Helping men and women find hope, help, healing, restoration and redemption
leading to lasting victory over sexual addiction through a growing, vibrant, powerful relationship with Christ.
Statistics tell us that 7 out of every 10 men, and 4 out of every 10 women admit to struggling at some level with lust, porn, masturbation and sexual impurity. Maybe that’s you. If not, I’m positive someone you love and care about is fighting this battle. This episode is geared specifically for you.
So, welcome to The Point of Purity Podcast. I’m your host, Steve Etner, Author, National Speaker, and Purity Coach for The Pure Man Ministry. Welcome to episode #45. In this week’s episode we revisit the personal testimony of a Pastor Addicted to Porn – A Sinner Set Free!
I am not proud to share my story with you. I am not proud of what I have done – in fact, quite the opposite is true. However, I am excited to share with you what “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” has done and is doing in not just my life – but my marriage, my family, and a global ministry.
As you listen to this episode, my desire for you is best described in Isaiah 66:4 which says, “When you hear this, your heart will rejoice … the hand of the LORD will be made known.” My wife, Heather, and I want you to see, not the sin but the Savior. We want you to experience not our failure, but His forgiveness. We want you to focus not on the problem but the Provider!
Psalm 107:1-2 says, "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble." That is precisely the goal of this particular episode. To declare the goodness of God. To demonstrate to you how His steadfast love endures forever. And to reveal how He can redeem you from trouble.
This may seem to be a strange opening to a testimony, but let me ask you a question: what is sin? Seriously now. How would you define it? What exactly is “sin”? 1 John 5:17 tells us that "All wrongdoing is sin." Now there are a lot of definitions of right and wrong circulating the world today, so if we're going to get a proper definition of sin we need to ask - wrongdoing according to whom?
Ultimately, neither your judgment of me - nor my judgment of you truly matters. What either you or I define as right or wrong is inconsequential, because neither of us have the authority or power to send the other to Heaven or Hell. Only God can (and will) do that, so what is important here is what God says about sin.
2 Corinthians 5:10 warns, "We must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ." Thankfully, you will not be standing before me to be judged for your wrongdoing, nor will I stand before you. Both of us will one day stand before Christ, “so that each one may receive what is due for what he (or she) has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)
1 John 3:4 tells us that "sin is the transgression of God's law." Simply put, sin is disobedience to God. It is wrongdoing according to God's standards - found in God's Word.
Would you agree that all of us are sinners – yourself included? I hope you just answered in the affirmative because God says in Romans 3:23 that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." In Ecclesiastes 7:20 we see that "there is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins."
So please understand as you are listening to this episode that when Heather and I got married, we both brought sin with us into the marriage. I’m fairly certain that you would agree that any marriage is going to face struggles from time to time. But in our marriage (as you will soon see) I had some serious sin issues that Heather knew nothing about – and I was desperate to keep it that way.
You see, at the age of 13 I was introduced to the world of pornography – which when coupled with masturbation very quickly developed into a full-fledged addiction. By the time I was married, I was deeply entrenched in my sin. Like any sin, I was deceived into believing I had it under control. Nothing could've been farther from the truth.
Let me talk with you for a moment about the real purpose of marriage.
God established the institution of marriage to be a symbol of His relationship with the Church. Our marriages should first and foremost be a picture of God’s amazing love and tender care for us! In Ephesians 5:25 we men are instructed to love our wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
For a long period of time I was disobedient to this command. I did not love Heather the way Christ loved the church.
God created Heather to be my help mate. God created Heather for me to love and cherish, and for us – as a team - to show to world around us God’s amazing love. That’s God’s design for marriage. Unfortunately, for many years I saw our marriage in a different light. Because I was self–centered, because King ME was sitting high on the throne of my heart, I saw our marriage as a means to fulfill my insatiable appetite for sex. After all, 1 Corinthians 7:9 says, “if you cannot control yourself, you should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” By the way, let me quickly add that I had a wrong interpretation of that verse.
