The habit loop, for good or bad, goes something like this: Trigger. Craving. Response. Reward. Let’s get Practical About Recovery.
When it comes to unwanted sexual behaviors, that loop slides shame in just after the reward. That’s why you’re here now. You’re doing the work to break the cycle. But sometimes, the work feels annoying, unnecessary, and even boring.
If you wish you could stop with the steps and just “lean into Jesus,” you’re in the right place.
Friend, there is a battle for your heart. And Jesus, as both God and man, wants you whole. The battle plan must include the heart work and the homework.
Listen in as Josh lays out your battle plan using both spiritual and the practical.
“The ultimate freedom we have as human beings is the power to select what we will allow our minds to dwell upon. It is in our thoughts that the first movements toward the renovation of the heart occur.”-Dallas Willard
You are free to choose what you do, brothers and sisters, but these things have consequences for you and for others.
When we put up practical boundaries it creates space again. It slows the process down so we don’t find ourselves too far in.
Consider Jesus asking you this question, “What are you looking for?” Let’s try doing a Heart Map. In the center of a piece of paper, write out in a word or two the thing that you’re struggling with – porn, lust, affair, etc. draw a circle around it.
Around it, write the feeling you get from it, write the feeling you experience after, write the experience or person that led you to this moment. Draw a circle around each of those and then connect those circles to the center one. What are the details of those feelings? Is there something in common that you see on that piece of paper? A heart map can slow your brain down long enough for your eyes and heart to catch up with the “thing beneath the thing” – your motivation.
Let Jesus ask you the question, do the practical homework and listen long enough for Him to guide you through the answers.
1 Corinthians 6:12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.”
Romans 6:16 “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?”
For more on this topic, check our latest article Was It Do I Need a Filter to Overcome Porn?
Click for Full Podcast Transcription
So as I get started today, let me just say this I am dragging today, I can feel it in my body, I can feel it my heart feel my brain. I’m just foggy and dragging might be the day might be the season might be that we are still just coming out of COVID. I don’t know. But it’s a good, good segue. Because today I’ll be talking about this kind of whiny dragging, like, I don’t know, resistance that a lot of his experiences were trying to break free from unwanted sexual behaviors. So I know that many people, when they when they begin this journey, they say things like, Hey, I really want a spiritual approach. I want a Christian approach. I don’t want behavior management, I want to get you know, I want to go after this the Jesus way. And that’s great. I love that. I want to support people that this is what regeneration is all about for you know, for many people come here. The problem, though, is that sometimes people get confused about the role of practical, tangible, concrete steps they can take. Practical, concrete, tangible steps they can take are not necessarily unspiritual. You’re not necessarily just behavior management. And so I want to talk about that because there’s kind of the commute is kind of wyness among Christians among people who are in recovery among people who want to grow in sexual integrity or really any area of life to go Yeah, but I don’t I don’t want it to do that stuff. So an area of sexual integrity, for example, I don’t want to filter on my device. I mean, if that feels, it makes me feel like a little kid. I don’t, I’m not a kid, I’m an adult, I’m free in Christ, man. I don’t want to go to a group. I don’t want to meet with other people once a week that what I don’t need that, you know, Jesus is enough for me. I don’t I don’t want to put screen time on my phone. Like, you know, that’s embarrassing. What if I need it? You know, like, I don’t have a password on my phone that somebody else keeps like I want. I’m an adult, I’m free. I want a spiritual approach. But all those things I just described, are not necessarily unspiritual. Now, listen, I don’t mean that those things are going to heal your heart. I don’t mean those things are going to deliver you from sin. They can’t do that there. They’re powerless to do that. But they can be a help along the way. They can be a help along the way. So the church in Corinth in Paul’s day, misunderstood several Paul’s teaching about freedom. I mean, a lot of us do, right? I mean, Paul is huge on freedom. It’s for freedom sake, that Christ set you free. And we wrestle what does that mean that I’m free? What does it mean? That I’m not under the law? What does you know? Do I Do I not have to obey anything anymore? Like, what exactly does that mean? And the church in Corinth was no exception. They wrestled with that too. And part of what they were saying in among themselves, and I don’t know if this was a proverb that was in Corinth in general, or it was just kind of a line, the Christians in Corinth are picking up because of the misunderstanding from Paul, but they were saying, look, everything’s