Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Gary Thomas's new book, Pure Pleasure: Why Do Christians Feel So Bad about Feeling Good?, (Zondervan, 2009).

Eating a big, rich chocolate brownie. Watching a classic movie or the latest football game. Taking a long afternoon nap. Traveling on an exotic trip. Relaxing with a hot oil massage. Hiking outside in the fresh air. Life offers a plethora of ways to experience pleasure. But how often do you actually do something just for pleasure? And when you do something that feels good, do you feel bad about it?

Too many Christians feel guilty about having a good time. The world's pleasures can pull them into sin and distract them from important work, they worry. But God himself created everything that brings people pleasure - and He intended his creations to be enjoyed. 

You honor God by accepting the good gifts that he offers and using them well. Your pleasure can bring pleasure to God. Here's how you can overcome guilt and enjoy pleasure in your life regularly:

Check the level of joy in your life

How much joy do you typically experience? Does your faith give you joy, or has your faith become mostly about obligation, duty, and responsibility? Recognize that, if your joy level is low, you become especially vulnerable to temptation. Sin tempts you more when you're feeling deprived then it does when you're satisfied. When you deny yourself appropriate pleasures, you'll be likely to fall into illicit pleasures.

Ask the Holy Spirit to renew your mind

When God gives you his perspective on the pleasures he has created, you can think properly about them and discover how to use them in the ways He intends. The same pleasure that may draw an unbeliever farther away from God may draw a Christian closer to God. While enjoying fine art could lead someone else into pornography, for instance, it could lead you to more fully appreciate how God designed nature. What makes the key difference is how you're approaching a particular pleasure. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you use each good gift according to God's design for it.

Thank God for your blessings

Express your gratitude to God regularly for the things that bring you pleasure. As you enjoy those things, let them become instruments of praise to God for how generously he has blessed you.

Look for what pleasures reveal to you about the One who made them

Pleasures aren't just ends in themselves. They can satisfy you temporarily, but they don't have the power to fulfill you in any lasting and truly significant ways. However, pleasures can reveal something good about God to you, which can draw you closer to him when you enjoy them. For example, if you enjoy eating fruit, you can marvel at God's creativity when you taste the many different varieties of fruit He has created. Let pleasures lead you closer to the God who made them. Let them become instruments of worship in your life.

Fully engage with life's pleasures without falling captive to them

Pray for the courage you need to embrace life's pleasures fully, and for the self-control you need to enjoy them in moderation. Aim to partake of life's pleasures freely, but without falling into the excess that can enslave you. Remember that, just as it's unhealthy to enjoy something excessively, it's also unhealthy to completely prohibit something that God gave you to enjoy.

Find healthy alternatives to illicit pleasures

Remember that you're especially vulnerable to the temptation to use pleasures in sinful ways when you've deprived yourself of healthy pleasures. Ask yourself these questions to gauge the danger in your life: "Am I consistently tired?", "Do I feel really lonely?", and "Am I living, worshipping, and ministering out of a sense of joy and delight in the Lord, or do I feel driven by frustration, duty, and obligation?".