2002-09-25 - Twelve Steps for Christian Living
Step 4 - We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Steps One through Three are preparatory steps for Step Four. Here is a brief summary of the first three steps. Step One: We recognized that we are powerless over our sinful nature and that our lives have become unmanageable on our own. In Step Two, we came to believe that the God who created us could restore us to sane living. Step Three: We simply made a decision to turn our lives and will over to the care of God.
For me, and I would think most Christians, we go through life doing the Steps One, Two, Three; One, Two, Three and on we waltz, dancing through life to our own tune never making it to the fourth step. We realize there is a problem, cry out to God for help and then think we make a decision to turn our lives and will over to God. As time passes and the problem subsides, we fall back into our self-centered ways. No need for God right now, everything is going great! Or we do the famous cafeteria-style of Step Three: Here, God, you can have this, that and a helping of this, but you can't touch these parts of my life.
Step Three can be a spiritual plateau on which we become stuck. We settle in on this comfort zone. Like water in a puddle, we become stale, stagnant and stoic Christians -- or worse, we slip off the plateau to where we once were. Plateaus can be and really should be wonderful events in our lives. They are places to rest, catch our breath and contemplate the future, but they are not a place to stop forever.
Step Four begins the process of implementing our decision to turn our lives and will over to God. This is a lifelong process. We will grow, plateau, then grow some more, all in God's time and His will.
Step Four can be a scary process for most of us. The Psalmist's prayer above is a frightening prayer. I urge you to pray this prayer when doing Step Four. This does not need to be a scary step; rather, it can be an exciting step to help us out of our bondage of rationalization and delusional, sinful living. This step simply identifies the faults that have separated us from God.
1 John 1:8-10 If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.
The above Bible passage is one of my favorites. It takes us out of a delusional state of mind. I define delusional here as "making our own reality". It is not real that none of us are without faults. It is not real that we are perfect. It is, however, real that we can become developing followers of Christ. We can live a life that moves along a path of growth -- not of perfection but rather progression.
At this point in the 12 Step process, an accountability partner, mentor or as they say in A.A. a sponsor, is an invaluable tool. A mentor is someone that has walked the path before you. He has seen the highs and the lows, reached the plateaus and moved on. He understands the process, and in turn will help you.
Obviously I love to write. I write most of my prayers to God. Step Four should be a written inventory of what is keeping you from becoming more like Christ. We simply write the nature of our character defects. Do not rush this step. Take all the time you need.
While there is not a right or wrong way to being this process, here is an outline that will help you begin. This list is not original. It comes from talking to people I know that are in 12 Step Recovery programs such as Alcoholic Anonymous.
Begin by writing down your resentments. Resentment is defined as "indignation or ill will felt as a result of a real or imagined grievance." A synonym is anger. What or who are you resentful toward? What causes this anger? What effect is it having on your life and your relationship to God? What was your role in causing this behavior?
Fears. What are you fearful of? What causes this fear? What effect is this having on your life and your relationship to God?
Sexuality Instincts. This includes how you relate to people of the opposite sex. Not just sexual encounters. What is your behavior and attitude about this? How does it affect your life and relationship with God?
Financial security. What are your behaviors and attitudes toward money and the management of your finances? What is causing these attitudes? What are the effects on your life and your relationship with God?
Emotional security. Again, what behavior and attitudes are causing you emotional problems? Emotional insecurity can lead to depression, fear, worry, self-pity and anger.
What relationships are causing me emotional insecurity?
Social instincts. Do you have any social connections that cause you pain? Do you behave in an irrational way, to make yourself out to be someone that you are not, due to your social insecurity?
I am sure there are more items to list. In short, what behavior and attitudes are causing you separation from God? In short, what behavior and attitudes are causing you separation from God? What are you doing that is harmful to others? What are you doing that is harmful to yourself?
At the end of this inventory, please write the positive characteristics of yourself. There is good in everyone. Don't use this list to beat yourself up. Rather, use it as a benchmark, a starting point from which to grow. Your best effort to do a complete and honest inventory shows your willingness to truly turn your life and will over to God.
Lord, search our hearts, our behaviors and attitudes. Reveal to us what is displeasing to you. Lord, and also help us to see the good that you have put in us. Help us to build on what is good and rid our lives of what is bad. In Christ's name. Amen.
Parts 1-3 can be found at http://www.cfdevotionals.org/links/authdave.htm