Interview with

Founder & Teacher,

Audio Transcript

The battle against lust. That’s the topic this week — and the topic of many weeks before, and one of the most dominant themes in the history of our podcast, as you can see in the APJ book. There’s a time to defeat lust at the root, with the cross. That’s the theme that we’re going to pick up next time. But first, there’s a time to confront patterns of lust in others. That’s today, in this heartbreaking email from a surprised wife.

“Hello, Pastor John. My husband and I are both believers, married for decades, with a great marriage and solid relationship. Or so I thought. He never gave me any reason for doubt. He’s an elder in our local church. We’ve raised four children together, all happily married and serving the Lord in different capacities. But I recently discovered on his phone that he reads erotica — fictional stories filled with explicit sexual content. It’s not visual images or videos, not porn in the traditional sense, but lurid descriptions in written prose. It was very disturbing to me. He’s a well-respected businessman of integrity, so discovering this dark secret is disturbing and discouraging. How sinful is this genre? Should I confront him with it? I love him dearly, and he has been a very dedicated and loving husband, and I don’t want to jeopardize my relationship with him.”

It is seriously sinful, and you should definitely confront your husband with this. If he thinks it is insignificant and does not compromise his role as a church leader, then you should encourage him to share this with his fellow leaders, elders, and show them what he’s reading and confirm that they approve. I don’t doubt that this is a disqualifying sinful pattern. He needs to forsake this and seek forgiveness and purity of heart.

Now, I think maybe the most helpful thing I could do is to assist you in your difficult confrontation of your husband. So, what I want to do is give you — and anybody else who wants to listen in — ten questions that he should ask himself and that you can print out. (I don’t even know, Tony, whether all the people who listen to APJ realize that you have these transcribed, and then, when we post them on Desiring God, people can not only listen, but they can print them out. I’m drawing attention to that here because I think what might be helpful for this woman to do is to go to DG and print out these ten questions.)

“The heart is the primary seat of holiness, and the ear is as good a pathway of corruption as is the eye.”

And maybe you should go over them with your husband. I don’t think you should be at all ashamed that you sought out counsel about how to deal with this issue. You didn’t betray any confidences. Nobody knows but you and he what you’re dealing with. Nor do I think you should be ashamed of getting help in formulating these questions (namely, help from me). That’s what we do; that’s what we are in the ministry for. All of us are doing things to help each other. So, here are my ten questions that I think he should ask.

I would just say to all of our listeners, ask yourself these questions with regard to what you’re watching on TV, what you’re watching on videos, what you’re listening to, what kind of audiobooks you’re listening to, podcasts you’re listening to. These are really, really helpful questions for me, and I hope they will be for others.

Ten Searching Questions

Question 1: In this erotic reading, are you seeking and setting your mind on the things that are above, where Christ is?

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:1–2)

Question 2: In this erotic reading, are you setting your mind on things of the flesh or of the Spirit?

Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:5–6)

Question 3: In this erotic reading, are you thinking about what is honorable and pure and lovely and commendable?

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

Question 4: In this erotic reading, are you cultivating a heart that can see God?

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

Are you helping that along?

Question 5: In this erotic reading, are you mistakenly assuming that the worst temptations come through the eye, not the ear?

But the temptation that ruined the whole world in Genesis 3 came through the ear, from Satan’s voice. And so did the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. The heart is the primary seat of holiness, and the ear is as good a pathway of corruption as is the eye.

Question 6: In this erotic reading, would you mind if your fellow elders or church leaders knew what you were reading, or are you content to be a hypocrite?

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:27–28)

Question 7: In this erotic reading, do you pray with David for a pure heart?

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)

Are you praying that as you go there?

Question 8: In this erotic reading, are you setting up a base of operations for the flesh?

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision [literally, make no base of operations] for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:14)

Question 9: Is this erotic reading a sign of failing faith?

[The Holy Spirit] made no distinction between us [Jews] and [those Gentiles], having cleansed their hearts by faith. (Acts 15:9)

That’s what faith does: it purifies, it cleanses the heart. If this isn’t happening, faith is in a perilous condition.

Question 10: In this erotic reading, can Christ read it with you, or are you pushing him away and saying, in effect, that this lust is more desirable than fellowship with Christ?

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:9)

The Christian life is fellowship — sweet, close communion with Christ. Is that fellowship sustained through your erotic reading? Is he welcome to read along, or are you pushing him away?

Courageous Confrontation

Now, my counsel is that you — I’m speaking to the wife now — pray earnestly for the courage to confront your husband and that you pray for the preparation of his heart to receive your words.

I might just add that I don’t believe this humble, prayerful confrontation needs to be a contradiction of this wife’s heart of submission to her husband. Submission has never meant the endorsement of or the participation in a husband’s sin. In fact, the willingness to take the risk and point her husband to the Lord can be a beautiful act of submissive self-sacrifice in the service of her husband’s holiness. That’s what we’re going to pray for.