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Zondervan (Soul Detox) and Thomas Nelson (Clean)

Weekend Reads: Clean living in this dirty-minded world

Books

Soul Detox: Clean Living in a Contaminated World (Zondervan, 2012) deftly challenges the American church’s saturation with things we think we can handle. Growing up in a home where both parents smoked, Craig Groeschel didn’t even notice the haze. Returning home after his first semester in a non-smoking dorm room, he was shocked by how gross his home was. Yet this is the plight of many Christians. We watch movies and tell jokes that ought to sicken us. We tolerate bitter hearts and materialistic pursuit of the almighty dollar. And all the time we believe our lives are clean. Groeschel speaks as one who knows; a lot of the book is a first-person narrative of how he came to realize his entertainment was poisonous and the habits of his heart were virtually pagan.

Douglas Weiss, a certified sex addiction therapist, gets even more specific than Groeschel in his Clean: A Proven Plan for Men Committed to Sexual Integrity (Thomas Nelson, 2013). Whenever he speaks at a conference, Weiss asks his audiences, “How many of you have smartphones?” When the hands go up, he asks whether that smartphone has filter software installed. If not—well, carrying a 24-7 porn store in your pocket isn’t smart. It’s downright dumb.

What both authors are getting at is the fact that if you’re alive today, then you are living in the middle of what is perhaps Satan’s most ferocious attack on the sexual front of his long war against God’s people. “Never before … has so much explicit material been available to so many people,” says Weiss. It’s time for the church to counterattack. Together, the two authors provide the truths that, if followed faithfully, will in fact produce clean living in this dirty-minded world.

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Two out of Weiss’s five steps are “pray.” The third is read the Bible. The last two leverage the power of the body of Christ: Meet with other people of the same sex to specifically discuss this problem, and make a daily phone call to your accountability partner to stay accountable before, not after, something goes wrong. In terms of this list, 60 percent of what’s necessary is growing one’s relationship with God, because it is only the power of the Spirit that can keep a man clean. But the other 40 percent involves relying on your human allies—fellow believers who will insist you cut off your access to sin (e.g., your internet connection) long enough to actually reconnect with God.

Despite his Ph.D., Weiss writes at a simple but powerful level. His most compelling point is, if a man makes a genuine commitment to anything—including staying clean—then he will attract the people and tools necessary to fulfill that commitment.

Groeschel is a bit more complicated, and more overtly theological. He deals with the mortification of all kinds of sin under the headings of toxic behaviors, toxic emotions, and toxic influences. A little bit of toxin can spoil the entire loaf—in other words, don’t think that a little sin will not infect your entire life. Nonetheless, the more deeply engrossed you are in your sin, the lower the chances you will recognize it. Groeschel presents prayer as the answer. Ask God. He will show you where you need to change. Keep asking Him, and He will give you the power to actually do it.

On this earth, we will be surrounded to some extent by the toxic haze. Willpower won’t fix us. But motivated by the “why power” of Christ’s perfect obedience in our place, we can get clean—and stay clean.

Caleb Nelson
Caleb Nelson

Caleb grew up on a ranch in northern Colorado and is currently pursuing ordination in the Presbyterian Church in America. He lives in Greenville, S.C.

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