“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
Your purity matters so much to God that He’s made a way for you to become pure again—even if you mess up. And at some point in our lives, we all mess up!
God isn’t surprised when we sin. None of us have a perfect moral scorecard, from Adam and Eve all the way down to you and me. When we do sin, most of us feel what Adam and Eve felt:
“At that moment, their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they strung fig leaves together around their hips to cover themselves.
Toward evening they heard the LORD God walking about in the garden, so they hid themselves among the trees. The LORD God called to Adam, ‘Where are you?’
He replied, ‘I heard you, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked’” (Genesis 3:7-10, NLT).
When we sin, we feel naked and ashamed, trying to cover our nakedness and then running away from God. But that’s the time we most need to run back to God. He wants to restore us to purity again. God loved Adam and Eve too much to leave them alone. He went looking for them, just as He goes looking for us because of His great love for us.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
If you find yourself feeling naked and ashamed of your sin, you don’t have to run away. Just turn around. You’ll find that God has been running after you and is eager to take you back and make you pure again.
The same Bible that shows us how to have the best possible sex life is the same Bible that shows us how to be forgiven when we fall short of God’s best.
Falling into Sin
I didn’t realize how far I had strayed from what God says about sex until the year after I got out of college and began to read the Bible for myself. The more I read, the more I realized that the things I had done sexually were wrong in God’s eyes—and could even destroy my life if I continued to do them. I began to see that the bad choices that I had made, and the sins that I had committed, might actually cause my own death. I was especially struck by a verse in the Bible that clarified for me that if I did die, I would simply be reaping the consequences of my own sinfulness, the wages—or what I had earned for my sin:
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
When I saw that these words applied specifically to my life, I decided to take a long walk with God along a bayou that ran through downtown Houston.
As I walked, I wondered if some of the things I had done sexually might have already done irreparable damage to my body through sexual diseases I might have contracted. I had never given it much thought before, but after reading what the Bible said about the natural consequences of sin, I knew that it was quite possible that I would eventually reap what I had sown.
At the same time, I was starting to see that God really did have a plan for the world, and more specifically, for my life, too. I realized that my sins would not only bring me down, but would also bring down the plans God had for my life. I could see that God had a better path in mind for me than the one I was on, and I wanted more than anything to find out how to get onto it.
But how? How could I undo what I had already done? How could I change my wrongful thoughts, feelings and desires? How could I change the habits that I had fallen into that were still threatening to destroy me?
As if in answer to my questions, I ran across another story in the Bible—the story of two blind men who came to Jesus to be healed. I was carrying my Bible with me as I walked along the bayou, reading from the book of Matthew. I was intrigued by Jesus’ words in response to the pleas of the blind men. They called out to Jesus, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” (Matthew 9:27b). In other places in the Bible, Jesus healed people by bending down to make a paste of mud to put on their eyes, or by telling them to dip in a certain pool of water. But not with these two. Jesus asked them a question:
“Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28b).
Based on their answer, Jesus would or would not heal them.
I wanted Jesus to heal me of my wrongful sexual desires and actions, just like the blind men asked Him to heal their eyes. I felt like He was asking me the same question: “Eric, do you believe that I am able to do this, too?” I thought about everything I had ever learned about Jesus: how He healed the sick, walked on water and raised the dead. I knew that if anyone could do it, Jesus could.
I stopped along the path and put my hand up into the air. Just like the blind men, I answered, “Yes, Lord.” And just like the blind men, Jesus healed me:
“Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith will it be done to you,’ and their sight was restored” (Matthew 9:29-30a).
I knew in that moment that I had been healed. It was as distinct as if I had been blind and now could see. The next day I put my faith in Christ for everything in my life, asking Him to forgive me of my sins, and receiving from Him the gift of eternal life. Doing this turned out to be the turning point for the rest of my life.
David’s Turning Point
If you’ve ever sinned, you’re in good company—or at least a lot of company. We all share this common trait.
The Bible says, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…” (Isaiah 53:6a).
Sin—of any kind—does more to short-circuit the abundant life God has for us than perhaps anything else. Sexual sin seems to be especially devastating. Why? The Bible says,
“Flee sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his own body, but he who sins sexually, sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18).
But God has given us a way to overcome a short-circuit to bring us back to full power again: through confession.
To confess means “to agree with,” to recognize that what we’ve done is wrong with a desire to make it right again. Confession is what David expressed to God when his sin with Bathsheba finally caught up to him.
You might remember that David was one of the greatest kings of all time, but that he fell into sexual sin with Bathsheba, a woman who was married to another man. When David looked out from his palace and saw her bathing naked on her roof, he wanted her. He asked her to come to him and fell to one of the lowest points of his life. He might have remained at that point until the day he died except that God, through one of David’s counselors, confronted David about his sin. When David realized what he had done, he poured out his heart in confession to God.
David’s words are recorded in Psalm 51:
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. … Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. … Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:1-3, 7, 10).
David and Bathsheba, and those around them, paid a price for their sin. Bathsheba’s husband died when David had him killed in the cover-up attempt. Then the son born to David and Bathsheba died soon after his birth. To top it all off, their sin was recorded in the Bible for all time for all of us to see.