You see, marriage is not all about ME. Marriage is not all about you. Nor is it all about your spouse. 2 Corinthians 5:15 says, “we should no longer live for ourselves but for him who died for us.” Regrettably, for a majority of my life, I chose to live for myself. Since King ME was sitting high on the throne of my heart, everything I said and did in our marriage was for the perceived benefit of King ME. As a result, I brought my porn addiction with all of its ugly baggage into our marriage and didn’t even care.
Let me talk with you for a moment about this ugly sin, this three-headed dragon known as Lust, Pornography, and Masturbation. God created man to be stimulated visually. God’s purpose is for man to look at his wife and find HER and her alone sexually attractive.
He also wired the male in such a way that when we experience those visual stimuli, our brain releases a chemical cocktail of hormones full of endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and vasopressin (and a few others to boot). I’ve been told that the effect this particular combination of hormones has upon the human body is more powerful than Morphine. By the way, this is what we become addicted to – the hormones, not the porn.
What I do know (from personal experience) is that it creates a natural high - a high that God intended for you to experience ONLY when looking at your wife; and only when enjoying sexual intimacy with your wife. This high is Divinely designed to bring the husband and wife together in a sexual union on a regular basis to express a deep love and appreciation for each other. God did not create those hormones so that you could get that sexual pop/rush whenever you want in whatever way you want with whomever you want (whether in real time OR digitally).
Sexual lust enables the man to draw that chemical high from other people, anytime and anywhere he desires. When that hormonal cocktail is released, the process of needing sexual expression (in other words, acting out) has begun. We often call it our sex-drive. The result of lust and looking at porn is usually masturbation instead of the sexual union between husband and wife that God intended.
Please understand that this sin (this addiction) has at its core deception and lies. The goal of the addict is “simple”: never get caught. The intention is to feed the addiction (to get the high) at any cost. And so, I had become a master deceiver. Heather had no clue of the depths of my sin. But God did!
In August of 1984 God moved us to Southern New York (at the foot of the beautiful Catskill Mountains) where at the age of 23 I became the senior pastor of a small Baptist Church. Let me quickly interject here that praise God, He richly blessed that ministry in spite of my sin. That wonderful group of believers grew in Christ, and together we saw God do amazing things.
Having said that, it is with great sorrow that I also say - my sin continued to grow in darkness. Over the years that we were there, I fed my porn addiction with rented X-rated videos and other sinful choices. Then one day I had an affair with one of the women of our church.
I immediately confessed it to Heather. We went to see a pastor in the northern part of the state for counseling. As we sat in his office, he proceeded to rip me up one side and down the other – telling me what a horrible person I was. I already knew that. That’s why I was seeking counsel.
Picture this if you can: to my immediate left sat my wife – the woman who gave her heart to me, a heart that I had just torn to shreds, spat upon and then stomped on - a woman who was hurting beyond comprehension. The pastor’s attack on me was so severe that my dear, sweet wife began to defend me in front of that pastor. That should NEVER have happened.
We left there determined we were not coming back; and feeling that no one could help us because no one understood. We were left alone to try to “fix” it. But we didn’t fix it … because we couldn’t fix it. To be honest, I wasn’t so sure I even wanted it fixed. So, instead of fixing it, I chose to bury my addiction deeper in the darkness. I learned how to live in such a way that I was able to convince Heather all was better. IT WAS NOT.
In June of 1990 we moved to the state of Michigan where I became the Senior Pastor of another small Baptist church. Again, we saw God bless that ministry in amazing and glorious ways. The church grew rapidly. Souls were being saved, lives were being changed, people were growing in their walk with God. And yet, I continued to look at porn and masturbate; I continued to lie and deceive my wife every time she thought she caught me.
Throughout the years in the pastorate God allowed me to have two back surgeries, three hernia operations (all the same hernia), and serious cancer in my nose (twice) – all to get my attention. But like Pharaoh and the plagues of Egypt, I hardened my heart and would not listen. Like the children of Israel in 2 Kings 17:40, I "persisted in my former practices.” As Deuteronomy 1:43 says, I “rebelled against the Lord’s command and in my arrogance I marched onward.”
Did you know that God says in Deuteronomy 18:19, “I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words”? And call me to account God did.
