by John Fort
Director of Training
It is a familiar story: a person struggles with sexual brokenness, they finally get help, their life changes and they experience real freedom, then months or years later they find themselves struggling once again. It can feel like nothing works. It can feel like we are too broken to be fixed. It can feel like maybe God doesn’t care enough to help in the long term.
None of these thoughts are true; they are misguided. The misunderstanding that occurs is when we come to believe that the successful outcome of seeking help for sexual brokenness is to stop emotional pain or a specific behavior. This is true for any form of sexual brokenness, including a betrayed spouse, sex addict, survivor of sexual abuse, or child struggling to resist temptation.
The goal of healing is not to stop negative feelings or even behaviors.
Journalist Johan Hari said in his Ted Talk, “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it is human connection.” Changing behavior is something we want, but not the goal. I believe the same is true when dealing with the emotional pain that comes from sexual brokenness.
There are multiple steps to healing from sexual brokenness. In the beginning, we do have to do some work in several areas before we can see much progress. Those areas include the following:
Any form of sexual brokenness will have accompanying trauma. In fact, some form of trauma is almost always what creates sexual brokenness in the first place. That trauma does not have to be sexual, but it affects our sexuality. We need help addressing our trauma as part of our healing.
It is also true that in the beginning of our healing we need help examining our behaviors to look for ways we react to things that are not in our best interest. This is true of all forms of sexual brokenness. Part of coming out of brokenness is learning to react in more healthy ways to our world around us and the people in it.
A later stage of healing includes examining our beliefs and testing them against the truth. We may come to believe that others are not safe and cannot be trusted. Or we view ourselves as unworthy, unwanted, and of no value. Some of us decide God himself is not really good.
Such beliefs are based in past experiences and are hard to let go of, even if we intellectually understand they are false. Yet, this is part of our healing process.
WE (THINK WE) ARE DONE
This is where some of us stop. This is the point that we typically begin to feel better. We start to feel free from compulsive behaviors, deep emotional wounds, or both. Life is no longer so dark. We feel hope in a way we may have never felt before.
This is when many of us believe we are healed. We assume our healing process is finished and we can let go and relax. Within a few months or maybe a year, however, our sexual behaviors or deep wounds usually come racing back and overwhelm us once again.
THE MISSING CONNECTION
It is true that we need to address trauma, behaviors, and beliefs. But none of those things are what true healing is about. Those are just the precursors to lasting healing. Addressing trauma, modifying behaviors, and reframing our beliefs make it possible for us to do what healing requires: connect at a much deeper level with God and others.
We were created in God’s image for connection. God is communal in nature, illustrated by the unified Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity is not a superficial connection, but a deeply vulnerable and utterly transparent interdependence. God created us in the same way.
We were designed to need vulnerable, honest, and transparent connection to thrive. When we do not have this kind of connection with God and others, we become broken.
The mistake some of us make is to withdraw from regular, honest connections once we reach a satisfactory point in our healing. We fail to recognize that the reason we found any healing at all was because of the honest and transparent connections we had to make use of in our healing process. Our recovery was as much about those regular connections as it was about trauma, behavior, and beliefs.
At the writing of this blog I have been meeting weekly with other men to be honest about my feelings, behaviors, and beliefs for 25 years. These regular meetings, perhaps more than anything else, are what keep my healing in place.
I am not suggesting that healing is something so fragile that we must keep bolstering it up to prevent it from falling apart. I am saying that healing IS connection. To be healed is to be connected with others in regular, open conversation. To be healed is to do life together with others who are safe. To isolate is to move away from healing and back toward brokenness.
HEALTH & FITNESS
We know we should eat well to stay healthy. We know we need a certain amount of exercise not to fall into frailty. We know that having outlets for creativity keeps us in better mental shape. Our connection with others is no different.
Eating is required to survive physically but eating better food will also make us healthier. In the same way, having connection with others is required for basic mental health but the quality of those connections determines the extent of our wholeness. Shallow connections help us survive but do not help us thrive. Only deep, honest connections can keep moving us in the direction of wholeness instead of brokenness.
For those of us who have been sexually abused, we need safe people we talk with regularly so we can bring up past wounds any time they attempt to resurface.
For those who struggle with compulsive sexual behaviors, we need regular connection with others who know our story and will support us as we work through any triggers that come up.
For those who have been betrayed, we need regular connection with others who know our story who can be an ally when we are occasionally reminded of past traumas.
For children and adolescents who are still trying to make sense of their sexuality and temptation, they need adults to regularly talk through what they are feeling and remind them they are not alone.
Allies like this are not just for the time we are in active recovery or healing. Allies are supposed to be forever. Allies are supposed to talk often. Allies should be available at all times to support each other when needed.
We sometimes forget that God commanded all of us to do these things on a regular basis. This is something every follower of Jesus is supposed to be doing, all the time.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. A prayer of a righteous person, when it is brought about, can accomplish much.
—James 5;16 (NASB)
Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
—Galatians 6:2 (NASB)
The opposite of sexual brokenness is not sobriety or the absence of emotional pain. The opposite of sexual brokenness is regular connection with God and a group of allies as we journey through our life on earth.
by Jonathan Daugherty
President and Founder of Be Broken
“Every Christian community must realize that not only do the weak need the strong, but also that the strong cannot exist without the weak. The elimination of the weak is the death of fellowship.”
I'm not a biologist, but I struggle to think of anything in the animal kingdom that thrives (or even survives) alone. I believe humans especially suffer when left alone. More so than maybe any other creature on the planet we need each other. Yet, so often the wounds we carry from the difficulty and cruelty of life are carried alone. This is no way to thrive (or survive).
Having lived a life of addiction myself, I can predict a common question that might come from those drowning in the self-deception of compulsive thoughts and behaviors that seem impossible to shake:
"What are the benefits of togetherness?"
In other words, what's in it for me? (By the way, this is the way an addicted person thinks about everything: me, me, me.)
Well, I have good news. There is a lot in it for those who are willing to step into the realm of community and engage in the process of doing life together with others.
The following are five benefits that I believe make doing life together way better than doing it alone.
Together we find comfort
Ecclesiastes 4:11 - ...if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?
Living alone is painful, and cold. And I'm not talking about not having a roommate, or a spouse, or living in a cave on the side of a mountain. I mean that living detached from others emotionally is painful. And many live like this, especially addicts.
But in recovery, an addicted person finds that they are wanted, embraced, even loved in spite of their brokenness. This brings great comfort to a lonely, broken heart. There is a warmth felt in relationships that can't be replicated in aloneness. God made us to soothe one another, to "keep one another warm," when the difficulties of life press in on us.
I remember when my recovery began. My wife had left because of my infidelity. I was alone. Lonely. I could no longer ignore or deny my sin and brokenness. So, I went to see a counselor.
Within just a few sessions with the counselor, he suggested that I plug into a support group. I was reluctant at first (to be honest, I was terrified!). But I eventually decided to go to the group. I’m glad I did.
My very first time at the group I experienced the comfort of other men who understood me and my broken life. They listened to my story. They didn’t reject or ridicule me. They embraced me; metaphorically and literally! I felt I had come home.
Together we experience comfort for the pain and struggles of life.
Together we protect each other
Ecclesiastes 4:12 - And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
We are more vulnerable physically, emotionally, and spiritually when we live alone. We need friends, family, and a community to help protect us against the harms that swirl about us in life.
Temptations do not have the same power over us when we have a brother or two to fight alongside us. But if we are alone and isolated, as the verse above states, we likely will not stand.
But we don't just need relationships so we can be protected, we also need them so we can protect others. It's just as important for our brothers that we are in the foxhole as it is for us that they are there. When you have someone specific to fight for, rather than just a concept or principle (i.e. purity), you become quite a bit more invested in the battle. You realize that there are actual lives on the line, and they need your presence to help them be victorious.
After I had been attending the group for awhile, I noticed something about this idea of protection in community. No one belittled another man’s story and no one ever shared another man’s story outside the group. This wasn’t even a verbalized “rule,” this was just how men in the group protected each other.
I believe this desire to protect other group members is rooted in respect for courage. It isn’t easy to confess secret sins. Telling others of the awful selfish behaviors you have engaged in takes a great deal of courage. But when that courage is displayed, respect is granted.
We all need a group of friends, of confidants, who “have our back” in the trenches of life. We need those who protect our dignity, and we need those whose dignity we can protect. The bond of such friendships becomes unbreakable.
