Book review of Building a Pure Life by Dave Coats.

This book was forged in the battlefield of personal sanctification as Pastor and Biblical Counselor, Dave Coats, fought for purity in this muddy world. Also, having worked with people in this area of spiritual struggle for many years, he concluded that the best way to help people who already lacked personal discipline and self-control was to provide a workbook format that “forced” them to study the Word of God daily.

Over an eight week period of manageable daily lessons, Dave systematically dismantles the heart idols that surround the sins of impurity and gradually builds a new and powerful sense of the greatness and goodness of God. The mind is renewed by daily readings, songs, meditations, and questions, hopefully renewing the heart in the process.

Structured Approach
If someone was incredibly self-motivated and determined to break with their sensual sins, then they would find this a good structured resource to work through on their own. However, most people who are losing the battle with lust will likely need someone in their lives – a biblical counselor, pastor, or friend – to help push them through the workbook. If you are losing more than winning, and you really want to win, take this book to someone you can trust and ask them to keep you accountable with the daily readings and exercises.

Pre-emptive strike
This would also be a good workbook for “prevention,” a sort of pre-emptive strike, especially for teenagers. Maybe parents could ask their teenage children to work through it to weaken sin before it gets its roots in too deep, and also to build up defensive walls through raising the twin bulwarks of the goodness and greatness of God.

Four Features
I especially appreciated four features in the book. First, the God-centered focus. There’s no question that delighting in God is the most powerful enemy of sin. Dave’s relentless focus on the greatness and goodness of God will produce deep humilty before God and profound love for God.

Second, throughout and especially in the appendix, it deals honestly, bravely, and plainly with masturbation. No punches pulled. Straight between the eyes. Repent of this sin.

Third, it did what very few other books on this subject do. It called into serious question the reality of conversion if people keep falling into this sin. Through personal testimonies, Dave shows that one of the greatest ways we can love people is not to say, “Oh, well, God forgives, it’s tough, no one’s perfect, etc.” Rather it’s to say, “How can you do this and say you know and love God?” If in the past the church has been too unforgiving of those who fell into sexual sin, we are certainly at risk today of “over-forgiving” in the sense that we rarely question the compatability of repeated offending with real conversion.

Fourth, the weekly focus on the cross, keeps hope alive and points all sinners and saints to the only source of purity for the head, the heart, and the hand.

Building a Pure Life by Dave Coats (262 pp). Available from Amazon.

  • Brandon

    Dr. Murray,

    Sounds like a good book for the most part. Your third point (are they truly converted?) sort of makes me a little uneasy. Though I totally understand that some professing Christians are not truly regenerated but this point seems like it has the potential to crush those that are. Could this not lead a person to further pursue self-gratification because it brings about more guilt and despair? I have not read the book so I have no idea about the context nor the aithoe’s tone, so I can’t really say too much. Just something that seems like it has the potential for danger for a true, struggling believer.

    • David Murray

      Brandon, I take your point and understand your concern. I believe that there’s plenty Gospel in the book to give hope both to the backslider and to the professing Christian who has never actually been converted.

  • mark

    I am always looking for good biblical counseling materials, and I appreciate, and value, your opinion. I am going to investigate this resource further to see how it would fit into a structured counseling setting – much as you’ve described above.
    Thanks for bringing this book to our attention!

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