As a fellowship, we have found that for us sexual sobriety means no sex with self, no pornography, and no sex with anyone other than our wives. For us, our own futile experience in attempting to control our addiction and our own enlightened self-interest has forced us to this conclusion. This commitment to sobriety has helped to lead us to a freedom and intimacy we could otherwise never know.
Good question. There is much to say here. Briefly, we recognize that others may approach this question differently and speak of a different experience. We do not claim to have all the answers or possess the entire truth. However, we have experienced several key realities. First, our experience is akin to Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” (2 Corinthians 12: 7-10). Many of us have asked God to completely eliminate lust from our lives. So far, God has not chosen to do so. Though many of us have achieved longer-term sobriety, we continue to experience vulnerability in this area of our lives, requiring ongoing, daily surrender.
However, we believe God has a plan in not eliminating the problem. We believe this vulnerability is a key element in keeping us from being “too elated,” which we interpret as the belief that we are somehow “cured” and therefore do not need Jesus’ sin-bearing presence in our lives on a daily basis. Whenever we have told God, “I’ve got this,” in the past, we have returned to our well-worn paths.
Secondly, we believe our sharing our vulnerability with men seeking sobriety is the very essence of the “fellowship of his sufferings,” which binds us together in the way nothing else can. (2 Corinthians 1) We have discovered that we cannot recover alone and sharing our on-going specific vulnerability is the key to authentic fellowship. Our ongoing freedom is predicated on daily surrender to Jesus and transparency with one another.
Jesus diagnosed the real problem in Matthew 5:27-28. To put it succinctly, it is “looking with lust.” We have found that limiting behaviors (porn, adultery, hook-ups) does not work for us. Many of us have switched behaviors to attempt to control and enjoy our lust. Instead, we must go to the root of the problem and surrender it. We do this by working the 12 Steps. We have found that some men never look at porn but are still consumed by lust. Thus for us, the problem is lust, not primarily the behaviors it leads to.
Yes, we do. We believe they give us a much-needed pathway to live out both our recovery and our discipleship. We recognize that others have adapted or modified the 12 Steps. We choose to keep them in their original form. For us, Jesus is our “higher power,” and we see no obstacle to openly naming Him as such.
First, we want to help individual men no matter what their condition. From multiple surveys taken, sexual addiction is rampant among Christian men. However, in addressing it, we observe a large relational distance between the church and other Christian organizations and sexual addiction recovery groups. Most recovery groups consist of people who have already crashed, just like we have. In the course of disclosure, these men often experience rejection, further distancing themselves from their communities of faith. We think this situation is problematic because it is focused on repair only and not prevention.
We want to focus our efforts on both recovery and prevention. While gladly assisting everyone, Living Without Lust would like to close this gap by helping men further up the line, before they reach the crashing stage when jobs, marriages, and children are more deeply affected. We are especially concerned about the isolation of clergy and other leaders who suffer most upon disclosure of their sexual addiction due to their unique calling.
Secondly, we desire to empower communicators to speak about lust recovery in a life-changing, gospel-centered way that provides resources, help, and confidentiality to those who are struggling. We believe the church is uniquely positioned on the front lines to do an earlier intervention, teaching, and pastoral care. Denial and fear are our biggest obstacles. We do not underestimate the resistance to talking about lust, even though it is mentioned in virtually every book of the Bible. We also recognize that every church and Christian community has its own culture and approach to these matters. However, every indication is that a tsunami of addiction, much of it fueled by the internet, is prevalent among 20-45-year-olds. If the average crash takes place in the 40’s and beyond, we must be prepared in the years ahead with help, hope, and resources.
We believe this is the safest and best way to operate in early days. The nature of sexual addiction demands that nearly all ministry is conducted by men to men and women to women. We support and partner with numerous ministries that involve women sex addicts and wives of addicted men. We may choose to extend our reach down the road. In the meantime, we continue to experience the positive ripple effects of men embracing sobriety as their wives and children will attest.
Our goal at Living Without Lust is to help churches, pastors, and Christian leaders to serve their men in this area. Every church or Christian organization is different and possesses varying degrees of openness to this problem. Some are not open at all. We accept this reality. We will be hosting conferences in the near future. But we will also make ourselves available to connect individual men with recovery groups, speak at men’s retreats, hold training sessions, provide recommended educational material and generally help leaders to speak to the real need rather than letting their men become mired in the fruitless task of attempting to change outward behaviors, just as Jesus did when he turned the conversation from “adultery” to “lust.” (Mathew 5:27-28)
We are a group of men who are willing to share our stories of recovery from sexual addiction, our “experience, strength, and hope.” We must remember that men do not “outgrow” sexual addiction. But after struggling with sexual addiction for years and most often decades, we are experiencing sexual sobriety. We have stopped our sexually addictive actions. We are finding freedom for the first time from our obsession. Many of us report that our relationship with Jesus Christ has found a reality, a joy and a depth we could never have experienced by holding onto our old life. Others speak of finding marital intimacy, both sexual and non-sexual, that they could never experience beforehand.
We have no teaching or principles that go beyond what we have experienced. We do not tell others anything beyond what we ourselves are walking in. Our stories are what propel our mission.
We also desire to help clergy, preachers, and communicators to speak about the thirst quenching “connection” that Jesus offers. This message is essential in a “connected” world, for we believe this “living connection” with Jesus is what our lust is looking for. Many find that this “Jesus connection” is the key to surrendering the endless and futile search for the next porn image or next internet hook-up. Understanding Jesus’s own humanity and how he connects with ours is vital in our gospel communication, as is plumbing the depths of the message of Hebrews that He “lives to make intercession for us.” (Hebrews 7:25). Just as Paul at Athens (Acts 17) realized he must communicate differently to a pagan world, so we must meet the restless digital mind on its own terms, if we expect to our listeners to experience freedom and authentic joy.
No. In fact, we have much to learn and we fully expect to learn from others. We want to join hands with therapists who work in the sexual addiction area, others in the healing ministry, as wells 12 Step groups. We would like to be a clearinghouse for many ideas that work so that people will be helped and God will be glorified. The biblical word “kairos” means both ‘crisis” and “opportunity.” At Living Without Lust, we believe that meeting the challenge of sexual addiction in the lives of men, a true crisis, will eventuate in a significant spiritual opportunity, as men are set free from sexual sin and self-centered lives and live to tell their own “thirst-quenching” stories.
Regarding same-sex attraction, Living Without Lust seeks to work with those individuals who struggle with unwanted same-sex attraction. We seek no controversy in this matter, neither do we seek to change the minds of those who think differently. But for us, because we experience lust as involving sexual activity with self or any person outside heterosexual marriage, those of us who experience same-sex attraction find no alternative to sobriety and freedom other than surrendering our same-sex lust to God.