First 30 Days to Freedom

Click on the link below to watch a video of me explaining “the first 30 days process”.

The First 30 Days Explained (Video)

If you want to start the First 30 Days process, click here:

If not, you can also just the read the info below to see more about what “The First 30 Days” entails.

Books to Read

First 30 Days of Recovery:

Identify the idol-

  • Identify what your area of struggle is.  In essence, ask yourself, “Is there a false idol I am bowing down to?”  To help you determine this, ask yourself, “What occupies my mind’s attention and my heart’s affection the majority of the time?”  If it’s not Jesus, then it might be idolatry.

Confession to God and Others-

  • Read Psalm 51 and confess your sin to God.  God wants our hearts to be broken over our sin before Him.  If you have never surrendered your life to Christ, now is the time to do it.  Freedom only comes in Christ.  Confess your sin to someone in spiritual authority who can help.  Confess to those in your life that you have hurt because of your idolatry (parent, boyfriend, girlfriend, fiance, spouse, children, other family, friends, etc.)

Mentor-

  • Find a mentor to meet with who understands how to walk in freedom from idolatry.  It is ideal if you have someone further along the journey walking with you and leading you.  Meet weekly if possible.

Sponsor-

  • Contact this person daily to check in so they can hold you accountable.  Be honest with them about your struggle each day.  Do this for at least the first 30 days, sometimes longer.

Idolatry Inventory-

  • Get a piece of paper and write down every sin ever committed in the idolatry arena that you struggle with and read Isaiah 6:1-5 (reflect on God’s Holiness), then confess each sin to God and read Isaiah 6:6-7 (reflect on God’s forgiveness that comes in Christ), and finally destroy the list (If you are in Christ, your idolatry does not define who you are).

30 Day Media Fast-

  • Read Romans 13:14 and know that you must starve the flesh.  Media is an access point for many forms of idolatry (only media allowed to be participated in is media needed for school or job, instead of media, let’s run to Jesus by spending time in God’s Word, by praying, by listening to worship music or sermons, etc.)

30 Minute Escape Plan-

  • When tempted (Based on 1 Corinthians 10:13), Leave where you are at, Contact sponsor/accountability, exercise if you can (this helps increase your ability to reason, seriously!), and run to Jesus (The Word, prayer, your journal, worship music, sermons, etc.)

Filters-

  • Put Filters on all Internet Devices (costs around $5 to $10 a month, prevents exposure to idolatry temptations and helps your accountability partner keep track of your internet activity) recommend: covenanteyes.com

Accountability-

  • Get in a strong accountability group, same sex, not simply management of sin, needs to look like how Galatians 6 describes accountability (must have a mix of more mature guys and guys who struggle so more mature can help carry the burdens of those who struggle).  Something like Celebrate Recovery can be good for this.

Temptation Tracker-

Must Remember: Idolatry is not the real issue.  We must learn how to take our burdens to Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30), and we must learn how to see our identity in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14).  This does not happen in 30 days.  It is a process and takes time.

If you would like to speak with Josh about this directly or have him come speak to your church, school or camp, please contact him by clicking the link below:

Contact Josh

The following are more detailed thoughts I have on each part of the 30 day process.

CONFESS – 

It is possible that you are reading this and do not know God.  Matthew 5:3 says the one who is poor in spirit is the one who experiences God’s Kingdom.  Poor in spirit simply means powerless.  If you are battling sexual addiction on your own, please know that it will not work.  Admit your powerlessness to Jesus!  Surrender your life to Christ and in doing so you enter into a relationship with God!

If you do know Christ, I think it is really important to first repent of your sin to the Lord.  When we do, 1 John 1:9 tells us that we experience His cleansing and forgiveness.  This forgiveness you experience serves as a motivator to pursue freedom in Christ.  Romans 2:4 says God’s kindness leads us to repentance.  Galatians 5:1 says it is for freedom that Christ set us free.

