7 Things Group Taught Me
By Mike Maxwell of Pure Desire Ministries
From my perspective, what I’ve learned about myself, about God, and about living a life of sexual integrity would not have happened without the valuable lessons I’ve learned throughout my journey.
Among the lessons I’ve learned through my group experiences, and continue to learn, here’s what stands out as the key components to walking clean before God.
Why is humility first on the list? Because God hates pride and pride leads to destruction (Proverbs 16:8), but with humility comes wisdom (Proverbs 11:2). God actually opposes the proud (James 4:6) and His grace is available to the humble.
The first key to overcoming sexual sin is acknowledging in humility that God’s ways are right and we are sinners. This often involves confessing our sins, but I should warn you: we need to be intentional about the way we confess our struggles.
We need to have a plan and the counsel of a trained professional or others who have gone before us in this process. Confessing to your spouse without having a plan in place, accountability, and wise counsel on how confession and disclosure should take place is a recipe for disaster and possible divorce.
Many of us are willing to humble ourselves and admit we are sinners, but far fewer are willing to truly move toward repentance. Jesus said we need to get drastic with personal sin, even to the point of cutting off a hand or gouging out an eye (Matthew 5:29, 30). Jesus is not literally telling us to maim ourselves. He is pointing out that if we aren’t willing to be as drastic as cutting off our hand (or the Internet) to avoid continuous sin, we haven’t really repented.
The second key to overcoming sexual sin is true repentance. Jesus said that He does not know those who claim His name yet continue to practice sin (Matthew 7:22, 23), so sincere, actionable repentance is crucial for the healing process.
Many of us are willing to humbly admit our sin and are willing to repent but fail to succeed because we are unwilling to submit to the accountability of others. This sin requires accountability over time. This is a fight for our spiritual life, not to mention for our spouse and family. It will take three to five years of committed knock-down, drag-out fighting against the enemy to retrain and renew our mind.
We should be able to see our efforts begin to take root within a few months, but this is a character and integrity issue around faith and trust in God—it takes time to build enduring character and integrity. We will need others around us to help fight this battle and help us understand our personal struggle.
4. God’s Word
God’s Word is our most valuable weapon, yet many of us cut corners here. The Bible describes sexual sin as being as dangerous and sharp as a double-edged sword (Proverbs 5:3, 4) but describes the Word of God as being sharper than the sharpest double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12)! For a person to change the way their brain has been wired toward sexual sin requires that they wash their brain and spirit with the Word of God. This means starting the day with a devotional time and memorizing Scripture.
When I’m tempted to sin, I have found that quoting a Scripture I am trying to memorize works wonders. If I can say it out loud to make sure the enemy can hear me, even better! Spit the Word of God in the enemy’s face every time he comes around. This is how Jesus fought temptation.
Sexual sin is all about wanting what we don’t have, and the enemy of our soul will ensure that we can never truly have our fill (Hebrews 12:16). We will always want more. The enemy entices us with fake intimacy and causes us to focus on the exterior body. When we focus on the body and how a person looks, we are chasing something shallow that cannot last. This will cause us increasing unhappiness and dissatisfaction.
We all age and our looks fade away, but true beauty, character, integrity, and faith in Christ cannot be measured by appearance.
We need to train ourselves to be grateful and express gratitude daily for what God has given us (or for the future He has for us). We are rejecting God when we chase what He has not given us.
If you’re married, God is your father-in-law. Your spouse, His son or daughter, is a gift to you. Find ways to express gratitude to God every day and especially for the spouse He’s given you.
Sexual sin is all about greed (covetousness) and selfishness. The Bible says we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7) and when we sow selfishness by engaging in sexual sin, we become increasingly filled with lust and selfishness (Psalm 115:8). It continues to blind us to the realities of what we are doing and how it affects those around us.
A Christian man or woman who is serious about defeating sexual sin must take their eyes off themselves and unselfishly contribute to the wellbeing of another. For example, we might start serving our spouse and family (even when we don’t feel like it).
For us men, the Bible says that we are to love our wives as Christ loves the Church (His bride), giving His life for her (Ephesians 5:25). If you haven’t died yet, keep serving her.
7. Seek Professional Help
If we’re married, we might need to get professional assistance in navigating the minefield that comes with confessing our sin to our spouse.
If you are hesitant, here is a piece of valuable advice: a counselor is cheaper than a divorce.
If we confess in the wrong way, we may destroy any chance of our marriage surviving. Involving a professional at the beginning of this process can be of great help and eliminate many complications.
We can’t let pride keep us from doing whatever it takes to keep our marriage intact as we go through this process. A professional in this instance can be a pastor or a counselor, but make sure they understand and have dealt with this type of disclosure process.
Why do I wish I had gotten into a purity group sooner? Because I waited too long to get into a group and deal decisively with my sin—and it cost me more than I ever dreamed it would.
In late November 2011, my wife and stepdaughter stumbled across the trail of my pornography habit on our home computer. I arrived home a few hours later to her tears and anger, and she asked me to move out. She was emotional and distraught and felt like she had married a lie. In truth, she had. I spent that holiday season alone in a dark hotel room, dodging family invitations—trying to keep everyone from finding out that my marriage was falling apart and why. And it got worse. My church found out, my family found out, everyone found out.
Finally, I was willing to join a group.
Why didn’t I join a group sooner? Simply because of my pride. The consequence of my pride cost me my marriage, my family, and the respect of everyone who believed me to be a man I wasn’t.
The biggest lesson I learned through this process is this: my Father in heaven loves me too much to let sin have me forever. He disciplines those he loves (Hebrews 12:6). Period.
I had given my life to Christ and He wouldn’t let me escape the consequences of my sin (Galatians 6:7). I’ll admit, there had been stop signs all along the way, starting in my twenties, but I blew right through them. God simply kept raising the stakes—the consequences—until He got my attention.
In the pit of my journey, all alone and desperate, I met God in a new way. He gave me this song and, even now, I still get emotional listening to it because it is my story. I am so grateful I found a love greater than life itself.
Group was a crucial part of my journey—I just wish I hadn’t waited so long.
Get in a group and fight! Every. Day.