So you’ve decided to get clean…here’s what you should expect

The last few days I have gotten to be with some men who are at the beginning of their journey out of the insanity that is pornography addiction.  Each of them wanted to know what to expect once they make this decision to leave it all behind, and after telling them, they each expressed both surprise and gratitude.   Surprise because they never heard this before and gratitude because they felt better prepared for the journey.   So here I want to share what I shared with them.  Take what helps, and leave the rest.  

  • Get ready for war.   The first 30 days in particular, but most likely the next 90, are going to be the hardest of your life.  You should expect this.   The severity and the length of time where it is really hard depends a lot on the depths of your entrenchment.   There will be days where you will feel like you are going to explode, where your flesh is just going absolutely crazy and if you don’t scratch this itch you will die.   This is the point.  You need to die.   Death is painful.   Expect it, and embrace it.   
  • When you feel the above you are now in the fight. There will be nights where you go to bed exhausted because you’ve fought the entire day, praying like you’ve never prayed before.   You’ll go to bed exhausted from the battle, but victorious.   Just like when you go to the gym for the first time and walk away sore all over, you will feel the same as you enter the spiritual battle of your life.   You are learning to use spiritual muscles which have long been atrophied.   Let’s face it, you haven’t really been fighting this sin in the past.   You’ve been giving over for far too long and your faith-muscles are like limp rags.   This is your Rocky moment.   Put your big boy pants on, get up and go to the gym, even when it hurts.  

Rocky-Balboa All Bruised

  • If you fall, you are not starting over.   So you experienced a few weeks or months of victory and slip up?   It’s not the end of the world, and you are not starting over from scratch.   You’ve been given a great gift in having tasted some freedom, something you may have never known before.  You began to see some glimmer of hope, and the cobwebs which have long been deluding your thinking and hindering intimacy in your relationships began to dissipate.  Give thanks to God!  Get back on the saddle and learn from your victories and your mistakes.   You are not starting over because you now know more about yourself and what to do in those moments when you feel triggered so that next time you are better prepared to fight.   God isn’t through with you, and even in our weakness He is teaching us something we have yet to learn so that we can be made ready to walk in the Promised Land of purity He has prepared for us.  You are only starting over if you don’t learn from this!  
  • Hang in there because it gets better!   The intensity of the battle you feel in those first 30-90 days will begin to subside the longer you walk in the light.   Your spiritual muscles will get stronger and you will find yourself winning more than losing.   Your mind will be transformed as God promised (Rom. 12:1-2) and you will find yourself experiencing a new joy and freedom you never thought possible.   A day will come where you’ll remember with a jolt that it’s been days, even weeks or months, since you’ve thought of indulging in something so pointless and reckless as pornography.  You will be overflowing with thanksgiving, and far too busy working on other things in your life – fruitful things – to give much thought to whether or not this is the day it all blows up on you.   Why?  Because you are a new creation! (2 Cor. 5:17).

You are in a fight. Expect to get beat up.  But you are a warrior, and more than a conqueror (Rom. 8:37).   And trust me, it’s worth every bruise your flesh is about to take.  Freedom is sweet, and worth dying for!  

For more on this, read:  Are you REALLY “Struggling” against Habitual Sin? 

 

I’ll do anything…but that

It’s possible to tell if someone is truly serious about kicking their sexual sin habit (or any habit) within the first few minutes of conversation.   You can tell by what they are willing to give up.   If they are willing to give up anything and everything, then you have an ideal candidate for real change.   But if they give the Meatloaf answer-

i-would-do-anything-for-love-but-i-won-t-do-that

then chances are not so good, at least not yet.  

The difference between the person walking in the light and the person still ducking in and out of shadows is all too often their degree of willingness to do whatever it takes to be transformed.   

Jesus said that if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out.  If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  For it’s better to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell (Matt. 5:29).    To put it another way, if you want to be free of the sin that weighs you down (Hebrews 12:1-2), you will need to radically reorient your life.   It may mean a new job. It might mean a moving to a new town.  It might mean cutting out TV. It might mean unplugging from the internet – forever.   It might mean dropping your friends.  It might mean burning your CD collection.  It might mean any number of things, all of which will be absolutely necessary for you to be set free.   That thing you are thinking about right now that you can’t imagine going without or can’t imagine doing is probably the very thing God will require of you.    

For the rich young ruler it was his wealth that he needed to cut out.   Jesus, looking at him and loving him, told him exactly what he needed to drop if he wanted to inherit the life of the ages.   Tragically, he walked away sad, for he was unwilling to part from the thing Jesus demanded of him (Mark 10:17-27).    Don’t be like that guy.   Don’t be a meatloaf, willing to do anything….but that.  Be willing and ready to do whatever it takes, no matter what the cost, in order to be rid of the sin that binds you.    New life is possible, but it doesn’t come without dying first. 

Pray with me:  Jesus, I’m scared.   I want to trust you with everything – my future, my family, my friends, my stuff – but I don’t know how.   Teach me.   Open my heart to you.   Help me to open my hands to you as well.  All that I have is yours.   Make me willing and able to give you everything, even my very life.   Amen.