After you have confessed to the Lord, I think you need to find someone who is more mature in their walk to confess to.  Galatians 6:1 tells us that the one who is more mature in the Lord is to restore the one in sin gently.  This confession to one in spiritual authority can serve as accountability down the road as one is trying to pursue freedom.

The next confession is often the hardest.  James 5 tells us the one who confesses experiences healing.  I believe that you don’t need to necessarily share great detail in confession, but you must, on some level, tell the people closest to you in your life that you have violated their trust.  You then have to let them experience the various levels of anger and hurt that are to follow, but I believe it is a must to reveal your unfaithfulness to them.

Why all of this confession?  1 John tells us that to have fellowship with God we must walk in the Light.  If we want fellowship with other believers, then we must walk in the Light.  This process of confession helps one get it in the Light.  When it is in the Light, fellowship occurs.  When fellowship occurs, growth occurs.

Therefore, confession is a step to begin or continue to grow spiritually.  So what next?  If you are in a mess, confess!  Confess immediately!  Confess today!

If you are not in a mess, pray that God would break the hearts of those walking in willful sin!

MENTOR and SPONSOR – 

It is extremely important to find someone to help you on the journey of life who has been where you have been.  This is true in all of life, as well as sexual sin recovery.  How do you find this kind of mentor?  Ask people in your life if they can help.  Ask people in your life if they know someone who can help.  As you look for a mentor, make sure it is someone of the same sex, and meet with them on a consistent basis.

Let’s say you can’t find a mentor.  I would encourage you to pray and fast and request of the Lord to find you a mentor.  Another option is to let certain authors you read mentor you through recovery. (Michael Cusick-Surfing for God, Joe McIlhaney-Girls Uncovered: New Research on What America’s Sexual Culture Does to Young Women, Tim Keller-Counterfeit Gods, Apostle Paul-Romans 1-8, Ephesians 1-3, Colossians 1-2).

Ultimately the greatest mentor you can have is the Holy Spirit.  If you have surrendered your life to Christ, then the Holy Spirit lives inside your life, and He wants to empower you and walk with you step for step (Ephesians 5:18, Galatians 5:16).  If you will constantly run away from sexual temptation and run to the Holy Spirit, He will lead you on your journey of recovery.

It is also great to find someone who can sponsor you as you go through recovery.  Again, this needs to be someone of the same sex.  Your sponsor cannot be your boyfriend/girlfriend, fiancee, or spouse.  You contact this person every day (phone call, email, text).  What do you tell them?  You are honest with them.  You tell them you ran away from sexual sin that day or you gave in.  This person’s commitment to you is to pray for you on your journey of recovery.  Contact them daily for at least 30 days.  This helps you get in the habit of living in the light with your struggle!  It is no longer a secret.

One of the things you will see in this portion of the recovery journey is the commitment required.  It is hard to contact someone every day.  It is hard to find a mentor.  It is hard to not get discouraged during the search to find a mentor.  Question: How committed are you to this sin not being in your life?

For me personally, it was very humbling to contact someone daily.  It was very discouraging in my quest to find a mentor.  However, I was persistent.  I did not want this sin in my life any more, and God in His grace empowered me to contact my sponsor.  God in His grace helped me find 2 men who could help me on my journey.

Final thoughts: Are you willing to do whatever is necessary to pursue freedom?  Are you willing to be as persistent as necessary?  Are you willing to be humbled?  I can speak from personal experience.  It is absolutely worth it, and Jesus is absolutely worthy of it!  Go pursue freedom in Christ and ask God to direct you to people who can help you on the journey!

IDOLATRY INVENTORY –

Get a piece of paper and write down every sexual sin ever committed and read Isaiah 6:1-5 (reflect on God’s Holiness), then confess each sin to God and read Isaiah 6:6-7 (reflect on God’s forgiveness that comes in Christ), and finally destroy the list (If you are in Christ, your sexual sin does not define who you are).