But all was not lost. Because David confessed his sin and turned back to God, God did for David what he asked: God cleansed him, washed him, and made him whiter than snow. God gave him a pure heart again and renewed his spirit. David married Bathsheba and they conceived another son. That son, Solomon, went on to become one of the richest and wisest kings in all of history. The turning point in David’s life hinged on David’s confession to God and his cry to make things right again.
It’s the same turning point that can determine the outcome of our future, too.
The Power of Confession
I met with a couple one night to pray that they would be able to have a child. They had wanted one for years but were unable to conceive. The doctor had finally declared the wife infertile, meaning she would never be able to have children.
Before I prayed with them, I asked them to tell me a little more about what they were going through and what they wanted God to do for them. It turned out that there was more to their story than infertility. Soon after they were married, they discovered they had a sexually transmitted disease, or STD. STD’s are usually only passed from person to person by sexual contact. This particular STD was terribly painful—each time they made love, it would flare up again and cause one or the other of them pain in their sexual organs.
They didn’t know how they had gotten the STD, or who had brought it into the relationship, because each of them had been sexually active with others before they were married. But the result was that it lead them both to an underlying hurt and resentment that hadn’t gone away.
Before praying for their fertility, I led them in a time of prayer and confession to each other of their past actions and their present hurts that were brought on by their sin. The healing that God performed in their hearts was immediately visible on their faces, as they beamed with forgiveness and a new appreciation of each other. By the time we got to praying for their fertility, there was little left to do but to simply ask God to heal their bodies as well.
Over the next few months, the husband called me several times to tell me what a huge difference those prayers had made in their marriage, including their sex life. Just over a year later, this “infertile” couple gave birth to a child—the fruit of their renewed intimacy. Although they still carried within their bodies the disease from their former sin, God found a way to bypass that condition and continue on with His plan for their lives—and for the life of their child.
Our prayers of confession are powerful. They have a real and practical effect. But they’re not a “magic formula” that help us get whatever we want. In fact, the couple I mentioned above wanted more children after the birth of their first, but they’ve not been able to conceive again. There are many factors that can contribute to how our prayers may or may not be answered, which is why continual prayers for wisdom and continual trust in God is important regardless of the outcome. But confession can be one of the things that can bring us the healing we need to move on with God’s plans for our lives. The Bible says,
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).
I’ve seen this same pattern repeat over and over as I’ve talked with other people who have been at an impasse in their sexual lives. They often see a breakthrough when they finally confess their sins, first to God, and then to their spouse.
A man who had struggled with pornography and illicit chat rooms for years confessed his sin to me. We prayed through it together, seeking God’s forgiveness for what he had done. I then encouraged him to confess it to his wife, as his sin had affected their sexual relationship, too. Although the husband was fearful to confess it to her, he did. When she forgave him, he was finally free, not only from the pornography that had gripped him, but free to to love his wife intimately again.
Another man confessed to me that he had struggled with true intimacy with his wife for years. He told me some of the personal struggles in his life that he had never shared with his wife for fear that she would leave him. I encouraged him that in order to break through to the true intimacy he wanted with his wife, he needed to confess those things to her. With much fear and trepidation, he did. His wife was shocked, went for a walk, and prayed. When she came back, she told him: “I still love you.” He later told me, “Eric, she’s told me thousands of times that she loved me, but this was the first time that I’ve ever really believed her.”
God is in the life-changing business. He’s been turning people’s lives around from sexual sin for thousands of years. Read what the Apostle Paul wrote in a letter to the Christians in the church of Corinth about 2,000 years ago:
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
There’s a little word in there that says a lot: it’s the little verb were. “And that is what some of you were.” They struggled with all kinds of sins, but they didn’t stay that way. They were changed, transformed, and made new again, just like I was. Although there are consequences for our sin, some of which can last a lifetime, none are so serious that they can’t be washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Confession is more than just good for the soul. It’s good for finally living the life for which God created you to live.
If you’re wrestling with unconfessed sin in your life, I want to encourage you to prayerfully consider when, where and to whom to confess it. While it may seem terrifying to admit your sins to God and to the ones you love, the truth is that God already knows about them—and the ones you love are probably already feeling the effects of them. Finally confessing them will help to identify the source so that things can begin to change.
None of us are without sin, but none of us are beyond God’s forgiveness either. Whenever we confess our sins to Him, He promises to forgive us and make us pure again.
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
If you ever find yourself in need of a prayer of confession and don’t know what to say, here are a few words to help you get started. One heartfelt prayer can be the turning point of your life, too.
Father, I’m sorry for the sins I’ve committed against You and against others. I know I can’t make up for these sins, but I know that Jesus has already paid the price for them when He died on the cross. I am putting my full faith and trust in Jesus right now and I ask Him to be the Lord of my life. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that I can be washed, cleansed, purified, and made righteous again in Your sight. I pray this all in Jesus’ name, Amen.
1. What did God do to demonstrate His love for us, even while we were still sinning? (Romans 5:8)
2. What question did Jesus ask the blind men when they wanted to be healed? (Matthew 9:28)
3. What is one thing James says we can do so that we may be healed? (James 5:16)
4. What does God promise to do if we confess our sins to Him? (1 John 1:8-9)