Harvest Family Fellowship Sermons 2019 September & October
12 Step Faith - Step 6
We are in the sixth installment of a series called 12 Step Faith
In this series we are using the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous as a blueprint for discipleship
I love AA, and as I was studying the 12 steps I noticed how incredibly similar they are to some basic Christian principles
The 12 steps of AA work wonderfully for all who follow them, and they have helped millions of people achieve sobriety
I am convinced that if you follow the 12 steps outlined in this sermon series you will be well on your way to becoming the disciple of Jesus that you are meant to be
So far we’ve looked at steps 1 - 4
Step 1 says this
Step 1 - We admitted we were powerless over sin – that our lives had become unmanageable.
The first step in any recovery program is admitting that you have a problem
If I cannot, or will not, admit that I have a problem - whatever that problem may be - then I cannot change
2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results
If I want a different life, I have to do different things!
Step 1 tells me I am powerless over sin
Step 2 tells me that there is a power greater than me that can restore me to sanity
In other words, there is a power that is greater than me that will help me do different things to get a different and better life!
That greater power, of course, is God
Step 3 says
Step 3 - Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him
I can recognize that I have a problem
I can also know that only God can help me get rid of that problem
But it takes more than simply admitting and recognizing - I need to do something about it if I want to change
I have to make a decision - I have to decide to do something
What am I going to do?
Turn my will and my life over to God
I need to realize that my best efforts got me into the mess that I am in
I need to realize that I can no longer follow my own will
I need to follow God’s will for me
God is way smarter than I am!
God only wants what’s best for me - why would I not want to turn my will and life over to Him?
Step 4 says:
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
At its heart, a moral inventory is identifying our weaknesses and failures
None of us like to admit that we have faults & weaknesses, yet if we were to be totally honest we know they are there
I must know where I am if I ever hope to get where I want to be
I must do this moral inventory to know where I am
The other thing of note is this - we are terrible at doing a moral inventory of ourselves by ourselves
Why? Because I judge myself on my intentions and I judge others on their actions
If I do something wrong, but my intention was good, it’s easy to overlook it
We have to get other people involved if we want this to be an accurate moral inventory
Step 5 says this:
Step 5 - Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
This is a very brutal, but very necessary step
In this step we confess everything we have ever done wrong - we must get very specific
We confess this to ourselves, to God, and to another person
Many times confessing removes, or greatly weakens, the power of temptation
It also provides us with some accountability
Today we are going to be looking at step 6
Step 6 says this -
Step 6 - Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
So, in step 4 we made a searching and fearless inventory of all our character defects
In step 5 we confessed the specific sins that were the results of these character defects
In this step we are at the point that we are ready to have God remove these character defects
Some of you may be thinking “But haven’t we already done this?”
No, we haven’t
In step 4 we identified our character defects
In step 5 we asked forgiveness for the sins that were the result of these defects
But we haven’t yet done anything to remove these defects
It’s one thing to know they are there
It’s another thing to ask forgiveness for the consequences of those defects
But it’s something entirely different to actually work on removing them from our lives
In fact, for many people removing these character defects can seem downright impossible or even undesirable
I think there are three reasons why people struggle with letting go of their character defects
1) They’re fun
No one sins because it’s boring
Sin always delivers
The thing is that sin has an immediate reward, while doing the right thing often means waiting for the reward
Yes, I know I should save up for my retirement, but that’s a long way off and this new car looks so sweet!
Yes, there is an immediate reward for sin, but there are always long term consequences
2) They’re comfortable
We don’t like to change
For the most part we want things to stay the same
I’ve seen people stay in jobs they absolutely hate simply because they’ve been doing it for a while and don’t want to “lose their seniority” and start over somewhere else
I’ve seen people go from abusive relationship to abusive relationship simply because it’s what’s normal for them
Yes, you may be miserable, but if misery is all you have known change can be kind of scary
Even the Israelites wanted to go back to being slaves in Egypt!
I’ve known people that have wanted to change but don’t see how they can do it
I’ve known people that have tried to change and failed repeatedly
People that have been to rehab multiple times and yet can’t seem to stay clean and sober
People that have struggled with their addiction for so long that they can’t imagine life without it
Can you see how people like this might want to give up?
This is why we need the first three steps!
1 - admit that I have a problem
2 - Realize that only God can fix the problem
3 - Let God take care of it
The alcoholic admits that they are ready to have their higher power remove the wrongs they listed in Step 4.
Be willing to work with God to remove your defects
Yes, that says “work with God
All too often I see people expect God to do all the work - that they just need to sit back and receive
You ever meet a parent that did everything for their child?
Their child never had to do chores, never had to do anything
What kind of child did that parent produce?
A spoiled brat that has a huge sense of entitlement!
I discovered a long time ago that if I have to work for something I appreciate it way more
Yes, it’s God that gives us the strength to overcome, but we must put in the effort necessary
“I just can’t catch a break” - then make a break!!
The other thing we need to realize is that getting rid of our character defects, our sin, is a lifelong job.
Stop pursuing whatever your idea of perfection is
And stop expecting others to be perfect
You will never be happy if you don’t
You’re a work in progress.
Be happy about your success so far and celebrate each little victory.
One of the sayings in AA that I absolutely love is We seek progress, not perfection
The most important thing is that you are making progress, that you are growing
A huge issue that I see within the Church today is that we require perfection
We say that our salvation is based on grace and grace alone, but then we fail to extend that grace to each other
When someone, especially a leader or pastor, messes up we often crucify them
We have to stop making Christianity a performance based religion
That’s not saying that we need to stop doing the right things - far from it!
However, the good things we do should be out of love, they should be a natural reaction to the relationship we have with God
In many, many churches around the world our faith is all about what we do and what we don’t do
The Apostle Paul had something rather interesting to say about that!
Philippians 3:1-16 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh-- 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
In other words, Paul is saying that he followed all the rules
Everything that his community said he needed to do he did
7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
vv8 - “Rubbish” = skoobalon, Greek for sh*t
Paul is saying that following all the rules and expectations is about as worthwhile as a big steaming pile of poop
10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Paul is saying that he knows he has not reached the goal of pure holiness
In other words, he has not yet removed all of his character defects
But that’s not going to stop him from pushing on
He’s going to forget what is behind - his mistakes, regrets, and failures - and push on toward what is ahead
15 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
I love this!
Paul is saying that if you are mature you will agree with him, if not God will take care of it!
Step 6 - Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
Grace will always favor the prepared mind - Richard Rohr, Breathing Underwater, pg 57