Review: “Sexual Detox” by Tim Challies

In light of the sobering statistics on pornography in America, Coram Deo pastor/elder Dusty White offers this review of Tim Challies’ book Sexual Detox (Cruciform Press, 2010).

Pornography dominates our culture. You no longer have to go looking for it, steal a magazine from a convenience store, or find a stash of it. Unless you’re divinely spared by grace, at some point in your life you’ve had an encounter with mediated sexuality. And once you find it – or it finds you – it haunts you. More of it leads to more despair and guilt. You want out, but sheer effort can’t seem to conquer anything.

If you’ve been saved and spared from the porn industry by the grace of God, then praise God, pass the remote, and keep your laptop closed. Regardless of your exposure, be assured that pornography’s influence is growing every day.

In his book Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys Who are Sick of Porn, author Tim Challies talks unashamedly about how sex is worshipped as god. He confronts this topic from experience as well as deliverance. He’s a married man with a realistic approach at conquering porn. He doesn’t offer steps or even accountability groups. He offers Christ and the Gospel, the Bible and its authority to bring renewal. He pleads with men to get serious about killing their sin.

Challies explains the title of his book this way: “[Detox is] a reset to normal, a return to health. It’s the reversal of a corrupting, polluting process. It gets you back to where you ought to be.”

He likens sexual addiction to drug addiction – something inside of you needs to get out of you. And there is a process for that. “If it stays or builds up, you will only get sicker. You might even die.” Challies knows firsthand that we need to go through detox – in the bedroom, from junk we’ve seen, from lies we’ve believed. But he warns that it isn’t an easy process.

Here’s a promise. You will never stop (looking at porn) until you begin to see the monstrous nature of the sin you are committing. You will never stop until the sin is more horrifying to you than the commission of the sin is enjoyable. You will need to hate that sin before you can find freedom from it. That means that you need more grace.

In my opinion, Challies is spot on. Often times men will sit on the couch in my office and feel guilty about their porn issues. They say they want help or accountability. But more than half the time these men don’t want freedom from sin; they want freedom from guilt. They don’t desire God more than their sin. According to Challies, these men won’t make it until they truly hate sin.

Sexual Detox dedicates an entire chapter to the theology of masturbation. I have a Bible degree and shelves full of thick theology books. But until reading this work, I’d never seen a “theology of masturbation.” Challies unashamedly addresses the guilt, shame, silence, and misconceptions behind masturbation. Masturbation pollutes our minds, fuels unrealistic fantasies, and in the end doesn’t deliver anything but more isolation. Isolation leads to more guilt and shame…and the cycle repeats itself in bondage.

Challies observes that if we get our theology of masturbation wrong, we get sex in general wrong. “Masturbation simply cannot fulfill God’s design for sexuality, and thus has no place in the life of one who calls himself a Christian… It is the face-to-face, body-to-body, soul-to-soul nature of sex that makes it so powerful and meaningful.” Anything else is a fraudulent, empty attempt at sex – and very selfish. Pornography can’t offer you anything except bondage, unrealistic expectations for the future, a warped mindset, and a guilty conscience before God and the woman you’re married to – or about to be married to.

Sexual Detox concludes with a challenge in simple language: “You need to stop looking at pornography. And you need to stop masturbating. Right now. As in, this instant. Not tomorrow. Today.” He acknowledges that detoxification is hard. You’re training your mind and your body to return back to where they ought to be. It takes time. It takes Scripture saturation. It takes wise counsel. It takes a taking off of the old, and a putting on of the new – a new identity. It takes discipline and grace.

Challies recommends fighting porn with Scripture, prayer, and wise counsel from pastors and trusted friends. For him, Genesis 26:8, 1 Peter 3:7, Proverbs 5, and 1 Timothy 5:1-2 were a few of the key Scriptures that detoxified his soul. Maybe these are the same for you? Either way, you’ll need the sword of the Spirit to slay the dragon of pornography.

At the end of every chapter, Sexual Detox offers a “think” section containing some powerful questions for a small band of men battling porn to think through together. Sections like this can be lame or good. This one is good – in fact, it’s worth the price of the book.

As a pastor, probably half of my counseling conversations involve porn issues. I’ve recently decided that I won’t stop praying weekly against this monster until I die or Jesus takes me home. I will also stand with men (and their spouses) with my Bible in hand. I will stare down this enemy in the power of the Gospel with them. I will pray with wives that weep over it. I will help husbands restore their leadership capacity in their marriages and their marriage beds. I will coach single men on how to memorize Scripture and keep fighting so that they will be confidently ready to marry the spouse that God has prepared in advance for them to cherish, lead, and serve…in bed.

I highly recommend Sexual Detox to any Christian man. If you’re a married man, I commission you to read Sexual Detox aloud with your wife in the room. If you’re a single dude, I commission you to saturate your mind with good Scripture until you fall asleep.

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