For Men

How to Break Free From the Cycle of Pornography Addiction

A 7-Week Series Through a Process of Discovery and Recovery

Cody Buriff


From Failure to Freedom

God made sex to be a good gift to His people, and He had a good design for it. However, this gift has been perverted and twisted almost beyond recognition. Pornography is wrecking our marriages, our ministries and our capacity to connect with God.

“How to Break Free From the Cycle of Pornography Addiction” is a program set up for weekly one-on-one mentoring, but it can also be used in a small-group setting. This study is an attempt to get something concise, clear and effective out there to help men or women walk through a discovery and recovery process together.

Introduction

“How to Break Free From the Cycle of Pornography Addiction” is an intentionally Jesus-centered resource. Pornography addiction is not just a physical problem. The need is heart change. And frankly, real transformation doesn’t happen without Jesus doing some rewiring in people’s hearts and minds.

Sexual addiction and habitual sexual sin are like a cancer, destroying most of the men (and many women) in this generation — even in the church. Our enslavement to sexual sin is wrecking our marriages, our ministries and our ability to connect with Jesus.

Porn is available anytime, any place. The average boy is exposed to pornography by age 8. Porn fuels the sex trafficking industry, which enslaves millions of men, women and children around the world. In spite of that, porn and masturbation are encouraged by many university professors and school psychologists.

We’re all tired of seeing men – leaders and pastors – disqualifying themselves and ruining relationships. We’re weary of watching men work to pluck the bad fruit they are producing just to see it come back with a vengeance and take them down. Again. And we know this cycle happens, usually more discreetly, in women’s lives as well. God’s gift of and design for sex have become so perverted and twisted, and pornography adds fuel to the fire.

And let’s face it: accountability groups often fall short of their intended purpose. You get a small band of guys together in a quiet place, and then after you confess the escapades of the past week, the other guys pat you on the back and say something like, “Bummer dude. Can we pray for you?” Rinse and repeat a few times, and then come back the next week to do it all over again. With no real change. I’ve been a part of several groups and relationships like this. I’ve left feeling hopeless, either for myself or for the other guys, because I didn’t have a clue how to help any of us.

But this study is an attempt to get something out there to help men walk through recovery together. It is geared toward men but has been successfully used by many women. Ultimately, we want to see people move away from the enslavement of pornography and sexual sin and toward the freedom found in Jesus.

How to Use This Resource

Print out and look over the resource before meeting together. If you’re leading someone through it, don’t give the packet to them. At the appropriate times, share the worksheets so that your mentee or group can work through them, but otherwise, keep the main packet for yourself. After you have finished, everyone who went through the study together should have their own copy.

There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way to use this. Much of your experience with this resource will be based on you. The most important thing is to be honest and to listen well.

I pray God uses it to bring freedom and healing to the wounded and enslaved!


Week 1: Possess the Land

Goal: Understand the need to fight hard. Walk away with resolve and commitment.

  • Read Romans 6 and discuss it together.

  • Read the provided study material together.

  • Assign 1 John 1 to read independently.

Week 2: Turning the Light On

Goal: Confess hidden sin. Understand your need for the gospel and the results of confession.

  • Read 1 John 1:5-10 and discuss it together.

  • Assign Proverbs 7 to read independently.

Week 3: Positioning

Goal: Set goals and define disciplines to move toward cessation of sin and its replacement with healthy habits.

  • Read Proverbs 7 as positioning for obedience.

  • Go over the tactics and choose specific points of action

  • Assign “10 of My Most Painful Experiences” to complete independently.

Week 4: 10 Painful Experiences

Goal: Process difficult, life-shaping events.

  • Walk through “10 of My Most Painful Experiences” in-depth. Listen well. Ask questions. Take notes. Look for themes and patterns of beliefs to discuss in week 6.

  • Assign Isaiah 43:1-10 to read independently

Week 5: Renewing the Mind

Goal: Identify patterns of thought and false beliefs. Grasp the contrasting truths of the gospel.

  • Read the tree “how-to” ahead of time.

  • Fill out the “fallen” side of the tree page together.

