Question:

Hi, I was baptized in a local church of Christ a few weeks before I and my wife got married. But before our wedding day we had sex (by the way she's not yet a believer of Christ). I knew in my heart before we even had sex that it was wrong, but I kept in my mind and my heart that I really love her and she was going to be my wife, so I trusted myself, had been swayed by our emotions, and I slept with her a few days before our marriage. I am guilty of this, and I prayed to the good Lord to forgive me. And now, even to this writing, when I remember what we (I) have done, I am distracted in a way. But I know I should get forward to serving the Lord. I confessed to Him all this, and began to walk with Him in the light, through much study of His word. My question is: though I know that I am forgiven, as stated in I John, what more should I do to be worthy of forgiveness as a child of God? Thank you and God bless you all there in La Vista Church of Christ.

Answer:

Your problem is one that I have long warned engaged couples to be on the guard against. In "Waiting for the Proper Time" I mentioned:

Engaged couples face a strong temptation to experiment with sex before the ceremony. They reason that they are in love and that they have made a commitment – they just haven’t taken any formal vows. The problem is that sex during the engagement is still fornication. It is still taking place outside of the bonds of marriage. Many engaged couples have called off their weddings. An engagement is not a guarantee that the wedding will take place.

I remember, though it has been many years ago, struggling with the same temptation. I recall the same "reasoning" going through my mind. We did not give in, but I still remember the pull even after 25 years of marriage. Sex is the second strongest desire in the human body and when we get emotionally aroused, we don't think clearly. Satan caught you at a weak moment.

But this is not what should be important to you. What is important is that you realize that it was wrong and are not trying to justify it. You faced the fact that you sin. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us" (I John 1:8-10). Note two things when we confess our sins to God. First, God is faithful to forgive our sins. That means we can absolutely count on God doing as He has said. He is not like men who say, "Well, I'll think about forgiving you." He promised that He would forgive and God always keeps His promises. Second, God is just to forgive our sins. That means God isn't bending the rules when He says all we have to do is confess our sins to Him. Granting forgiveness based on our confession is the right thing to do. Justice for our sin has been handled. Thus, in your case you can count on the fact that you have been cleansed of all unrighteousness.

I realize that this seems too simple -- that there has to be more to it. But that is part of the point. Salvation isn't earned by deeds of greatness. It is granted to us as a gift from God because we follow Him. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:8-10). It is a part of our faith in God that we accept this. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).

It is time to move on. Wallowing in the past is not productive. "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14). As the years go on and you build a wonderful marriage with your wife, young men are going to ask you how you did it. They will want to know what pitfalls to avoid. One day you will be able to take them aside and say, "Let me warn you about one danger that caught me and almost damaged my marriage and my faith. We overcame it, but it would have better not to have gone through that problem in the first place. So I want you to be on your guard, here what Satan will probably throw your way and here is why it is wrong."