“Who wants a healthy snack?” It’s fun to see how people respond to this question.
You often have people on one end of the spectrum who turn up their nose at the very thought of something healthy touching their lips.
Then there are the people who decide to live a healthier lifestyle, but haven’t learned to enjoy it yet. They still crave junk food. They eat healthy food because they should, but not because they want to.
After a while, a person’s taste buds actually change. They begin craving healthy food instead of the junk. In this stage, eating right becomes a part of who they are. They are no longer trying to make healthy choices. Health is now a lifestyle–one they love.
When recovering from a porn addiction, we often go through similar phases. At the final stage, freedom is no longer a struggle but a joy.
I mention this up front because many ministries paint a picture of “freedom” and “victory” as never really being free–always having to take it day-by-day and never really overcoming an addiction mentality. That’s not real freedom. True freedom can be realized for us all, because whom the Son sets free is free indeed (Jn. 8:36). Believers can arrive at a place where the commandments of God are no longer burdensome (1 Jn. 5:3). If anyone tells you otherwise, they aren’t reading the Bible.
As I see men grow on the path to freedom, I look for certain benchmarks which highlight a progression of maturity that ends in real freedom. These benchmark phases are to become Rooted in Love, Discipleship, and Sonship and Daughterhood.
Phase 1: Rooted in Love
As obvious as it may seem, the first phase is drastically overlooked by virtually every purity ministry I know of, yet it lays the foundation upon which every other truth must stand. Without this foundation, all efforts will fail. Why?
The answer is simple: your commitment level can never surpass your love level. Men decide to stop looking at porn, but their love level can’t carry them to a finish line. The Bible makes it clear that if anyone is able to keep God’s word, the love of God has been perfected in them (1 Jn. 2:5).
Believers in this stage will reach some critical realizations about who they are in God. They understand:
- God loves us as much as He loves Jesus. Jesus loves us as much as the Father loves Him! (Jn. 15:9, Jn. 17:23)
- Our acceptance before the Father isn’t based in our works but in Jesus’ work. Therefore, even at our “dirtiest,” we can come boldly to the throne of grace to find help, love, acceptance, and everything we need to overcome.
- Sin doesn’t affect our right-standing with God as believers. Our right-standing was never based on our holiness. Our dirt can’t make the Holy Spirit dirty. We never have to question if our performance impacts how much God loves and accepts us.
- Our victory comes through grace, not because of our works. It isn’t our might, our willpower, our spirituality–but His might, His power and His Spirit that affords the victory.
Godly repentance (not worldly sorrow) takes place when we, as believers, realize these truths in our hearts (2 Corinthians 7). A slip-up no longer causes a downward spiral of, “I can’t believe I did that. I’m such an idiot.” Sin no longer causes backsliding where one enters seasons of sin that last days or weeks before they finally pick themselves up. Rather, sin and slips cause one to experience the fruit of real repentance the Bible says we should have:
- Indignation–“I’m better than that, and I’m worth the blood of Christ”
- Diligence–to overcome and take steps to never let it happen again
- Zeal–the joy of salvation and knowing we still stand right with God
- Vindication–the joy of knowing we are overcoming the enemy
Spiritual highs and lows become a thing of the past. In sin or in victory, there’s only an ever-closer walk with God. When you get these truths, you have an indwelling freedom that will manifest in behavior change. You begin to love yourself, not based on works (which is self-idolatry), but based on who you are in Christ as a son or daughter of God. This is such a powerful stage of growth.
Phase 2: Discipleship
The second phase of growth is like the person who has started making healthy eating choices. They may have cravings for junk, but they are a disciple–one under discipline–with an end in sight.
The disciplines of the faith aren’t complicated. They boil down to spending time with God. If God isn’t a major part of your day, He really needs to be. Any person fools themselves if they think life or Christianity will ever work apart from a relationship with God, because God created us for relationship and intimacy with Himself. Only when we order our life around this focus does real life begin.
A person in this stage of growth has certain benchmarks of growth and development as well:
- We spend time daily in the Word and in prayer. Intimacy with God is a core value in life. Every personal devotional time doesn’t have to be a mountaintop experience, but we reap what we sow. As we sow to the Spirit, we reap of the Spirit in due time.
- We become committed. We’ve counted the cost of both discipleship and carnality, and settled the fact of who we are and where we are going. We know we can’t go back to our old life of bondage, even if at times we want to.
- Temptations now serve as opportunities to go deeper with God. We start to ask questions, like why am I struggling in this way? What heart wound gives this temptation power? What lies do I believe about this and myself? Lord, how would You look at this temptation if You were in my shoes?
- God begins to heal wounds and helps us re-train our minds. With a renewed mind, you now have options when tempted. Before you may have been able to put on the brakes, but eventually we all knew where that runaway train was headed. A renewed mind operates like a totally new set of tracks for your mind to run on. A new way of seeing. A new way of thinking. A new way of walking. In the Spirit. You begin to see the world as He does and think like He thinks.
- We begin to think in new ways about ourselves, our life, our future, and our calling. Seeing Christ formed in your heart becomes as exciting as sin used to be and a real hunger for God begins to overtake the hunger for carnality.
Phase 3: Sonship and Daughterhood
The final phase of freedom is the real deal. Freedom becomes the byproduct of sonship, not the means to it. Our identity changes. We find true freedom that comes naturally and isn’t forced or burdensome. People in this phase will often settle some critical issues:
- We have a history with God. We have a real relationship that isn’t a story in a book. We’ve seen the Lord reveal enough heart wounds and minister His truth that we know His voice and His ways.
- We see His long-suffering with us through all our wandering ways. Like the Prodigal Son, we’ve experienced the love of a Father who runs to us when we are far off. A Father who clothes us in righteousness, kisses our neck, and restores us to our place as sons and daughters time and time again.
- We discover that we truly love Him in return. We wonder how we could ever wander from that love again. In Matthew 6:24, we see, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will love one and hate the other or hate the one and love the other.” The true son or daughter doesn’t stop sinning because of their disciplines or for selfish reasons. They don’t sin because they love their Father more than they love themselves.
- We have an identity change. Purity is who we are, not what we do. A person can never act in a way that violates their core identity. The son or daughter doesn’t have to try to not sin; sin-free living is natural.
- We don’t look at temptations the same way any longer. We think like God when exposed to temptation. Instead of a picture or person filling us with lust, we are filled with love and compassion for them. We have a strong understanding of our value, and it pains our soul to see a person living so far below their created value. We want to cry for them and show them God’s love rather than partake in their attempts to find value in the world’s system. We can look at people as sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, equals and co-heirs, not as objects of lust to be used and discarded for selfish gratification.
- Love is at the center of everything we do as children of God. The son or daughter who the Lord has set free is free indeed!
So where are you in your journey? If you are like most, you may see some of the truths for all of these stages manifest in your life. Little by little, truth by truth, they become more and more clear.
If you’d like more teaching and to go deeper in any of these truths and phases of growth, The Mighty Man Manual by Jon Snyder may be a great resource for you. It has a lot of teaching on each of these topics as well as an eight week workbook that can help you walk through these stages. Visit www.mightymanmanual.com for more information.