  • Explore Isaiah 43:1-10 together.

  • Fill out the “redeemed” side of the tree page using the truths of Isaiah 43:1-10.

  • Plan to share the truths of the redeemed side of the tree with others.

  • Assign Romans 7-8 to read independently.

Week 6: Freedom

Goal: Understand the basic physiology of addiction and the process of recovery.

  • Provide the sexual addiction assessment worksheet and then discuss.

  • Read the brain section together.

  • Read Romans 7-8 together.

  • Discuss the cycles of addiction, relapse and recovery.

Week 7: Better Accountability

Goal: Understand the need for accountability and how to do accountability well.

  • Read 1 Samuel 14:6-15.

  • Read the page together and discuss it.

     


 



Read Romans 6 and talk about it together. When you are finished, read over the words below from Rick James’ book “Flesh” and chew on the implications. What needs to happen in your life?

In the book of Joshua in the Bible, we are given the account of how God delivered the land he had promised into the hands of the Israelites. While the land was a gift, they still needed to engage in conquering it. (This is the kind of gift I’m tempted to give: “You see that football stadium on your campus? It’s yours. Simply kick out the 80,000 people who attend games there, as well as the football team – a mere formality.”)

Of course, the Israelites were promised God’s power, protection and direction as they were ordered to drive out or destroy all who lived in the land before they could fully occupy the territory. Most, however, did not. They surged forward, and when the fighting became too difficult, they compromised and allowed certain portions of the land to remain unclaimed and unconquered.

As a result, we see Joshua encouraging them to take full conquest of the land. “So Joshua said to the Israelites: ‘How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your ancestors, has given you?’” (Joshua 18:3 NIV).

Yet they did wait and allowed powerful pockets of the land’s inhabitants to form in unchallenged territory. These pockets became strongholds: unconquered kingdoms within the borders of the Promised Land. Not content to remain little islands and outposts, they waged terror attacks against the Israelites, steadily growing in power until we read, “The Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds” (Judges 6:2, NIV).

The Israelites didn’t fully drive out their enemy and allowed strongholds to remain from which their enemy began to reign. The result was that the Israelites were run out of their towns and houses. They found themselves hiding in hills within the land they owned and should have controlled.

The implications for your spiritual growth and your fight against lust should be obvious: when we let lust remain in our lives, it grows in power until it is influencing your life as much or more than God. The battle against lust is “kill or be killed,” “fight or be attacked,” “conquer or be conquered.”

Allowing lust to remain, or tolerating its presence, is not an option. What Joshua was calling for, and what the passage in Romans is calling for, is a decision to fight. We are to commit ourselves to completely clearing the land, so that there isn’t a trace, “not a hint,” of our enemy, lust.

Assign 1 John 1 to read on your own this week.


 


Read 1 John 1:5-10

It is imperative that you, as a guide, do not allow those you’re guiding to sit in shame. As they confess, listen well, lead with authenticity, and communicate graciously. If they suffer from addiction, they are not responsible for their addiction, and it does not define them. Shame will only make people more likely to fail again.

In Genesis 3:8, humankind hid for the first time. Relationship was broken, and Adam started a legacy of looking over his shoulder that continues to haunt us today. Like Adam, we too hide our brokenness. We are told to “cowboy up,” “be tough,” “don’t cry,” “be a man!” We dread showing weakness, so we've learned to hide it — to wear a mask. Often, we have even convinced ourselves that we are the only ones who are truly broken —  or that we aren’t broken after all.

Read the following verses and ask the associated questions:

  • v5 What does it mean that God is light?
  • v6 What is darkness? (One answer: concealed sin.) Talk about what it is like to walk in literal darkness. (For example, it is hazardous to health.) Who are we lying to? (One answer: others, God.)
  • v8 Who is deceived? What is the difference between “lying” and “deceived”? (One answer: knowing the truth versus believing a lie.)
  • v10 Who is being labeled a deceiver? How did we get to “God as deceiver” from “God is light”? How have you seen this progression in the world? In your life? Where did it all start? (One answer: keeping things in the dark.)

