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Read in Spanish here / Leer en español aquí (translation by Valerie Fernández Díaz)
What happened to Purity Girl? I was the poster child for it. I wore the ring, I knew the rules, I wrote blog posts about it. This was supposed to be my area of expertise.
As I knelt there hunched over a tear-stained Psalm 51, I asked God: How could you ever forgive me of something I’ve done again and again? Can I ever be who I was before?
Maybe you’ve asked those same questions. Today we’re going to answer them with what God has revealed to us in His Word. He is the only one who can speak with authority on this subject.
Unlike other sins, sexual sin affects the body, emotions, mind, and spirit (1 Cor. 6:18). Sex was designed to be a thrilling experience in marriage, in which context the physical-emotional-spiritual connection is intense and fulfilling. But when removed from that context, sex has the power to twist our self-perception, spiral us into deeper sin, and separate us spiritually from our pure relationship with God. God knows this danger, and therefore requires sex and the acts of foreplay leading to arousal as a part of marriage and nothing else.
What do we do if we have transgressed God’s law, offended God, and separated ourselves from a peaceful relationship with Him? Is there hope?
YES! Below are the steps to know forgiveness and walk as conquerors in the grace of God.
Acknowledge that God Sees Illicit Sex as Sin
Some Christians believe that, since Jesus forgave the prostitute (Luke 7) and the adulteress (John 8), He does not see extramarital sex as a sin. But this line of thinking is contradictory and illogical.
To ‘forgive’, as pertains to sin, literally means to cancel a debt to holiness. Jesus had the ability to forgive because first – sex outside of marriage is a sin! If it were not, there would be nothing to forgive! Secondly, Jesus used the most powerful motive to obedience: Love. We’ll talk about that more in a minute.
My post Why God’s Design For Sex is Marriage articulates this section in more detail. The first step to forgiveness and restoration is acknowledging what we did was wrong. As long as we are only sorry we got caught, or because our parents will find out, or because the church will think differently of us – we aren’t repentant. We don’t think our act was wrong in God’s eyes, and we don’t think God will make us answer for it.
Repent to Him of Sin
John MacArthur’s definition of biblical repentance is my favorite:
“Genuine repentance pleads with the Lord to forgive and deliver from the burden of sin and the fear of judgment and hell. It is the attitude of the publican who, fearful of even looking toward heaven, smote his breast and cried, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” (Luke 18:13). Repentance is not merely behavior reform. But because true repentance involves a change of heart and purpose, it inevitably results in a change of behavior.”
Repentance is not merely behavior reform! It is a change of heart, purpose and behavior. Repentance is not just something we do in a one-time salvation decision. Confession of sin is our demonstration of faith beyond salvation into the everyday relationship with God. If we say we are one with Jesus – which the title ‘Christian’ means – we can’t hold onto Him with one hand and our sins with the other (1 John 1:6-7). It’s all of Christ – or none of Him.
What if I genuinely repent of the sin, but when the temptation arises again, I fail?
Repentance (a change of mind and heart) literally means we make every effort to remove that sin from our lives. However, God gives grace for the growing process. Do you remember what he told Peter about forgiveness?
“Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matt. 18:21-22)
If God commands us to forgive over and over and over again, how much more patient is He with us and our weaknesses? I hope this is giving you a slow glimpse of how loving and kind our God is! God’s kindness is meant to draw us to repentance.
“…do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)
Repentance is the change of mind which leads to a change of behavior. We must align our lives with this decision in order to see the fruits in our lives. We are only as safe from sin as we are close to Christ!
Accept His grace DAILY
The consequence of sin is separation from God – which God defines as both spiritual and eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Paul clearly articulates this in Romans chapter six:
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:22-23)
Grace is NOT getting what we deserve; it is mercy extended to us rather than judgment. Did you read that first verse? Now you have been SET FREE from sin! The fruit of repentance leads to:
- Present-day sanctification, and
- The end result: eternal life with God after death.
God’s definition of “eternal life” is “abundant life”. This doesn’t just indicate quantity of life, but quality of life! Because God loves you, He wants to bless you and see you live the abundant-quality life He created you to experience.
“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:9-10)
So you’ve accepted your sin, you’ve repented of the sin, and you acknowledge God’s forgiveness: now you need to walk in that forgiveness daily. You must pray for the strength to believe it and receive it. You must cling to it, hope in it, and trust it. And you must trust the Giver of Grace, who loves you and extends forgiveness for the very reason of keeping His relationship with you, the apple of His eye!
