The Place of Your Pleasure
About the Guest
Sex, like other pleasures, needs boundaries. Without them, sex can often replace Christ as the focus of our worship. Christian counselor Paul Tripp tells us how to view sex rightly and coaches parents on how to teach their children a proper view of biblical sexuality.
Paul Tripp Ministries and works to connect the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life. This vision has led Paul to write 17 books on Christian living, produce 14 teaching series and travel aroun...more
Christian counselor Paul Tripp tells us how to view sex rightly and coaches parents on how to teach their children a proper view of biblical sexuality.
The Place of Your Pleasure
Bob: We are tempted to misuse God’s good gifts of sex and money. Author, Paul David Tripp, says, “We are tempted because of the cultural messages around us, but we’re also tempted by our own flesh.”
Paul: I still have a susceptible heart. I would like to think I don’t, but I still do. God has really used that in my life. It’s been incredibly humbling to face. I still have materialistic temptation where I would spend money that I don’t need to spend on things I don’t actually need. Why would you ever do that?—because you tell yourself, “It’ll make you happy.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, June 26th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Money and sex are both good things. Greed and lust can destroy your life.
We’ll talk about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, I was chatting with our guest earlier. He said that he starting to be recognized in airports because of his appearance in The Art of Marriage®. Did you know that? [Laughter]
Dennis: Have you really?
Dennis: Like, in what way?
Paul: People just come up to me and say, “I saw you—Art of Marriage.” [Laughter]
Bob: And you said some guy just came up—what did he say?
Paul: He just said, “I’ve been looking at that mustache way too long,” and just walked away. [Laughter] He didn’t say, “Thank you. It was helpful.”
Dennis: There was no judgment of whether it was a statement of charity—
Bob: All about the mustache!
Paul: But he walked about ten feet to tell me that. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, the mustache belongs to Paul Tripp. He’s a pastor / a speaker—lives in Philly with his wife Luella and their four grown children.
He’s written a book called Sex and Money. There is something I want to get right after—at the start. You said in your book that, as you wrote it, it stripped your own heart raw of really your own idol worship and your own struggles with sex and money. Would you just comment on that?
Paul: Yes. I think one of the things that became real clear to me is, although I’m staying inside of the big sort of marriage faithfulness boundaries, I would allow myself to watch something on television that just is not healthy for me to watch. I would say, “Well, it’s got a great plot.” Or if I’m at a restaurant and the food isn’t made the way I want, I can feel myself getting riled up inside because something is in the way of my pleasure. I want to say to the waiter, “Come on!”—or I’ll see something that attracts my eyes—that I can’t afford, and it upsets me.
I think: “I don’t ask for much. I’ve been serving Jesus all these years.”
That’s all—that heart struggle. It’s: “How do I define life?” Do I define life by great meals, by the amount of money that I have in my wallet? I’m not free of that struggle, and I don’t actually think I’ll be free of it until I’m on the other side because the issue is—is it’s only ever the evil inside of me that hooks me to the evil outside of me. That’s the way it works.
I mean, we’re not medieval monastics. I mean, what was the theory of the monastery? “It’s an evil world out there. Build a big wall, and go inside. We’ll create a righteous culture.” Well, we know the monastery recreated every ill of the surrounding culture because the big mistake of monasteries was this—they let people in them. [Laughter] What do people bring? They brought the sinfulness of their hearts and recreated all those problems.
So, what was devastatingly humble to me is this: “I’m my greatest problem—it’s me. That’s where I have to start.” Yes, the culture is a mess; but “to the pure…”—can you finish it?—“all things are pure.”
Paul: And I’m still trappable because I’m not yet that pure man. That’s devastating to face.
Bob: I want to ask you about that because I’m imagining that most of our listeners would, at least, give intellectual assent to the biblical morality as it relates to sexuality. They would say: “Okay, it’s wrong to have sex outside of marriage. It’s wrong to look at pornography on the internet.” They could give you the list of rights and wrongs.
And most of them feel like, “As long as I’m staying away from those things”—a little like you just said—“As long as I’m staying away from those things, I’m living—maybe not a perfectly pure life—but certainly better than most of the people in the world today.”