Take some time to talk about the darkness in your lives. Allow ample time to intentionally draw out concealed sin, asking questions like “What would you not want your parents/roommates/girlfriend/me to know?” and encourage specificity. You want to help them to drag their garbage into the light.

Now go back to verses 7 and 9:

  • v7 What does it mean to walk in the light? What happens when we choose to do so? (One answer: authentic relationships and cleansing from sin.)
  • v9 What does the word “confess” mean? (The Greek word literally sounds like “same-say.”) What does it look like to see sin the way God sees it and call it what it is? What is the result of confession? (Some answers: forgiveness, cleansing, reconciliation, God’s faithfulness to us.) Who can we confess to? (Some answers: God and brothers in Christ.)

Assign Proverbs 7 to read on your own this week.


 



Solomon was a king of Israel known for his wealth and wisdom, as well as his transgressions. Solomon’s downfall was being led astray through marrying multiple wives into the worship of multiple gods. In Proverbs, he shares wisdom from above and from the daily battle on this fallen earth.

Proverbs 7 talks about positioning ourselves in three helpful ways when it comes to this battle.

Position Your Heart in the Word

  • vv1-4 Identify the active commands (keep, treasure, bind, etc.).
  • v5 Why should we obey the commands of verses 1-4? (One answer: to keep us free from the adulteress and all that she represents. In other words, we need to be actively engaged in the intense battle to “keep our perimeter clear.”) What does the adulteress represent? (Answers: pornography, idols) What doesn’t she represent? (Answers: our brothers and sisters in Christ — people are not temptations, they are people God made.)

Position Your Body Far from “the Adulteress”

People who struggle with sexual sin are often tempted to blame others for their temptation. It is critical to emphasize that the adulteress in the proverb does not represent the specific men or women we are attracted by, whom God loves and whom we should love as God does. Rather, this is a passage about the temptations of our own hearts (see James 1:14-15).

  • v6-7 How does Solomon describe the young man?
  • v8-9 Why does Solomon conclude that he is lacking sense? Where does the young man position himself? (Some answers: near her corner, taking the road to her house at an opportune time.)

Position Your Mind to See Temptation for What It Is

  • vv10-12 Where is the battle of temptation? (One answer: everywhere, since temptation comes from our own desires (James 1:14).)
  • vv13-20 How will temptation present itself? (One answer: It will present itself in an alluring way. It will appeal to God-given longings for beauty, love and delight.)

Sexual temptation is attractive. It appeals to good desires that God has given us and corrupts them. Sex is attractive because it was made to be attractive. But out of the context God made it for, it is destructive.

  • vv21-23 What does this imagery suggest? (One answer: death; it will cost your life.)

How have you seen this passage ring true in your life?

Recap

How have you seen people you know take these three positions?

How have you taken them?

  • v24 Solomon harkens back to verse 1 and draws our minds and hearts back to focus on his words and commands. What are those commands? (One answer: his teachings on finding life in God and death in sin, essentially pointing us to the gospel and our need for Jesus.)
  • vv25-27 What is the ultimate lesson here? (Some answers: stay focused on Christ, not on the ways of the “adulteress” or her path that leads to death; don’t follow the crowds who have destroyed themselves by following temptation; stay the course; keep your perimeter clear by training and positioning your mind, heart and body.)

Tactics

Don’t put too much focus on behavior modification. It is important to look for the roots of the problem, not just pluck the fruit. Nevertheless, you need to start running on some tracks that will set you up well for freedom. Here are some tactics to help with that aspect of recovery.

Get Moving

  • Install porn protection software on your computer (for example, Covenant Eyes or XXXchurch)

  • Start bouncing your eyes: look away after seeing something tempting, and refuse to take a second glance.

  • Do what you can to remove temptations. Don’t watch TV shows that trigger temptation. Get rid of magazines. Don’t be alone at times when you face temptation.

  • In the words of Matt 12:43-45, don’t leave your house empty. It is wise to begin personal disciplines in five areas of your life, replacing bad habits with good ones. These habits are not an exhaustive list; choose something in each category that you want to start this week.