Together we stand up and protect each other.
Together we learn
The longer a person is isolated or disconnected from relationships, the more prone they are to delusional thinking. We rarely come up with brilliant ideas alone. How do I know this? Try bouncing one of your "brilliant" ideas off someone else, or better yet several someone else's. You are likely to get some push back on your ideas, maybe even causing you to realize that they weren't even that good, let alone brilliant.
Proverbs 18:17 - The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.
We need each other to help us learn and grow and be accountable. This requires humility, acknowledging that we aren't as smart as we think we are and that there is good that comes from sharing ideas. Surely, the Word of God contains the most important ideas, and we must be willing to wrestle with the truth that sets us free, even when it demands that we change our ways.
The best context for such learning is in community with others who also desire to heal and grow.
Within a few weeks of joining my support group, one of the men shared a truism from the AA community: “It’s your best thinking that got you here.” At first, I was shocked and a little bit offended. What a hard statement! But it was also a true statement.
I was confronted with the reality that my “wisdom” in addiction was actually foolishness. My reasoning, my false beliefs, my choices landed me squarely in the prison of compulsive behaviors that I could not control or resist. My best thinking got me here.
This is when I began to discover the treasure of wisdom that exists in a group of people pursuing freedom, truth, and grace. Group became a place for questions to be asked and wrestled with. It was safe to say “I don’t know” and to let go of “always being right” thinking.
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. -Proverbs 13:20
Together we learn and grow in wisdom and humility.
Together we multiply good
Ecclesiastes 4:9 - Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
One major point of fellowship and togetherness is to multiply good; to pass along the blessings we have received to those struggling. As we stumble through life, we do so together. We pick each other up when we fall, helping one another to move forward and not get stuck -- in addiction, depression, shame, etc.
Which is more encouraging:
When you fall, someone hands you a book to read.
When you fall, someone lifts you up by spending time with you.
(It's rhetorical; the answer is obvious!) Togetherness is how we multiply good. When someone has cared enough to lift you up through their time and presence, you feel compelled to demonstrate the same care and sincerity, not only toward them, but also toward others who fall.
After several months in my group I noticed a change in me when it came to sharing my story outside the group. I was more open and honest with friends or coworkers, even people in my church. As I was receiving help from the group and seeing changes manifest in my thoughts and behaviors, I felt more compelled and confident to share this with others -- even inviting other men to join me in the group!
About one year after beginning my recovery I started a group for men in my church. That was over 20 years ago and hundreds of men have come through that group on their own journey of recovery and growth.
Together we multiply good for generations to come.
Together we love
1 Corinthians 13:13 - So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Our chief aim in all of life is to love -- both God and others. At the core of our being we were made for relationship, to love one another with all our being. Love cannot be fully expressed or enjoyed alone. It makes no sense. Love must be shared.
The deepest need we have is to be known and loved. You cannot be known if isolated and disconnected from others. And if you cannot be known, you certainly can't be loved. To love someone is to know them; the good, the bad, and the ugly. We long to be loved, and we are made to love others.
For decades now my favorite day of the week is Tuesday. Why? Because this is the day that our weekly support group meets. I love this day because I love the men who show up. And when they experience love, they experience all that comes with it: hope, freedom, joy, peace, and so much more.
Together we love one another no matter what.
Don't live any more of your life alone. Reach out to others around you and start the journey of knowing and loving one another. The greatest joys in life only come in relationship.
We are better together!
by Jonathan Daugherty
Founder & President of Be Broken
After 18 years of full-time sexual integrity ministry, I was given a 7-week sabbatical by our board of directors. In my entire adult life I had never had that much continuous time away from work. It was a precious gift, and I am thankful.
But I know the question you are asking: Why would I care about your sabbatical?
In other words, Why should you even keep reading this article?
Because you and I are more alike than we are different. We have the same fundamental needs since we are fellow human beings made in God's image. And one of those basic needs is rest.
Keep reading if you want to gain some insights about rest that could help you achieve greater spiritual, physical, and emotional health. Yes, God's creation and design of rest really is that incredible -- and essential!
Before I share my personal sabbatical discoveries, let's get a working definition for rest. This definition is rooted in the biblical idea of Sabbath.
And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. -Gen. 2:2-3
When God finished His creation work, He rested. In His case, this wasn't because He was tired or needed any sort of energy "replenishment." He rested in order to enjoy His work; to relish, or glory in it.
Part of Sabbath rest is pausing to enjoy and delight in doing good work.
God went on to establish a weekly rhythm of Sabbath rest for His people:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. -Ex. 20:8-11
God commands us to "remember the Sabbath day" and to "not do any work" on it. It is a holy day set apart for physical rest -- and spiritual reflection. To "remember" the Sabbath is to remember the God of the heavens and earth, and worship Him accordingly.
Part of Sabbath rest is being still and worshiping the God of creation.
Sabbath rest is a regularly dedicated time to cease from work, to focus on God, and to celebrate all the good that has been done in His name.
God created the Sabbath to be a regular part of life. At the very least, one day a week is to be set aside for Sabbath rest. But there can also be seasons of Sabbath rest, such as a sabbatical. God even instituted "rest" for the land every seven years (see Exodus 23:10-11).
The main question for you and me is do we take Sabbath rest as seriously as God does? And if not, what are the consequences?
Discoveries from My Sabbatical
The following are some discoveries I made on my sabbatical that I hope will help you pursue a better balance of Sabbath rest in your own life. At the end of the article I post some additional resources for better work-rest balance.
1. Rest is good and needs to be a regular part of the rhythms of life.
Following from the above definition of Sabbath rest, this first "discovery" may seem like an obvious no-brainer. Duh, of course rest is good and needs to be part of my life!
But slow down. Sometimes what appears so obvious is glaringly absent from our actual week-to-week lives.
Do you really believe that rest is good and necessary? Or do you treat it like a nice accessory, but not a true necessity? In other words, do you view rest as equally as important as work? Is it scheduled on your calendar like everything else you consider important? When you disobey God's command to rest, do you confess it as sin?
(Ok, I'll stop there. I sense my questions were getting increasingly painful -- and personal!)
Because Sabbath rest is connected to God's Sabbath rest in creation we need to see it as both good and necessary. The idea of Sabbath existed before sin entered the world. Therefore, it is holy, good, and part of God's original design for human beings.
2. Rest is harder than it seems.
I was so looking forward to my sabbatical. I envisioned deep relaxation of body, mind, and soul. Then I was struck by a surprising reality: rest doesn't come easily!
Remember the definition of Sabbath rest: a regularly dedicated time to cease from work, to focus on God, and to celebrate all the good that has been done in His name.
Intentionality, ceasing work, focus, celebration. These are not terms that indicate passivity. Ironically, real rest takes some real effort!
To illustrate how hard it can be to truly rest, do this exercise. Sit in a comfortable chair. Close your eyes, Slow your breathing. Be quiet. Now, attempt to stay still for ten minutes. At the end of the ten minutes, on a scale of 1 to 5, rate how peaceful you felt. (1 being totally at peace, 5 being very anxious/stressed)
Maybe you scored really well. I didn't. To sit still for 10 minutes may be easy to do physically, but mentally it's a real challenge. Things may be quiet on the outside (especially if the phone is turned off), but to "turn down the volume" internally takes some attention.
The primary challenges to rest that I encountered on my sabbatical were:
As challenging as rest can be, it is worth the discipline. Adjusting focus and setting better expectations about what true rest is can really do wonders for experiencing deeper peace.
I know it seems contradictory to say you must "work hard" at rest, but if you don't you will continue to believe the lie that Sabbath rest is achieved merely by inactivity. Sadly, this only reaps a harvest of restlessness and weariness.
3. We are designed for purpose; even rest can be meaningful and life-giving.
I have battled rest my whole life. I haven't valued it as highly as work, or "ministry." I have seen it as something that is only necessary to regain energy to get back to the "real" business of life: work.
But if God, the eternal self-sustaining Creator of all things, rested, this must mean that rest is good and meaningful. And if I am made in God's image, then engaging in rest is part of my duty and delight in reflecting Him.
What this looks like practically for me is reframing my mindset around restful activities.
Rest is woven into our design and has a purpose beyond just getting reenergized for tomorrow's work.
