You’ve Got Questions: What Happens if a Christian Gives in to Temptation?
Everyone one of us sin (Rom. 3:23) and are born with a nature inclined to sin (Eph. 2:1-3). So we naturally choose sin over good, more specifically, idols over God: “And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols. . .” (Rom. 1:23 NLT). If you are a believer, you will still continue to sin even after you are saved. However, this is not an excuse to continue living in sin: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2, emphasis mine). In fact, if you continue to sin without remorse, guilt or sorrow, then God is not disciplining you and you are not a child of God: “If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons” (Heb. 12:8). The Scriptures teach very clearly that you cannot live in unrepentant sin and be saved (1 John 1:6), but the Scriptures also teach that struggling daily with sin is a real problem for real Christians (Romans 7).
Now before Christ, we were completely slaves to sin (John 8:34; Rom. 6:20), but now that we are saved, we have the freedom to serve Christ (Gal. 5:1). The difference is that before we were saved we were slaves to our sinful nature, but now we can choose to live for Christ (Gal. 2:20). Still, however, a problem that all Christians face is temptation (1 Cor. 10:13). Satan presents the opportunity before us to sin, and often times we take that opportunity. When we give in to temptation, we sin against God. In 2 Samuel 11, we find the story of King David’s adultery with Bathsheba and the tragic events which followed. David gave in to temptation and committed a horrible, heinous, hurtful sin, yet he was a child of God. He was a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14), and yet he committed awful, terrible, horrible sin. What we see is this: if a person is bound to sin, he is bound to suffer. Sin always brings consequences; even for the believer.
We are completely and totally made accepted in God’s sight based on the justifying work of Christ (Gal. 2:16). And there is nothing you can ever do to make God love you more. Nothing. There is also nothing you have done that makes God love you any less. Nothing. But when we give in to temptation and sin against our Father, our fellowship with Him is hindered. For example, if a son does something wrong to his father—falling short of his expectations or rules—the son has hindered his fellowship with his father. He remains the son of his father, but the relationship suffers. Their fellowship will be hindered until the son admits to his father that he has done wrong. It works the same way with God; our fellowship with Him is hindered until we confess our sin (1 John 1:9). When we confess our sin to God, the fellowship is restored. This is relational forgiveness and we need to seek it when we give in to temptation.
Confession of sin will help to keep us from the discipline of the Lord. If we fail to confess sin, the discipline of the Lord is sure to come until we do confess it. As stated previously, we are totally justified in God’s sight (our sins are forgiven at salvation), but our daily fellowship with God needs to stay in good standing (relational forgiveness). Proper fellowship with God cannot happen with unconfessed sin in our lives. Therefore, we need to confess our sins to God as soon as we are aware that we have sinned, in order to maintain close fellowship with God.