Everyone Needs Recovery

I’ve been thinking about how our church might better reach into the neighborhood, what needs to we see? Marriages need to be strengthened, kids are involved in recreational drugs, pornography attacks half of the male population (according to the national average)… what is a church to do in order to impact our community with the gospel?

The Home Run movie came out on April 19 this year, and I sense THIS is the next wave of hands-on help that can make life transformation practical and possible for so many people.

Here is some introductory research into that which Celebrate Recovery is based:

The Eight Principles of Recovery:

1.   Realize I’m not God. I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable. — Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor.  (Matthew 5:3)

2.   Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him, and that He has the power to help me recover. — Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

3.   Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control. — Happy are the meek. (Matthew 5:5)

4.   Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust. — Happy are the pure in heart. (Matthew 5:8)

5.   Voluntarily submit to every change God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects. — Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires. (Matthew 5:6)

6.   Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others, except when to do so would harm them or others. — Happy are the merciful. Happy are the peacemakers. (Matthew 5:7, 9)

7.   Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will.

8.   Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and by my words. — Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires. (Matthew 5:10)

The Twelve Steps with Biblical Comparison:

1.    We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable. — I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. (Romans 7:18)

2.    We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. — For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)

3.    We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God. — Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1)

4.    We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. —  Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD. (Lamentations 3:40)

5.    We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. — Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)

6.    We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. — Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:10)

7.    We humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings. — If we confess our sins, he is faithful and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

8.    We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. — Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:3 1)

9. We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. — Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)

10.   We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it. — So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (1 Corinthians 10.12)

11.   We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and power to carry that out. — Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. (Colossians 3:16)

12.   Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs. — Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself or you also may be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)

The Truth About Life Change

My Bible study class studied for several weeks a book by Chip Ingram on the Miracle of Life Change. I recently discovered nine foundational truths about life change (from Pastor Rick Warren):

1. Understand that the goal of all change is Christ-likeness. God doesn’t want us to be happy; he wants us to be holy. We become holy as we become more like Jesus. When you see people, remember this – God’s goal for the people you see isn’t balance, happiness, or comfort. He wants nothing less than for them to become like Jesus.

Paul tells us in Romans 8:29, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” We have a phrase here in America, “Like father, like son.” God wants nothing more than for us to become like Jesus, in how we act, how we talk, how we relate to others, how we relate to God, and every aspect of our lives. This is always the goal of biblical change.

2. Realize that both you and God have a part to play in changing. You can’t do God’s part in the change process, but you must do yours. You can see this clearly when Paul writes in Philippians 2:12-13, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Notice Paul says, “Continue to work out …” That’s your part. Then he says, “for it is God who works in you …” That’s God’s part. We both have a part to play.

The Bible doesn’t say to work for your salvation. It says to “work it out.” There’s only one way you can find salvation – by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Think about it, you don’t work out in the gym to create muscles you don’t have; you work out to strengthen the muscles God has given you. When you “work out” your salvation, you don’t earn it. Instead, you strengthen what God has already given you. You can’t transform or change yourself, but – because of the cross – the Holy Spirit can. But you have a part to play.

3. Accept that lasting change starts with choice. Whatever hurt, habit, or hang-up you have, change begins with a choice. Choice is one of the greatest gifts that God gives us. In the Bible, God tells us to make healing choices (Deuteronomy 30:19), “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”

4. Change requires truth. Jesus said in John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The truth may set you free, but first it makes you miserable. The reason most of us aren’t free is that we don’t want to face the truth about our sin. We don’t want to face the truth about others, our relationships, our parents, or our past. The Bible says our hearts are “desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).

That deceit has to be balanced with the truth of God. Why does truth set us free? Because the way we think affects the way we feel. The way we feel then affects the way we act. If you want to change the way you act, you don’t want to start with your behavior, you start with your thoughts. The battle over sin always begins in the mind. You can’t stop the thoughts that come into your mind, but you need to know how to divert them. Change happens when we’re honest about what is in our heart and then we challenge it with the Word of God. The truth is, behind every self-defeating behavior in your life is a lie that you believe to be true.

5. Lasting change happens in community. God has wired us to only get well in community, not a cocoon. Koinonia (the Greek term for fellowship or community) simply means being as committed to each other as we are to Jesus Christ, and sharing a common life.

Change happens when you open up and share your hurts, habits, and hang-ups. It’s the only way to get over them. James 5:16 tells us to, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” Revealing your feelings is the beginning of healing. If you want to see true life change, you need to develop Christian community or fellowship in your life.

6. Lasting change is a step-by-step process. The kind of change that we really long for won’t happen by accident or by chance. Change happens intentionally and incrementally. The Message paraphrases 2 Corinthians 3:18, “Our lives are gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.” When God enters our lives, we become gradually more like Jesus. That is sanctification.