4. God's creation is a testament to Sabbath rest
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)
I love getting into nature, especially the mountains. There is something so majestic and awe-inspiring about these rocky crags that reach for the heavens. I feel wonder and amazement when gazing at the earth from a perch at 10,000 feet.
But I find there is more to be amazed at than just the beauty of God's creation. I find woven into nature millions of testimonies for Sabbath rest.
Observing nature can provide a simple (but profound) education in our need for Sabbath rest. After all, nature is far more obedient to God's commands than we are!
Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy wind fulfilling his word!
Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
Beasts and all livestock,
creeping things and flying birds!
5. Sabbath rest is primarily communal
I am an introvert. I prefer solitude over groups of people. This isn't a bad thing, but if I'm not careful I can use this personality tendency as an excuse to isolate from community. But true Sabbath rest is communal.
Even when God rested from His creation work, He observed it and celebrated it communally. First, in Himself; He is one God consisting of a triune community: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. But secondly, He rested in the presence of human beings (they were created on the 6th Day and God rested on the 7th Day).
I certainly believe there is a place for solitude in Sabbath rest (even Jesus would withdraw to "lonely places" to pray; but one could argue even this was communal since the Son was praying to the Father). But a huge part of what our souls need in Sabbath rest cannot be experienced by ourselves.
There are 3 main communal "activities" of Sabbath: Sacrifice, Fellowship, and Worship.
6. Life can only be enjoyed in the present
For some, the normal routines of life can become monotonous and predictable. Every day is just work, eat, sleep, repeat. The calendar app keeps rushing us from one activity to the next. Time races by. All that matters is what's next.
For others, although time keeps ticking, life has stopped. Nothing seems to matter. Food has lost its taste. Work is nothing more than punching a time card. Sleep is illusive. All of life is stuck in the past.
But neither dreams of the future nor memories of the past are happening now. And now is life. Life is only experienced in this moment.
My sabbatical reminded me to be careful of clinging to the unchangeable past or racing toward the unpredictable future. Instead, life is about being present in the now.
Interestingly, I discovered that "being present" is a far more restful way to live. Pining (or brooding) over the past is stressful and exhausting. Constantly imagining (or fantasizing) about the future, while fun and exciting, carries me away from opportunities that might be right in front of me now.
This doesn't mean we never examine our past or plan for our future. But we must learn to do so without sacrificing the only time that life is happening: now.
A Few More Ideas
Here are just a few more ideas from my sabbatical that might be useful as you think about your own times of rest:
I hope this brief reflection on my sabbatical has helped you think through your own need for Sabbath rest, and provided you with a few ideas so you might engage more faithfully in "time to cease from work, to focus on God, and to celebrate all the good that has been done in His name."
What is God inviting you to do differently in order to engage more Sabbath rest? What will you do right now to take steps in that direction?
May God bless you as you rest in Him...
Additional Resources to Help You Rest Well:
An Unhurried Life by Alan Fadling
Reset by David Murray (for pastors/ministry leaders)
Refresh by Shona & David Murray (for women)
Soul Keeping by John Ortberg
by Jonathan Daugherty
Founder & President of Be Broken
In recent years a lot has been written about the negative fallout of the "purity movement" of the 1990's and early 2000's. And rightfully so. Many were wounded as a result of narrow, incomplete teaching on God's design for sex.
Essentially, "purity culture" taught that sex is for marriage, virginity is sacred (seemingly above all else), and if you save yourself for marriage you will be blessed with happiness and great, godly sexual bliss. This led many young people to go "underground" with their sexual struggles and questions due to the shame created by the purity movement (whether intentional or unintentional).
But does the failure of a particular movement mean that certain terms must be forever relegated as "dangerous" or unhelpful?
I would like to propose that the term 'sexual purity' is good and useful when properly understood. I will attempt to share what we at Be Broken mean when we use this term, and hopefully this will lead you to a fuller understanding of God's good and beautiful design for sex and purity.
Only God is Pure
When we think of purity as meaning totally unstained or absolute perfection, then there can only be one being to whom this definition fits: God. He alone is perfect, absolutely holy.
To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One. (Isaiah 40:25)
This is important to understand so that none of us thinks we can produce within ourselves something that belongs to God alone. God is 100% holy and perfect, we are not.
But this might seem confusing when God's Word also says, "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.'" (1 Peter 1:14-16, referencing passages from Leviticus; 11:44-45, 19:2, 20:7, and others)
Is God commanding us to do something that is impossible? If only God is holy (pure), how can he command us to be holy?
This is where it is important to remember that we are "made in God's image." (Gen. 1:26-27) Another way to state this is that we are "made in God's reflection." We do not contain the essence of God in our being (we don't possess omniscience, for example), but by God's grace we do possess the capacity to reflect Him.
In this way, God's call on our lives to "be holy" is to accurately and faithfully reflect His image and character in the world around us.
Therefore, sexual purity would mean we accurately and faithfully reflect God's design and desires regarding sex and sexuality.
This is where we need to understand what God's design and desires regarding sex and sexuality actually are.
Sex is Good
In the beginning, God created Adam from the dust of the ground and then fashioned his wife, Eve, out of Adam's body. After they were created, "God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good." (Gen. 1:31)
Human beings made in God's image, male and female, were declared "very good" by God. This included their sexuality. In fact, Adam spoke of this intimate union when he first saw Eve. He said:
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Gen. 2:23-24)
Adam immediately recognized the "fittedness" of Eve to himself; bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She "completed" him in a way that no other creature God created could. This "one flesh" union was good and sanctioned by God in the covenant bond of marriage ("hold fast to his wife").
But God's design for sex is more than just a way for a husband and wife to connect or procreate. God's design for sex is to give us a tangible picture of the kind of relationship He desires with us: covenantal, intimate, life-multiplying.
The goodness of sex points to the Author of good: God. He is the ultimate Lover, the faithful Spouse, our persistent Pursuer.
When we see God's design for sex through His eyes we begin to understand that His call to purity (holiness) is not merely about a list of do's and do not's, but rather an invitation to know Him and love Him in the same way a husband and wife know and love each other.
To pursue sexual purity is to guard the metaphor of sex God has given us by not distorting or dismantling it through pornography, adultery, fornication, gay marriage, polygamy, and the like.
But we also guard the metaphor by not idolizing it; the picture is meant to point us to its Painter. Sex, and even marriage, cannot ultimately provide what your soul can only experience with God.
Sex is good. God made it so. Its design is to draw us closer to our Maker, the only One who can satisfy our deepest longings.
Purity is a Journey, Not a Destination
Nothing in nature is pure. At least not in the sense that we often try to apply (or misapply) this word to sex, as in "sexual purity."
Everything in nature contains "pollution" or imperfections of some kind. Therefore, purity is not a natural state. For anything to be pure it must be purified. Purification is a process of removing the pollutants and imperfections.
For example, gold is not found "pure" in nature. There are all sorts of imperfections attached to it; dirt, other metals, rock, etc. While much of this can simply be chipped away from the gold, the impurities that are woven into the gold itself cannot be removed without melting the gold. This requires high temperatures (roughly 2000 degrees Fahrenheit!) in order to separate the pure gold from the imperfections. This takes time, patience, and precision.
This is what the process of pursuing sexual purity looks like. Human beings are not naturally pure. We have many "pollutants" and imperfections in us (and around us). Pornography, lust, abuse, and more weaves into our lives, our minds and hearts. And these impurities are not eliminated in a single moment in time. We require regular "purifying" throughout a lifetime.
Another way to think of sexual purity as a process is to consider it like a bath. If you bathed yesterday, would you consider yourself permanently clean? I hope not! In a matter of days (or maybe even shorter!) it would be evident that one bath is not adequate. Bathing needs to be a regular part of your life in order for your body to be clean (or "pure").
Sexual purity is a journey. Some parts of the journey might require purification by a refining fire to remove deeply embedded pollutants. Most of the journey will require purification through regular "bathing" to remove the normal, natural imperfections that make their way into our lives daily.
Sexual purity is not a static, permanent state. It is a daily pursuit of reflecting the holy image of God by examining the mirror of our lives and removing whatever is blocking a clear reflection of Him.
The Goal is Mature Faith, Not Sexual Abstinence
Finally, sexual purity is more about maturing in faith than it is about sexual abstinence. While there are boundaries for sexual behavior, the primary focus is on Jesus.
In our ministry, most of the people who reach out to us for help are looking for answers to very specific problems.
"Help, I'm addicted to porn. How can I stop?"
