Yesterday, I posted the first part of this interview with pastor, author, and counselor Dave Coats. Dave’s new book, Building a Pure Life, is a unique contribution to the biblical counseling resource arsenal.
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.
Paul: Why do you also focus on the help we obtain by the “greatness of God” meditations?
Dave: The goodness of God helps to create in me a thankful heart while the greatness of God helps to create in me a humble heart. The idolatrous heart is proud. We don’t necessarily see how much arrogance there is in our hearts toward God until we begin to consider who He is as YHWH (the self-existent One), so far above us in every way. Isaiah (55:6-9 ESV) reminds us of this when the prophet says, “His ways are not our ways . . . . As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways.” In the context, Isaiah is calling for those who sin against God to turn, to forsake, and to find the compassion and pardon of God. And the God who is compassionate is one who is so far above us that we cannot imagine the heights and depths of His being. How do I respond to that truth in my life? I hope my foolish heart is not hardened so that it goes its own way and moves me to seek more sensual pleasures in the place of this holy and majestic God. Living with an idolatrous heart is like walking into His courtroom or throne room and spitting in His face. But we don’t see how our accepting the sensual and immoral pleasures of this world as being so openly and arrogantly highhanded. We need to embrace the greatness of God so that we find ourselves on our face before the King of kings and LORD of lords.
Paul: Is an attitude of arrogance fairly common in the counseling situation?
Dave: I think this attitude is one of the most pervasive problems we face as biblical counselors. Like lives dominated by impurity, we counselors consistently struggle to get people to repent before God in other situations. I am in the process of meeting with a couple who struggle in their marriage. Their struggle is not pornography, but the sticking point is her attitude towards God. Regardless of what I have her read in the Bible and study through the week, she hangs onto her current situation and condition with epic self-centeredness even while admitting that she is defying God. So I gave her a couple weeks of these meditation themes to work through with God. I am praying that if she is truly a child of God that she will break down somewhere along the way in the presence of the greatness of God.
So what I am saying is that the humble heart is a place where a new desire will grow to please Him rather than self. And in the process of combining these two themes of the goodness and greatness of our God as a daily focus of my heart, I begin to truly enjoy knowing and worshiping God. That kind of heart is the place where the idolatry of sensuality will no longer find its former place. Am I saying that I can then move on and forget about this battle forever? No. But something wholly different now exists that is the preventative that I did not have before. I love God deeply. I worship Him. I will never again want to go back to that cesspool unless I stop allowing the goodness and greatness of God to overwhelm my soul and to penetrate the deepest parts of my being. God made me like Him for the purpose of enjoying Him deeply. He wants me to know Him and to love Him passionately. He is my God.
Paul: Can you close with an overview of any other significant topics you cover?
Dave: Sure. While I am tackling people’s needs for a great and good God whom they can love, I take them through a study of what that looks like. Any relationship that is deep is marked by four things that I explain in the workbook. I also clearly explain in the workbook the difference between memorizing boatloads of verses that you recited in kids’ club and actually allowing those truths to impact your soul deeply. You will have to get the book to see what the concepts look like. I also tackle the problem of masturbation. No approach to the idolatry of the heart in sensuality can ignore the struggle of masturbation. I end the workbook by giving folks some suggestions as to how they can continue to build their arsenal of “goodness and greatness” passages that will take them through life. I love coming across these as I read through the text of Scripture.
Thanks, Dave, for counseling us on this important issue of personal purity.