7. Lasting change requires multiple reinforcement. You’ve got to get truth in a lot of different ways to make the way for lasting change. How can people listen to Pastor Skip’s sermons for years and not grow? People just don’t grow by listening. James tells us not to merely listen to the Word of God but to obey it (James 1:22). He goes on to say that the one who “looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25).

It’s the person who remembers the Word of God and does it who is blessed. Leaders must teach people the Bible in multiple ways to make that happen in their lives. God loves variety. He wired some people to learn through what they hear. Others learn from they see or read. Others learn by doing. Those who participate in worship will hear the Word. They talk about it in their small group Bible studies. They read about it in a book.

8. Lasting change requires new habits. I’ve heard it said that you are the sum total of your habits. You’ve got both good and bad habits, but what you do habitually is what you are. You don’t have to think about taking a shower, brushing your teeth, or shaving. You just do it. Those are habits. You’re not an honest person unless you are habitually honest. You’re not faithful to your spouse if you’re only faithful 98% of the time.

For 2,000 years Christians have been developing good habits. We often call them spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, quiet time, Bible study, solitude, fasting, service, journaling, etc. These are building blocks of spiritual growth. Not many believers have been to a boot camp for spiritual growth because. We just did not know that we needed it.

9. Real change changes others. A lot of people come to marriage counseling and say they wanted to change their spouse, when what they really needed to do was change themselves. You can only change someone else by changing yourself. When you change, you force the other person to change because they can’t respond to you the same old way. When God changes you, he’ll use you to change others.

How do you know someone’s life has been changed by God and they’re spiritually mature? You know the same way that you know if someone is physically mature – reproduction. Spiritually mature people reproduce. As people experience real life change, they’ll help others find the same hope.

God says life is a choice. Jesus says, “I came so that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). Life is a choice, but most people are just existing. They get up in the morning, go to work, come home, watch TV, and go to bed. Then they get up in the morning, go to work, come home, watch TV, and go to bed… over and over, repeating that same pattern. One day they wake up and realize there is more to this life than just existing!

The kind of life that God wants us to have is not automatic. Spiritual growth is not automatic. You have to make choices to help yourself grow.

Set Apart or Living Like the World?

Why is it that some people who are actively a part of the church seem to make such poor choices in their lives? I’m talking about choices that are not only conduct unbecoming a follower of Christ but could very well be illegal in some cases. We all have good intentions, but the fact is, good intentions are never good enough. We need to emphasize life change. My Sunday Bible study class recently finished a study on real life change… the churchy word is transformation (Romans 12:2).

The kind of change that God wants to see in a believer’s life does not happen by an act of will. We all have hurts, habits, and hang-ups that keep us from being everything that God wants us to be. We won’t change simply by trying harder.

The Bible says, “If the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free” (John 8:36) but if you look around our church, a lot of people are sitting around in chains. We’re not living free. You may have been a believer for 20 years, or a teenager who is new in the faith, but many people still have the same habits, the same struggles, and the same worldliness and values that everyone outside the church does. People are simply not growing into the likeness of Christ.

We often feel like Paul when he writes about his struggle with sin (Romans 7:15, 18-19, 23, 24). I believe that all of us can identify with that. In every human being there’s a civil war going on inside – between what is good and what is bad, between God and the enemy. The changes that God wants to see happen in your life, and those of our congregation, are going to take more than desire, determination and a prayer.

Just attending church isn’t the answer. Plenty of people who attend our church are not living lives worthy of the calling of Christ (Ephesians 4:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:11). I’ve been around church people most of my life, and I have come to realize that there are many people who had been in church for years who are just as envious, just as angry, just as sinful, and just as worldly as everyone else. The church doesn’t change you on the inside.

According to Paul, he discovered how to experience real life change (Romans 7:25). Paul’s answer for life change is the same for all of us sitting in church each weekend. He says, “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

As cliché as it sounds, Jesus really is the answer. Believers are to live in such a way as to show people how Jesus brings about lasting change. How should a believer’s life change because of a relationship with Christ? Have you ever thought about actually living out the teaching of Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)?

It’s not enough to just capitulate, go along with the crowd and claim that living the Christ life is too hard. Worse yet, how many people around us want to believe the facts about Christ, secure their fire insurance, but have no intention of growing in the likeness of Christ? If we claim the name of Christ, we must also seek to live the life of Christ. It doesn’t happen overnight, but we must strive toward Christ likeness as our goal.

At KGBC, we seek to “Know Christ and Make Him Known.” It is impossible to make Him known if we really don’t know Him. If we don’t strive to live in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7) how can we claim to be His follower? Every day we wake up and have to make a choice; will I live for Christ or live like those who are lost without Him?

