Heath Lambert’s book, Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace, is an issue-specific book for men and women (but particularly men) who struggle with sexual sin, specifically in the area of pornography. In the introduction of the book Lambert puts forth his thesis: “This book is about the amazing power of Jesus Christ” (12). This thesis sets Lambert’s book apart from most books on pornography. It’s unique because it’s about God’s powerful gospel and how He loves to distribute it to those who desire to change.
Lambert’s book is saturated with the gospel and he is intentional about beginning the book with that foundation. This is different than how many authors have approached the fight against pornography. Many books assume the gospel. This may be because they believe that only Christians would want to fight against sexual sin and temptation. This may or may not be true, but Lambert avoids the assumption. This is a critically important strategy he’s employed. Christians are prone to forget the gospel and fighting sin apart from the gospel is futile and temporal. It is a counterfeit repentance that leads to frustration, overwhelming guilt, and eventually burnout. Lambert refocuses the conversation, centering it around God rather than on porn and sexual sin. This prevents repentance from becoming the idol that’s worshipped. If repentance is the highest aim, it’s nothing more than a cheap replacement.
Another reason why it’s critical that Lambert starts with the gospel is because it takes the focus off of self and places it on the person and work of Christ. Lambert states, “You can be forgiven and free when you trust in Christ and what he has done for you…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” (19). In the struggle against porn, help must come from outside the person trapped inside of this habitual sin. Christ must be the object of repentance.
Another distinguishing mark of Lambert’s book is his chapter on godly and worldly sorrow. I believe this is the strongest portion of his book and it can be applied to sins other than pornography. His foundational text in this chapter on repentance is 2nd Corinthians 7:8-11. Its summary is that godly sorrow leads to repentance, as opposed to worldly sorrow which leads only to death. From this passage, Lambert is able to put out several applications that characterizes a person who has godly sorrow.
One of the first principles he draws from the passage is that godly sorrow is earnest. Lambert states, “Godly sorrow gets busy and fervently seeks to fight against sin in a battle that lasts and lasts” (36). This type of repentance manifests itself in limiting access to porn, pursuing accountability in an effort to honor the Lord and clear one’s self of self. Another characteristic Lambert brings out in godly repentance is that it produces hatred: “Godly sorrow hates the sin itself…feels the horror of disobediences and weeps over the reality of a heart that chose transgression over faithfulness” (38). Three other characteristics that Lambert addresses is that godly sorrow produces alarm, a longing for restoration, and a desire for justice. This chapter is really a great tool to use to as a counselor to help a counselee evaluate his repentance. Not only that, but I used it to evaluate the repentance of sins in my own life. Lambert writes plainly, which allows the reader to understand, however the chapter is cloaked in grace, love and humility.
“In a lot of groups there is a lot of reporting but no real accountability” (55). This is Lambert’s assessment of accountability partners/groups. Lambert defines accountability differently than this. He believes that it should involve men that aren’t struggling with porn and sexual sin to come along side of men who are struggling with it. He believes that real accountability takes place when one brother calls another brother in the heat of the temptation rather than calling after succumbing to the temptation. Men in accountability groups should provoke one another to savor Christ and to strategically and vehemently flee sin. Lambert pleads with his readers that accountability groups should avoid explicit details in confession. I deeply appreciate Lambert’s pastoral wisdom on this.
Far too often men are led into further temptation through “accountability” conversations because of how explicit the details are. Even the books on fighting against pornography and sexual sin used in accountability groups are explicit and do more harm than good. Lambert recognizes this and speaks to it directly. This caused me to think of the way that I counsel. I often counsel men struggling with sexual temptation and sin. Lambert gave me much to think about in the way I speak to these men and gave me much to think about regarding gospel-centered literature to put in these men’s hands.
Lambert’s chapter on using radical measure to fight pornography is helpful as well. Lambert states, “You look at porn when you have the desire to see it, when you have the time to look at it, and when it is available to you” (62-3). He uses that and Matthew 5:27-30 to urge and plead with readers to be extreme and serious in their fight to overcome sexual temptation and sin. This is a common theme in most books on pornography, but Lambert ensures that the reader understands that this radical measure is cloaked and motivated by a changed heart captivated by the gospel: “… Jesus and the good news of the gospel is the only sure hope for those who want to be free from porn” (72). God, through Christ, by His Holy Spirit, enables believers to take extreme measures in their fight against sin and to successfully overcome their temptations.