  • Friendships: Have an intentional meal with three friends of your same sex once a week each, and enjoy some real talk with them. Get awkward and uncomfortable; get honest and vulnerable.

  • Acts of Service: Go serve at a soup kitchen. Wash your housemate’s dishes every day. Do something you don’t really want to do that will serve your community.

  • Spiritual Disciplines: Fast for 12 hours once per week. Get in the Word every day. Memorize your Big 5. Read at least one book of the Bible every month.

  • Physical Exercise: Lift weights three times per week. Go for a run three times per week. Go with someone else if possible.

  • Hobbies: Whittling, drawing, reading, woodworking. Spend a bit of time each week developing a healthy hobby.

“Failure” in these goals is going to happen. The definition of success is not the absence of failure; it is the willingness to keep going in spite of failure. Just because you miss a goal does not mean you are done. Keep moving. Be faithful.

Your Big 5

Choose five short passages of Scripture and write them down. These verses should speak directly to the lies you tend to believe and point you to the beauty of the gospel and your position in Christ. Every morning when you wake up and every evening when you lay down, read over these passages and recite them. Pray through them, asking God to help you believe them, and trust Him. Practice renewing your mind. You might include Romans 8:1.

Visualization

In Romans 6:11, Paul encourages believers to “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (NIV). When you’re not in the moment of temptation, practice escaping temptation by visualizing yourself in the moment of choosing whether or not to sin. The Navy SEALs use this technique to help them succeed in combat.

First, decide on what action steps and decisions you would like to make in those moments. Then close your eyes and put yourself in the moment. Imagine the battle you are entrenched in going back and forth: “I shouldn’t do this, but I want to.” Focus on what you want yourself to do in that moment and the decisions you want to make. Then imagine yourself doing it.

Write down the action and decisions you want to make.

What things do you want to do in that moment to position yourself better? What truths do you want to remind yourself of in the heat of the battle? What do you want to say to God?

10 of My Most Painful Experiences Worksheet

Rank the most painful experiences of your life from 1 to 10, with 1 being the most painful. Respond to the prompts for each event.

Example: 

1 (rank) Painful Event: “Alcoholic Mother”

  1. Describe the process: “She was never there for me.”
  2. Describe the emotional effect: “I felt abandoned.”
  3. Describe the beliefs constructed/reinforced: “I am not worth being loved.”

 

___(rank) Painful Event: 

  1. Describe the process:
  2. Describe the emotional effect:
  3. Describe the beliefs constructed/reinforced:

 

___(rank) Painful Event: 

  1. Describe the process:
  2. Describe the emotional effect:
  3. Describe the beliefs constructed/reinforced:

 

___(rank) Painful Event: 

  1. Describe the process:
  2. Describe the emotional effect:
  3. Describe the beliefs constructed/reinforced:

 

___(rank) Painful Event: 

  1. Describe the process:
  2. Describe the emotional effect:
  3. Describe the beliefs constructed/reinforced:

 

___(rank) Painful Event: 

  1. Describe the process:
  2. Describe the emotional effect:
  3. Describe the beliefs constructed/reinforced:

 

___(rank) Painful Event: 

  1. Describe the process:
  2. Describe the emotional effect:
  3. Describe the beliefs constructed/reinforced:

 

___(rank) Painful Event: 

  1. Describe the process:
  2. Describe the emotional effect:
  3. Describe the beliefs constructed/reinforced:

 

___(rank) Painful Event: 

  1. Describe the process:
  2. Describe the emotional effect:
  3. Describe the beliefs constructed/reinforced:

 

___(rank) Painful Event: 

  1. Describe the process:
  2. Describe the emotional effect:
  3. Describe the beliefs constructed/reinforced:

 

___(rank) Painful Event: 

  1. Describe the process:
  2. Describe the emotional effect:
  3. Describe the beliefs constructed/reinforced:

 



Walk through “10 of My Most Painful Experiences” in-depth. Listen well. Ask questions. Take notes. Look for themes and patterns of beliefs to discuss in week 6.

Assign Isaiah 43:1-10 to read independently and thoroughly this week.