What’s wrong with that way of thinking?
Paul: Let me give you an illustration on a different topic. If you are standing next to a man, who has got his fist clinched and he is saying to the person across from him, “If I weren’t a believer, I would deck you right now!” Is that a good thing? Sure, it’s a good thing. I’m glad he’s not hitting that person, but is that enough of a thing? It’s not for me. I want for that man to be in that situation and not experience that rage anymore. That’s what we’re talking about where we get after the cause of the struggle that we’re all having.
So, I would say to that person: “How much of your anger in the last two months had anything whatsoever to do with the Kingdom of God? How much of your disappointment had anything whatsoever to do with the Kingdom of God? How much of the wants that you have from other people had anything to do with the Kingdom of God?” You begin to ask those questions—it’s pretty humbling.
Bob: So, when a person is going: “Okay, but I’m resisting these things.
“I’m doing it because I do want to please the Lord,” is that the right approach they are taking, in terms of trying to guard their purity in the area of sexuality?
Paul: I absolutely think that you should take concrete steps to guard your purity; but remember what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “If a man looks at a woman to lust after her, he’s already”—what?
Bob: Committed adultery.
Paul: Yes, in his heart. So, what Jesus does is give the thoughts and motives of the heart the moral value of behavior. What Jesus is actually saying is “If you put the fences around that behavior, you’ll never win the battle.” The fences have to be at the heart. So, I have to ask the question: “What really rules my heart? What really makes me happy? What do I really want out of life?” The sort of spiritual way of saying it is “What throne do I worship at”—
Paul: —“everyday?” What is my functional God replacement?
There’s where you really begin to get at the issues. I think what this does is it drives you to the cross because you know that you need rescue. You need to be rescued. You need the powerful, transforming grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. You need something more than a set of rules. I’m all for setting those boundaries—
Paul: —but I think we have a generation of young people, who lived under the fear of those boundaries, who are walking away from Christian homes, fully insane.
Dennis: Now, when you say, “fully insane,” you are meaning they are acting out the lusts of their hearts?
Paul: Yes. That may be that I don’t dress to cover my body—I dress to show my body.
It may mean that I’m a freshman in high school or in college, as a young man. I’ve learned to see women as objects for my pleasure, and I treat them that way. It may mean that I’ve got grant money for college, and I burned through a bunch of it paying for my pleasures.
I’m already moving into that insanity. That insanity already has got me. I’m now out from under those protective rules, and the reason they’re not helping me is because there wasn’t heart change in the midst of that. The rules temporarily held me, and they were enforced. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s not enough of a thing.
Bob: You say in the book that you had an unbiblical view of your own sexuality for years. What’s the difference between how you used to think about your sexuality and how you think about it today?
Paul: Well, I think it’s exactly that. I thought, “If I stayed inside of”—
Bob: The boundaries.
Paul: —“x, y, and z, I was okay.”
Paul: And one of the things that just hit me, again, as I wrote this book, is: “I still have a susceptible heart.
“I would like to think I don’t, but I still do.” God has really used that in my life. It’s been incredibly humbling to face. I still have materialistic temptation where I would spend money that I don’t need to spend on things I don’t actually need. Why would you ever do that?—because you tell yourself, “It’ll make you happy.”
Dennis: You, of course, teach in your book that God made these pleasures for us to enjoy. I’ve got in my Bible a quote, “The human heart is an idol factory.” I’ve got it right above the Great Commandment—that we’re to love God with all of our hearts. It seems to me that life is one long process of tearing down the idols and trying to learn how and what it means to love God whole-heartedly.
When it comes to sex—when it comes to this delightful thing God made—you break it down and talk about a big picture of sex and a little picture of sex.
I think it’d be good if you explained that to our listeners because I think that kind of breaks it down, in a practical way, where they can begin to evaluate: “How am I handling this sacred area of marital love?”
Paul: What little-picture sex does—it puts me in the center of my sexual world. And with me in the center of my sexual world, it means it’s all about me and my pleasure—what I want, what I desire, what works for me, who it works with. It is sex shrunk to the size of my desire. What the Bible does is expands this area to a huge agenda that’s way, way bigger than me. I expand that in chapters in the book.
