The Testimony of a Pure Man

Steve & Heather Etner - The Pure Man Ministry

Steve & Heather Etner

What Is a “Testimony”?

A good testimony is not about what YOU did or didn’t do – it’s all about what God has done in and for you.

Heather and I are not proud to share our testimony with you. I (Steve) am not proud of what I have done – in fact, quite the opposite is true. However, we are excited to share with you what “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3) has done in our life.

As you read this, our desire for you is best described in Isaiah 66:4 which says, “When you see this, your heart will rejoice … the hand of the LORD will be made known to his servants.”

Sexual Purity and A Definition of Sin

This may seem to be a strange opening to a testimony, but let me ask you a question: what is sin? Seriously now, what is the definition of sin?

Psalm 107:1-2

  • "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble."

1 John 5:17 tells us that "All wrongdoing is sin." Now there are a lot of definitions of right and wrong circulating the world today, so if we're going to get a proper definition of sin we need to ask - wrongdoing according to whom? Ultimately, neither your judgment of me - nor my judgment of you -really doesn't matter in the whole scheme of things. What either of us think is right or wrong is inconsequential, because neither of us have the authority or power to send the other to Heaven or Hell (see Matthew 10:28). What is important is what God says. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says, "We must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ."

Now that we understand whose definition of sin matters, notice that 1 John 3:4 tells us "sin is the transgression of God's law." So sin is disobedience to God. It is wrongdoing according to God's standards - found in God's Word (the Bible).

Would you agree that all of us are sinners? God said in Romans 3:23 that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." In Ecclesiastes 7:20 we see that "there is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins."

So please understand as you are reading our testimony that when Heather and I got married, we both brought sin with us into the marriage. In fact, each and every one of us bring sin issues with us into our marriages. That means any marriage is going to face struggles from time to time. But in our marriage (as you will soon see) I had some serious sin issues that Heather knew nothing about – and I wanted to keep it that way.

A Kid Addicted to Porn

You see, at the age of 13 I was introduced to the world of porn – which would very quickly develop into a full-fledged addiction (this was long before the computer ever came to be - today children are exposed to pornography between the ages of 8-11). By the time we were married, I was deeply entrenched in my sin. Like any sin, I was deceived into believing I had it under control. Nothing could've been farther from the truth.

The Real Purpose of Marriage

God established the institution of marriage to be a symbol of His relationship with us – the Church. Our marriages should first and foremost be a picture of God’s love for us! In Ephesians 5:25 we men are instructed to love our wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. For a long period of time in our marriage, I was disobedient to this command.  I did not love Heather the way Christ loved the church. To be honest, there are still times when my humanness steps in and I’m not loving her the way I should.God created marriage to be pure & to honor him

Man – Woman = Not Good

Think with me for a moment about the story of creation found in Genesis 1. Everything God created He declared to be“good.” For example, God said “let there be light, and there was light. God saw that the light was good,” (Genesis 1:3-4). 

However, when God created man and put him in the garden of Eden, He said of man “not good” (Genesis 2:18)! Specifically, He said “not good is man’s aloneness.” In other words, man without woman does not properly reflect who God is. Guys, we need our wives! God created Heather to be my help mate. God created Heather for me to love and cherish, and for us – as a team - to show to world around us God’s amazing love. Without Heather in my life – I cannot reflect the goodness of God.

BUT – I saw our marriage in a different light. Because I was self–centered, because King ME was sitting high on the throne of my heart, I saw our marriage as a means to fulfill my insatiable appetite for sex.  After all (I reasoned) 1 Corinthians 7:9 says “if you cannot control yourself, you should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” By the way, let me quickly add that I had a wrong interpretation of that verse.

Marriage is not all about ME. Marriage is not all about you. Nor is it all about our spouse. 2 Corinthians 5:15 says, “we should no longer live for ourselves but for him who died for us.”  Unfortunately, for a majority of my life, I was living for myself. And because King ME was sitting high on the throne in my heart, everything I did in our marriage was for King ME. As a result, I brought my addiction with all of its ugly baggage into our marriage and didn’t even care.

The 3-Headed Dragon Named LuPoMas (Lust/Porn/Masturbation)

Let me talk with you for a moment about this ugly sin, this 3-headed dragon known as Lust, Porn, and Masturbation. God created man to be stimulated visually. God’s purpose is for man to look at his wife and find HER sexually attractive (Proverbs 5:19).

He also wired the male in such a way that when we experience that visual stimulus, it releases a chemical cocktail in our brain full of endorphins, seratonin and dopamine. Now I’ve been told that this cocktail is more powerful than Morphine and creates a natural high - a high that God intended the man to experience when looking ONLY at his wife. This high is intended on bringing the husband and wife together in a sexual union to express a deep love and appreciation for each other. God did not create it so that you could get that high whenever you wanted in whatever way you wanted.

