As 2020 begins I started thinking about content, and one topic that I wanted to lead with this year is finding God in the middle of sexual sin. As a kid raised in church my whole life and with friends who have “fallen away,” I realized that a message people want is how to find grace in Christ.
The terror of realizing you are far away from God is sometimes not a motivation to find Him, but a reason to flee Him. How can you find forgiveness in God when you feel you have sinned so blatantly you can’t come back?
I think this issue is burning on my heart because this last year in 2019 God convicted me on how I viewed people who “weren’t virgins.” I didn’t realize it until last year, but I mentally marked people who had fallen into sexual sin as “lost” or “marked.” There was a subconscious feeling in the church that sexual sin was so heinous, we didn’t even know how to communicate hope and discipleship. I didn’t even realize fully that I pushed people away until God brought it to my attention and I had to repent from it.
That’s when I realized maybe people weren’t coming back to God, because if they couldn’t come to me, why would God let them in?
A few months ago I was having lunch with Blake and some Christian friends. The topic of purity in the church came up and someone mentioned that they felt if they committed sex outside of marriage, God would forgive, but He (and the rest of the church) wouldn’t forget it. And they went on to share that they found themselves condemning sexual sin as the “highest offense.” It affected their marriages and relationships because if someone were to stumble or make a mistake, there was a struggle to forgive them because “God viewed sex as the highest offense.”
What? How did we grow up with the conclusion that the “highest offenses” meant God wasn’t powerful enough to forget (or that we were holy enough not to?) And since when did God put certain sins on display as “higher or lesser?”
As you can imagine, I was surprised to find out that other people my age were realizing the same thing I was and starting to break away from this ideology! Somewhere along the line, we got lazy. Somewhere it was easier for us to categorize sin and leave people to it than it was to lovingly disciple people and have open discussions.
I started to understand where young people get stuck on their journey of healing from sexual sin. They feel that if one mistake was made in a moment of weakness, or in a moment of ignorance, or in a moment of rebellion then there is an unspoken rule: the mark of sexual sin is irreversible. And then the behavior (the sin) repeats itself because there can be no hope where judgment is, right?
Regardless of how these situations have been exampled to us, Jesus has something totally different to say about sexual sin.
“3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group
4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Jesus didn’t overreact: He forgave and moved on.
How did we get to a place where true Christians, passionate for God and His love, exiled people who fall into sin? Pre-marital sex is not even a sin that hadn’t been committed by pretty much 70% of leading characters in the Old Testament--a sin that God is completely capable of healing us from if we ask Him to. His own words, “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” Jesus is more concerned with repentance than with the past.
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.”
I don’t know how Christians got to this place of subconscious judgment of sexuality. I’m sure there are thousands of social, historical, economic, theological, and rational reasons why. I’m sure Satan’s minions have something to do with it, too. But I don’t want to get caught up in HOW we got here. Let’s talk about how to get OUT of sexual sin and into a relationship with God.
Now, I am in no way here to tell people God doesn’t care about how you live your life or how you conduct yourself in the bedroom--because He does. I’m sorry, I can’t lie to you. God cares very, very much. After all, He died for your sins. He personally felt the pain it caused to remove it. I can’t tell you it’s all okay and keep living the life you are living.
However, I can give you a place to look to find healing. Often we feel hopeless and rejected by the very people who should be loving us and helping us. It’s sad when the church forgets to love us when we need it the most. Or worse, when they pretend our sin isn’t sin and never try to lovingly warn us or help us work through our unique situations.
But the place to start looking for hope is not in people. Not even in the church.
Salvation, healing, and a future is found in Jesus Christ.
The church can’t fix you. Your mom, your friends, your pastor can’t either--no matter how well-meaning (or judgemental) they are.
If you are trying to find forgiveness from a sin you just can’t bear, the best place to start searching is in your prayer closet. Even if you can only muster up a few sentences, do it.
“Be still and know that I am God.” -Psalm 46:10
Sometimes we get so caught up in the hysteria of how others view us and make us feel, or that God can’t love us again, and we forget to “be still.” Find a dark, quiet, distraction-free place, and just be still. Know God. Life will change.
“Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you.” -James 4:8
No one can wipe away your sin forever as Jesus can, and He WANTS to.
If you are trying to find freedom, here are a few places to start.
Don’t Flatter Yourself. You Aren’t The Worst Sinner In The World.
The Apostle Paul reserves that claim (1Tim 1:15). Satan likes to make you feel so insurmountably horrible--it’s a ploy to keep you off your knees. There isn’t a sin God can’t forgive, that He hasn’t forgiven, and can’t turn into something good. Did you know He can even use your story for His glory? (Say what?! How awesome is that?!) Don’t think you are a dirty burden to come to Jesus--He carried that “dirty burden” on a cross 2000 years ago. He knows all about it.
Your Sins Are Part Of Your Redemptive Story
This is not an excuse to sin, but if you lived a perfectly sinless life, you might have never seen the need to repent and cling to Jesus. Sometimes God uses our sin riddled story so we don’t take His love and power for granted. Sometimes we need to make mistakes to realize how to do life right from here on out.
Don’t Stop Searching
If you have been hurt by the church or a person, or even feel like God has stopped loving you--don’t stop searching. There is a place for you, and if you endure, God will reward you with faith and hope and direction. I have been hurt by many people and places, and even at one point thought God stopped loving me. But I chose not to give up (I had my moments, though.)
Jesus said to “pick up your cross and follow me.” Sometimes that cross is simply enduring. You might feel numb and alone and faithless but you have to endure it. Just wait and be still. Jesus felt the same way when He carried His cross. Endure to the end, don’t give up, and don’t stop searching.
He didn’t say WHEN it would open. He just said it would. All you have to do is keep knocking.
I hope this encouraged someone struggling with overcoming sin in your life! You are not alone and you are not the first to walk this road. You are always welcome to reach out to us at Matthew 18 if you have questions or need support!