Step 4

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

Proverbs 4:23-27 (ESV)

4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
4:24 Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.
4:25 Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.
4:26 Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.
4:27 Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil. Comments:

This group of verses from Proverbs speaks to many issues in working our 4th step. These proverbs tell us how important it is to be protective of our heart, for out of our heart come the issues of life. In the 4th step, we examine how we have violated this advice. We look back to find the ways that we have not guarded our heart, ways that we have let foolishness and folly rule our feelings rather than a loving and careful spirit. We examine how to put away the deceitful words and ways that we have found in our addictive ways. We begin to see how to direct our lives in a straight path, not being distracted by the temptations of the world, the triggers of our addiction. Probably most to the point for the 4th step is verse 4:26. We are told to ponder the path of our feet and let all of our ways be established. In the 4th step we ponder what we have done in our lives and how that has affected our lives. We examine the good and the bad. In that examination, we begin to understand what was worthwhile and what was not worthwhile. Where was God in our lives trying to direct us and protect us, and how did we ignore God or rebel against God's leading? In understanding how God has sought to work in our lives in the past, we can better understand how to walk in the future, to have all of our ways be established in the ways of the Lord.

Lamentations 3:39-45 (ESV)

3:39 Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?
3:40 Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD.
3:41 Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.
3:42 We have transgressed and have rebelled: thou hast not pardoned.
3:43 Thou hast covered with anger, and persecuted us: thou hast slain, thou hast not pitied.
3:44 Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through.
3:45 Thou hast made us as the offscouring and refuse in the midst of the people. Comments:

It is fitting that these words are from the book of Lamentations, for the book describes the aftermath of falling away from the ways of righteousness, as we have done in our addictive behaviors. We are told in verse 40 to search and examine our ways and turn again to the LORD. This is what we are to do in step 4 of our program. We examine our life in the light of God's righteousness, making a moral inventory of our lives. In this inventory we will probably see at least some of these things in our lives that the subsequent verses talk about - how we have blocked God's pity, pardon and answered prayers from our life. As Christians we have hope that through the blood of Christ we can find forgiveness for these sins and a redeemed relationship with God. This examination of our lives also begins to set up a precendent where we can invite our God to examine our lives as well (See Psalm 17:3, Psalm 26:2) that we might continue to be found in God.

Matthew 5:4 (ESV)

5:4 Blessed are those who mourn: for they shall be comforted. Comments:

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives many instances of how we are blessed. In this verse, He tells us that we are blessed when we mourn appropriately. Step 4 can be a step of mourning those places in our lives where we messed up and missed the good life that God would have liked to have given us. In this mourning, though, we become blessed as we find the healing and comfort from the Lord.

Luke 12:1-7 (ESV)

12:1 In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
12:2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.
12:3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.
12:4 I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.
12:5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!
12:6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.
12:7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. Comments:

How does this passage relate to step 4? The Pharisees in Jesus' day were very hypocritical. The parallel is that because of our addictive behaviors, we probably also have been very hypocritical. We would tell others one thing, but act differently ourselves. Most of us were good at putting on a false face in order to hide the shame within us. In this way, Jesus' advice to the Pharisees is good advice for us. We are told that although we may have covered up things and lived our deeds in darkness, they will be uncovered and put in the light. They are already known by God. And they are probably already known by the perceptive people around us as well on some level. If they are not known now, then they will be known sometime in the future, at the very least on the day of judgement. Step 4 is about making these things known to us in light of the moral standards that God has set. We bring them to light in our our mind and consciousness so that when they are brought to light in the future then we will be prepared and not susceptible to overwhelming guilt. God does not want us to live in guilt but in freedom. This passage also talks about fear. Fear has probably been a motivation for our addiction and our hypocrisy. We did our cover-ups out of fear that someone else would find out. We are warned here to have a fear concerning eternal matters most of all. When this fear trumps our fear of men or of worldly consequences, then we begin to have the right kind of fear. This is for the reason that we see in verses 6 and 7, that God loves us and knows us far better than we can ever know. In step 4, we uncover our past actions in a moral light. We might determine that some of our actions were born out of a guilt and a shame that were not ours, that others imposed upon us through neglect or abuse. We will also find those actions that we must take responsibility for, that we did because of our addiction. This is an important step towards accountability and the healing that we can find in the steps of recovery.

