I bought a book by Heath Lambert entitled “Finally Free.” There is much of the book that I enjoyed. I really appreciate his heart and dedication to the Lord. Sadly, I’m finding some of the same advice found in other books I’m critically reviewing, even though Heath says his is different. I will give him this, he does approach this issue a bit differently than most, but as we’ll see, it leaves me wondering if those who follow his advice will actually be “finally free.”
As in the last post of this nature, the author’s brief quotations will be bold and in quotation marks, and my comments written in real time as I read the book will be italicized. (A few of my comments have been edited for clarity.)
“Finally Free is not the typical man-centered self-help book that offers the reader shallow teachings and a hopeless future.” p. 1
I hope it’s not. But one look at the table of contents is bringing up some red flags for me.
“I have never met anyone whose life was radically changed by hearing (again) how damaging the pornography industry is and how they desperately need to think differently about it.” p. 12
I would tend to agree here. I believe thinking differently is vital and a key part in changing and having a renewed mind.
“This book is about something much better than pornography. This book is about the amazing power of Jesus Christ to free you from pornography.” p. 12
I would also say that true and lasting freedom comes by the power of the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Also, it is not my work at all. God does it aside from our own effort.
“Eagerness to be clear of pornography expresses itself in two practical ways. First, you pursue accountability. You need help in a struggle that is impossible to fight alone. Accountability entails enlisting other Christians who can help you think about strategies you have not considered, who can actively check up on you, and who will diligently pray for you. Second, eagerly seeking to clear yourself means you pursue radical measures to ensure you have no access to pornography. This enslaving sin is only defeated by drastic measures to cut it off from all angles.” p. 37
Wrong, wrong, wrong! This is just avoidance of the problem, not a solution to eliminating the problem.
“You will never be free from pornography until you acknowledge that in order to change you need the help of God through brothers and sisters in Christ.” p. 46
Is God not enough???
“Ben’s meeting with this group of guys was the only thing he was doing to fight against porn. As important as that is, it’s not enough. In other chapters, you will learn about other strategies that are needed to win the battle.” p. 47
Or more cumbersome man-made strategies that fail to do God’s redemptive work that he alone can do, and do so effortlessly.
“Sadly, this well-intentioned conversation illustrates several defective approaches to accountability.” p. 49
This chapter talks more about the problems with accountability than it does the good kind of accountability, which still, he states that it is not enough in and of itself, even when done correctly!
“God has given more spiritual authority to spiritual leaders.” p. 51
Hmm. Spiritual leaders have been woefully inadequate to quell the problem of porn and lust in the church. They have perpetuated these ideas that are not helping to eradicate the issues at the core.
“…not giving so much detail that it would fuel further temptation.” p. 53
Here he’s saying that in your accountability group you should spare everyone the details of your habits, so as to not tempt anyone else and give them ideas. I see what he’s saying, and I’ve been the victim in this. Guys in my youth group growing up were so surprised I had not masturbated in all my high school years. Their talk finally got me curious once I gained some more independence. However, this is part of the problem with traditional approaches. An honest approach would spare no detail if the resulting outcome is true freedom. It won’t be a temptation any more!
“Accountability oriented around questions and answers can devolve into a cat-and-mouse game in which the struggler provides legally precise answers that are something less than a full and open disclosure of sin. Even when the confession is totally honest, what gets confessed can easily be limited to the question asked… If you’re going to hold people accountable, you should actually hold them accountable.” p. 54-55
True victory is achieved only when there is no need of accountability.
“…true accountability requires an effort to be committed in the long term.” p. 56
No, all that is needed is a one time work of God changing how you view the body and others. It will work for the long haul easily.
“When people get lazy and stop trying, failure is not far behind.” p. 56
This is only if you do the band-aid approach and not true healing. It’s not bare-knuckling and your own will power that will bring success and victory. It’s not striving or trying harder. Change your mind, trust God, see people as made in His image, and the body as a beautiful creation, and watch failure be a thing of the past.
“Frog and Toad quickly realize that if they are ever going to stop eating cookies, they will have to do something to limit their access to them.” p. 59
This analogy is flawed. It supposed cookies are bad in and of themselves. Cookies are good. Porn is bad. While eating too many cookies is bad, just a little porn is still harmful. Bodies are not bad in and of themselves, nor is sex within God’s plan. A better analogy would be cookies that have poison in them and look similar, but are deadly. Porn is a counterfeit of godly sexuality and chaste nudity is porn’s antithesis.