"I just found out my husband has cheated on me. What do I do?"
"My 14-year-old son is sexting with his friends. How do I lock down his phone?"
Hundreds of such requests come before us every year. These are real people with real problems and real pain. But if we simply give them quick, pat answers that only address the urgent question without guiding them to the deeper needs, we aren't actually helping them with their problem or their understanding of sexual purity.
You see, no matter what the presenting sexual problem may be, the solution is always ultimately found in Jesus. (I know this sounds like the classic "Sunday school" answer, but it is still true.) Remember, God is holy, perfect, and he revealed himself to us through his Son, Jesus Christ. In Him, the fullness of diety dwells. (Col. 2:9)
Internet filters, accountability software, support groups, counseling, and all other kinds of tools are helpful for curbing behaviors. But no "tool" produces sexual purity in the heart. Only Jesus can transform a person on that level.
Ultimately, sexual purity is about faith. Will you trust God with your whole heart, your whole life, including your sexuality? Pursuing Him in faith is the most "purifying" thing you can do. His love and truth will cleanse you in ways you might have thought impossible.
Sexual purity is not a term that we need to fear or categorically dismiss due to its historical mishandling. We just need to understand it better from a biblical framework.
When we use the term "sexual purity" we mean:
May God grant you favor and peace as you pursue a life of sexual purity.
by Jonathan Daugherty
Founder & President of Be Broken
When news stories break about the moral failure of yet another Christian leader (like Ravi Zacharias or Carl Lentz), it is shocking to some, sad to others, and paints an incongruous picture to the watching world of what it should look like to follow Jesus and lead His Church.
I don't fall into the shocked camp anymore. I've been working in full-time ministry to sexually broken people for nearly 20 years. I've heard it all, even from pastors and church leaders.
But even if I'm not shocked by what I hear these leaders share, my heart breaks for what these stories of sexual brokenness mean for them, their families, and the many lives affected by their positions of leadership.
Leadership, by definition, has consequences.
When leadership is good, followers prosper.
When leadership is bad, followers suffer.
When leadership is deceitful about their sin and weaknesses, followers are devastated by such betrayal of trust.
No leader is perfect or without weaknesses. We must be careful of elevating anyone to such a status of "untouchable" in the church (or any institution). That is certainly a recipe for disappointment, or worse.
It is right, however, to have some expectations of what makes one a quality leader. After all, there should be a measurable difference between good and bad leadership, for the sake of both the followers and the leader.
The question I am trying to answer here is how are Christians, those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, to respond to the moral failure of church leaders? How do we understand and process such betrayal? And in our response, how do we care well for those hurt by such leaders while also upholding the sanctity of the gospel and the goodness of ecclesiastical authority?
Above Reproach: God's Expectation of Church Leaders
The standard for pastoral leadership in the Church is spelled out plainly in Scripture:
Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
1 Timothy 3:2-7 (see also Titus 1:5-9)
God's standard for pastoral leadership is that he be someone "above reproach." This can't mean "perfect," for then no one could be in pastoral leadership. But it can certainly mean a man whose life pattern reflects the morality and maturity of a faithful follower of Christ.
When we hear terrible news of the moral failure of a pastor or church leader, we should count such news as awful because of the disregard such a leader showed for God's standard for them. Somewhere along the way compromises to integrity were made and deceit was employed to hide the truth.
At the same time, we must also remind our own local pastors and church leaders of the important and necessary standard God has for them. Let us be an encouragement to those who are living above reproach in their desire to honor Christ and serve His Church. Not all church leaders are living double lives.
Accountability: No Church Leader is Above Church Discipline
Because God does have a standard for leaders in His Church, and because such leaders are imperfect men, there is need for accountability of those in leadership. And when there are stumbles and missteps in their lives or leadership, discipline is necessary.
No church leader is above church discipline!
Where I believe most error occurs in these stories of leaders who end up being front page news for their moral failures is lack of accountability from peers and/or overseeing bodies of authority (i.e. elders, board of directors, etc.).
So much heartache and division could have been mitigated (but not eliminated) if these leaders had simply submitted to their fellow believers when they first started drifting toward sin. Or if the governing leaders pressed in and asked hard questions when they saw or heard things that gave them suspicion of hidden sin.
One of the most insidious lies of the enemy is convincing Church leaders that their position is more important than their character. When leaders stay silent about their sin, the Church suffers far more than if they confess and submit to redemptive discipline.
When a church leader does confess and repent, they need other leaders around them to support them and hold them accountable to a plan for reconciliation (and possibly restoration).
The Differences between Repentance, Reconciliation, and Restoration
In order to understand how to respond to the moral failure of church leaders, one must understand God's desire to redeem all that is broken in creation, and how that redemptive process works in the life of a church leader struggling with immorality.
Biblically, there is a kind of "3-step process" for fallen church leaders to follow in order to participate in God's redemptive plan: Repentance, Reconciliation, and Restoration.*
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Cor. 7:10)
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight.
The only way that healing can occur in a church leader who has violated their office is through repentance. Unless there is true brokenness and "godly grief" over their sin, change cannot happen.
To repent is to "change one's mind" about an action taken. It is more than simply confession. To confess is to "agree with truth," but to repent is to respond to truth with a willful desire to change.
When those closest to the church leader who has fallen learn of his sin, they need to call him to personal repentance. There will be a time for dealing with the effects of his sin on other people and the consequences he must face as a result, but he first needs to know that without true repentance over his sin he cannot experience the cleansing forgiveness of God that leads to hope and joy. (Ps. 51:7-12)
This is no time for excuses from the fallen church leader. Excuses, blame shifting, or other attempts to minimize what happened are sure signs that the leader has not repented. Stand firm on this point. While those wounded by the leader can heal and move forward even if he doesn't repent, God commands repentance from all who sin against Him.
One final note on repentance: it happens both in a moment and over time. There can be powerful moments of contrition and brokenness; the Holy Spirit can crush the pride and break open great floods of "godly grief" and remorse. But it also takes time to cultivate an "attitude of repentance," a desire to keep one's mind open to the instruction and correction of God and His Word.
Patience is required at every stage of this kind of healing.
Only when there has been repentance can there be reconciliation (and eventually possibly restoration). So, if a fallen church leader remains unrepentant these next two stages of healing and transformation remain "on hold." In such cases, instruction from Matthew 18 can provide guidance for how to handle the leader's unrepentant heart.
There are several key relationships that need reconciliation once repentance is genuine:
Whether the leader's wife was aware of his indiscretions or not, there will be a need for reconciling. There is no such thing as a "righteous" marriage when one spouse (or both) is living a double life.
Professional counseling is highly recommended for this stage of healing.
There may also be other family relationships that need reconciling: kids, parents, in-laws, and others. Focus on the nuclear family first, working out to other layers of relatives as necessary.
Those in leadership over or around the fallen church leader must implement appropriate church discipline. The repentant church leader then needs to pursue personal reconciliation with each leader to whom he broke trust.
This is about personal reconciliation between leaders, not restoration of the church leader's former position. Whether or not the church leader ever holds another ministry leadership position, there are personal relationships that need to be healed.
Trust was violated. Betrayal was felt. Anger, confusion, hurt, and disappointment need to be processed. Eventually, forgiveness must be granted to the repentant church leader. This all takes time.
One can't live a double life without hurting friends. The whole premise of keeping secrets is lying. At some point, everyone gets lied to by a person living a double life. This includes friends.
Most likely when the news of the church leader's failure becomes public, everyone close to the church leader will take a few steps back. They are hurt, confused, and angry. It makes sense that they would want some space. And that's ok.
In my view, it doesn't matter who makes the first move to try and reconcile the broken friendship. Regardless, the church leader must still be repentant and allow his friends time to grieve.
Over time, as the leader grows in humility, friends can forgive and hopefully establish a new foundation for a friendship built on truth and grace. Again, all this takes time and good counsel, a lot of it.
Reconciliation with followers is often very difficult and very sticky. These are people who exhibited voluntary trust in the leader. They chose to follow him. They were under no real obligation; they freely submitted. Then the lid came off.
It's hard to describe this kind of pain. In some ways, it can feel like the betrayal of a spouse (I'm not saying these are equivalent). And the closer the followers were to the leader (either in proximity or in relationship), the violation penetrates deeper.
Reconciliation with followers can take the longest and really isn't the first priority for the fallen church leader. The main task of caring for the followers needs to fall to the elders or governing body of the organization. Counseling, support, and prayer with grieving individuals and families is critical during such a season.