Satan, on the other hand, wants us to live in condemnation. When we allow him to resurrect past sins, we give him power over our identity-perception. We cease to see ourselves as forgiven and instead see ourselves as failures. When this pattern is propagated, it leads to despair and ultimately repetition of former sins.
Do not listen to those lies! If you have repented to Christ, there is no condemnation for you (read).
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death…” (Romans 8:1-2)
Choose daily to accept your new identity. Revel in it. Live in it. God expects it of you! One of my favorite verses is 1 Peter 2:9-10, which illustrates this identity that is YOURS and MINE in Christ Jesus:
“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.…” (1 Pet. 2:9-10)
My friend, here is how God sees you:
- Under Grace
All you have to do is believe Him.
As we spoke about previously, repentance does not guarantee obedience. We have to choose to align our lives with the heart-choice of repentance. This is where the standards come into play.
Legalism puts the rules at the front end of this conversation. This is what the young woman who wrote, “I Waited Until My Wedding… And Wish I Hadn’t” experienced within the church. She was told to be pure in order to receive God’s love and salvation; she was told to be pure out of fear of judgment and wrath. This is both backwards and damaging.
God does hate impurity because He is pure. But God – and Jesus, who is God – also knows that love is the motivator to obedience. When God gave Adam and Eve ‘rules’ in the Garden of Eden, obedience was inspired by love for God and a desire to maintain relationship with Him. When they held that relationship in high esteem, breaking standards didn’t occur. But the moment Eve entertained the question, “Did God really say…?”, she was herself asking, “Is God really worthy to be trusted?”
And the moment she ceased to trust God, she broke His standards.
Standards aren’t the point, but they are a reflection of our dedication. Purity doesn’t just happen, especially for those of us weak in this area. You must be on guard. You are a target of Satan who knows your weak points. Be aware, and be dedicated, and above all stay close to Christ.
Live according to your identity
You are no longer captive to sin! You are holy and righteous in God’s eyes, as pure as before your fall. And if you fall again – RUN back to Christ! Satan would love to keep you hiding in the bushes stitching fig leaves. But God is the Father, running down the road to you, His wayward child, arms open to receive you (Luke 15:11-32).
With love like this, why would we ever want to take advantage of His grace? When Mary Magdalene the prostitute wept on Jesus’ feet in a room of condescending men, she was more conscious of her sin than many of us will ever be. But that consciousness of sin brought even greater consciousness of grace, which Jesus explained when He said: “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:47)
Separation from God by sin makes His grace so much sweeter. The fact that God is not only able but willing to make us pure in His eyes is the very core of the gospel message! Because I think a personal testimony illustrates this best, I asked my husband to share his story.
“Although I was raised in a Christian home, as soon as I was old enough to pursue relationships with girls, I broke loose. The result of this was that many girls were dishonored by me, and eventually I lost my virginity. When I first entered a relationship with my wife, Phylicia, I couldn’t tell her that I had remained abstinent for her. Losing my virginity before marriage made me realize the pain of extramarital sex, which did help me refrain from repeating this sin in my relationship with Phylicia.
If I had a do-over, I would have refrained from it the first time and avoided that guilt altogether. I wish that I could have told my wife that she was my ‘First’. But the reason I was able to have a wonderful, guilt-free, wedding night with my wife is because I knew that it was our first time with one another. I know that I have been redeemed by God’s grace, which I sought daily during our dating relationship. It was, and still is, only by God’s grace that my wife and I are able to be free of our guilt and shame of the past. It is His redeeming grace that makes our love pure.”
God gives us grace for today, grace for tomorrow, grace in the moment, and grace for eternity. We don’t deserve it. We never can. The point is not US deserving it but GOD loving us enough to see past our unworthiness. We should be overwhelmed with His goodness, so thankful for His grace!
Let’s go back to me, crumpled on my bedroom floor, asking: Can I ever be who I was before?
God never answered that prayer. He never made me who I was before. Who I was before thought pure hearts and bodies were math equations to get good things out of life.
God didn’t make me and my husband who we were before: He made us new. And He will do the same for you.
Return to Him earlier rather than later.
His amazing grace is waiting.
RESOURCES ON SEXUALITY:
Christian Cosmo: The Sex Talk You Never Had
Lust Free Living Free Email Course and Support Group
Read in Spanish here / Leer en español aquí (translation by Valerie Fernández Díaz)