Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Two Year Anniversary Celebration of 423 Men"

December 10th, 2011

Good morning. Welcome past and present 423 Men Leaders, overseer Bishop :) Bucky Buchstaber, and esteemed lead pastor John Mark Comer.

On this amazing day which “the Lord hath made” (Psalm 118.24a) we corporately and enthusiastically celebrate over two years of hard work, love, sacrifice, dedication, and healing in the lives of nearly 200 men who have actively partaken of the “streams of living water” (John 7.38) freely offered at weekly 423 Men meetings. These are men who chose to suffer rather than to “enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11.25b) and whose hearts are being made pure by the conviction of Christ’s words: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8.32). These are guys who actually bought into the 423 culture of full disclosure with other brothers in recovery; men whose changed lives have had a rippling effect of positive influence on huge numbers of extended family and friends, children and wives, girl friends and fiancées; men of God who faced their embarrassment and made the healthy choice for involvement in a ministry called forth at Solid Rock to liberate men from the demonic clutches of sexual addiction. They embraced the pain of personal issues, became ruthlessly honest with themselves, and freely admitted, “I cannot do this alone”.

You, the wounded healers in this room, became their traveling companions on the rocky path of sexual purity and in so doing are finding God’s blessing of health and sexual freedom in your own lives. You have proclaimed the gospel of sobriety and by your example became living proof that it is possible to obliterate the satanic stronghold of sexual addiction and the powerful lure of ‘porneia’ (Matthew 5.32) in all its many forms… uncontrolled fantasies, adulterous affairs, one night stands, fornication, strip clubs, homosexuality, and the sexualizing of women and even sisters in Christ who too have been made in the image of God. You got sick and tired of living a lie and, while no man in this room is perfectly in control of the lust which once drove him to do the unpardonable, yet you have been pardoned. You, like Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, awoke from a very bad dream and have been given a second, third, fourth, 100th chance at new life. You and I are progressing toward the “the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12.14). As weak and given to temptation as we are, we have chosen to depend upon the only Man who can truly and fully “sympathize with our weaknesses” and “who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4.15).

We have learned that we can overcome sexual sin, but we cannot do it alone. We have made the all-important discovery that we cannot “do all things through Him who strengthens” us (Philippians 4.13) until we have embraced a theology of “Him” as both the head and the body. Jesus is more than a floating head. We need Him in all His fullness… both the Spirit of Christ who indwells you and Jesus in him, the guy next to you. We need the church which He Himself established with the promise “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16.18b). In short, me and Jesus are not enough. Each of us had to stop pretending and come to grips with the fact that our private and sincere prayers of repentance were entirely impotent. We manned up and quit the meaningless ritual of repetitive and ungodly remorse. We finally recognized the ridiculousness of our condition and never again uttered the stupidest prayer on earth… “O Jesus, I’ll never, never, never, never (this time I really mean it), never do it again” We stopped the isolation, mustered the guts to admit we had a problem, faced our shame and joined a 423 Men group. We finally believed the truth… we could not get better without our brothers in recovery.

You are the genius behind 423 Men. You are the reason this program has taken a life of its own and literally runs itself. It’s you. 423 Men is not a class you take on how to quit misbehaving sexually. 423 Men is not about curbing our sexual appetite. We do not offer men 3 quick, easy steps to stop masturbating so they can graduate with a diploma in purity.

423 Men is about the underlying negative emotions, the father wounds, childhood traumas, broken relationships, the boredom, fear, unforgiveness, stress, panic, rejection, and the emotional pain we use as an excuse to act out or medicate with sex. It takes time to explore ourselves and go with Jesus to where no man has gone before. The journey within is long and no man gets over his sex addiction in less than a few years. It doesn’t just go away, no matter how hard we try or pray. That’s why we need leaders on the path, perhaps just a few steps beyond those they lead. This is not a curriculum-driven program. 423 Men is a leadership-driven plan designed to help men stop managing and finally kill their sex addiction. Without Him you can’t. Without you, He won’t. We cannot lead these men to purity without Jesus and Jesus will not lead them there alone. You are the guys Jesus has chosen to partner with. You are the heroes of 423 Men, imperfect, broken, wounded, hurt, leaving a trail of failures, but “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3.13b). You have stepped into the high calling of leadership doing real church week after week with the men you serve. I honor you. I love you. You are real men of God.

