In 1998, the internet was still getting off the ground, but Focus on the Family decided to do something revolutionary and start an online ministry called Boundless. They chose a young couple named Candice and Steve Watters to lead it.
Although the Watterses are no longer at the helm of Boundless, Candice is still an advice columnist for Boundless; she’s an editor for the influential website CBMW.org; and she’s the author of Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help It Happen.
I got a chance to appear onstage with Candice during Pursuit 2014, and I was pretty sure, during the Q&A, that she said porn addicts were going to hell. So I figured that would be an interesting place to start this “Five Questions” interview.
1. During the Q&A panel for Pursuit 2014, I’m pretty sure you said that habitual porn users might be going to hell. Did I hear you correctly?
Yes, if you call yourself a Christian, but you are constantly looking at porn, I worry that you might be going to hell. The reason I believe this is because Paul said,
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
He went on to say, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (v. 11). What does it mean to be justified? It means to be declared righteous — just as if you never sinned and just as if you always obeyed. The only way this is true of you is if you are trusting in the only One who ever did perfectly obey: the Lord Jesus Christ.
But, and this is key, if you are justified, then you will be sanctified by the Holy Spirit. That means you will be making progress in becoming holy, in being like Christ who never sinned. This means you will hate your sin for the way it separates you from God. It means you will be daily crucifying your sin. It means you will be doing whatever is necessary to keep yourself from sinning, including, but not limited to, seeking accountability with mature believers as a member of a biblical, local church; confessing when you do sin; possibly carrying a “dumb” phone and even not having a computer.
This doesn’t mean that you will never sin again. But it means that how you respond when you sin will be marked by the life of Christ living inside of you. If someone is constantly looking at porn, they are not behaving as someone who has been born again (Hebrews 10:26-27). And only those who are born again will see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).
2. In that same answer during the Q&A, you talked about your love for chocolate and how it sometimes drives you in unhealthy ways. I think some people hear that and don’t realize how food-related temptations can be just as vexing as sexual temptations, particularly for women. What encouragement do you have for women who struggle with gluttony?
Gluttony, as traditionally defined, is more than just spending too much time at the buffet. The gluttony included in the Seven Deadly Sins was “habitual greed” that though not limited to food, did commonly express itself in the way a person hoarded or consumed food. Greed is not a minor sin. It is included in the list of sins that can keep someone from “inheriting the kingdom.”
John Piper defines gluttony as “having a craving for food that conquers you.” Romans 6 talks about the power of sin and our enslavement to it. It is only in Christ that we can be set free. This is my encouragement to women:
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.… Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions (Romans 6:5-6, 12).
Habitual disobedience of God’s law because of addiction — whether to drugs, porn or cheesecake — is no excuse for sin. If it were, Christ would not have had to die. But because He did and rose again in power, we have hope beyond a diet pill or rehab program. This is the hope Christ offers to women beset by gluttony. Piper says, “… if we give ourselves to being satisfied with spiritual bread, wine, and milk, then physical hunger will lose its supreme power. The main way to fight cravings that we don’t want is to experience higher cravings and have them master us.”
3. Do you think a woman who repeatedly gives into overeating is also jeopardizing her eternal life? Basically, I’m asking whether you see sexual sin as more consequential.
It really doesn’t matter how I see sexual sin; it’s how God sees it that matters. First Corinthians 6:18 says, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.”
In death, it won’t be the presence of certain sins that damns us, but the absence of faith in Christ alone for the forgiveness of all our sins. Sin is sin when it comes to separating us from God. And it’s possible to idolize food: to make it primary and more important to you than God. But the consequences of certain sins are far graver than others in this life and the next. Jesus said certain sins would warrant greater punishment in the next life (Luke 12:47-48, Hebrews 10:29, Revelation 20:12-13).
In answering the question “Are All Sins Equal Before God?” John Piper helpfully explains how some sins are “worse in their effect” by saying, “Not everybody is hurt in the same way by every sin.” Pornography damages human relationships in countless ways that too much chocolate does not.
4. You and Steve seem to really like each other and get along well. What are three things you get right as a couple (with a brief explanation)?
Steve helped me with this one, hence the bonus point.
- We keep short accounts — We’re quick to repent when we sin against each other, quick to forgive and never let the sun go down on our anger.
- We fast and pray together — We pray together twice daily, in the morning after our individual prayer and study time, and again at night before we go to sleep. We try to fast one day a week in order to focus our prayer more.
- We cultivate oneness — This includes physical intimacy, but so much more. We’re committed to living out the Ephesians 5 commands: Steve to loving and sacrificial leadership and me to joyful submission and help. This goes a long way toward building unity in our marriage. Also, in our annual planning time we set priorities for the year ahead, and we revisit that plan quarterly and weekly to make sure our schedules know we’re married.
- We treasure our friendship — We were friends before we started dating, and it’s our enjoyment of similar things, our shared mission, and our delight in who God made the other to be that forms the foundation for our romantic love. We love doing life together.
5. When we were on the Q&A panel together, I was blown away by how the Scriptures just flowed out of you naturally. How much time do you spend reading the Bible each week?
As much as I can. But it’s not just the quantity of time I spend reading; it’s also the quality. I’ve found three helpful principles for fruitful Bible study. It must be intentional, unhurried and uninterrupted.
Intentional: For about 10 years, Steve and I both read the One Year Bible. We love the discipline of reading through the whole book in a year, but also reading the same passages (from the OT, NT, Psalms and Proverbs) every day. This gave us a lot to talk about and helped us to grow together spiritually. Recently, however, we’ve been using the Grant Horner system for reading through the Bible. It includes 10 chapters a day in each of 10 genres and sections (gospels, epistles, law, poetry, history, minor prophets, major prophets, apocalyptic, etc.) When I’m pressed for time, I divide the 10 chapters over two days.
Unhurried: I read the Bible in the morning before our kids come downstairs at 7:00. On a good day, I get up at 5:00 so I can read and pray and study for up to two hours. Most days I get up at 6:00. But the point is to have enough time so that I don’t feel like I’m racing the clock. I started doing this when I was single. At the time it felt hard to squeeze in. But life only gets fuller with marriage and babies, and I’ve experienced the malnourishment of too little Bible. It really is our life.
Uninterrupted: In order to enter into the presence of the Lord, to be able to think deeply about what I’m reading in His Word (2 Timothy 2:7) and to pray what’s on my heart, I have to be uninterrupted by other people. This is why I get up early. But I also must be uninterrupted by technology. So I don’t touch my iPhone till I’m done meeting with God. I’m not strong enough. The minute I do, it springs to life, and my mind is off and running, thinking about all my to-do items, processing likes on Instagram, and responding to email. When my alarm goes off (not on my phone), I get up and go to where I pray, in a different room from where my phone is charging.