Question:

I needed some guidance for a particular situation I have put myself in. To be blunt, it is on the hot topic of adultery. Now before anyone judges me for my horrible sin, let me give you some background.

I have been raised in an amazing Christian family and grew up in a wonderful church. I am very familiar with much of the Bible and its teachings, especially in regards to the sin of adultery and other sexual sins. I understand the depth of how evil, wrong, and filthy it is and that no one who practices such things will inherit the kingdom.

Now I have been married a year to a woman God gave me. I wronged her the first bit of our marriage by committing adultery. Now for me, the lure the devil uses to tempt me is my weakness for sex. I have always struggled with that and have put up many fights against it. Many times I have failed and to this day live with regret. The first time I committed adultery the guilt pushed me over the edge to tell my wife. God was good to me and spared my marriage. I repented and promised myself I'd never do it again and did my best to stay away from particular girls, but when the time of testing came, I failed. After failing twice more, I literally pleaded to God to forgive me and repented once more and separated myself from all things that would entice me. I'm talking about friends, TV, you name it.

I did good for about eight months, but I went on vacation and had to miss church for two weeks. That weakened me, and I know I need to go to church to stay strong. It's spiritual food. During those two weeks, my wife and I had sex issues, and I reconnected with a girl and let myself indulge in adultery again. My guilt immediately returned to me and I remembered why I hated adultery in the first place. I sinned against God and broke my promise and commitment to Him and my wife.

Now since that last affair, I have been in repentance: fasting, praying, filling myself with the Bible and doing my best to put into practice what I know I'm supposed to do to live for Jesus. I've once again continued to commit myself to God and turn away from adultery. I totally understand how King David felt when he sinned. I understand that I should die and much worse. The thing is, I want to be right with God.

Now my question is this: does God forgive me? I know I have repented, but I question myself if that is enough. Does God see me as His child again, even though I did such a horrible thing? Now I John 1:9 says that if I confess my sins to Jesus then he forgives me and cleanses me from all my sins. The problem is that I just have a hard time applying it to myself. I feel like I'm an exception since I have fallen four times.

Just to get things out of the way before I get the typical response of "oh you sick man. How could you!? You need to get right with God and do this and this and this." I know these things. My heart and conscious are hard enough on me as it is. I have made a decision in my heart to not sin again. I'm sincerely asking you if God really forgave me after I repented again. I felt horrible, I spent much time in prayer, asking for guidance, fasting, trying to love others, still try practice God's teachings despite my adulterous fault. Did He forgive me?

Thank you for your time and answering my question. I only ask you don't judge me and know that I want to do what's right.


Answer:

I find it more interesting that a man who is consumed with guilt is very anxious not to be rebuked for his sins, to the point of telling the person he wants help from what he doesn't want to hear.

You need to admit that you have a problem. Committing adultery four times in the first year of marriage is not typical behavior, even for someone who doesn't care about Christianity. Nor should a two week problem in regards to sex typically drives a man to seek sex elsewhere. You realize it is wrong, but you end up doing it anyway. While David did the same sin, it was one he did once and it was after years of marriage. It doesn't come close to justifying what David did, but I would like you to see that there is more going on with you. This isn't to come down hard on you, but to open your eyes a bit more to the fact that you need help. You are asking for help, but you have to be open to looking at yourself in depth -- both the good and the bad in you.

"For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith" (Romans 12:3).

I'm not saying that pride is your particular issue -- I just don't know enough yet about you -- but I want to focus on the fact that we are to look at ourselves soberly. "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? -- unless indeed you are disqualified" (II Corinthians 13:5). Something is broken and it needs to be found so you can make repairs.

From what you have stated, this hasn't started with your marriage. This is a problem that has been going on for a long while. Is my guess correct that it was worse before marriage and that it has somewhat slowed down since you've been married?

My concern is that you might be seeking man-made solutions that doesn't actually address the core problems you are facing. For example, fasting is something a person does when they are extremely upset, but won't don't anything about establishing self-control. "These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh" (Colossians 2:23).

In regards to repentance, God doesn't keep a counter of how many times a person repents or how soon he asks again. God doesn't ask more of us than He Himself does. "And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him" (Luke 17:4). The key is repentance: a change in your attitude toward this type of sin and a change in your behavior. "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). With this comes a willingness to admit you were wrong. "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).