This ministry began as a request by Erik Nelson of John Mark Comer: “We need a ministry for men who struggle with sexual addiction.” JM gave his imprimatur and asked Erik to contact me. In the spring of 2009, Erik and I met for Starbucks, forgot to tip the barista (sorry John Mark), and brainstormed the idea of a ministry for guys who struggle with sexual sin. We invited a representative from Ted Robert’s Pure Desire ministry who met with our pastoral liaison Dave Waterman, Erik Nelson, and me. Phil Comer gave his approval and I was asked to lead the charge. Dave Waterman suggested a name based on Proverbs 4.23: “Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life” and 423 Men was birthed. Erick Nelson, Justin Armentrout, and I attended a Pure Desire University in the summer of 2009 and we launched our first 423 meetings in October of that year. Employing the use of an anonymous phone line and email contact routing to me, Phil informed the gatherings of this new ministry and men, prompted by the voice of conscience, came out of hiding. Our first month, September 2009, 17 guys initiated contact. Some of you are here today… Nathan C., Jeff P. (who immediately emailed me from his smart phone while listening to the 423 announcement in a Solid Rock gathering), Lonnie S., Dan C., Brennan H., and Joel R. Our first meeting was Tuesday evening in B-6, October 13th, 2009, followed by a Sunday morning group the very next week. We quickly grew to 3, 4, 5, 6 groups at the Westside campus. In May of this year, we began our first Solid Rock downtown 423 group at 1st Baptist. Today, exactly 101 men attend one of 7 weekly meetings where they tell the truth about themselves and find answers to what drives them sexually. Many men report victories against heretofore seemingly impossible odds.

I myself was on a 35 year cycle of sexual addiction which included uncontrolled fantasy, pornography with masturbation, sex with various women, strip clubs, nude beaches, and co-ed hottubbing. Research shows that 50% of men in any local church profoundly struggle with sexual addiction. That’s a thousand men at Solid Rock. This ministry has the potential of growing 10 fold. 25% of pastors are addicted to sex. I know. I was one. I lost my ministry, my marriage, my home, and my life. I nearly ended it all one cold night while sleeping in my car in January, 1994. I was in a dark, dark place with no hope of finding peace and sobriety, literally racing toward personal destruction.

I eventually joined a group just like 423 Men. It took a few years of hard work, but I found freedom from the demons of lust. While I am tempted daily, I have lived essentially above my sexual sobriety line for the past 12 years. I remain emotionally and physically faithful to my wife. Pornography is gone. When I fall, it’s a lesser infraction which I quickly confess to my brothers and wife. She knows everything about me and my past. Everything, and yet she still loves me. Believe me when I say, if I can win in the arena of sexual addiction, anybody can. But I could not do it without you, the men with whom I share my life and from whom I hold no secrets. We are only as sick as our secrets. Secrets perpetuate the shame, keep us in isolation, and give grounds for the accusation of the enemy. We chose instead to expose our secret sins and in so doing found the love and approval of God in the men we serve.

Saying “no” to porn has not made us perfect men. The removal of an old coping devise has simply revealed with ever increasing clarity our underlying negative emotions, character defects, and the sinful patterns we must eventually face. When we got off the crazy and destructive cycle of shame and sexual addiction; when we chose to suffer instead; when cast our unbearable burden upon Him “cares for you” (1st Peter 5.7); when we pled for divine intervention and the power to “flee immorality” (1st Corinthians 6.18) and did; we broke the back of the devil and became the valiant men God destined us to be.   

You are approved by God. You passed the test. You are the “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25.21) of whom Jesus spoke that you may “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness [of sexual sin and] into His marvelous light” (1st Peter 2.9b).

I invite you to share your 423 Men stories.

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