The twelve step groups such as alcoholics anonymous and narcotics anonymous are famous for freeing people from powerful addictions that support their old, worldly nature. The twelve steps originally started in the Oxford Group in the 1700's as steps to holiness. In the steps to maturity, they are about faith and sanctification. They include koinonia and guidance.
The first three steps are: "We admitted we were powerless over our sin-nature -- that our lives had become unmanageable.", "We came to believe that God was willing and able to make us righteous and holy.", and "We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." These steps teach us to let go and let God work in our hearts to transform us. As the serenity prayer goes,
"God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.
Taking as Jesus did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
and supremely happy with Him forever in the next."
- Reinhold Niebuhr
These first three steps change our orientation, keep us from wearing ourselves out with the inner chant of "I've gotta fix it, I've gotta fix it, I've gotta fix it!" They lift the ultimate responsibility for the cure from off our shoulders, which reduces the self-hatred and the low self-esteem. We start seeing God as bigger and better than our parents.
God told us through the prophet Jeremiah - "Accursed is man who trusts in man, who makes flesh his arm, whose heart turns away from the Lord." and "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord." We cannot trust in our own hands. Jesus said, "Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
The next two steps are: "We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves" and "We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." The apostle John wrote, "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." This relieves us of our guilt and our shame, as we dig very deeply with some pain to find out our root shames and guilts and bring them out in the light of God's eyes and other's eyes. I cuts away the permissions that Satan’s forces can use to influence us. It stops our subconscious from hurting us to atone for these guilts and shames. It embarrasses the hell out of the old nature, to keep it from trying that again. It opens up our relationship with God. The apostle James wrote, "Confess your trespasses to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed."
The next two steps are: "We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character" and "We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings." Jesus once asked a lame man, "Do you want to be healed?" We can get secure if not comfortable in our ruts. They are what we are used to. We need to say goodbye to the old ways of life, grieve their loss, and bury them. The apostle James wrote, "Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will exalt you." Jesus said, "Whoever saves his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it." and "he who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted." Grief plays a significant part in recovery. We need to push on through the stages of grief on all of our losses and traumas. Most of our deep problems are caused by resisting the grief process.
The next two steps are: "We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all" and "We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." This clears the record. This also teaches your old nature not to do that sort of thing again, for fear of having to make amends again. Jesus said, "So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come offer your gift."
The next step is: "We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it." This is a repetition of step four, with the emphasis on its ongoing nature. There is good reason for this. The prophet Jeremiah said it well; "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?" There are layers and layers of rationalizations and denial. Self-pity and resentment are hiding all over the place. Also, lust, greed, selfishness, intolerance, gluttony, sloth, jealousy -- to name a few. As kids and as adults, we made bad decisions and came to bad conclusions on various topics. Maybe we don't immediately remember those decisions, but they profoundly affect our lives, until we dig `em up and renounce them. Traumas and abuse taught us wrong lessons that we need to renounce and hand over.
There is an important distinction between letting God fix us and working on our own problems. God must fix our heart or nature; we must work on our deeds. We must expose our nature to the light and pray for help with our deeds. In everything we rely on God and in everything we have work to do. The book of Proverbs says, "The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord." It also says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him [as Lord] and He will direct your paths." To put it simply, 'trust and obey.'
The last two steps are: "We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for the knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out" and "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs." While getting rid of the negative, you must replace it with the positive. Jesus said it well in a parable; "When an unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest, but he finds none. Then he says, `I will return to my house from which I came.' And when he comes he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and brings with him seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first."
Jesus said, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters." We must develop godly habits and attitudes.
Here is a short set of suggestions:
"1. Keep eliminating sin from our lives.
2. Develop humility, teachability.
3. Constantly pray to God for guidance.
4. Practice love and mercy.
5. Meditate frequently on our new found blessings, giving honest thanks to God for them.
6. Take God into our confidence in all our acts.
7. Seek the companionship of others who are seeking a godly life."
If we follow the example of the God of love and justice, we will practice love and justice. As we do so, we cannot keep them from ourselves. Our love hunger is filled and our self-esteem is raised. As God said through the prophet Isaiah: "Is not this the fast that I choose; to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, `Here I am.'"
These steps should be done simultaneously. Life is a balance. We need to stop jumping from obsession to obsession in our habitual panic. Instead of desperately surviving life, we need to live life, to build a good maintenance lifestyle.
The twelve step programs deal with self-control, obedience, fellowship and divine guidance. But there is more to be had! We have the full spectrum of God’s promises that we can call upon. We need to do goodness for God to do goodness to us. We need to understand our hope of rewards in heaven. We need godliness. And we are still working & praying toward the ultimate goal of our faith – a heart full of