Facing Temptation Head On
About the Guest
Only Jesus can change a heart. Heath Lambert, a biblical counselor, and businessman Jim Vander Spek join forces to talk about overcoming lust. Having dealt with lust themselves, Heath and Jim tell how they found freedom from this particular sin. Both encourage men to heed the scriptures and make no provision for the flesh, turning to Jesus for help, and fleeing when temptation comes their way.
Heath Lambert and Jim Vander Spek join forces to talk about overcoming lust. Having dealt with lust themselves, Heath and Jim tell how they found freedom from this particular sin.
Bob: In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus equated looking on a woman with lust to committing adultery. Is it really that big of a deal? Heath Lambert says it is.
Heath: When you sin, sexually—when you look at pornography—that is a sin against your wife. You took vows to God and to your wife that you would have that kind of relationship with her alone. So, when you bring other women into the marriage bed—even if they are just on a screen—you’ve sinned against your wife. You need to ask her forgiveness.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, July 11th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. The battle for sexual purity really is a battle. How do we fight it? Heath Lambert and Jim Vander Spek are going to tell us today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
You got the same letter that I got copied on from a woman who wrote to us and said: “How does a wife deal with her husband’s pornography addiction as they are working on trying to heal the marriage? Can their relationship be restored?”
She went on to describe her relationship with her husband, which, as she described it—it’s a healthy relationship. They are active in their local church. She said he’s a deacon. They’re life group leaders. They go to a solid church; but she said: “He would not consider an accountability partner,” and “He does not see this as a problem.” It’s killing her.
Dennis: Yes. What I know our female listeners understand is a big problem for men—and a growing one for women. It’s the subject of lust and pornography. We’ve got a couple of authors here who join us on FamilyLife Today—Jim Vander Spek and
Dr. Heath Lambert. Heath, Jim, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Jim: Thank you. It’s good to be here.
Heath: It’s good to be back.
Dennis: Jim is a CPA in Southern California.
He and his wife Marsha have two children and six grandchildren. He has written a book called Overcoming Lust. Dr. Heath Lambert is a professor at The Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He has written a number of books, including Finally Free.
You say in your book that there are eight, really, principles for overcoming lust and addictions to pornography—and it’s all built on a foundation. Unpack that foundation for us.
Bob: Yes. This is helpful because the guys I talked to—most of them think, “If I’ll get an accountability partner—that will be the fix for me.” Then, they come back to me six months later and say, “Yes, it’s—that wasn’t the magic pill.” It takes more than just having some kind of accountability; doesn’t it?
Heath: That’s right. We’re for accountability. We are for all the strategies. The book mentions several strategies as you are talking about here, but all of those strategies have to grow out of a foundation. They grow out of rich soil.
The soil is the gospel of grace. We are not, as Christians, behaviorists. We’re not, as people, machines. We don’t work by just changing behavior: “Stop doing this. Start doing that.”
The Bible teaches that we have a heart that is actively choosing, and desiring, and wanting things. To change, at that deep level of the heart, it takes the gospel of God’s grace. It takes a Savior, whose name is Jesus—who comes and He lives a perfect life to earn our obedience. And He dies on the cross to pay for sin. And He raises from the grave to demonstrate His powerful victory over those dark forces. It takes Jesus Christ to change who we are at a level of depth.
So, we need grace if we’re going to be different. The foundation of grace that I talk about in the book is forgiving grace—where men and women, who struggle with pornography or any other sin—can go to the Lord and ask the Lord for forgiveness.
Having confessed their sin, and believing that because of whom Jesus is and what He has done, they will be forgiven. Then, transforming grace—where God does more in our salvation than just forgiving us for all the junk that we’ve done. God actually gives us His power to be like His very own Son, Jesus Christ.
We lay hold of God’s transforming grace by believing it. We lay hold of his forgiving grace by believing it. The more we believe who Jesus is and what He has done, the more we will be changing and more closely conformed into the image of Christ.
Bob: Okay; but you know that a guy hears you say that—and he says: “I pray. I try to have faith. I wake up and go: ‘Okay, I believe. I believe,’ and that night I stumble.”
Heath: That’s exactly right. That’s the problem. There are a couple of different problems with resources that are out there about pornography. One of them is they are behavioristic:
“Have accountability groups, confess the sin to somebody that knows something about it or that can help you.” That’s good, but it’s not good enough on its own.
