Last updated on October 6, 2020
My girlfriend and I had sex three times. After the first time, I felt guilty, but then before the second time, I felt like God told me not to do it. I am a born again Christian. I got weak and the lust overpowered me. I did it the second time and a third, then I stopped. I only realized the severity of the sin after all this, but I feel like there is no forgiveness to all this. I fall to lust so often. I really want to stop. Every time I fall, it feels as if my relationship with Jesus just gets worse and worse. Will I be forgiven? And how do I combat this?
You described the progressive nature of sin well. With each opportunity to sin, it becomes just a bit easier to do and it bothers you less. This is why James describes the progression of sin and ends it with the warning, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren” (James 1:16). “But exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).
James details the process of sin in this fashion: “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). The steps are:
- Desires: Each of us is born with a normal, natural set of desires. The physical desires are the consequence of the operation of our bodies. We also have spiritual desires, such as not wanting to be alone, wanting to be liked by others, or wanting something pretty.
- Temptation: Satan tries to place us in situations where it appears that the satisfaction of a desire will require the breaking of a law of God. Temptation is the forcing of a choice to be made: either to break a law of God and satisfy a desire or to forgo satisfaction in order to keep God’s law.
- Lust (desire conceived): When a person mentally consents that breaking a law of God is worth satisfying the desire, then the person has moved into the realm of lust. This is when the person justifies to himself that breaking God’s law can be excused, at least in some situations.
- Sin: This is when a person seizes an opportunity and actually breaks God’s law.
- Licentiousness (sin full-grown): Sin is rarely done just once. The excuses to sin come fast, such as “I’ve done it once, doing it again isn’t going to make much difference.” Eventually, the person becomes calloused to sin and no longer feels guilty about what he is doing. He doesn’t care what other people think. He may even convince himself that he has the right to sin. (Licentiousness means thinking you have a license to sin.)
- Death: A person fully convinced that he ought to sin and doesn’t care what even God thinks about his actions won’t be persuaded out of his sin. Since he won’t leave his sin, he will die in his sin.
As an example, hunger is a desire — it is neither right nor wrong. Temptation is when you are in the convenience store and see a candy bar, but realize you don’t have enough money to pay for it. Lust is when you tell yourself that the store can afford to lose some items and that they are expecting some loss, or telling yourself that you could pocket it now and pay for it later and you accept that this is adequate justification to steal. Sin is when you walk out with the candy bar without paying for it. Licentiousness is when you think it is fun to take things off the shelf even though you have adequate money to pay for it. And from there it is a short step to spiritual death.
Your desire for sex is also something that is neither right nor wrong when taken by itself. It is right when that desire leads you to marry a woman you love and the two of you have sex. But it can easily be twisted into something wrong, such as you having sex without the commitment of marriage.
What is missing is why you had sex. You mentioned your desire, but the desire for sex is every young man — yet every young man doesn’t have sex. I suspect that the desire for sex was in you for quite a while before you decided to get naked with a girl. What was different the first time you put your penis where it didn’t belong and the times before?
If I had to guess, I suspect that you originally focused on not having intercourse. You told yourself that as long as you didn’t put your penis into her that it wasn’t so bad. You kept going further until instinct suddenly took over and you found you couldn’t stop if you wanted to, at least not until after you ejaculated.
Understand that if you are not to have intercourse before marriage, you need to examine the things done prior to intercourse. Can you do anything so long as your penis doesn’t enter her vagina?
The problem you discovered is restraint. Most young people discount too heavily the strength of their sexual instinct. This is why I constantly get notes from people saying, “I didn’t mean for it to go this far,” or “I don’t know what happened,” or “It was an accident.” Such aren’t lame excuses. They are the responses of someone who didn’t have a healthy respect for the strength of his sexual instinct.
Solomon points out the problem when he asked, “Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?” (Proverbs 6:27). You can show a hot coal all the affection you want. You can cuddle it and dote on it and it will still burn you. Your kindness to it doesn’t change its nature. How often do you hear someone say, “But I love her!” Solomon’s point is that your feelings toward your girlfriend won’t change the fact that both of you have built-in desires and capabilities for sex. Trigger them and they follow the instincts built into you.
Solomon also asked, “Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared?” (Proverbs 6:28). Using the same example of hot coal, if you walk on it, it will burn you. You can apologize and say you didn’t mean to step on it, but you’ll still be hurt because your intentions don’t change what it is. Thus, the excuse, “But I didn’t mean for it to go this far!” becomes an empty one because your intentions don’t change your body’s drive.
That is why Solomon concludes, “So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; whoever touches her shall not be innocent” (Proverbs 6:29). Though he is talking directly about adultery, the same point is true about fornication. When you start stirring up sexual feelings, you are never innocent when things go further than you wanted.
That is why we are told not to make room for lust and lewdness. “Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Romans 13:13-14). Lusts are those thoughts and desires you keep battling about taking things even further. Lewdness is engaging in sexual foreplay that gets the body ready for intercourse. The Christian must recognize the danger and not start a sequence of events that can’t be legitimately completed.