After the church leader has exhibited true repentance and been working on healing family and leader relationships, there may be an opportunity for reconciliation with followers. This needs to be at the direction and wisdom of the elders or governing body (assuming there was no collusion by such individuals with the leader's duplicity). Much gentleness, patience, and care is needed for this stage of healing.
Keep in mind, reconciliation is distinct from restoration. To be reconciled is to heal the personal damage done by the leader's sin and deceit. This does not mean the leader will (or should be) restored to their ministry position.
Is it ever right for a fallen church leader to be restored to their ministry position? It depends.
Each church has to determine what to do about restoring a church leader to their ministry position after living in secret sin. While there are not concrete biblical mandates on how to do this, there are some principles to guide our thinking.
Type of Offense (Legalities)
Not all sins are equal in their effect, even though all sin is a violation of God's holy standards. Some sins cross legal lines and need to be dealt with accordingly. In cases of criminal offenses, it would not be possible or wise to restore a leader to his ministry position.
For "lesser" offenses there might be the possibility of a restored ministry position, but that needs to be at the discretion of a governing body and in light of how the leader engages all the other aspects of healing and growth we have highlighted in this article.
Of incredible importance is understanding that restoration to ministry is not the goal! Upholding the gospel of Jesus and working toward the healing of all parties affected by the leader's sin is the primary concern. We are called to unity and holiness in the body of Christ; people are more important than positions.
Length and Severity of Deception
How long the leader has been living a double life is also a factor in determining if restoration to ministry is possible or prudent. The difference between a few months versus many years can play a huge factor in the kind of response the leader has to church discipline and the kind of damage done to the church and members.
Was the leader's deception willful or avoidant? Did he actively orchestrate elaborate ways to ensure his sin remained secret or was he passively "keeping his mouth shut" hoping no one would notice. Neither case is right or good, but understanding the degree of deception can help in knowing how damaged or seared is the conscience of the leader.
A church leader who has devolved into patterns of serial narcissism is likely unfit for any future office of leadership in the Church.
Repentance and Attitude of Leader
A huge factor in determining whether a fallen church leader is able to be restored to ministry is their attitude and heart for repentance.
When King David was confronted by the prophet Nathan concerning his adulterous and murderous actions, David responded with contrition and repentance. (2 Sam. 12:13, Psalm 51) He didn't deflect responsibility. He didn't blame. His soul was crushed and he poured out his heart to God in hope of mercy.
But even if a leader is truly repentant of their sin, this doesn't automatically mean they should be restored to church leadership. Remember, the goal is not reacquiring a position, the goal is unity and holiness in the body of Christ, the Church.
The Lord must ultimately be the one to determine if the repentant leader is once again fit for a ministry position, and the governing body must pray for wisdom to hear clearly the Lord's instruction on the matter.
Safety and Wellness of Church Members
Finally, it is vital that the safety and well-being of the entire church membership be taken into account when considering the restoration of a fallen leader. Elders are charged with "shepherding the flock." Many factors must be taken into account across the entire congregation before moving toward restoring a fallen leader to a position of church leadership.
Restoration requires lots of time, lots of prayer, lots of wisdom, lots of patience, and lots of faith. In the end, it is God's call on whether a fallen leader can once again serve in church leadership.
When done well, these are typically the developing characteristics of restored leaders:
Holding the Tension between Truth and Grace
Possibly the hardest thing to do when we learn of the moral failure of a Christian leader is to hold the tension between truth and grace, between justice and love. Only Jesus has ever held this tension perfectly.
What makes holding this tension so difficult is that both responses are correct from God's vantage point. It is correct to respond to a church leader's sin with righteous anger, a clear call for justice. He has violated the trust of his followers and sullied the Name and Word of God.
But love and mercy are also the correct response. Who of us can stand before another person as a sinless judge? In the same way that we cry out for mercy regarding our own sin, we must extend love to the sinful church leader.
This is what Jesus did for all of us on the cross: He displayed both justice and love. God's justice was enacted by punishing our sins that were laid on Jesus' back. God's love was displayed by it being the sinless Jesus who bore that penalty on our behalf. Justice and love came together in the beaten, bloody Jesus who cried out: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)
Sin demands justice. We cannot ignore potential charges when a church leader's sin violates the law. We cannot ignore the pain inflicted on followers and the trust that has been broken. There are consequences to sin.
But God also desires mercy. When a church leader (or any fellow believer) is repentant, Christians are commanded to forgive. (Matt. 18:21-34)
Will any of us hold this tension between truth and grace, justice and love, perfectly? No. Does this release us before God from trying? No.
Jesus Christ was "full of grace and truth." (John 1:14) As His followers, we too must strive to walk in step with him, holding that same tension between grace and truth as we navigate responding to moral failures in church leaders (or any fellow Christians).
Proclaim the Gospel throughout the Aftermath
What often gets lost (or reframed) in the aftermath of the moral failure of a church leader is the gospel of Jesus Christ. After all, since church leaders are to be ambassadors of the gospel message, it makes sense that the gospel takes a hit when a church leader violates God's standard for their position.
Enemies of Christ shout all the louder that the gospel isn't true; that the so-called Savior can't actually save and transform lives. After all, just look at the fallen church leader.
Some Christians will walk away from their faith, convinced that their trust in Jesus was in vain since the leader they followed has proven himself a fraud. Their pain and anger become the lens through which they view the gospel.
But Christians must not allow the failures of men to nullify or reshape the clear gospel message of Jesus Christ.
The Good News of Jesus stands on its own because it is God's message of salvation for all who believe. No person can ultimately thwart the redemptive plan of God.
Therefore, never stop proclaiming God's message of salvation during the aftermath of a church leader's moral failure. When people are hurting and angry and confused and swimming in doubt, bring them back to the simple, pure message of Jesus Christ. He is the one they need to look to for hope and salvation, not the fallen church leader.
Sometimes when these devastating events take place it reveals where one's true hope and confidence was placed. Was it in Christ alone or in the church leader? Did followers even understand the gospel, or were they just swept up in the charisma and "talent" of the leader?
With gentleness and wisdom, use this season of healing to clarify the gospel:
When any church leader lives a double life of sin and deceit, it is painful and heartbreaking when the truth comes out. But the gospel of Jesus Christ is not reliant on whether or not human agents carry that message perfectly (none of us do). But we must all humble ourselves before God, repenting of our own sin before Him, and striving to live as faithful witnesses to a lost and dying world.
Of one thing we can be sure: Jesus Christ never fails; He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Heb. 13:8) Let us praise God for this truth and continue to call others to put their trust in Christ, not church leaders.
*See book Unpunishable by Danny Silk
It is very common for parents to tell us during workshops on talking with kids about sex, “I’m worried I will ruin my child’s innocence.” In fact, this is one of the more common fears parents have related to talking with their kids about sex. Since this concern comes up so frequently it is worth talking about.
Does talking with our children about sex or pornography ruin their innocence?
What Do We Really Fear?
When I ask parents to explain this fear they often respond with a concern that they would put dangerous ideas in their child’s head. They worry it might make their child curious about sex and go look online for answers. They worry it might put ideas in their child’s head to go experiment with on their own. Other parents worry about traumatizing their child with information they didn’t expect and were not ready to hear.
In other words, parents are worried that talking honestly with their children about sex will either traumatize their child or entice them to seek out some form of sexuality to interact with. These are fears about unintentionally putting our child in some kind of danger.
It is easy to understand wanting to protect our children from danger. The question then becomes, does talking to our children about sex and sexuality put them in danger?
The Real Danger for Children
The real danger children face is not hearing from their parents how God designed human sexuality to work.
Danger comes when a child is exposed to sexualized content while unprepared and ignorant about sex.
All children will come in contact with sexualized media or information outside of a parents’ control. The only question is, will they be ready and will they know what to do when this happens?
Children learn about sex from each other. Learning about sex for the first time can feel a bit world-altering for a child, no matter how old they are. A whole new reality has just been revealed to them, although they still barely understand it. Children process new and important information the same way adults do—they want to tell others what they just found out. Very often children will tell all their friends everything they just learned, even friends much younger than they are.
Children learn about sex from pornography. One of the most common stories we hear about first exposures to pornography is when a child clicks on an ad that looked interesting while doing homework or playing a video game. In many cases the child had no idea what pornography was or that anything like it existed. This is a particularly dangerous scenario today as first exposure to Internet porn often consists of hundreds of videos of deviant sex acts appearing on the screen at once.
