Jesus in the 12 Step fellowships?

Hello folks, i haven’t seen any recovery-related topics, and someone suggested i post one here. Hope i’m in the right place.

Some of us here at Connect have a background in 12 Step groups, and currently attend meetings. The general atmosphere in AA/NA/EA/OA/GA/etcA is one of people who need God due to their “hitting bottom” with their particular type of addiction, found they couldn’t manage their own lives and need a “power greater than themselves” to give them some sanity and freedom.

The 12 Steps are the suggested spiritual principles all such groups are based on. Millions of people have found freedom from their compulsions/obsessions by attending meetings, asking some experienced member for help, learning and practicing the Steps, cleaning up their past life-messes, and trying to help other people with their same kind of problem.

This is probably pretty well known to everyone here. The question i would like to raise is this: is it possible that Jesus is the “Higher Power” that is helping these people recover? I have my own understanding, which will become obvious soon enough, but i would like to hear some other points of view and sets of experiences along this line.



@DeanW What do you think Dean? I’m curious to hear your perspective.


Thanks for responding, Sean. If you don’t mind i would like to wait to see if anyone has strong feelings either way, before i go into great detail about my current understanding. But here is one supporting observation:

Addictions of all sorts, especially to alcohol/drugs, is very self-destructive, and tends to be dangerously harmful to friends/relatives/employers/society in general. And the “enemy of Truth” uses addictive substances, on a wide scale, to maintain and grow his influence over the world. God-based recovery programs run counter to this trend.

Jesus, when being accused of being demonic by the Pharisees, told them: ““Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?” Matt 12:25-26.

I want to wait for other responses before developing this further. Any thoughts so far? Thanks.



You may find it difficult to get people to participate in specific and direct terms in a public open media forum. It definitely appears God is in the recovery business and it’s delicate work. One must be careful to protect everyone involved.

“There is One who has all power, that One is God, may you find him now”
Chap.5 Alcoholics Anonomyous”

Tradition 11
“Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.” Al-Anon includes the addition, “We need guard with special care the anonymity of all AA members.”

Tradition 12
“Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities”

Did Jesus come anonymously?
“Who do you say that I am?”

Does anyone have any real Power but Jesus?

Colossians 2:15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Matthew 28:18 18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Isaiah 63:1

Who is this who comes from Edom, With garments of glowing colors from Bozrah, This One who is majestic in His apparel, Marching in the greatness of His strength? “It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”


Yes, Nathan, i agree that it will be difficult to have a very “specific and direct” discussion in a public open media forum, and that this could well go against the anonimity of the Traditions (the suggested guidelines for 12 Step groups).

Which is why i am focusing on Christ in the fellowships. And you have presented one of my starting points: the fact that the Steps are based on the statement in the AA Big Book which says:

“There is One who has all power, that One is God, may you find Him now”. (AA Big Book, Chapter 5)

And the appropriate corresponding Scripture:

Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority (all power of absolute rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” Matt 28:18 (Amplified Version)

Further, i notice that Jesus often healed people anonymously. He didn’t usually say “It is I, Jesus of Nazareth, who is healing you”. He often healed people that didn’t know exactly who He was. And that is what i see in the 12 Step programs. In His perfect humility He reaches out to addicts of all types in their spiritual confusion, right where they are, and patiently reveals Himself to them slowly as they learn to trust Him in their recovery.

The fact that He is willing to be to us whatever we need to begin to approach God and seek His protection and care shows His great love for “the least of these”, in a sense the “moral lepers” of our time. When we see that clearly, we will want to praise Him even more than we ever have. His goodness is boundless!

I would appreciate it, Nathan, if you could help keep me from getting into too much detail of my own story, and focus more on our Recoverer/Savior. Thanks in advance if you are able to.


One person helping another person. I do believe that’s how 12 step started and how it still works. Both in addiction recovery and Ultimate Recovery “God is doing for all of us what we cannot do for ourselves” It would help me as well to hold you accountable.


Something that i find sadly humorous, Nathan, is when i hear the 12 Step fellowships described as “self-help groups”. In reality, they are God (in Christ) help groups. For those that don’t know, i give the basic “ABC’s” of AA:

  • (A) That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives.*

  • (B) That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism.*

  • © That God could and would if He were sought.*


As i wait for more responses i would like to continue for a while. Next i would like to consider the primary quality of both all types of addictions and the opposite quality of all recovery.

Addictions of all sorts are based on lies and deception. We deceive ourselves and others about the quantity and frequency of addictive substances we use, and pretend as well as we can to be/look/act normal. We keep our secrets to ourselves tightly, in our fear of rejection.

“Denial” is the state addicts end up in, trying desperately to maintain some sense of control while the real life is spinning out of control. And this denial of the addict about their true situation is the first step in their/our recovery. So Step 1 in AA, for example, is “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable”.

The whole recovery process involves increasing degrees of honesty with ourselves, and others, to replace the lies we have been living in. And honesty can be defined broadly as “oneness with Truth”.

