As Christ-followers, anytime we talk about growing beyond sin (sexual sin), we are really talking about the biblical concept of sanctification. After being born again, or saved, we are continually, by the Spirit of God, being transformed into more Christ-like men and women: Listen to 2 Corinthians 3:18, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
Spiritual warfare, mortification of the flesh, trials, temptations, and God’s chastening, are all guaranteed in Scripture as part of the Christian life. Sanctification and the overcoming of sin is often viewed as negative, dreary aspects of Christian living. Nonetheless, all that I have just mentioned are part of being a Christian.
“As many as I love,” Jesus said, “I rebuke and chasten.” (Revelation 3:19) And on the subject of chastening – as in correcting – the author of Hebrews points out, “But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.” (Hebrews 12:8) I wonder if you have considered that God’s divine interruption in your life just might explain why you feel such discomfort over (you fill in the gap). If it seems that God is hounding you a bit – it’s because He is.
For some, the question of “Why did God allow me to become exposed or get caught?” may be all too real, if not appropriate. Why, indeed? Many just may have been getting away with any number of inappropriate behaviors, fantasies, temptations, contemplations or sinful scenarios for years. So why, all of a sudden, does the wife get the urge to check the computer history? Or why were you seen entering a known ‘sex establishment’? Why did the affair come to light? Why come out of the closet now?
Many think that punishment is the answer, since punishment seems more than appropriate or justified. Many think that God is giving a long overdue kick in the butt. You sinned; you’re busted; you suffer. And that, many think, is all there is to it.
But if that is your possible conclusion, you’re underestimating both God’s purposes and your potential. Divine interruption isn’t punishment. It’s really an act of love to keep you from going any further in your error. And, it is also evidence of God’s ongoing interest in you and your future.
I would be the first to admit that it’s a very scary thing when your Heavenly Father yanks you off your bike (sort of speak) and lets your sin be known. However, it is much, much scarier if He doesn’t, because what would that say about you? If God isn’t chastening/correcting us, then He isn’t Fathering us; if He isn’t Fathering us, then we don’t belong to Him. So, this isn’t punishment; it’s proof of ownership. And what often brings it about is a crisis of truth that generates unpleasant but necessary pain.
No one illustrates this better than David, who embodied both the kind of greatness we’d love to achieve and also the level of failure we pray we’ll avoid. Considering David’s life, at least the episodes that included adultery and murder, it’s easy enough to see how the crisis of truth God sent him also became his painful salvation.
I’m convinced that David’s tragedy began with a compromise much less notorious than the “big sin” that followed. Often, it’s not that considered, yet it’s plainly recorded in Scripture. David, a man after God’s own heart, had sexually compromised decades before his most notorious transgression with Bathsheba.
After his fall with Bathsheba, David knew he had done wrong, but nothing indicates he confessed it or, for that matter, even dealt with it. Clearly, David knew what God’s law said about his behavior, but he ignored the law and the behavior as well.
How many have crossed “the line” like David. Few individuals get caught the first time around. Usually, they repeat whatever sexual activity they’re into without consequence. Or, I should say, without external consequence. There is no such thing as getting away with sin. At the very least it hinders fellowship with God, hardens the heart, and pollutes the mind. Still, there seems to be a period – a long one, sometimes – during which an individual regularly indulges in sexual sin and seems to get away with it.
When that happens, it’s not because God is ignoring the sin. He is, rather, giving the individual what I would call space for repentance. That’s an undefined period in which God gives us room to take care of the problem before the problem overwhelms us.
If you have been given space to repent, you will more than likely do one of two things: you’ll either use it wisely by taking action while you can, or you’ll make the common mistake of mistaking space for repentance as permission to continue. That’s all too easy to do, because we tend to be consequence-driven. When we get away with something once, we’re inclined to think we’ll get away with it indefinitely.
Ultimately, when we come face-to-face with the reality of what we have done, it creates a crisis of truth which inflicts a deep, penetrating wound. The wound is the trauma an individual feels when they both see what they have done and the damage they have caused. The wound is hard, but it is also necessary for recovery. Because to truly recover, we need to see that, at least to some extent, we’ve been kidding ourselves.
Kidding ourselves, which always brings us to a point of utter helplessness (which is not a bad thing) does have its purpose, because none of us is likely to give up any type of sexual sin until we see its seriousness. That means facing things we have possibly avoided. But when we do, we experience one of three things that are needed, in my opinion, for true repentance: we get scared, sad, or angry – all of which are emotions that often become motivators.
However, we must always be checking our attitude and motivation for addressing any sin in our lives. I offer this consideration due to the reality of just how easy it is to lapse into “performing for God.” Therefore, let me be abundantly clear, “Your acceptance by God has never been, nor is it now, nor will it ever be, based on your behavior.” Just “performing for God” points directly to a lack of intimate relationship with Him. Proverbs 3:5 states, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” If the battle truly is the Lord’s, which it is, then we must stop trusting in what we feel rather than what God says.
So, how do you and I start living out of God’s grace?
First, settle the matter as Romans 6:11 states, “Reckon yourself dead to sin and alive in Jesus.” Our love of God must become so real, so true that we naturally want to do what it takes. Every single time you become aware or catch yourself performing for God – trying to earn His favor by “works”, stop what you are doing and kill that manipulative religious spirit in prayer. Choosing a life of relationship with God means giving up our independence. It means becoming dependent on someone other than ourselves – Jesus. It also means that during those times of extreme temptation and, God forbid, even a fall, we know that we can run to Him for that extra measure of grace that we all need in times of life and not run from Him.
When we set our heart to seek the Lord, our lives will begin to change in many ways. Here are just a few:
- A focus on intimacy washes our spirits.
Our spirit, which is our true self, is washed from defilement by the Word of God.
- A focus on intimacy protects our souls.
Since our soul consists of our mind, our will and our emotions, developing intimacy with God strengthens us against temptation.
- A focus on intimacy heals inner wounds of the heart.
Who among us does not have places in the heart that still does not need the touch of our Savior? Words (curses) that were spoken over and into our lives that continue to affect us today even as adults.
- A focus on intimacy is an effective means of spiritual warfare.
For many, reality is what we have experienced rather than what God says is true. Evil appears to be in control, triumphing over good, more powerful than good. Sometimes it seems as if God doesn’t care about us. About all of this, God says: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)
Ultimately, for each of us, becoming what we were meant to be is not something we can do on our own. It only happens as we live in relationship with the Father.
Pastor Phillip Lee
His Way Out Ministries
Member of Restored Hope Network
“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, the I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is tested.” Martin Luther