“Many people struggle with pornography because it is so easy for them to get it.” p. 60
While it is easy to access, men struggle because we told them they would. Then we don’t tell them how to lose their appetite for lustful thinking. We don’t teach them to reject lies. All we offer them is sin management without true solutions.
Let me put it another way. Booze is easy to get. If you’re an alcoholic, it never ceases to be easy to access, but one has to learn to hate it and its drunken effects in order to be free of problems. As I write this, my sister in law is celebrating 10 years sober tomorrow. I’m proud of her and that she can go to the grocery store and be just fine.
“…we must act aggressively— every time we are tempted and in every way required to avoid the sin.” p. 61
How about not be tempted in the first place? That sounds to me like a better plan. And yet, it seems unfathomable to so many— like it’s the only sin Jesus can’t heal this side of heaven or something!
“The truth is that you could be all alone in a room filled with pornography and remain pure if you had no desire for it. In fact, this is the long-term goal. You will know you are finally free from pornography when you have full access to it and yet no desire for it. Though you’re not there yet, that’s where you’re headed. And in order to get there, you will need to change the way you think about pornography.” p. 63
This is SO true, and this is what I have been saying! But then what is suggested in the rest of the chapter and book is not the way to achieve this. Not at all.
“You will not have victory over pornography until you first have victory in the battles that come before you look. Foundationally, this battle begins in your heart—with your thinking.” p. 63
So renew your mind on the body and how you view others as the image of God! That’s the heart and mind shift needed and that God does instantly when the switch is flipped. Then, the war is over, let alone the battles.
“If you only attack the outward behavior, the problem will keep returning. You must uproot pornographic lust in your thinking, dealing with what Jesus unveils as the lustful intentions of your heart (Matthew 5: 28).” p. 64
Exactly. But these radical measures don’t do that.
“I can guarantee failure if you wait to begin the fight against porn until you are alone in the dark with your computer.” p. 64
Not if transformation has taken place!
“…there are three radical measures you can take with regard to your thinking.” p. 64
Nope, there’s only one, one time.
“…reach out for help.” p. 65
Repentance is not needed if you are healed, remember scriptures to thank God, you won’t have to reach out for help!
“…you must limit the time you spend alone—” p. 66
Doesn’t sound like freedom, but another type of bondage!
“I realize that after reading this, some of you are freaking out. Reading about these radical measures raises all sorts of objections…” p. 71
No, I’m freaking out because this is bad advice. The “cure” needs to solve problems, not create more problems. Again, this isn’t true healing! They are cumbersome methods of sin management, and unnecessary.
“You can try to remove porn’s availability. You can eliminate your time alone. Yet you will still seek out porn if you desire it. This is why Jesus and the good news of the gospel is the only sure hope for those who want to be free from porn. Only Jesus has the power to change your heart desires, and he does this as you believe in his forgiving and transforming grace.” p. 72
This contradicts the whole chapter! Again, I agree, it’s only Jesus. It just doesn’t have to be a long journey and his work is done outside of your own effort or involvement! This advice is so ineffective if you are still sick! I think that was Heath’s point, but it’s a caveat that goes contrary to the rest of his content and advice.
“Outward radical measures do not change your desires…” p. 73
Another admission of man-man strategies not working at the heart level.
“These external measures are the first steps of change…” p. 73
In my experience, and that of thousands of other brave and outside the box thinkers, there is only one step. Yes, it’s unconventional, but it makes perfect sense. One of my friends stated, he does not think true victory is achievable aside from the normalization of non-sexual nudity and the mindset that comes from embracing Imago Dei fully. I don’t know that I can go there, but there is nothing like it that works faster or better!
“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28: 13). p. 76
I’m including this to highlight Heath’s use of scripture throughout the book. It’s a real positive to this volume. No argument here. Confession is important, first to God, then your spouse if married, then overcome your sin, lose the need for confession, and use your knowledge and testimony to help others!
“Tom made a critical error when he confessed to his wife. After he fessed up, Tom said something foolish before either of us in the room could stop him. He commented that perhaps if she had a more active sexual relationship with him, he would not have been tempted. His wife did not take that very well. Her response was understandable because Tom’s suggestion was selfish and wrong. This kind of statement transfers the responsibility for your sin onto another person. When you sin, you are the one responsible (Mark 7: 21–23). Other people can sin against you, make your life difficult, and entice you to sin, but they can never make you sin. When you sin, it is always your fault, and you should never say or do anything to make it sound like the fault lies elsewhere. If someone did sin against you, it is necessary to bring that up only after you have confessed and taken full responsibility for your own sin (Matthew 7: 1–5).” p. 85
I really appreciate this from Heath. This type of garbage (if I may be so bold) is believed and even taught in many Christian circles. I’m glad Heath recognizes this type of thinking, anticipates the objections, and swiftly refutes them. This is one of the ways this book is different than some others.
