Questions about unwanted sexual dreams have flowed into John Piper’s inbox for years. Listeners who struggle with these illicit dreams often wake up feeling guilty or confused.
“These dreams bother me intensely even after I wake up because I can’t help but feel that I have sinned, and even worse, I feel as if I had no control over it as with most of my dreams,” said one reader.
The Christian Post summarized a recent episode of Piper’s podcast “Ask Pastor John” where he addressed the topic, citing four biblical reasons why God might use those dreams: as false messages, a test, to reveal desires, and a warning.
“There is such a thing as false dreams,” he said. “There are false meanings. Dreams come, and they deliver false messages to us.
“My first exhortation is, say to the Lord and to the dream and to the devil, ‘That was a false dream. It does not mean I am unfaithful. I mean to be faithful to my wife. I am not unfaithful to her. Those dreams are a lie.’”
He used Zechariah 10:2 to cite this reason, which states, “For the household gods utter nonsense, and the diviners see lies; they tell false dreams and give empty consolation. Therefore, the people wander like sheep; they are afflicted for lack of a shepherd.”
Dreams also act as a test. Deuteronomy 13:1-3 reads, “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder…you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Piper also encourages words of truth during these times of testing.
“It’s not wrong while these dreams are tormenting you to say, ‘Dreams, Satan, brain, hormones, whatever you are, I won’t be sucked in by this. I see how my faith is being tested here. Do I love my wife? Do I love purity? Do I love holiness? Do I love Christ, who died to make me pure? Yes, I do. I will not be undone by this test. I will pass it by faith in the blood of Jesus to cover all my sins, to empower me to walk in the truth,’” he said.
He continued to share that dreams can also reveal desires, citing Isaiah 29:7-8.
“The point here is there is nothing remarkable when a physical craving like hunger or thirst or sexuality cause a dream that the craving is being satisfied when it isn’t. And the question is: What will you do with it in the waking life? That's the question—not just that it’s happening.”
And, dreams can also serve as a warning.
“God really does use dreams to terrify us with warnings in order to humble our pride and keep us back from sin,” he said. “But if that’s true, one way to look at sexually illicit dreams—dreams when you’re doing illicit things in the dream—is that God is terrifying us in our dreams of the horror of this prospect in real life, so that we don’t do it.”
He also shared several ways to purge the mind to avoid these dreams, including prayer, reading Scripture before going to sleep, and avoiding sexualized TV shows and content.
Mikaela Mathews is a freelance writer and editor based in Dallas, TX. She was the editor of a local magazine and a contributing writer for the Galveston Daily News and Spirit Magazine.