[This article was taken from our book “Sex and Scripture: A Biblical Study of Proper Sexual Behavior”.]
Sexual sin is so prevalent in our culture that there are many people who have committed and/or are committing sexual sin and are thus dealing with the consequences. Of course, there are also people who deny that sexual sin has consequences (at least many people live as if it had no consequences). Nevertheless, the Word of God, and usually life itself, testifies that all sin has consequences. Two reasons that some people deny the reality of the consequences of sexual sin are: first, there can be a long time between the sin and the consequence and, second, the same sin can have very different consequences. For example, a couple may have had sexual intercourse many times during a period of years with seemingly no consequence, but then the woman gets pregnant. Again, one person who has sexual intercourse outside of marriage might contract a sexually transmitted disease, while another person does not. One person may experience shame and bad memories after illicit sexual intercourse, and this may plague him for years, while another person feels no shame at all.
Sexual sin can have many and varied consequences, and the best way to deal with both the sin and its consequences is by obeying what God has set forth in His Word on the matter. It is not a good idea to ignore the consequences of sin or to think that the passage of time will automatically result in one forgetting and being healed. God has no desire that people should be hurting, or separated from Him, and He desires to draw everyone close to Himself, no matter what their past sins might be. Restoration, healing, and fellowship with God are all available. God always desires that a person turn from his or her sin and return to Him. He said so to the house of Israel thousands of years ago, and His heart has not changed.
Say to them, “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?”
God implores people to turn away from wickedness and death and turn to godliness and life. Although someone may be a sinner for a long time without physically dying, the effect of sin is the “death” of many things—the joy of the Lord in one’s life and peace of mind are two wonderful things that die very quickly in a person dominated by sin. Another thing that dies is a tender and responsive heart before the Lord. The first step in the process of forgiveness, restoration, and healing is to follow the advice in the verse above, which was given more than 2,500 years ago: “Turn! Turn from your evil ways!” It is important to stop any sinful behavior.
John 8 contains a record of a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. The religious leaders brought her to Jesus in order that they might trap him. The Law of Moses clearly taught that if a couple were caught in the act of adultery, both the man and the woman were to be brought before the judges—not just the woman. Jesus recognized the trap and, knowing that the Mosaic Law was being broken, said that the person without sin should cast the first stone. One by one, the people left the scene until only the woman was left with Jesus. He spoke words to her that, if she obeyed, would start her down the road to restoration and healing. He said, “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11). Jesus is alive today, and his advice of over 2000 years ago is still valid. The first step toward forgiveness, restoration, and healing is to “leave your life of sin,” i.e., stop sinning. It can be very difficult to stop sinning, but be assured that with God’s help you can.
The next step to forgiveness, restoration, and healing is to confess your sins to God and ask His forgiveness. Scripture is very clear that if we ask to be forgiven, God will forgive us:
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
It is important to remember that there is usually no “feeling” that accompanies forgiveness. Many people do not think they are forgiven if they still “feel” ashamed or guilty or because they are still dealing with the consequences of their sin. Be assured that the Bible is not lying and that if you ask God to forgive you, He does, but being forgiven by God does not mean that all the consequences of sin simply vanish.
Scripture often uses the word “repent.” True repentance includes stopping sinful behavior and asking God for forgiveness. Because sexual sin almost always involves another individual or individuals, asking for their forgiveness can be important too. Restoring godly fellowship with other people is very important, and ignoring sins that have been committed and just letting them fade into past memories is usually not the best way to deal with them. Often, confessing your sins to others who have been involved and hurt by your sin, and asking them to forgive you, is an important part of your healing. It is also often an important part of their healing as well.
Sin has consequences in the physical world as well as the spiritual world, and the physical consequences of sin can be difficult to deal with. Although the spiritual consequences are just as real, the physical consequences are usually much more tangible and concrete, and it is worth avoiding sin just to avoid the physical consequences that can befall you. God forgives us as soon as we ask, but long after God forgives us, the physical consequences can be only too real. Dealing with physical consequences (including mental/emotional problems) usually requires faith, prayer, patience and sometimes ministering healing or miracles. There may also be a need for counseling or getting the godly advice of other Christians. Some of the physical consequences of sexual sin are pregnancy, memories that cause distraction and heartache, fears about future relationships, difficulties in bonding with your spouse, sterility or problems with pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, demonic influences, and even perhaps an unwanted reputation. These are terrible things, but the good news is that there is healing and restoration available from God.
Condemnation over what has been done in the past can be more traumatic than the sin that was committed. The Bible speaks clearly: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). God does not want His children to wallow in self-pity and condemnation. He wants us to stop sinning, ask for forgiveness, and move forward with our lives into full deliverance in Christ. He wants to help us to turn the “lemons” of the world into “lemonade.” With God’s help, each person can find ways to strengthen weak areas and be a better and stronger Christian because of past experiences. If you have been involved in sexual sin, and especially if you are suffering consequences from that sin, do not allow the Adversary to beat you by causing you to be condemned, downcast, discouraged, and defeated. Go to God with faith and draw your strength from Him. Our God is a great God, who forgives, restores, and heals.