Lambert’s roadmap to confession was especially helpful to me. I personally speak to this often in our local church and it was beneficial for me to read Lambert’s guidelines. I haven’t read a book on pornography that dealt with confession in as much detail as Lambert’s book. Lambert gives 6 guidelines for confession: “confess your sin to all who have been touched by your sin; do not confess your sin to those who are not touched by your sin; confess your sin with a willingness to accept the consequences of your sin; consider confessing your sin with a third party who can help with the response; confess your sin thoroughly, but not necessarily exhaustively; and confess your sin without making any excuses for your sin” (79-85). The rationale behind these guidelines is twofold: it allows the reader to evaluate personal repentance and to confess in a way that honors the Lord and the person hearing the confession.
Lambert’s chapter on humility and service helps provide another practical step in the process of repentance. Sexual sin and pornography is arrogant and consistently disciplines a person to become a consumer. A consumeristic mindset is at the core of every sin we commit. The only remedy for that is humility and service. The ultimate humility and sacrifice is found in the person and work of Christ. As mentioned already, Lambert is intentional about bringing this out all throughout the book. In this particular chapter, the reader not only considers Christ’s humility and sacrifice for the glory of God and sins of man, but is urged to model it. Lambert states, “Paul doesn’t just say, “Be humble!” He tells us how to cultivate humility—by learning to prioritize other people’s interests above our own” (117). Service to others is a practical way to humble the porn addict and shift his/her thinking away from being a consumer and to being a faithful servant of God.
In addition to being a humble servant, Lambert gives a unique warning that I have not found in other books on pornography. He urges the reader to remember he has other sins to overcome. He states, “When the only sin a man sees in his life is his pornography, something fascinatingly sinister happens as he begins to gain victory over that sin: he believes his sin has gone away” (115). This was a critical reminder to me that when counseling a man dealing with sexual sin, I must not fail in helping him, by God’s grace, to see and overcome other sins in his life. Sexual sin is just one of many sins that our Lord died for.
One of the final distinguishing marks in Lambert’s book is found in his chapter on gratitude. He states, “… in place of immorality there should be something else, and that something else is thankfulness” (124). He goes as far as to call it a “key strategy” (124). What do we have to be thankful for? Lambert, once again, reminds the reader of who God is for believers in Jesus Christ. In my counseling sessions, I must remind my counselees that God did not look down at sinners with cold indifference and give us what we deserve. Rather, He set His affections on us before the foundation of the world that we might be holy and blameless in Christ Jesus. God chose to save men enslaved in sexual sin. That is a humbling statement. If God through Christ saves adulterers, how much more can He help people overcome the sin by the power of the Holy Spirit? Considering the gospel produces thankfulness that leads to gladness that leads to longevity in repentance of sin and trust in Christ.
This book is in the top three books that I have read on overcoming sexual sin and temptation. It is cloaked in both the indicatives of gospel (what God has done for us) and it’s imperatives (what God commands us to do). It’s a model of how we should approach repentance in our own lives and how we should counsel each individual that walks through our doors, seeking to be set free from this sin that keeps them in bondage and depression. So many Christians are living depressed lives because they feel utterly defeated by this powerful sin. Others make an idol out of their repentance and experience a downward spiral when their idol comes crashing to the ground. As repenting believers, we must be quick to repent and grow in our hatred for sin and our love for our Savior. As pastors and counselors we must plead with our counselees to do the same.
Lambert’s book is an excellent guide and template to work with counselees through. I personally will be making it a part of my homework for men that I counsel with on a weekly basis. As a teenager, I struggled with pornography much like Lambert. I read books on how to overcome it and they only produced more lust and sin in my heart, mind, and actions. I would have benefitted tremendously from Lambert’s book then and I am a personal testimony to the saving grace of God and His power to enable His people to overcome sin and temptation. When I finished the book, I spent time thanking the Lord for His grace in my life, and I look forward to the day when I can take my son through a resource like this in order to equip him to overcome sin and temptation in the world that seeks to devour his soul.