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Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace Paperback – August 12, 2013
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"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. . . . This book will equip you for the fight." ---Tim Challies, author of Sexual Detox --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
About the Author
Heath Lambert (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the Executive Director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and the Associate Pastor at First Baptist Church Jacksonville, FL. Lambert is also a visiting faculty member at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams (Crossway, 2011), co-editor of Counseling the Hard Cases: True Stories Illustrating the Sufficiency of God's Resources in Scripture (B&H, 2012), and co-author of Transforming Homosexuality: What the Bible Says about Sexual Orientation and Change (P&R, 2015), and author of A Theology of Biblical Counseling: The Doctrinal Foundation of Counseling Ministry (Zondervan, 2016).
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In Finally Free, I believe that Heath Lambert has found a solid balance of truth, Scripture, and righteousness that will truly be helpful to someone desiring to repent of watching porn. This book is not given to all the porn horror stories. Nor is it a detailed luck at the harm that the porn industry does. Instead, it is a faithful and honest look at what tools are available to the Christian who desires to live a holy life.
Let me share with you a few examples of the kind of wise counsel present in Finally Free. In the first chapter, Lambert challenges people not to become so self-focused in their struggle as to miss that so much of the sin of watching porn is that very self-focus. Lambert writes:
“Meditating on how miserable and pathetic you are only perpetuates the sinful self-centeredness that led you to look at pornography in the first place. Condemning self-talk still has you standing center stage as you reflect on what you think about what you have done, and as you describe what you think you deserve because of what you did. It’s all about you. The problem is there is too much you in all this. You need Christ. And the only way to break the vicious cycle is to get outside of yourself to Jesus.”
Lambert is so correct there. Too often we will fail in an area of sin, and then spend time attempting to mentally punish ourselves for our failure. While we must not accept and tolerate sinfulness in ourselves, to think that our self-punishment will help us is to deny the gospel and sin further by continuing to place ourselves at the center of our universe.
In chapter 7, Lambert addresses the dangerous myopia that can arise as a person struggles against an obvious sin like porn. He shows us that, if we are not careful, we will develop an arrogance in other areas of life as we measure our righteousness or sinfulness against our watching or not watching of porn. Lambert says:
“If you want to cut the root of porn with the ax of humility, you must consider the other sins in your life as well. You are sinful in more ways than one. You have other problems besides the desire to see pornographic images. It will be good for your soul and for your growth in Christ to consider other sins besides the one that has you reading this book. It is humbling to consider other sins for which you need the forgiving and transforming grace of Jesus.”
One real piece of wisdom Lambert offers in chapter 6 of this book addresses the role that a man’s wife plays in helping him battle his sin. The author tells us that it is unwise and unhelpful for a wife to attempt to be her husband’s accountability partner, especially in an area like pornography. He is not arguing that a man should not have a solid and challenging accountability partner, but simply that a man’s wife has another role to play. Lambert writes:
“You may have noticed that this chapter didn’t address the topic of having your wife be an accountability partner. That’s intentional. I don’t think your wife should fill that role. You should treat your wife as your wife. She should be free to treat you as her husband. It is a deadly poison for a marriage when a wife becomes a cop policing her husband’s activity, asking him all kinds of questions, and examining his Internet reports. Your wife needs to know you have a faithful accountability partner doing those things so she can have peace of mind as she focuses her energy on being married to you.”
In chapter 8, Lambert demonstrates to us the connection between gratitude and holiness. One of the failings of the man or woman watching porn is that he or she has stopped being grateful to God for all of the good things that God has given. Instead, the person giving into the desire to see what is not right to see has decided that God’s good gifts are not good enough. Lambert says it this way:
“Porn is only consumed by thankless people. The desire for porn is a desire to escape from what the Lord has given you into a fake universe full of things you do not have and will never have. Porn is the trading of gratitude for greed. Porn trades joy in the reality God has graced you with for greed in the counterfeit world he has not. Defeating porn requires a grateful consideration of God’s good gifts to you.”
Finally, in the conclusion of the book, Lambert brings the arguments of the nine solid chapters to bear. Christians are called by God to fight the good fight against sin with the tools God has given us. Those tools include grace, sorrow, accountability, confession, your spouse or singleness, humility, gratitude, and a dynamic relationship with Christ. Of course, there are still other tools we can use, but God has given us enough to battle and defeat this sin through the power of his word, his holy Spirit, and our local church. As Lambert says to us:
“Christian, hear the Word of God: the impurity of pornography stands in direct opposition to who you are in Christ. The blood of Jesus beckons you to holiness. You are summoned to look like Jesus. Therefore you must flee from living like an unbeliever and inflicting sexual harm on others. You must run passionately away from porn and toward holiness, love, self-control, and grace.”
