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Posted by on Jul 13, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

Love That Changes Lives

They were going to kill me.

Many years ago, a group of men caught me doing something terrible. As they dragged me away, sheer terror exploded through my body like lightning, because I knew they were going to kill me. More than that, I knew how men like these operated: they were going beat me and break bone after bone until I died. I begged for mercy, but there was just one problem: I was guilty.

Eventually, they led me to a man who said to him, “According to our rules, we have to kill this man. Do you agree?” My death was now part of some sick game. This new man didn’t say yes or no, but instead responded: “Let the one who has never sinned be the first to hit him.”

For a moment, no one moved. I braced myself for the strike — but somehow, it never came. In utter disbelief, I watched as the men stormed off one by one!

“Where’d they go? Does no one want to kill you?” this mysterious man then asked me. “No one, sir,” was all I could muster out of my mouth. And with a mercy that I’ll never forget, he said, “Neither do I. Go, and from now on sin no more.”

When you’ve experienced mercy like this, it changes your life.

Now I have to pause and come clean with you — the story above is someone else’s. You may be surprised to hear that this is a description (albeit dramatized) of how Jesus had mercy on a woman some 2,000 years ago. Check out the story for yourself at the beginning of John 8. Even so, I shared the story above as if it were my own because Jesus has shown me life-changing mercy, although in a very different circumstance.

From my youth, I was addicted to pornography and masturbation, and it was severe enough that I, too, felt like it was going to be the end of me. I had tried to stop more times than I could count, but I never got anywhere. Then one day, when I was 19, more than ten years ago now, the Lord unexpectedly set me on a path to freedom, marking the beginning of the mercy that has left me forever changed.

From my earliest days of freedom, my friends started thinking I was weird. “I don’t believe it,” said some. “You must have more willpower than any other guy in the world,” said others. My responses, however, would convey the following:

No, I’m just a guy like everyone else, but the Lord has been changing every part of me, even concerning porn and masturbation. And he can change you too.

It’s been over ten years, and I’ve gotten bolder in discussing what the Lord has done in me, even on these generally taboo subjects. I promise you, talking about pornography and masturbation in a public manner was never on my bucket list. But when Jesus has been this merciful to you, you can’t help but tell other people about him. I’m doing it right now.

Changed people change people.

In my case, I’m not sharing this post to try to get back at the pornography industry or anything, and I’m not verbalizing these thoughts as some self-healing process. No, it’s for all the people in the world who need some help, just as I did. It’s for the little girls and boys around the world who need to be protected, and it is my prayer that you and I would protect them in ways that we never were. It’s to say that there’s a better way. In God’s great mercy, I’ve been given a new life because of Jesus, and I want you to experience it.

And so it is with the rest here at XXXchurch. Just as “hurt people hurt people,” so too “changed people change people.” After all, we love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Maybe you needed a reminder of God’s mercy today, in which case I’m thrilled you came. If you think one of your friends or family members needs some reminding, join in the adventure by sharing this message with them. After all, that’s part of what XXXchurch is all about. We’re in this together.

If you’re interested in hearing the fuller version of my story, please check out my book Called Higher. I assure you that if God can be merciful with me, then he can be merciful with you as well.

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Posted by on Jul 6, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

How To Share Your Story to Help Others Through Theirs

Debilitating guilt. Difficult habits. Dehumanized marriage. You recognize the warning signs of sexual addiction because you have firsthand experience. While your story might not be something you’ve shared with everyone, you’ll notice that some people will need to hear it. You’ll find yourself wanting to guide them to the exit.

Am I worthy to share my story to help others?

One of the most significant rewards for overcoming addiction is the ability to show others the path to freedom. However, just as victory itself is a process, the ability to explain how you got there doesn’t happen overnight. So many insecurities can keep you silent. Will I be judged? Will I say something wrong? Will I hurt them instead of help? Is it hypocritical to protest sin when I have fallen to the temptation? Am I the right person to talk about this? Am I worthy?

Well, there’s good news: you are. You’re an expert on the subject because your experience has given you the unique ability to empathize. While others can only pity, or even criticize, you know what it’s like in the trenches, and that makes you a prime candidate to speak.

II Corinthians 1:3-7 explains that “we may be able to comfort those in any trouble, with the comfort with which we are comforted,” and our suffering enables us to help others endure suffering (NKJV).

Here are four practical tips for sharing your story so that someone else might be comforted by it.

Analyze Your Old Mentors

When you become a mentor—whether as a long-term accountability partner or as a momentary encourager—consider people who’ve mentored you, were they so strict that you felt condemned? Were they too lax? In what ways was their compassion effective in your recovery? Consider the balance of sternness and gentleness shown to you or what you wish was shown to you. By remembering where you once were, you’ll better understand where your listeners are.

Admit Your Faults

It’s alright to talk about how your past influenced your decisions. Sharing what traumas prompted self-medicating can give insight to your listeners. However, make sure you don’t blame your parents, abusers, circumstances, or desires. Don’t downplay the seriousness of addiction, either. Vulnerability might incline you to say your shortcomings were “irresistible,” “inevitable,” or even “permissible,” but that can endorse not taking responsibility.
Be intentional about owning up to your mistakes. If you make excuses to water down your addictions, then you teach listeners also to make excuses. The last thing you want is for someone to interpret your confession as a green light to sin.

Share Your “Why”

In narrative stories, heroes have goals, and the stakes are high. Describe why pornography was worth quitting. Did you crave clean thoughts or a relationship with meaningful intimacy? Describe what was on the line. Did pornography put your marriage at risk, or distract you from your life dreams? What about your rock-bottom moments? Maybe you realized pornography left you empty. Pleasure is a cheap knockoff of genuine peace. How would things be different now if you’d continued indulging in sexual addiction? As you recount your narrative, consider asking your listeners to do the same. Discussing the benefits of quitting pornography might get your listeners self-analyzing.

Leave Your Story Unfinished

Addictions don’t always end with a brilliant moment of epiphany, where all desires and traumas instantly vanish. While testimonies like that do exist, most people’s victories are gradual. There’s no distinct line between “addicted” and “free,” but rather a transition from darker shades into lighter ones. Our story is ever a work in progress. We’ll be imperfect as long we’re humans here on earth—so we shouldn’t believe we must wait until we’re perfect before we can impact others.

Rather than trying to define the moment when you became “free,” define the moment when you decided you wanted to be free. Recount your journey since then; how have you fallen despite your decision, and how did you get back up? Now that you’re out of your struggles, what are you doing today to avoid going back? It’s not uncommon for former addicts to continue attending therapy programs, meeting with counselors, or engaging organizations like XXXchurch, even after years of sobriety. This isn’t a sign of weakness or bondage; it’s proof that freedom is too good ever to risk losing again.

Even if you haven’t fully overcome your addiction, you don’t have to wait until you have all the answers before you help others. Maybe you fall short in your struggle, but your battle proves your opposition to temptation. Striving for your purity and promoting it to others speaks volumes of your heart, even if your body is still catching up. Just as you were honest to admit your missteps in the first place, be humble enough to share what steps you’re taking today.

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