Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: Sex is Not the Problem (Lust Is)

"But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality..." Ephesians 5:3 (NIV)

Joshua Harris is lead pastor at Covenant Life Church, husband to Shannon and father to three kids, and the author of six books. One of his first books was Not Even a Hint published in 2003, then re-released in 2005 with an updated cover and title, Sex is Not the Problem (Lust Is): Sexual Purity in a Lust-Saturated World.

Sex is Not the Problem (Lust Is) is being highlighted here on The Relentless Fight because it's one of the highest quality books on sexual sin in two regards: It focuses on the gospel (not moralism) and heart change (not behaviorism).

Harris starts the book with a simple definition of lust, "craving sexually what God has forbidden" and challenges us to evaluate our lust in light of God's standard for holiness (not even a hint), God's source of power for change (the gospel), and God's motive for fighting our sin (superior joy in God). This stands in contrast to our typical man-centered approach; we define the standard as "a little better than everyone around us", the power for change is our own willpower and discipline, and the motive is twisted: pride, and self-righteousness fueled by guilt and shame.

Here's a few quick highlights from the book:
  • Sex vs. Lust: As the title suggest, Joshua Harris argues that sex is awesome since it was God's idea, and that's WHY lust is bad. Far too often our culture confuses the two, but we must always start a battle against lust with a rock-solid conviction from God's Word that sex is GOOD and brings Him glory when enjoyed within His boundaries. 
  • The Gospel: The book relentlessly focuses on the gospel, with the paradoxical message of the Cross: you can't save yourself, you need Jesus. So stop fighting, and start RESTING in His finished work. Only with the gospel at your core will you have the strength and reason to fight your forgiven sin. And when we fail, we need to keep coming back to the gospel, with a renewed awareness of our need. 
  • Focus on the Heart: Whereas some books on sexuality spend excessive time describing and delineating behaviors, this book goes deeper with the roots of the sin, focusing not on our behaviors but on our hearts. What are we believing? What other non-sexual sins are thriving that link in to our sexual sins? How are we feeding our lust? For instance, Harris writes, "Masturbation is built on a self-centered view of sex... When our lustful desires are given free rein, sex is pushed into a corner and made a completely self-centered, isolated experience that reinforces a self-centered view of life." (page 103)  Basically: Masturbation is a natural outflow of a selfish heart. It's a symptom of a deeper problem. 
  • Practical Fighting Strategies: This book is chock-full of practical strategies and tactics for fighting our sin. Harris emphasizes the need for accountability, fighting the lies of lust with the truths of Scripture, and gives questions to answer to create a custom-tailored plan for fighting lust. This plan identifies your lust triggers, the time you're tempted, and the common location. Arguing from Romans 13:14, Harris challenges us, "Don't pack a lunch for lust!" (page 65)

In summary, Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is) is a top-shelf resource for men and women struggling with temptation or addiction to sexual sin. Well-written, biblical, and Jesus-focused, it's highly recommended as a weapon in the fight. Consider getting it to read yourself at Amazon, or buy a few copies and go through it with some other friends from your church who are struggling in similar ways.

Fighting the real problem,
The Relentless Fight