Christianity and the 12 Steps

Christ is the English translation of the Greek word Kristos which was translated from the Hebrew word mashiah or messiah. Christianity was formed when a fringe sect of Jewish messiah-ists (Christians) claimed Jesus as the long-awaited messiah from the Jewish tradition. Within 300 years Christianity became the dominant religion of the Roman Empire.
Christians claim the New Testament as “the greatest story ever told” and it has become their source of revelation and inspiration. It tells the life story of Jesus of Nazareth and his ministry: his deeds, parables and teachings.The Eight Beatitudes which are also known as the Sermon on the Mount are one of the best-known prose poems in the bible. They serve as a practical summary of the entire Christian theology. They encompass the basic teachings of Christianity and provide a path or guide for living much like the 12 Steps of A.A. Lke the 12 Steps, these statements of truth refer to general principles which are achieved through mental states and action steps.

The Beatitudes

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain:
and when he was set, his disciples me unto him:
And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Matthew 5:3-12

Step 1: We admitted we are powerless to live the Christian life.

Step One is the admission that we are dependent on God’s will. It requires that we unequivocally place our faith in Him. When we are are misguided or self-absorbed we discover we have placed our faith in other people, money, status, power or notoriety. This step is a recognition that this misplaced faith has not worked, and in fact, has caused our lives to become unmanageable.

Text or Verse

Apart from Me you can do nothing.
John 15:5

Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.
Luke 6:28-29

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father was merciful.
Luke 6:35-36


  1. Use the New Testament scriptures as a reference to identify the attitudes and behaviors which describe the Christian way of life and make a list.
  2. Read the list daily.
  3. Pick out one attitude or behavior at the beginning of each week to work on as part of an on-going change process to better align yourself with the Christian way of life.
  4. Share your goals, obstacles and successes with a mentor, sponsor or prayer partner.


Rohr, Richard OFM. How Do We Breathe Underwater? The Gospel and 12-Step Spirituality. Center for Action and Contemplation. (go to the Links menu to connect to the web-site)

Dick B. The Good Book and the Big Book. A.A.’s Roots in the Bible. Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 1997

Selby, Saul. Twelve Step Christianity. Center City, MN: Hazelden, 2000

Step 2: Came to experience Jesus Christ as personal and available

Step two is focused on developing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is a relationship which transcends rational understanding and belief. It is an experiential realization that Christ cares for and about us and is ready and available at any time to be in relationship with us. This relationship encompasses love, forgiveness, comfort, guidance, and direction.

Step Two in AA is based on coming to understand that sobriety is dependent on one’s ability to trust and rely on a Power greater than oneself. Many people in the throes and desperation of their addiction/alcoholism cry out to God for help as a last resort – and discover that their prayer was answered.

Text or Verse

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing;
God never changes;
Patient endurance
Obtains all things;
Who God possess
In nothing is wanting;
God alone suffices.
Teresa of Avila (Lines written in her breviary)

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28


Spend some time reviewing your life’s experiences. Can you identify any times when you have been unexpectedly loved without reciprocation, been forgiven without solicitation, been comforted without seeking solace, and been guided by an inner direction to be your highest and best Self with amazing outcomes?

Allow these experiences to begin to inform the substance and quality of your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Step 3: We made a decision to completely surrender our lives over to Jesus Christ.

Step Three is an action step. Many analogies used to explain the 12 Steps describe Step One as the diagnosis, Step Two as the prescription, and Step Three as following the various steps prescribed by the physician to heal. This step requires a submission of one’s will to follow directions and guidance from a source outside oneself. When we apply this analogy to our larger life, it means we surrender our need to control every detail and allow ourselves to be guided by Divine will. In Christianity, this surrender is often called repentance. Repentance comes from the Latin word penser or ponder, meaning “to rethink.” It requires us to rethink who oversees our lives, our destiny, our eternity.

Text or Verse

Ah, what is man that you should spare a thought for him,
the son of man, that you should care for him?
Yet you have made him little less than a god,
you have crowned him with glory and splendor,
made him lord over the works of your hands,
set all things under his feet?
Psalm 8

But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.
Deuteronomy 4:29


List those things which you have empowered to control your life. Consider your relationship with money, possessions, relationships, sex, work, status, drugs/alcohol, and pleasure.

Ask yourself how easy or difficult it would be to end this relationship. What would you need to give up or sacrifice? What would prevent you from doing so?

