Principal 1 in Celebrate Recovery is all about stepping out of denial and admitting that left to our own devices we are powerless to change. Living out Principal 1 is akin to realizing that we have been on a train headed the wrong way in life and now that we realize it, we have to get off the train!
So, we step out of denial and admit that whatever we think that we had control over in our life was simply our attempt to stranglehold the situation and we lay it down before God.
This brings us to Principle 2: Hope! In other 12 step recovery programs they may say to place your hope in a higher power. However, in CR, we believe in God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit. Our Higher Power is the Great I AM. And for us this is the ultimate Hope! A hope for change, a hope for a new heart, a hope for leaving all the brokenness behind, and a hope of being restored to God in spite of all our blunders.
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13)
By surrendering our inability to control our own lives to God and stepping out of our garbled mess of excuses, rationalizations, justifications and denials—we open up ourselves to the hope that God will be true to His promise and work within us so that we will act and have the will to be what He desires us to be, while achieving what He has planned for us! Ultimately, this is eternal life in the Salvation given to us through our faith in Christ. However, on this side of eternity, it is our Hope that so long as we are obedient to His will, He will do that which we need most: make us new!
As it says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come!” Our hope in Christ, is that we are made new. That we have a second chance to be who He has called us to be! And, yes, some of us need a third, fourth and fifth chance. As Jesus said, "And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him." (Luke 17:4). We know that this is how God works as it says elsewhere to forgive an erring brother or sister 77x7 times, meaning as many times as he or she repents. Further, we know that Jesus told us to pray stating, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us.” (Matthew 6:12).
Therefore, our hope is in God, who has the power to create us anew from within, Who will forgive us as many times as we are allowed to repent and Who shows us that He loves us no matter what we have done, where we have been or who we used to be!
One of the passages connected to Principle 2 is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. For those of us who know we have been spiritually poor, and who mourn our own missteps and mistakes, we can take the Parable of the Prodigal Son to heart. The Prodigal went to his dad, asked for his inheritance upfront, cashed it in, and then went to a foreign land and squandered it all away.
Essentially, he went and partied it up, blew it all on booze, blow, pot and companions, then when the money ran out so did all the so-called friends. Next thing you know, he was out on the street, eating out of the dumpster and begging for change on the side of the road. Worse than that, in the Scripture it says he was sleeping with the pigs. For Jews this was vile, disgusting and unclean. It’d be like sleeping in a biohazard dumpster, full of soiled diapers, syringes and feminine hygiene products. Yeah.
But, we know he came to his senses and returned to his dad, thinking it’d be better to be a slave in his fathers house than to live as he was living. We know that the Prodigal was received by the father with open arms, and his dad threw a major welcome home party and showered him with love in such a way that the once lost child had never expected.
For those of us who have been the Prodigal, we have this hope that God will love us and throw a celebration for us!! Jesus Himself told the Pharisees—those religious elites, you know: the ultra legalists who were perfect—that there is joy in the presence of the angels over one sinner who repents and returns to the Lord! He told them that there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who turns back to God, than over 99 righteous people who do not need to repent! (Luke 15:7-10). That is a promise of Jesus Christ!
So, for those of us who have chosen to place our hope in Christ, we have this promise! We can rest assured in this promise! But, just because we have this hope and confidence in Christ, don’t be fooled and think everything here on earth will just be better in the blink of an eye. Our hope is in Christ, not in this world! Don’t let other people, non-believers and believers alike, cause you to stumble! Hold on to the hope that you have in Christ!!
There will be those that judge you. They will hold your past against you. They will whine about you getting to glorify God now after your “out-there” time when they have been there all along. They will take their immature pop-shots, make fun of you and do their best to try to do God ‘s job for Him. It will be frustrating. It will test your patience. It will even at times fill you with hurt, rage and sadness! You’ll be told of and hear how they put you down! You will be gossiped about; your affairs, porn addiction or drug addiction will be told to others and some will try to use it to discredit you. Yes, by Christians, alleged Christians and non-Christians alike! People you respect, people whose opinions don’t even matter to you; and people you love will do this to you. Do not let it discourage you.
How do I know that they’ll do it? Jesus tells us they will. It’s the part of the Prodigal Son story that we gloss over. The son, the one that stayed, the one that never left, the good child, the good Christian—what did he do when he heard about the fattened calf, the robe, the ring and the sandals? Here comes the good child who has been with Dad all along, the good Christian who has been tithing, serving and in church every Sunday, going on Mission Trips—and BAM—there is the ex-con, the ex-druggie, that rake, ho; and they are being thrown a party, they’ve got brand new Air Max on their feet, a titanium or diamond ring on their finger and a new NorthFace hoodie, paid for by whom now?What? And they are clearly restored to a place of worth again? Come on!
Yet, we know this is exactly what the son that stayed felt. Jesus says he became angry. He didn’t want to go in out of his own sense of entitlement. He suddenly wanted to scream at his father that he had stuck around slaving and breaking his back, and he’d never been given so much as an “Atta-boy” and the son that blew all his money on prostitutes got the party? What? (Luke 15:28-30). Yet, we know what the father, we know what God’s response is: “Son, you were always with me; and everything I have is yours... But your brother was dead and is now alive, lost and is now found.” (Luke 15:31-32).
Who is Jesus talking about if not those who have always done right and been good and excelled at being good Christians? He isn’t talking about Himself! We know that because He chose to be obedient to God and come to us as a man to die for our sins so that we may be restored to God and forgiven of our iniquity! He chose that for you, as well as me.
Thus, there will be trials and people will look down on us. However, our hope is in Christ and the Father who is throwing a celebration in Heaven because we are saved through choosing to step out of the darkness and leave the mire behind, so that we may do His will! Further, if you are one of the brothers and sisters in Christ who has served God all along and you are mistreating a believer who has repented, returned to the lord and is striving to love God with all their heart, soul, strength and mind—you, too, may need to check your heart, step out of denial about your own unforgiveness and repent, while likewise choosing to place your hope in Christ!
Let us not forget what Christ said: “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” (Matthew 18:7) During my own Prodigal time, I pray that God forgives me for whomever I caused to stumble. Because, when I think of what Christ said in the preceding verses, that it would be better to have a millstone, or a large rock tied around one’s neck and cast into the water… that gives me serious pause!
These are things to consider and examine within ourselves! Is your hope in Christ alone? Are you in the middle of being out there and need to repent, returning to the Lord? Are you one who has been serving the Lord all along and are hating on your brother or sister in Christ who has returned? Are you being a stumbling block by mocking their return? Or, are you choosing to put your hope in Christ and come alongside them to ensure they finish their race? I hope that we each can answer these questions for ourselves!
Until Next Time,
Hope in Christ!
And, God Bless!