Have you ever wrestled hard with a temptation to sin? Perhaps it was choosing to lie to your parents about your destination as you left the house? Maybe it was a temptation that just felt unavoidable, and you finally caved in to the sin? In these situations, we're well-aware of God’s feelings on the potential sin, and we make a decision to either justify our sin or perhaps even apologize ahead of time as we rush into the choice—a choice that usually fills us with regret afterwards. How does this affect our relationship with God? Does it endanger our soul for eternity?
We all have times when we unintentionally fall into sin with a harsh word or quick glance that was unintended. There are other times when we intentionally choose sin, knowing the choice we should make instead, but we either justify why it’s OK or make excuses for why we didn’t have the strength to avoid it. While we never become sinless as a Christian, we should have a goal to sin LESS often.
Asking forgiveness before committing the sin is not really asking for forgiveness. If you were truly sorry, knowing that sin weighs you down with guilt and breaks the heart of God, you would work harder to avoid it—even when it's difficult. Avoiding sin and resisting temptation is a challenge but not impossible. In fact, it’s all about practice.
1 John 3:6-10 encourages us to make the choice to walk further away from sin rather than running toward it. Notice the word I bolded: “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.”
I practiced sin all the time when I was lost. As a Christian, my practice (or habit) is to do the things God wants me to do. I don’t always make every right choice, but as I have practiced righteousness more and more throughout my life, it's become easier to choose God's way.
Asking God for forgiveness before choosing to sin is not good but talking to God while tempted to sin IS! What we need to do is change the conversation from “God, forgive me for what I’m about to do” and instead say “God, help me to avoid this sin.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that God is rooting for us to win against sin and has given us a way out every time: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
The sin you deal with is the same sin everyone deals with. In those moments, God is inviting us to talk to him. Don’t be embarrassed over it. He already knows all about it and wants you to take the escape route by practicing the righteousness we see in the life of Jesus. That’s why Jesus walked on this earth for three decades before the cross. He died on the cross as our substitute, but He walked on this earth as our example.
James 4:17 says very clearly, “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” Asking forgiveness ahead of time for what you know to be sin, doesn’t bring forgiveness or approval from God anyway.
Jesus knew what He was getting into when He saved you. He didn’t save you because He saw the potential for perfection in you. He saved you because you confessed your imperfection and sinfulness. Ephesians 2:8-9 reminds us we have been saved by “grace…through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
If you can’t be "good enough" to BE saved, you can’t be "good enough" to STAY saved. Jesus saves us of the sins of our past, present, and future. He calls us to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37). This means we love what God loves (justice, truth, care for others) and we hate what God hates (sin).
Talk to God about past failures and your desire to leave those sins behind. Read and memorize the wonderful truth of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Not some unrighteousness or a lot of unrighteousness but ALL unrighteousness—both the unintentional and intentional sins. God hasn’t called us into a club but has adopted us into a family (Ephesians 1:5). That was no small decision on your part (or on His part), and He will not abandon His children—even in our lowest moments.
Asking forgiveness before committing the sin is not really asking for forgiveness. If you truly didn't want to sin, you would work harder to avoid it—even when it's difficult. Avoiding sin and resisting temptation is a challenge but not impossible. In fact, it’s all about practice (1 John 3:6-10). Jesus didn’t save you because He saw the potential for perfection in you. He saved you because you confessed your imperfection and sinfulness (Ephesians 2:8-9). Talk to God about past failures and your desire to leave those sins behind. And remember the truth of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Heath served as a youth pastor and speaker for over a decade around the United States. He now serves as a pastor in Northern Illinois with his wife and three teenage kids. Heath enjoys running, going out on dates with his wife, and helping people grow in their walk with Jesus!