I was introduced to the practice of preaching the Gospel to myself daily 15 years ago in a sermon. My first thought was, ‘I can see how some people would really be helped by this.’ Over the last couple of years, I have come to see that the first three steps of the 12 Steps reflect the basic affirmations that Christians make when they ask Jesus to be their Savior. As a result, I have learned that I need to preach the Gospel to myself every day as an essential part of my recovery.
I am a sinner. OR ‘I am powerless and my life is unmanageable.’
No one wants to be powerless and find that they are working for something but are accomplishing nothing. This is true in our jobs, in our relationships with family and friends, and in our spiritual lives. If I am in school, I want my studying to result in grades that will permit me to graduate. As I parent, I want to nurture my children so that they grow up to become healthy adults. I want my participation in church to help me grow spiritually.
While all these desires are appropriate, I have come to see that I have no control over the outcomes of my efforts. I may think that I am working very diligently for my company, but my efforts may go completely unnoticed. I may seek to parent my children well and still find myself struggling with a prodigal. I can and should give my best effort, but I cannot control the results of anything I do.
This can lead to frustration, which is compounded by the belief many Americans embrace that God helps those who help themselves. When faced with a situation that is unpleasant, we often try to adjust some feature of it or some person in the situation. We become mechanics; we are trying to fix things. Sadly, our efforts often only make the difficult situation more difficult and can create doubts about God’s promise to take care of us. Finally, we must acknowledge that our lives are beyond our control.
I need a Savior. OR ‘Jesus alone is able to save me from my unmanageable life.’
Several years ago I became aware that I was very dissatisfied with my walk with God. I felt things were hopeless as I struggled with sins that I had first become aware of when I accepted Christ as Savior’more than 25 years before. I felt like a spiritual failure.
I then realized that my basic struggle was with spiritual powerlessness. I was attempting to do what Paul suggested the people of the Galatian churches were attempting: to finish the spiritual work of salvation through human effort (3:1-3) I was attempting to manage my own spiritual growth.
The Gospel confronts me with the reality that I am truly helpless and I need someone to rescue or save me. I had accepted that, but I was expecting that now that I was saved I would have the power to get better.
I have access to spiritual power by faith, but Jesus says that the power flows only as long as I am living in spiritual union with Him. ‘If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’ (John 15:5) I don’t get plugged in like a cell phone to get re-charged so I can leave the power source and function. I am more like the lamp that must remain plugged in to work. I can’t disconnect from Him and expect that I will become spiritually healthy. So I must declare my need of Him each day and moment by moment.
I believe Jesus died to pay the penalty for my sins. OR ‘Lord, I am turning my life over to you so that you can direct me.’
The familiar proverb reads, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.’ I have been placed in some situations that I could not maneuver in. I was clearly powerless and watched for a way out but I depended upon Him for courage as I waited. And I waited some more.
As I was waiting, I wasn’t still. I did have to have some difficult talks and live in some hard places. My human assessment was that the path wasn’t straight. It looked more like one of the Family Circus cartoons in the Sunday paper, in which one of the kids wandered all over the yard or the neighborhood before accomplishing the task that he had been given.
As I look back on these times now, I can see how the path was straight’straight to Jesus. I didn’t have any advice for Him; I just asked Him to be with me where I was. I was constantly looking for Him. I was not trusting in my feelings. I didn’t wait until I felt a particular course of action was right or comfortable. (My feelings can’t be trusted. Jeremiah declares: ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.’ 17:9) Instead, I spent time reading His Word in order to know His will’both what kind of character God is seeking to work in me by His Spirit and what actions are appropriate to my situation. I also listened to those I knew who walked with Him and was nurtured by their encouragement. And the Lord showed Himself to be faithful in providing everything I needed to survive and thrive in those difficult circumstances.
When I have had a good day spiritually, I am tempted to relax the next day. I become casual about prayer and Bible reading. I am careless about my boundaries. Then, I find myself having a bad day’powerless and struggling to do well. And I am reminded of the Gospel all over again.
‘Yes, Lord, I am a sinner who needs a Savior. I thank You for paying the penalty for my sins and being ready to help me right where I am. I’m choosing to trust you with my life. AMEN.’
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