 



If you have placed your faith in Jesus, you have a redeemed nature, but unfortunately, you still deal with your old, fallen self as well. This fallen nature (your roots) can directly affect your behaviors (fruit), or can directly affect your beliefs (your branches) and thus your behaviors. More often than not though, your fallen nature affects your behaviors and beliefs by way of your wounds (your trunk).

The purpose of the tree page is to help you become familiar with the false beliefs that tend to trigger your personal sinful habits and addictions. The hope is that it will then help you remember the truths of Scripture that are contrary to those triggers.

In those moments of insecurity or rejection, you can first recognize the false belief and the impulse to sin that grows out of it. You can then ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of the truths of Scripture that speak directly to the false beliefs and emotional pains. Finally, you can turn and worship Jesus rather than the idols fashioned by those false beliefsour false idols.

A stroke patient requires about ten thousand repetitions in order to truly re-learn the movement that they lost during the stroke. They say it takes ten thousand hours of practice to become an expert musician, artist, or craftsman. In the same way, it generally takes a lot of time, practice, and failure to see real growth and transformation happen as we rewire our brains.

 

Fill in the “fallen” side of the tree. The fruit should include the confessed sin and darkness from week one. The beliefs section should be filled in with the thematic lies that you found while working through “My Ten Most Painful Experiences” during week 4. Some examples of lies that people believe might be: “I am worthless”; “I am abandoned”; “I am a screw up”; “No one sees me”; “I'll never be ___”; “God made a mistake with me”; “God only tolerates me.”

After completing the fallen side, read Isaiah 43:1-10 verse by verse. Try to draw out every drop of truth regarding the Christian and God. As you walk through the passage, write those truths on the “redeemed” side of the tree. It can be especially powerful to see how these truths inevitably contradict the core lies that are listed among the “fallen” beliefs. Then fill in the “fruit” with the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and other desired behaviors that oppose the fallen fruit.

In Romans 12:2, Paul commands the believers to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (NIV).

Once you have filled out the tree completely, keep it in a visible location, such as by your bed or on your wall. Look at it in the morning when you wake up and in the evening before laying down in bed. Renew your mind with the truths of the gospel.


 



Assessment Tool Worksheet

  1. Do you feel unable to control your sexual behaviors?

  2. Do you continue to act out sexually, regardless of the problems it has caused?

  3. Have you realized lately that you are acting out more frequently than you did in the past?

  4. Have you often lied to hide your sexual behaviors?

  5. Do you worry about people finding out about your sexual behaviors?

  6. Have you tried to stop some of your sexual behaviors without success?

  7. Have your finances been affected by your sexual activities?

  8. Does it take more deviant behavior than it used to to achieve the “high” from your sexual behaviors?

  9. Have you risked hurting anyone by acting out sexually?

  10. Do you often feel entitled or think you deserve a reward that your sexual behaviors can satisfy?

  11. Have you felt powerless and used your sexual behaviors to make yourself feel in control or powerful?

  12. Do you feel isolated, depressed, lonely or ashamed after acting out sexually?

If you have answered yes to five or more of these questions, you may have a sexual addiction.

*Adapted from an assessment tool created by PureHope.

The Physiology of Addiction

Children primarily operate using their amygdala, the emotionally driven part of the brain. From the ages of 15 to 25, our brains transition power to the prefrontal cortex — the area of logic, planning and execution. When we experience pain, especially as children, our instinct is to make it stop and keep it from happening again. Our brains start to form neural pathways in response to pain and, as we repeatedly take these pathways, they grow easier to travel on, like a well-worn path where the grass doesn't grow.

When we feel rejected, we look for something to lessen the pain — a comfort response. Over time, we reach a point where we might not realize why we are looking at porn or eating those Oreos, but there is a reason.

In Romans 12:2, Paul encourages us to “be transformed by the renewing of [our] minds” (NIV). Amazingly, God designed our brains such that, with work and time, we can let the grass reclaim our old thought pathways as we begin to tread new ones. By walking in the power of the Spirit, allowing Him to heal our woundedness, capturing our thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:5) and quite literally re­training our physical brains, we can find freedom from addiction and receive our ultimate satisfaction: fulfillment and identity in Christ.