I hope that the above insights will be enough to help my readers to see that I believe Finally Free to be a solid, go-to work to help men and women in the battle against pornography. Pastors, men’s groups, accountability groups, youth groups, biblical counselors, husbands, and wives all may find ways for this book to be useful. It is biblically faithful and strong. It is also helpful for more than those who struggle with porn, as its principles of repentance and accountability are genuinely helpful for a variety of our struggles. I wholeheartedly recommend this book.
Right from the get-go, Lambert clarifies that this is not a book about pornography. This seems somewhat counter-intuitive if you read the table of contents before you read the introduction. There you will notice that each chapter includes the word "pornography" in its title. "Yet somehow," you ask, "This isn't a book about pornography?"
Well, yes and no. As Lambert explains, he is nixing the discussion of the details of the porn industry (the stats part of many books helping people deal with porn), as well as discussions about the damage porn does (both to the makes and consumers). He is also leaving out the discussion about how bad porn is, how it re-wires your brain, how it undermines just about everything important. While books that do that have a noble goal according to Lambert (12), his goal is to tell you "about the amazing power of Jesus Christ to free you from pornography." Or, as he reiterates in the next sentence, "I want to share with you the amazing depth and effect of Christ's power to eradicate pornography from your life" (12).
Accordingly, Lambert sees grace as the foundation from which the fight proceeds on several fronts. He spends chapter 1 explaining in more detail the foundation of grace. From that foundation, Lambert teases out several "weapons" that can be used in the fight:
Godly sorrow (chapter 2)
Accountability (chapter 3)
Radical measures (chapter 4)
Confession (chapter 5)
Your spouse or singleness (chapter 6)
Humility (chapter 7)
Gratitude (chapter 8)
A dynamic relationship with Christ (chapter 9)
He then concludes with a call to holiness as well as a plot twist concerning an example he shared earlier in the book. An appendix is offered for families and friends of those struggling with pornography.
I found the overall layout of this book to be very helpful. Several of the chapters include "weapons" that I think we've all employed (accountability, confession, radical measures). But as you notice, some of them don't seem to be directly connected to dealing with pornography. The two that stood out to me were the chapters on humility and gratitude. I had previously made the gratitude connection, but thinking of the struggle in terms of a pride issue was both new and helpful to me. I've found gratitude to be helpful, both in my personal life, but also in counseling others. I've yet to talk to a student who struggles with porn but is also genuinely overflowing with gratitude for everything God has given to them. Not saying it's not possible, but often I'll follow a similar track as Lambert (grace in Christ first, then gratitude in response to that grace second) because it generally hasn't occurred to many people that there's a connection between ingratitude and struggling with lust.
Additionally, I don't think it has occurred to many people that all of these weapons work together and are the outworking of grace gripping a person's heart. I think it's fair to say each chapter is offering a perspective on what grace looks like in a person's life. As you grow in Christ, you'll grow in your ability to employ each of these weapons in tandem, rather than in isolated strikes. Lambert is offering readers a textbook case of how to pursue mortification, specifically as it applies to lust and its most frequent outworking, porn addiction. But much of what he offers readers will also help them grow in fighting sin in other areas of their life, some of which might not seem immediately connected (e.g. pride). This is especially true if readers put the action items to use at the end of chapter and think over the questions offered.
While there are many books out there on dealing with lust and the struggle with pornography, Lambert's book is now at the top of my list of books I'll give to a student who wants to grow and change. Part of this is the accessibility of the writing style (short, to the point and laced with illustrations) and the other part is the track record Lambert attests to in applying this material. Another part would be how Christ-centered the whole book is, which on the whole is what makes it a book about fighting pornography that's not really about pornography. The book makes for an easy read (but with hard truth that needs to be heard) and would make a great resource for a small group of guys struggling together. It is a fresh, grace-filled perspective on the fight against lust and offers the culmination of years of biblical wisdom that will point readers to the grace Christ offers and its power to defeat indwelling sin.
[I received a review copy of this book from the publisher and originally published a review on my blog]