Let’s break this down.  To do the inventory assignment you will need several hours alone.  This was not a fun experience for me at all, but it was one that was definitely needed!  It took me about 4 hours to do.  Why should one do this assignment?

I believe that a person cannot truly find freedom from bondage until they see the ugliness of their sin compared to the holiness of God.  When you write down every act of sexual immorality, you see the wretchedness of your sin.  When you read Isaiah 6:1-5, you see God’s glory and holiness in the face of your sin.

It is possible after writing all this down that you feel some sense of shame.  If that is the case, I would read Genesis 3.  This helps you see what God does with our shame.  He does not want us to try to cover up or hide from Him.  He wants us to know that He can meet us in our shame and cover up our shame.

How does He cover our shame?  He covers us with Christ’s sacrifice on the cross!  After you have written down every sin, you go back and confess each sin to God.

Let me pause by saying that it is possible you have not committed your life to Christ.  The person who does not know Christ and is in sexual bondage does not have any covering for their shame.  The only way to experience covering for our shame and freedom from sexual bondage comes from surrendering control of our lives to Christ and receiving the forgiveness that He offers.  If you have not done this, then do this today!

If you know Christ, you are not confessing each sin to be more forgiven.  You are confessing so that you can remind yourself that you are forgiven.  Isaiah experiences God’s forgiveness in Isaiah 6:6-7.  When you do this assignment, you too can experience a fresh forgiveness from Almighty God.

Not only do I believe one must know how they have violated God’s holiness, but I believe one must understand how completely forgiven they really are!  When you do this assignment, you experience both.  At least that is the goal any way.

When you finish, you destroy the list.  Some recovery programs encourage you to share this with someone else.  I do not think you should do that!  I think the details of this is between you and God.  When finished confessing, I would encourage you to destroy the list.  I threw mine away.  I have known people to shred them or burn them.  The bottom line is you destroy it!  Why?  If I know Christ, the sin on that paper does not define who I am.  Jesus and His righteousness defines me!

Like I said, this is not a fun assignment.  I did not enjoy it at all until the end.  It was at this point that God revealed to me my sin was as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) and is buried in the depth of the sea (Micah 7:19).  That is great news!  That is the gospel!  Jesus forgives our sin and sets us free!

If you find yourself in a sexual mess, what are you waiting for?  Confess your sin to God and those close to you in your life.  Find someone to walk with you on the journey as you pursue freedom.  Get alone with God and unpack that sexual sin inventory before Him, and He will help experience true cleansing!

We all must remember: For the one who knows Christ, sin does not define us!  We are defined by Christ and His cross and His empty tomb!

30 DAY MEDIA FAST – 

God is a jealous God, and He wants us bowing down to Him and Him alone.  If we are honest with ourselves, we would admit that media has a big influence in our lives.  For the sexual addict, this is very true!  It is not just something the addict deals with though.  All of us are influenced by media.

Stop for a second and realize that I am not telling you that all media is bad, and I do not want to be legalistic about this.  Consider this though: How many unwanted things penetrate our heart and our brain on a daily basis because of advertisements or commercials or pop ups we did not ask for?

Just take this challenge: For the next 30 days do not participate in media.  Only use media that helps you do your job or school or stay connected with close friends and family and Jesus.  I think that would severely limit your media usage.

Every time you want to participate in media, run to Jesus!  Spend time in prayer.  Spend time in His Word.  Spend time reading a good Christian book.  Listen to one of your pastor’s sermons.  Listen to worship music.  At the end of the 30 days, evaluate how this has helped your relationship with God.  Also, for those who struggle with sexual sin, ask yourself if your temptation to lust decreased or increased.  Do you accept the challenge?

May our heart only bow down to Him!

