Why Accountability Software Won’t Work…

This is not meant to discourage you but your accountability software will not solve the problem. Having an accountability partner who asks you often how you’re doing in that area will not cut it. Even flogging yourself on the back with a cat of nines every time you have the twisted desire for a false image of a real woman just lacks power to ward off the pleasure of mental and physical titillation caused by the demonic, cyberspace harlotry that is pornography. These things are good (well maybe except the flogging) but they’re wholly insufficient to fight off a real pornography struggle. It is insufficient because it’s only half the battle. Brother, you’re giving a Herculean effort against this sin by cutting off the head of the Leranean Hydra but it, like beast out of the sea in Revelation 13 who has a fatal wound only to be healed, time and time again comes back with a ruthless vengeance. It’s mightier than before and it’s angry. It’s out for blood and the Red Cross of your body is draining your veins of the precious, life-giving flow. You’re being faithful and attempting to mortify your sin by putting set parameters in place.  Again, this is well and good. The Puritans called this process mortification. It is the active process of dying to self and sin. It is the killing of sin before it kills you by actively fighting it off. Mortification is the negative side of sanctification- stopping, protecting, guarding, fencing, picketing, and basically building walls around you for the sake of purity. This is what the apostle Paul talked about in Romans 6:11-13 when he said:

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

But, this is only half the battle.

The other half is what the Puritans called vivification. It is coming alive to righteousness in Christ. It is the gazing upon beauty and finding your joy in Christ in such a way that sin becomes utterly superfluous.You will see it for what it is-mud pies by the sea. Vivification is the postive side of sanctification-gazing, drinking, tasting, living, loving, and beholding. This is what Paul was talking about in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 when he said:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Did you catch that? We’re transformed not merely by putting up parameters around our sin but by beholding the glory of the Lord. If you’re merely fighting sin by putting fences around desires and temporarily chaining up the dog to the post, failure will come. The dog has to have real food or he’s going to get in the neighbor’s trash yet again. He needs steak. The Gospel and our subsequent union with Jesus in all His righteous splendor is the steak the pooch so desperately needs. The death-defeating abuse that Jesus suffered and the precious promises made because of that is the spout where our resolve for gladness in God comes out. We fight for the joy of our salvation to be restored and that restored joy is efficacious. In his book The Purifying Power of Future Grace, John Piper was right to admonish young mean to fight sin through the drinking from deep wellsprings of satisfaction that are in Jesus. He said:

I have often told young people that they must fight fire with fire. The fire of lust’s pleasures must be fought with the fire of God’s pleasures. If we try to fight the fire of lust with prohibitions and threats alone- even the terrible warnings of Jesus- we will fail. We must fight it with a massive promise of superior happiness. We must swallow up the little flicker of lust’s pleasure in the conflagration of holy satisfaction. When we ‘make a covenant with our eyes,’ like Job did (Job 31:1), our aim is not merely to avoid something erotic, but also to gain some excellent…When my thirst for joy and meaning and passion are satisfied by the presence and promises of Christ, the power of sin is broken. We do not yield to the offer of sandwich meant when we can smell the steak sizzling on the grill.

So brother, take hold of your salvation promises. They are eye-opening promises that unveil the “lusts of deceit” (Eph. 4:22) and the “lusts which were yours in ignorance” (1 Pet. 1:14). Remember your union with Jesus. The only sinner who can successfully battle his sins is a justified sinner. In other words, you fight against sexual sins from relationship, not for a relationship. Remember the presence of Jesus. The only sinner who can successfully battle his farness caused by sin is a sinner who recognizes Jesus’ nearness (Matt. 28:20). Remember the promises from Jesus. The only sinner who can successfully battle the lies of the devil is one who knows the truth of the absolute supremacy of Jesus in all things (Col. 1:13-23) including your broken sexuality.

Yes put up safeguards for the sake of holiness. But, believe in Jesus and you will never thirst (John 6:35). Deny yourself but make darn sure you dine at the table of Jesus’ excellencies revealed in His word, found in worship, eaten in the Eucharistic elements, lingered on in fellow pilgrims on the way who have been with Jesus, and mediated through love letter-like prayers. The pitiful parasite of pornography will die when men of God protect themselves (mortification) but also pack themselves (vivification) full of the promises, power, and presence of Jesus. Brothers, Christ will give this to you (Rom. 8:32; Phil 1:6) because he loves for his people to rely on his all sufficient grace (2 Cor. 12:9).


5 responses to “Why Accountability Software Won’t Work…

  1. Interesting thoughts, for sure. Working for Covenant Eyes, these are the kind of conversations we have all the time with our members. Here’s what we’ve learned…

    If by “accountability” we merely mean a discipline of auto-confession, then yes. That alone will fall way short of what is needed.

    But what if our accountability was more biblically informed. The Bible testifies time and time again that fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are placed in our life for the sake of mortification. In this way, accountability becomes not an unnecessary apendage on the life of a gospel-centered Christian, but a means given by God to help us be Godward.

