Friday, August 12, 2011

Don't Try Harder

Read Romans 7:14-25
I know that God’s standards are spiritual, but I have a corrupt nature, sold as a slave to sin. I don’t realize what I’m doing. I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do what I hate. I don’t do what I want to do, but I agree that God’s standards are good. So I am no longer the one who is doing the things I hate, but sin that lives in me is doing them. I know that nothing good lives in me; that is, nothing good lives in my corrupt nature. Although I have the desire to do what is right, I don’t do it. I don’t do the good I want to do. Instead, I do the evil that I don’t want to do. Now, when I do what I don’t want to do, I am no longer the one who is doing it. Sin that lives in me is doing it. So I’ve discovered this truth: Evil is present with me even when I want to do what God’s standards say is good. I take pleasure in God’s standards in my inner being. However, I see a different standard at work throughout my body. It is at war with the standards my mind sets and tries to take me captive to sin’s standards which still exist throughout my body. What a miserable person I am! Who will rescue me from my dying body? I thank God that our Lord Jesus Christ rescues me! So I am obedient to God’s standards with my mind, but I am obedient to sin’s standards with my corrupt nature.

The 12 Steps of Alcoholic’s Anonymous have been described as America’s main spritiual contribution to the world. Let’s look for connections among the steps. I have changed alcohol to sin here – since that’s our common problem.

1. We admitted we were powerless over sin — that our lives had become unmanageable.
Is this true? Do we truly believe that we are unable to be righteous by our own power?

What connections do you see with Rom 7?

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
• “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)
• “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)

What does grace mean to you?

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
• “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then [in heaven] we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12)
• “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17)
• “... If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

What does this mean for a Christian in general? For you?

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
• “Your sins are the roadblock between you and your God. That's why he doesn't answer your prayers or let you see his face.” (Isaiah 59:2)
• “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:40)
• “Search me, 0 God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”. (Ps. 139:23-24)

How do you do a moral inventory?

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
• “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord - and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” (Ps. 32:3-5)
• “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)
• “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Cor. 7:10)

Is this necessary? Why is it a step? Does it correspond with scripture?

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
• “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land.” (Isaiah 1:19)
• I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Phil. 4:11-13)

What sin do we not want to give up? To not have God remove? It’s been said that an idol is anything you cannot imagine giving up.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
• “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10)
• “But the centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” (Matthew 8:8)

Do we feel that we must stop sinning before coming to God for forgiveness for the sin? Do we have to get it right, first?

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

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
• “Give and it shall be given you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)
• “Say to the Israelites: When a man or woman wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the Lord, that person is guilty and must confess the sin he has committed. He must make full restitution for his wrong, add one fifth to it and give it all to the person he has wronged.” (Num. 5:5-7)

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
• “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Eph. 4:26-27)
• “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!” (1 Cor. 10:12)
• “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith GOD has given you.” (Romans 12:3)

These steps seem to say that it’s not enough to say you’re sorry. What does scripture say about that? What might amends for sin look like? We know it’s not necessary for forgiveness, so why make amends?

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.
• “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
• “Search me, 0 God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24)
• “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.” (Luke 11:8-10)
• “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39)
What does this have to do with our sin problem? How does it help?

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to sinners, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
• “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you (Eph. 5:14)
• “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14-16)
• “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. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-2)
• “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19)
How do you practice this in everyday life? What does it mean as a part of an ongoing program?

Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.

Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.

Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life,
and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.


Commonly heard slogans (wisdom in shorthand)

• First Things First
• This Too Shall Pass
• One Day At A Time
• Easy Does It
• H.A.L.T. (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired)
• Keep It Simple
• Live And Let Live
• The Serenity Prayer
• Today I will do one thing
• Keep Coming Back

References: The Gospel and the Twelve Steps by Martin M. Davis, The Big Book by Alcoholics Anonymous, and, of course, the Bible.  Reminded of this study by a Nadia Bolz-Weber sermon (at

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