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The Twelve Steps and the New Man in Christ

Twelve step programs are everywhere, for every ailment known to man, and are very helpful. Many years ago as a denominational Pastor in a local congregation, I adapted and used the steps. I changed "alcohol" to "sin," in step one; "the Higher Power" in step two to "Jesus Christ;" "as we understood Him" in step eleven to "as He is revealed in the Bible;" and "alcoholics" to "sinners" in step twelve. It was a fruitful experience.

Today, however, my Christian understanding is rattled every time I hear a well meaning brother say, "Hi. My name is Harry, and I'm an alcoholic." At the time I used this in a congregational setting, I was too insensitive to the truth of who we are to be offended at the thought, "My name is Frank, and I'm a sinner," but now - look out! That expression, used by Christians, pushes my "erupt" button.

I am a new man in Christ. The "sinner" Frank was put to death in the waters of baptism on the cross with Jesus. I now have a new life, and a new identity. I have actually been born again, and this time from above. My new nature is created after God in righteousness and true holiness. Even though the "old nature" keeps raising its ugly head, I attempt to reckon or count it as dead. I do not give that nature the power or place to even say it is me anymore.

I am of the seed of the second Adam, born of the water and the blood. It has not yet become evident what I look like, but when He comes, my true nature will be revealed. I will be like Him who now lives in me.

My old nature will not survive, and I am attempting now to live in the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, and not the "wretched man that I am" of Romans 7. The old nature is a hopeless addict. It was and is powerless over sin in many forms - abuse of alcohol, drugs, people, whatever. All of this is SIN. When I repent, I turn away from sin and turn to the Lord and the new life.

Here are the original twelve steps, the steps as I see them for the new man, and some notes. The differences may not seem like much to you, but the power of God is for the new person, not the old. The distinction is important:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.

1. We admitted we were powerless over sin - that our lives had become unmanageable.

1. We cannot save ourselves. The only hope for anyone is the rescue operation God Himself pulled off when He clothed Himself in flesh and was born as man. There is salvation in no other. People may do things to gain a "better" life, but real life is the new life in Jesus. As long as people try to make it on their own, or through some program, they are ultimately lost, even if the condition of their lives improve.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

2. Came to believe that God could give us a new life, and that our present life was not worth living.

2. By the working of God's Spirit, we came to believe that hopelessness is our state without Jesus, but that with Him there is hope. Through His sacrifice for us, in our place, we can be healed. There is a solution to addiction, to sin, to denial, to insanity. The solution has been made clear: we must die to the old life, and be born again.

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

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to God as He is revealed in the Bible. Thus we repented from all of the old ways, and received Jesus Christ Who now lives in us by His Spirit. We died with Him on the cross through our baptism, and rose with Him from the dead to live the new life.

3. We decided to surrender to God's love. We asked Jesus to forgive us, wash and cleanse us, and to literally come inside us and live His life in and through us. We entered the waters of baptism and died with Jesus on the cross and rose up out of the watery grave to live a new life.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves, realizing that all defects are part of the old nature. I am being made new, and in Christ I am a new person.

4. Since everything about our old nature is a hindrance to living the new life, we realized that it is very beneficial for us to expose our sins and wickedness.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our past sins.

5. We have committed ourselves to walk in the light and expose all the deed of darkness that have crippled us. Since there is no condemnation for those in Christ, we are committed to confess our sins one to another, and to walk in the light as He is in the light.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remake us in His image and remove all things that hinder us from living the new life.

6. We realized that all unconfessed sin, bitterness, wrath, vengeance, etc. (the fruits of the old nature) are links that somehow connect us to our old life. We consider the old life dead, and flee from it every time it raises it's ugly head, but we understand that these pockets of darkness, or bitter roots are literally conduits that seek to pull power away from the new creation, and re-charge the old.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our sin-consciousness and renew the spirit of our minds to the truth of righteousness.