The problem you are talking about is the problem of where we say: “Hey, you need grace. You need grace to be different. You need Jesus.” That is just pious religious talk—
Heath: —if we don’t show how the gospel of grace translates into strategies. What I’m trying to do in my book is show how the gospel of grace translates into actual, practical categories of change.
Bob: So, a guy who is facing temptation in the moment, how does he practically appropriate grace in that moment?
Dennis: Well, let me read a verse here. Maybe this will kind of guide our conversation as you answer that question, Heath. In Romans, Chapter 13, at the end of the chapter, he starts talking about laying aside the deeds of darkness and not getting involved in sexual immorality. And the last verse—he says in verse 14—
—“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires.”
Now, take Bob’s question—how does the guy, who is struggling with this, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh”?
Heath: I don’t even reference Romans 13:14 in the book, but I think that the book is an exposition of Romans 13:14. I think there are a couple of things you need to do. First of all, in the moment—the way you lay hold of grace in the moment—the way you put on Jesus is to talk to Him—like talk to Jesus. I mean, so many guys—they get on this hamster wheel of “I’m a jerk,” and “I have to do this,”—“Oh, now, that I’ve done it. Now, everybody is going to think I’m a pervert,” and “I’m going to lose my job. My wife’s going to leave. My kids are going to think I’m dirty,” and all these kinds of things. That is self-talk.
What we need is God-talk. We need to stretch those thoughts out to the Lord and turn them into a prayer.
The Lord will help you, right now. You don’t need to wait until 30 minutes after you’ve sinned to ask for the Lord’s help. The Lord is a present help in time of trouble. He will help you right now. So, put on the Lord Jesus right now and start talking to Him. You will find that you cannot talk to Jesus and look at pornography at the same time. It’s impossible. So, if you are beseeching the Lord and asking Him for help, He will help you. You’ll have to quit asking for help in order to go look at porn.
As true as that is, the best way, in the moment, to get help is to not wait until the moment to get help. Making no provision for the flesh is a biblical invitation—I mean, think about all the stuff that is in that verse. It’s an invitation for me to consider all of the ways and all of the areas where I struggle with lust and with pornography and all of the things I need to do to cut off those sources of sin.
But, just as Jim has spoken about, as you cut off those avenues for indulging in pornography, you’ve still made provision for the flesh if you haven’t uprooted it at the level of cherishing lust in your heart. When—guys will come to me; and they’ll say, “How do I keep from looking at porn when my finger’s dancing on the mouse, and I’m looking at the screen, and I’m thinking about not doing it?” I’m saying, “Well, there are a lot of things we need to say about that, but one of the things you are going to have to do is start fighting before your finger is dancing over the mouse.”
There are a million things that have gone wrong in your heart—a trillion things that have gone wrong with your walk with Jesus by the time you are looking at that computer. We’ve got to uproot lust. We’ve got to uproot all of these avenues that we have to get at it. That entails a fight that is happening before the moment.
Dennis: Let’s go to those principles in your book that help you “make no provision for the flesh.” You talk about a godly sorrow about pornography.
Heath: That’s right. I’m asking and urging for men to pursue brokenness over this sin—not be neutral about / not just say, “Well, it’s bad,” in some sort of disconnected sense—but be truly broken and to be broken in the right way.
The Bible is very practical. The Apostle Paul talks about two kinds of sorrow. There is worldly sorrow and godly sorrow. Worldly sorrow kills you. Godly sorrow brings you life and repentance. The difference is, essentially—he spells out several different categories that I line out in the book—but he says that worldly sorrow is essentially: “I’m sorry over the consequences. I got caught. Now, my wife thinks I’m a freak. She might leave. My church thinks I’m gross, and I regret that I got caught.”
And the Bible says that that kind of worldly sorrow kills you because the logic of the regret is the same logic that led to the commission of the sin in the first place: “I look at porn because I want what I want. Now, I’m sad because you took away what I want.” But it’s still about me.
The eye of the tornado in worldly sorrow is the same as the sin that led to it: “I want what I want.”
Godly sorrow is broken, from the bottom of your heart, that God was offended. So, I’m asking men—I’m pleading with men—“When you are crying /when you are broken in the aftermath of the discovery of a sin, don’t think that you’re good.” You might have the kind of sorrow that will kill you.