permissible for me. I can do anything I want. And Paul responded to that, that mentality in First Corinthians six, and in First Corinthians 10, he didn’t refute it. He didn’t say, No, you’re not allowed to do whatever you want. But he did point out that practically speaking, that was a recipe for trouble. in First Corinthians six, he says, Yes, you’re free to do whatever you want, everything’s permissible for you. But not everything is beneficial. And then he goes on to say, not everything is going to help you to be free. He says, not everything. He’s like, everything’s permissible, but I won’t be mastered by something. In other words, there’s some things you can do, that are going to master you. In the book of Romans, Paul says, Look, you’re, you’re a slave to that which you obey. So if you’re, if you’re sitting, you’re a slave to your sin. So again, back to First Corinthians six, everything’s permissible, but but you don’t be mastered by something. And then later in chapter 10, he says, yep, everything’s permissible for you. But not everything is helpful. And not everything is going to edify. And I think he means there, that it’s not just going to not edify you. It’s also maybe going to hurt somebody else in the context there is especially talking about how what you do impacts somebody else. So sure, everything’s permissible, you are free in Christ. But think about it, people. Not everything that you want access to is going to help you. Dallas Willard actually said, he said the most fundamental and important freedom that we have is our freedom to choose our thoughts, because nothing enters the mind. That does not impact it for either good or evil. Nothing impacts the mind nothing enters the mind that isn’t impacted for either good or evil. So yes, you are free to watch whatever show you want. You’re free to watch porn, but but it’s gonna have a consequence. You are free to choose what you do, brothers and sisters. But these things have consequences for you, and for others, your actions and inactions will impact you and impact others. The kingdom of God, you are free to choose what you do. Obviously God respects freedom. I mean, just look around us. Why isn’t he stepped in and stopped us from doing all sorts of crazy things on this earth. He has given us so much freedom but with freedom comes great responsibility. channeling a little bit of Peter Parker’s uncle there anyway. So as you’re trying to grow in sexual integrity, brothers and sisters, don’t resist things like filters group that can help you putting up some practical boundaries, getting some passwords in place, these things won’t heal you, but they will help they at least they can help. So here’s an image I think the Lord gave me recently. And, and for my own sake, but maybe it’ll help you to that in some, some times when they’re doing heart surgery, they’ll go in right through the chest. And when they do that, they have to cut open the breastplate, the sternum, so they saw it open, it’s called breaking the sternum. And then they pull back the two sides of the breastplate. So that the the, the surgeon can access the heart. I think sometimes setting up just practical, concrete, tangible boundaries, like Yep, I don’t have access to my phone or my devices after 10pm, perhaps, can be like that part that holds back the sternum, so that God can have access to the heart and do the deeper heart work that’s required. Listen, we know enough about brain science these days to know that the brain is very adaptive. And those of us who have become compulsively habituated, who become habituated addicted, to compulsive behaviors, compulsive sexual sins, we can go from A to Z like that, you know, I mean, we don’t even need to think about it, all of a sudden, we find ourselves, you know, 50 yards down the field. And we’re like, how did I get here so quickly, because our brains learn, like, Hey, I’m want to go from here to there, and we don’t need to talk, talk it through, we don’t need to think it through, it just happens automatically. There’s actually a great mechanism of the brain. I mean, it’s it’s powerful and useful tool in so many areas of life. But in the realm of addiction, it actually becomes problem problematic. You know, it’s permissible, but not beneficial. And now you’re mastered by something. So. So part of what this does part of when we create this kind of space in our lives, we set these practical boundaries, these practical things in place, it creates space, again, it slows that process down. So we don’t find ourselves 50 yards down the field. Instead, we find ourselves at yard one kind of banging your head in the wall going, I’m trying, I’m trying to, you know, look online, but I can’t right now, because I set up this boundary in advance. This creates the kind of space for God to do some deeper heart work. So what kinds of things can God do? What kinds of things will be revealed and exposed? As we create that kind of space? I want to offer you a couple. First of all, it’ll expose legitimate needs that you’ve been bringing to illegitimate sources. It’ll expose legitimate needs, even bringing legitimate sources. There’s a reason you’ve been picking up your phone. There’s a reason you’ve been going online. There’s a reason that you’ve been calling up those people. There’s a reason you’ve been doing those things. What is