30 MINUTE ESCAPE PLAN – 

I don’t necessarily understand this, but I am told the primary chemical releases in the brain related to pornography are adrenaline and dopamine.  I am also told that when those chemicals start firing, then it can feel very hard to resist temptation.  It is not just the forces of darkness attacking.  It is not just what culture tempts us with.  It is not just what our flesh desires.  If we have trained ourselves to respond to sexual sin, then literally we have a physiological problem when we are sexually triggered.  The forces of darkness, culture and our flesh are hard to fight.  Retraining our brain how to respond is without a doubt as hard, if not harder.  Based upon what I have been told by guys smarter than me, it takes about 20 to 30 minutes to calm those levels of dopamine and adrenaline down.

How do we do this consistently?

The Bible offers us a road map on how to do this.

  1. Romans 12:2 and 1 Corinthians 10:13 – I am not conformed to the world, but I allow myself to be transformed by renewing my mind.  I realize that my temptation is not unique to me, and God has provided a way of escape.  I must choose to take it and let Him transform me and renew my mind.
  2. Example of Joseph-I can renew my mind by following the example of Joseph in Genesis 39.  Joseph literally fled.  He ran away from sexual temptation.  I can renew my mind, I can retrain my brain how to respond to temptation if I will do what Joseph did.  I must leave!  I must flee!  If I have 30 minutes to flee, then I get out of there for 30 minutes.  If I have 5 minutes, I take 5 minutes.  If I have 30 seconds, then I take 30 seconds.  The bottom line is that I leave.  I must flee.
  3. When I leave I contact my mentor of sponsor (see more on this in previous posts) and let them know I am tempted and that I am fleeing.  This helps us live in the light with our struggle.  This helps us fight with the body of Christ and not fight on our own.
  4. This is going to sound crazy, but when you leave/flee, you must try to exercise (preferably walking or jogging).  Why?  Again, I am told by those who know way more than me about this stuff that when I walk or jog my right brain and left brain connect with one another.  What I cognitively know to be true in my left brain, I can begin to experience in my right brain.  Example: I know God loves me because of the cross of Christ, but I am not experiencing that.  I feel like escaping into something that will make me feel better, but it really will not satisfy.  Only God will satisfy.  I go on this walk or jog and my left brain and right brain start communicating.  It is possible that what I know to be true about God I begin to experience as I walk or jog.
  5. Which leads me to this last point.  I can’t just leave/flee.  I can’t just contact my mentor or sponsor.  I can’t just exercise.  When I start walking or jogging, I must choose to connect with Jesus.  I can walk and pray.  I can jog and listen to the Word or worship music.  The bottom line is that I must try to connect with Jesus.  Connection may just be normal conversation.  It could be crying out to God from places of anger and sadness.  Regardless, when I flee temptation to bond with sexual sin, I must then bond with the only one who can really satisfy, Jesus Christ! (Jeremiah 2:13 and John 6:35)

We can rewire our brain.  We can fight the forces of darkness.  We can fight the culture.  We can fight our flesh.  We must choose to flee and run to Jesus EVERY TIME we are tempted!

Let us purpose in our heart to do this!!!

FILTERS –

Put Filters on all Internet Devices (costs around $5 to $10 a month, prevents exposure).  I recommend: covenanteyes.com

Filters are not fool proof, and quite frankly the porn companies are smarter than the filter companies.  However, that does not mean I don’t need a filter.  Look at a filter like a fence or an alarm system for your house.  They do not prevent crime, but they do not make it harder for the crime to occur.  Internet filters make it to where there is one more fence to jump over in giving into the temptation to look at porn.

The thing I like about the filter is that you can have it set up to where every web site you go to gets emailed to someone else.  This is a great way for men or women to do accountability, and it is a great way for parents to check in on their kids’ internet activity.

I also like that the filter allows you to select the settings you want.  Obviously, you can block all adult content, but it also allows you to block other questionable material as well.  You get to pick the settings for how strict you want the filter to be.

The complaint against filters is that it slows down your internet speed.  This is true!  It does slow down your speed.  The other complaint is that at times it causes your screen to freeze, or it at least pause your internet activity temporarily.  This is also true.  At times that does happen.  In fact, when I was writing this blog, it happened.