Jesus said He IS the Truth. (John 14:6). And He said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 ESV)

So, addicts in 12 Step recovery, whose lives depend on growing in truthfulness, according to principles derived from Scripture, are growing in Christ, though He chooses to remain anonymous so the groups don’t degenerate into arguments over religion.

In His love for the lost, He reaches out to us where we are, no matter what our background or our current misunderstandings about His existence, character and intentions. This is real humility and compassion, which we will explore in more depth later.

I’ll wait now for some response. Feel free to disagree with what i am presenting, or to share other, better ways to understand the recovery process. Thanks.


So, to review, a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand, as Jesus said. And alcohol/drugs/other addictions are bondages from satan, while recovery is a gift of God. The 12 Step fellowships all share the same spiritual principles, which include growing in the honesty that replaces the lies and denial which defend and promote addiction.

Jesus Christ has been given all power by God the Father, and the fellowships are grounded in the admission of powerlessness (which can be understood as lacking the right relationship to the “One who has all power”), plus recognizing the need for a “life-manager”.

Now let’s consider what type of Higher Power we see in the 12 Steps and meetings. The Steps are actions that addicts of all types can take with help from recovery groups which are dedicated to improving a relationship with a loosly defined Power usually called God.

What can we learn about God from the Steps themselves? It is implicit in the 12 principles that there is a God (though we may understand Him differently), and He is the one who can/will restore us to sanity; we come to trust Him to do for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves in our owh strength (or lack of it).

The Serenity Prayer is said in most all such recovery meetings, in which we seek God’s grace to grant us increasing serenity to accept what we need to accept, at least for now, and the courage to change the things we are empowered to change, and the wisdom to know the difference between the two. In every meeting there will be evidence of people growing along these lines.

The Steps also require us to seek God in evaluating our own personal moral inventory, admit our wrongs to Him (and ourselves and another person), depend on Him to remove our shortcomings/character defects as we learn to know His will for us and give us the power to carry it out. We practise maintaining the cycle of examining our behavior, admitting what we are doing wrong currently, seeking thru meditation and prayer to let Him change us toward His ideal for us, and reach out to carry this recovery message to others seeking freedom.

The 2nd Tradition (guidelines for the survival of groups) says,

“For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority — a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.”

Scriptures that come to mind, of course, are “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 4:16), and Christ said repeatedly, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Matt 20:26, Mark 9:35, 10:43).

Sorry, i got a little carried away here, anyone have any feedback on this aspect of the topic?


Hi, @DeanW! I am unfamiliar with the philosophy and structure of 12-Step Fellowships, so I’ve appreciated your insight here. :slight_smile: I was really struck when I read what you wrote here…

I am convinced I would benefit by beginning my mornings with the confession: I admit I am powerless over… I live in so much denial in my own life over many aspects of my sin! I often think it’s manageable. Ohhhh, how deluded I am!

Do you find that the openness and honesty that is fostered in the 12-Steps culture is transferable to any parts of life where sin has its hooks?


@DeanW, thank you for bringing such a topic into our attention! I’ve really enjoyed reading through what you wrote. And I admire the sentiment behind it. I want to share a couple of passages without reflecting too much on it.

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
Matthew 5:44‭-‬46 ESV

I think God provides for all of us, those who love Him and those who don’t. He is demonstrating that very same principle He is urging us to follow!

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.
Mark 9:38‭-‬40 NIV

I believe that beauty, art, healing, freedom, goodness and all things of light, are not just provisions from God, they do not exist apart from Him. Althought some people are not “with” Him, they are not totally separated from Him yet. They are away from the light, still, traces of that light can be found. There is still a chance for them to move along that spectrum further towards the Source.
We have someone here in a nearby church who practices exorcism. And non-christians actually go and get healed! I am not sure if the spirits come back or not, but that’s another matter; for when it comes, it won’t find the house swept and put in order!
(Luke 11:25)

The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.
John 6:63 NIV

Maybe someone who follows the teachings of Christ would some day be a follower of Christ! It usually happens the other way around, but I believe that His words are not empty.
so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:11 NIV

I have heard stories about those who came to know God following their recovery. So you never know!
Thank you again Dean for sharing your insights with us. It has been really enriching!

Hi Sara-

If I may weigh in here with a question to your statement below.

“Maybe someone who follows the teachings of Christ would some day be a follower of Christ! It usually happens the other way around”

Did the 12 Disciples follow Jesus before they believed? Or was it the other way around?

