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“But I’m Still Struggling!”: Distinguishing a Healthy Struggle with Sexual Sin from an Attitude of Unrepentance

As a member of several Facebook support groups for women battling lust, I’ve found that many (female) recovering porn and masturbation addicts wrestle with unwanted detours on their road to recovery. Although they absolutely feel the consequential guilt and shame resulting from their sexual sin and sincerely desire to quit, time after time they compromise in some way. These failures lead to another issue: unrealistic expectations concerning what it actually means to be “free” from a sexual addiction.

Almost daily, a member confesses that she has failed sexually and in turn asks, “Have I truly repented?” While it’s definitely healthy to examine one’s faith, especially when wrestling with habitual sin, I’ve found that many women confuse vulnerability to sexual temptation with unrepentance. Without a biblical understanding of repentance and realistic expectations concerning temptation moving forward, many women can’t make progress toward their long-term goal of freedom for wondering if they are actually “sorry” for their sin or are in the faith to begin with.

Are you still struggling with sexual sin? Feeling unforgivable or doubting your love for God after compromising sexually yet again? Using the scriptures, we’ll discover what it looks like to wrestle well with sin (and at times fail). By the end of our time together, you’ll be able to distinguish biblical unrepentance from an instance of spiritual weakness. This clarity will give you the confidence you need to move forward, exercising your God-given authority over your carnal desires.

How Does the Bible Define “Unrepentance”?

When scripture speaks of an unrepentant sinner, it describes one who stubbornly refuses to turn away from sin and turn to God for forgiveness. (Acts 3:19, Ezekiel 18:21-23) This stiff-necked rebel doesn’t care that he or she has offended God, but may express regret for their actions when suffering the disciplinary consequences of his or her sin. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

The inhabitants of Judah whom the prophet Jeremiah urged to turn back to God countless times fit this profile perfectly. Despite God’s gracious warnings and constant calls to repentance, the people refused to listen without any remorse for their rebellious actions. (Jeremiah 7:27, Jeremiah 44:1-6)

According to God’s word, an unrepentant sinner:
● Refuses to turn away from sin and remains unresponsive to God’s correction. (1 John 1:6-7, 1 John 3:8-10)
● May ask for forgiveness with the intention to sin again. (Titus 1:6, Romans 6:1-4)
● Feels no remorse or guilt concerning their sin. (1 John 1:8)
● Are more concerned with escaping the consequences for their sin than pleasing God. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Is True Repentance Synonymous with A “Clean Record”?

Now that we’ve established what the Bible defines as “unrepentance,” let’s address this misconception about “true repentance” and sin committed afterward. Many women caught in a cycle of sexual sin assume that true repentance is evidenced by their ability to perfectly resist that sin moving forward. In other words, she is truly repentant if she doesn’t commit that sin again. But is this logic biblical?

No.

Rather than pointing to a “clean record” (we could never personally work up), the Bible teaches that true repentance is evidenced by our commitment to turn away from sin. (1 John 2:29, 1 John 3:3, 1 John 3:18–19) A tender heart that responds to God’s correction is the fruit of true repentance.

As Christians, we won’t experience sinlessness on this side of eternity, so naturally we’ll continue to wrestle with our sin nature until we join Christ in Heaven. (1 John 1:8, 1 John 3:2) With this in mind, it’s very possible for a repentant Christian to commit sexual sin. (1 Corinthians 5:1-5) In such a case, that Christian should respond by confessing that sin to God and asking for His forgiveness. This confession is motivated by a brokenness over one’s sin and a desire to restore the intimacy with God that sin disrupted.

The Bible teaches that a repentant sinner:
● Respects and stands in awe of God (and in turn desires to be made right with Him). (Psalm 25:14, Romans 2:4)
● Responds to God’s correction with confession and actively turning away from sin. (1 John 1:9, Proverbs 1:7)
● Commits to walking in repentance (though he or she may sin again). (Matthew 3:8, 1 Peter 1:14-16)
● Desires to grow in holiness and break any habits that could lead to sin. (2 Corinthians 7:1, 1 Thessalonians 4:7)

How This Changes Everything

Feeling unforgiven and doubting whether you truly are repentant will paralyze you in your efforts to overcome sexual sin. If you remain convicted by your sin and commit daily to honoring God with your choices and actions, take heart. You may not be perfect, but you are repentant.

Of course, being repentant doesn’t dismiss the need for you to remain alert and vigilant in resisting sin. Take any necessary measures and precautions to defeat recurring temptation. Gratefully and confidently cling to God’s forgiveness and grace without downplaying the severity of your sin and the need to change.

Believing in your own desire to please God and trusting in the reality of His forgiveness are essential to experiencing lasting victory over sexual sin. Don’t allow those instances when you fall into sin to discourage you or call into question your heart’s desire to walk in holiness. Instead, repent of your sin, learn from your failure, and recommit to God’s design for sexuality.

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How would you benefit personally from believing in your desire to please God and trusting in His forgiveness when you confess your sin?

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