Tag Archives: addiction

The Twelve Steps

In my last article I wrote about the five keys to maturity as Christians, and in that article I mentioned the similarity between the way the church should function and the way groups like Alcoholics Anonymous DO function. The camaraderie and accountability of those groups keep people on the path to sobriety. The life of the Christian should be filled with others who are helping them along on the path to sinlessness as well, but we have become so politically correct and afraid of rejection, we refrain from speaking into the lives of even those closest to us to hold one another accountable.

If you’re like me, there are many things in your life you’d like to change, not the least of which are sins you habitually commit. We all have hurts, habits and hang-ups. So how do we overcome these problems in our lives as believers in Jesus? For those attending AA to achieve sobriety, there are twelve steps:

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

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

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

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

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

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.

These steps have been proven to be effective to help people recover from alcohol addiction, and there are similar steps to groups like Narcotics Anonymous and others.

What if there were twelve steps to Christian living? What would they look like? My friend, Roy Rhodes, came up with these:

1. We came to believe that we were powerless in our sin, and that life was outside of our control.

2. We came to believe that a power greater than us was in control and could restore us.

3. We made a decision to give our will and lives over to the care of Jesus Christ, who offers sanctuary and salvation.

4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. We confessed to ourselves, to God and to another human being the nature of our sin.

6. We were entirely ready to surrender our sins to God.

7. We humbly asked God to remove our sins and shortcomings and restore us as bearers of His Image and Spirit.

8. We made a list of all persons that we have harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

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

10. Continued to examine the self, and when we are wrong, prompty confessing and setting things right.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to remain rooted in God, our strength and deliverance.

12. Having given our lives to God and experienced his healing in our lives, we try to carry the message of the Gospel to others and live these principles out in all aspect of our lives.

Steps 1-3 are similar to much of the language in churches today about how to come to know Jesus and find salvation. Step three is where we find baptism as a way to connect to the cross and resurrection of Christ (Romans 6). Step 12 is the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). But what about the other 8 steps?

Sometimes we wonder why there isn’t more growth in the church (because people aren’t living step 12), and I would suggest it may be because steps 4-11 aren’t being done daily in the lives of Christians to even get to step 12.

We may even do step 7, but often we don’t do the other steps surrounding that one to actually achieve success in quitting a particular sin. Steps like numbers 4, 5, 8, and 9 are uncomfortable and awkward. If we actually had to confess to someone else, they may betray us. If we seek amends with those we’ve hurt, they may reject our efforts. So we don’t try. We give up before we begin.

The five keys to being a mature Christian are these: Attend the meetings, get a mentor/partner/confidant, read the Book, works the steps, and tell others. The twelve steps to key number 4 are something like these above. If you want to see success in your life in Christ, you’ll work these as diligently as an alcoholic trying to overcome addiction, because you and I are addicted to sin, and we need to overcome our addiction too.

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The Five Keys

The other day, I was blessed to attend an AA meeting in a local church building. This was a requirement for a class I’m currently taking on addictions counseling.

While I was there, the people went around the room and talked about what they were grateful for regarding their AA affiliation. Many people expressed gratitude for the group and sobriety, but one story of gratitude stood out to me, and after this person spoke, many repeated the same sentiment.

This person spoke up about their 28 year anniversary of sobriety. In this celebration, credit was given to AA for giving the right path to success in recovery, but there were five things, five keys, that allowed this person to find the ability to be clean and sober. The five keys are as follows:

1. Attend the Meetings

2. Get a sponsor

3. Read the Big Book

4. Work the steps

5. Tell others about the program

It struck me that these keys hold true for anyone wanting a life change, and especially Christians looking to find maturity in Christ – a life of discipleship. What would it look like if we participated in these keys as Christians?

1. Attend the meetings

“Do not give up meeting with the brothers and sisters as some are in the habit of doing. (Hebrews 10:25)” As you seek the goodness of God, have you been faithful in attending services centered on worship and fellowship with others in the body of Christ, the family of God? Without gathering with the family of God, it is easy for Satan to take us back into our addiction to sin and godlessness. With the family, we can hold strong and find encouragement and renewal.

2. Get a sponsor

It has been proven that people do not continue to gather with Christians in a church setting if they do not have any significant relationships with non-family members within that gathering. Do you have friends within the church who are not family members? You can’t wait for someone else to initiate this. You need to befriend others. This relationship is meant to enhance your ability to walk the path to life. A good friend holds you accountable and encourages you to do right. A good friend reaches out to you when you’re sick or absent. A good friend does life with you. It’s kind of like having a sponsor in a 12 step program.

3. Read the Big Book

Have you read the Bible? Cover to cover? Many people have been in churches for a large portion of their lives, but they are largely ignorant of what the Bible actually says. Some people know enough scripture to make the arguments for traditional doctrine pertaining to their denomination of choice, but they don’t know the larger context of the Bible. The Big Book of AA explains the reasoning behind the 12 steps and encourages people why they should follow this way. The Bible does the same thing for us as we seek to understand why and how to live according to the will of God. In today’s technological age, there should be no excuse for you to be ignorant of the scriptures. If you don’t read well, listen to the Bible. You can find free apps that not only give you the text but will read it to you. If you don’t have a bible app, I recommend YouVersion. You can even get this app for your computer. It’s free and was created by the church in OKC, lifechurch.tv.

