I should have been suspicious! When the men in my weekly prayer group asked me to bring my Day-Timer, I should have smelled something rotten. They know how I struggle to keep my travel under control. On one hand, I know when enough is enough, when my family and church need more attention. But on the other hand, I'm a sucker for any speaking opportunity that sounds "good." (Of course, that's the noble reason for traveling. These men are aware that there's usually more at stake than spiritual altruism.)

These three men — Former friends!! — asked me to place my Day-Timer, my watch, and my wedding ring in the middle of us. Then they prayed — prayed about purity, about rest, and about priorities. And they challenged me to accept no more out of town speaking engagements beyond what I already have scheduled for a certain time.

This small group of guys has been meeting together for years. We stay together because we share a common goal, to be pure men of God, and a common problem, recurring failure in meeting the goal. At this point, we almost couldn't get out of the group if we wanted to: we know way too much about each other!

We believe just what Paul told the Thessalonians: that God doesn't want us to be impure but to live holy lives. And we know ourselves well enough to know we might not be up to that challenge without being accountable to one another. So we come to confess. That we're weak. That our marriages have ups and downs. That we're tempted. That we struggle to get our sense of worth from God rather than from the approval of people.

When men struggle alone, they usually fail. Who can stand up against the magnetic pull of internet pornography, office flirtations, raging anger, pay-per-view seduction, or lucrative deals that cost integrity?

"It is God's will," Paul told the church in Thessalonica, "that you should be holy; that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God." (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 NIV). Even though a Christian man believes in personal holiness and longs for it, the sweet illusions of sin can too easily trap him:

  • "This isn't really an addiction." "She and I are just friends — it's all so innocent."
  • "You have to play this way to survive in the business world."
  • "I'll pour myself fully into my career just one more year and then I'll reengage with my wife and kids."
It is in the powerful context of fellowship and of confession that these illusions can be resisted. There we can admit what's lurking in our hearts beneath the surface.

The problem for many of us is that we're afraid to admit that we have such thoughts. We live in the even greater illusion that other men are doing well and they'd just reject us if they really knew us. I'm sure Satan wants us to believe that. But the truth is that other guys are fighting their own temptations.

I can still remember when my older son and I attended a Promise Keepers rally and heard the results of a PK survey. Among men who attend PK events, 60% are in a real, life-and-death struggle with sexual sins (adultery, homosexuality, lust, pornography, etc.). That's not 60% of the general population, but 60% of men who are already fairly motivated to follow Christ. Brothers, it's the testimony of Scripture and of my own life that our battle against sin is best waged in the context of community. We need other men in our lives who can hear our sins and struggles, pray with us, and keep us accountable.

We're afraid to admit that we have such thoughts!
A number of years ago, Timothy (Not his real name but he is a real person!) asked a minister who's a friend of his for a few moments. For years, he'd wanted to blurt out his own confession, but he had always backed out. On this day, Timothy fidgeted in his seat, made small talk, and felt cotton mouth attack before he pressed on to tell about his long struggle with sexual sins — a struggle that had taken him to pornographic magazines, late night premium channels, 900-numbers, and many near-affairs. All the while, he had been a ministry leader in one of the most aggressive youth ministries around. He had loathed — and then loved — and then loathed again his sin. The only way he'd been able to cope with the guilt was to restart the cycle with another flush of excitement.

But, that day he bared his soul. And God's Spirit, through the help of a friend, began the process of healing and reformation. Today, he still struggles — sometimes unsuccessfully — but he no longer sees himself owned and defined by that struggle. With the admonitions and encouragement of a few caring men, he has yielded himself more and more to the purifying work of God's Spirit.

Is it time for you to follow Timothy's example?

I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:1-2)