There is no doubt that is annoying, but don’t I want to have filter systems in place to protect me from evil?  Don’t I want have filter systems in place when protecting my children?

Psalm 141:9 says, “Keep me safe from the traps set by evildoers, from the snares they have laid for me.”  

I think putting internet filters on your internet devices help with keeping us safe from traps and snares of the forces of darkness.

I will take the annoyance to keep me and my family safe!  What about you?

One more thing: Let me explain how this works with smart phone devices.  Covenant Eyes basically serves as your web browser.  You must delete all other apps that connect to the internet (example: safari, etc.).  Also, you need to be careful on your child’s phone.  If they have apps that connect to the internet, then they can surf the web that way.

I recommend shutting down all apps that have internet access (twitter, etc.).  Not kidding, even the Bible app.  Why?  One can surf the web freely without accountability through these other internet capable apps, but if they go through the Covenant Eyes app, then the internet content is recorded and emailed to whoever the person is on that account.  You can still read your Bible online via the Covenant Eyes web browser.  You can still check twitter account and send out tweets.  It is just not as convenient.

Why is this so important?  We don’t want to trust our flesh.  We want to long for accountability.  We want our kids to know they can’t trust their flesh, and we want them to long for accountability.

The filter can be annoying, but it is a great way to avoid temptation.  Don’t we want this in our own lives?  Don’t we want to model this for our kids?

One last thing:  I need to make a disclaimer.  I am not the most tech savvy person.  The above information I am sharing is the best to my knowledge about smart phones and smart phone web browsers.  I don’t own a smart phone, and I think many guys who have had past porn struggles should not own them.  Why?  The same reason you put on internet filters (to avoid temptation!).  I make the disclaimer about being non tech savvy for this reason.  If I am wrong, please comment on this blog to tell me.  If there is a better way, please comment on this blog to tell me.  I will update this blog post with the most accurate information.  I am just sharing my understanding of how it works to get us all to think through how to best use internet filters to help us all avoid temptation.

ACCOUNTABILITY – 

Accountability never worked for me when I was in college battling pornography addiction.  It went something like this:

Me – “Dude, I gave in last week.”

Person I was accountable to – “Bro, yea, me too.”

Me – “Let’s pray.”

The next week it would be the same conversation.  This did not help at all.  In fact, it made us numb to our sin.  Accountability looks much different in Scripture than how we talk about it in today’s American Christian Culture.

If I struggle with sexual sin, I need accountability, but I don’t need accountability from a bunch of guys who struggle with sexual sin.  That is like the blind leading the blind.  There can be several guys in my accountability group that struggle, but at least one person needs to be free from sexual sin (12 months of sobriety).

There are churches that offer Sexual Sin Recovery Groups.  There are also churches that offer recovery for any hurt, habit, addiction, etc.  Let me tell you about 3 of them:

  1. Celebrate Recovery – Celebrate Recovery is a great ministry that is offered at several churches around the country. You can click on the link provided to find a recovery group near you.  Celebrate Recovery is a biblical program that helps people overcome hurts, habits, and addictions.  It is based on the actual words of Jesus.
  2. Restore at The Church on Rush Creek – If you live close to Arlington TX, then this is a great option for you.  Most of the participants here have struggled with hurts from their past, as well as the guilt and shame associated with these struggles, resulting in various unhealthy habits of coping.  The hope, when you go to Restore, is that you will find acceptance and learn practical steps of recovery in a Christ-centered community.
  3. Grace Covenant Church – Again, if you live close to Arlington, TX, then this would be a great option for you.  At this church, they have a sexual sin recovery group for men that meets every week.  The goal of this group is for men to have a safe place to discuss their struggles in the sexual arena, and this group wants to provide strong accountability as well.

You do not have to get in a group like this, but it can be a great help to have some people of the same gender holding you accountable.  I like to look at the accountability that Galatians 6 talks about.

