This program is for pastors, missionaries, campus pastors, Christian counselors, chaplains, or volunteer disciplers who have been approached by same-sex attracted (ssa), minor-attracted (ma), or transsexual (tx) individuals who express faith in Christ but feel defeated by ssa/ma/tx temptations. This program provides structure for Christian leaders who feel ill-equipped to respond to ssa/ma/tx issues and are willing to learn how to help. This resource is for Christian lay people who want to reach out to ssa/ma/tx people in their communities, on college campuses, or in prisons. This structured, Biblical program could benefit ssa/ma/tx people who want to form a group to help each other overcome temptation. This program is for anyone who wants to help maa’s before they break the law and harm a child. Sex offenders in prison or out on parole could benefit from a faith-based approach, which this program offers. The Journey to Freedom lessons and Handbook chapters were written to fill a gap in the Church’s mission to ssa/ma/tx strugglers, who might be the biggest unreached people group on the planet.
Both mentor and overcomer must understand that the goal of the Keys program is not to turn someone into a heterosexual. The Journey to Freedom lessons are designed to help the Christian ssa/ma/tx overcomer deal effectively with temptation. The overcomer’s goal is to pursue holiness and become more Christ-like, and that goal should also be the mentor’s highest priority.
If you are a mentor who has never before discipled an ssa/ma/tx overcomer, start with just one person if possible. As you gain more experience and skill, God may send more overcomers your way. While the program was developed to help ssa/ma/tx overcomers, it can be adapted to help anyone seeking to overcome a besetting sin. The author’s fervent hope is that you will become more skilled at helping others get closer to Jesus as a result of using the Journey to Freedom and the Handbook.
What is your motivation for leading this program with someone? Be sure that God has called you to this work. Your only motivation can be to bring people closer to Jesus, help people grow in their faith, and help them be free of besetting sins. You cannot be motivated by any political agenda. God will not bless your efforts if you are only hoping to defeat ssa/ma/tx people politically. If your motivations are truly spiritual, you must not allow yourself to be used by any politician or political group.
The Journey to Freedom is a discipleship program not only for new Christians, but also for people who have been Christians for a long time but feel defeated by sexual temptation. The quality of your own spiritual life and the relationship you have with the ssa/ma/tx overcomer will influence your effectiveness. This program involves intense self-examination. The overcomers will be invited to confess sins of deeds, words, thoughts, attitudes, sexual and other fantasies, hidden motivations, secret agendas, pride, and self-deception. As the mentor, you must hold yourself to the same standard. Examining yourself for these sins should be part of your on-going prayer life.
If you have a sexual sin in your own life that defeats you, even if it is a heterosexual sin, you are not qualified to help an ssa/ma/tx overcomer. However, if you do have sexual or other temptations that you consistently resist and defeat, you are probably capable of helping an ssa/ma/tx struggler defeat temptation as well. If you have recovered well from a besetting heterosexual sin, you can understand what the ssa/ma/tx overcomer is experiencing; and you will likely be able to help. If you have recovered well from chemical or other addictions, you are also likely qualified to understand and help.
Do not expect your overcomer to get to a point where he/she will never feel tempted again. A more realistic goal is to resist temptation consistently, as often as it occurs. As temptation is consistently resisted, its strength and frequency often diminish over time.
The Keys program emphasizes memorizing Scripture and using it to block tempting thoughts as soon as one becomes consciously aware of them. The mentor should be doing the same.
The program also teaches the overcomer to forgive those who wronged him/her. Overcomers often come from backgrounds of pain and trauma. Forgiveness is often a process rather than an event. Forgiveness is not like flipping a light switch; it is more like peeling an onion, layer by layer, while many tears are shed. Forgiveness is often a path to a destination to which one may not arrive for a long time. Much wisdom can be gained by the struggle to forgive, wisdom that cannot be learned any other way. As the mentor, you must hold yourself to the same standard and examine yourself to be sure that you are practicing the ways of forgiveness toward everyone who has wronged you.
The Keys program emphasizes surrendering all of one’s life and self-will to God’s will. No one arrives at total surrender in this life, but a pardoned sinner willingly makes that his/her goal. As the mentor, you need to ask Him daily to show you what to surrender to His will.