 

 

 

 

Healthy/Sober Relationships

Here is yesterday’s service which is a continuation of our Recovery Series.    Here we look at what sober relationships look like.  What is “sober”?   It’s to be free of excess.  It’s to be self-controlled.    In this message we learn that sober relationships are honest, current, other-centered, unafraid of truth, and focused on Jesus.

You will stumble into sobriety when you are keeping your eyes on Jesus.  You will stumble into a better marriage when you are keeping your eyes on  Jesus.  You will stumble into joy when you are focused on Jesus.  You will stumble into an amazing church experience when your focus is on Jesus.

 

I pray this will encourage and challenge you today.

Join my XXXChurch Online Support Group!

Dear readers, I’m excited to have been invited to lead an online accountability/support group for men struggling with sexual addiction/compulsion through XXXChurch‘s platform, X3Groups.

x3group

The group I will be leading will meet every Monday morning at 9AM (EST).   All the information about signing up or about other times available with other great group leaders can be found at the X3Group website.

I can only host 10 group members so hurry and sign up!    If you know of someone who could use this in their life (and who are we kidding, we all need it!), please share this with them.

Please keep this ministry in your prayers!    May God set many who are in bondage free!

 

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Today I opened a journal I kept while being a live-in student at Pure Life Ministries and read the first entry.   This is what I wrote my first full day there, dated November 4, 2011: 

“Today I had my orientation with counselor Brother Ken. I can tell that this place will be a challenge for me. I’m hearing a lot about a ‘personal relationship with Jesus.’ I’m not sure I understand that language anymore….”

Looking back, it wasn’t just the language I didn’t understand.  I didn’t understand how that could happen nor why it mattered.   

Nearly 3 years later I can say without hesitation that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ has made all the difference in the world.   Years of self-indulgence had made me callous to such talk and in my “theologically educated” mind such language lacked rigorous thought.  God, for this addict, was an objective reality for me to teach, preach, and debate about and was on my side irrespective of my ability, even desire, to know Him.   People who spoke of a “personal relationship with Jesus” were depending on feelings rather than faith.  

That’s exactly what someone without a personal relationship with Jesus would presume.  

What flipped the switch for me was an honest inquiry on my part which began soon after that journal entry above.   I prayed, “God, do you want to be my friend?  Do you want me to be Yours?”  

As I began reading the Bible straight through – not to preach it, teach it, or debate it but just to eat it, digest it, and live it – I saw a God aggressively seeking an intimate friendship with His creation.  I read how The Lord would speak to Moses “as a man speaks to a friend” (Ex. 33:11), or how God gave land to Abraham, “his friend” (2 Chron. 20:6-8).  And of course Jesus called those who were his disciples his friends (Luke 12:4; John 15:15).

hug

It became abundantly clear to me that God desired friendship with me.  With us all.   But what was preventing this from being a real in my own life?   The answer came from the same source:

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant (Psalm 25:14)

 

You are my friends if you do what I command you (John 15:14).

My life of self-will, bolstered by my self-reliance in my education, was blocking me from the benefits of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.   I was not his friend because I did not fear him nor did I obey him.   I proclaimed him and debated him, but I did not know him nor love him.  

Admitting this to myself and to God was the first step in my recovery.   It opened a whole new world which I thought was beneath me.  My friendship with Jesus has sustained me these past 3 years, helping me to forsake the idols of my eyes and heart.    And like any good friend, he’s with me every step of the way, teaching, guiding, loving, disciplining, nurturing, and blessing.  What a friend I have found in Jesus!

May the words of this wonderful hymn encourage you to seek him today as your most needed, and most cherished, Friend.  

  1. What a friend we have in Jesus,
    All our sins and griefs to bear!
    What a privilege to carry
    Everything to God in prayer!
    Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
    Oh, what needless pain we bear,
    All because we do not carry
    Everything to God in prayer!
  2. Have we trials and temptations?
    Is there trouble anywhere?
    We should never be discouraged—
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Can we find a friend so faithful,
    Who will all our sorrows share?
    Jesus knows our every weakness;
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
  3. Are we weak and heavy-laden,
    Cumbered with a load of care?
    Precious Savior, still our refuge—
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
    Take it to the Lord in prayer!
    In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
    Thou wilt find a solace there.
  4. Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
    Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
    May we ever, Lord, be bringing
    All to Thee in earnest prayer.
    Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
    There will be no need for prayer—
    Rapture, praise, and endless worship
    Will be our sweet portion there.

 

 

Taking off the Mask

Some readers may be interested to follow the Recovery sermon series currently happening at the church I serve as pastor.  We are thrilled to be in connection with Recovery at Cokesbury, and this series which they have helped make is meant to prepare all of us for what’s ahead.

Those of us in recovery know that we need all the help and support we can get.  I pray that these messages bless you and encourage you and challenge you to keep pressing in to Jesus who wants to make you whole.   To learn more about this series check out our webpage HERE and LIKE our Facebook page Recovery at Dayton.