I’ve never kept this much of a secret: Celebrate Recovery® is my favorite ministry at Saddleback. We have lots of great ministries at our church, and I love all of them.
But hands down, Celebrate Recovery is my favorite. Why?
This ministry is one of the best expressions of what God wants the church to be. Celebrate Recovery is all about life change. People come into this ministry broken and battered, turn their lives over to Christ, leave behind the hurts, hang-ups, and habits, and discover a new purpose for living.
Then they become leaders in our church. Celebrate Recovery has produced more leaders at Saddleback Church than any other ministry.
I can give you a whole list of reasons why Celebrate Recovery works. It emphasizes personal responsibility. It calls for a commitment to Jesus Christ. It expresses healing and emphasizes growth within a community. All of those are critical reasons why God changes lives through Celebrate Recovery.
But I think the biggest reason so many people who enter the program find lasting change is because it’s based upon God’s Word. It’s based upon the actual words of Jesus.
That’s what makes Celebrate Recovery different from every other recovery program. The eight principles of Celebrate Recovery come directly from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
I’ll never forget when John Baker came to me with his 13-page, single-spaced letter about the program almost 30 years ago. When I looked at the 12 steps he put in the letter, I said, “I have seen these before—somewhere.” Then it dawned on me. These 12 steps of recovery are actually the Beatitudes. They’re both in the exact same order.
Jesus started the greatest sermon ever preached by saying, “Let me tell you eight ways to be happy.” But they actually sound counterintuitive. The world says we attain happiness through power, prestige, pleasure, passion, possessions, sex, salary, and status.
But Jesus says, “Happy are you if you mourn.”
That doesn’t make sense. How does mourning make us happy?
But when you understand what mourning really is, you get it. Mourning is dealing seriously with your own brokenness. It’s okay to mourn. It’s not okay to moan. I know a lot of people who moan all the time about their lives: “If only I had a different spouse or different parents, or if I’d made a different career choice,” and so on.
Your past doesn’t define you. Your relationship with Jesus does.
When you fully understand what Jesus is saying, you realize the eight principles of the Beatitudes are God’s road to recovery.
Nothing changes people’s lives like God can. I’ve seen flat-out drunks and irresponsible addicts get their lives cleaned up because they encountered God through the Bible. I have seen the most self-centered, narcissistic, it’s-all-about-me people become godly leaders and parents and spouses through this encounter.
I know a lot of people who get their lives messed up, go to a counselor, and spend the next three years talking about their past. You won’t find healing from hurts, hang-ups, and habits just by talking about your past.
Celebrate Recovery’s 8 Principles focus your thoughts on God’s Word and your future. We deal with the past in Celebrate Recovery, but we never wallow in it.
The solution to our hurts, hang-ups, and habits isn’t in the past. It’s in making wise choices in the power of the Holy Spirit and depending upon Christ’s power to help us make those changes.
Celebrate Recovery wasn’t my idea. It wasn’t John Baker’s idea. It’s not pop psychology. It’s not a pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps program. It’s not a therapy.
Celebrate Recovery was God’s idea.
It’s a spiritual-growth program based on God’s Word.
Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35 NIV).
He also says, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32 NASB).
That’s why I have 100 percent confidence in this ministry program. It’s all based on God’s Word.
And God uses his Word to set people free.