by Steven Gledhill for FREEdom from MEdom Project
The first two steps of the Twelve Step model state the following:
1. We admitted we were powerless over addiction* – that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
* “addiction” is substituted for the word “alcohol”
Step Three of the Twelve Steps says, “Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” Many will say that this is the Commitment or Surrender Step. I have said that and will continue to say it. It is probably more accurate to state, though, that Step Three is the decision to surrender. It is steps four through twelve that one acts out surrender and commitment in recovery.
It is often said that this third step is the most difficult of the twelve, which is understandable… you know… because it’s about commitment and surrender and all that. Let me suggest that when one is truly working in the truth of the first three steps that step 3 is the simplest step of the twelve. It’s an instinctual response to the first two steps. It only makes sense that once letting go of the control you come to realize you don’t really have anyway, you turn your life over to the one you believe has the power to restore you.
If you were trapped in a burning building where flames are everywhere and out of control, calling for help hoping that maybe someone will hear you, and in your moment of despair, through the intense flames and thick smoke, the fireman appears and says to you, “follow me!” What will you do? Are you at all reluctant? Why is it that when the fireman appears fully equipped to rescue you that you may cling to all that you believe you can save… which, by the way, is all on fire… when you can’t even save yourself? The fireman says, “Follow me!” and you say, “I appreciate that you can help me but I am better off on my own. I won’t burn, I’ve got this. I am all that I need.” On the other hand, if you recognized and then admitted that you are utterly powerless in the flames of such adversity, when the fireman came to your rescue you would most certainly ascertain that your odds improve greatly should you do whatever it is the fireman says to do. Believing enough, you would commit to going with him since it has to be better than what you’ve got going on on your own. So Why resist?
The evil in your addiction to self wants to sabotage your peace and steal your joy by deceiving you into believing its lies about you. The lie is that you need to come clean before God, even though His Word says that because of what Jesus did as the sacrifice for your sin, you can approach God with bold confidence as you are in the shape you are in. The shame of your past is on fire. Who you are in your mess is on fire. Your past failures are on fire. Your weaknesses are on fire. Your selfish pride is on fire. The jealousy and resentment you can’t seem to shake is on fire. What you covet is on fire. Your hypocrisy in trying so hard to do right and good in your own strength is on fire.
The lie is that while the fireman fully equipped has arrived to deliver you from being engulfed in the flames, you’ve been duped into believing that on your own you can somehow fight fires. Honestly, if you were trapped in a burning building and the fireman stormed in to rescue you, would you for one second attempt to send him away so that you could put out the flames with your bucket of water? Or, would you admit sensibly that you are powerless to save yourself; believing that the fireman is your only real chance to survive, would you by necessity commit to following the fireman, doing whatever he says to save your life?
This decision to surrender is predicated on the belief in a power greater than ourselves who can rescue us to safety; then restore us into sanity. As we come to understand who we are in relation to who God is, the decision is remarkably sensible to turn our unmanageable lives—our mess—over to the ONLY ONE with the authority to renew and restore us through His plan of surrendered recovery. It is so sensible that to decide anything else only adds to the insanity of our addiction to selfish obsessions.
Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. James 1:14-15 (NLT)
“Gives birth to death“… how insane is that? When we come to understand how our brains work—selfish to the core—with automatic thoughts based on chemical reactions in the brain, fueling beliefs so irrational that they generate feelings that drive behavior willing to risk so much for instant gratification (reward), we do so at great risk and cost. The result is loss: lost freedom, lost peace, lost hope, lost trust, lost love… lost life. I am often asked, “Why do I settle for that?” It is our nature. When we seek to know ourselves through an honest inventory, to identify the exact nature of what is wrong with us, we’ll discover that our wrong is deeply rooted selfishness. We can try but we’re too selfish to adequately fix ourselves.