Notice that in I John 1:9 it states that God is faithful to forgive. The word means trustworthy, someone you can rely absolutely on. When God says something, it is absolutely so because "God cannot lie" (Titus 1:2). Perhaps one area that needs to be worked on is your faith in God -- trusting that God means what He says. "For there is no partiality with God" (Romans 2:11) means that there are no exceptions to the rule. God doesn't treat one person differently from another.

First and foremost, thank you for your reply. I am very grateful that you took the time away from what I'm sure is a busy schedule in order to help me.

Before I continue, I just want to clarify one thing that you mentioned to me. You said, "I find it more interesting that a man who is consumed with guilt is very anxious not to be rebuked for his sins, to the point of telling the person he wants help from what he doesn't want to hear". I just want to clarify that I'm not trying to dodge being rebuked and hearing what is true. I simply don't believe it is necessary to beat a dead horse for I already know the depth of my sins. It just makes it harder to get back up and continue pursuing my walk with God when you already feel so beat down and that you are too sinful to be forgiven. II Corinthians 2:7 "so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow." I'm not saying that I shouldn't be severely rebuked (because I know I should), but simply saying that I have been overwhelmed and looking for guidance and not just condemnation from others.

You said, "I'm blunt, I'll probably make you look at yourself in ways that will leave you uncomfortable, but at the same time I really do care about each person I come in contact with." I'm not sure what kind of people you have come across that don't want to hear the truth but I have no issue with blunt and straight forward shots. I understand no matter how hard the truth may be, it doesn't change that fact that it is truth. I'm greatly looking forward to getting back on the right track with God and have made a commitment that no matter what happens now, I will serve Him. I may have an adulterous past, but I can assure you that I am telling you the truth that I want to stay on track with God. Sir, this is my heart that I want to serve God with such zeal mentioned in I Corinthians. That's what I want.

You understand correctly that my actions aren't normal for even a non-Christian man. I couldn't agree more. I want freedom from this death pit I put myself in. I am tired of turning against God. I'm tired of my nasty behavior. Then one might say, "why still do it then? If you really want out then stop sinning". The answer is I have wickedness in my heart and I have previously chosen to "mock God" (which God is not mocked) and try to take advantage of His great mercy for my own selfish gain. Does that sound like a pretty accurate answer? I don't want to be that kind of man. Now each time I messed up I truly was sorry and would've done whatever it took to take it back. Afterward, I would do good for a bit, reject opportunities, love God, love others as I should, recommit myself fully. After a certain amount of time, though when I was in a weak moment, I only remembered the good parts about my sin and not the consequences (which produces death). Before the temptation came I never had the idea of sinning.

If I addressed the first thought earlier instead of letting it grow then it would've been easier to prevent. Foolishly enough, for people like me, it is stupid to give room to any sexual thoughts. These are just "tip of the iceberg" things I'm aware of about myself. I want to clarify to you that I know how sinful I am. The thing is I want to get back on track with God, have my conscious clean, and walk this thing without falling again. It's so ridiculous that I know what the consequences are for sin, yet have done them anyway. I don't want to fall again. I don't want to just look and act like a Christian for a little bit then afterward turn away.

I wonder if I can reference Romans 7:15-20 here. I understand what Paul is saying in those passages because I have often said the same thing to myself.

Your input and advice for my issue would be greatly appreciated. Mr. Hamilton, thank you so much for being a man of God and caring for me. I truly am grateful for you taking your time to speak with me. I would eventually like to work up some courage to call you sometime, but I will wait because I'm can be shy. I don't want to be a pest. Thanks again for everything and I look forward to hearing back from you.

Then it appears that the problem to be focused on is impulsiveness -- that you do things on the spur of the moment, being driven by the thoughts of immediate reward and not thinking about the long term consequences. I would assume that this appears in other areas of your life and not just in sexual matters and much of the rest of the "iceberg" you allude to is related to this same impulsive behavior.

But I need you to realize that you do have advance warning. Let's take the time that you and your wife were having difficulty for two weeks. You looked up an old girlfriend, that means you did think in advance about committing adultery. Therefore, there is another aspect going on as well. My suspicion is that once you get an idea in your head, you have a hard time letting go until you accomplish whatever you thought about doing. However, that is a wild guess.

I believe I can help you. Shy or not, I think the best way to move forward from here is for you and I to have a good long talk. I don't like operating on educated guesses. I need to get a better sense of what motivates you, which is very hard to pick up through email.