But remember, the steps are all essentially about Jesus. The twelve steps were inspired from the Oxford groups movement, which was a Christian movement. So as a Christian you don’t have to be afraid of the steps. The 12 Steps are biblical, and based on biblical principles. We can work the steps 1 through 12 but if we don’t know Jesus, we won’t stay sober in the long term.

We need the steps to stay sober and clean, but if we want forgiveness from our sins, and eternal life in heaven, we need Jesus Christ as our savior. 

The 12 Steps actually have their origin from principles taken from the “Oxford Groups” a movement of 19th century Christians
Thus the 12 Steps are biblical, and based on biblical principles
We can work the steps 1 through 12 but if we don’t know Jesus, we won’t stay sober in the long term.

We need the steps to stay sober an clean, but if we want forgiveness from our sins, and eternal life in heaven, we need Jesus Christ as our savior.