Children learn about sex from non-pornographic sources. In my case, I found my mothers nursing books on the family bookshelf, which contained many photos of naked people. Their eyes were blanked out, but that is all that was blanked out. These were not images of sex, but my parents had never talked to me about nudity or body parts and I didn’t quite know what to think. I was only eight or nine at the time but I went to my friends, not my parents, to talk about what I’d seen.
When we as parents refrain from talking with our kids about body parts, sexuality, and even pornography, we leave them vulnerable, unprepared, and unprotected for when they do come across that information. Talking with our kids about sex is a way to protect them, not ruin them
When Do I Talk?
Knowing when to talk to our children about sexuality is perhaps the harder question. It is easier when we approach such conversations as a means of protection instead of just education.
Several counselors, authors, and speakers who focus on helping parents talk with their children about sex met in 2020 to discuss this very issue; when do we talk with our children about sex?
Here is the advice that came out of that meeting:
That might seem really young! However, we as parents typically view our children as younger and more immature than they really are. They are often ready for conversations long before we think they are.
In addition, children today are exposed to information about sex much younger than we realize. It does not matter if a child goes to a Christian school or even is homeschooled, they probably have been introduced to more ideas about sex than a parent will realize.
A homeschool boy came up to me after a presentation and volunteered this information, “My dad didn’t talk with me about porn until three years after I first saw it. I was already kinda hooked by that time.”
We cannot give a definitive roadmap for when to have what conversation with your child. Each child is different and there is no “best age” to have a conversation that works for every child. However, here are some very rough guidelines:
Take Your Next Step
What age is your child? Which of the conversations above have you not had with your child? Our suggested next step for you is to pick one conversation and set a date when you plan to have it with your child.
Need help? Honest Talk: A New Perspective on Talking to Your Kids About Sex has conversation guides to walk you through many of these conversations.
For even more resources, visit our
Family Care Resources page
In this post:
5 Core Values:
Since 2003, Be Broken Ministries has existed for a singular purpose: "Helping individuals and families move from sexual brokenness to wholeness in Christ." It is a simple mission with profound impact.
Our desire is to see every person who wants freedom from sexually destructive patterns to realize that desire through the recovery process of healing and growth. And we are delighted to say that we have seen many gain the freedom they desired.
Over the years, however, there have been many distractions to maintaining focus on the mission:
But time and again we return to the core values that God placed in this ministry from the very beginning: Grace, Honesty, Purity, Community, and Endurance. These are the foundation from which we build every resource, every podcast, every workshop, every website, everything.
We believe for anyone who wants to effectively minister to someone struggling with unwanted sexual behaviors, these are the core values that must exist. Therefore, let me share what these core values mean; to us, and to the process of recovery.
"No one is too broken to love."
When anyone reaches out for help with compulsive unwanted sexual behaviors, the most important response they need is one of grace; the undeserved kindness of a friend.
We believe this grace originates from God, who loved us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sin (including sexual sin). God didn't wait for us to get "sober" or cleaned up or "on the right path." Instead, "...while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8b) That's grace!
Many sexually addicted people, however, are not greeted with grace when they finally decide to seek help. They are often met with condemnation, rejection, or rigid rules. This causes the person to falsely believe that their worth is based on their performance, so if they just learn how to "behave" they will find the love and acceptance they long for. But that's not how grace works.
If you want to effectively minister to a sexually broken person, you must lead with grace; extending compassion, kindness, and warmth even while they are still drenched in the muck of their addiction.
It is a soft touch, not an iron fist, that draws a broken sinner out of the dark and into the light of hope and transformation.
"Everyone's full story is worth hearing."
Sex addicts (or any addicts) are excellent liars. They often have a history of not only telling lies, but also being told lies. In fact, every sex addict I have ever met learned to tell lies by being told lies, whether from a parent, older sibling, or the media they consumed in childhood. And lies beget lying.
The predominant teacher of lies for sex addicts is usually pornography. It teaches a young person a host of lies; about sex, about love, about relationships, about life.
Once a kid has bought porn's lies, it becomes easy to travel down the road of deception -- of others and self. Eventually, this person wakes up in their late 20's or early 30's and realizes "I'm living a lie!"
Therefore, to help a sexual addict break free from a life of lies, you must introduce them to truth. Truth comes from God, for Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life..." (John 14:6a)
For an addict to overcome their self-deception, they must encounter Jesus. This requires getting into His Word, the Bible, and reaching out to Him in prayer. As one draws closer to Jesus, the line between lies and truth becomes clearer.
But freedom for a sex addict doesn't just happen because they come to see the difference between the truth and a lie. Real freedom only begins when they honestly share their full story and commit to a life of radical honesty.
There is no true freedom if an addict never shares their whole story. All of it must come into the Light in order for them to experience total release and hope.
If you want to effectively minister to a sexual addict, create a safe place for them to share their story; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Encourage radical honesty in a "shame-free-zone," reminding them that their worth is not based on their behavior, but on the God who loved them enough to send Jesus to the cross even before they ever acted out.
"A journey of better reflecting Christ."
No one is perfect, except Jesus.
The Bible says, "Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins." (Ecc. 7:20)
It also says of Jesus, "For our sake he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Cor. 5:21) Jesus was perfect in every way, without sin. In other words, He was pure. We, however, apart from Him, are not.
Certainly someone wanting to break free from sexually addictive patterns must take steps toward purity. After all, pure is the opposite of impure. However, these steps are not toward a purity that we can conjure up within ourselves, or maintain perfectly. Remember, there isn't a righteous person on earth who does good and never sins. Therefore, purity must come from the only One who is pure: Jesus.
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1:13-16)
If you want to effectively minister to a sexual addict, lead them to a deeper dependence on Jesus for their purity. A life of sexual integrity is one that reflects the image of Jesus.
"Enjoying the fruit of healthy relationships."
The ultimate vision we have for sex addicts in recovery is to become "whole and holy." And the environment where this transformation takes place is in community. We desire addicts to one day adopt the very heart of God, a heart which loves freely and richly.
It is hard for anyone to get close to an addict; to really know them. They hide and lie and naturally push people away with their self-absorbed lifestyle. Everything about them points inward, to their brokenness, their pride, their lust.
In essence, porn and sex addicts are always only about themselves. Not only do they not engage in real community, they can't because their eyes never look away from their own image.
When a sex addict finally has their "rock bottom" experience that jolts them awake to the reality of their self-centered life, they must (re)learn to connect with others in healthy ways. This involves telling the truth, listening, exercising empathy, serving with proper motives, and accountability. This is no small task for someone whose life has only been focused inward, but it is still the path to true freedom and joy.
If you want to effectively minister to a sexual addict, welcome them into a loving community where the truth is told in love and faithful friendships can blossom.
The eventual place an addict needs to arrive for their freedom to be realized is a place where giving and serving others is of higher importance than receiving anything in return.
"Finishing well is better than starting fast."
Effective ministry to sexually addicted individuals is not something that happens quickly. The tentacles of such strongholds run deep and grip tightly to the heart, soul, and mind of the addict.
Therefore, a long-term vision of recovery must be established. Programs that promise transformation in mere days or weeks are setting their patrons up for disappointment (and probably even relapse).
The desire to see porn and sex addicts living lives of "wholeness and holiness" is one that requires a greater emphasis on finishing the journey well, rather than just starting fast. Recovery is a lifelong journey of learning and growing, not just a few weeks or months of "detox."
Think of the recovery journey like you would think of nutritional health. If someone is overweight and physically unhealthy, a quick fix diet might help them to feel better for a few weeks or months. But in order for them to experience the best possible physical health they must engage a paradigm shift that involves not just their behavior with food, but also their mindset regarding their whole body (i.e. exercise, sleep, support, etc.).
If you want to effectively ministry to porn and sex addicts, you must help them embrace the long vision of recovery. Invest in their lifelong journey, celebrating small and large milestones along the way.
When the finish line becomes the focus, the steps to reach it make more sense.
The greatest joy in recovery is investing these core values into a weary addict just looking for help...
If you would like to connect with other like-minded leaders in this field of ministry, visit SexualIntegrityLeaders.com.