How to Guide Your Destiny

When I taught at Hargrave Military Academy, I remember the chaplain had a great saying regarding character and destiny (a quote from Frank Outlaw):

  1. Watch your thoughts, they become words.
  2. Watch your words, they become actions.
  3. Watch your actions, they become habits.
  4. Watch your habits, they become character.
  5. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.

These are not only wise words for developing strong character and leadership in young men and women, but also for anyone desiring to make a difference in business, school, marriage, and life.

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God’s Spiritual Training Program

My Bible study class is discussing Chip Ingram’s book, The Miracle of Life Change. These few pages are my notes for that class.

Personal Integrity:

Without this area under control, there is no hope for personal transformation. This is what we are to do in this area (Ephesians 4:24-25):

  1. Put off – falsehood
  2. Renew – recognition of shared membership in the body (Ephesians 4:15, 25); the reason
  3. Put on – truthful speech

What do you put off and put on when you train for honesty (Psalm 15:1-5)? Start with little things, like little white lies and exaggerations. Curb the tendency to bend the truth. Chip mentions that we are to “practice confession.” Knowing you will have to go back and apologize might keep us from lying in the first place.

Emotional Control:

This area involves anger (Ephesians 4:26-27, James 1:19-20). There is an anger that does not lead to sin, but anger expressed will often lead to sinful behavior. Uncontrolled anger gives the devil an opportunity. Couples may go to bed mad at each other and the emotion smolders. No one wakes in the morning thinking that yesterday was fine, but today I think I’ll go and wreck my marriage with an affair. But that is how adultery starts, usually with unresolved anger. Chip called this anger vision, when everything she does sets you off and reinforces the reason you’re angry in the first place. Unresolved anger hardens the heart.

  1. Put off – anger that leads to offense and sin
  2. Renew – recognition of dangers that lead to retaining anger
  3. Put on – appropriate expressions of anger

Chip mentioned using “I feel” statements to identify the emotions and talk about the situation. Write the feelings on index cards… I feel angry when you… I feel hurt when you… I feel isolated when you… I feel left out when you…

Financial Stewardship: Work Ethic

Many people grow up with a poor work ethic: go in as late as possible, leave as early as possible, get as little done as possible and get paid as much as possible. Unless you’re the owner, then it’s go in before dawn, stay late because work is all there is. Paul tells them to steal no longer (Ephesians 4:28). This is not a hypothetical situation.

The idea here is that people always seek a short cut, and this mentality affects all areas of life. As an oak tree, things that grow well and last grow slowly. How is you work ethic (Colossians 3:23-24)?

  1. Put off – stealing
  2. Renew – think differently about your work ethic
  3. Put on – work

Diligence (Colossians 3:22) is a quality that comes from good mentors. A work ethic is caught not taught.

Positive Speech:

This area involves the tongue (Ephesians 4:29-30). It can give grace to those who hear, and it can also grieve the Holy Spirit. Words can be positive and negative influences (Proverbs 10:11, 15:1-4, 16:24, 27-28). How’s your speech? Recognize the power of words, that in them can be life or death (Proverbs 18:21), what comes out of the mouth can make or break a person’s day.

The heart is at stake (Luke 6:45) because if you really want to know what is in the heart of a person, listen to what comes out of his mouth. Examine your speech (James 3:2) and remember these haunting words of Jesus (Matthew 12:36).

  1. Put off – negative speech
  2. Renew – give grace to others and avoid grieving the Holy Spirit
  3. Put on – positive, encouraging speech

We ought to practice silence and solitude, get away on a retreat to allow God to transform your mind and practice talking less (Proverbs 10:19).

Holy Positive Attitudes:

This area deals with forgiveness. The putting off involves six different attitudes (Ephesians 4:31) embodied in hate:

  1. Bitterness – deep-seated resentments
  2. Rage – a blow-up type of anger
  3. Anger – describes resentment and negativity that permeates all of life
  4. Brawling (clamor) – shorting and baiting that incites violence
  5. Slander – involves stealth anger, defaming another person
  6. Malice – an evil intent that lies behind the other five

We are to put on three other attitudes (Ephesians 4:32) embodied in love:

  1. Kindness – practice on treating others the way you want to be treated
  2. Compassionate – one that deep down reaches out to help others in need
  3. Forgiving each other – being Christ like, responding to others like Jesus would

Practice the Matthew 5:24 principle. Forget who’s responsible and take responsibility for your own part. After all is said and done, track your progress, others will be (Philippians 1:6, 1 Timothy 4:15). Renew your attitudes to allow God to transform your life.