Bob: Jim, I’m curious because, as Heath talks about this sorrow that is a repentant kind of sorrow—is that what you ultimately came to that was a part of the turning point in your life, as you wrestled with your lust?
Jim: When I had lust burning inside of me, sorrow didn’t really make a dent in it. It was not powerful enough. If we believe that we can stop ourselves when we are in front of that computer screen or in front of that TV—if we really think we can get self-control, at that point, we’re fooling ourselves.
We can only stop if we root out lust from our lives. This is an achievable goal. This is something that every Christian in this day and age has to achieve. It is a changed society. It is no longer a society where we can protect ourselves, our families, our church, and our children from pornography. They have to learn how to cope with it. The way they cope with it is by overcoming lust within their hearts because the lust will feed on whatever is available—
Jim: —to feed on.
Bob: But wasn’t there some point of brokenness in your own life?
Jim: Oh, absolutely—absolutely.
Bob: I mean, describe that and what that experience was like—for me; can you?
Jim: When I realized that all of my rationales were wrong—deadly wrong—that I was the one who was the cause for my sin—I couldn’t blame anybody for this—it was all me.
That was just devastating for me.
Now, that devastation does not translate into repentance in an effective way. It puts us on the path to repentance in a real way so that you can come to a point where you can go into a hotel room and you recoil from that—you totally recoil from lust in your heart—not just going to the station—but just the thought of how you would have done it in the past—how you would have displeased God—and just feeling a desire to get away from it—to leave the TV off.
That’s what the Spirit of God does in us. He replaces all that sin with His presence. When we walk in the Spirit, it’s not a matter of saying, “No,” 90 times and then saying, “Yes,” once because if you say, “Yes,” once—the whole time you’re thinking about your sin—no, no, no.
You have to say, “Yes,” to the Spirit 90 times, and then, that one time you failed—you’ve been walking in the Spirit—it’s so distressing that you have to repent—but the focus is always on the Spirit.
Dennis: Take us to that time when you finally came to grips with what you’d done in your marriage with Marsha and you confessed it to her and did finally own it as you just said you owned it 100 percent and asked for her forgiveness.
Jim: It’s an ongoing process; but what happened is—all of a sudden, I could—instead of making rationales / excuses—all of a sudden, I was dealing with it. I was dealing with it with some other men who were going through similar things and learning together. It was exciting. She could, all of a sudden, say: “Hey, he’s getting it. I knew this all along. It was adultery in the heart. Didn’t you know that?” Yes, I kind of knew that, but I did not act on it that way.
Bob: Heath, we talked a little bit about accountability—and that’s not the magic pill, as we said—but there is something to bringing your sin into the light and saying: “Here it is. Everybody look and see what it is.” That drains some of the power off of the sin; doesn’t it?
Heath: That’s right. This is a biblical principle of exposing the darkness to the light. I’ve got two boys. They love all the things that normal boys love. They love to go in the backyard after it rains. We’ve got this big garden, surrounded by big rocks. They love to pull up those big rocks. There are worms, and pill bugs, and all kinds of unspeakable things crawling around in there.
What happens when you pull that big rock up and the light hits it, the worms go away / the bugs go away. That is the biblical principle. Sin thrives in the darkness. When you shine the light on the darkness, it—there is not room for sin to grow.
Bob: I have told guys, when I have talked with them about this: “If you have other men to whom you are accountable, but you’ve not yet confessed this to your wife and asked her to be a part of the battle, I don’t think you’ll win the battle.” Do you agree with that?
Heath: I agree because when you sin, sexually—when you look at pornography—that is a sin against your wife. You took vows to God and to your wife that you would have that kind of relationship with her alone. So, when you bring other women into the marriage bed—even if they are just on the screen—you’ve sinned against your wife. You need to ask her forgiveness.
I think that mistakes that guys often make—when they do that—is they go into too many details. They ask their wives to bear a load of information that they should not have to bear. Then, they also sort of get into some kind of weird relationship, where a wife becomes an accountability partner. A wife does not need to be the cop.
A wife needs to be a wife; but every wife, having heard a confession, needs to know that: “Hey, my husband has somebody in his life that does know all the details—that is asking the hard questions—that is getting the accountability reports. If I have any unanswered questions, I can go to that person.”
Dennis: And to that woman, Heath, who is, perhaps, suspicious that her husband has viewed pornography or is viewing pornography—present tense—what coaching would you have for her—and what really could be a feeling of being betrayed, at that point?
