Freedom for Those Who Want It Today (Book Review)

The ask was so simple that the question seemed stupid.

“Can you stay sober for one day?” Charlie asked John.

What a nutty thing to ask. Yes, of course! John had conquered a day before. In fact, he’d been clean for a weekend, a week, even as long as a month, but sooner more often than later John would fall to his addiction. John wanted to be free for life not for 24 hours.

“But I finally gave in. I knelt beside the couch I was living on and begged God to help me,” John Elmore recalled. “I checked in with Charlie the next day, still telling him I needed something more. He persisted and I relented. Another 24 hours. Then seven days in a row. Then a month. Then three months. I was feeling seriously free. And now it’s been fifteen years.”

For men and women struggling to resist the grip of pornography or other compulsive or addictive behavior, Elmore offers hope and truth through a Christ-centered journey in Freedom Starts Today: Overcoming Struggles and Addictions One Day at a Time. This is the book I wished for when I trudged through my own journey to freedom. Concise and smartly written prose, Elmore starts his readers’ journey today. There is no need to finish the book to comprehend intricate details and complex psychobabble. Nobody has time for that. Let’s get started today!

One Day at a Time

Anyone who has battled against porn knows what it’s like to have short periods of victory only to fall. Sometimes those falls are crushing, and true and lasting freedom seems impossible. Getting up time after time and trying harder only leads to another failure. Prayers beg God to break the chains of porn. Promises to self, spouses, and others shatter on the screens carried in our pockets. Common phrases from friends and even Christian leaders suggest this war with porn lasts a lifetime, but that is simply not true, Elmore says.

Wouldn’t you like to achieve lasting freedom now?

Related: How to Quit Porn: 6 Essential Steps

Emancipation from the slavery of porn is real, but true freedom requires daily surrender. In the free Covenant Eyes ebook The Porn Circuit, men and women are urged to pursue 90 days of being porn-free to set up a pattern for a lifetime of true freedom. It only takes about 14 days to reset the neurochemistry hijacked by porn, 30 days to begin gaining confidence that freedom is possible, and 90 days to establish a life-changing trajectory.

Freedom Starts Today is your guide to the next 90 days—one day at a time.

Unlike so many 90-day guidebooks that offer surface inspirations and admonitions, Elmore brings the depth of his own recovery as well as his experience in serving thousands of people as the director of re:generation recovery at Watermark Community Church in Dallas. Through this recovery program, people are finding freedom from compulsive use of porn and sex, as well as addictions to alcohol, drugs, food, and more. Incredibly, since the ministry’s launch in 2013, re:generation has spread to churches across the United States.

And it’s working.

Take David, who hocked his wife’s wedding ring, drained his family’s bank accounts, and stole $25,000 in sound equipment from Watermark Church to feed his prescription drug addiction. Strung out in downtown Dallas, a piece of paper blew against his leg that read, “GOD LOVES YOU.” He surrendered his life to Christ and made his way back to the church from which he stole. Through Watermark’s discipleship program, David learned to live one day at a time in sobriety. Today, David is a full-time staff member at the church and holds the keys to every door (page 263).

In Freedom Starts Today, Elmore lays out a simple but trust-worthy focus that leads to greater dependence on the work of the Holy Spirit and the Body of Christ. These truths and guidance are not new but practiced poorly in the greater Church today. Elmore covers too much territory over 90 days of 2-minute readings for me to encapsulate all of it in this post. But let’s rediscover the truths about accountability that Elmore explores well in his map to a lifetime of freedom.

Accountability Starts With Honesty

The iconic Country singer George Jones crooned a tune that many Christians loved, but it was dead wrong. Its lyrics cried, “Me and Jesus got our own thing going. We don’t need anybody to tell us what it’s all about.” In most churches today, we say how good ol’ George ran amiss and how we need each other. But we fail in practice.

