Book Review: “Closing the Window: Steps to Living Porn Free” by Tim Chester

Previously published in the 2016 Nov/Dec issue of the FCM Informer, this review has been adapted and expanded by the author for Radi-Call.

 

2017, if good for nothing else, began a sexual reckoning –  much needed and long overdue.  Certainly the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Co. must have been glad to see the year end.

But how many of us – safely away from the scandals – buried our own sexual slavery to pornography and lust a bit deeper?  Another Reckoning Day is coming, but many of us, if we’re honest, are stuck in slavery instead of living in the light.

For freedom seekers,  Closing the Window: Steps to Living Porn Free1 may make the difference.  In it, Tim Chester takes a straightforward look at the porn plague, but also offers hope that it need not be terminal.

 

About the Author

Tim Chester – pastor, Bible teacher, and speaker – hails from Boroughbridge, U.K.  He serves with several mission training and church planting organizations, including the Acts 29 Oak Hill Academy and a church planting network called the Crowded House.  

A prolific author, Chester has written over 40 books covering a wide spectrum, but with the common goal to connect “theology and practice.”2

 

Facing the Truth

While the legalities of what constitutes pornography and what doesn’t may be hard to define, Chester paints a much broader line.  He defines porn as “anything used for sexual titillation, gratification, or escape – whether it was intended for that purpose or not” (11).

The first step to freedom is to quit pretending that the lingerie advertisements we linger over or the fantasies we entertain are somehow excused on a technicality.  

Chester also warns readers about the potential for temptation in reading about sexual sin.  This book isn’t gratuitous, but it is frank.  He advises readers to guard their minds with prayer.

Porn is not a new problem, but, in our sexually permissive society with free porn waiting a click away, it is no longer just the world’s problem.  Chester references several surveys, formal and informal, showing that approximately 1 in 3 Christians is addicted to porn (9).  

Fully one-third – within the Church!  

Perhaps we think, as Anabaptists, that we are unaffected, but too many testimonies, mine included, declare otherwise.  For years I believed Satan’s lies that no one else ever sinned like I had and that the only reward for honest confession would be rejection.  

Yet what Chester continually drives at is that living in the light brings freedom.  And that starts with recognizing the problem honestly, not just as individuals, but as churches.

 

Fighting the Right Enemy

From the start, it’s apparent that Chester likes lists.  Of course, the main structure of the book centers around his five steps for defeating porn – abhorrence of porn, adoration of God, assurance of grace, avoidance of temptation, and accountability to others (17) – but several others are worth noting.  For those still glancing at pornography’s glossy exterior, his “12 Reasons to Give up Porn” expose the ugly wreckage it leaves behind.  

The second chapter is particularly helpful, as Chester unpacks porn’s false promises (respect, relationship, refuge, reward, revenge, and redemption) by showing that “under all the false promises of porn is the desire to be worshipped” (61).  

As part of the research for this book, Chester gathered responses from over 100 individuals on their struggle with pornography.  He quotes them liberally, and I found their honest introspection both helpful and convicting.

One list you won’t find in Chester’s book: 9 Tricks to Quit Using Porn.  That’s because “porn is a sin of the imagination” and white-knuckled effort won’t kill it.  Instead, “we need to counter it by enlarging our imaginations” (64).  

Does porn promise relationship?  Compare that with knowing the God of the universe.  Does porn promise sexual fulfilment?  It’s a poor substitute for sex as the good gift that God intended, Chester argues.  

Compared to the life that Christ offers, porn is just a shabby knock-off full of false hopes and empty pleasures.

In my own struggle for freedom, I have read a number of books on sexual purity, each of them varying in its helpfulness.  Some were worthlessly vague, others unnecessarily graphic.  However, what Chester hits – and many others miss – is the centrality of the gospel in the porn fight.  

Pornography is, at its essence, a heart problem.  And no amount of willpower or safeguards or self-esteem will deal with a heart issue.  Only Christ, only grace can change hearts.

 

Finding Freedom

This is the book I wish I had read five years ago when I didn’t know how to get free.  

To be clear, Chester hasn’t served up some magic pill of his own making.  Instead, he presents the Biblical diagnosis (porn is sin) and prescribes the only effective treatment – the gospel of Jesus Christ.   

For the church, Closing the Window serves as a wakeup call and a resource to face the porn plague.   For those who are struggling, this book will bare your heart and make you uncomfortable.  Sin is an ugly thing.  Yet you will find God’s grace sufficient at the end of yourself.

Bryce Bryce Wenger lives and works on a small farm near Dalton, Ohio. He has a love for music, literature, and learning. His free time is usually spent backpacking, canoeing, or otherwise enjoying nature. He is passionate about knowing God’s Word and living life to the fullest.

Sources Used

1. Chester, Tim. Closing the Window: Steps to Living Porn Free. IVP Books, 2010.
2. Chester, Tim. “Books.” Tim Chester, 16 Dec. 2017, timchester.wordpress.com/store/.

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