it? What are you really looking for? In john one, Jesus disciples, first disciples, you know, kind of falling in from from a distance, and he turns around, he’s like, what are you looking for? And that’s a great question. What are you looking for? And you go online, there’s an old quote, attributed to Gk Chesterton, although I don’t think it’s actually proven that was him. That says that every time a man knocks on the door of a brothel, he’s actually seeking after God, what are you really seeking every time a man knocks on the door of a brothel is actually seeking God. So when you pick up your phone, what are you really looking for? Secondly, it’ll expose this kind of space, when you hold open the breastplate, and God can access the heart. It’ll reveal our longings, so maybe not just needs, but also the things we long for, what are the things you’re deeply deeply longing for? that you’ve been shortcutting or sabotaging or looking for online or wherever your unwanted sexual behavior is. And then next, it’ll reveal some some trouble, some sicknesses in your heart. Some places that you miss, trust God, some places that you’ve got shame, some places that you have unconfessed sin and guilt, some deep wounds that have been there for a long time, and that have been festering some shrapnel that’s been in your heart from things that other people have done to you. Why would I want to see those things? Why do we want to give place for that, so that God can do surgery, so you can remove the shrapnel so you can sew up the heart. So we can do a bypass whatever is needed so that you can have a fully functioning alive heart, again, you’re not finding your unwanted sexual behavior, help create some space of the God can get in there. And then on a practical level, since we’re talking about being practical here and concrete, this also this whole process when you create some space like this, it allows your your brain to detox. That kind of abstinence can actually help to slow down that, you know, that very quick process that your brains learn to go from A to Z or right down to the 50 yard line. As you slow that down as you as you abstain from those old behaviors. Now your brain can begin to detox To begin to recalibrate, and become healthy without those old coping mechanisms. So listen, main point here, main point, don’t confuse the boundaries that you want to set up to create space in your life, for that which heals your heart. Don’t confuse practical, behavioral, concrete, tangible things you can set up in your life is that which will heal you. But, but it can create space for God to move for you to take some initiative for you to open yourself to Him in those places that you haven’t been able to before. So that he can bring healing there. And you’re likely need some help there. Because we’re not just talking about just creating space where you’re kind of sitting there longing and waiting, we were talking about creating space for God to do some work there. So if we can help you regeneration, or if there’s another place, you can go where you can begin as you create some of those boundaries, and maybe even need help setting those things up. But as you create some of those boundaries, as you have some more space, then some help, like what, what is what’s being uncovered? And what do I do with that. And that’s where the real healing happens. That’s where our hearts begin to be transformed. That’s where they start beating again, as they were meant to be. And we find ourselves with greater breadth, greater freedom, greater strength. Now listen, one final note, I know people who have had filters and accountability software and have gone to accountability groups and excetera, cetera, et cetera, and who at different times, were able to say, you know, I don’t need that anymore. I’m actually okay without it. Because I’m free. And my heart is healthy. And I want to say no, and I’ve got enough willpower to say no now where I didn’t before. And other people who’ve reached a point where they’ve said, Yep, you know, I don’t need those anymore. I think I can live with that. But it’s okay, I want to I want to keep them. You know, I like meeting with the my brothers once a week or my sisters once a week to talk about this stuff. And we don’t always talk about sexual sin anymore. Now, now we talk about the nature of our hearts, the state of our hearts, I just found it’s a helpful thing. So in some of these areas that at first might feel constraining or constricting, they might feel uncomfortable, you might eventually decide, actually, I like the consequences of living like this. I choose to keep this I’m free. But I choose to keep this right in my life because I like my life better with it. That’s the freedom we have in Christ. That’s the journey we’re on. Lord, give us the wisdom to discern between that which is truly an invitation of freedom, and that which we’re using freedom as a cover up to continue in our patterns of sin. Lord, grant us the grace and the humility to accept that even though things may be permissible for us, they’re not all beneficial. Help us to make those wise choices, Lord, to open our hearts to you, that we might be healed to open our hearts to you, and brothers and sisters who can help us to heal and grow. We ask this now in Jesus name, amen.
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