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August 13, 2013
Unless you have been deliberately avoiding any discussion of contemporary issues, you must know that pornography is one of the major challenges to the church today. Carl Trueman is not exaggerating when he says “Internet pornography is probably the number one pastoral problem in the world today” and when he speculates that it is set to become an even greater concern in the days to come. Perhaps you, like me, are growing a little weary of hearing about it and reading about it. Yet as long as Christians continue to succumb to pornography, as long as it remains so great a concern, we need to keep up our efforts to address it and to lead people out of its captivity. We simply cannot allow ourselves to grow lazy or complacent.
A new weapon in our arsenal, and perhaps the strongest one yet, is Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace by Heath Lambert. Lambert is Assistant Professor of Biblical Counseling at Boyce College. He also regularly teaches at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and serves as the Pastor of Biblical Living at Crossing Church in Louisville, Kentucky. In each of those positions he has had opportunity to see this monster close-up and to lead hundreds of people through and past their commitment or addiction to pornography.
This is a book that approaches an ugly topic with dignity. Lambert does not crack dirty jokes or tiptoe to the edge of good taste and salacious detail. It is not really a book about pornography at all. Rather, its emphasis is “the amazing power of Jesus Christ to free you from pornography.” In the early pages Lambert explains his purpose and offers encouragement: “In this book, I want to share with you the amazing depth and effect of Christ’s power to eradicate pornography from your life. Whether you struggle with pornography yourself or are trying to help someone who struggles, I have good news for you: no matter how intense or long-standing the struggle, it is the work of Jesus Christ to set people free from such sin.”
He offers hope through eight clear strategies meant to “help you work out your salvation and experience freedom from your desire for pornography.” At the heart of each of the strategies is grace—God’s grace available to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is possible to be free from pornography. Because of his grace, God sent his Son to pay the just penalty for the sins we all commit. When you believe in God’s grace toward you, you get God’s righteousness. You can be forgiven and free when you trust in Christ and what he has done for you, no matter how many times you have looked at pornography and how hopeless the struggle can feel. When this seems like it isn’t true, it’s because you are thinking more about yourself and your porn than you are about Jesus and his grace. You can be free, but freedom requires grace.
The eight strategies are: Using sorrow, using accountability, using radical measures, using confession, using your spouse or your singleness, using humility, using gratitude, and using a dynamic relationship with Jesus. Each of these is a key component to battling this sin and putting it to death. If there is any one of those strategies I want to draw your attention to, it is the use of radical measures. One great hole in many people’s pursuit of holiness is the radical measures of getting rid of their computers or cell phones, of radically changing their routines in order to avoid the temptations that lead them to sin. I have often challenged men in this way and found myself cheering as Lambert did the same. Wasn’t it Jesus who said, “If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.”? Lambert says, “In our high-tech age we often consider it impossible to exist without our computers, tablet devices, smartphones, or TVs. The honest truth is that you don’t need any electronic device, but you do need to be holy. The inconvenience will be worth the gain in holiness.”
Having read many books on this topic, I quickly identified three unique and noteworthy strengths in Finally Free. The first is its commitment to the gospel of grace. Lambert avoids using “gospel” or “grace” like buzzwords that have no real meaning. He speaks of grace as a power that we can discover, that we can use, that is available to us as we fight against sin. The second is the books sheer practicality. No other book I have read so helpfully lays out strategies—strategies you can actually do and that will actually work—in the fight against porn. The third is its encouraging tone. He encourages by focusing on Christ’s power over sin and he encourages by his authority on the subject, earned in those thousands and thousands of counselling sessions.
There is no porn user so enslaved that Jesus cannot set him or her free. There is no struggle for purity so intense that Jesus’ grace cannot win the battle. There is no consequence so steep that Jesus’ power cannot carry you through. Jesus’ grace to change you is stronger than pornography’s power to destroy you. Jesus’ grace is stronger than your own desires to watch sex. While there is no hope for you in looking at pornography, there is all the hope in the universe when you look to God and his grace.
Finally Free opens with a foreword from Josh Harris who, like me, has also written a book on sexual purity. I join him in commending this book. Porn is so significant a concern today that if you are not struggling with it yourself, you must know someone who is. In either case, this book will equip you for the fight.