Food for thought…

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Hi Nathan! Interesting point! I wonder if you have watched a recent movie called “Mary Magdelene”. It’s an adaptation of Jesus’ life. It got some stuff right and some stuff wrong but one of the most interesting things it tried to depict is how, to the very last moment, the disciples didn’t really understand who Jesus was. They expected His glorification here on earth and thought of Him as conquerer waiting for the right moment to throw off the Romans. So, either way, their belief must have been developed, pruned, matured and upgraded, one might say, after the resurrection. On the road to Emmaus, He started to explain to them all things in scripture concerning Himself.
But if we are to take the question as it is, we don’t have enough information to guide us. But there are there 3 examples of the first disciples that I remember at the moment which are:
1-In John 1:35-42 it says that two of the Baptist’s disciples saw Jesus and he told them: Behold, the lamb of God, so they followed Jesus. They must have heard about Him without really knowing who he was until this journey began by John’s finger pointing towards Jesus.
2-In Luke 5:27, it speaks of Jesus’ most brief encounter. He just told Levi, “Follow me!” And Levi left everything and followed him!!! That part makes me reconsider our nowadays apologetics, we speak a lot more than Jesus did and yield less! Lol :sweat_smile: That makes me think that the Holy Spirit was working on Him long before a real encounter took place that he was readily willing to leave everything behind and follow Him.
3-Nathanael, Peter, John and James all saw something extraordinary about Jesus that drew them.
We don’t have an account on how Jesus invited the others and what their backgrounds were.

That is actually a hard question to answer! What do you think Nathan? Do you think that someone can follow Jesus without knowing Jesus subjectively?
Were those in Athens (Acts 17: 22-31) with the altar of inscription “the unknown god” of whom said their poets: “for we are indeed his offspring”, were worshipping the true God?
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts Nathan!
God bless you and your beautiful family in that picture! What a photo!

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Did you know that Alcoholics Anonymous started off as a group called “The James club”. (The biblical book of James that is…)

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Hi Sara-

I haven’t seen the movie but I will check it out. Sounds interesting. I “get things right and things wrong” all the time so I’m sure I’ll be able to relate. :wink: Jesus disciples did and still do get things right and wrong all the time. I only have to look in the mirror if I need a reminder of how patient and merciful he is. The problem is always staring back at me. Good news the Solution is too. “Losing ones life and finding it” start to blur the edges in a really good way. One day at a time that mirror is less dim and that Face on the other side is getting clearer. Following Jesus before believing in Jesus… is it possible? Oh yeah its possible. More than that, probable. Jesus is there waiting with a loving gaze long before honest belief, trust, Faith show up.

Matthew 28:17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

He is waiting for all the followers… Patiently…

Ps my daughter due in October is named Levi!! So pumped. “Everyone a Levite”
Thank you for admiring my family. What a good giver of gifts God is, even to a slow follower like myself.

In Spirit and in Truth


I see that a “Dick B.” wrote a book centered on that idea, but i can’t seem to find anything about it on the main AA website. Could you try to find if there for me? I’m not denying the claim, just wanting to be careful. Lots of folks write books to sell books, more than to be factually accurate. Thank you, though, Timotto. It will be exciting if we can find verification outside of Dick B., from an official source.

Hey, Nathan, i like your way of expressing “the essence of spirituality”! Like when looking in the mirror Believers get to see both the problem and the Solution. That’s much better than the old “look in the mirror and then go away forgetting what we saw there”, like James said (in 1:23-24). As far as Him believing in me long before i could return the favor – Yes, it seems so obvious now.

Have you ever heard the saying i’ve often heard in meetings (usually cause i’m saying it): “God loves each of us exactly as we are…and too much to let us stay the way that we are”? Another saying i really value is, “Our perfect Dad loves each of us as if we were His only Child in the entire universe!” Agree?


Yes I do agree that God loves all his children today. Nice to be one among many. He is the potter and we are his clay. I trust infinite God more than finite self to shape me as he sees fit. If I have ears to hear and eyes to see that the “essence of spirituality” is service, I need look no further than the life of the Master Teacher Jesus to verify that truth.

One of my spiritual advisers is Brennan Manning. I value this quote below from him immensely.

Mr. Manning was convinced that when he stood face to face with The Creator of all things there would be only one question. “Did you ever really believe that I just loved you?”

Takes me to my knees in gratitude and wonder every time

I believe God does not make to hard of terms for those that seek him.

Just one among many loved by the Father

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Hi Nathan!

I just love this! It reminds me of what Paul said:
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV

Amen brother!

Wowwww! Congratssss! May all things go smoothly for you guys. Lovely name!!
May the grace and truth of our Lord embrace your family. Stay blessed!

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Agreed. And yet another way to put the same idea: our Perfect Dad is looking for those kids who want to be His forever, in intimate joy-full union, beyond what we can now comprehend. He will not force anyone to return His great love for us, yet continually encourages and inspires us to do so, if we will only come to receive His eternal gift of Himself, by the power of His grace.

But those who would truly hate to be with Him for eternity will be given what they will most desire on Judgement Day, complete separation from the only Source of Life. He takes no delight in the Second Death of the lost, even as Jesus wept over the destruction He knew would be coming to the Jerusalem that rejected Him. Still, He values our freedom as a necessary ingredient in the kind of love He wants us to experience with Him.

One thing, among many, that i appreciate about “the fellowships” is the amazing “freeness” we are given to grow in our understanding of God, within an environment that encourages trust in Him, without requiring a rigid outward conformity of beliefs. That way He can continually reveal Himself to those He makes ready to accept deeper contact with Him, through many and various religious/spiritual organizations, with the on-going support of those who have had past backgrounds roughly similar to our own.

Does that “connect” with what you are seeing / experiencing Nathan?

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