by Joy Skarka
In the midst of my guilt and shame, frustration filled my mind. “I can’t believe I sinned… again. Does God hate me for my addiction? Will I ever find freedom?” Countless men and women I’ve talked to have asked similar questions. What are you supposed to do when you keep messing up?
If you are struggling with sexual sin today, I’ve been in your shoes. I struggled with promiscuity, pornography, and habitual masturbation for years, promising over and over each time I sinned that it was the “last time.” We often spend a lot of time thinking about the importance of fighting for sexual integrity but often forget to talk about God’s grace.
To help you better understand grace, here are a few definitions:
When we mess up, God gives us grace. When we feel shameful and defeated, God gives us grace. When we hide from Him, God gives us grace.
Just like Adam and Eve tried to cover their shame with fig leaves after they had sinned, we run, hide, and find our own fig leaves. What fig leaves are you hiding behind, attempting to cover your shame? For some this is turning to pornography. For others, it might look like continuing a “friends with benefits” relationship. Whatever fig leaves you are hiding behind will not provide lasting healing or comfort.
After Adam and Eve sinned and hid in the Garden, God, being good and gracious, sought them out and said, “Where are you?” He invites us, too, out of our hiding and into His light. He calls us from the darkness of shame and into His presence. The Lord walked with Adam and Eve after they sinned—and He walks with you today. God can heal you, comfort you, forgive you, and set you free. Instead of running away from Him, let’s run to Him.
Through Christ’s death and surrender to the Holy Spirit, we are no longer slaves to our sin. We will still battle sin, but we are not destined to walk in it any longer. Next time you sin, remember God’s gift of grace. Here are three things to consider when you keep messing up:
You don’t become more holy because of right behavior, but because of God’s grace. You can’t earn holiness by what you do or don’t do. It’s not about trying more or doing more or being a “good Christian.” It’s about your personal relationship with Jesus. The more you love Jesus, the more you will want to change your behavior to become more like Him.
In Matthew, a Pharisee asks Jesus, “‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22: 35-38).
Purity is birthed from loving God, not obeying laws. Juli Slattery wrote, “God will not magically change your behavior without first transforming your heart." Once God changes your heart, your behavior will follow (not the other way around). Allow Him to change who you are from the inside out.
“Sorry I messed up, I won’t do it again, God. I promise!” Have you ever said this to God? I know I’ve said this countless times and have always broken my promise. We need to stop making this promise.
When we say, “I promise,” we are saying that in our own strength we will stop looking at porn. Even if we don’t look at porn, we may lust or lie or think a bad thought. We need God! We can’t stop sinning on our own. Instead of promising God that we will change, what if we said, “I’m sorry, God. I can’t do this on my own. I need your help!” Let’s invite Him into our sexual brokenness and ask for His power to begin changing us—inside and out.
Believing we have to be sinless to earn God’s love is spiritual bondage. That is salvation by works, not salvation by grace. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). When you mess up over and over again, and wonder why God saved you, remember that you did nothing to earn His salvation in the first place. Your salvation is a gift from God, freely given, no matter how long you struggle with sexual sin.
No matter how many times you’ve messed up, God invites you back. When you mess up, turn back to God, and live in His grace and freedom instead of in your shame. We are a work in progress. We will mess up. We will battle sin on this earth for the rest of our lives. Instead of running from God or getting down on ourselves, let’s live like the prodigal son and return to our Father.
When the prodigal son goes back home, his father greets him, “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).
When we turn back to our Father, He will run to us with open arms.
Do you need to turn back to God today? Do you need to experience His grace?
If you have never accepted God’s gift of grace through salvation, I invite you to make this decision today. Here is a prayer you can pray. Saying the right words is not important, rather, the condition of your heart is what matters. God sees your heart and knows your desires.
Dear God, Thank you for loving me. Thank you that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins and failures. I admit to you that I am a sinner and that I need You to save me. I ask You to forgive me for my sins. I turn from them now. I invite Jesus into my life as my Savior and Lord. I turn my life over to Him. I will live for Him as long as I live. Thank you for giving me eternal life and making me Your child. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
If you are struggling with sexual sin and longing to better understand God’s grace, I invite you to join one of our Online Book Studies. New groups begin every few months. Sign up today!
Image by Anusha A on Unsplash