In October 2005, the church I was attending held a Porn Sunday event through XXXChurch. I sat there in complete denial, walled in by secrecy and shame. After the service, my wife looked at me and asked, “Have you ever struggled with that kind of stuff?”
My response was classic: “No, Honey. I’ve never been one of those guys.” Nine days later, I lost the office job I had at the time because I was caught looking at pornography on my computer at work. When the truth came out about that specific issue, so did the truth about the fullness of what I was up to: that I was hopelessly and helplessly addicted to pornography, masturbation, lust, alcohol, drugs, shame, etc. In addition to losing my job, I almost lost my marriage, my children, my home, my family relationships, and my reputation.
Three years later I became a full-time pastor at Valleybrook Church in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the same church where I sat through Porn Sunday at the height of my denial in 2005. At this point, through our healing process, my wife and I are closer than ever before, my family is thriving, and my intimate relationship with God drives everything I do. I’ve led recovery groups for men who are addicted to porn, sex, masturbation, and lust since February 2006 and God has redeemed my story in countless ways. In fact, in the fall of 2010, I wrote a book called PURE: A Guys’ Guide to Freedom from Sexual Sin in order to continue helping men discover freedom. God is now using this book to minister to men on several campuses and in multiple churches. What a crazy turnaround! How could something like that happen?
Well, I’ll tell you. It wasn’t easy. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. But back at the beginning of the whole process, on the heels of Porn Sunday, when the truth of what I’d been up to came out, I made a decision that changed everything. I committed to doing whatever it took to let God change my life, transform my inner world, and renovate my character. That meant a ton of super difficult conversations where old lies would have to be confessed, where embarrassing and sinful behaviors I’d hidden my whole life had to come out into the light, where I had to see the full consequences of my sin. It also meant taking some practical steps like installing X3Watch on my computer. I was so thankful for any extra safeguards I could put in place as I took my first tentative steps toward freedom.
As difficult as all that was, as much as the truth wounded my wife and made rebuilding trust seem impossible, I knew that the only way to live the life I was made for was to get all the darkness out and then choose to live in obedience to God. I didn’t know how, and I didn’t see what would happen next, but I knew I pretty much needed to do the opposite of everything I’d done in the past. I was so grateful for the ministry of XXXChurch, whose courage in talking about this issue broke through into my church and kick-started a healing journey for a large number of men, marriages, and families. The influence of that boldness and call to freedom in Jesus continues to grow stronger all the time in our church.
As I walked the path to freedom God laid out before me, as I experienced, along with my wife, both the pain and joy of healing, God did a work in me so profound that it changed the very fabric of my soul. In the process, as I inherited the true and lasting freedom Jesus died to offer me, God showed me very clearly that this freedom I had discovered was not supposed to lie dormant inside me and change only my life and my marriage. As He redeemed my story, as I lived in the freedom I had discovered, He invited me to share my story, to use it to invite other men into that same freedom.
PURE is an invitation to true and lasting freedom from sexual sin and addiction, through the truth of Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. I’ve written this book for one reason: to help men discover, and choose to live in, the complete freedom from sexual sin Jesus Christ died to offer us. By the end of the book, guys know everything they need to know in order to make—and keep making—their choice for freedom. It’s not an attempt to be all-encompassing or to offer expert psychological information or insight about addiction. There are plenty of other expert authors out there who can do a better job at those things. PURE, quite simply, takes a streamlined, no-nonsense, intensive approach to several major issues faced by all men who experience a life of sexual sin and addiction. My prayer for the men who read it is that the information provided will help them see that a life of sexual sin, secrecy, and addiction is not the life they were created to live, and that God is inviting them out of that lifestyle so they can find out exactly who He is and who He’s created them to be.
I am someone who has been blessed by XXXChurch. Porn Sunday was the beginning of my healing journey from shame and torment to confidence and peace, from depression and emotional numbness to clarity and joy, from sexual addiction and secrecy to freedom—freedom that lasts, not just for a few weeks or months, but for a lifetime. It’s the kind of freedom that works to redeem our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls as God comes in to completely transform our lives.
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet Craig Gross in person at a Porn Sunday event at another area church, and was able to thank him all these years later for starting this ministry ten years ago in faith and for boldly preaching, teaching, and living the truth in love. It was a full-circle moment for me, to meet and talk with a man who had no idea how much his steps of faith would change my life. XXXChurch, you’ll probably never completely know how much your ministry means to this whole world, but please know that for me, God used it to help me walk into new life. I can never thank you enough.