Heath Lambert’s book, Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace, is an issue-specific book for men and women 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.
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. Christians are prone to forget the Gospel. Fighting sin apart from the Gospel is futile and temporal. It is a counterfeit repentance that leads to frustration, overwhelming guilt and eventually burn out. Lambert refocuses the conversation and centers it around God, rather than on porn and sexual sin. This strategy prevents repentance from becoming an idol that’s worshipped. If repentance is the highest aim, it becomes nothing more than a cheap sinful replacement. In what follows, I will highlight several key subjects I personally appreciated in Lambert’s book on fighting sexual sin.
Godly Sorrow vs. Worldly Sorrow
Lambert has an entire chapter dedicated to repentance. 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 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 characterize a person who has godly sorrow and I will mention two of them to give you an example.
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 draws 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). This chapter is really a great tool to use as a counselor to help a counselee evaluate his repentance. Not only that, but before we counsel, we should apply 2nd Corinthians 7 to our own lives. Lambert writes bluntly on repentance in this chapter. This is strategic. It allows the reader to understand clearly so that he may repent quickly. Although Lambert writes bluntly, this chapter is cloaked in grace, love and humility.
Another excellent section in Lambert’s book covers the topic of biblical accountability. I call it biblical accountability, because much of the accountability that takes place inside the local church is not biblical. Lambert states, “In a lot of groups there is a lot of reporting but no real accountability” (55). Lambert believes that biblical accountability involves men that are not struggling with porn and sexual sin coming 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 temptation rather than calling after succumbing to that temptation. Men in accountability groups should provoke one another to savor Christ and to strategically and vehemently flee sin. Lambert also pleads with his readers that accountability groups should also 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 can often be explicit and sometimes do more harm than good. Lambert recognizes this and speaks to it directly.
This caused me to think of the way 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. He also gave me much to think about regarding the gospel-centered literature I put in these men’s hands. Not all Christian literature is Christian.
Fighting Sexual Sin
Lambert’s chapter on using radical measures 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). There is tremendous wisdom in that statement. He goes on to use 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.
Not Just Sexual Sin
Another unique thing about this book comes as a warning from Lambert. 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 is 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. Sexual sin is just one of many sins that can be overcome by God’s grace.
Gratitude Instead of Immorality
One of the final distinguishing marks I thought necessary to bring out 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 Christians 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 (Ephesians 1). 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 its imperatives (what God commands us to do). It is 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 enslaving sin.
So many Christians are living depressed lives because they feel utterly defeated by sexual 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 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 Christian, I must see my sin through the power of the gospel which is able to rescue me from even the darkest, most heinous sin. I am reminded that God emptied all of his wrath out on His Son for Christians on the cross. Christ died, was buried and by the power of the Holy Spirit, rose again certifying his claim, “It is finished” (John 19:30). It is because of this, sinners who were once enslaved to sexual sin can boldly proclaim as Paul did in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Lambert reminds us that we are “Finally Free” only because of the person and work of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Joey Tomlinson (DMin, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a husband, father, and pastor at a local church in Newport News, Virginia. He blogs regularly on broadoakpiety.org and hosts a weekly podcast called The Broad Oak Piety Podcast with another local pastor in the community.