Read Romans 7-8 together and answer the following questions.

  • What stands out to you as you read Romans 7:15-25?

  • What emotions does the author convey as he writes this?

  • Who is Paul? (Answer: He wrote half of the New Testament and planted churches all over the Mediterranean world.)

  • How does it make you feel to read this section, knowing who he is?

  • Why does he say, “Thanks be to God” in verse 25? What hope can you draw from that?

  • What does Romans 8:1-4 say? Why are Christians free from condemnation? (Answer: because of the gospel of Christ and His justifying us.)

  • According to verse 4, how should this affect our lives?

  • What leads to death? By whose power do we have life and peace and freedom (verse 6)?

  • Who is the Spirit?

  • According to verses 5-8, what is true of a person controlled by the sinful nature?

  • According to verses 9-11, what is true of those who have the Spirit of God? What kind of power does the Spirit have?

  • According to verses 12-17, how do we find life? What is the difference between the spirit of slavery and the Spirit of adoption? What qualifies us as God’s children?

  • How do these passages affect the way you see yourself within the context of your struggle? How do they affect the way you understand God? How can you experience the Spirit’s power today, and again after you sin? Where can you place your hope?

Cycles of Compulsive Behavior and Recovery

The Addiction Cycle

  • Self-indulgence.

  • Deception and dishonesty.

  • Self-pity and blaming.

  • Isolation.

  • Fear of disclosure.

  • Betrayal.

  • Anger and resentment.

  • Guilt and shame.

The Relapse Cycle

  • Increased self-awareness.

  • Recognizing temptations.

  • Taking responsibility.

  • Confession and surrender.

  • Submitting to accountability.

  • Striving for sobriety.

  • Building connections.

  • Embracing the gospel.

The Recovery Cycle

  • Daily practicing confession and surrender to the Holy Spirit.

  • Maintaining sobriety.

  • Maintaining accountability.

  • Healthy connectedness.

  • Healthy boundaries.

  • Embracing identity in Christ.

  • Experiencing joy in the gospel.

Freedom, One Day at a Time

Don’t try to jump from addiction to recovery. With few exceptions, almost everyone encounters relapse to some degree or another. Nick DeCola, a Cru Staff member, writes, “Avoid dramatic one-time commitments. It is unrealistic to commit to not masturbating ever again (or this month). Most of the time people who sincerely want to walk with Christ have made countless commitments in areas of habitual sin. These can often be counterproductive in that they ultimately lead to disillusionment and despair.”

It is generally more effective to take things one day at a time. In fact, it’s biblical. God gave manna to the Israelites daily. Jesus teaches us to pray for daily bread. Nick goes on to say, “This perspective also highlights the relational nature of growth. We invite God into our daily struggles and temptations and receive moment by moment His gracious power and presence. Rather than thinking in terms of victory, think of it as a process of growth and change and the benefits of the journey.”

Ultimately, you are powerless and have no chance of overcoming your habitual sin when left to your own devices and will. You really do have to depend on the power of the Spirit in your life daily (see John 15:5; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

 

An Explanation of the Cycles

The Addiction Cycle

  • The cycle starts with a trigger that (usually subconsciously) harkens back to a past wound or experience and hits on a core lie the person believes. It could be something like getting a poor grade on an exam (“I’m a failure”) or a conversation with a friend of the opposite sex ending abruptly and awkwardly (“I’ll never be loved”).

  • A craving begins to hit, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, for a device to numb the pain.

  • The person begins to position themselves to find or get the drug of choice and use it.

  • The drug is administered; action is taken.

  • Guilt, shame, and despair often follow just after the “high” wears off.

The Relapse Cycle

(Relapse is a normal part of the process.)

  • The cycle starts with a trigger that leads to a temptation to find and use.

  • The person is able to recognize what is happening. They see why they want the drug and know why it is not the answer.

  • Failure to win the battle occurs, and the person uses.

  • The person feels shame after, and even while, they use.

  • The person cries out to God or others in a plea for help and a changed heart.

