A.S. writes, "This is a story of light, redemption, grace, and mercy. As I reflect on it, I’m tempted to feel shame and guilt all over again. If it were up to me, I’d much prefer not to write down or talk about this story. I’m most grateful that it’s ultimately not about me, even though I am a player in the story. Ultimately, above all, this is a story about God and His amazing love. I hope that, as I share it, this truth will stand out: God is real, and He is true love!
I started the Purity Bootcamp course coming out of a very dark place. I had been in bondage to pornography for about 25 years and to lust for over 30. For the most part, I had been able to "manage" my pornography and had known lengthy periods, sometimes lasting many months, where I thought my problem was a thing of the past. I had not watched any pornography, as best as I can recall, during my courting and engagement years, nor during the first few years of my marriage. However, the underlying root of lust was never properly dealt with by genuine repentance and walking in the light of the Gospel. I was a slave to sin and not to righteousness, and I was headed for death and not eternal life (Romans 6:20–22).
Matters had become particularly bad in the last 6–7 years, and I was potentially frightfully close to committing full-blown physical adultery. I was, in some ways, like the prodigal son, deep down in the dirt with the pigs, except that I was a model pharisee on the outside. On second thoughts now, I was more like the outwardly respectable older son in that story of the prodigal son in that I thought myself close to the father and acted like I was above the wayward and lost "other" son. I was righteous in my own eyes, and I had ingenious ways of justifying or minimizing my own sins while maximizing those of others.
Nobody knew about my struggle or hidden sins—not even my wife. My wife only knew that prior to marriage I had dabbled with pornography, but she believed me that this was confined to the period preceding our marriage as I had confessed this to her while still engaged (and I had believed, at the time, that it was something of the past).
My marriage had been sweet and beautiful for the first 12 years but had begun deteriorating slowly but steadily after that and had become increasingly strained and difficult during the past 7 years. It had become particularly bad over the past 2 years, with me growing bitter, angry, and cold towards my wife. As a fine pharisee, I had always been a man of outer restraint, very seldom getting angry, but I had become rather frightened at my new and increasing capacity for rage and fury. In my self-righteous, arrogant, and calloused state of heart and mind, my wife was the sole cause of all our marital conflict. "We will be ok again if she changes," is what I told myself. I was incapable of overlooking even the smallest of sins on her part. I treated her complaining about the bad weather or getting annoyed at or upset with the kids as terrible sins deserving of my anger and judgment while, at the same time, completely failing to see my own truly grievous sins for what they were.
And then, on Monday, February 13, 2023, my wife listened to a podcast about a Christian couple who shared their journey of redemption from the bondage of pornography and how God saved their marriage. She shared the podcast with me and asked that I please listen to it. She did not think I was watching pornography. She only felt that if the wife in that story could forgive her husband for his sin of something as terrible as pornography, then there had to be hope for us, and I could surely work on forgiving her for the things I was often so bitter and angry about. I did not listen to the podcast that day. The following day, however, my wife sent me the next podcast since the story she was listening to was a 3-part series. She sweetly asked me to listen to that one too. And then she sent me the third one.
I do not recall exactly when I listened to which podcast, but by Thursday, February 16, I had listened to all three. Sometime between Monday and Thursday, my wife also casually asked me, "I don’t need to worry about you watching pornography, do I?" I brushed her off with a cold "no," but my conscience was beginning to bite me. On Thursday morning, my wife was in a state of depression and anguish. She rightly felt that we were just two people living under the same roof but that there was little relationship left. I hugged her and tried to comfort her, telling her we’d be OK and that I would arrange for help and counseling. By now, I knew deep down in my heart that our relationship could only come right if and when I would stop being a self-righteous pharisee and deal with my own sin. But I had no idea, at that point, how I would achieve that, and I was fearful of the possible consequences.
That same day, with my wife’s backing, I messaged a pastor we knew and believed we could trust and asked him if he and his wife would be willing to walk a road with my wife and me since we were struggling in our marriage. He graciously agreed, and they also agreed to speak to us that same evening. We spoke for about an hour, laying out our "surface" problems, those things that had caused us much conflict over the past two or three years. I said nothing about my pornography problem, however. I knew that I was going to have to confess it and deal with it, and I went so far as to tell them that I was in a bad place spiritually, but I was not quite willing for my sin to be laid bare in front of my wife, let alone somebody else.
On Friday, February 17, I went to bed with a heavy heart and did not sleep a wink that night. The Lord spoke to me all night, through my conscience, and smashed my heart to pieces. For the first time, I saw myself that night as the sinner I actually was: a self-righteous, judgmental, evil, white-washed tomb of an arrogant Pharisee. I saw how I was guilty of fuming about the tiny specks in my wife’s eye while walking around with huge logs in my own. I cried out to the Lord to rescue me and save me, to deliver me from sin, to give me a new heart, and to cleanse me. I pleaded for my heart of stone to be replaced. I reached a point in the early hours of Saturday morning where I said, "I will confess my sin and repent to the Lord and to my wife, regardless of the shame and regardless of any possible consequences." The "old me" was killed that night and crucified with Jesus. This was the night of my salvation, and I can never be the same person again! Thank you, Lord!
The next morning, I sat down with my wife and confessed my pornography to her. I am leaving out many details for the sake of keeping this testimony to a reasonable length. In hindsight, my wife and I can both see the amazing providence of God in orchestrating many practical details of that week and weekend in an unbelievable way to enable us to begin working through these issues.