4. Work the steps

AA and many other therapy groups have twelve steps they use to find and maintain the ability to overcome an addiction or some other sinful behavior. The Bible gives guidelines for how we can find and maintain the ability to live lives that reflect Jesus – lives of discipleship. If you need it simplified into twelve steps, much of what the original AA twelve steps encourage its adherents to do is applicable to all Christians to find a healthier, more mature life. Celebrate Recovery also has 12 steps that are more Jesus-focused that can help a person overcome any kind of hurt, habit or hang-up (we all have these). This life change is supposed to be part of life in Christ’s Kingdom.

5. Tell others about the program

Has your life been changed because of your relationship with God and His church? If so, just as an AA member tells others about how to find sobriety through the AA program, we should tell others about the message of hope through Jesus. This is actually the first command of discipleship. A disciple makes disciples.

Are you participating in these keys to more maturity in your Christian walk? Do you want to consistently walk the path of righteousness to which we are called throughout the scriptures? When we all participate in these keys, we will grow spiritually, and the church will grow numerically, and the world will be changed, one person at a time, one day at a time.


The Secret Sin of the Church

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Have you ever been to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting? If you’ve been or even heard of what goes on there, then I’m sure you’ve probably heard how each person introduces themselves when he or she gets up to speak. “My name is [insert name here], and I’m an alcoholic.”

It doesn’t matter if they quit drinking yesterday or 20 years ago; the introduction is the same.

They recognize that it would only take one drink to get them back into the habit. Only one drink to shatter their lives once more.

Drug addicts are similar in their meetings and understanding of how precarious their sobriety really is. It is said that someone who has been off drugs and begins again doesn’t start back slowly. Oftentimes they start back with even more than they quit with.

I experienced this hard reality when I was in preaching school. A good friend of mine had been clean for years, but with the influence of another student got back into drugs. I didn’t know until I had to go visit him in the hospital because of an overdose. Thankfully The Lord spared us all from having to mourn his death.

There is another addiction people struggle with even (maybe especially) in the church, but no one seems to be talking about it.

My name is Jonathan Dobbs. I’m a preacher, and I struggle with pornography.

The first time I ever saw inappropriate images such as these was the day after church camp when I was a boy. Those images have never left my mind no matter how hard I try to get rid of them.

When I went to Harding University (a Christian university), I got really exposed. There was a computer lab in the physics building that didn’t have a firewall or filters, and a row of computers didn’t face the door. Plus, no one hardly ever went into the physics computer lab at Harding when I was there. That opportunity coupled with the influences of the young men in the dorm all around me allowed me exposure to things that rid me of whatever innocence I had left.

I understand the urge to look even against my better judgement. I understand the feeling of disgust after having participated in such viewing. I know the dark places my mind would go when I went on a pornography binge. I understand the mental gymnastics used to justify such actions. I know that it only takes one weak day to take me back to those places of mental, sinful bondage.

Such things are rarely talked about in churches, yet this particular sin affects almost every young person today and in many generations recently past. We talk often about homosexuality, abortion, adultery and “shacking up” yet many more people are participating in a much more harmful sin. The problem with porn is that it is so subtle in the ways it destroys you that many people believe it’s not hurting them at all.

Porn addicts are much like alcoholics and drug addicts. They need accountability. They need to be away from the temptation. If they fall back into the habit they often fall hard. Porn addiction controls its victim.

As a church we need to be people who understand this problem. We don’t need to shame people for having struggles with this – they feel shame enough. We don’t need to sit in condemnation for their sin is no worse than yours. We need to love them and befriend them and hold them accountable.

As I’ve been in recovery there are a few things that have helped tremendously. First, I immersed my life in the presence of God and his word. I strategically placed key verses around my computer like Philippians 4:8. I made sure that I had purpose for the time I spent on the computer. The most important thing I did, however, was find accountability partners. The most important accountability partner I have is my wife.

This struggle isn’t just for dirty boys. It’s for men and women. It is for singles and married people. It is for young and old. Just this week I read an open letter to Christian churches by an 18 year old girl recounting how her first experience with porn was at age 8. I’ve personally known of children not much older than that who struggle with pornography. Don’t be deceived. It is everywhere, and we as a church need to be a place of recovery.

If you struggle with porn you are not alone. I can help you find resources to battle the temptation, and I am an understanding ear. If you don’t struggle with porn, then present yourself as available and accepting to those who do. You make an excellent accountability partner. I pray for the women and men exploited by this industry. I pray for the church as she learns to deal with this issue in a more open way. I pray for you in your struggle. Please pray for me as I continue to overcome. Don’t keep your struggle a secret. You are not alone. Jesus still loves you, and so do I.


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