At Gateway Church in Austin, we continued a series designed to go beyond just a new year’s resolution. This is an opportunity to get past what has kept you from becoming the person you were created to be.
You can watch the entire series at www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.
John Burke shared the following insights:
“The 12 steps are actually spiritual disciplines we find in the Scriptures. Even if we’ve successfully worked steps 1-5 and experienced some freedom, we can easily fall back into old controlling ways, holding onto or hiding root issues God wants to heal. When that happens, we can slip back into old chains. That’s why steps 6 and 7 are so important:
Step #6: We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Step #7: Humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings.
Some of you may just now be ready to take Step 1. Great! Start there. Or maybe you got stuck at Step 3. Keep working at it until you really get there. This is not just for people struggling with substance abuse. It’s for all of us – anyone who wants more life and more freedom. As we saw week 1, Jesus came to give us an abundant life, and it says:
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17
Steps 1-3 are all about our own personal Titanic. We all thought we were supposed to be Captain of our lives—in control, invincible, proving our worth and value to the world, but at some point we got warning signs, life got painful, unmanageable, and out of control enough for us to realize the truth: this ship of life without God is sinking. I keep trying to make life go my way, yet it just produces more pain, isolation, loneliness. Habits and addictions now enslave me. Maybe it took hitting rock bottom to realize it so you decided to take Step One – to admit you were powerless to fix yourself. Life with you as Captain was not working. That’s the first Step. Admitting you’ve got a problem. But then what?
Step 2 – you came to believe there is a Captain who could rescue you from this sinking ship. You found out God has his own ship. He’s lowered this rescue basket right onto your listing deck, and He’s sailing for warmer, tropical waters. There’s Hope! But you have to take Step 3. You have to get in the rescue basket. You must abandon life where you’re the Captain. You need to give up playing God and entrust your entire life and will into God’s care. So you get in the basket daily willing to live Step 3, seeking the Captain’s will.
To live this way, the Captain wants to start healing old wounds, so He asks us to do Step 4 and 5 – to take an honest look at ourselves. To move forward we need to confess our mistakes to ourselves, to God, and to one other person. This is how God begins to heals us and make us whole.
But here’s what often happens at this point. We’re on God’s ship. He’s the Captain and we’ve admitted that, but we have all these old habits and patterns that keep surfacing. God wants us to learn to live in the overflowing joy of life with Him in control. He wants us to experience increasing life and freedom, but too often we don’t. We might be saved, rescued from our sinking ship and headed to a new wonderful destination for eternity, but we keep trying to sneak into the Navigation Room and replot the course. We think we’re actually being helpful, but then we get impatient, irritated, or angry when God doesn’t cooperate. So we run around trying to arrange the ship as we think it should be, but it robs us of peace and joy. So we start ordering others around and telling them what to do so things will go better for us. All the while, the Captain (who is ridiculously kind, loving, and patient) is gently saying: “Let me teach you a new way of living. Let me remove all these old habits that sunk your old ship, so you can actually relax, do the job I have for you, and enjoy Me, others, and yourself a whole lot more. You’ll even accomplish more that way.”
To experience this requires Steps 6 & 7.
Step #6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. Here’s something you need to understand about God. God doesn’t control you or force you. He doesn’t need you to behave or shape up for things to go according to His plan. He’s Captain of the Universe, and it will go His way. But He’s also adopted you as His own son or daughter and loves you more than you can imagine. That’s why He wanted to rescue you in the first place—to be with you, to love you, to help you flourish. That’s why God works WITH your will, not against it. God waits for your willingness. That’s why Step 6 starts “we were entirely ready…”
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2
Don’t hold anything back. Offer your whole selves. That’s how we love and worship God, by trusting His goodness and offering our whole selves to him. Which means we stop trying to conform to everyone else and the old habits. Instead, we let God transform our minds.
That’s what Step 6 is all about. We were ENTIRELY READY for God to have His will and way with ALL of us—every part of us—every Character Defect, every habit, every “helpful way” that we thought was right but keeps driving people away from us. We became willing to let Him remove them, so we could experience his good, pleasing, perfect will for our lives more and more.
Where do these Character Defects come from? John Baker in Life’s Healing Choices points out that they come from Chromosomes, Circumstances, and Choices.
Chromosomes – we all inherited certain traits from our parents. No one knows how much or little this affects us, but we all got both strengths and weaknesses from parents. Maybe you have a genetic weakness, physically, or emotionally, or an addictive personality, but that’s not an excuse. We still all have the ability to let God grow us spiritually, even through this weakness. What if in God’s economy, it’s not how much or little you’ve been given, but how faithful you are to God with what you’ve been given? That’s part of step 6.
Circumstances also had a big role in shaping us. We shaped our character by watching others—parents, peers, teachers—but they were not always following God’s will or ways. So some things got shaped into our characters that we thought was right, but it doesn’t get us what we want ultimately. No matter what our inherited traits or circumstances, God can and will remove them if we’re entirely ready and willing. We don’t have to be a victim anymore, so we don’t have to live that way. That’s Step 6.
There’s an interesting story in John 5. Jesus comes to this pool in the town of Bethesda. Jesus sees one guy who was a paralytic who had been in that condition 38 years. Jesus wants to heal him, has compassion on him, but listen to what he asks:
When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” John 5:6
At first glance, that seems like a clueless question, right? Jesus knew he’d been there a long time, why ask such a question: Do you want to get well? Because sometimes, we don’t! Though we were victims of inherited tendencies, or circumstances beyond our control, and we hate being victims, sometimes we get used to it. We’ve become comfortable with these defects of character, and to let God completely change us, we can’t imagine life without being a victim. We wouldn’t have our old reasons, our old excuses, or old comfortable patterns. “Do you want to get well?” God waits for our willingness. We were entirely ready for him to remove all these character defects. Is that where you are? Do you want to get well?
Choices. You can’t change who your parents are. You can’t go back and relive the circumstances of your past, but you can control your choices today. This is the one responsibility we do have: to choose to let God transform our thinking and to choose His will and ways more and more.
When we repeat negative choices or thinking patterns over and over, it becomes a habit and we get stuck. Soon it feels like we don’t have a choice. It’s automatic. That’s where Step 6&7 and Romans 12:1-2 come in. Each time we see a negative old pattern of thinking or character defect, we can choose. We can be entirely willing to let God transform our minds. We can ask Him to remove all these defects of character, but many of us don’t. Instead, we hold back. Why?
The problem is there are character defects and sin-habits we enjoy! What about those? One reason people miss the depth of life and freedom God wants is that we only want enough of God’s will and ways to keep the pain away or prove we’re not “bad.” We’re not sure we want all of God’s ways for all of our ways. So we miss out. We don’t fully maximize the ride of life.
God wants complete access so He can lead us to complete freedom and fullness of life. He waits for us to be entirely ready to let Him transform us fully.
God is incredibly patient. God brings up things one at a time, but each time the real question is found in the word “ALL.” Am I now ready and willing to let Him remove ALL those things that He says hold me back from life and freedom? Will I let Him remove all the ones I’m aware of? Or am I hiding and holding back? Just talk to him honestly about it. Willingness is the key.
Our character defects always gives you something, but it’s far less than what God wants to give.
What I’ve found is that God is so incredibly good. I really can’t make a better life for me than God designed. It always works out better His way.
The key to Step 7 is humility. It’s seeing ourselves and God accurately – not thinking too highly of ourselves or too lowly of ourselves. We can be faithful to God, allow Him to teach us and heal us and show us His ways. Are you ready for that? Then you’re ready to take these steps!
For your next steps, go to www.gatewaychurch.com/NextSteps.