Pornography enables the man to draw that chemical high from other women, any time and anywhere he desires. When that chemical is released, the process of needing sexual expression has begun. The result is usually self-gratification (masturbation) instead of the union God intended.

Understand that this sin (addiction) has at it’s core deception and lies. The goal is simple: never get caught. The intention is to feed the addiction (get the high) at any cost. And so I had become a master deceiver. Heather had no clue of the depths of my sin.

A Pastor Addicted to Pornography

In August of 1984 God moved us to Southern New York (at the foot of the beautiful Catskill Mountains) where at the age of 23 I became the senior pastor of a small Baptist Church. Let me quickly interject here that God richly blessed that ministry in spite of my sin.

I was a Pastor addicted to PornHaving said that, it causes me great sorrow to also say that my sin continued to grow in darkness. Over the years that we were there, I fed my porn addiction with rented X-rated videos and other sinful choices. Then one day I had an affair with one of the women of our church.

I immediately confessed it to Heather, and we went to see a pastor in the northern part of the state for counseling. As we sat in his office, he proceeded to rip me up one side and down the other – telling me what a horrible person I was. I already knew that. That’s why I was seeking counsel.

Picture this if you can: Here sits my wife – the woman who gave her heart to me, a heart that I had just torn to shreds, spat upon and then stomped on - a woman who was hurting beyond comprehension; and she began to defend me in front of that pastor. That should NEVER have happened.

We left there 1) determined we were not coming back; and 2) feeling that no one could help us because no one understood. We were left alone to try to “fix” it. But we didn’t fix it … because we couldn’t fix it. So, instead of focusing on fixing it, I chose to bury my porn addiction deeper in the darkness. I learned how to live in such a way that I was able to convince Heather all was better. IT WAS NOT.

A Modern-Day Jonah

We moved in June of 1990 to the state of Michigan where I became the Senior Pastor of another small Baptist Church. Again we saw God bless that ministry in spite of my sin. I continued to look at porn and masturbate, and I continued to lie and deceive Heather everytime she thought she caught me.  

Throughout the years in the pastorate God allowed me to have two back surgeries, three hernia operations, and serious cancer in my nose (twice) – all to get my attention.  But like Pharaoh and the plagues of Egypt, I hardened my heart and would not listen.  Like the children of Israel in 2 Kings 17:40, I "persisted in my former practices.” As Deuteronomy 1:43 says, I “rebelled against the Lord’s command and in my arrogance I marched onward.”

God says in Deuteronomy 18:19, “I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words”, and call me to account God did.

Four years later we moved to Northern, Indiana where I became a youth pastor. Understand – like Jonah – I was running from God and I was dragging my family with me. Each church I moved our family to I did so because I didn't want to give up my addiction to porn, and so I was trying to run from the convicting power of God. Kinda funny when you think about it. What a place to run to. Makes sense doesn’t it? I mean – you’re running from God so why not go to another church! Duh!

Knowing I was still needing some type of help, we went to see another counselor. This time the counsel we received was the “mushy gushy” kind of stuff. You know guys, the stuff that we can take just so much of and then we’rejust check out.

Well, after a few sessions we left. Again we felt that no one truly understood, therefore no one could help us. So, this time I was determined that since I was now older and “wiser” – maybe I could finally “fix” this addiction to pornography on my own. But I didn’t fix it … because I couldn’t fix it. Instead, I just pushed my sin deeper. I became more adept at lying and hiding it.

However, just like God did with Jonah, He had prepared a great beast to swallow me up.God's plans are not our plans - trust His plans, He knows better!

Be Sure Your Sin Will Find You Out

Having now discovered that porn was readily available on internet, and that much of it was “free” and very easy to hide (or so I thought), my porn addiction kicked into high gear. Until it finally exploded into another affair.

Numbers 32:23 warns, “be sure your sin will find you out.” This time I was caught and summarily dismissed from church (and rightfully so). Overwhelmed with guilt and an utter sense of hopelessness, I emptied our bank account, left Heather and our four young children with basically nothing, took our only vehicle and ran off with the gal I was having the affair with.

The Best Laid Plans

The plan: “enjoy life” till the money was gone – then commit suicide together. That was OUR plan. BUT GOD (I love those words!!!) But God had other plans.

Job 5:12 says, “God thwarts the plans of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success.” God thwarted our plans. He stopped us a week later and turned us around to come back home.

