Summary: Part 6 of a 6 part series on the 12 Steps as a Spiritual Discipline
(1)In the book, Living Your Strengths, we read, ‘One of the most common mistakes people make in their spiritual lives is to focus on the steps to spiritual growth rather than on the outcomes of spiritual growth.’ (2)Then in his book Ancient-Future Time, Robert Webber wrote, ‘As far back as I can remember I was told that Christ should be at the center of my life.’ He goes on to share how that was reinforced through various Sunday School lessons, hymns, and admonitions such as ‘Don’t do anything that you would be ashamed of in front of Jesus.’ He goes onto say that while these are fine admonitions, he asks, ‘How do you work them out in your life? How can you ‘be like Jesus?’ How is your life a life with Christ?’
We have been focusing during the first two months of this year on steps to spiritual growth. Steps that I believe are important ones with the goal of two important outcomes that are implied in the final two steps that we view this morning. Let’s briefly review the steps that we have studied so far in this series: (3)
We first examined steps 1 and 2:
Step 1 says, ‘We admitted we were powerless over our rut that our lives had become unmanageable.’
This is a step about the admission of powerlessness in our lives because of the ‘ruts’ that we have dug for ourselves. It is a step we take when there is a crack in our denial as well as when we are working to break the power of our denial.
Step 2 says, ‘We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.’ This is a step about the importance of belief in our lives and specifically belief in God, the God of the Bible, who, through Jesus Christ makes possible freedom from the ruts that we create.
Then we examined steps 3 and 4: (4)
Step 3 says, ‘We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the power of God, as we understood Him.’ This is about the necessity of surrendering to God our will and our life in order for His power to begin to change us and free us from the ruts we are in.
Step 4 says ‘We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.’ This step is about the difficult, but essential task of taking stock of our lives. We need to step back and take a look at our lives with the Lord and the Holy Spirit at our side and acknowledge the good, the bad, and the uuugly of our lives.
(5) In Step 5, (We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs), we came to understand the necessity of confession to God and at least one other human being because by ‘sharing our story’ with a trust worthy person, we are able to let go of our pasts and place them in God’s hands.
In Step 6 we came to another critical decision point, a point of being willing to change by being ‘entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.’ Change must take place in our lives if we are going to get out of the ruts that we have dug for ourselves. This change involves a decision to change as well as a willingness to give God the habits, choices, and attitudes that have caused us problems.
As a result of taking these steps, we now begin to realize that there are shortcomings or defects of character or attitudes and habits that have caused us, and others, some problems and created many ruts in our lives. So now, we have to become intentional about allowing the Lord to make changes in us.
(6) The first step in that intentional practice is Step 7 which says, ‘We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.’ This is a step in which humility becomes a key ally in our quest to get out of our ruts and clean house with God, others, as well as ourselves. And I would remind us that humility is not beating ourselves up but having the desire to get out of the way and let God do His good thing in us.
A key aspect then of Step 7 flows into Step 8 which says, ‘We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.’ This is a step about forgiveness. Forgiveness is vital and critical for us if we truly want to get out of ruts and reconnect with both God and others that we have wounded. It is a ‘where the rubber meets the road’ step that requires the humility and honesty that comes as we take the first seven steps.