If you believe that ssa/ma/tx sins are worse than other sins, confess that belief to God and ask Him to change your heart. Your ability to help ssa/ma/tx overcomers will be limited if you believe that your sins are cleaner than theirs or that they choose to have these temptations. They neither were born with these temptations nor chose them. They may have already spent many years wondering how to be rid of these feelings.
The ssa/ma/tx overcomers have approached you because they feel hopeful about change. Perhaps the ssa/ma/tx lifestyle has brought them heart-ache and pain. Or while the lifestyle may have been going well, it felt uncomfortable and unnatural. Or perhaps they felt comfortable with it; but someone witnessed to them about God’s mercy in Christ, the mercy of God reached into their hearts, they came under conviction that this lifestyle was not God’s will for them, and they are seeking to draw closer to Jesus.
They will only be willing to talk with you if they feel that you are a safe person with whom they can be honest. If you feel disgusted by their sins, ask God to change your heart. We should be more disgusted at our own sins than those of others. Be ready to assure them that however great our sins, Jesus is a greater Savior; that we are all sinners needing the same mercy; and that Jesus on the cross paid the same ransom for all of us. The more we realize how sinful we really are and how much we need forgiveness, the less disgust we feel about the sins of others; therefore, as the mentor, you need to diligently examine yourself often and honestly confess your own sins.
You will need a strong prayer life: spending time alone with God, inviting the Holy Spirit to examine you for sin, asking Him to expose the lies of the devil that you have believed, and asking His direction for your day and your life. Talk with Him about your relationship problems and other difficulties, and bring your questions to Him when you do not know what to say or what answers to give.
You will need to clearly understand that salvation is only through God’s mercy in Christ. We are not only saved by God’s mercy in Christ but also sanctified by it. We do not become sanctified by getting back under the Law. The Law does not motivate any of us to give up our sins. The threats of the Law can only motivate us to give up our sins for a short while or to find alternative sins with which to replace them. The offer of mercy as a free gift motivates us to give up our sins and pursue holiness.
Often while working with an ssa/ma/tx overcomer, everything will seem to go well for a while. Then a setback will occur. The overcomer will backslide, fall into the old sins, experience an unusual temptation, or stumble on a difficulty he/she had not foreseen. Do not scold or criticize. Instead, invite self-examination. Re-trace with him/her the steps that led to the fall. After the overcomer has repented of sin and accepted God’s forgiveness, encourage him/her to de-brief with the Holy Spirit about what experiences led to the fall.
Often temptation begins with negative thinking that leads to negative moods, and the sin becomes a way to feel better temporarily. The overcomer may have recalled a painful event from the past. Also, anyone can be blindsided by unexpected temptation (Psalm 19:12-13). The overcomer may need to confess more sins of thought, forgive more deeply, or surrender more self-will (Psalm 139:23-24). As the mentor, be sure you follow the same steps when you fall into sin.
An apparent failure by the overcomer is not necessarily a personal failure on your part. However, it is a good idea at such times to ask yourself how you have been leading him/her. If you kept the focus on the mercy of God in Christ, you did your job. The Holy Spirit will do the rest. Rely on the Holy Spirit, Who works through the promises of God’s mercy in the Word, to change the overcomer’s heart. Some overcomers fall back into sin for a season, realize that it is not as much fun as they had thought, repent, and then come back. By bringing God’s mercy as a free gift into every discussion, you are keeping the door open for him/her to return to the Lord. Pray for that person to truly grasp the mercy of God.
Only agree to work with an ssa/ma/tx overcomer if you can commit to being part of his/her life for several years. Some overcome in a few months, but most will take years. You will need patience. The program deals with the total person, not just his/her sexuality. Sexuality is central to our personality; as sexuality changes, other traits likely change as well. He/she will likely overcome many other sins as well as ssa/ma/tx temptations. Overcomers often see their personalities changing in surprising ways.
Give lots of encouragement even for victories that seem small. What may seem small to you may be a big victory for them. Give reassurance often. Praise them for developing a more disciplined devotional life, memorizing Scripture, treating others more kindly, finding ways to serve in their churches, or gaining any new habit that is God-pleasing. When you see changes in their lives, tell them so. Encourage them to praise and thank God for any victory gained, however small.
