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Closing the Window: Steps to Living Porn-Free (Book Review)

Last Updated: May 18, 2021

Daniel Baker

Daniel Baker is the Senior Pastor at Sovereign Grace Church in Apex, North Carolina. Daniel has a B.A. in Music from Kenyon College and an M.A. from Ashland Theological Seminary. He has been on staff at Sovereign Grace since 2000. He and his wife Anne have five children.

“The good news is that we can say to ourselves, ‘I don’t need to use porn, because God is bigger and better'”(p.65).

closing the window porn-free

That is the perspective of Tim Chester in Closing the Window: Steps to Living Porn-Free. If you know this struggle only too well, Chester will either give you some revolutionary thoughts or an excellent presentation of familiar ones.

Porn Is a Big Problem

First, he has a good grasp of the seriousness of the issue itself. He looks behind the curtain of the industry and shows the real ugliness of it. It is a world filled with suicide, drug addiction, human trafficking, and the creation of illusion upon illusion to tempt and to tease for cash profits.

Further, he estimates that half of men and a fifth of women in the church are addicted to pornography (p.9). Pastors are no exception to this and struggle like everyone. Women might tend toward erotic fiction instead of erotic images, but the growth there is enough to say that it is not exclusively a male issue. We cannot assume that this sin is the domain of a sinister niche in our society. It is pervasive in every area of society.

Porn Is Personally Destructive

There is also a personal side to the destruction of pornography. It will destroy your view of sex, women, beauty, and marriage. It is a sin against your current (or future) wife. It enslaves, wrecks your family, wastes your time and money, and kills your energy for God because it weighs down your conscience (p.17-35). Clearly, this is a serious problem that needs consistent attention by the church.

The Heart Is the Heart of the Matter

Yet what is the real source of our problem?

Instead of looking for a cause in our society or culture or psychology or personal histories or even the church (which can all be contributing factors), he looks at the real cause: our heart. If I didn’t have lust in my heart, pornography would not be an issue—at all.

The reason Jesus did not give in to lust was not because he lived in a culture where modest dress and godly women were the norm or because he had affirming parents. The reason is that he did not have a lusting heart. As Chester says, “The circumstances of our lives are significant. But they don’t fully explain why we use porn. After all, many people are tired and don’t turn to porn. No: the Bible teaches that the heart is the source of our behavior. […] Desire drives the will. I do what I want to do” (p.38-39). That means I won’t defeat this sin unless I battle it in my heart.

This leads us to the third key area of Chester’s book: the grace we find in the gospel. If the problem is in my heart, then I need a solution that addresses my heart. That’s exactly what I find in the gospel. Through faith in Christ I get a new heart (2 Corinthians 5:17), perfect forgiveness that covers all of my sins (Romans 3:21-26; Hebrews 10:1-17), and freedom from the stranglehold of sin (Romans 6:1-7; 1 Corinthians 6:13-20). Even more, “Jesus gives real life—a full life, life with meaning—in the place of an empty life” (p. 42).

Going Porn-Free Is a Matter of Faith

But the gospel solution doesn’t take away the temptation. It only enables me to battle it. That is the fourth key area of Chester’s book. When I turn to Christ I can now engage in this battle in a new whole way.

What I find is that my real battle is a battle of faith. It is a battle to see that the promises of God are greater than the promises of sin. Psalm 16:11 says, “at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Faith says this is true. Unbelief says it isn’t and turns instead to porn to find “pleasures forevermore.” Faith will find that the promise is true. The unbelief that turns to porn will find instead fullness of shame and regret and heartache forevermore.

Pornography falsely promises that it can give us respect, relationship, a refuge, reward (for our hard work and sacrifice), or maybe revenge. Yet, only God can fill such emptiness by giving us acceptance, true fellowship, a real refuge, better rewards than the stuff of earth, and peace in our souls (p.45-59).

Thus, ultimately we find freedom from pornography when we see that Jesus is better: “Jesus offers living water. Battling porn in our lives is not an exercise in denying pleasure. It’s about fighting pleasure with greater pleasure” (p.65).

Of course, this is not a battle that we fight only in our hearts. There is a practical side as well. He recommends accountability software like Covenant Eyes (p. 95). We also need to do those things that build us up spiritually: reading the Bible, prayer, fellowship, fasting, service, thanksgiving, worship, communion, and hope are ways that we build ourselves up spiritually. Further, we need “comrades in the fight of faith” (p.101)—wives or pastors, sometimes an accountability group. He recommends groups that are not targeted at this specific issue, unless it is only for a short period of time (p.109).

He closes the book with a great challenge about the real point of victory in this area. We are made to be living statements of the glory of God:

“You declare God’s glory when you trust his promises, delight in his Word, serve his people, sing his praises, care for his world, proclaim his gospel, call him Father and cry to him for mercy. And that choice is before you when you’re tempted to look at porn. Are you going to choose the shame of porn or the glory of God?” (p.139).

Armed with Chester’s book and the grace of God, may the answer for all of us be clear: the glory of God.