There can be seemingly insurmountable challenges in our pursuit of sexual purity. We may hit a wall of frustration, boredom, temptation, even relapse. Continue reading
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.
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)
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.