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Tim Challies

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August 28, 2010

I have been reading Nancy Pearcey’s new book Saving Leonardo, something about which I’ll have a lot more to say next week. But for now I wanted to share with you a quote from one of the early chapters which deals with Sex, Lies and Secularism. Here she writes about liberal and Christian views of sex, showing how the Bible elevates sex to the position God wishes it to have while Liberalism lowers it to something so much less than God wants it to be. Though Christians are often denigrated as being prudes, in reality Christians have a high view of sex.

The irony is that Christians are often accused of being prudes and Puritans who hold a negative view of the body and its functions, such as sex. During one college debate over abortion, the pro-choice students shouted to the pro-life students, “You’re just anti-sex.” But the truth is that Christianity has a much more respectful view of our psycho-sexual identity.

August 07, 2010

The Marriage BedThe Marriage Bed is a helpful little book from Ray Rhodes who has also written several titles dealing with family worship. This book[let], weighing in at just 32 pages, is a biblical guide to sexual intimacy. Responding to the inevitable critique that this topic has been covered enough times, Rhodes offers four defenses for writing about it once more: 1) Misinformation about the topic abounds and there is room for a book that falls in the space between legalism and licentiousness; 2) His experience in pastoral ministry has shown that problems with marital intimacy continue despite all of those other books; 3) He has specifically focused on applying the gospel to marital intimacy; 4) The ministry he serves, Nourished in the Word Ministries, exists in part to strengthen marriages and families through biblical teaching and he has written with that kind of ministry in view.

March 18, 2010

Yesterday I received an email from a reader of this site and today I’d like to answer it (with the permission of the person who sent it). Here is what he wrote:

Thank you so much for your booklet, “Sexual Detox.” I have read it over and over, and am still very much challenged by it. I was recently married and was under the illusion that marriage would solve all of my lust problems… Even though I had been told numerous times that it would not. Now I feel that everything has come to head, I know what I must do, and I want so very badly to do it, but I feel that the devil knows this is THE deciding point in my life on this issue, and he is working hard against me. I feel more captivated and strangled by my sin than ever before, and I need you to pray for me. If you have any advice or encouragement to offer, please tell me.

Thanks for sending this note. It sounds to me like you are absolutely right when say that this is a deciding point in your life on the issue of lust and the acting out of that lust. Satan will be working hard against you and, in many ways, you will be working hard against yourself. You gave yourself over to your sin and no doubt you’ve become captivated by it. As sin always seeks to do, it has ensnared you. But take heart. There is hope.

To reiterate what I wrote in Sexual Detox, the fact that you feel sexual desire is a good and noble thing. God has given you that desire so you will pursue your bride. But, like all good gifts, the gift of sex is one that we are prone to pervert, turning it into a means of selfish self-fulfillment. God wants you to pursue your wife, to win her heart not just once but day-by-day; and he wants you to enjoy sex with her. But, of course, you have grown used to indulging the flesh, to giving it its desires, those desires that are perversions of the true gift. And sin rarely just goes away; it is usually a long and difficult process to put it to death.

March 15, 2010

We don’t fully understand the Lord’s Supper. Yes, there is a lot we do know and understand about it; we know that it is a means of grace by which we are drawn closer together as a body of believers and, more importantly, drawn closer to the Savior whose death is signified in it. We know that the breaking of bread symbolizes the breaking of Christ’s body and the pouring of the wine symbolizes his blood being poured out for us; we know that through the act Christ symbolizes his love for us and the blessings he pours out upon us. And we know that our partaking of the Lord’s Supper is a proclamation of our dependence upon Christ, admitting as we take and eat that we need his blood and righteousness. It is clearly far more than the sum of its parts.

And yet what we don’t understand so well is how Christ nourishes us through Lord’s Supper. When Christ instituted it he said,

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.

Christ says that just as eating ordinary food nourishes and strengthens our body, so feeding upon Christ, in a figurative sense, will feed our souls. In this act we both symbolize our dependence upon this food and we experience that nourishment. Though we do not quite know how this happens, we know that we receive spiritual strength through it. And certainly just about any Christian can testify to the joy and strength and spiritual refreshment he has received through the Lord’s Supper. We cannot quantify it and yet neither can we (or would we want to) deny it.

