STEP FOUR – MADE A SEARCHING AND FEARLESS MORAL INVENTORY OF OURSELVES
“Step Four begins the growth steps of our journey. Here, we examine our behavior and expand our understanding of ourselves. The adventure of self-discovery begins with Step Four and continues through Step Seven. During these next four steps, we will prepare a personal inventory, discuss it with others in the program, and invite God to remove our shortcomings. Being totally honest in preparing our inventory is vital to the self-discovery that forms the foundation of our recovery. This honesty allows us to remove the obstacles that have prevented us from knowing ourselves and truthfully acknowledging our deepest feelings about life.”
~The Twelve Steps For Christians, p.61
“Recovery is the process by which we find new ways of coping and dealing with life instead of using and avoiding. The only way to proceed in that process is to uncover our shame and allow God’s light and life to flow in and heal us. We have made a beginning in the first three steps, and now through working Step Four, we find the roadblocks to lasting recovery.”
~The Life Recovery Workbook, p. 31
To approach the Fourth Step from a biblical perspective, we must begin with the understanding that we cannot “take a searching and fearless moral inventory” without God’s loving help .Not only will he help us to understand our strengths and weaknesses, but he will be there to heal our brokenness, forgive our sins, and strengthen us in our weakness as we honestly, humbly, admit to him, and to ourselves, our shortcoming, our character defects, and everything about ourselves we need to change. After all, as Psalm 139 shows, even if we don’t really understand ourselves yet, He knows us perfectly:
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
King David, the author of this Psalm, portrays God’s searching knowledge of our minds and hearts in ways that could almost make us uncomfortable. God “hems us in.” There is nowhere we can go to escape the Holy Spirit, nowhere we can “flee from his presence.” But what David wants to teach us in this Psalm, is that when we learn to be open and honest with God ,to welcome his searching love, rather than trying to hide from him, we can find healing and peace. After all, when we’re hiding from God, we’re really hiding from ourselves. When we learn to be honest with God, we learn to be honest with ourselves, as well. This is why the Fourth Step is so important to our recovery.
At the conclusion of the Psalm, , King David accepts God’s searching love for him. He sees it as a blessing rather than a burden. He prays and asks God to search his heart: In other words, to help him take “a searching and fearless moral inventory.” He is asking God to show him “any offensive way” in his character. He has the wisdom and humility to ask God’s help in this process of self-examination. Perhaps he understands that in is not easy for any of us to be completely honest with ourselves about our strengths and weaknesses, our character flaws, and our sin. We need God’s help.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Have you ever found it hard to be honest with yourself about your own shortcomings, character defects, and sins? Have you minimized your faults, tried to justify wrong things you’ve done, or just blamed someone else? Would all this change if you turned your will and your life over to God? If so, why? Is it easier to be honest with yourself when you invite God into the conversation?
Traditionally, one of the biggest obstacles to recovery in the Twelve Step programs has been “denial.”A person in denial says, “I don’t have a problem. I can quit any time. I don’t need a program.” Addicts who think this way are actually hardening their hearts to Jesus, and resisting a great work of healing that he is offering them.
Matthew 13:13-16: Jesus said,
“This is why I speak to them in parables:“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts’ and turn, and I would heal them.’16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.
The Bible describes the process of examining ourselves, or taking a “searching and fearless moral inventory,” as coming out of our personal darkness, and coming into the light of the Lord. In his light, we can see clearly our character flaws, spiritual weaknesses, and moral failings ,and bring them to God for forgiveness and healing: No more hiding in denial and darkness:
John 3:19-21: Jesus said,
“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
1 John 1:5-8
God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Do you feel that God is calling you to come out of the darkness and into his light? How would taking a “searching and fearless moral inventory” help you?
The Biblical Discipline of Self-Examination:
When Angry: Psalm 4:4: Be angry, but do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.
When Tempted to Judge Others: Matthew 7:1-5:
‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. ‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded usto stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
When Faith is Weak: 2 Corinthians 13:5: Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test.
Only With the Lord’s Help Can we Truly Examine Ourselves. He will give us the Honesty and Humility to understand Ourselves Before Him:
Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Test me, Lord, and try me,
examine my heart and my mind;
3 for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love
and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.