Getting out of the cycle of habitual sin

How to help your friend or yourself get out of the cycle of sins of lust and pornography use.

When trying to help someone else using the “Caught in the Cycle of Sin” chart, we begin at 7:00 on the chart and work our way counterclockwise instead of clockwise. The first thing that we need to do may be to speak about repentance and work them through the Repentance Model:

Getting Out of The Cycle of Sin

The chart is an adaption by pastor and Christian therapist Alan Siggelkow of Paul Mavrogeorge’s work in Breaking the Cycle; A guide to assist you in breaking the destructive behavior patterns in your life, Link Care Center, Fresno, CA: 2008. The reader is encouraged to read Paul Mavrogeorge’s book for a more complete understanding.
Every positive thing that happens with the use of this chart flows out of the grace of God in Christ Jesus. We give God the glory for his love and work in us, and through us to others.

The Repentance Model

We speak God’s Law.
We hear Confession which they speak.
We hear them speak about their Contrition, or sorrow for their sin – for the specific sin of lust and porn use. They say they are sorry that they have sinned against God.
We speak God’s Gospel message of forgiveness by the work of Jesus Christ, crucified and arisen.
We hear them express their Faith in Jesus as their Savior from their sins and from this specific sin.
We speak Absolution, assuring them that Jesus did die for their sins and for this specific sin
We discuss with them the Fruits of Repentance. These are the things they will do, by God’s grace, to change their sinful behavior.

The Repentance Model in More Detail

God’s Law is something that we find in God’s Word. It is not our own speculation. Three passages among many from God’s Word are Matthew 5:28 “Anyone who looks lustfully at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Hebrews 13:4 Marriage should be honored by all and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and the sexually immoral.” I Corinthians 6:18 “Flee from sexual immorality.”
When your friend, Joe, comes to you and says that he is using pornography, speak God’s Law to him. If he is already contrite and remorseful in his tone of voice, speak the Word of God in a concerned and loving tone. “Joe, I am concerned for your relationship with God because of what you have done.”

Confession and Contrition are the statement that they have sinned against God and the sincere statement that they know they have done wrong. They may even express their fear of God’s anger over their sin. Joe says to you, “I know that what I have been doing with pornography and masturbation is a sin and that in doing it I have wronged God and my loved ones.”

God’s Gospel is the pure comfort of God’s forgiveness because of Jesus’s death and resurrection in payment for our sins. Joe needs to hear that comfort. I John 1:7 “The blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.” Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Faith in Jesus. You simply ask Joe, “Joe, do you believe that Jesus paid for all of your sins, including your sin of lust and pornography use?” You hear Joe answer, “Yes, I believe.”

Absolution is assuring your friend that God forgives him. “Joe, I want to tell you that God forgives you. He loves you and forgives you.”

Fruits of Repentance are the changes that God will work in the repentant sinner’s life. These fruits of repentance should be changes from the previous life of sin . Joe needs to be assured God is on his side. He is a repentant child of God who is loved by God. God will give him the strength and the help to begin the process of change. Jesus said to the woman who was caught in the act of adultery, John 8:11 “Neither do I condemn you…Go now and leave your life of sin.” In I Corinthians 6:9-11 God tells us that the sexually immoral shall not inhert the Kingdom of God. Then he writes: “That is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” You say to Joe, “God inspired St. Paul to write these words to people who had sinned just like you. But he says that he has saved them, forgiven them, and given them his Holy Spirit to live a changed life that is sanctified before him. Trust in God for your help in your struggle against this sin, Joe. God has said to you, Hebrews 13: 5 ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.’” Fruits of repentance are things a person does out of love for God and in keeping with his moral law.

It is in the Fruits of Repentance area of the Repentance Model that you and Joe will be seeing these changes accomplished in his life, by God’s grace. So you talk to him in the rest of the areas of the Getting Out of the Cycle of Sin chart with the goal of finding ways to intervene and stop the sinful behavior as God gives him strength.


Positive Outcomes

We ask the person we are trying to help what positive outcomes they get from doing the sinful behavior. These are the needs that they see that the sinful behavior fulfills. The answers will generally have something to do with rewards or relief of pain or loneliness or tension. The use of pornography gives them a pleasure high that provides a momentary release for them. The intervention here is to explore with the person where else they might have the need filled or how else they might have the pain relieved. The objective is to explore alternate ways to meet these needs that are God-pleasing. You may need to address their relationship to God and his Word here.

Negative Outcomes

When you explore this area with your friend, you will generally find that they will be talking about their guilty conscience and about the shame they feel in relationships with other people because of what they are doing. Or, maybe they will be talking about the consequences of job loss and marriage loss and relationship problems that will result if someone else finds out about what they are doing. The objective is not to minimize what the person is saying, but to speak about the reality of the consequences for their addictive and abusive behavior. God’s Law may be used here to bring the person to see how God views his or her abusive or addictive behavior.
Here is another opportunity to emphasize repentance.

Acting Out

This is all about getting the person to talk about behavior and thoughts. “What are you doing, Joe? What is the process? What are you thinking when you are doing it?” Behavior and cognitions are important points of understanding to explore in connection with the process of what is going on when the person is acting out his or her sinful abusive or addictive behavior. The objective is to find places to substitute intervention behaviors or more positive thoughts to help the person stop the sinful action once it starts. It is important to find ways to intervene. God’s Word may be applied to the individual in this section also. Here is another place where the Repentance Model may be used. Here is where an accountability or an encouragement partner may be helpful. The person can call his or her encouragement partner for help when he or she sees himself or herself beginning to act out. Plans for intervention need to be set.


This can be a very effective and active place of exploration to find intervention points. If a person can keep away from the triggers or find ways to ignore them, the person can find ways to stop the behavior. The person needs to be assured at this point that God is with him or her in love to help and support them when they identify the triggers and strive to find ways to counter them. Encouragement partners are helpful here. Bible passages taped to the computer are helpful. Scripture words of enccouragement in a wallet or purse or on a phone are helpful. You will be discussing Fruits of Repentance here. It may be helpful to explore what has worked in the past and then to encourage the person to continue to do the things that worked in the past to counter the temptations to revert back to their sinful behavior.

Lifestyle Issues

The pastoral counselor and helping friend can offer good encouragement in this area. It is important for the person to make lifestyle changes that make a difference in the person’s sense of well-being. Encouragement in personal Bible use and attendance at corporate worship and joint study of the Word can have a huge impact upon how the person understands himself or herself as a beloved child of God.

Exercise, good sleeping and eating habits, and developing skills in interpersonal communication are helpful things to talk about here. Talk about these things in a lot of detail. These are often changes that are simple, yet they are very helpful to keep a person from being pushed towards pornography use as they have been in the past.


  • Hungry
  • Exercise
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Tired
  • Heart heathy with God

When people no longer feel that they need to self-medicate because they are no longer hungry, angry, lonely, and tired they will feel less pain and less need for the fleeting pleasure which the abuse of a substance or use of pornography gives to them.

Past Influences

This area that covers a person’s childhood and past trauma as well as history of abuse can benefit from how God speaks about forgiveness of self and others through Christ Jesus in His Word. This is also an area where a person may benefit from professional counseling and even prescription medication. But the spiritual help of a pastor or a Christian Counselor will also be important as a person works through this section.