Escaping Sexual Sin: Consider the Consequences
By Rev. Marty O'Rourke
As I developed a program for training Christian leaders in specific ways they can avoid sexual misconduct, I went to the Scriptures and asked, “How does God prevent us from sinning?” What I learned was that one very important source of prevention is that God calls us to consider the consequences of sin.
Galatians 6:7-8 (NIV) tells us:
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
The deception is that we can “get away with it,” that we can sow without reaping, and that there will be no consequences. However, we must be aware of this insidious deception that the world, the flesh and the enemy uses to seduce us. (See 2 Cor. 2:11.)
The deception is accomplished by inflaming and magnifying our immediate desires, while minimizing and hiding the reality of the horrendous costs of our actions. Again, the deception is that we can get away with it and that we will be not be caught – but God is not mocked.
A Christian leader who was deceived in this manner and yielded to sexual temptation was later asked, “What could have been done to prevent this?” He answered the question by saying, with haunting pain and precision, "If only I had really known, really thought through, what it would cost me and my family and my Lord, I honestly believe I never would have done it.’”
He had been swept along in a river of selfish passion, never stopping to think of the terrible consequences his actions would cause for those he loved the most.
Also, I urge you to heed this passionate plea that a pastor who had fallen shared with a Christian counselor: “Please tell other pastors that adultery is in no way worth the excruciating pain they will face when it all comes down around them. Scream at them and tell them, ‘Get yourself out of that situation before it’s too late.’”
This pastor, who was seduced by his self-centered “needs” and deceived into ignoring the reality of the agonizing results of sin, now desperately wants a fervent warning to go out to save others from this excruciating pain.
Another way we are deceived is when we presume on God’s mercy and forgiveness. We yield to temptation, presuming that God will forgive us. To be deceived in such a way is very dangerous. There are two significant dangers to keep in mind concerning what I call presumptive forgiveness.
The first danger is that you will not be forgiven because you will not have truly repented. God’s forgiveness is based on true repentance (Acts 26:20). God is not mocked. To truly repent means that you sincerely admit you were wrong in yielding to sin and if you were faced with the same temptation again you would, by the grace of God, choose to turn away.
While counseling a woman who had committed adultery, I was trying to help her work through the steps of repentance. When I explained what true repentance was, she told me frankly that if she had to do it over again, she would make the same choices. She was not truly repentant. This lack of true repentance kept the door open to temptation, and she soon fell back into that adulterous relationship.
Also, remember that even with true repentance and God’s forgiveness, this will not remove the incredible pain many will have suffered, nor such potential consequences as a sexually transmitted disease.
The second danger is that we underestimate what sinning does to harden our spiritual hearts. There are many who willfully do something wrong, such as committing adultery, anticipating that God will forgive them. Again, the deception is that there will be no consequences. The dreadful consequence here is that this attitude will often harden a person’s heart toward God.
There is an old and true saying: “Sin always takes you farther than you want to go, keeps you longer than you want to stay, and costs you more than you are willing to pay.”
Some people’s hearts become so hardened in the course of willful disobedience, based on a false understanding of repentance and forgiveness, that their relationship with the Lord is never redeemed. Carefully consider these strong words from Paul’s letter to a church in the midst of a culture filled with lust:
Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10, NIV).
Through Paul, God is warning us not to be deceived into thinking that sin does not have disastrous consequences.
Please take a few moments right now, and invite the Holy Spirit to show you how sexual sin would seriously damage your life.
First, consider how it would affect your relationship with the Lord. Would you want to jeopardize your relationship with Jesus, who loves you more than anyone and gave His life to set you free from sin and death?
Then assume you will be “caught” and ask the Holy Spirit to help you truly understand the damage your sin would do to the cause of Christ. Jesus clearly detested hypocrisy. He called it the “yeast of the Pharisees” and warned His followers not to walk in hypocrisy. Why? Jesus understands that hypocrisy is a barrier that prevents many unbelievers from entering the Kingdom. Would you want to hinder anyone from coming to Jesus?
Again, assume you will be “caught,” and invite the Spirit of God to reveal how yielding to sexual temptation would cause pain and suffering for those you love the most – your wife or husband, your children, your parents, and your friends. If your sin involved another person, consider the tremendous hurt your actions would cause to that person and his or her loved ones.
God’s will for us is to overcome temptation and walk in purity,but we must humble ourselves by submitting to the wisdom that God gives to us. One significant way we can overcome temptation is by pushing aside our selfish feelings and giving serious consideration to how our behavior would hinder our walk with the Lord, damage the cause of Christ, and destroy our families and the lives of others.
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Part one: Escaping Sexual Sin Before it's Too Late
...so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes. (2 Cor. 2:11 NLT)
I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do. (Acts 26:20 NLT)
Stanley Greg, Betrayal
Gregory L. Jantz, Too
Close to the Flame
Gordon MacDonald, Rebuilding
Your Broken World (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1988) 53
Oswald Chambers, My
Utmost for His Highest
Rick Warren, The
Purpose-driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? (Grand Rapids:
Zondervan, 2002) 212.
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Marty O'Rourke is Rector of Church
of the Messiah in Chesapeake, Virginia. Marty has written and taught
extensively on sexual purity and marital fidelity in the church. He
is often called upon to teach a seminar he has developed called 'Guard
Your Heart: Sexual Misconduct Prevention for Ministers.' This seminar
is designed to help Christian leaders avoid the pitfalls of sexual temptation.
For more information, you can contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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