How willing are you to take the first steps toward creating a healthier relationship with any one of these things?

If you decide you are ready, share your goals, progress and obstacles with a mentor, sponsor, or prayer partner.

Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

It takes courage to look at the truth about ourselves – our character defects and our strengths. The process of sanctification (being healed or becoming holy) requires a willingness to know the truth about ourselves. It requires a fearless and thorough self-examination. We need to face the hard questions: where do we fall short, what is it we are to become, how must we change? What are the attitudes and behaviors which need to be changed? Our ability to rationalize our behavior creates a veil of self-deception. This step pierces this veil which is often painful but necessary. This step is the fulfillment of the adage, ‘the truth will set you free.’

Text or Verse

Examine me, O Lord, and try me; test my mind and my heart.
Psalms 26:2

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.
Psalms 139:3-24

For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one shall bear his own load.
Galatians 6:3-5


Self-examination exercise of Christ-like traits.

Take 7 sheets of paper and make two columns on each sheet.

Label the left column “Examples of Christ-likeness in my life”

Label the right column “Examples of un-Christ-likeness in my life”

For each of the following 7 Christ-like traits write out examples in both columns 1 sheet per trait: compassion, kindness, humility, patience, self-control, forgiveness, and faith. The opposite of these traits is: self-centeredness, mean spiritedness, arrogance, anger, impulsiveness, resentfulness, and worry.

Step 5: Confessed our sins to God and one other person.

Confession is a critical step in our healing process. It represents the releasing or turning over of that which we no longer want to be; or to carry in our hearts and souls. It is the open, verbal expression of the insights gained from our self-examination to the God of our understanding and one other person. The most difficult aspect of this step is the requirement to share with another human being. Our pride often tells us this is unnecessary, but in fact it is critical. It humbles us and from this experience we grow stronger in our own integrity. Once we have released our fears, harms and resentments we experience a sense of lightness and acceptance. The forgiveness we experience is the gift of grace.

Text or Verse

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.
James 5:16


Preparing for Confession:

Identify the right listener: sponsor, prayer partner, minister, spiritual director.

Be prepared to either read your inventory or to identify the insights you have learned from scrutinizing the history of your behaviors.

Plan at least 3 hours plus some alone time afterwards to experience the release and ensuing sense of grace.

Pray before you begin for the courage to be honest, humble and forthright.

And if you forget anything, know that you can revisit this step any time when needed.

Step 6: Became determined to resist temptation.

This step reminds us that we always have a choice – we were given free will. We can take the softer, easier way and do what we have always done with the same results, or we can make the hard decision to do what is right. This is the human struggle. This step requires us to live and grow in the integrity and values of our faith. It requires conviction. The previous steps have, however, prepared us through the practices of repentance, self-examination and confession. We have also come to believe that we are not powerless, knowing that God is an indwelling presence which provides us with a well of strength and hope.

Text or Verse

No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
1 John 3:9

Anyone who forsakes family and possessions,
and willingly takes up his cross and follows Me,
will receive everything I have promised.
And I will reveal to him the hidden mysteries.
Untitled Apocalypse and The Gospels of Thomas
Matthew and Luke


Resistance Exercise

If you find yourself still resistant to changing or giving up a sinful behavior, write down all the ways this behavior is serving you and all the reasons you are not yet ready to change it. Share your responses with your sponsor, mentor, prayer partner, minister or spiritual director.

Step 7: Humbly asked God to remove our propensity to sin

At first, change is difficult; this is true for everyone. The first step in the change process is willingness to change. This step is based on humility, because at the core of this practice, is the realization that we can’t do it alone. We need the support of others who understand, we need a path of practices like the 12 Steps, and we need to know that the strength we require comes from the indwelling Presence of God. Our personal transformation will only happen if we learn to ask for help: from others, and from God through the words and intentions of our prayers. Through prayer we ask for our needs, for the Highest and best good for all concerned, and we express gratitude for these and all the gifts we have received from His bounty and grace.