In Jeremiah 29:11 God says, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Heather and I are here today because God had other plans. I stand before you today as a Pure Man because God had other plans. Because of God’s plans – Heather and I have a hope and a future! Proverbs 19:21 says, “many are the plans in persons heart, it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

I don’t know what may be going on in your life right now, but let me assure you of this: Whatever it may be – God has plans for you!  So I urge you – stop fighting Him and let Him work His perfct will in your life. Psalm 33:11 says that “the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart thru all generations.”

No – I had plans to end my life. As far as I was concerned my life was over. BUT God’s plan was to take Heather and I thru a major "fire" – together … so that together we could be used by God to comfort others with the comfort He would give to us.

(s)He Loves Me!

Praise God our story does not end here. This gal and I came back to Northern Indiana, a week after we had run off, but not to make things right. I called Heather when we got back and demanded that she let me in to our house to get my stuff. I was done with the marriage. I was leaving her and the kids.

She convinced me to at least meet with her first and talk. So we agreed to meet at the local ice cream shoppe. When we arrived, this girl and I sat on one side of booth, all snuggled up together with my arm around her. And Heather sat across from us.

Please understand that at that moment I was filled to overflowing with anger, bitterness, and hatred - not toward Heather but toward God and myself. But all that anger spilled out – NO, it POURED out, it exploded on to Heather. I used language that would “make a sailor blush.” I told her I hated her, didn’t love her – never did, and I couldn’t stand her.

She sat there listening to it all - no anger, no tears. Quietly listening. Then, when I was done spewing my venom, she looked at me & said “I still love you Steve.”

Prayer is powerful - it changes hearts, changes peopleNow I need to quickly interject that I am NOT married to Wonder Woman. Heather is definitely not Super Girl. There is only one reason why she was able to respond that way that day. All during the week that I was gone, all during the time that Heather didn’t know if I was dead or alive – or if she even cared – my wife was in her Bible and on her knees seeking God’s face. She was the living example of Hebrews 10:22. You see, she “drew near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings.” She turned to God and sought His will in her life. She fully yielded herself to the ONLY one who could help her.

As Hebrews 4:16 says – she approached “God’s throne of grace … with confidence.” Because she did, she received His mercy and found His grace to help her in her desperate time of need. Because she sought after God with all her heart, because she was yielded completely to the Holy Spirit – in that booth at that Dairy Queen on that horrible day - it wasn’t Heather saying “I still love you Steve,” it was God speaking thru a woman fully surrendered to him telling me HE still loved me.

1 John 4:8 says, “whoever does not love does not know God because God is love.” Think about that: God IS love! The love that came out of Heather that day wasn't her love for me, it was God’s love! 

Have you ever struggled with feelings of failure because you knew you weren’t demonstrating love or joy or peace in a particular situation? That’s because YOU were trying to do or be those things. These are not your fruit. These are not your responsibility to try to live out every day. These are the fruit of the Spirit, and the only way you can show true love, joy, peace, patience, self-control is if you stop trying and allow the Holy Spirit to live those things THRU you.

The reason that Heather was able to respond to me the way she did is because she was so fully yielded to Holy Spirit that HIS love, HIS peace, HIS patience, HIS kindness was able to come out of her!

Will It Ever End?

Again, I would like to tell you that was the end of the nightmare. It was not. Heather convinced me to come back home – I agreed. We left the ice cream shoppe and headed back to our house. Upon our arrival, the girl was wisked away. Our friends came and took the kids. And we were left alone – no help, no counsel, no direction, no clue what to do next.

The next morning I was overwhelmed with grief and remorse over all I’d done. I had a strong feeling of despair and an utterly devastating sense of hopelessness wash over me. To take a long story and shorten it, I attempted suicide that morning. The police came. I was admitted to a mental hospital.

Ten days later, after I was discharged, again no one was there to help us, again no one offered us counsel, again we were all alone. So we figured we would have to fix it on our own. But we didn’t fix it … because we couldn’t fix it.

Over the next few years I continued to look at pornography on the internet. I had phone sex, sex in chat rooms, went to strip clubs, practiced voyeurism, was fired from a successful job because I was looking at porn in my office, and I had multiple affairs. Every time Heather thought she had caught me, I concocted a lie that was so believable she would walk away doubting herself.

We started attending a church that had a full-time counselor on staff. Week after week we would meet with him, and each week he would tell us it was all Heather’s fault. If she had only performed properly and met my needs, none of this would have happened. Again, bad counsel.

Finally, discouraged and deflated we quit counseling and left the church. Again we felt all alone – helpless and hopeless. Again we figured we were going to have to fix it on our own. But we didn’t fix it … because we couldn’t fix it.

My Hope Is in You, Lord!

