If you squirm a little inside when you read the title Pure Pleasure, youre in good company. As the subtitle of Gary Thomas accessible treaties on the biblical role of pleasure in a believers life suggests, many of us have - perhaps unknowingly - adopted an attitude of ascetic martyrdom that is never suggested or recommended in the word of God. However, if youre willing to put your discomfort and hesitations aside for a moment, Thomas is ready to redirect misguided pleasure avoiders into a balanced and godly understanding of the delights God has in store for us in this life and how they can draw our hearts closer to His.Pure Pleasure arrived in my life at a time when I had begun to question the lack of joy, the lack of laughter, the lack of, yes - pleasure - in the lives of many of my brothers and sisters (and myself in some areas.) Not only was there a desert, but there was actually fear surrounding the prospect of allowing delight into the Christian life. Where was the room for rejoicing? For the jubilant celebration that Jesus calls us to? Not only was I asking this question about others around me, but of myself as well.Im always naturally cautious when a book so vigorously defends a certain aspect of the Christian life, and not having read any of Thomas work in the past I wondered if perhaps his was a new form of Christian hedonism - Im so glad that its not. In fact, Pure Pleasure is hands-down the most balanced, biblical perspective on the proper role of delight that Ive ever encountered, whether by book, sermon, or informal times of fellowship.
So often, Christians fall into the trap of viewing the world as evil and to be avoided. Pure Pleasure, provides a biblical defense of embracing pleasure as a pathway to worship and intimacy with God. Mr. Thomas provides a basis for his defense this way:Heres where I think the church has gotten off track: We often fail to make the distinction that Paul makes when he wrote to Titus: To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted (1:15) In context, Paul is arguing against hyper-religionists trying to saddle Christians with arbitrary rules and prohibitions. (p. 22)This section reminds me of how Jesus railed against the Pharisees and Sadducees for following rules and regulations instead of showing and displaying love and compassion.I must admit that I've fallen into the trap of focusing on the sin and not the Savior and have missed so much in life that God would prefer that I would have enjoyed. I've attended some churches in which this mindset is perpetuated. The world is portrayed as an evil place which is to be avoided. This world view is very detrimental to the believer and to the watching world. Why would anyone want to follow Jesus if it turns them into a sour puss?! I am grateful to Mr. Thomas for writing this book, and potentially improving the lives and well-being of many people.I am sure it truly grieves the heart of God when He sees us miserable and obsessed with the idea of the stench of sin rather than focusing on His great love for us! I am glad that Mr. Thomas makes this point: I walk with God because He is the true Creator and rightful Lord. But I also walk with Christ because a life with Christ is a beautiful life, the most incredible journey you can imagine (p. 29).This book was provided to me by Zondervan.Reviewed by Andrea Schultz Ponderings by Andrea http://andrealschultz.blogspot.com
Gary Thomas has once again written a book I could agree with wholeheartedly! I love his words "Our play makes a statement to the world: indeed, it is an act of witness" in opposition to those who say that reading the Bible, praying and praising God verbally and denial are the only ways of giving God glory. I will be recommending this book both for those bound up, and those who want to be freed to sense God's smile because they live and love as God intended but don't know exactly how. But I'll also recommend it to those who want to smile and know they're living as God's children because they've already learned the secret of pure pleasure!
If you feel guilty about enjoying the blessings God has given you, doing something nice for yourself, or taking a day off when there's so much need out there, then this is the book for you. But it's also for those who realize they're being tempted by pleasures than are condemned in the Bible. It shows how appropriate pleasure done in the God-ordained context will actually help prevent a Christian from being tempted by inappropriate behavior.Chapter one gave the premise of the book. Chapters two through five explained exactly what he meant when he said Christians should enjoy themselves and why he thought God wanted us to enjoy life. Chapters six through fourteen dug deeper into how appropriate enjoyment of pleasure would play out in a Christian's life, and he included examples from his life.The book was Bible-based, and he quoted Scripture to support his main points. I agreed with the points he made. Some parts in the first few chapters were a bit repetitious, as if he wanted to make sure we got his point. However, overall, the book was excellent, easy to understand, and made good points. I'd recommend it to anyone who "feels bad about feeling good" or otherwise wonders if they really have a Biblical view of pleasure.I received this review copy from the publisher.
I have read several of Gary's books and was as delighted by this as the others. Like many of the others it causes you to re-think how you view God's intentions and purposes. As someone predisposed to feel false guilt it was refreshing to be reminded that while I can have practical compassion for others in need, God doesn't desire me to feel guilt or regret when He blesses me financially or just with a surprise. Good stewardship is Biblical and necessary and yet I can and should enjoy the blessings of God--just as I want my daughter to enjoy the gifts I give her. I nodded in agreement when Gary spoke about pleasure-giving preferences and how we can choose a variety of ways to spend our discretionary income. Many years ago this became apparent when I shrugged my shoulders at another couple's recreational choice and a different friend shrugged hers at ours-- expensive college football tickets!! God created us uniquely and has given us different interests to delight and challenge us!!In closing, I want to focus on a serious section of Gary's book. He is spot on when he encourages the reader to find a healthy and Godly outlet of pleasure. If you allow yourself to get tired, stressed or preoccupied by the duties in life without an outlet for the aforementioned pleasure you will begin the slow fade into the dangerous pleasures and the repercussions could permanently alter your life in ways you never imagined. I believe many people would benefit from reading this book--and I think it would make a great small group study!!