Today, and tomorrow, it is a joy for me to interview my friend and fellow pastor and biblical counselor Dave Coats on the subject of personal purity. Day One Publications has just released Dave’s new book, Building a Pure Life, which is a unique resource in workbook format that will surely be a blessing to many Christians in their discipleship counseling ministries as well as personal study.
Paul: Tell me, Dave, what brought about the writing of this workbook.
Dave: I wrote this workbook out of my own personal journey to build a pure heart in the midst of the cesspool of this world. As I worked through the battle personally, I also found that there were many around me that needed help in this area. My observation was that the books available to me as a pastor, teacher, and counselor were good but lacked in some key areas. What I wanted to do was to provide a resource for the local church and its counselors. I also wanted something that would immediately be useful to those who direct folks to the Bible as their main anchor point and don’t simply address certain limited aspects of purity struggles. My goal was to have a study and a resource that walked people through the theology that would be foundational to biblical life change as applied to this area of purity.
Paul: Explain to me the reason that you went with the workbook format.
Dave: The workbook format is something that I use for a very simple reason: having worked with people in this area of spiritual struggle for the last 10 years, I have found they tend to look for shortcuts while lacking the personal discipline to get into the Word for themselves and to dig out transformational truths for themselves. As I have helped others counsel and disciple men and women in this arena of purity, I have also found that it is a challenge for a counselor to come up with the needed material weekly. So I have tried to meet the need for daily and weekly material in this workbook format that immediately and regularly moves their hearts from being controlled by the idolatry of sensual desires to the point where their hearts are satisfied in Christ.
Paul: Can you develop the last thought a bit more concerning the idolatry of the heart?
Dave: Let me briefly address the idea from one standpoint, and then maybe I can pick it up again later. I think most of us have read the quotation about our hearts being “idol factories” and have thought about how this heart idolatry applies to people we are counseling and discipling. In this area of heart purity, the idolatry often runs deep and is rooted in ways that people don’t even recognize until they yearn to see change really take place. I would even say that people who are desperate for God to change them will be discouraged by how they are dominated by this sin. If a struggling person also has a weakness in character or a weak understanding of real change, it is likely he/she will not do well in response to the counseling. We counselors can gauge people’s desire to change by how they handle the “homework” assignments. But with someone who is surrounded by sensuality in the work place and society, that person can be overwhelmed with the battle. Those struggling usually don’t have any idea of what a walk with God is like that is deeper than the tweets, texts, and social media updates they tend to live by.
Paul: Help me to understand how the purity workbook helps this “weak” believer that we have been talking about.
Dave: The person you desire to help needs specific direction in getting the glory of God into the heart. Let me explain that thought: as the workbook progresses, the material moves from seeing sin in all its wickedness to seeing God in all His glory. I want to help people immediately to start changing their view of God. Their present view of a small, tarnished, man-sized God will not do. How could that kind of God uproot a sensual altar of pleasure that has taken over the worship in the person’s heart? We can look at Isaiah’s experience in Isaiah 6 and sense what took place for him. He was radically affected by a renewed view of a holy and glorious King. But I think one of the challenges we face in giving assignments is to give appropriate material to help the person through the week to enhance and to grow in their view of their God. The purity workbook directs them to the scriptures that present a clear picture of what God is like; you as a counselor will provide this weak believer with ready-made, appropriate study material that reveals a glorious and majestic God for lifelong change.
Paul: I see that you have included “daily meditation themes” of scripture and music. What is the basic thought in using those themes?
Dave: These meditation themes focus on both the goodness and greatness of God. You could call it the spiritual antibiotic for the sensual infection that has reached into the soul. What this means is that sensuality by its nature attacks believers deeply, and they need to be rereading the material and meditating on these truths all through the day. The way that sensuality has dominated people’s minds needs to be much more than retrained or retreaded. The heart has to have a new love. And that love has to be God. I am so thankful that in biblical counseling we have moved away from a model of “put off and put on” to Paul’s full Ephesians 4 model of put off, renew the mind, and put on. In the center of that paradigm is the reality of the need for a heart that longs after God rather than longing after cheap, sensual pleasures. This process of a renewed heart is addressed both in the study material and in the daily meditation themes.
Let me also explain why I focused on the goodness and greatness of God. Sins of sensuality come from a heart that has accepted certain thoughts and desires as the norm. For example, the sensual heart thinks that it is not a big deal to go down the road of sensual pleasure once in a while. “Just don’t go too far or allow it to be too dominating,” is probably a common thought pattern. Before a person knows it, the heart is already dominated by the sensuality, leading to weeks of temptations, images, and immoral thoughts. What does the goodness of God do for me? Paul says that it leads me to repentance (Romans 2:1-4). Why? If I really meditate on the goodness of God in specific ways that the purity workbook outlines, then my heart, will be broken over my propensity to embrace these temptations and images and immoral desires. Paul says in Romans 2:1-4 that we take for granted our God. But then as I make it my daily pattern to meditate on the goodness of God in other specific ways, I am beginning to have a new heart that enjoys God’s goodness and rejoices in His kindness. Then when the temptations come, those images are disgusting to me in the light of God’s goodness.
– Be sure to tune in tomorrow, for the second part of this interview. Check out Building a Pure Life.