No one truly enjoys suffering. When pain enters our lives, we instinctively seek relief. This is a right and good response. But often in our quest for relief we mistakenly assume that emotional, spiritual, and relational healing and growth can (and should) happen quickly. They don't.
But before you get too discouraged, let me try to show you why it is far better to focus on finishing well rather than just starting fast on this journey of healing and growth.
Here are 4 reasons why finishing well is better than starting fast when it comes to true life transformation.
Finishing Well Reminds You that Change is a Journey, Not a Destination
Thousands of men have contacted us over the years to get help for their unwanted sexual habits. They reach out for many different reasons, but almost all have the same fundamental desire: change.
They don't want to keep doing the things they are doing. Mainly because they are finally waking up to the reality that what they're doing is harmful to themselves and others. They want out. But they want out NOW!
It is understandable to want quick fixes when the effects of a sexual addiction are finally admitted and revealed. It's a mess. It hurts. It's heavy and complicated. To want freedom from such bondage, and peace instead of chaos, is right and good.
But change, true life change, never happens instantly. Period.
Real transformation, the kind that God works in us through His Spirit, takes a lifetime to come to full maturity. Therefore, focusing on finishing well rather than starting fast reminds us that change is a journey, not a destination.
There isn't a magical point in time where you can say, "I've arrived! All that must change and be completed in my life is accomplished. There is no more healing or growth needed." This "destination" is called heaven, and we only arrive there after death. (And even in heaven there will be no end to our exploration and wonder of the eternally infinite God...)
So, when it comes to life transformation, finishing well is better than starting fast because it keeps you focused on the lifelong journey of growth rather than constantly trying to achieve an unreachable and unrealistic goal of perfection this side of heaven. There is much freedom and peace that come when we focus on finishing well.
Finishing Well Leads Toward Practical Outcomes, Not Merely Idealized Possibilities
It is easy to "dream big" when considering how to start the journey toward life change. It is something else entirely to actually live out the day-by-day grind of such transformation. Finishing well is about establishing real goals with real results.
When I began my journey of recovery from sex addiction back in 1999 I had lots of hopes and dreams (fantasies, really) about what a "changed life" could look like. But all those dreams existed way out in the unrealized world of "possibilities," not in my actual life.
The best possibilities for transformation never happen if there isn't concrete goals and actions attached to them. And this is actually what it takes to finish well. To keep dreaming and dreaming and dreaming about all that "could" change is to stay stuck forever at a starting line you never leave.
If I was going to experience actual life change I was going to have to do something, not just dream something. I had to call a counselor and set up appointments, find a support group and attend faithfully, dig into God's Word and follow wherever His Spirit led me, and many other tangible actions that required my will, not merely good intentions.
One of the most practical outcomes of a finishing well attitude has been the relationships developed with other men for encouragement, accountability, and support. Had I only just "dreamed" about a changed life without ever doing something about it, I would still be alone, isolated, and probably completely enslaved to my addiction (if not dead).
Finishing well involves taking concrete steps toward different outcomes. Faithfulness and perseverance grow because you are committed to actions over the long haul that produce change, not just ideas floating around in the dreamland of possibilities.
(For help taking concrete steps, we have resources for Men, Women, and Families.)
Finishing Well Produces Righteous Character
So what is the actual "goal" of life transformation? If it's a journey and it requires actions, what is this process actually intended to produce?
The short answer is the life of Jesus.
We are made in God's image; we are made to reflect God in the world (Gen. 1:26-28). Jesus Christ was the exact representation (image) of God (Heb. 1:3). Because of sin we are separated from God and do not reflect Him rightly (Rom. 3:23). However, through faith in Christ we are reconciled to God and made truly alive; in Christ we are able to reflect God properly. (Eph. 2:8-10)
The Bible calls this process of maturing in our ability to accurately reflect God's image in the world "sanctification." And it is simply the process by which we "look" more and more like Jesus.
The metaphor that is often used to describe this process is fruit. In Galatians 5:22-23 we read, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." God's Spirit in us is about the business of producing the fruit of these characteristics of Jesus.
Fruit doesn't manifest instantly. This is why we say finishing well is a lifelong process. What God is producing in us, the character of Jesus, is not instant. It takes time to grow and mature.
Just think of a few of the characteristics listed above and how time is woven in to their very definitions: patience, faithfulness, self-control. One could even argue that love and joy and gentleness require time to mature because they are experienced in relationship to someone or something else.
Finishing well keeps us on a growth mission over time. As God reveals areas in our lives that do not align with the character of Jesus, He refines us through pruning and discipline (John 15:1-11).
By contrast, starting fast stays focused on self. It's all about making yourself look good without any actual transformation of character. It is shallow and unsustainable. It also comes crashing down when storms come. (Matt. 7:24-27)
Finishing Well Pleases the Lord and Grows God's Kingdom
Finally, probably the greatest reason why finishing well is better than starting fast is because it pleases God.
Jesus told a parable of a master and his three servants in Matthew 25 to help his followers understand what the kingdom of heaven is like. The master gives each servant a different amount of money and then leaves. When the master returns, he goes to see what the servants did with the money he entrusted to them.
Two of the servants had used the master's money to double the amounts. The third servant did nothing. Listen to the commendation the master gave to the servants who increased the amount given:
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master. (Matt. 25:21)
The servants who multiplied the investment of the master in them were commended. They were welcomed "into the joy of [their] master." This is a picture of heaven. Jesus (the Master) is returning and He will be asking what you and I did with the investment He made in us through His Spirit. He is expecting a return on that investment; a return that enhances and expands His kingdom.
How will you answer?
Did you "start fast" with a bunch of possible ideas that never really got off the ground and were mainly intent with cutting corners to just make yourself look good and not really show any desire to actually change?
Or did you set your heart and mind on finishing well, on humbling yourself to God's Word and Spirit and engaging the long journey that unfolds step-by-step, day after day, in the trenches of character development and authentic community?
Is change difficult? Of course it is. Is it worth it for the sake of a new heart and mind, healthier relationships, and the hope of hearing "Well done" upon entering the joy of the Master? Most definitely!
If you would like help on your journey of finishing well, please contact us.
Founder & President
Yes, it is possible to quit porn and masturbation.
But I'm assuming you would prefer I write a little bit more in answer to this question. So I will.
I won't spend time writing about how big the porn problem is (you can read some statistics here). Nor will I focus on how porn affects the brain or the addictive nature of porn or is masturbation a sin. All good topics, but that's not why you're reading this article, is it?
You are reading this article because you want to know how to quit porn and masturbation.
Here are 5 tips to help you quit porn and masturbation. These are not a "magic formula" that guarantees freedom, but they will greatly increase your probability of success.
1. Learn your triggers
It is highly unlikely that your engagement of porn and masturbation is random or arbitrary. There is always some kind of pattern to such acting out. This pattern includes what we call triggers.
A trigger is anything that prompts you to pursue a particular unhealthy behavior (in this case, porn and masturbation). Triggers could be physical, like something you experience with your five senses (seeing, touching, tasting, hearing, smelling). Triggers could also be emotional or mental (i.e. sad, bored, scared, lonely, stressed, etc.).
To learn your specific triggers ask yourself the following questions related to your engagement with porn and masturbation:
Spend time examining your triggers and write them down. And commit to a lifelong journey of learning yourself so you can become better equipped for dealing with any kind of temptation you face.
Once you learn your core triggers, it's time to make a plan for responding to temptation in healthy, life-giving ways.
2. Plan your ways of escape ahead of time
I'm going to assume that you are not engaging porn and masturbation 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. (If you are, hospitalize yourself immediately!) The time to create a plan for dealing with your triggers is not 60 seconds before you act out -- make your plan(s) before you are wrestling with temptation.
Think of your unhealthy habit of porn and masturbation as a big hole in the roof of your house. When do you notice the hole as a problem? On sunny days? No! You curse the hole when it's raining, right? But you can't fix the hole when it's raining.
The time to work on fixing the hole is when the sun is out, even though that's also the time you aren't really thinking about the hole as being a problem. But rest assured it will rain again!
The key to responding well to your triggers and temptation is to plan your ways of escape before the "rain" starts falling. Here is a template to help you create your plan for resisting temptation when your triggers are tripped:
Responding well to triggers and temptation does not happen "organically." You must have a plan and you must work that plan. Quitting porn and masturbation requires more than hope and good intentions. But if you've learned your triggers and created a plan for escaping temptation, you are well on your way to living free from porn and masturbation.