We have taken the brain that God created in us to be good, and allowed evil to come in and spread like a cancer until we are rotten to the core in our selfish thoughts, beliefs, and behavior. How does that change? It changes when we come to believe that we are powerless to our selfish motivations and intentions, come to believe in what can and will do to wash our brains, transforming them into something new, and the commit daily to letting Him brainwash us since He has afforded us the opportunity to enter into relationship with Him as an act of our will.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world (‘aeon’ or ‘age’) but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)
– To read more about the translation of this passage, click New Age Living (and oh by the way, your feet smell)
While God’s love for us is unconditional, the quality of relationship we have with God is conditional. This is evident throughout Scripture. Relationships always have a when-then quality to them. When one thing happens in relationship, then another thing happens in response. To experience the life of transformative recovery empowered in relationship with God, we need to be about the when in the relationship. God will then change us into something new.
Pastor Fran Leeman unveiled from Scripture some truth I had not seen before. He said that the Greek word for ‘world’ in Romans 12:1 is ‘aeon’ (pronounced ee-on). The word means age. Apostle Paul is writing that we are not of this age who have come to believe into relationship with God through Christ Jesus. We are no longer tied into the fate of this age once transformed into new life, so why reach back thinking as though we are still what we were. God desires to change our thinking by the renewing of our minds so that we come to believe and live in the new age of the coming of the Kingdom of God, which has come by way of resurrected Christ.
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
There is what we do in this transformative relationship, and there is what God does. What we do is offer our bodies to God sacrificially with our actions–our behavior. It is what we do with our eyes and our ears. It is what we do with what goes in and what comes out of our mouths. It is what we reach for with our arms and hold on to with our hands. It is where we go with our legs and where we stay with our feet (Romans 12:1). It is with our bodies that we give in to selfish urges and fall into addictive patterns, and it is with our bodies that we quit giving in to them.
There is what we do from the outside in when we offer ourselves sacrificially to God by the way we behave with our bodies. Then there is what God does in us from the inside out to completely transform us by the full renewing of our minds—literally rearranging our brain chemistry so as to empower us to live better and to think and feel healthier. God exchanges our desires and intentions with His desires and intentions. We then can resist self-centered addictive urges through the power of prayer and actually live in freedom, proving that God’s plan for us is perfect and beautiful. (Romans 12:1-2)
“Be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Romans 12:2). The word “be” is a passive verb, meaning that it is not something we do but rather something that is done to us when we act sacrificially with our bodies committed to God’s way of behavior. Then what God does is completely transform our character and our thinking by rearranging the way our brain works, restoring it to what He created in the first place. The promise is of this transformation is that when we live according to our new God-given desires and objectives, both our behavior and what we think about and feel is healthy again. We are better having become well. We then prove in this new life that God’s plan for us is perfect and beautiful. This is how we can know and experience God’s will for us.
When we offer our bodies, meaning our physical strength to God as a living sacrifice, no longer committing our bodies to addictive patterns of behavior;
Then God completely transforms (metamorphoo) our hearts and our souls by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). Then we can love God with our whole being, and our neighbor as ourselves.
When we commit to change externally from the outside in, changing what we do (Romans 12:1-2a),
Then God changes us internally from the inside out, changing who we are and what we think (Romans 12:2).
When we delight in the Lord in our action,
Then God gives us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4) by changing what we want according to his will and purpose.
When we rejoice, celebrating our recovery in relationship with Christ, offering praise and presenting prayer requests with our mouths, as well as showing considerate acts of service with our physical ability;
Then God replaces our anxiety with peace to our souls, guarding (covering) our hearts and our minds by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, empowering us to do anything (Philippians 4:4-7, 13).
When we commit to doing the will of God,
Then God changes our intentions and motives, according to His will (Philippians 2:13).
When we take responsibility for our behavior, repenting of our guilt (godly sorrow),
Then God mercifully removes our shame (worldly sorrow) and pain (2 Corinthians 7:10).
