By: Will La Monaca, alumni/small group leader/Pastor in Colorado
I tried it all. I tried accountability. I tried white knuckling it. I tried counseling. I tried inner healing. I tried reading Every Man’s Battle and bouncing my eyes. I tried breaking every curse on the list. I tried, I tried, I tried. All of my efforts to break free from lust and pornography failed me and I was stuck on the never ending hamster wheel of pursuing purity. I hated myself because I just couldn’t seem to find freedom and my marriage was falling apart. I was so desperate for breakthrough that at one point I began to confess every minute detail to my wife, even moments when I felt subtle temptation…BAD IDEA! This only made things worse and propelled me into another cycle of guilt as I crushed her heart once again. I was using my wife as a confessional in an attempt to find relief from my shame while punishing myself at the same time. I took confession to a level of foolishness that no one ever should. I would experience momentary relief but only to crash back into pornography once again within a few weeks or months.
I felt hopeless and thought my lot in life was to battle temptation. “You’re a man,” they said. “This is just something you’ll always struggle with at some level” Those lines sounded like the truth but felt like death to my heart. I hated hearing people say things like that. I hated reading that my only hope was to bounce my eyes for the rest of my life. I hated that I always had to fear sin. Holiness was like a carrot God was dangling before me, that I was to strive for but never obtain until Heaven. Religion always flaunts your potential with distance and delay rather than hope for the here and now.
I had been sober from porn for about six months when I met Mark Peterson and decided to join his men’s group ‘Purity Pursuit’ at Bethel Church in Redding, CA. The only reason I hadn’t looked at porn for that long was probably because my iPhone had been stolen and I didn’t have a computer at the time. My heart was still experiencing temptation and I knew I wasn’t yet free. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I joined this group. I didn’t realize I was jumping into one of the most radical purity groups on the planet. These men were wild, uncomfortably raw and full of a contagious passion for purity. Purity for these men was beyond living free from sexual impurity. Purity was experiencing wholeness in every area of life along with having the best sex possible with their wives. Abstaining from sin was last on their list when defining what a holy life looked like. These men were after the abundant life that Christ died to give. This wasn’t 12 steps or accountability. It was a relationship; real, raw and unconditional relationship.
I quickly moved from simply being sober to walking in true and confident freedom. My breakthrough was beyond words! What was once a struggle became effortless morality. The purity I only dreamed of began to manifest in my life. I wasn’t bouncing my eyes. I wasn’t afraid of sin. I rarely experienced temptation and I didn’t have any special programs on my device. It’s now been six years and I haven’t once felt tempted to look at something online. Sure I have had momentary thoughts that have passed through but the purity I have now is the kind most people think is reserved for Heaven. The carrot that once dangled before me is now in my mouth and I can taste it! I take no credit for the victory because it had nothing to do with my own ability to climb a ladder into holiness or even to pursue purity! It’s ironic that when I joined a group called ‘Purity Pursuit’ I came to see that purity isn’t a pursuit at all, it’s an identity in the midst of real relationships!
When I look back and dissect what exactly brought me into this victory it truly comes down to identity and relationship. If you can get these two things you’ll begin to experience freedom as well.
What I realized during that season has become one of the most foundational truths of my entire life and it continues to bear fruit in every area. Part of that truth was realizing that “as a man thinks in his heart so is he” prov. 23:7 I realized that what I believed about myself was what I would continually manifest in my behavior. I had to see that all of my lust, all of my addiction and all of my sin was put to death on the cross. That I was no longer a sinner. That because of what Jesus did on the cross my old lustful man was dead and I had now become a completely new creation. I had to see that ‘purity’ was now my first nature and that every sinful temptation only served to confirm the opposite of my identity in Christ. What was once theological church language began to lose familiarity and regain potency in my heart. The scales of religion began to crumble and it was mainly due to real and raw relationships I was experiencing. I realized the truth of my identity in the midst of real relationship. Scriptural revelation without relationship becomes dead religion. But when a revelation like identity in Christ gets planted in the soil of real, raw and honest relationships it grows exponentially. I’ve seen people take revelation, trying to paste it on their lives, but since they lack transparency in relationships all they produce is behavior modification. Behavior modification never lasts because it works from the outside in vs. inside out. Trying to walk in any revelation apart from real relationships will only produce artificial fruit. The flip side is also true, having raw and transparent relationships apart from a revelation of true identity will keep you stuck processing old crap and old emotions for life! We have to have both revelation and relationship! I realized the deeper I opened up about what was happening inside, the deeper God’s truth could be planted in my heart. The more I exposed myself among others who knew who I truly was and held no judgment against me, the easier it was to actually believe what God believed about me. Monday night after Monday night for 3 years I sat in a room full of men as we poured out our bloodiest emotions. After it was all out on the table we prayed for each other and prophesied identity into the very places we just exposed. Only then was the word of God able to take deep root and bear lasting fruit!
Over the last four years I have been in full-time youth ministry and the lessons I learned for myself, I’ve seen duplicated in the lives of young men over and over again. It is amazing to see young men get freedom at a younger age than most men twice their age. My wife and I are about to hit our 10 year anniversary and our relationship has never been better. I’m beyond thankful for the grace of God and the culture of raw holiness Mark has helped cultivate in my life. I now get to release it to others and it’s one of my greatest pleasures in life. Realize who you are, and get real with people who love you and speak truth. It works and it doesn’t take a lifetime.