Four years later we moved to Northern, Indiana where I became a youth pastor. Understand that much like Jonah, I was running from God and I was dragging my family with me. Each church I moved our family to I did so because I didn't want to give up my addiction to porn, and so I was trying to run from the convicting power of God. Kinda funny when you stop to think about it. What a place to run to. Makes sense doesn’t it? I mean – you’re running from God so why not go to another church! Duh!
However, just like God did with Jonah, He had prepared a great beast to swallow me up.
Having now discovered that porn was readily available on the internet, and that much of it was “free” and very easy to hide (or so I thought), my addiction to lust, porn, and masturbation kicked into high gear. Until it finally exploded into another affair.
Numbers 32:23 warns, “be sure your sin will find you out.” This time I was caught and summarily dismissed from the church I was serving as assistant pastor (and rightfully so as I had no business being in the pastorate). Overwhelmed with guilt and an utter sense of hopelessness, I emptied our bank account and maxed out our credit card ... I left Heather and our four young children with basically nothing but a broken heart and significant debt. I then took our only vehicle and ran off with the gal I was having the affair with.
The plan was simple: “enjoy life” till the money was gone – then commit suicide together. That was OUR plan. But thankfully God had other plans.
Job 5:12 says, “God thwarts the plans of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success.” Well ... God thwarted our plans. He stopped us a week later and turned us around to come back home.
In Jeremiah 29:11 God says, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Heather and I are here today because God had other plans. I am sharing this story with you today as a Pure Man because God had other plans. Because of God’s plans – Heather and I have a hope and a future! Proverbs 19:21 says, “many are the plans in persons heart, it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
I don’t know what may be going on in your life right now but let me assure you of this: Whatever it may be – God has plans for you! So, I urge you – stop fighting Him and let Him work His perfect will in your life. Psalm 33:11 says that “the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart thru all generations.”
No – I had plans to end my life. BUT God’s plan was to take Heather and I “through the valley of the shadow of death” so that together we could be used by God to comfort others with the comfort He would eventually give to us.
Praise God our story does not end here. That gal and I came back to Northern Indiana, a week after we had run off, but not to make things right. When we got back into town, I called Heather and demanded that she let me into our house to get my stuff. I was done with the marriage. I was leaving her and the kids.
She convinced me to at least meet with her first and talk. So, we agreed to meet at the local Ice Cream Shoppe. When we arrived, this girl and I sat on one side of the booth, all snuggled up together - my arm around her and her head resting on my shoulder. Heather sat across from us.
Please understand that at that moment I was filled to overflowing with anger, bitterness, and hatred - not toward Heather but toward God and myself. But all that anger spilled out – NO ... it didn’t “spill out”, it POURED out, it exploded on to Heather. I told her I hated her, didn’t love her – never did; she made me sick and I couldn’t stand her.
Heather sat there listening to it all - no anger, no tears. Quietly listening. Then, when I was done spewing my venom, she looked at me and simply said,
“I still love you Steve.”
Now I need to quickly interject that I am NOT married to Wonder Woman. Heather is definitely not Super Girl. There is only one reason why she was able to respond that way that day. All during the week that I was gone, all during the time that Heather didn’t know if I was dead or alive – or if she even cared – my dear, precious, amazing wife was in her Bible and on her knees seeking God’s face. She was the living example of Hebrews 10:22. You see, she “drew near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings.” She turned to God and sought His will in her life. She fully yielded herself to the ONLY one who could help her.
As Hebrews 4:16 says – she approached “God’s throne of grace … with confidence.” Because she did, she received His mercy and found His grace to help her in her desperate time of need. Because she sought after God with all her heart, because she was yielded completely to the Holy Spirit – in that booth at that Ice Cream Shoppe on that horrible, awful, excruciatingly painful day straight from the pit of Hell - it wasn’t Heather saying “I still love you Steve,” it was God speaking thru a woman fully surrendered to him telling me HE still loved me.
1 John 4:8 says, “whoever does not love does not know God because God is love.” Think about that: God IS love! The love that came out of Heather that day wasn't her love for me - she didn't have it, not one ounce of it - no, it was God’s love!
The reason that Heather was able to respond to me the way she did is because she was so fully yielded to Holy Spirit that HIS love, HIS peace, HIS patience, HIS kindness was able to come out of her!