Here is the first one: “If sex is about worship, it can’t be just about me. If I’m created to worship God, then, sex is, by its very nature, an act of worship.” Think about this.
In any moment of sexual activity—I’m worshipping myself, I’m worshipping sex, I’m worshipping the body of the other person, or I’m worshipping God. So, immediately, it’s not just about me.
Second, if sex is about relationship, it’s not just about me. Sex is in the context of a God-ordained, long-term loving relationship. It’s meant to be in the context of that—where I care about the heart of the other person. I care about the identity of the person—what this means for them: “What will be the legacy of what I’ve done with that person to that person?” So, if it’s about relationship, it can’t be just about me. It’s bigger than that.
Then, if sex is about obedience, it can’t be just about me. Well, we know it’s about obedience because there are direct biblical commands of the Creator for how I’m to comport myself in sex.
Bob: You talk about somebody that you met with in counseling.
You said this husband was insistent that he and his wife have relations daily. Yet, you said their relationship was, essentially, isolation other than this daily sexual experience that they were having.
Paul: So, how horrible is this? This woman—that he is called by God to be willing to lay down his life for, that he should deeply, fully love, care about every emotion in her heart / every thought in her brain—has been reduced to an implement for his sexual pleasure.
Now, watch. If that’s all she’s been—if she’s just been a tool—how easy is it then to walk down the hallway and replace her with his computer?—because it’s never been about her anyway? No wonder so many men are so susceptible to that move because they’ve owned sex for them. It’s not been an act of relationship.
It’s been a violation of relationship. You talk to the women—they know it. No wonder they have trouble giving themselves. No wonder they don’t mind the infrequency because they feel demeaned and used.
The husband says to them: “Well, you’re my wife. This is what you’re supposed to do”; but there is something askew—that they know is wrong here—because his pleasure rules rather than the pleasure of God that says, “What should rule in that moment is a love relationship between the two of you.”
Dennis: And there is always a risk involved in the sexual dimension of a marriage relationship. It’s never A+B+C=D.
Paul: That’s right.
Dennis: It’s about two broken human beings who are attempting to love each other in their circumstances of life—which change as we have kids, as we empty the house out with kids, as we change physically and move into different seasons of our lives.
It’s anything but an equation.
Paul: That’s right. And I think that struggle together is just a beautiful thing—where you grow in knowledge and understanding of one another—in love for one another. You grow in patience for one another—you mature.
What’s an ugly thing is when: “I don’t care about your struggle in that moment, and I don’t actually care about you. I care about reaching sexual satisfaction. You’re the tool to do that for me right now.” That is incredibly demeaning—and we must say, “Rebellious to the plan of God,” because, again, what’s happened to sex is it’s shrunk down to the claustrophobic confines of the particular pleasure of one human being.
Bob: We’ve talked for years about the idea that sex is an area where men—it’s a bigger issue for guys than it is for women. Do you think that is true?
Paul: It depends on what you mean by a “bigger issue.”
Would I argue that there have been cultural periods where it seemed to be more of a struggle for men than for women? If that’s true, I think that’s rapidly changing.
My wife is in the art business. It is really shocking to us that some of the most pornographic art being produced today is being produced by female artists because that’s part of their view of “This is me being free.” That’s little-picture sex. So, being free is: “I have the right, even though I’m a woman, to paint the most graphic pictures of sexuality because that’s my right.”
And to the degree that women have been demeaned—because men have used them as just a tool for their pleasure—to that degree—women grow up as moms.
They just have all kinds of messed up stuff going on in their brain about sexuality that they pass down to their daughters—who make those daughters very vulnerable.
Bob: I’m just thinking that the mom, who might be listening, who is hearing us talk about the idol of sexuality, and how we can distort it, and how important it can become—and she’s thinking: “You know what? I think I could go months—maybe years—without really caring whether I had sex again or not. It’s just not anything that is on my list of things that I really look forward to. It’s way down the list.”