Text or Verse

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you.
John 15:7

And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.
John 14:13-14


Create a Personal prayer:

  1. Select one of the un-Christlike behaviors you have committed to change.
  2. Determine what new behavior you want to adopt in its place.
  3. Write a prayer, in your own conversational language, stating the change you want to be.
  4. Pray the prayer daily for 30 days, then evaluate your progress with your sponsor, mentor, prayer partner, minister or spiritual director.
Steps 8 and 9: Made restitution for the harm we have done to others

Making amends or making restitution is an action step. Many think an apology might suffice. Amends, much like Step 5 (confession), is a humbling step through which we must own and be accountable for the effects or consequences of our behaviors on others and make every effort to right the wrong. If we have stolen monies or property, then we must replace what we have taken plus add one-fifth to it (much like we pay interest on debt). The result of having performed this step is freedom guilt and shame which would otherwise remain alive and buried in our emotional psyche.

Text or Verse

When a man or woman commits any of the sins of mankind, acting unfaithfully against the Lord, and that person is guilty, then he shall confess his sins which he has committed, and he shall make restitution in full for his wrong, and add to it one-fifth of it, and give it to him whom he has wronged.
Numbers 5:6-7

If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.
Matthew 5:23-24


Making restitution:

Make a list of people whom you know you have harmed.

Be specific in describing the actual harm; what was the consequence to them?

How can you make restitution in such a way that you repay or heal the harm or restore the loss?

Contact the first person on your list and make arrangements to visit them in person to make restitution.

Step 10: When we err, we immediately confess it and make restitution to those we have harmed.

Even though we strive to be Christlike, at times we fail. Our conversion is a lifelong process. We are responsible for the maintenance of our spiritual state of being which requires daily examination, repentance, confession, forgiveness and restitution. If we err, we need to address it immediately (within 24 hours is a good rule of thumb). It is a simple, easy practice which allows us to keep our side of the street clean in all relationships. This practice of righting our wrongs daily, results in true and lasting change from who we were to who we want to become.

Text or Verse

Examine me, O Lord, and try me; Test my mind and my heart.
Psalms 26:2

Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you – unless indeed you fail the test.
2 Corinthians 13:5


Daily examination:

Create a list of positive, Christ-like character traits you want to demonstrate in your daily life.

Create a similar list of negative, un-Christlike character traits and behaviors which you area trying to stop.

At the end of each day review both lists asking yourself honestly where you have succeeded and where you have failed.

Review the consequences of your actions on others and determine if restitution is required to restore the relationship.

Make restitution (within 24 hours if possible) if warranted.

Step 11: Seek Christ's will through prayer, meditation, bible study and reflection.

For most Christians, our goal is to become more Christ-like. In order to do so, we require wisdom and direction. We are encouraged to develop a personal relationship with Christ so we are available to learn and be directed. This relationship grows and matures through our ability to talk, to listen and to follow Divine guidance. It has often been said that prayer is our side of the conversation, and meditation is the time to listen. Often the responses come through inspiration, through spiritual messages in books and church services, through opportunities that present themselves synchronistically. Part of our responsibility is to stay open, awake and aware.

Text or Verse

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you.
John 15:4-7

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened.
Matthew 7:7-8

And everything you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.
Matthew 21:22


Daily practice:

Begin by determining when and where. When is the best time for you to find 15-30 minutes once or twice daily to have quiet time to pray, meditate, reflect and read spiritual material or the bible?

Find a place that will ensure your having this quiet, alone time on a regular basis. If possible, place some spiritual artifacts and your reading material where it will be readily available.

Create a plan for the allotted time – how much time do you have? in what order do you want to implement the parts of your practice? View this time as if you are creating a ritual which you will repeat daily (this helps ensure that it will become a disciplined practice).

Step 12: Having had a Christian conversion experience, we now make ourselves available to be instruments of His peace

Christ prepared the Way. He created the ideal blueprint of how to live a Christ-like life. He told us that He and the Father are One and that we too can have this same relationship manifested in our lives when we reach out and love our neighbors as ourselves. In fact, we are intended to carry forth his ministry. He told us with great clarity, “You are the light of the world.” When, we live these 12 steps as they are laid out, our actions will speak louder than our words. They will guide us in the demonstration of a Christ-like life. It is only when we are in service to others that we are able to give to others the many gifts we have received.

Text or Verse

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lamp stand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:14-16

Lord make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is offence, pardon,
Where there is discord, unity,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is error, truth,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is sadness, joy,
Where there is darkness, light,
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
It is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
St. Francis of Assisi


If you are not currently involved in any service work, now is the time to review your weekly/monthly schedule and find a few hours in it where you can step into service at church, in your community, in your children’s school or any charitable or non-profit organization of your choice. Listen to your inspiration and respond with your passion. We are called to duty because we were all given gifts we can share with joy and compassion.