Charles Spurgeon, the famous 19th century preacher, had this to say about sin: “Did sin ever yield thee real pleasure? If so, go back to thine old drudgery, and wear the chain again, if it delights thee. But inasmuch as sin did never give thee what it promised to bestow, but deluded thee with lies…be free.” Spurgeon is describing the deception of sin that can never deliver on its hollow promises. For the sex addict coming into recovery, this rings especially true. Sexual sin has given him the promise of comfort, all the while causing more and more havoc in his life.
Once a man begins to see the damage that sexual addiction is causing him, and feels the weight of the negative consequences piling up, he is in a state that is ripe for repentance. He is probably angry, scared, or feeling the futility of it all—and this can be the very start of the journey to healing.
The word repentance can seem like a heavy-handed concept, especially if a man has grown tired of trying to fit into a religious mold. It’s very simple though: to repent is to turn. Confession is the easy part. A man may be well-versed in confessing the sin in his life, whether it’s to a wife or a spiritual authority, but this is only the first step of change. Repentance means he actually takes steps away from sexual sin, going in the opposite direction, towards God. Anything that falls short of this will not bring real, lasting change to his life.
On the surface this may sound complicated, but it can actually play out very practically in a man’s life. It’s a step by step process of learning to turn from past habits and behaviors. It usually begins with one’s thought life. Sexual fantasies, which are conscious acts of the imagination, need to be identified and replaced. Replacement thoughts can include anything that is good and wholesome in one’s life. Maybe it’s meditating on a favorite Scripture verse, or remembering a meaningful time spent with friends or family. Lust only fuels sexual thinking, so a man struggling with this can work on bouncing his eyes in public, re-focusing on the task at hand, and going back to those healthy thoughts in his head.
Next, his daily activities should be examined. This is not just about looking at pornography or engaging in sexual acting out. Anything that puts him on the path towards sexual sin needs to be removed from his life. Whether it’s a habit, like driving through certain parts of town that increase temptation, or a form of recreation, like going to a certain gym where he knows he can entertain lust, practical adjustments need to be made to distance himself from these triggers.
A man has to learn to turn from anything that may cause him to stumble back into the sin he is trying to avoid. This is repentance. It can’t be done overnight, and it won’t be possible without the help of the Holy Spirit and other men who are walking in the same way. Joining a Sustained Victory Group can help start a man on this path away from sin and back towards connection with God, himself, and others.