I’ve been told firsthand by missionaries who work in faraway places that getting people to make “a decision” for Jesus is quite easy. A big platform/crusade type atmosphere will see hundreds and even thousands raise a hand for Jesus. In a culture that worships many gods, adding one more is just common sense. Nobody wants a god mad at you.
These missionaries have told me the real test comes the next day. After everyone had raised their hands and been promised protection from the devil and safety from hell the real invitation comes, “If you want to follow Jesus, return here tomorrow by that large tree to talk about being a church.” My friends tell me that if 1000 raised their hands, 10 might show up the next day. When the 10 who return find out that American dollars aren’t involved, 1 will commit to telling others about Jesus and building a church.
A 4th step is all about taking a decision and turning it in to real life, giving it practical consequences. It connects our head, heart and hands. It makes it real. It demonstrates a new way of living and a confidence that the truth really will set us free. Someone with a little life experience has said, “We’re only as sick as our secrets.” In our culture, where we spend so much time covering up, spinning truth and worried about the optics, this 4th step introduces us to reality – it’s the inside that really matters. Church and culture tends to teach a way of living that keeps the outside sparkly. Jesus once used the example of a cup – clean it up on the outside but leave spiders and dirt on the inside and getting a cold drink doesn’t sound so good. But clean the inside up and even some outside dirt won’t hold you back from a cool drink on a hot day.
I think anyone who really wants to follow will take an inventory, will invite God to come in, open the curtains, figure out where the smell is coming from. We will choose to be honest about all that’s on the inside because it’s that inside stuff that keeps getting us in trouble. This requires us to put things down on paper. It won’t be for everyone else to read or anyone else to read. It’s between you and God but honesty, coming clean, is essential. It will completely change the way we relate to God, to other people and even how we see ourselves.
Here are some quotes from the Big Book of AA. Again, this is for everyone and for anyone to experience a deeper, more satisfying kind of life. These aren’t necessarily what we have come to call ‘sins’ in the Church – but they are the things that steal life, take our joy, and break down our relationships. These are things that make us hide and trigger our addictions.
“We did exactly the same thing with our lives. We took stock honestly. First, we searched out the flaws in our make-up which caused our failure. Being convinced that self (not alcohol but self), manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations.”
THE RESENTMENT INVENTORY (Write that at the top of the page)
“Resentment is the “number one” offender. It destroys more alcoholics (or human beings) than ANYTHING else. From it stem ALL forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.”
“In dealing with resentments, we set them on paper.”
“We listed people, institutions or principles with whom we were angry.” Be specific about what happened and how it made you feel.
“We asked ourselves why we were angry.”
“On our grudge list (I call it our ‘go to hell’ list – we’ve all secretly got one) we set opposite each name our injuries. Was it our self-esteem, our security, our ambitions, our personal, or sex relations, which had been interfered with?”
“This was our course: We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick (also called spiritually unconscious or spiritually blocked off). Though we did not like their symptoms and the way these disturbed us, they, LIKE OURSELVES, were sick too.”
“We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, ‘This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.'”
“He said, in effect: ‘If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for the person or the thing that you resent, you will be free. If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free. Ask for their health, their prosperity, their happiness, and you will be free. Even when you don’t really want it for them, and your prayers are only words and you don’t mean it, go ahead and do it anyway. Do it every day for two weeks (or more) and you will find you have come to mean it and to want it for them, and you will realize that where you used to feel bitterness and resentment and hatred, you now feel compassionate understanding and love.'”
THE FEAR INVENTORY (at the top of another page)
“We reviewed our fears thoroughly. We put them on paper, even though we had no resentment in connection with them…We asked ourselves why we had them. Wasn’t it because self-reliance failed us? Self-reliance was good as far as it went, but it didn’t go far enough. Some of us once had great self-confidence, but it didn’t fully solve the fear problem, or any other. When it made us cocky, it was worse.
“Perhaps there is a better way – we think so. For we are now on a different basis of trusting and relying upon God. We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves. We are in the world to play the role HE assigns. Just to the extent that we do as we think HE would have us, AND humbly rely on Him, [then] does He enable us to match calamity with serenity.
We never apologize to anyone for depending upon our Creator. We can laugh at those who think spirituality the way of weakness. Paradoxically, it is the way of strength. The verdict of the ages is that faith means courage. ALL men of faith have courage. They trust their God. We never apologize for God. Instead we let HIM demonstrate, through us, what He can do. We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us BE. AT ONCE, we commence to outgrow fear.”
THE SEX and HARMS INVENTORY (start another page)
We make a list of the people we have been with, the sexual struggles we have faced, the people we’ve used and been used by.
“We reviewed OUR OWN conduct over the years past. Where had WE been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate? Whom had WE hurt? Did WE unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness? Where were WE at fault, what should WE have done instead? We got this all down on paper and looked at it.”
“If we have been thorough about our personal inventory, we have written down a lot. We have listed and analyzed our resentments. We have begun to comprehend their futility and their fatality. We have commenced to see their terrible destructiveness. We have begun to learn tolerance, patience and good will toward all men, even our enemies, for we look on them as sick people. We have listed the people we have hurt by our conduct, and are willing to straighten out the past if we can.”
“In this book you read again and again that faith did for us what we could NOT do for ourselves. We hope you are convinced now that God can remove whatever self-will has blocked you off from Him (Step 2). If you have already made a decision, (Step 3) and an inventory of your grosser handicaps, (Step 4) you have made a good beginning. That being so you have swallowed and digested some big chunks of truth about yourself.”
A great deal of our brokenness come from working so hard to hide the truth and hide from the truth. Jesus knows our every weakness and loves us still. That gives us the power we need to be honest then, take off our masks, stop keeping secrets and become real.
…but then it gets harder…to be continued…