November 07, 2009

Last week’s series on Sexual Detox was quite an experience for me. I figured it would garner a little bit of interest simply because it dealt with an universal issue (sex) and because it included several important peripheral issues (pornography, addiction, and so on). But even then the response surprised me, both in terms of the number of visitors who showed up to read the articles and the outpouring of comments and emails in response to it. All of this showed me that I had tapped into an important issue.

October 31, 2009

Having wrapped up the Sexual Detox series, I thought it would be useful to provide a list of recommended resources for those who wish to do reading on a particular topic.

Pretty much every author who has written more than, say, ten books has written one on the Lord’s Prayer and one on either sex or marriage (or perhaps both). It seems to be some kind of rite of passage. I assume I’ll get a memo about it after I’ve written a few more books. So if you have a favorite author, you may want to check if he or she has written on the topic. Meanwhile, here are some other suggestions. I am relying mostly on books I have read, so the list is somewhat smaller than it would otherwise be.

September 06, 2009

I have unashamedly stolen this quote from my friend David. He shared it at his blog earlier this week and it struck me how so much of what we are sure we know about history is wrong. In fact, so much of what we know about life is wrong. We hear things and assume after a while that they are true but do not investigate for ourselves. Ask the average person what they know of Puritans, and what they know of the Puritans and sex, and I am quite convinced that they will tell you things that are just plain wrong. As this quote shows, the Puritans were hardly Puritanical when it came to their attitude toward sex.

Catholic doctrine had declared virginity superior to marriage; the Puritan reply was that marriage “is a state . . . Far more excellent than the condition of single life.” Many Catholic commentators claimed that sexual intercourse had been the resultof the Fall and did not occur in Paradise; the Puritan comeback was that marriage was ordained by God, “and that not in this sinful world, but in paradise, that most joyful garden of pleasure.”
   . . .
   Given the Catholic background against which they wrote and preached, the Puritans’ praise of marriage was at the same time an implicit endorsement of marital sex as good. They elaborated that point specifically and often. This becomes clearer once we are clued into the now-outdated terms by which they customarily referred to sexual intercourse: “matrimonial duty,” “cohabitation,” “act of matrimony,” and (especially) “due benevolence.”
   Everywhere we turn in Puritan writing on the subject we find sex affirmed as good in principle. [William] Gouge referred to physical union as “one of the most proper and essential acts of marriage.” It was Milton’s opinion that the text “they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24) was included in the Bible
to justify and make legitimate the rites of the marriage bed; which was not unneedful, if for all this warrant they were suspected of pollution by some sects of philosophy and religions of old, and latelier among the Papists.
William Ames listed as one of the duties of marriage “mutual communication of bodies.”
   So closely linked were the ideas of marriage and sex that the Puritans usually defined marriage partly in terms of sexual union. [William] Perkins defined marriage as “the lawful conjunction of the two married persons; that is, of one man and one woman into one flesh.” Another well-known definition was this: Marriage
is a coupling together of two persons into one flesh, according to the ordinance of God. . . . By yoking, joining, or coupling is meant, not only outward dwelling together of the married folks . . . but also an uniform agreement of mind and a common participation of body and goods.
   Married sex was not only legitimate in the Puritan view; it was meant to be exuberant. Gouge said that married couples should engage in sex “with good will and delight, willingly, readily, and cheerfully.” An anonymous Puritan claimed that when two are made one by marriage they
may joyfully give due benevolence one to the other; as two musical instruments rightly fitted do make a most pleasant and sweet harmony in a well tuned consort.
Alexander Niccholes theorized that in marriage “thou not only unitest unto thyself a friend and comfort for society, but also a companion for pleasure.”
   In this acceptance of physical sex, the Puritans once again rejected the asceticism and implicit dualism between sacred and secular that had governed Christian thinking for so long. In the Puritan view, God had given the physical world, including sex, for human welfare.
September 04, 2009

The summer is drawing to a close. Though I love summer and will be sad to see the days grow shorter and the skies grow colder, fall does bring with it some great benefits, not the least of which is a long list of new books. For that reason I anticipate squeezing in a few more book reviews than usual over the next few weeks. I hope you don’t mind!