    Godly accountability, as I see it, involves the commands found in Hebrews 10:24-25 and James 5:16: frequent meeting together, mutual confession, faith-filled prayer, and grace-empowered encouragement and exhortation. This is a primary means given to us by God to bring about healing and help us fight sin at the heart level (Hebrews 3:13; Galatians 6:1-2).

    I use accountability software as a means to communicate with my accountability partner in a way that will hopefully enrich our discussion and prayer. I use the telephone to make a call to him. I use e-mail to touch base. I use my car to drive me to his house. I cherish these tangible tools because they enhance and promote our relationship.

    We’re having some great conversations on the Covenant Eyes blog about this stuff. I’d love to get your thoughts.

    • I appreciate this dialogue. I think the main point of the blog (when I wrote it) is accountability software without an intentional “move” to commit to being obedient to Christ daily is superfluous. It was originally written when some guys in my men’s ministry seemed to possess the idea that if only I could put some software on my computer, I’d be ok. I recognize there’s so much good in putting parameters up to protect one’s self. But, if one isn’t daily feeding on the bread from heaven who is all satisfying in the deepest and realest of ways, the putting up of fences will ultimately not help. Such practices can quickly drivel down into ceremonialism, legalism, and asceticism. I think that because I really believe that those rules have no power to truly curb the sensual desires of men (Col. 2:20-23). I agree with everything you said above though. It should really be a both/and instead of an either/or. Your view of accountability (which is the biblical viewpoint) fosters vivification. I am a user of accountability software myself and am grateful that I have it. True accountability and fellowship should lead to a daily desire to honor Christ in all things (esp. our sexuality).

      • Good stuff. I agree: it needs to be a both/and.

        On one hand, I understand how “just software” helps to some degree. Secrecy and sexual sin go hand in hand (Eph. 5:12). This is part of what it means to “walk in darkness” (v.8,11). It makes sense, then, for Christians to fight the illusion of secrecy when they go online, because the Internet is a place where many feel as if “no one sees me.”

        For that reason, I think a lot of people experience a benefit from accountability software because its presence is a constant reminder that they are not alone when online. When I think about the potential social shame could incur if my sin were known should be a motivator not to sin. In fact, the Bible encourages us to think that way (Luke 14:9; Romans 1:24-26; 6:21; 1 Corinthians 11:6,14; 14:35). I should think about how my sin impacts others and my place in the world.

        Men or women who get accountability software and then feel a new motivation not to look at porn out of the fear of potential shame are, in fact, experiencing a form of sanctification. The illusion that their sin can be kept private is shattered. As far as this goes, this is a good thing.

        But when it somes to the desire to look at porn, more is needed than merely my shame before others. I need to be motivated to see how my sin impacts God and His kingdom. This is where our accountability partners can step in to help us mortify sin and set our eyes on things above.


  2. Piper once said that the only thing worse than being found out in your secret sin is to not be found out. I totally agree with you that accountability software that is two-dimensional and includes the interaction of a partner (much like x3watch) is of immense value. I was originally thinking of the one-dimensional products out there that merely prevents sites from coming up and do not notify anyone of the attempt to procure the filth. I’m completely with you when it comes to accountability software that includes a robust commitment from another for your daily joy in Christ. Accountability and the growth of believers are a part of the very nature and purpose of the Church (worship God in all his splendor [Col. 3:16; Eph. 1:12, 5:16-19; Rev. 5:9-15, 7:9-17], nurture and mature believers to their full potential in Christ [Col. 1:28, 2:2-3; Eph. 4:12-13], and world evangelism and works of mercy [Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 11:29; 2 Cor. 8:4; 1 John 3:17; Luke 6:35-36]. It is a vehicle for God to extend his rule and reign to every corner of Creation (Matt. 12:28; Eph. 3:10-11). Without the Church, accountability will not work.

    That being said, a good accountability partner will emphasize the perfections of God in such a way that the one seeking accountability will understand the nature of their sin. There are no such things as private sins. Spurgeon said once, “But, pretender, we say unto thee, thou art a fool to think of harbouring a secret sin; and thou art a fool for this one reason, that thy sin is not a secret sin; it is known, and shall one day be revealed; perhaps very soon. Thy sin is not a secret; the eye of God hath seen it; thou hast sinned before his face. Thou hast shut-to the door, and drawn the curtains, and kept out the eye of the sun, but God’s eye pierceth through the darkness; the brick walls which surrounded thee were as transparent as glass to the eye of the Almighty; the darkness which did gird thee was as bright as the summer’s noon to the eye of him who beholdeth all things. Knowest thou not, O man, that “all things are naked and open to the eyes of him with whom we have to do?” God says “I am with you” (Gen. 26:24, Isa. 41:10, Hag. 1:13, Matt. 28:20). The call to vivification is a call to look, appreciate, and enjoy the presence of God in such a way that we will not be satisfied with lesser, petty joys.

    I am in agreement with your thoughts brother.

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