Finally Free

“I became a manipulative liar – so consumed with myself I became addicted to the wrong I was doing. I might have been ‘free,’ but in my sin, I’d already locked myself up and thrown away the key.” – Joseph Petty

“Carrying the weight of my secrets took me to a dark place,” said Joseph Petty. “I became a manipulative liar – so consumed with myself I became addicted to the wrong I was doing. I might have been ‘free,’ but in my sin, I’d already locked myself up and thrown away the key.

I COULDN’T STOP

“To work my way through college, I took a job at a local golf company. It was great at first, but then I noticed that others earned more money than I did. I’d always struggled with materialism and greed, and I came up with an idea to make more money on the side.

“Nobody noticed when I took some golf clubs out of inventory and sold them. The longer it continued, the more isolated I became. Eventually, I was addicted and couldn’t stop. By 2017, I amassed six figures.

“Finally, I told myself I’d stop after selling one more item online. But, the company had noticed some red flags and started investigating. As I shipped that item out of the warehouse, the man who owns the company confronted and fired me.

THE SCARIEST THING I’D EVER DONE

“As I drove home, I called my parents and girlfriend and sobbed as I explained that I’d likely go to jail the next morning. I grabbed my loaded gun and contemplated suicide. But in that moment, God seemed to put His hand on my shoulder and comfort me. I put the gun away, picked up the stolen golf clubs in my room, and called my former boss.

“When we met that night, I was so broken I could hardly speak. I reluctantly agreed that I was addicted to my sin and needed help. That’s when the company’s owner pointed at a Bible and told me to read it, apply it, and act on the answers God provided.

“I’d been going to The Porch occasionally, so I emailed some Watermark leaders and confessed what I’d done. Later, I met with my old boss and Scott Michael, a Watermark staff member. I turned over all my financial information, and we made a plan to pay back the money I stole. I sold almost everything to pay down the debt. When asked if I would face charges, my former boss told me to keep studying the Bible and God would provide the answers.

“I bought my first Bible, and one of my favorite verses became Ephesians 6:10-20, where believers are told to, ‘Put on the full armor of God.’ My relationship with Christ began, and I was given the Holy Spirit and the weapon of God’s Word to fight temptation. There’s no way I could have broken the chains of deception, fear, and isolation on my own. God’s grace is what saved me.

“I got involved with re:generation, Watermark’s biblical recovery ministry, which God used to show me the importance of confession. When I chose to tell the truth about my sin, I was met with compassion rather than rejection. I didn’t have a lot of self-discipline before I started re:gen, but I developed a desire to do everything as best I could for God’s glory.

“When I joined my first community group, I told the guys what I had done, in case they didn’t want to be in a group with me. But they accepted me and encouraged me in God’s Word. Being part of community with godly guys is the best choice I have ever made.

“In April of 2018, the owner of the company and I spoke for the first time in about two months. I told him where I was in my walk with Christ, and at the end of the conversation he said three words I never thought I’d hear: ‘I forgive you.’

“The power of God’s forgiveness is breathtaking. Christ’s unconditional love has always been there for me – a gift I never could have earned. To be forgiven and reconciled with God, all I had to do was receive the free gift of grace from Jesus. In addition, to be forgiven for my sins against another person was astonishing. I committed a felony and could have spent 10 years in prison. But because of God’s grace, I received forgiveness. Even if I had been incarcerated, it would have all been part of God’s plan. No matter what the circumstances, my desire is to follow Christ.

“I still feel such regret, but to demonstrate the love and mercy God has given me, I share my story to encourage others. Confession really was the scariest thing I’d ever done; but there was freedom in Christ waiting for me on the other side. God’s Son died for the sin that I was carrying. All I had to do was trust Him, and no matter what happened next here on Earth, I was finally free.”

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