We didn’t realize it at the time, but the reason for our sense of hopelessness was because both our eyes were focused on self. Because we saw this as a “problem that needed to be fixed,” instead of a sinful heart issue that only God could cleanse, neither of us were strong enough or wise enough to deal with it.

Are you sitting here today with a sense of hopelessness or helplessness over a sin issue in your life that you just can’t get rid of? David cries out in Psalm 25:5, “guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” You see, our hope wasn’t in God. Our hope was in our own ability (or lack thereof) to fix a problem we were powerless to solve.  Psalm 31:24 says that those who hope in the Lord are able to be strong and take heart. No wonder we were so weak and miserable!

My friend, on your own you will not – you cannot solve your problems.  But God can! Remember: God has plans for us. What does Romans 8:28 say?  “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” ALL things work together for good. Do you know what “all” means?  “All” means all and that’s all “all” means!

God was slowly, methodically taking me to the point where I was tired of fighting with Him. He brought me to the point where I was ready to do whatever it took to be rid of my dragon (porn addiction and addiction to masturbation) once and for all. That’s when a layman from our church named Roger entered my life. To my surprise: after I told Roger my entire story, he didn’t judge me. He didn’t lecture me. God's Word provides victory over porn addictionHe didn’t point a finger at me or hand me a bunch of mushy-gushy stuff, or try to tell me whose fault it was. He patiently sat with me, opened the Bible and shared God’s Word.

Pierced to the Heart

We read in Hebrews 4:12-13 that “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

Through the study of Scripture, God laid bare my soul. That living, powerful, active Word of God showed me what was going on in my head and my heart. It is after all a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Proverbs 23:7 says, “as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (KJV). What I think becomes what I do. Proverbs 27:19 tells us that “as water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.”  We do what we do because in our heart we want what we want.  That’s why Romans 12:2 says we are to “be transformed by the renewing of our mind.”

Through Scripture Roger challenged me, encouraged me, prayed with me, wept with me and loved me. Through his ministry in my life, I began to realize God loved me just as I was, and that God still had a plan for me. Roger showed me that the Word of God not only exhorts, it encourages, it heals, it helps and it gives hope.

The Power of God's Word to Bring About Change

Paul declares, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Think about that for a moment. God’s Word is useful, it’s profitable. In other words, it is of great value and benefit to you in your walk with God. My friend, you cannot afford NOT to be in God’s Word EVERY day. If you want to know real change in your life, if you want to experience true victory over your besetting sins, it is ONLY the Bible that will be a lamp to your feet and a light to your path (Psalm 119:105). It is ONLY when you hide God’s words in heart that you’ll not sin (Psalm 119:11).

Can you see what a priceless treasure this book is? Can you begin to understand why it is so important to be IN this book every day? Through my time of studying the Bible with Roger, I discovered that my real problem wasn't pornography or masturbation. God used His Word to show me that my deeper problems of lust, pride, deceit and self-gratification were all rooted in sinful, selfish thinking patterns. I was all about King ME.  Remember, “as a man thinketh in his heart so is he” (Prov. 23:7 KJV)  What I think becomes what I do. That is why God commands us in Colossians 3:2 to “set our minds on things above, not on earthly things.

The more I invested time in reading the Bible, the more I came to know God thru His Word, and I began to build a personal relationship with my Heavenly Father. And the less I focused on what would make King ME happy. Today I stand before you as a Pure Man!  Heather and I are here today with a FULLY RESTORED MARRIAGE, all because of God’s Grace, Mercy and Forgiveness – and His amazing power in our lives. 

In Conclusion

Remember what we read in 2 Corinthians 1:4? God is the “God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

Although Heather and I do NOT have the picture perfect marriage, we have learned to go to God with our problems. We have discovered the Word of God has the answers for every situation in life. Oh, we still struggle thru our sinfulness. But we rejoice in what God is doing in our lives, and in the privilege of comforting others with the comfort we received from God. It is an honor to take others into the same Scripture that Roger & Carol took us to.

So as we conclude – let me share with you this: No matter what sin issues you may be battling with, no matter where you may be in your walk with God, or in your marriage relationship - don’t give up hope, don’t quit, don’t allow discouragement to defeat you. God has a perfect plan for your life. God is at work – even now – molding you into the Christ-follower He wants you to be. Stop fighting Him, stop trying to take over the process, and trust Him with EVERYTHING.

Lay it on the altar and just walk away. Then open your Bible and read, study, mediate and memorize it. Let God’s truth saturate your mind and fill your heart, and as Romans 13:14 challenges us “don’t even think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”  Rather, as Romans 12:2 commands, allow God to transform you as you renew mind.

Let me just close with this verse:

Ephesians 3:20-21 “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen!"