Is Confession All That Matters In Recovery?

Jonathan Daugherty

Is confession all that matters in recovery? If we continue to admit our faults and failures, is that enough to live a life of ongoing purity, or is there more to the equation of freedom than simply admitting time and again that we are broken and imperfect? I propose that confession is only half of the equation when it comes to living each day in sexual purity.

Repentance is the ‘other half’ of this coin of recovery.

Confession is certainly necessary for recovery to begin, and even to move forward. To confess is to agree with truth. We confess that we are not perfect (true). We confess that we have a problem with lust – or whatever the particular struggle may be (true). We confess that we need help and cannot overcome our faults and failures alone (true). We confess each time our thoughts or actions do not match up with what God has said is good or right, and in so doing we agree with truth. Confession is an honest assessment and expression of reality. But confession alone does not change behavior. No, confession invites the forgiveness and cleansing of God on to our broken lives, but it is repentance that ultimately changes the course of our recovery over the long haul.

I used to think that if I just got really good at confessing my faults and failures as quickly as possible to when they occurred that I would become a different man. Unfortunately, all I learned from such a venture was how desperately wicked my sinful nature was and how often I must confess. Nothing seemed to change, at least not in significant, lasting ways. I just confessed and confessed and confessed. Mostly, I just confessed the same failures over and over again. This didn’t seem like progress (I’m not the brightest kid in the class, but I can deduce that repeating the same failures does not equal positive growth). Each confession did bring about a cleansing, a sort of “start-over-point” as promised by God (1 John 1:9), but this didn’t seem to do much for gaining traction in overcoming these vice-like sins. There always seemed to be an ‘ingredient’ missing in acquiring the long-term victory my heart craved.

Then I discovered the key to gaining ground against the ever-chasing pull of lust: applying the practice of repentance.

Repentance is the process of turning away from anything opposed to truth. Repentance provides the balance to confession. We confess to agree with truth, and then we repent to turn away from the opposing thought, belief, or action that prompted the confession. Through repentance we train our minds and hearts to focus on that which leads to life and freedom: truth (John 8:32). And as we continually turn toward truth we experience the power of God unleashed on the false thoughts, beliefs, and actions that seek to pull us again into darkness, shame, and despair.

One of the biggest challenges to repentance is pride. We truly believe we know what is best for our lives, even if it may be killing us. We think we can reason our way out of the lustful trap we are caught in, rather than surrendering ourselves, through repentance, to the truth of God’s Word and His ways. Pride is an ugly beast, but so often goes unrecognized as we wiggle and squirm out of the loving invitation of repentance and new way of life. But to become a new person, a free, pure child of God, we must die to our pride and invite, even embrace, the path of repentance.

Another harmful opponent to repentance is minimizing our sin. We deceive ourselves into believing that our problems aren’t as big as they really are and that we can successfully manage our sexuality without anybody’s help (minimizing and pride often travel together). We say we have a ‘little’ problem with porn or that we ‘aren’t hurting anyone.’ The longer we play with the fires of pride and minimizing the further we drift from repentance and the more we will suffer the consequences (Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Prov. 6:27).

Does confession matter in recovery? Absolutely! But without repentance, confession only serves to perpetually wash over the same stain again and again without ever effectively seeking to remove it. Repentance, therefore, compliments confession by guiding us toward the proper focus and perspective once we receive the refreshing cleansing brought about by humble, honest confession. May you allow your times of confession to remind you to take the additional step toward long-term freedom by also repenting. This is the path to true and lasting freedom…

For help on this subject please see Every Man’s Battle.

The Importance of Grace in Recovery

Jonathan Daugherty

My daughter just started kindergarten this week. What an exciting time of new beginnings and endless possibilities. These first few steps of her educational journey are memorable and mark the start of a truly adventurous quest for increased knowledge. The buzz created in our home because of my daughter’s first days of school caused me to reflect on the process of recovery and the essential ingredient to lasting purity: grace.

One thing I can assure my daughter (as well as you who are hiking the trail toward purity) is that the journey has obstacles. Just as my daughter will encounter barriers to her educational growth, so too will you encounter seemingly insurmountable challenges in your pursuit of sexual purity. You may hit a wall of frustration, boredom, or temptation in your recovery. The fact that recovery requires resistance is sometimes discouraging to the point of wanting to give up. But rather than take the path of least resistance (which only leads to more pain and disappointment), press forward on the path to personal purity.

The challenges we face in our pursuit of purity are no secret. Laziness, pride, temptation, even relapse. These obstacles attempt to impede our progress and reignite the deadly flames of shame in our minds and hearts. If we allow them to stunt our growth in recovery, we lose momentum and soon find ourselves contemplating old acting out behaviors. From there it is a short trip to deeper bondage in sexual sin.

What then allows a man to break through these barriers and enjoy ongoing, long-term freedom in sexual purity? A proper understanding and application of grace is a great starting point. Grace is God’s favor poured out on undeserving, sin-stained men just like you and me. It is God’s continual “stamp” of approval and acceptance on His children. As God’s child, you are forever engaged by him within the loving boundaries of grace – even when discipline is necessary. To understand such grace begins to put into perspective the many obstacles along the road to purity.