Paul: But that’s why you have to look at the heart because the gradations of this—the way this plays out—with me owning, “This as mine—not belonging to God,”—and they’re just endless.
Dennis: Let’s talk about that mom, who is listening to us right now. She’s thinking about, “One of the assignments my husband and I have is to really train our children up with a proper view of biblical sexuality.” Where would you encourage her to begin?
Obviously, it’s the heart. How would you equip her to give her sons / give her daughters, really, God’s view of sex—a healthy view of sex?
Paul: See, I think that you don’t start with sex. You start with identity: “Who am I?” And the two things I would immediately just camp on for my children is: “I’m a creature.” That’s means I’ll never be in the center of my world because God is in the center—that all of my life is vertical.
There is a second thing—on the horizontal level—is that means I’m always worshipping because I’ve been made to be a worshipper. So, I’m offering my heart to something. There are a lot of illustrations you can give like: “Susie, you know that when Sally is mean to you at school, it destroys your week. Could it be that Sally is too important to you—that you’re getting too much of your identity from Sally?”
So, you begin to help children to understand: “This is who I am. This is how I operate.” Then, you begin to talk about the specifics of sex—and how your identity, as a creature, is played out there—and how your identity, as a worshipper, is played out in sex.
Dennis: And so, in this day and age, where young people are being tempted—not only to question the illicit use of their sexuality and their identity—but they are tempted to switch identities—what would you say to the mom who is fearful about a son or a daughter who may be experimenting right now with same-sex attraction?
Paul: I would say a couple things—that there is no sin that your child will ever be exposed to or tempted to participate in that is outside of the powerful, forgiving, transforming grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Dennis: I agree.
Paul: We can’t value-rate sin.
And these are the sins for which Christ died. So, you need to have that kind of confidence. The Bible does offer truth that does actually set us free, empowered by the Spirit of God. Be a champion of truth. Truth is a powerful, powerful thing. So, be bold—be consistent.
The third thing I would say is confess your struggles to your kids. Stand with them and talk of the hope and help you find, as a broken person, in the presence and promises of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Dennis: Yes, and identify with them. Let them know, as you deal with your own selfishness and brokenness, that there is nothing they can do or nothing that they’ve done that is going to keep them from the love of God—if they know Christ as Savior and Lord—and He’s willing to accept them back. He’s willing to welcome them.
Paul: And I said to many young people that: “The most painful moment of Christ on the cross was not physical—it was relational.” It was that moment that the Father turns His back on the Son—and Jesus Christ: “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?—My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Jesus took every piece of your rejection.
So, no matter what—you will never again see the back of God’s head. I don’t have to live in shame. I don’t have to live in hiding. I don’t have to be afraid of being known because there is nothing that could ever be known about me that isn’t covered by the blood of Jesus.
Dennis: And that was the love that turned my life around in the 20th year of my young life—the love of God demonstrated in the book of Romans—where I began to realize that my back was turned to Him. His wasn’t turned toward me, and He was calling me back—wanting me to experience His grace, and forgiveness, and love, and fellowship with Him, and become the person He made me to be.
That decision of coming back was, I think, the most important decision of my life.
Bob: Well, it was a decision about where your worship was going to go. That’s essentially what we’ve been talking about—what you talk about in your book. These are worship choices that we make.
Dennis: And it’s not one and done.
Dennis: It’s not that I did that at 20, and “Well, that sealed it.” Now, 40 some—
Bob: It sealed some things.
Dennis: —40-some years later, it is still an issue.
Bob: You’re still in the battle. We’re all still in a battle because we still wrestle against—
Bob: —our own flesh and blood. And I think Paul’s book is a part of how we can wage war against the passions of our own heart—is by reminding ourselves of what God’s Word has to say about these issues—sex and money—and how we are to order these things in our lives and how we can benefit from these good gifts of God and not be ensnared by them.
We have copies of the book, Sex and Money, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go on our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to order your copy of the book.
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Now, tomorrow, Paul David Tripp is going to be back with us. We’re going to continue to talk about sex and money—talk a little bit more about money tomorrow since we focused on sex today. Hope you can tune in for tomorrow’s program.
I want to thank our engineer, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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