7. We asked God to remove all the manifestations of the old nature. We belong to God, and together with Him Who lives in us, we are on a quest to grow as His new creation, and remove any and every defect. When the shortcomings are revealed, we take this as an opportunity to grow in grace and faith and destroy the works of the flesh.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

8. Such lists are painful. Jesus' willingness to make amends for us made necessary the cross. He prayed, "Not my will, but Yours be done,"in spite of His feelings and desire not to drink the cup.

We were and desire to be at any moment, willing to make amends. The resistance to humbling ourselves and making restitution is the old nature's desire to save our own life. If we do that, Jesus said, we will lose our real life.

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

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

9. Speaking the truth (making amends) must be qualified with "in love." If love requires us to leave the matter with God, and not make amends, so be it. Love for God, and love for our brothers cannot be separated.

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

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong or living in the old life quickly admitted it, repented, and renewed our place as a forgiven child of God.

10. Asked God to continue to search our hearts to see if there are any wrong or hurtful ways in us, and to lead us in His paths. We asked Him to expose to the light any secret or hidden sins. We want nothing to link us to the old life, nothing that draws our energy or interests away from God. We constantly fight against the notion that there is no need for repentance or continued growth. We understand that the struggle between the new and the old will continue until Jesus comes again. Although everything in the past is under the blood, there are still effects from the past that hinder our life of faith. We pray that God will deal with them swiftly and effectively, and that we will not resist His work in us

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with Jesus living and reigning within us. Praying only to hear His voice and the power to do what He says.

11. There are many voices both external and internal that confront us. Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice." Through prayer and meditation we seek to silence all the other conflicting voices, and hear Him who says He loves us and will never leave us. We regularly and faithfully seek to quiet our anxious souls and tune out all the static. We believe that in quietness and confidence is our strength to live the new life. His voice is the still small voice that does not scream or shout.

Our desire is to do what He says. the way He says to do it, when He says to do it. When the Lord told His disciples they were to forgive seventy times seven, their response is our example: "Lord, increase our faith."

We also fight to avoid religious formalism and the chilling effect the overuse of the words, "the Lord told me" causes. We repent and turn away from the fear that causes us to try and protect ourselves.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to sinners, and to walk in the reality of our new life in Christ.

12. As God's servants we want to do His will. His desire is for all to come to repentance and life. He commissioned us to go into all the world and make disciples of all the nations. We are to teach them all He has commanded us, and as Paul told the Athenians, "He now commands all men everywhere to repent." We are ambassadors for Christ pleading with men to be reconciled to God.

 

 

WHO AM I, REALLY?

Who am I? What is my essential nature? I think we are confused about who and what we are, and the confusion aids and abets our spiritual impotency.

We are keenly aware of our struggle with sin. Romans seven always hovers around our consciousness: "O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?" We know the reality of not doing the good we wanted to do, and the anguish of falling, "one more time." We ask Paul's question, "Who will deliver me," but we tend to stop there and not focus on the next verses.

We know well our old nature. We wrestle with it, and in it, daily. We know our weaknesses and addictions. We know our secret sins, and the evil thoughts flashing through our minds. We have a very clear record of all past failures.

Now we also know, sort of, that we are born again, and have a new nature. We understand, in a way, that this nature is renewed in God's image of righteousness and true holiness. We believe, kind of, that this new man is growing every day, while the old one shrinks and starves. We reckon or count the old one as dead, so to speak, and the new one alive. I read that I died with Christ, as it were, and my life is now hid with Christ in God and that when Christ who is my life appears, I will be with Him.

OK, o.k., okay. I'm beginning to get the point. But, really, who or which one am I? Which one is the essential me? Will the real Frank Smith please stand up and identify himself?

By the redemption that is mine in Christ Jesus, I AM HOLY, FORGIVEN, WASHED, PURE, SINLESS, PRECIOUS TO GOD, SPIRIT-FILLED, RIGHTEOUS. I am a son of the living God. I am part of the very body of Christ. I am a new man, and I relate to God as that new person, and thereby honor what He has done.

When I come to God in my old nature, as a dirty sinner, I am demeaning the work of Christ. When I come as His child, I exalt and honor the work of Christ.