The Recovery Cycle

  • The cycle starts with the trigger.

  • Recognition of the true situation occurs.

  • The person is able to remind him or herself or be reminded of the truth of Scripture and the gospel and apply it.

  • The person is able to find freedom from the lies and from the drug.

  • The person is able to rejoice in Christ and celebrate being on the path to victory.

Although these are called “cycles,” especially in terms of relapse, it does not mean there is no hope of escaping the cycle. The relapse cycle is a part of growing toward the recovery cycle and freedom.


 



According to 1 Samuel 14:6-15, Jonathan and his armor-bearer were able to take down 20 men in no time flat. That ratio is 10 to 1. So what made them successful? First, God was with them (verse 12). Second, they were fully committed to each other and to the task (verse 7). And in the midst of the battle, they were fully dependent on each other.

They had a special fighting style, outlined in verse 13. Jonathan would make the first strike on an opponent, knocking him to the ground, and the armor-bearer would come behind him and make the kill shot. Meanwhile, Jonathan would take down the next guy. If either one failed to do his part, they would both die. They had to trust each other and fully engage in the battle together.

You now know that you cannot beat your addiction on your own. Isolation is not God’s intention for you. He intends for you to live in community. You need an accountability group or partner in this battle and in others. But you may also know that those relationships are usually less helpful than hoped for.

Nick DeCola writes, 

Elements of what we commonly refer to as accountability are helpful in dealing with habitual sin. Accountability offers us the opportunity to come into the light and confess our sins to others. However, accountability groups or partners can take on the component of simply becoming a “tracking device” for sinful and destructive behavior. They can easily focus on the negative – avoiding certain behavior – and not on the positive of moving out of isolation and into authentic, real relationships. Accountability relationships can become somewhat artificial in nature. We might come to the group meeting, confess our sins, and yes, be accepted, but there might be little interaction or connection outside of the meeting itself.

Avoid lame accountability. Instead of going around a circle or looking across the table, confessing, saying a chorus of “bummers” and then praying for each other, what if you got real? What if instead of saying, “I looked at porn last Tuesday and masturbated,” you said this: “Last Tuesday, I gave into my flesh and watched two of God’s children desecrate the sacred marital action of sex, for my own pleasure, and I enjoyed it. I broke His heart. I then decided to desecrate the temple of my own body in worship to the false idol and broke His heart again.” Call it like it is.

And then, instead of saying “bummer,” start asking questions like, “What lies were you believing in your soul that led you to that action?” And then engage in all-out encouragement and reminder of the beautiful redemptive truth of the gospel. Remember the truth you wrote on the “tree.” What if you shared your deepest secrets and greatest pains and laid yourself bare? What if you helped each other renew your minds?

Don’t give up. Keep moving toward relationship and away from isolation. You may go through a few relationships as people move away or change their schedules, but know that it isn’t failure. Keep pushing for authenticity and vulnerability in your relationships, and encourage others by helping them renew their minds with the beautiful and powerful truths of the gospel.

Live Together, Die Alone: A Worksheet for Better Accountability

Format

Accountability relationships or groups should generally have a facilitator, and any person wanting to be part of the group should have two things: a recognition of their need and a commitment to the group and the relationships in it.

Ideally, the members should gather weekly and be willing and able to contact other members any time for support, as well as willing to be contacted.

The meetings should consist of some specific kinds of questions, as well as prayer.

Symptomatic Questions

Tell us about your failures and victories this week. Be specific. Have you told us everything and been completely honest? (Seek to draw things out of hiding and into the light, but do not stay here and allow the person to sit in shame.)

Diagnostic Questions

What was the trigger for the failures you experienced this week? What emotions were you feeling? What lies were you believing? (These questions are meant to dig to the root of the actions, down into ways of thinking that need to be rewired and core beliefs that need to be renewed.)

Healing Questions

What does God say is true of you in his Word? How do these truths oppose the lies you’re believing? In what ways does it feel difficult to believe what God says about you? (Encourage each person to renew their mind by reminding them of their true identity in Christ.)


©1994-2022 Cru. All Rights Reserved.