Again, I would love to be able to tell you that was the end of the nightmare. It wasn’t. Heather convinced me to come back home – I agreed. We left the Ice Cream Shoppe and headed back to my house. Upon our arrival, the pastor (my former boss) was already there and quickly whisked the girl away. Our friends appeared seemingly out of nowhere and took our four young children away for an overnight. Heather and I were suddenly left alone – no help, no counsel, no direction, no clue what to do next. Needless to say, it was a very long, very rough night.
The next morning, I was overwhelmed with grief and remorse over all I’d done. I had a strong feeling of despair and an utterly devastating sense of hopelessness wash over me. To take a long story and shorten it, I attempted suicide that morning. The police came. I was admitted to a local mental hospital; then a couple days later transported by ambulance to a “Christian” organization in Chicago.
After I was discharged, once again no one was there to help us; again no one offered us counsel, and again we were all alone. We figured we would have to fix it on our own. But we didn’t fix it … because we couldn’t fix it. I still wasn’t sure I wanted it fixed because I loved my addiction too much. So, I continued in my sin. Our marriage hanging on by a thread.
Knowing I was still needing some type of help, we went to see another counselor. This one was a “professional” with “Christian” in the title. So, we thought maybe, just maybe I would finally get the help I so desperately needed. Unfortunately, the counsel we received was the “mushy gushy, get-in-touch-with-your-feelings, let’s talk about mommy and daddy” kind of stuff. You know guys, the stuff that we can take just so much of and then we just check out.
After a few of those sessions we stopped going. Again, we felt that no one truly understood; therefore no one could help us. So, this time I was determined that since I was now older and “wiser” – maybe I could finally “fix” this addiction to pornography on my own. I made a lame, feeble attempt but I didn’t fix it … because I couldn’t fix it. Instead, I just gave up trying and chose to bury my sin even deeper. I became more adept at lying and hiding my evil behavior.
Over the next few years I continued to look at pornography on the internet. I had multiple affairs. I had phone sex, sex in chat rooms, went to strip clubs, practiced voyeurism, and was even fired from a successful job because I was caught looking at porn in my office.
We started attending a church that had a full-time counselor on staff. Week after week we would meet with him, and frequently he would tell us it was Heather’s fault. If she had only performed properly and met my needs, none of this would have happened.
Finally, discouraged and deflated we quit counseling and left the church. Once again, we felt all alone – helpless and hopeless. Once again, we figured we were going to have to fix it on our own. But we didn’t fix it … because we couldn’t fix it. You see, only God can fix it!
We didn’t realize it at the time, but the reason for our sense of hopelessness was because both our eyes were focused on self. King Me sat high and mighty on the throne of both of our hearts. So, because we saw this as a “problem that needed to be fixed,” instead of a sinful heart issue that only God could cleanse, neither of us were strong enough (nor wise enough) to deal with it.
Are you sitting here today with a sense of hopelessness or helplessness over a sin issue in your life that you just can’t get rid of? David cries out in Psalm 25:5, “guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” You see, for Heather and I, our hope wasn’t in God. Our hope was in our own ability (or lack thereof) to fix a problem we were powerless to solve. Psalm 31:24 says that those who hope in the Lord are able to be strong and take heart. No wonder we were so weak and miserable!
My friend, on your own you will not – you cannot solve your problems. But God can! Remember: God has plans for you. Romans 8:28 reminds us that “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Did you catch that? ALL things work together for good. Do you know what “all” means? “All” means all and that’s all “all” means!
God was slowly, methodically taking me to the point where I was tired of fighting with Him. He brought me to the spot where I was ready to do whatever it took to be rid of my dragon once and for all. That’s when a layman from our church named Roger entered my life.
To my surprise: after I told Roger my entire story, he didn’t judge me. He didn’t lecture me. He didn’t point a finger at me or hand me a bunch of mushy-gushy stuff, nor did he try to tell me whose fault it was. He patiently sat with me, opened the Bible and shared God’s Word.
Hebrews 4:12-13 tells us that “the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.”
