Here are four of these principles that I believe are necessary to experience true restoration.
1. Repentance. In 2 Corinthians 7:10 Paul says, "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death" (NKJV). In this verse we see two types of sorrow--the sorrow of the world and godly sorrow.
Many people interpret the pain they feel when they are caught in sin as repentance. Yet, this is actually the sorrow of the world. In other words, the pain they feel didn't come as a result of the realization that their sin has grieved the heart of God. They hurt because they have been caught.
There is another kind of sorrow that comes simply because we have violated our conscience. This is also the sorrow of the world. We may feel guilty for what we have done, but experiencing guilt doesn't necessarily mean we have experienced true repentance.
Genuine repentance is a work of the Spirit of God. In Psalm 51:4 we hear the heart of true repentance when, after committing adultery with Bathsheba, King David prayed, "Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight." David realized that he had broken the heart of God and damaged his intimacy with the Lord. David refused to blame anyone for his sin.
True repentance begins with a willingness to take full responsibility for one's choices. This means refusing to embrace a "victim mentality" that blames others for personal failure. Yet I often hear those who have committed sexual sin attempt to shift the blame on everything and everyone around them.
They blame their sin on generational curses or explain it away because of the negligence of their spouses. Some have even pointed a finger at demonic activity over their cities as the reason for their immorality.
Understandably, there are always hidden factors contributing to the temptations we experience, but we can never allow those factors--no matter how legitimate they may seem--to become excuses. In James 1:14 we read, "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed."
It is our own desires that give power to temptation. Therefore, it is our choice to establish the boundaries of our hearts, keeping our lusts under the control of the Holy Spirit.
The only thing Satan can do is tempt us. It is we who cast the deciding vote. True repentance realizes that regardless of family history, demonic activity or the behavior of others, sexual sin is committed as a result of one's own personal choice. It is only as a person accepts complete responsibility for his choices that true restoration can begin.
2. Time. Forgiveness is received in an instant, but restoration is a process. I believe the most overlooked principle in the restoration process is the element of time.
Many people fail to understand that it takes time to get to the place where one is willing to commit sexual sin. The temptation to commit adultery doesn't overtake a person like a seizure. We are "wired" by God in such a way that it requires time to talk ourselves into the act of adultery.
Consequently, it takes time to re-establish a foundation of character in one's life subsequent to a moral failure. Time is required to rebuild trust with a spouse, family and other people. It is also necessary in rebuilding the person's relationship with God.
I am appalled by recent accounts of well-known Christian leaders who have committed sexual sin yet refuse to step down from their ministries. Some have divorced their wives and had the audacity to remarry within days.
These men viewed time as an enemy they needed to conquer. They obviously felt that their ministries couldn't survive the time it would require for them to be out of the pulpit. As a result, they deceived themselves into thinking they were justified in continuing their ministries after a quick prayer of forgiveness.
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