2 Corinthians 10:12-13 (ESV)

10:12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
10:13 But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you. Comments:

Here the apostle Paul tells the Corinthian church that to compare themselves using the measure of themselves is not wise. It is wiser rather to measure themselves by God's standards and measures. This may have been one of our problems that encouraged our addictive behaviors. We may have measured ourselves according to the standards of those around us, which is a natural and easy thing to do. And if we were around other people with low moral standards, either through necessity or from our own choice, then our behavior might have seemed pretty good compared to theirs. However, when we come to the point where we realized that God has another standard for us, a moral standard that is far above the standard that we had accepted for ourselves, then we are ready to look at our life as God sees our life. In the fourth step we do a MORAL inventory based on how our God looks at the past of our life, using God's moral measure rather than our previous measures based on our own biased opinions and of those in our addictive circles.

Galatians 6:3-8 (ESV)

6:3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
6:4 But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.
6:5 For every man shall bear his own burden.
6:6 Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.
6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
6:8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. Comments:

The Spirit of God writing through the apostle Paul exhorts us here to be honest and objective with ourselves. Especially when we have become used to being seduced by the lies of our addiction, we then find it more difficult to separate truth from fiction. One of the easiest ways to deceive ourselves is to have a false sense of ourselves and how we relate to others and especially to God. For many of us, it is easy to get in the habit of thinking more of ourselves in order to give us permission to indulge in our addictive behaviors and think that it is OK. We may think that we are special or have special privileges because of reason 'XYZ', and 'XYZ' might be different for each one of us. But the common thread to this excuse is that whatever we may use to justify our being special, it can lead us to pride and an unwarranted sense of privilege. We may have this attitude also to temporarily keep us from facing the shame and guilt of our addictive activities.

But instead of a false sense of ourselves, we are admonished to 'prove' our own work. The NKJV translates this word as 'examine' rather than 'prove'. This is the value of the 4th step. We can prove or examine our own work by looking back on our life and try to get an objective picture of what was wrong in our past (and that may still linger in the present), as well as what was and is right in our life. We try to look at our life from God's perspective, knowing that Christ died for millions of other people throughout the world and throughout history. It is to His credit that He can be so intimate and loving with us and also be intimate and loving with millions of other people. In this we are special - in our relationship with God. But we are no more special than the millions of other people whom God loves and cares for, and our being in this special relationship does not put us above the laws that He has given us. In looking at our life from God's perspective (a "moral" perspective, as the 4th step is worded), we get a more objective and truthful sense of who we have really been. We examine with our own conscience before God what has been good and what has been evil in our life.

In this passage, we are further warned that God is not mocked. Looking back on our life as we do our inventory, we can see how God has been faithful and just. He has chastened and disciplined us when we have gone against His ways, especially when we have done this willfully. Even when we thought we might have been getting away with something, we actually were not. We may have survived, but we missed the larger picture of how God wanted to bless us in extraordinary ways. We also now have a choice by His grace to sow to the Spirit instead, and reap the reward of life everlasting. Part of this process of growing in God's ways is by taking our inventory - proving our own work. Then we can go forward with a realistic picture of our own lives from a God's moral perspective and find the peace and mercy of God (as pointed out later in verse 16).

Revelation 2:4-5 (ESV)

2:4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
2:5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. Comments:

These verses will apply to the 4th step in greatest measure if we were Christians or had an affection for Christ before we started down the path of our addiction. In these verses, Christ is admonishing the Church at Ephesus to return to their first love and remember from where they were fallen. Perhaps in remembering where they had fallen from, they would again be able to rekindle the devotion to Christ that they had once known. In the 4th step, we work on remembering all of our life and later laying it before the eyes of God, ourselves and at least one other person. If this remembering of our life brings us memories of a broken relationship with God, then it becomes bittersweet. There is the bitterness of knowing that we have turned away from the ways of God's truth. Yet there is also a sweetness of remembering how sweet it was to trust in Jesus and how full of grace and love He is. The remembering and the healing of those memories is an important part of our recovery process.