On page 50 of The Purity Principle, Randy says, “Sometimes he fails.” I was so disappointed. My preteen grandson has been faced with porn at school and in the middle school church youth group. We are going through the book together, taking turns reading chapter by chapter. I realize Randy can’t change the book that’s already been printed and sold. Those words just seem to negate the message of the book that we can be delivered from the bondage of impurity.
I love that you are reading the book with your grandson, tackling such a difficult topic together.
Here’s that passage from the book I believe you are referring to:
For decades I’ve believed that erotic images on television and in movies are poison. Yes, I still have a desire to look at them, but that desire is overwhelmed by an instinct to turn away. Call it whatever you wish, but turning away has become a deeply ingrained habit. Sometimes I still fail, but not nearly like I did years ago. We are creatures of habit—God’s Spirit can empower us to form new habits. By choosing to turn away from sexual temptation, by making a covenant with my eyes—and by God’s enabling grace—I choose the path of life and the blessings that come with it. When I say no to temptation, I say yes to God. He is pleased and glorified. And no one benefits more than I do.
Randy’s message in the book is that we need to get radical about our purity—and that includes doing the smart thing and avoiding temptation whenever possible, and keeping our minds pure, and filling them with what’s good. Randy writes in the book, “Repentance means not just turning from impurity, but keeping ourselves from where we’ll have to turn.” When we understand that what’s pure is not only right but good for us and also smart, that helps so much in the battle for purity. We see sin for what it is —ugly and stupid and joy-taking.
Consistent victory over sin is possible in this area as with any other sin, with God’s help and empowerment as we partner with His Holy Spirit (Colossians 1:29). But this side of Heaven, we still face temptation, and yes, sometimes we do fail our Lord and Savior by sinning.
Your grandson will certainly face various temptations in the world, as you mentioned, and he will see things that he didn’t necessarily ask to be exposed to, even as he is guarding his purity. There will be times he, like any man, will be tempted to entertain things he’s seen, and to not turn away.
Randy’s message isn’t one of sinless perfectionism. (See this article.) I believe that by sharing his own growth in pursuing purity, and being honest about his own shortcomings, he offers hope to readers that it is possible to experience victory in this area. But also hope that when we do fail and let our Lord down, we can turn to His grace and receive forgiveness and help. He writes in the book, “No matter what we’ve done, the moment we repent and embrace His forgiveness, we can be right in the center of God’s will.” And: “This is all about the great themes of Scripture: redemption and grace. Our sexual struggles should remind us of our need for grace and empowerment.”
I ran my thoughts by Randy, too, before sending them. He explained,
I realize that to some people, the admission that we sometimes fail is not a welcome one. But it in no way negates the principles or claims of the book. Nowhere do I claim in it (nor should I) that every Christian man will never again lust. I can say, however, you should be quick to confess, quick to look away. I would never say in any of my books that I have never been greedy, never been angry, never been judgmental, never been proud. In fact, the person who cannot admit that they sometimes sin is guilty of the sin of pride and deceit.
To give the impression of complete and total victory 100% of the time, decade after decade, would not only be utterly false, but would be tremendously discouraging to any man reading it, because they would think the author doesn’t understand the strength of temptation. They might believe they were the only ones who ever succumb to temptation. They would lose hope and likely give up, as many men tragically have. No man, young or old, will be led astray by my admission to being a sinner.
If we set our kids up to believe that they will never fail (or give them the impression that we won’t tolerate failure), we can easily set an impossible standard and actually do them a disservice.
It’s tricky because as parents/grandparents we want to be so clear about the consequences of sin. We want them to avoid it in the first place! We want them to run from pornography and from sexual sin. That is always the goal! We want them to understand what Martin Luther said: “You can’t keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from making a nest in your hair.” Keep in mind that an occasional failed attempt at pure thinking, followed by immediate repentance, is very different from “bondage to impurity.”
Thankfully, the gospel is the good news of forgiveness for sinners. We want our kids to run to Jesus when they fail—when they think or do something they shouldn’t—for forgiveness and empowering grace. And by being honest about our own struggles in appropriate ways, we can point to Jesus as the great Savior we all need.
I hope this provides some clarity. God bless you and your grandson.
Stephanie Anderson is the communications and graphics specialist at Eternal Perspective Ministries.