In his book Pure Pleasure: Why Do Christians Feel So Bad about Feeling Good? Gary Thomas looks at how taking enjoyment and pleasure in legitimate, God-given ways keeps you from being tempted toward destructive attempts to fill that need.
“We can build lives of true, lasting pleasure and so fortify ourselves against evil because evil has lost much of its allure – or we can try, with an iron will, to scare ourselves away from evil while still, deep in our hearts, truly longing for it.”
I think this is a good way of thinking about pleasure and sin. It makes the emphasis on filling needs with positive things rather than on just avoiding bad things. Thomas also illustrates that principle when he talks about how this view changes the way he raises his children:
“I want my children to fill their lives with good things, which in turn will help them to disdain the bad. I want to capture their hearts with vivid pictures of purity and spiritual triumph instead of trying to scare them away from soul-destroying habits.”
Thomas exposes a lot of the “respectable sins” Christians turn to for an outlet while they are busy avoiding more visible sins (like gluttony, or making an idol out of frugality at the expense of your family), making the point again that if we accept pleasure and good things from God without guilt, we can avoid overdoing and overindulging in all of its forms. He isn’t sanctimonious about pointing these tendencies out, but it might be convicting if you’re used to a subculture that encourages respectable sinning as long as you aren’t doing “major sins.”
I think this book is helpful, and would be especially so if you come from a really legalistic background.
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