God’s Word says: “Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.”Joshua 21:45 ESV [1]

What an awesome thought! Every single one of God’s good promises is kept as opposed to man’s promises which are often meaningless and often broken. The secular self-help world of addiction recovery offers advice about what to do about problem drinking, for example, but do these promises have substance?

Let’s just take a brief look at a few of the more well-known Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous® [2] and examine the words they have chosen to use, holding them up to the light of Biblical truth.

Admission? Confession? What’s the Difference?

Step 1 from AA says: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”[2] From a Christian perspective, saying that you are powerless means nothing and leads to nothing—nothing changes. Moreover, saying, “I am powerless,” is worthless to God. That’s a strong statement, but simply admitting you are powerless certainly doesn’t lead you to everlasting life.

Furthermore, saying that your life has become “unmanageable” assumes that at some point in time, your life was manageable. God manages our lives not us. He’s not just an add-on when life gets “out of hand.” And who defines what is manageable and what is not? The wording is just vague enough to be agreeable to most. And that’s the problem.

In addition, what should a Christ-follower think about the emphasis on “admission” in this step? Look at the striking contrast of admission with verses such as Proverbs 28:13 which says, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” Confession of sin to God, and then following it up with the action of forsaking sin is completely different than a lifeless, passive admission. Confession is agreement with God about what He says your idolatry is—sin.

The Bible vs. Self-Help Philosophies

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Obeying God’s instruction in Proverbs 28:13 above acknowledges God Himself, from whom we all need mercy, and focuses on an eternal perspective, not just the here and now.

Admission, on the other hand, can actually be a form of concealing your transgressions, which this Proverb tells us will not bring success. Admitting something is wrong is not the same as confessing it personally as sin. Plus, admission is easy to do with the mouth, but may neglect the behavioral change wrought by repentance—literally a turning around.

The one struggling with problematic, sinful alcohol drinking is in danger of a just punishment from God, which would be a deserved punishment for sins. If they fail to repent and fail to face the truth before God now, the person stuck in the enslavement of drunkenness will face the truth in the eternal judgment after this life is over. Let’s not comfort people involved in the Twelve Step® movement with a false assurance that admission is equal to confession of sin.

What Power? Restoring to Sanity?

More empty promises of the Twelve Steps® can be found in Step 2: “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”[2] First of all, Christians ought to be aware that it is, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,” (Phil. 2:10) not just a vague, nameless power greater than ourselves. You may say, this is obvious, but I must be clear, and so should you as you share the Gospel. So many people believe that there are many paths to God, but this is simply not true. There is only “one God and there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Exalt the name of Jesus Christ, the only Son of God.


Secondly, Step Two declares the problem to be “insanity,” not sin. And it actually contradicts the prevailing thought in the psychological world of diseases and disorders that an insane person can be restored to sanity. The psychological world gives people labels for life with no hope for restoration. The psychological label of Substance Use Disorder (S.U.D.) indicates insanity or a hopeless disordered state that cannot be restored or reversed. “Once an addict, always an addict,” is the popular self-help phrase promoting a lifelong, incurable disease. Step Two contradicts the world’s system of psychological diagnoses using the DSM-IV. Furthermore, the ‘insanity’ declaration ignores the willful rebellion in the heart of someone seeking a solution to life’s pain or circumstances by taking in a drink (or other mind-altering substance).

True ‘Spiritual Awakening’ and From Where Does it Come?

I could go through each of the steps and find empty promises and demonstrate how the Word of God is superior and offers so much more. But for the sake of time and space let’s skip to the lies and empty promises found in Step 12: “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”[2] First, they have borrowed this term spiritual awakening right from the Scriptures and tried to make it universally agreed upon. But there is only one way to be born again—according to Jesus (John 3). John 3:5 says,

“Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

For the Christian, another lie found here is that the end result—your behavioral change—has come from the steps not from the Holy Spirit. Scripture informs us towork out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Phil. 2:12b-13) so clearly it is God who is at work within you. Any change or transformation comes from God’s power and not your ability to do 12 things.

Sobriety First?

The goal in AA is to stay sober—just don’t drink. It’s achievable.

In Christianity, pleasing Jesus is the first and foremost goal—not just achieving sobriety.

Luke 9:59-60 says:

To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.

Jesus proclaims the cost of following Him. He is correcting this person’s priorities. Luke 9:61-62 continues:

Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.

Jesus is basically saying that following Him must be your first priority. Not just in your top ten. There is a cost.

Self-help philosophy says to make your sobriety first in everything. While an emphasis on not drinking is good and profitable for this life, the Bible does not ever say it this way—as if your sobriety is the most important aspect of your existence. In fact, the Bible teaches you to love the Lord your God with all of your heart (Matt. 22:37-38). The priority is to love which is a positive action. God doesn’t elevate the prohibition to drink and sin above the overarching theme of love. God wants love to motivate you—not just being motivated by avoiding drinking at all costs. The empty promise of making sobriety your primary goal cannot be overstated. Making sobriety your primary goal makes it an achievable goal, but it is an empty promise because it may end up landing you in hell. Making sobriety your first and foremost goal may get in the way of the ultimate goal of pleasing Jesus and loving God.

What God Promises to Those Who Believe

We don’t need sobriety, we need mercy. We don’t need manageable lives or restoration to sanity. (Who defines those terms anyway?) We need forgiveness of sin. We need The Gospel that says that God chooses you and then empowers you to repent by His Spirit. God then leads you to place your trust in Him alone, gives you a new identity, provides a new family, and enables you to follow Him day by day by His indwelling Spirit.

The Bible promises that Jesus Christ saves those who are trusting in Him alone for salvation from the penalty and power of our sins in this life and in the life to come. We still pay the earthly penalty of sin which is death in the body, but we gain eternal life as a free gift from God by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-10). The promise of God is a future eternal life with Jesus forever. That is a sure promise that will come to pass.

God keeps His promises, but your responsibility is to learn the Word of God to discover what He offers you today.

Need Help?

The Addiction Connection offers hope and healing to those struggling with addiction. Start your search for biblical programs here.

Consider contacting one of our Commissioned Addictions Biblical Counselors who are available to help you.

Residential Programs we recommend.

Non-residential Programs we recommend.

Do you want to start a Biblical outreach to those in addiction? Check out this disciple-making curriculum we created just for you entitled Next Steps: Be TRANSFORMED.

[1] Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.

[2] AA (R) Twelve Steps (R) and Alcoholics Anonymous (R) are trademarks of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services.  Alcoholics Anonymous ® The Third edition of the Big Book, the Basic Text for Alcoholics Anonymous. Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc, New York, 1976. The Twelve Steps(R) of AA are found at https://www.aa.org/the-twelve-steps accessed January 4, 2022.