Now it's time to exponentially increase your probability of freedom by sharing your triggers and your plan with someone else. No long-term freedom from porn and masturbation is possible without the help of others.
3. Share your triggers and your plan with a trusted friend
We all need help in life, and not just with overcoming the destructive habit of porn and masturbation. God designed us to thrive as human beings when we live in community. "It is not good for man to be alone."
I admit that what I am about to propose isn't easy. It's scary to be vulnerable with other people, especially sharing such a personal struggle like porn and masturbation. But it is necessary.
Now that you have written down your specific triggers and created a plan of escape when temptation hits, it's time to share this with at least one trusted friend. I found it most helpful in my own recovery journey to have at least 3 other people who knew this information.
A trusted friend is someone who cares about you enough to hold in confidence this personal information. And they have your best in mind; they want to see you succeed in your pursuit of freedom.
When you share your triggers and escape plan, this is what you are asking your trusted friend to do:
Quitting porn and masturbation is about more than just stopping unhealthy behaviors and thoughts. It's also about building strong friendships and growing in integrity as part of a community. And possibly the primary reason you need community is because you won't travel this road of growth and maturity perfectly.
You will stumble along the way, and you will need a loving community to help you get back up and keep going.
4. Confess and repent when you stumble
I wish freedom from porn and masturbation was easy. I really do. But it is not. It is messy and imperfect, just like you and me.
As you fight the battle against the temptations to engage porn and masturbation, you will not always win. You will sometimes stumble and fall. But falling on this journey doesn't mean you have utterly failed.
It is important to reframe stumbles as opportunities to learn and grow, rather than false indications that you are fatally flawed and beyond hope of ever being free. Fatalistic thinking is NOT from God!
God forgives your sin, not so that you can keep returning to it, but instead so you can look at it objectively, free from its shame, to learn how to respond better the next time you're faced with a similar temptation.
When (notice I said when, not if) you stumble and fall, be quick to confess it and repent. To confess is to "agree with truth." So, don't lie or try to hide the fact that you acted out. Agree with the truth that you did x, y, or z.
To repent means to "change your mind." The reason you stumbled was because somewhere along the way your mind was convinced that it was a good idea to sin. Repentance is refocusing your mind back on what is true and right and good. (Phil. 4:8)
I find it most helpful to confess and repent in the following contexts:
Confession and repentance is not usually easy or comfortable, but it is crucial if you are going to break free from porn and masturbation and become the person of integrity God created you to be.
Finally, it's important that all this work on quitting porn and masturbation doesn't overshadow what the real goal of such work should be: to build an intimate, growing relationship with God.
5. Keep the real goal in view: intimacy with God
Your struggle with porn and masturbation is not disconnected from your relationship to God. Yes, you read that sentence correctly, even if it is not something you have ever thought before.
Sin is not an entity unto itself. Sin is a distortion of something good. Think of sin like a parasite; it requires a host. Your sinful desires for porn and masturbation are merely distortions of the good desires God created within you for connection, intimacy, and pleasure.
Therefore, your pursuit to break free from porn and masturbation must ultimately be a pursuit of knowing God and His good design of sex, love, and intimacy. Don't lose sight of this larger (and better) goal. If you only eliminate an unhealthy habit, you will miss the greatest joy of all: walking with God as He designed you to walk.
Take some time to go back over the previous 4 tips and reframe them with this goal of intimacy with God. Maybe ask yourself the following questions:
As you keep the bigger picture of intimacy with God in view you will discover that "quitting" porn and masturbation is not so much a journey of negation, but instead a journey of pursuit. By running toward God you are automatically running away from sexual sin in all its forms.
Yes, it is possible to quit porn and masturbation.
By pursuing intimacy with God and others...
Founder & President
You have an enemy. His name is Satan (also known as Adversary, Accuser, Deceiver) and his goal is simple: destroy your life.
Satan has been around for a long time, way longer than us. He started out well, as an angel of light. He was essentially the "worship leader" of the angels in heaven. But his worship of God became overshadowed by worship of himself, and such pride got him kicked out of heaven (along with the rest of his worship band; about one third of the angels).
Ever since Satan's "fall" he has been intent on one thing: destroying the God he once worshiped. This is where his focus on you and me comes in.
God created mankind in His own image. We read the following in the first chapter of the Bible:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness"... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen. 1:26a, 27)
We (humans) are the only part of creation that bear this special mark of God; we are created unique, distinct from everything else in the universe. And this is why Satan hates us: we look something like our heavenly Father.
When God created Adam and Eve, the first humans, He placed them in a beautiful garden and said, "“You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:16b, 17)
They had freedom with only one restriction. (Can you imagine?) God gave humans a choice: trust God and live or trust anything else and die. This is the leverage point Satan seized upon in order to try and destroy humans, and thus try and mar the image of God.
In this story of mankind's fall into sin, Satan employs three tactics that he still uses today to seek to destroy God's image bearers. Learn to recognize these tactics and you will do well in fighting against Satan's destructive force in your life.
Tactic 1: Distraction/Doubt
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1)
Satan's first tactic to destroy God's image bearers was distraction, or doubt. He asked Eve a question to plant a seed, not to gain information. He wanted to distract Eve just enough from God's Word so that she would begin to spin additional questions about God's trustworthiness.
This tactic is still used all the time today. God's Word says one thing, yet Satan brings a question to plant the tiniest seed of doubt as to whether God's Word is trustworthy or even good.
Some examples might be:
Tactic 2: Distortion
Notice how Satan completely flips the script of what God actually said.
"Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?" (3:1, emphasis mine)
The simple answer is: No, God did not actually say that!
God said: "You may surely eat of every tree... except one."
Satan distorted God to say: "You shall not eat of any tree."
It's stark, but subtle. God actually invites Adam and Eve to focus on all the freedom He has given them, and also pay attention to the one danger. Satan, conversely, entices Eve to focus on the one restriction and ignore completely the vast freedom God has granted.
Let's continue the story to see even more of Satan's tactic of distortion.
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” (Gen. 3:2-3)
Eve gives a decent answer, but it's incomplete. Satan's first tactic seems to be working. She has already forgotten bits of God's Word. The seed of distraction and doubt is steering her ever so slightly away from the truth.
God said they could "surely" (or "freely") eat from the trees in the garden. She omitted this small, but significant qualifier. She also added something God never explicitly said about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: "neither shall you touch it."
Anytime we add to or subtract from God's Word, the meaning will eventually become distorted. And Satan smiles.
His distortion continued.
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:4-5)
Satan flat out contradicts God's Word when he says "you will not surely die," for God said plainly, "for in the day that you eat of it [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] you shall surely die."
This is the moment of truth for Eve (and us). Trust God and His Word or trust Satan and his word. This is how every decision of life ultimately boils down.
For many of us, much of the time, the tactics of Satan have the same effect on us as they did on Eve (and Adam) below.
Tactic 3: Division
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Gen. 3:6-7)
Satan's seeds of distraction and doubt drew Eve's attention away from God's Word just enough for him to plant a few more seeds of doubt through distorting and flat out contradicting God's Word. With each question and contradiction Eve's focus was diverting from God (and freedom) to sin (and death).
And as soon as Eve and Adam ate the forbidden fruit a separation of cosmic proportions was established. Immediately there was division between husband and wife; they became self-conscious of their nakedness and sought to hide their bodies from each other.
But more than just a marital division occurred. Heaven and earth were separated. God's image bearers chose the way of the Deceiver instead of their Creator. Life would never be the same again. And life would also have an expiration. Every human being born from Adam will surely die. God's Word was true after all.
Satan, the great Deceiver, is intent on destroying your life and mine. He literally hates us! He uses the same tactics today that he used in the beginning: distraction/doubt, distortion, and division.
Where in your own life do you see the enemy's tactics? Has he planted seeds of doubt about God's goodness and trustworthiness? Has he distorted God's Word, causing you to omit or add things that fundamentally alter its meaning and effectiveness? Where has Satan created division between you and God, or you and others, or even you and yourself?
Do battle today to reclaim ground the enemy has stolen. Because of God's grace and the power of the resurrected Christ your life does not have to be destroyed.
Trust fully in God's Word.
Repent of sin.
Pursue unity with God and others.
It's true you have an enemy. But it's also true you have Savior in Jesus Christ, the One who conquered sin and death -- and Satan! In Christ, you have hope and joy -- and the freedom your soul was made for from the beginning.
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