Heath: Sure, well, I think two things. I think, first of all, that wife needs to speak to her husband. A suspicious wife—you know, love believes the best. Love believes all things. We are supposed to extend the measure of judgment that we would like extended to us. So, we don’t make judgments in suspicion. We make judgments in love. Yet, if we have these suspicions, we need to do something with them.
So, I’m encouraging women to go to their husband—and without accusing—if you’ve got evidence, that’s when we can accuse—but if we are suspicious / we don’t have evidence—but we can say, “Honey, I want us to be pursuing purity in our marriage together.”
Maybe there are things that she has noticed. Maybe he’s not shown sexual interest in her / maybe she sees things in the internet history that raise questions—she could bring those things to him. Or she could say—what we are all talking about: “All you have to do is spend the night in a hotel room, and this is there. All you have to do is walk in the mall, and this is—you don’t have to go looking for it. It’s looking for you. And so, Honey, in this kind of culture, I would like you to have some accountability on your computer. I’d like you to have some accountability on your smartphone. Could we find a couple at church—and the husband in that couple would receive your accountability reports—would know the password to the protections on the internet?”
A husband—who is pursuing godliness and who wants to honor his wife—those should be easy requests to fulfill. If it would honor my wife to have accountability on the internet, well—shoot—I’ll do it. If I don’t have anything to hide—why not?
Unfortunately, a husband that gets defensive and pushes back hard against a suggestion like that—is only raising your suspicions, not putting them at ease.
And the second thing is—depending on how your husband responds—don’t think you have to go this alone. Wives are called to honor their husbands, respect their husbands, and submit to their husbands. They do not have to prop up their husband’s sin. You have to obey all the passages in the Bible that teach you how to be his wife, but you also have to obey all the passages in the Bible that teach you how to be his sister in Christ.
You are allowed to go reach out for help from the church— other wise ladies / a pastor—and get help so that you’re not suffering with this alone if you have a situation where a husband just presses back hard against you. Some of the people I know that are in the most pain are suffering alone—
Heath: —because of a husband who is sinning against them. And that is not the alternative.
Bob: Jim, any counsel you would give to a wife—or anything that your wife did that was helpful?
Jim: Most important thing for us to understand was that this was something we could beat. The idea that we are perpetually in a battle—that’s unbearable. It’s unbearable in a marriage—sort of like I have a mistress—only once a year. So, if you learn and you demonstrate that this is something you can overcome in your life and you have that victory, you don’t have to be explicit with your wife saying “this.” They see it. They know it. They understand. They read us like a book, and we cannot hide our sin.
And if we are lusting—if we’re noticing things and looking in a way—so, if they see that, they’re not going to be satisfied with the fact that you have gotten rid of porn on your computer. They want, in you, a pure heart. And this is what we can achieve in Christ. This is the promise to be free from sin.
This is a joyous joint-undertaking in a marriage because that is where the fruit is born—is the union within a marriage, and the sharing, and the fact that it is not being polluted by other things in the world.
Dennis: I’m just reminded, as we’re talking here today, that it takes God to turn a man and a woman into one—two selfish, broken sinful human beings that desperately need the Lordship of Jesus Christ in their lives to be able to go the distance.
I think the passage we read at the beginning is worth reading again, here at the end. Romans, Chapter 13, verse 14: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires.” That’s a great verse for every marriage. Submit to Christ—put Him on / have the mind of Christ—and make no provision for your selfishness—no provision for lust.
Instead, don’t try to gratify those desires—instead, try to please, in the power of the Holy Spirit—please your Heavenly Father.
Bob: And I think for all of us to better understand the battle we’re in, it would help to get a copy of Heath Lambert’s book, Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace. We’ve got the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center, along with Jim Vander Spek’s book, Overcoming Lust. You can find out more about both of these books when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order online if you’d like. Again, Finally Free by Heath Lambert or Overcoming Lust by Jim Vander Spek—go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order the books; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
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And with that, we’ve got to wrap things up for this week. Thanks for being with us. Hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk with Scott Stanley, who has been researching marriage for more than two decades. Scott’s been doing a lot of looking at what it is that causes couples to—not just stay together—but to enjoy being married to one another. We’ll talk about marriage as a lasting promise on Monday. Hope you can tune in and join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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