Does using Internet accountability software mean I am relying on mere man-made barriers to keep sin at bay? When I use Covenant Eyes to keep me from looking at pornography, is this just an unhelpful form of legalism?
Yesterday I summarized an e-mail I received from a man who claimed that Christians shouldn’t need Covenant Eyes. Accountability software can’t fight our sinful desires. The gospel does.
Below was my reply to this objection:
I think you are right in many of your observations: People can try in vain to use human-made restraints to overcome sinful behavior. People can even use Covenant Eyes this way. I agree with your take on Colossians 2 and 3.
But I take serious issue with the idea that Covenant Eyes is always used this way and is therefore something always unnecessary for those who live in the power of the gospel. I’ll explain.
I agree with you that it is only by setting our affections on things above, only being captivated with a “higher affection,” that our sinful thirst for pornography is conquered. But we need to ask: What means has the Spirit of God given us to embrace these new affections? How does he help us see what these “things above” are?
I would argue that the community of the church is one of the Spirit’s primary means.
- It is through the faithful proclamation of the Spirit-inspired Word by spiritually gifted men that we learn to understand what “the things above” are (Ephesians 4:11-16).
- It is through mutual exhortation and encouragement from fellow believers that we are stirred up to live in light of the Day when Christ returns, the Day when “the things above” will become visible (Hebrews 10:24-25).
- It is as we mutually edify one another that we experience the righteousness, peace, and joy of the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17-19).
- As those among us are caught in sin, we who are spiritual are called to restore them, bearing one another’s burdens, fulfilling Christ’s law of love (Galatians 6:1-2).
- We can set our minds on eternal truths when we encourage and comfort one another with promises from Scripture (1 Thessalonians 4:18; 5:11).
Yes, we are called to set our affections on Christ (Colossians 3:1-4), not rely on man-made rules (2:20-23), but even as we do this, sinful sexual drives still live in the physical members of our bodies (3:5). These drives pull us away from our heavenly affections, so we are called to go to war against them (3:5). What does this war look like? Among other things, one of the weapons in this war is the community of the church: Paul tells us to teach and admonish one another in all wisdom (3:16). This is an indispensable tool for holiness.
And this is where Covenant Eyes comes in. For many people, using Covenant Eyes is a discipline of communication to other believers. It enables easier communication with brothers in Christ about the temptations they face, the choices they make, and the state of their heart.
For instance, I meet weekly with an elder in my church who receives my Accountability Reports. While he does ask me about specific items on my Report, the bulk of our conversation has to do with helping me to set my eyes on Christ and the gospel. The details of the Report aid the conversation.
Covenant Eyes is like other online communication tools: in the right hands and with godly motives, these tools help someone to build conversations of encouragement and honesty. Given the Word’s clear call to the church to love one another in these ways, why would we call tools that further enable this communication a waste of money or time?
So, what do you think? Are Covenant Eyes Accountability Reports used as a form of “human regulations”? Or can they be used as communication tools that provide a springboard to having gospel-centered conversations?