Published by Crossway Books on July 6, 2021
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life
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Experience Freedom from Sexual Sin through the Power of the Savior
Many women and men trapped in sexual sin believe willpower is the key to overcoming temptation, but your shaky self-discipline doesn't have to be the source of your strength. Sharing from his personal struggles, J. Garrett Kell explains that life-long transformation rests in the supernatural power of the Savior and the support of a local church. He offers profound insights into Jesus's teachings on purity and provides you with long-term strategies for your own pathway to freedom.
Written for both men and women struggling with temptation, this book is a vital resource for the church, encouraging a healthy, empathetic community to help brothers and sisters in Christ resist sin. The goal isn't purity for purity's sake, but delighting in God and trusting him for ultimate victory.
In this book, J. Garrett Kell writes that even though most Christians trapped in sexual sin believe that they need greater willpower to overcome their problems, lasting change occurs in relationship to Christ and through spiritual power, not through surface-level behavior modification. Throughout Pure in Heart: Sexual Sin and the Promises of God, he presents a biblical theology of sexuality and insight into how Christian men and women can behold the glory of Christ, receive forgiveness from God, engage in honest confession and repentance in the local church, and continue to battle their temptations.
For a Broad Audience
Even though there are lots of other books that address Christian responses to sexual temptation, this book is particularly unique and helpful in its breadth of illustration and audience. Kell shares personal stories throughout the book related to dealing with his past pornography addiction, and he includes stories about both men and women struggling with a range of different issues. He also avoids common traps seen in other books about lust, such as the suggestion that a married person needs their spouse to behave differently or become more sexually available for them to be able to resolve their sin problem. Kell clearly exhorts men and women towards personal responsibility and spiritual health, and does not place unrealistic or unacceptable expectations on their support system.
Also, when Kell writes about the enemies that we must face while pursuing holiness, he is talking about the world and the devil, not your attractive coworker. Kell never sets up women or men as combatants or deliverers in another person’s struggle with sexual sin, and focuses on the heart-level battle that people need to fight. I have minor critiques of the way that Kell handled certain topics, but overall, this is a very helpful book, especially considering how many books about this issue become problematic through their attempts to provide practical suggestions instead of focusing on heart issues and the work towards spiritual transformation.
However, even though Kell wisely hews closely to Scripture instead of providing his own ideas for transformation, the book focuses too much on the spiritual elements of temptation at times, without also addressing the role of past trauma in driving sexual misbehavior. Kell briefly mentions the devastation of sexual abuse and encourages victims to pursue pastoral and/or professional help, but he does not address how different forms of trauma can influence dysfunctional behavior. If someone has already been trying to apply all of the spiritual beliefs and practices described in this book without seeing change, I would encourage them to read the Jay Stringer book Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing, which provides an in-depth perspective and research study on how trauma influences sexuality. Still, for many people, Pure in Heart can provide sufficient encouragement and perspective for pressing on and fighting for holiness.
I would recommend this book to both married and single Christians who are struggling with sexual temptation and sin, and to people who want to support them. Kell addresses both audiences throughout the book, and even though he is writing to adults, this book can also be appropriate for teenagers, since he focuses on general elements of sexual struggles without getting into graphic specifics. I wouldn’t give this book a total endorsement, due to its insufficient coverage of trauma and some other, more minor critiques, but this book can be very helpful and accessible to lots of different people. Because Kell focuses on spiritual elements of fighting sin instead of making presumptions about his readers’ personalities, families, backgrounds, and life situations, the book generalizes to anyone who wants to pursue sexual holiness, and it is full of grace and gospel encouragement for the road to healing.