“Do you notice something about my effort to quit thinking about my old gray car? It isn’t working. Even though I’m trying really hard to quit thinking about that unpleasant automobile, my efforts are ineffective. Every thought that goes through my mind—though motivated by a desire to quit thinking about the car—only presses the image of it deeper into my mind. I need another strategy. My problem is that I am focusing on the very thing I want to stop thinking about. Instead, I need to start thinking about something else—something different.” p. 90
This is interesting. I submit that you have to reframe how you think about the body and other people. No one is an object. A person is more than the sum of their parts, way more! We know this instinctively, perhaps, but we still dehumanize others all the time. We have to think of human beauty as “very good” like God said at the beginning. We have to think of others as beautiful (not in the shallow ways of the world). We have to love and respect others. Humankind is the pinnacle of God’s creation. When we look through the pornographic mindset we will see temptation. When we see others as God does, temptation is non-existent.
“Jamie grew up in a nominally Christian, conservative home. When he left for college, he was what most would consider a good kid—responsible and hardworking. Jamie wasn’t at college for long before he became involved with a group of young men who introduced him to pornography. Jamie loved it. He had never seen a naked woman before and had certainly never seen sex. Jamie loved porn because it allowed him to enjoy women who, he believed, were prettier than anyone he could ever have a relationship with in real life, all without any fear of rejection. Porn was so easy and so fun that Jamie couldn’t get enough of it. At first he was shy about walking into a store to buy it, but he quickly got over his initial embarrassment. Eventually he placed a huge bookcase in his living room full of nothing but pornographic videos. Any shame he once had about using pornography was now gone… Jamie’s porn collection had grown so large that it now took up almost the entire basement. He would return home from work and descend into the basement to indulge in porn late into the night. He was often late for work because he had no strength to get out of bed after late nights watching actors fornicate on screen. Alyssa wanted out of the marriage. By now, however, she had given birth to twin daughters and was worried about how she could raise a family by herself. She tried fighting for her marriage to no avail. Jamie had moved a bed into the basement and would hardly speak to her. He lost his job and spent all of his time in the basement instead of looking for employment. One afternoon Jamie came upstairs and asked one of his daughters to come into the basement and play. Alyssa took the girls and left. Jamie is now in his sixties. He doesn’t have a job and lives with his elderly father. All he does, day after day, is look at porn. He doesn’t care about work, his ex-wife, or his grown daughters. He is a miserable sight to see. He is unshaven, has missing teeth, smells bad, and wears dirty clothes. Talking to him is nearly impossible, as it seems he doesn’t even know how to have a relationship with a real person anymore. Jamie’s story is a bad one. In fact, you might read this and feel pretty good right now, congratulating yourself that you’re not nearly as bad as he is. You might also be thinking you would never let your problem get so extreme. If so, you are missing the entire point of Proverbs 5.” p. 103
This is a very sad story. I agree with Heath that we should never justify our issues by saying they aren’t as bad as someone else’s. What sticks out to me in this tragic tale is, “He had never seen a naked woman before.” Had non-sexual nudity been normalized for him, instead of growing up sheltered and repressed, this would be a different story. This is why my wife is naked at times around my teenage boys. We believe this is the way to porn-proof them. They know what a real woman looks like, and are learning that there’s just not much of an allure or mystery to a body. It’s just a body. It’s not the big deal that others make it out to be. They are learning to despise pornography for the way it objectifies and creates a false fantasy, and they are seeing real love and commitment in their parent’s example. Where I was once powerless to help them as they grow, now I have the knowledge and experience to share with them and have them be different than their peers.
“I don’t think your wife should fill that role [accountability]. 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.” p. 104
No, she needs peace of mind knowing that she can trust you without any accountability! Trust me, this is better. I’ve had accountability partners, and against Heath’s advice, I’ve had my wife fill that role. I actually had her give me a chip for every month I’d been “good.” She could usually tell when I was lying or when I’d “fall off the wagon.” Now I don’t need any accountability or any software, and we are loving life and each other like never before.
As stated, much of Heath’s book was enjoyable and good. These would be parts where I took issue. The differences are glaring. My experience flies in the face of the radical measures Heath suggests, in exchange for an even more radical measure, but just one. That said, Zondervan would probably not publish my book!