How do you apply this grace in a practical sense when faced with a very real obstacle such as temptation or laziness? First, you must recognize that something has gone awry in your recovery plan. The ship is taking on water, so-to-speak, and something needs to be done to correct it. Let’s say you realize that you have begun to drift toward certain sexual temptations, maybe lingering on seductive websites or TV shows. You haven’t “crossed the line” to porn, but you are drifting. Applying grace to such a situation would include first recognizing that a drift is occurring, and then reminding yourself that whatever you choose to do from that point on, God still loves you. That’s right. Grace is given, not because it is deserved, but because of Christ’s sacrifice for you. Most often, such a reminder will cause you to see that any more movement toward sin would only bring pain, shame, and disappointment. Grace, therefore, leads us to repentance and purity.

I once knew a counselor who used a very unconventional practice to help smokers overcome their habit (and I am not necessarily recommending it here). After several months in counseling and support group therapy, the counselor would instruct his clients to spend one week carrying a pack of cigarettes in their pockets. Not so they would smoke them, but rather so they knew that at any moment they could pull one out if they chose to. This counselor wanted to teach his clients that they had a choice – they did not need to be controlled by the cigarettes, they could choose what to do with their lives. Grace often reminds us of this scary truth – we have a choice. We can choose to walk humbly before God and others and receive the blessings of God’s grace, or we can choose to live in pride, calling the shots and suffer the consequences of isolation, shame, and broken relationships.

Seeing my daughter’s excitement at beginning school also reminded me that the road to recovery is worth it. There is a benefit to pressing through the obstacles and discomfort to reap the reward of peace and true contentment. Although there may be moments (even seasons) of difficulty and disappointment, the long-term results of a lifestyle of purity are worth it. And for every moment, or season, of obstacles and challenges, we are assured that God’s grace is sufficient.

For more help on this subject, please see Every Man’s Battle.

What are the 4 Pillars of Purity?

Jonathan Daugherty

Most of us desire purity. We really do. Our heart longs for it, the Spirit of God within us points us to it, and the dissatisfaction of impurity confirms our longing. But how many of us, if we were honest, would have to admit that our desire for purity alone has not produced long-term results? To want purity is one thing, to walk in purity is quite another.

So, what does it actually take to live every day in sexual purity? And how can we implement these principles into our daily lives?

There are 4 Pillars of Purity that are necessary for anyone who desires to live each day in sexual purity. Let’s go over each Pillar and then I will offer practical ways to implement them into your daily life.

Pillar #1 Profess the Struggle

Humility is the doorway to freedom and purity. Once you recognize your struggle with impurity and confess that you are incapable of conquering it on your own, you are on your way to the exciting adventure of purity. This Pillar is critical, however, because without admitting your need there is no hope of long-term change. And remember, God opposes the proud, but gives GRACE to the humble. (James 4:6)

Practical application:

– Write in a journal your primary struggles and confess your powerlessness over them.

– Share with a pastor or friend your struggle with sexual temptation and your inability to manage it.

– Pray to God, sharing with Him your weaknesses and desire to walk in purity.

Pillar #2 – Understand Triggers

For a solution to really work you must address the problem, not the symptoms. The ways you act out (i.e. viewing pornography, masturbating, affairs, etc.) are much less important factors to address than the attitudes, environment, and temptations preceding. To understand your triggers is to study and evaluate your typical patterns that lead to acting out. This requires brutal honesty and a willingness to deal ferociously with these triggers in order to create effective strategies of escape when faced with sexual temptation.

Practical application:

– Use Be Broken’s “Online Personal Inventory & Evaluation Form” to assess you triggers and build a strategy for purity.

– Write out all the things you can remember that typically precede your acting out.

– Share your triggers with a pastor, friend, or trusted band of brothers and develop concrete strategies for responding to each trigger.

Pillar #3 – Relate with God

Apart from the healing power of the Lord Jesus Christ there is no hope for long-term freedom from sexual sin. Relating with God is essential to experiencing growing freedom from sexual acting out. The idea of relating with God can seem foreign, even intimidating, but by growing in intimacy with your Creator you build strength of character and gain wisdom in battling sexual temptation.

Practical application:

– Read and study God’s Word every day – even when you don’t feel like it.

– Pray every day. This is simply talking with God. A good “tool” to use to help you get started is the A.C.T.S. method: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. Praying the Psalms is another good exercise in learning to pray.
– Begin talking to God throughout the day in any and all circumstances.

Pillar #4 – Engage Others

As powerful and important as the three previous Pillars of Purity are they come up short of providing long-term freedom apart from the Pillar of engaging others. This may sound heretical considering Pillar #3 is Relating with God, but without fellowship and accountability it is virtually impossible to maintain sexual purity. You were designed for relationship – with God and others. Developing deep, lasting relationships with others will provide the support, encouragement, and accountability you need to consistently walk in purity. You simply cannot maintain freedom on your own.

Practical application:

– Attend a support group regularly.

– Be willing to deepen your friendships by sharing your struggle and seeking their support.

– Help get a purity group started in your church or community.

You will notice that the 4 Pillars of Purity form an acronym, P.U.R.E. We hope this will make it easier for you to remember as you pursue being a man of purity. And as you resolve to offer each day to God as a day of sexual thought purity, we invite you to share your story with others so they might benefit from it. Just log into the Message Boards or Chat room and connect with other like-minded brothers. You have nothing to lose ‘ but your sexually destructive habits.

See Every Man’s Battle.