Prompted by the latest health update from Paul David Tripp (officially diagnosed with stage 3 kidney disease), I recently returned to my shelf of books he has written to discover I have read all of his books (see a full list of his titles). Paul has been a source of great blessing in my life over the years, and I know I speak for many when I pray for him to be given many more years of life and fruitful labor.
I have read every book by Paul David Tripp because (1) I’m a Christian in need of wisdom, and because (2) I’m a writer in need of superior examples. All of his books deliver on these fronts. But as I mulled over that shelf of books, I think my favorite of all is Sex and Money: Pleasures That Leave You Empty and Grace That Satisfies (Crossway; 2013).
In every book Tripp understands how sin and temptation work in the human heart because he knows his Bible well. And he understands the expulsive power of a new affection is needed to drive out old, fallen desires. But it’s in Sex and Money, and perhaps because of the dominance of these allurements in our culture, that his counter-cultural courage, his prophetic voice, and pastoral skill are on full display.
A lot more to say about the book, but here I only want to point out that Tripp also prioritizes the imperative to run away from temptation. Some of life’s most important decisions are not complex. Yes, there are layers of affections to address and complex motives to uncover sometimes, but in the moment of temptation (especially sexual temptation) we must be willing to simply run.
Tripp makes the point in Sex and Money when addressing the simple command of Paul to “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18).
If you are going to live in the sexual domain of your life in the way that God has called you to live in the middle of this world that has gone sexually insane, you are going to have to be willing to do a whole lot of running.
You have to be willing to run from thoughts that work to paint as beautiful what God has forbidden.
You are going to have to run from desires that at times seem too powerful to resist.
You are going to have to run from the seductive whisper of the enemy who will lure you with lies.
You are going to have to run from situations and locations that play to your weaknesses.
You are going to have to run from pride that tells you that you are stronger than you really are.
You are going to have to run from selfishness that would allow you to use others for your own pleasure.
You are going to have to run from things you would love to participate in but expose you to things you cannot handle.
You are simply going to have to run from anything, anywhere, and from any person that is immoral in the eyes of your Savior. You have to be willing to run.
Paul is not calling us to medieval monasticism. We know that the greatest sexual danger to each of us exists inside of us, not outside of us. We know that running won’t make us morally pure. But running acknowledges the presence and power of the sin that still lives inside us and how it makes us susceptible to temptation and sadly able to see as beautiful and beneficial what God calls ugly and dangerous. As you work to separate yourself from what God names as immoral, you cry out to God to do what you cannot do, that is, to deliver you from you. God calls you to do what he has empowered you by grace to do, as he does for you what you cannot do for yourself. How amazing his grace is! (95–96)