Jesus. Real Life.

Our response to God’s offer, part I

The twin invitations of entering God’s government on earth and becoming Jesus’ apprentice beg the question: what is an appropriate response to such invitations? Ironically, if a prayer was going to be the response, it would be the one Jesus taught us to pray (the “Lord’s Prayer”). But is a prayer, even that prayer, the kind of response that “Follow me” is intended to illicit? I think prayer is certainly part of what following Jesus means, but prayer alone, even his own or one in which we call him ‘lord’, doesn’t seem to be what “Follow me” is all about. Talk of any kind certainly isn’t what the government of God is about; it’s about power, right dealings with others, and joy, all through the Holy Spirit. God’s invitations are invitations to get oneself on board with a leader, a God, who has a definite agenda and direction. It’s about ceasing to be part of the problem and becoming part of God’s healing solution through really trusting and following his son.
While there are perhaps an unlimited variety of plans of action that embody a wise response to God’s kingdom/discipleship offer (for a fantastic article on the subject, check out this one from Dallas Willard; it’s a really a short book, but really worthwhile), the 12 steps continue to impress me in so many ways as an appropriate and thoughtful response to the invitations into Jesus’ kingdom and apprenticeship. The steps are about changing one’s path and who controls it. They’re about honestly facing the causes and effects of our own management and acquiring the humility on which all other virtues can be built. And letting God build those virtues is expressly named as a necessary goal. In a nutshell, they’re about actually letting God reign instead of us. They’re about God having his Way in us.

So, some friends and I (more on that later) are taking some version of the following 12 steps together, slightly modified from the current steps of AA, as a structured response to what God is offering us all through Jesus. The bold words highlight what’s different from AA’s current version; they’re not for emphasis. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the point is not the steps, they’re just suggestions, hopefully wise ones. “The goal is Jesus, the means is Jesus.”

  1. We admitted that something was wrong, in us and in the world at large, and that we were powerless to fix it.
  2. Came to believe that Jesus has ultimate power, goodness, and wisdom, yet is available to all.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of Jesus, God’s choice of king.
  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 and become like Jesus himself.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings and to give us His Spirit.
  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. Looking at Jesus, we continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through several helpful practices to improve our conscious and cooperative contact with God.
  12. Having witnessed Jesus’ work personally, we shared him with others, and tried to practice Jesus’ ways in all our affairs.
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