BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part Two in a four-part BCC Grace & Truth blog series on grace-based, gospel-centered approaches to overcoming lust and pornography. In addition to today’s post by Heath Lambert (Pornography, Radical Measures, and the Gospel), you can Read Part by Luke Gilkerson One here: 14 Gospel Promises That Trump the Power of Lust. You will also find posts by Deepak Reju (Dumb Down Your Smart Phone) and Julie Ganschow (Ensnared by Lust).
Note from Heath Lambert: The Following is an adaptation of a section of Finally Free: Fight for Purity with the Power of Grace.
Are Works at Odds with the Gospel?
Last year I wrote a blog expressing concern that one author’s book about pornography talked a lot about the gospel, but didn’t do a very good job of showing practical application flowing out of the gospel. There was not much instruction for people who struggle explaining the practicalities of how to remove porn from their life by using things like Internet filters, accountability, and other such things.
I received some criticism for the expression of concern. One person expressed that I was indicating that the gospel wasn’t enough to bring about change, and that I was advocating a dangerous “gospel plus works” idea of change with regard to pornography.
This is the kind of criticism that is common today with many who consider themselves young, restless, and Reformed. These folks love the Gospel and are committed to its centrality. They are rightly suspicious of anything that would detract from the glorious gospel, which alone leads to salvation. The commitment to exalt the gospel should not, however, be at odds with works.
The Importance of Works
Works are of crucial importance in the Christian life. We are saved by works. But we are not saved by our works. We are saved by the works of Christ. After we experience the salvation of Jesus by believing the gospel, works then serve the crucial importance of demonstrating our salvation. The only time works are condemned in the Bible is when we try to use them to attain salvation. When we do that works are an offense to Christ and His saving work.
With regard to pornography, this means it is good for us to think about outward measures we would employ to defeat pornography. In fact, if we are serious about becoming free from pornography we must think about this. For all of us who are committed to the sufficiency of the gospel, however, we must be clear that outward measures can never change our heart.
You do need more than Covenant Eyes and a weekly accountability time with men to be different. You need a change in your heart. You can try and remove porn’s availability and eliminate your time alone, but for the rest of your life you’ll seek immoral images as long as you desire it. The good news—the gospel—is that Jesus will change your desires as you trust him to forgive you and change you by his grace.
Jesus, Works, and Porn
This emphasis on the heart does not mean there’s no time or place for outward radical measures. Jesus says there is! For those who struggle with the lust for pornography Jesus commands:
“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30).
When fighting lust, Jesus Christ thinks that there are things you need to do. Works are important. You just need to put them in their proper place. Outward radical measures do not save, and they do not change desires, but they are necessary for two crucial reasons. Both reasons are related to the fact that complete change will not be immediate.
Room to Grow
First, radical measures give you space in which to grow. If you are enslaved to pornography God will not change your desires instantly but by degrees (2 Corinthians 3:18). Radical measures make it as hard as possible for your to get access to porn. They allow space for you to direct your attention towards Christ instead of porn.
Bear Fruit in Keeping with Repentance
Second, employing radical measures gives you an opportunity to bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8). As you struggle with God’s help to be free you want the full-blown change of new desires. But that transformation takes time. As you press forward in growth you can experience some change before that, however, in implementing outward measures like confession to a pastor, or using X3 on your cell phone. These external measures are the first steps of change, and though they don’t automatically transform your internal desires, they are expressions of real change. You need the grace of Jesus to accomplish them, and when you experience His grace to take these first, hard, faltering steps you can have confidence that Jesus will also give you the grace to experience the fullness of change that you are seeking.
This wonderful and progressive change is given to you by Jesus in His forgiving and changing grace. As you continue to walk the grace-filled path away from pornography, you need to seek God’s forgiveness and power to be different. Cry out to Jesus. Remember His death on the cross that purchases your forgiveness and your obedience. Believe in the blood of Jesus to pay for your sin, and then get busy fighting with the spiritual strength found only in the gospel.
Join the Conversation
How do you see the relationship between gospel grace, works/effort, and overcoming pornography?