In Galatians 6, Paul talks of how the one who is stronger spiritually needs to help restore the one who is struggling.  He also talks about how the one who is stronger needs to do the restoring in a gentle manner.  The thing I really think Paul emphasizes is this: When I help restore a brother or sister in Christ or when I help hold this brother or sister accountable, I am literally helping to carry their burdens.  God wants us to have people in our lives who help carry our burdens of sin.  He does not want us to carry them alone.

Whatever your sin burden is, sexual or otherwise, I would encourage you to find a group of believers who can hold you accountable and help carry your burdens for you.  We are not alone!!!

Let’s not use accountability to simply manage our sin, but let’s use accountability to help us run to Jesus and pursue freedom from that sin!

TEMPTATION TRACKER –

To have a more detailed explanation of this, go to this web page: TempationTrackerPage

We must remember that we are not just in the business of behavior modification.  We want Jesus to transform our hearts!  This is why the Temptation Tracker is so important.  The Tracker can be very useful in helping me determine what is really going on in my heart.

First, let me explain the tracker:

Temptation Tracker (created by Doug Hutchins, used with permission)

  • Assignment: Create a 30 day calendar.  For 30 days, track when sexual temptation strikes.
  • Tracking Details: If you DO NOT encounter sexual temptation, then place a √ on the corresponding calendar day. If you DO encounter temptation, then do the following:

Day: circle the day in which temptation occurs

Time: record when sexual temptation strikes (looking for a specific time)

Location: where were you when it happens (bed room, living room, etc.)

Feeling: how were you feeling when temptation hit (Bored, Lonely, Afraid, Angry, Stressed, Sad, Tired, etc.)

Questions to Answer Regarding Tracker

  1. What were the most common days that temptation struck?
  2. What were the most common times (be specific)?
  3. What was the environment like – where were you? Were you alone?
  4. What were the most common emotions?
  5. What device was the most tempting?
  6. What devices were you tempted with—cell phone, home computer, laptop, ipad, etc?

By tracking your temptation for 30 days, it is possible that you might see some sort of pattern.  Let me give some examples:

Example 1: You may determine that you are tempted every night before you go to bed.  This will help you know to go to bed without any devices near by.  You can do your 30 min plan right before bed, and you can contact who is holding you accountable and ask them to pray.

Example 2: You may discover your primary point of temptation is your phone.  Maybe the best thing to do is get rid of your smart phone and get something simple like a flip phone.

Example 3: My issue was anger.  I was really battling anger almost every time I was tempted to lust and look at porn.  What does that show?  It shows I really don’t have a lust problem, but that I have an anger problem.  My anger issue was impacting my lust.  I wasn’t dealing with my anger so I was escaping into porn.  I did not need to modify my behavior and be more pure.  I needed God to deal with the anger in my heart.  I needed to know my own forgiveness and be able to give that forgiveness away to others.  Once I understood that, it really reduced how often I was tempted to lust.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I was still tempted and am still tempted.  Behavior modification is not wrong.  It is just incomplete.  We must retrain our brains in how to respond to lustful temptation.  We must change our behavior, but long term behavior change only happens if I look at my heart.  The reason I love the Temptation Tracker is because it helps with both.

Let’s assume your issue is not sexual sin.  You can apply this tracker to anything (video games, eating, fantasy football, social media, movies, shopping, overworking, etc).  I am sure I am leaving some out, but you get the idea.  None of the things I just mentioned are sinful unless I make an idol out of them.

My point is this: Ask the Lord if there is an area of idolatry where you struggle.  If he reveals one to you, then utilize the tracker for 30 days and see what God reveals to you about your heart.

I am so thankful I had the chance to meet Doug Hutchins so he could show me this tool.  I hope it is as helpful to you as it has been to me and so many others.

We must remember to look at issues of the heart, not just behavior.  This 30 day process helps us detox behavior so we can heal the heart.

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