You need to set rules for yourself so that you don’t start down a sinful path. No touching each other’s private areas. No stroking skin to get you or her sexually aroused. No long passionate kisses that leave you out of your mind. You have to treat each other with respect and not as sexual objects. “Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (I Corinthians 7:1).
With that comes not talking dirty or showing nude or semi-nude pictures to each other. “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them” (Ephesians 5:3-7). You don’t stay pure by sexually arousing the other person.
I don’t know how your girlfriend feels about staying sexually pure. She might say that is what she wants, but if she’s unbuttoning your shirt and pants, then her words might only be an act. In fact, if you take the proper stance against stirring up sexual desire, she might decide you don’t “love” her because she sees love as expressions of sex. You need to decide in advance that God’s is more important than having a girlfriend. Hopefully it won’t come to that, but you need to be prepared.
Whether you are forgiven depends on whether you decide to give up this sin or not. “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter” (II Corinthians 7:10-11). The problem is not on God’s part. He wants everyone to leave sin. The problem is whether you are willing to leave the sin behind. “Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2).
And you are able to leave this sin if you are determined. “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (I Corinthians 10:13).
Thank you for your help.
Looking back it’s easy to see where I went wrong. It’s not that I didn’t feel something telling me ‘don’t do it,’ I felt it strongly! And I ignored it. I keep wondering, is it forgivable that I fornicated out of knowledge, knowing it is wrong? I’m willing to give it up. I spoke to my girlfriend before this email and told her no more, nothing, because your speculation was spot on, except I didn’t really try to justify my acts. I knew it was wrong but still did it. I’m really more than willing to give it up, but will I truly be forgiven? The Bible strongly goes against it like no other sin. Is there a way to know I will be forgiven?
How do I know that I’ve not become an Esau?
Esau never wanted to change. “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears” (Hebrews 12:14-17). He wanted a different outcome without a difference in his behavior.
God wants everyone to repent of sin;, that is why you have opportunities to change. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9).
Assuming that you’ve done all that God commanded for becoming a Christian (see: What Must I Do to be Saved?), then you change your mind about the acceptability of sin and you change your behavior, so radically that several years from now, no one would ever guess that you used to have sex with your girlfriend. “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter” (II Corinthians 7:10-11). Then you go to God in pray and apologize for what you did. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).
How do you know you were forgiven? That is where faith comes in. Either you believe God’s promise or you don’t. But in addition, you will know because you will be a changed man. “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (I John 2:3-6).
Understood, but for my whole time in my high school career, I’ve been sinning. I’ve been watching porn for so long until last year. I haven’t look at porn ever again. Then the sex with my girlfriend happened, and every time I know it’s wrong. All I say is “I’ll be forgiven – no stress,” but I still want to go to heaven.
Where do I start? I don’t feel convicted right now. I know Christ is the truth and that’s why I’m here. But I feel like an Esau because today I thought to myself that I’m going to miss the sinful life. That’s not someone who really wants Jesus in his life, is it? Esau wanted heaven but didn’t want to change. Now I live in sin, call myself a Christian, and want heaven? It’s not like I never knew Jesus. Quite the opposite, I’ve seen his miracles, I gave him my heart and felt him, even though I didn’t get baptized. I’m part of a Bible group every Monday night and we talk in-depth about everything. I find myself sometimes thinking, “Why don’t you just stop believing and go sin anyway?” Then I realize I need to go to heaven. People will see this as the typical acting like a Christian, and that I haven’t really found Christ, but I have found Christ! And I still do these things. I know what’s sin and what’s not, and for years on end, I do them? How can I be forgiven for that?
This isn’t about feelings. Feelings are often misleading. “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered” (Proverbs 28:26). This is about doing what is right, regardless of how you feel. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
If you are waiting for your conscience to bother you before you pull up your pants, it won’t happen because each time you sin you sear your conscience. You have to retrain yourself to choose the good.
Your thoughts about missing sin is a temptation from Satan, trying to get you to give up. It is true that if you continue to sin, knowing that it is wrong, you are deceiving yourself regarding getting to heaven. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (I Corinthians 6:9-10). But that is a big “if” because you can choose to leave your fornication, just as you left pornography behind.
In regards to baptism, this is a similar problem. You are doing part of what God asks of you and treating that as “good enough.” God wants all of you, which includes your complete obedience. “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). God says you need to be baptized to be saved. “Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Why are you arguing with God when what He requires is so easy to do? However, I recommend that you first determine that you are going to live your life by following God and not your impulses (Romans 6:1-7).
It isn’t how long you wallow in sin, it is whether you get up and wash yourself off. You’re right. If you continue as you have been in the past, you won’t make it. So change! Become a righteous man instead of a sex-crazed boy. “For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity” (Proverbs 24:16). Right now you are trying to convince yourself that it isn’t worth getting back up by telling yourself that God would never forgive you, but all you’re doing is lying to yourself.
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