It has been a difficult road for us. My wife, understandably, felt badly wounded and horribly betrayed by me. She will hopefully share her story in due course as she is working through the "A United Front" course, Setting Captives Free. All I will say about her story is that I am just gobsmacked and incredibly grateful for the mercy and love of God! He gave my wife the strength to not treat me the way I deserved but to show me far more grace and love than I had shown her the previous few years. I can clearly see the Lord at work in both of us in mind-blowing ways, and it just melts my heart with gratitude and love.
On Monday, February 20, we spoke again to the pastor who had agreed to counsel us. I told him of my pornography problem and how I had confessed it to my wife. He prayed with us and referred me to the Setting Captives Free Purity Bootcamp course and suggested I work through it.
On February 21, I confessed additional details to my wife about my lust problems and how I had recently been flirting with the idea of more serious sexual sin in my state of bondage to lust. She was once again broken and hurt to the point of being physically sick all day. As I wrote in my opening paragraph, my shame and guilt are very real, but how immensely thankful I am for the indescribable mercy and love of Jesus! Only He, through His incredible love, can heal broken hearts and redeem a proud pharisee like me from the gates of hell.
The Purity Bootcamp has been hugely valuable to me, not only in my journey of freedom from impurity but also in opening my eyes to the depth and breadth of the wonder and power of the cross and the Gospel of my Saviour. I was not only a lost and proud Pharisee, but my functional theology, notwithstanding years of sound teaching, was a works-based one. I had to (and am still working at) shedding my "just try harder" approach to sanctification and learning to look only to Jesus and Him crucified on the cross for me. I so love and appreciate the way the course has kept pointing me to this all-sufficient Gospel message.
Many a time, as I have worked through the lessons, my tears have flowed as the Lord has used the lessons to keep pruning my heart and showing me His unconditional and indescribable love for me. There were numerous days where the lessons spoke perfectly to the specific situation that I found myself in that very day as I came to the lesson. I gratefully saw the Holy Spirit so clearly at work through this course. The Gospel has worked and is still working to not only set me free from the bondage of impurity but to fill my heart with a deep love for the Lord. In the process, I find my heart overflowing with a love for my wife that I can often barely contain.
The foundational principles of washing at the cross, walking by the Spirit, and warring against the flesh are etched in my heart and mind. Even as I have gained freedom from impurity and gone from being a slave to it to hating it, I have turned to these principles to also help me in fighting other sins such as pride and unwholesome speech. These principles are very valuable for all of Christian life because the Gospel of Christ is truly the only power there is to change hearts and lives from the inside out, no matter the issue(s) at stake!
There were many wonderful lessons for me as I worked through the course. But, if I had to single out the top one, it would probably be the lesson that "You are not your sin" exactly halfway through the course. Having my eyes opened to the implications of my identity in Christ was so liberating! For the first time, I could understand the very real struggle between the flesh and the Spirit while also knowing that the fight was a foregone conclusion as long as I kept looking to "Jesus Christ our Lord." For the first time, I could, as it were, look at and despise my temptations instead of being afraid of them. I can despise them only because Christ has conquered them all on my behalf! That is not to say I have any confidence in myself; my confidence is only in Jesus and His advocacy before the Father, which is founded on His perfect work at the cross.
If I love Jesus with all my heart, I will be inoculated against willful sin. So, I don’t gain victory over sin first and foremost by fighting it (even though there is certainly a need to fight), but I gain victory and am equipped to fight because I am grounded in the love and work of Jesus. It seems so obvious, but I somehow needed to work through this course to really begin to grasp it! He loved me despite my dreadful bondage to horrible sins. The more I meditate on His love, the more He fills my heart with love for Him and then for others.
The changes in my life over the last 5–6 weeks have been numerous. My wife keeps telling me how amazed she is at her "new husband." Some of these changes are:
1. I am no longer a slave to impurity. My heart is filled with love for Jesus and my wife. I have not experienced the temptation to watch pornography or to look other women up and down. It’s easy to guard my eyes now.
2. I am daily blown away by the love and goodness of God in not only healing my marriage but making it sweeter and better than it has ever been! There are no walls between my wife and me any longer; the coldness and distance have been replaced with warmth and closeness.
3. I love reading God’s Word and praying daily. I am learning what it means in practice to abide in Christ.
4. My avid interest in current affairs and news has been replaced by a passion to learn more about Jesus. I have gone from being a voracious reader of news sites and social media to a reader of the Bible and good Christian books.
5. I no longer have any appetite to listen to worldly music and, instead, love listening to hymns and Christian music that conveys biblical truth.
6. In short, I have moved from treating Jesus as a crutch for occasional misuse to the most important person in my life. I know and feel my utter dependence on Him.
7. The atmosphere in my home has noticeably improved. There is more patience, kindness, love, and peace.
8. I am slower to take offense when others sin against me in real or imagined ways. It’s becoming easier for me to feel compassion and love towards other people, whereas previously I was quick to judge and criticize.
9. I am a softer, gentler, meeker person. The "old me" would never show emotion; crying was for weak people. I am now regularly moved to tears when praying with my family or spending time in devotion with them. I am quick to say sorry when I blow it or act wrongly toward them.
I am far from perfect, and I never will be. I am keenly aware of my regular struggle with numerous sins. I am not always loving, gentle, long-suffering, kind, or humble. But I am no longer a slave to sin, and my primary focus is no longer on myself, my sin, or that of others in my life.
The love of God just overwhelms me. The very same God who says he resists the proud mercifully chose to humble me, to draw me to Him, to grant me grace and mercy! I am forever indebted to Jesus!"