Keep your work confidential. Respect his/her privacy. Use good judgment when deciding how to tell people that you are available for this kind of work, especially if you live in a small town or remote area. In many countries, ssa/ma/tx issues are illegal; if you live in such a country, your overcomer took a big risk by confessing this problem. In other countries, you might risk being falsely accused of a “hate crime”.
When your overcomer makes significant progress, reports gaining freedom, is stronger against temptation, or expresses opposite sex attractions, do not put him/her on display in the church. The decision to give a public testimony is between him/her and God, and not everyone in church is ready to be supportive. The overcomer should refrain from giving a public testimony until he/she has avoided ssa/ma/tx activities and fantasies for at least a year or two.
If the overcomer reports that he/she used to have erotic ssa/ma/tx dreams but no longer has them, change has definitely occurred. When change shows itself in dreams, something has changed in the unconscious mind at the deepest levels. If a dream begins as an erotic ssa/ma/tx dream, but the overcomer is able to stop the dream and re-direct it in some way, deep change has occurred. Encourage them to praise and thank God.
Do not use your overcomer for political purposes. If he/she feels Spirit-led to testify before political leaders, leave that decision between God and the overcomer.
Encourage your overcomer to make friends with a variety of other people. Church should be a good place to meet supportive people. Do not let him/her become dependent on you only. The overcomer needs to make friends with older people who can give some of the nurturing that the overcomer’s parents might not have been willing or able to give. The overcomer also needs friends of the same sex who are heterosexual, who know about his/her issues, and who give unconditional love. Many ssa/ma/tx overcomers have reported that it has been very healing to have heterosexual friends who know all about their attractions and are still willing to be their friends.
The ssa/ma/tx lifestyle was an effort to get love needs met, but in the wrong way; so they need to learn to get their love needs met in the right way. The lifestyle was a way to get love, approval, friendship, loyalty, and belonging, but often with sexual expectations. Church ought to be a place to find love, approval, friendship, loyalty, and belonging, without sexual expectations.
Your overcomer may be in prison. He/she may have been ssa/ma/tx before coming to prison or developed it after being locked up with others of the same sex. He may be a child molester or rapist, or he may have committed other terrible crimes. Because we were all once dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1), love him/her without conditions. The Apostle Paul was also a great sinner (I Timothy 1:12-17).
The Keys program does not focus much on sexual sins or fantasies. Discourage your overcomer from speaking more about these than necessary. Sexual temptations become weaker as the sins of the mind are overcome. Keep your overcomer focused on blocking the sins of the mind with memorized Scripture; as he/she does so, temptations will receive less reinforcement and will be replaced with godly thoughts. For that reason, the Keys program can be adapted to help anyone overcoming a besetting sin. It can be used to help heterosexuals overcoming pornography. The author has used it to help someone to overcome gambling. It likely could help someone overcoming chemical dependency, although detoxification should occur under medical supervision.
HOW TO DO A KEY
A Journey to Freedom lesson can be done one-on-one and face-to-face, in a small group, through the mail, or by e-mail. The program can be used as a self-study guide. Before the ssa/ma/tx overcomer and you begin, both should thoroughly read the KEYS BASIC BELIEFS (link) and make sure you both agree with them. The overcomer’s questions should be answered as much as possible, though not every question will have a readily available answer.
Then give the overcomer the Journey to Freedom lesson, Unit I Key 1, and the Plan of Action at the same time. He/she should first read the devotion that goes with each Key.
He/she should then write responses to the Scripture passages and describe what they mean to him/her. He/she should respond to the Scripture passages before he/she answers the questions in the Study Guide because the Scriptures are to guide the overcomer’s thinking as he/she answers the Study Guide questions.
Then he/she should answer the questions in the Study Guide. The overcomer should be as thorough as possible. How much he/she puts into it will affect how much he/she gets out of it. Also, he/she will likely benefit more by working on this a little each day instead of doing it all at once.
The overcomer should read the Plan of Action that goes with that lesson. The Plan of Action suggests ways to put into action what he/she has learned. The overcomer may not use all of the suggestions, or he/she may develop ideas that are not listed. The purpose of the Plan is to encourage new habits to replace old habits.