Let's assume I was a physical slave, literally sold into servitude, and a benefactor bought me and set me free. If I then relate to that benefactor as a slave, I dishonor what he did. If I come and say to him, "This old slave sure thanks you for what you've done. Yes sir, this slave is mighty grateful," I am disregarding his act of love. Now it's true that I might act like a slave once in a while, or think like a slave, but reality is, I have been set free. "If the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed."

I was sold into sin, a slave to sin. Jesus bought me back, redeemed me from slavery to sin and self. [The Greek word for redeem is literally the price paid for a slave in the market place.]

So, am I a sinner? No! Am I still a slave to sin? No! Do I sin? Sure. Do I sometimes act like a slave to sin? Yes, but the reality, the essence of my being is new and forgiven and washed, and righteous, and sanctified, and redeemed.

The real me is the new me. It is still a mystery, but Christ is in me now, and Christ in me now is the hope of glory. It isn't obvious what I look like yet, but when Christ comes again, I will be like Him. Then everyone will see the new me, and the new you. In the meantime, live like who you really are.

Get rid of sin consciousness. Set your heart and mind on things above, where you are seated with Christ in the heavenlies. Be conscious of reality. Be conscious of truth. Be more and more righteousness conscious, and less and less sin conscious.

Do not insult God by relating to Him as a sinner. Jesus did that for you. His death on the cross is the rightful judgment of God against sinners. Jesus did that for you, and you shared in His death through your baptism. Do not act as if this is all a lie and ineffective by approaching your Father as a sinner.

What about repentance and the way I relate to God? What about it? It doesn't affect anything. I repent as a child of God, not as an outsider. I repent for my sins, the sins of my fathers, the sins of my people or nation in the same way righteous Daniel repented for the sins of his fathers which brought on the Babylonian captivity. He apologized. I apologize. I am sorry. I ask God to forgive us all, and change us that we would act like who we are - the righteous, that is.

When God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, He didn't do it because the sinners were sinners. Sinners will always be sinners. It is the essential nature of sinners to sin, it is impossible for them to please God. They need new hearts and lives. However, it was for the lack of ten righteous that judgment fell on Sodom.

When I repent before God, I do it as His child, His son. I repent that I don't always live up to who I am. I repent that I don't live righteousness and faith and victory. I repent that we Christians in America have been more lip than leg, more mouth than muscle. I repent as a Christian, not as a heathen, even though I might have lived something like a heathen.

When my son smashed the family car, and said, "Dad, I'm sorry," I didn't respond "You're not a Smith any longer, now you're a schmuck." I've certainly done lots worse in the Kingdom of God than the likes of smashing the car, and I'm still a righteous, holy, forgiven son.

When I relate to God as a sinner, I am scornful of the gift of His Son Jesus. "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," said Shakespeare. What about God's reaction to His most precious gift being scorned? My Thesaurus lists the synonyms of scorned as: ignored, slighted, disregarded, neglected, disdained, despised, affronted, overlooked, spurned. It could be said that all those words apply to the way I see God's gift of His Son if I continue to relate to Him as a sinner. May God forgive me for any disregarding I have ever done of the sacrifice of Jesus.

I pray that God would brainwash us, and renew the spirit of our minds. May He remove the contamination from our old dead selves, and give us a clearer image of who and what we are.

May we hear and recognize the voice of our Good Shepherd as He speaks to us and fellowships with us in our spirits. May you love and enjoy the intimacy with Jesus more than anyone or anything else. May He lead you specifically and purposefully that your labor in Him would not be in vain. May the crown of your life's work and rulership be an awesome crown to cast at His feet, and may the bridal garments you are preparing be breathtakingly beautiful.

Maranatha, King Jesus! We await Your arrival as we trim our lamps and shine Your light in a dark place.

I love you and bless you in Jesus' name, and look forward to meeting with you soon, especially when we meet at Jesus feet.

GOD

grant me the SERENITY

to accept the things I cannot change

 

COURAGE to change the things I can,

and WISDOM to know the difference.

also,

 

LORD JESUS,

grant me the SERENITY

to hear Your voice,

COURAGE to do what You say,

and WISDOM not to follow my own soul.

p.s. REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE!


Frank Smith
Director
(760) 641-0251