I have spoken to many men and women who struggle with porn and describe how their church is too small to confess their sin to someone else without pretentious judgment or how their church is too large to find a close relationship. Elmore points out that the size of the church never mattered in the New Testament. For 2,000 years, James 5:16 has commanded us to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”

Elmore faints math in a biblical equation on Day 33 of his guide: Confession (your part) + Prayer (their part) = Healing (God’s part.) This isn’t just a duty to confess. It’s God’s prescription for getting well, for crushing sin that so easily entangles (Hebrews 12:1-3).

Related: Biblical Accountability: What It Is and How to Live It

Christians by and large ignore James, and hum along with George Jones that private confessions to God suffice. Sometimes we wait for confession because maybe God will accept us more if we have a period of good behavior. Maybe some act of kindness or service will make us more worthy.

Elmore writes that we should provide no pause for confession to each other, because the Bible requires us to be doers of the Word and not just hearers (James 1:22). In fact, don’t wait for sin to happen. Pre-plan your accountability discussions, Elmore urges.

“In Christianity, most often (if ever) we confess our sin reactively. That is, after the sin has already been committed,” Elmore writes (pg. 21).

“Reactive confession is good, biblical, and right, but at the same time, the sin has already happened. If you want to overcome addictive behavior, waiting until the behavior has occurred yet again can leave you feeling stuck in a defeating cycle. But what if you both confessed sin and decided to go on the offensive (the theological term is repent, or turning from sin by turning toward God)? We do this by making a proactive decision by God’s strength not to do/use/say/go/act upon “xyz” over the next 24 hours. Then, let another person know about your commitment, and plan to follow up with them 24 hours later and let them know you abstained.”

The value of pre-committing to your goal and confession with someone else cannot be understated. Temptations will come, but when they do you will remember your commitment to check in the next day. Being reminded of our commitments prompts opportunities for prayer, setting up guardrails, and reaching out to a brother in Christ (for men) or a sister in Christ (for women).

When you talk to your accountability partner, you must be honest about your struggles, because lying is self-defeating. “Confess” in the original New Testament Greek translates “to speak the same as.” Confession brings us into alignment with what God already knows. Water will not flow through pipes that are disconnected. When our hearts and minds are aligned with the truth and with each other, we can experience the healing flow God has for us through the work of the Holy Spirit (1 John 1:7).

Early on in his book and throughout, Elmore provides daily guidance and encouragement for confession and how to find an accountability partner. He encourages readers to examine temptations and even failures and why they happened. These discussions help you establish boundaries and structure that you need to create in your life for your personal journey one day at a time.

“This is a crazy truism from Scripture, a promise: only in Christ, when you are fully known, will you be fully loved. The world says put your resume, all your best, forward, and then you’ll be loved. In Christ, the Lord says be humble and honest about your weaknesses and then you’ll have deep fellowship, not shallow or worldly friends” (page 256).

We All Need a Guide

Life change and renewing the mind is a process, Elmore says. Like a great banquet, it isn’t consumed in a gulp but rather one bite at a time. Elmore asks his readers to commit to five steps each day that can take as little as 10 minutes:

1) Read a 2-minute story from Freedom Begins Here that unpacks spiritual truth.

2) Write a prayer to God about the truth you’ve learned and how you want him to use that truth to transform your life.

3) “Pray and ask God to keep you from your addiction for the next 24 hours by His strength.”

4) Text or call a trusted Christian friend and commit to being porn-free for 24 hours and let them know you will follow up the next day.

5) Read a chapter of Scripture suggested in the book.

These tasks seem simplistic, but they are powerful when practiced well. Admittedly, in my own reading of Freedom Begins Today, I found myself spending more than 10 minutes per day, not because I had to but because I wanted to. I ordered the audiobook version as well as a print copy, but I highly recommend the latter because it provides space to write your personal thoughts and daily prayers.

Even after living in recovery for years, I found myself contemplating and praying about the daily truths Elmore expressed in captivating story form. As a mentor for others, I purchased copies of this book for those I serve. I did so for the same reason Elmore wrote this 90-day journey; we keep the freedom we have by giving it to others.

On a final note, if you use Covenant Eyes during your reading of Freedom Begins Here, you might ask your ally to receive your reports every day, which can support and create conversations for your daily check-ins. Changing report frequency is done easily through My Account.