This post is for every man. Young and old, single and married. They have all been affected, for no man is immune in his own strength. Without the power of God’s grace, every man in the flesh is powerless to fight for purity in a sin-stained world.
One of the pitfalls of life in the digital age is that we actually live in it! Sure, technology is a tool that can be and has been used for our good. Gloriously so. We see this in the work of the Great Commission as the gospel of Jesus Christ is streamed, downloaded, and podcasted anywhere there’s a device with bars.
But so is evil. Everything is accessible in 2016. A digital device grants that access; and while there is nothing inherently evil about the device itself—some of what you will see on it (sooner or later) is evil.
Truth is, there was a time when men were told “if you see something pornographic here’s how you are to respond,” but the world has changed. And so sadly a word must change. It’s no longer “if” but “when you see something pornographic.” Breathe and it will find you.
Neil Postman in his classic Amusing Ourselves to Death describes this societal shift:
Changes in the symbolic environment are like changes in the natural environment; they are both gradual and addictive at first, and then, all at once, a critical mass is achieved, as the physicists say. A river that has slowly been polluted suddenly becomes toxic; most of the fish perish; swimming becomes a danger to health. But even then, the river may look the same and one may still take a boat ride on it. In other words, even when life has been taken from it, the river does not disappear, nor do all of its uses, but its value has been seriously diminished and its degraded condition will have harmful effects throughout the landscape.1
It’s all too easy to become that man on the riverboat. Sure there’s a risk, but it looks easy enough to navigate. The problem is that we compromise our integrity with each trip and let the water inside the boat. The bar is lowered by our choices and the fight to stay pure is weakened as our conscience is numbed to a new cultural low. We are left wading in a cesspool of filth.
I am grateful for Heath Lambert’s book Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace. Dr. Lambert is the executive director at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC), teaches at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College, and serves as a pastor overseeing the church’s counseling and marriage ministries.
This book is my go-to book when talking with men about pornography and purity. Frankly, I believe it’s one that every man should read. Each time I turn its pages I’m yet again reminded that I need to see Postman’s river for what it really is, and to continue my lifelong fight for purity.
THREE WAYS TO FIGHT FOR PURITY2
In chapter four of Lambert’s book, he challenges the reader to take seriously this struggle—our struggle—with sexual sin. His premise is predicated upon the words of Christ. In His Sermon on the Mount, the Son of God made this important point:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matt 5:27-30)
Lambert argues that these verses are to be our battle cry. Our Lord Jesus provides a serious standard (moving from lustful looks to intentions of the heart) and a serious strategy (to cast away what is causing this sin) because of the serious stakes involved (either we are on a path to life or hell).
Spiritually speaking, we are pretty comfortable in America; blind to the battle against sin. There are too many dull men on the battlefield spending their first and best part of their days thumbing through Facebook junk food instead of feeding on the very Word of God. They consume voluminous amounts of mass media instead of reading Christian biographies, church history, and Bible theology. They make time to do what pleases them, but commit no time to meditate on the written Word of God and pray to the living Word of God. They are undisciplined and have no real desire to be pure before the Master.
Below are three ways we can fight for this purity from Lambert’s book. Three radical measures to employ regardless of what level of exposure and possible entanglement we may have had with the sin of pornography.
1. Radical Measures in Your Thought Life: Lambert states that this critical area is one that is often overlooked. He then prescribes for us three “r’s” in the fight to keep a pure thought life.
This means looking more carefully at how you think about pornography… this battle begins in your heart—what your thinking… First, you must repent immediately. We talked about our need for repentance in the first chapter [free PDF of it here]… Repentance is an ongoing practice, and it happens most commonly in the fog of temptation… Second, you must remember Scripture. Scripture memory is not just a pious spiritual discipline for people who are more holy or mature than you are… Third, you must reach out for help… you are not designed to fight the battles of sin and temptation alone. You must call in reinforcements.
2. Radical Measures in Your Use of Time: This is the second area in which to take extreme measures. Not only must we be intentional to transform our thinking, but we should seek to use our time wisely, especially when tempted.
This means the time you spend alone… make plans to spend those times with others. You can study together, take a walk, play sports, read the Bible and pray, or watch a movie. You can even have an accountability partner scheduled to call you during those times (with the requirement that you must pick up the phone) to check in on you. If you are married, you may need to commit to going to bed at the same time as your spouse, even if you don’t feel tired.
3. Radical Measures for Cutting Off Access: The third area directs us to take action where it is needed, by making use of accountability software, or having passwords created by others, even the removal of equipment.
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… when travelling on business, you will need to be especially diligent… one man I counseled would text me a time-stamped picture of the television being removed from his room whenever he was out on the road… pray for the grace of a changed heart, and then obey by doing the right thing, regardless of the cost.
I appreciate Lambert’s use of the word “radical” for each of these steps, because that is what they are. I want to be militant in my battles against sin. Exhaustive in my pursuit of purity. Biblical in my efforts to live holy. Is this guy for real?
If you are stressing about these things, it’s because you are considering the seriousness of the strategy without considering the seriousness of the stakes… These measures aren’t meant to be convenient; they’re meant to be radical, difficult, painful, and costly.
Ladies, share this with the man in your life. Men, purity is a lifelong pursuit for the glory of God. Don’t go it alone. Whether your struggle in this area is a major or minor one, it is not as strong as the abounding and transforming grace of Jesus Christ, “here sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20).