When we seek to know and see Jesus through prayer and a lifestyle committed to his will,
Then Jesus Christ will turn our sorrow into joy (John 16:20-22).
When we are committed to action according to the will of God, as his will takes over in us converting our intentions into doing what he intends we do,
Then we can ask him for anything and he promises to grant our requests (John 15:7).
When we commit to behaving according to the will of God, imitating the model of recovery set for us by the life of His Son Jesus,
Then we have joy overflowing as true friends of God (John 15:9-16).
“That is why the Christian is in a different position from other people who are trying to be good. They hope, by being good, to please God if there is one; or, they hope to deserve approval from good men. But the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines in it.” —C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
These promises from the Bible reveal a when-then relationship. When we are committed to turning away from the things of our addictive flesh—outside-in change, then God is faithful to transforming us from the inside out. The original Greek translation for the word ‘transform’ is metamorphoo, meaning to metamorph from one thing into another; like a caterpillar changing into a butterfly.
Did you know that for the caterpillar to become a butterfly it is completely broken down into something of a goo (see “Something of a Goo” below), maintaining only the embryonic essentials necessary to be remade, rebuilt, reborn into something brand new that is beautiful and free. This miracle has a name; identified as “chrysalis”. In the same way, it is essential that we allow ourselves to be humbled and broken down, melted hearts and minds, to the point that we’ve no other option but to surrender to the process of transformation, rearranged and reformed into something beautiful… NEW LIFE.
As God transforms our character into a new person by changing how we think, it is like starting a new life. Not only do we act on what is healthy, mature, responsible, and godly, we want to willfully do that which pleases God. Whenever we do what pleases God it is always to our benefit, never to our detriment. That doesn’t mean we never have problems again. It means that we have his powerful support to manage and resolve problems and conflicts. When we commit our will to do the will of God, doing recovery God’s way, we do much better.
It is entirely possible with God’s help that when we pray with our mouths, and read the Bible, God’s written word, with our eyes, that our minds will be changed. We read in Romans 12:2 that the perfect will of God for you and for me is realized as we come to trust him completely and commit to our recovery his way. This is God’s way of challenging us to prove that his will for us is ideal. What an opportunity we have to experience all that God has and wants for us. Our lives make sense again as we commit to the sensible will of God and experience what God has for us in every facet of our livelihood.
Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. But when God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life. Titus 3:3-7 (NLT)
“Something of a Goo”
In order for the change from a caterpillar to a butterfly to take place within the pupa, the caterpillar begins releasing enzymes that literally digest nearly all of its own body. What’s left inside the chrysalis is mostly just a very nutrient rich soup from which the butterfly will begin to form.
It was thought until very recently that the caterpillar was completely converted to goo, excepting certain special cells necessary to create the butterfly body parts. This idea has recently been debunked with researchers at Georgetown University proving that moths retain at least some of the memories they had when they were caterpillars. For this to be the case, at least some of their memory storing neurons must survive the enzyme digestion process. Further, these neurons must somehow be incorporated into the moth or butterfly’s brain, which is quite a bit larger and more complex than a caterpillar’s brain.
Also left within the goo are very tiny imaginal disks, which are similar to embryonic cells. These disks are actually present within the caterpillar its whole life, but they stop growing at a certain point in the caterpillar’s development and only start again when it is time for the caterpillar to morph into a butterfly. Once the proper time comes, the imaginal disks use the nutrients from the digested body of the caterpillar as they form into different parts of the butterfly’s body, with different disks forming into different tissues. For instance, there are imaginal disks that will form the legs, antennae, specific organs, etc. of the butterfly. There are even four imaginal disks that form wings. If one of these forming wings is removed, the other three will simply adapt to form bigger wings to compensate for the loss of the one wing.
Once the process is complete, the imaginal disks ultimately replace nearly every part of the dissolved caterpillar’s body with new “parts”, forming the butterfly.