Freedom Through The Gospel: A Review of “Closing The Window” by Tim Chester

Far too many Christians simply don’t believe the Gospel is practical. It’s something you believe once to become a Christian, but then you move on past it to get into some more practical lessons of the Christian life. It’s not entirely their fault. We have a church culture that stopped focusing on the gospel a long time ago. But Tim Chester still believes in the gospel for every day life. His book Closing the Window: Steps to Living Porn Free is a prime example of that belief. In the particulars, Chester believes it is the gospel which ultimately frees a man from the enslaving power of pornography.

I have addressed almost no subject, that I know of, more frequently in my pastoral counseling than the subject of pornography. I have read a wide-range of books on the subject. This year alone, owing to my year-long-study of sexual ethics, I have read ten books that addressed it in detail. Out of all the literature that I have read on the subject however, this one stands-out as the most practical. A lot of books on this subject, even some Christian, approach the subject from a purely sociological perspective. They simply state the facts, share the statistics, and call attention to the rapacious spread of porn. Most of the information in these books is interesting, but most of it is also familiar to us. We may not be able to give the exact numbers, but anyone even remotely aware won’t be shocked that 90% of men 18-40 view porn on a weekly basis. Other volumes lament the existence of porn and its insidious nature. These volumes, especially Christian ones, develop a comprehensive theology against pornography. They address the issues of sexual immorality and then state plainly and matter-of-factly that Christians must “stop”. They are right, of course, but they aren’t exactly helpful in giving men and women a strategy for fighting this enslaving sin. Chester’s book, however, is highly practical.

Chester writes as one who has had years of experience counseling young men on this subject, and that is largely who he targets in this book. He recognizes that women have this problem too and he speaks to them on occasion, but by in large he writes as a man to other men. The book is designed, from the outset, to be immediately practical for anyone, anywhere. Along the way he gives us a clear theological foundation for fighting against porn, but he never loses sight of the practical dimension. After all the subtitle says this is a book about Steps to living porn free. But for this author freedom comes through the gospel.

Chester’s whole approach follows a Five-fold model. His steps are as follows: (1) Abhorrence of porn, (2) adoration of God, (3) assurance of grace, (4) avoidance of temptation, (5) accountability of others. The combination of these five steps is the distinguishing feature of Chester’s book. He recognizes the importance of this combination too for his readers. He states:

Parts 4 and 5 are where many people begin, but in fact they’re only reinforcements of parts 1 to 3. Yet if they’re not there, you’re unlikely to sustain change. In fact, it’s unlikely that you’re serious about stopping porn (part 1) if you’re not willing to put parts 4 and 5 in place. The chances are that no one of these parts will do the job on its own. But together they offer real hope for change.

Genuine change must include the all these pieces and they are all rooted in some way, shape, or form, in the gospel.

It begins with an abhorrence of your sin, but for Chester that means getting to the root of the sin problem. Porn is not ultimately about sex, he writes.

Porn is never simply a substitute for sex. Indeed, there’s a sense in which sex is the one thing porn doesn’t offer – not real sex. Your wife may not act like a porn star, but neither does the porn star – not in real life. Porn is not offering you a real experience of sex. It’s offering a fantasy substitute for power or success or worship or reward. The problem doesn’t lie with your wife, but in your heart.

Jesus said it is out of the heart that sexual immorality comes (Mark 7:21-23). To deal with the sin of viewing pornography a man must first examine what in his heart is driving him towards it. So Chester identifies six reasons that men pursue pornography: (1) respect; (2) relationship;(3) refuge; (4) reward; (5) revenge; (6) redemption. But the answer to all of them is faith in the gospel. In chapter 2 Chester writes a response to each of these false promises of porn, and shows how God is the actual answer to these heart desires. Ultimately he calls on men to fight fire with fire. Quoting John Piper, he writes:

The fire of lusts pleasures must be fought with the fire of God’s pleasures. If we try to fight the fire of lust with prohibitions and threats alone – even the terrible warnings of Jesus – we will fail. We must fight it with a massive promise of superior happiness. We must swallow up the little flicker of lust’s pleasure in the conflagration of holy satisfaction.

He points his readers to the grace of God repeatedly. Saying, “To win the battle against porn, you need to keep drawing near to God, and that movement starts with confidence in his gracious welcome.”

This theological focus does not, despite what some might think, make the book somehow less practical. Chester is constantly giving us specific advice on what to do. He challenges readers to think critically about porn. To “look beyond the frame” of your computer and understand that the people involved in the porn industry are miserable, drug comatosed, and suicidal. He gives the stats that many will want regarding number of suicides, and gives us the confessions from former porn stars who talk about their drug-induced states before a shoot. He calls us to consider the fantasy of photoshopped and edited pictures, and the reality that no one performs and looks like the industry wants viewers to think they do. He recommends a forty-day challenge of complete sexual abstinence to reorient your brain to the truth that you dont’ need sex to survive. And he gives real practical tips for accountability relationships.

But these steps only make sense in light of the foundational theological work that Chester lays at the outset, they are all connected to it. Accountability only works if we are pointing each other to the grace of God while we hold feet to the fire. Killing my sin only makes sense if I am clinging to the righteousness of Christ, otherwise my self-righteousness will feed my pride. And “Porn and pride go hand in hand.” The focus on the gospel is what makes this particular resource so useful.

Tim Chester still believes in the power of the gospel for the Christian life. It’s rare to find that these days. He doesn’t for a moment suggest that if you just “have faith” you can overcome sexual addictions. He understands the reality of what pornography does to the brain. But ultimately he believes Jesus is more powerful and through these five steps (which are more like guiding principles than a chronological approach to recovery) you can attain victory. He writes, “Your porn may be a big problem, but it’s not bigger than Jesus or the Spirit.” There is freedom through the gospel. Tim Chester knows that, and he challenges readers to believe it too.

Trackbacks

  1. […] I have used Mark Driscoll’s Porn Again Christian (which is too explicit), Tim Chester’s Closing the Window (which gave lots of information but less practical help than I had hoped), and Steve […]

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