Before meeting face-to-face with your overcomer(s), whether one-on-one or in a small group, study the Handbook chapter that goes with the Journey to Freedom lesson. Then go through the lesson with the individual or group. They should do the lesson before the meeting and be ready to discuss each Scripture and Study Guide question. Use the Handbook chapter to bring up ideas, suggestions, and insights that they have overlooked.
Every overcomer is a unique individual, so adapt the material to his/her personality, situation, and life experiences. Be a good listener. Ask questions. Give encouragement. Use your wisdom and experience from your own Christian walk. Make sure each Scripture passage or question is thoroughly discussed before moving on to the next. If you do not get through the entire lesson in one meeting, that is fine.
If the program is being done through the mail, write your responses to the overcomer’s answers; then send the lesson with your responses back. Use the Handbook as a guide, but do not be limited by it. Keep photocopies of anything you send back to the overcomer. Discuss the lesson with him/her on the phone if possible, including every Scripture passage and Study Guide question. If a phone call is not possible, write your responses as thoroughly as possible and ask the overcomer questions if he/she is not clear. The process will be like a dialogue or counseling through the mail.
If you are doing this through the mail, you have the option to give them two lessons ahead. That way, while one Key is in the mail, they can be working on the next one. However, some prefer to get your responses to the most recent Key before they begin on the next one. Their preference should be respected.
If your overcomer is in prison, be careful how you word your responses. If the mail is read by the guards or another inmate reads over his/her shoulder, he/she will not want others to know what his issues are, because prisons are sometimes dangerous. The overcomer needs to feel safe and have some privacy in order to work toward recovery.
Ask your overcomer for a written or oral autobiography, which will help you understand him/her better, especially when you get to Key 4, Forgiveness. Ask about such issues as relationships with their parents, other adults, other family members, other children, and authority figures. Ask if he/she was sexually molested, what adolescence was like, and how the ssa/ma/tx lifestyle began. Ask how he/she came to faith in Christ and how the Christian walk has been going. Ask about the quality of support, fellowship, accountability, and friendship in his/her church.
If telling the life story causes painful memories, he/she does not have to tell it all at once. Life stories might come out a little at a time, as he/she feels more comfortable with you. Do not ask for more detail than he/she wishes to give, and do not ask about illegal activities. The focus needs to be on changing thoughts and attitudes, not on describing the details of their sins.
Be willing to tell about your own life if they ask. Most people will trust you more if you do. But not everyone will want to know too much about your life. Events from your life may remind them of events from their lives and cause unintended emotional reactions.
Some people seem disappointed at first because the material does not directly address their attractions. However, laying a good foundation is necessary before one addresses the deeper issues. Encourage them to trust God’s leading as they work recovery one step at a time and as He brings them insight gradually.
If you and the overcomer get stuck, you can shut yourself up alone with God, explain the difficulty, and await His answer. You will need to be Spirit-led so you can teach your overcomer to be Spirit-led.
Before you begin, you and your overcomer should read through the Outline of the Keys (link), so you will know what to expect. Not everyone completes all five Units. Some people gain freedom after only one or two Units. Instant deliverance is rare, though it does happen. Most overcomers find that recovery is a process of two steps forward and one step back. Most do not overcome this easily. Weeks of calm, steady growth in the Lord can be interrupted by fierce temptation.
The first few weeks are often the hardest. The rate of change varies for everyone. Recovery often feels like withdrawal from a drug. It can often be compared to the Israelites who had left the flesh-pots of Egypt but not yet arrived at the Promised Land. Overcomers sometimes feel at first like they have given up their one source of comfort but have not yet received the blessings and benefits of overcoming. Be sensitive to their feelings. Encourage them to lean harder on God by staying in the Word and in prayer. Assure them that their feelings are common to every growing Christian who is giving up a favorite sin.
Above all, be Spirit-led. You are not the first to mentor an overcomer out of habitual sin. What began in first century Corinth, as recorded in I Corinthians 6:9-11, has become a well-worn trail. There were ssa/ma/tx overcomers in the first century Church, and the Apostle Paul knew who they were. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he wrote in verse 11, “. . . and such WERE some of you. . . ,” which is still a promise to every overcomer.