As Roger and I studied Scripture together, God laid bare my soul. That living, powerful, active Word of God showed me what was going on inside my head and my heart. It is, after all, a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Proverbs 23:7 says, “as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” IOW: What I think becomes what I do. Proverbs 27:19 tells us that “as water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” We do what we do because in our heart we want what we want. That’s why Romans 12:2 says we are “transformed by the renewing of our mind.”
Through Scripture Roger challenged me, encouraged me, prayed with me, wept with me and loved me. Through his ministry in my life, I began to realize God loved me just as I was, and that God still had a plan for me. Roger showed me that the Word of God not only exhorts, it encourages, it heals, it helps, and it gives hope.
In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul declares, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Think about that for a moment. God’s Word is useful, it’s profitable. In other words, it is of great value and benefit to you in your walk with your Heavenly Father. My friend, you cannot afford NOT to be in God’s Word EVERY day. If you want to know real change in your life, if you want to experience true victory over your besetting sins, it is ONLY the Bible that will be a lamp to your feet and a light to your path. It is ONLY when you hide God’s words in heart that you’ll not sin.
Can you see what a priceless treasure your Bible is? Can you begin to understand why it is so important to be IN God’s Word every day? Through my time of studying the Bible with Roger, God used His Word to show me that my struggles with lust, pride, deceit and self-gratification were all rooted in sinful, selfish thinking patterns. I was all about King ME.
Don’t ever forget Prov. 23:7, “as a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” What I think becomes what I do. That is why God commands us in Colossians 3:2 to “set our minds on things above, not on earthly things.” When my mind was “set” on me, I was living solely for me.
The more time I invested in reading the Bible, the more I came to know God thru His Word; and I began to build a personal relationship with my Heavenly Father - and the less I focused on what would make King ME happy. Today I stand before you as a Pure Man! Heather and I are enjoying a FULLY RESTORED MARRIAGE, all because of God’s Grace, Mercy and Forgiveness – and His amazing power in our lives.
Remember what we read in 2 Corinthians 1:4 at the beginning of this episode? God is the “God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
Although Heather and I do NOT have the picture-perfect marriage, we have learned to go to God with each of our problems. We have discovered the Word of God has the answers for every situation in life. Oh, we still struggle thru our sinfulness; but we rejoice in what God is doing in our lives, and in the privilege of comforting others with the comfort we received from God.
Today we are blessed to serve God full-time taking men (and their wives) into the same Scripture that Roger & Carol took us to. It is a deep honor and privilege to share our testimony of God’s forgiving Grace and restoring Mercy to men and women across the globe!
So, if you’re struggling with sexual temptation, if you want to discover how to be free from the grip of lust, porn and masturbation, if you want to learn how to be a man of purity – a man of integrity, a man of God - I encourage you to come back to this podcast each week to learn from the Word of God how you too can be free. For more on our speaking and coaching ministry, visit www.ThePurityCoach.com.
So, as we conclude this week’s podcast – let me share this one last thing with you: No matter what sin issues you may be battling with, no matter where you may be in your walk with God, or in your marriage relationship - don’t give up hope, don’t quit, don’t allow discouragement to defeat you. God has a perfect plan for your life. God is at work – even now – molding you into the Christ-follower He wants you to be. Stop fighting Him, stop trying to take over the process, and trust Him with EVERYTHING.
Lay your sexual temptations on the altar, sacrifice them to God and just walk away. Then open your Bible and read, study, mediate and memorize it. Let God’s truth saturate your mind and fill your heart, and as Romans 13:14 challenges us “don’t even think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” Rather, as Romans 12:2 commands, allow God to transform you as you renew mind.
If this Point of Purity podcast has been a blessing to you, if it’s ministered to you, encouraged you, challenged your walk with Christ, would you please join our team of Point of Purity Partners as we impact our world by equipping and training men and women how-to live-in purity, godliness, and integrity. Your financial support of any amount to this ministry will go a long way toward helping men and women find the victory and freedom that only Christ can – and will – give!
And if you have not yet subscribed to this podcast, let me encourage you to do so today so you won’t miss any of our upcoming episodes!
So, until next time this is Author, Speaker, and Purity Coach Steve Etner reminding you that if you are going to glorify God in your everyday living, He must first be glorified in your every moment thinking.