Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at roger@preachitteachit.org.

Dear Roger,

Please I need help right now. Today I have just committed adultery, seduced by a prostitute at a hotel I am staying (I am not trying to justify the action) in a foreign country when my wife is back home.

Since then I have a feeling that I have totally destroyed my spiritual life, which had taken years to build and I just came across your website through an internet search. I also have a position in church and have been critical of sexual immorality in church.

I came across an article on religious tolerance which says there is no longer any hope for me as this is an unforgivable sin.

To be honest I am quite sure that this is my last as the whole thing was regret after regret, including during the act itself. What do I have to do to be forgiven for this sin and to regain the confidence that I now had? Am I already doomed to hell?

Name Withheld

Dear Brother,

Adultery is NOT an unforgivable sin. You are not already doomed to Hell. The only unforgivable sin is unbelief in Christ. When we confess our sins and trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He forgives all our sin for all time. You still have a home in Heaven. That is secure. What you don't have is security from all the consequences of your sin.

First, we will talk about getting things right with God. Then we must talk about how to handle the consequences.

Regaining your fellowship with God is your first objective. Remember 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, God will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Paul wrote that "godly sorrow" is an integral part of restoration: "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death" (2 Corinthians 7:10). Godly sorrow means that we feel like Jesus felt when He watched us do what we did. This means that we replay our sin in our minds and imagine what Jesus was thinking as He watched us sin. This will break our hearts with sorrow. You are obviously experiencing godly sorrow. The road is open for you to return to fellowship with God.

The Christians in Ephesus lost their initial relationship of love with Jesus. He told them to Remember what it was like when they first fell in love with Jesus. Repent that is not that way anymore. Then, Repeat the things that you did when you first fell in love with Jesus.

Jesus said to them: "Consider how far you have fallen (Remember)! Repent and do the things you did at first (Repeat)" (Revelations 2:5).

God forgave David of his sin with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah.

Take a moment and read Psalm 51 and pray with David as he grieved over his sin and the break in his fellowship with God. Then, pray with David as he experienced God's forgiveness.

But, this is not the end of the matter. Unfortunately, like David there are consequences to your behaviors. David's next child died in infancy and his family was cursed with murder, incest, rebellion and hatred. You, too, must face the consequences of you sin. I am so sorry for the personal pain you will be enduring.

Let me mention just a few of the possible consequences:

Consider shame. Facing your wife, children, family and pastor will be incredibly shameful. Healing from the shame of what you have done will for most people take a long time. So, don't be surprised and don't be disappointed if you don't struggle with shame both before God as well as you family and/or friends.

You have broken trust with those who depended on you. Trust will not be rebuilt over night.

Loss and depression will at times overwhelm you. You are no longer qualified to minister in your church. The issue here is betrayal of truth and honesty and a loss of leadership.

Rejection may dog your heels. So many trusted you and placed faith in you, and now they feel so disappointed in you. They may not want to spend as much time with you as they used to.

Your marriage may or may not survive. Imagine the shame, rejection, loss of trust, and anger that your wife will experience.

I could go and on describing the consequences that you may face. But, I will stop here. I don't want to overwhelm you.

May I share a word of encouragement?

I have counseled and ministered to many people who have committed adultery. If you hang in there and don't quit, there is every chance in the world that all will eventually be restored and you can have a fulfilled and profitable life.

But, I do want to talk to you about the great temptation to hide your sin. Since you were in a foreign country, if you just keep quiet maybe you can keep it all a secret. You can avoid most all of the consequences.

There seem to be two approaches in handling this issue with or without others.

One is to keep quiet. Some counselors say that there is no reason to inflict pain and suffering on others by telling them what you've done so keep it quiet. I agree that there are some secrets in our past that are better kept untold.

But, in your case, as a Christian, the problem is that hidden sin will eat out your soul. David talked about how sickness and misery overwhelmed him when he kept quiet about his sin. But spiritual and emotional relief commenced as he came clean about what he had done.

After dealing with this issue hundreds of times, my opinion is that you can take your medicine now or you can take it later. It is much better to confess to your wife and pastor now while you have many years ahead to restore what you have done. However, the longer you wait and hope that your sin is never found out may not leave you much time to fix your broken relationships with your wife, family and friends when it is one day exposed.

I am truly sorry for what has happened in your life. This should never happen to anyone. Fortunately, many have endured these same storms and come through them stronger than ever. May God grant that to be the case in your life.

I know of many couples who have weathered these storms and come through with relationships stronger than they ever were before.

I am enclosing below the story of one man who faced much the same circumstances as yours and came out victoriously. I hope his experience will help you as well as others who may be following in your footsteps.

May God grant you good days ahead.

Love, Roger

An Anatomy Of Lust--by Anonymous

When I was a young pastor, “Christianity Today” developed a practical quarterly journal for pastors called, appropriately, “Leadership Journal.” One of the early articles was written by an anonymous pastor detailing his descent into pornography. “An Anatomy of Lust”was a fascinating article. We couldn’t pass it around the church office fast enough.

The anonymous pastor was preaching a revival meeting in a particular city and decided to spurn a ride back to his hotel since the hotel was only a few blocks away. It was a lovely evening so he chose to walk. On the way he passed a strip joint. He'd never entered one of these before. He said to himself, "I'll just duck in here and take a quick look." When he got inside he saw things he had never seen before—never imagined he would see—never planned to see. Unfortunately, he was hooked.

That night in his hotel room, overcome with shame and guilt, he thought, "I'll never see the light of morning. I've committed such a horrible sin that God is going to kill me tonight.” He imagined the hotel roof caving in upon him during the night. But, lo and behold, he woke up just as he had every other day of his life.

Pastoral work is hard enough without living a double life. The anonymous pastor detailed the dark side as he struggled with porn. He snuck into peep shows, devoured pornographic magazines, and put dollars in places he shouldn't be putting dollars. The shame and guilt were incredible.

He tried some of the standard ways to find freedom from bondage. "God, take it away!" he cried; but that did not work. He tried will power with no success. "I will never do it again!" he promised God; but, he did. Fleshly will power and repentance and surrender to the Spirit all proved ultimately ineffective.

Flying across the western United States he struggled with how his sin was affecting His marriage. He now had a whole sex life apart from his wife. She was realizing that something was wrong, but couldn’t quite put her finger on it. He looked out the window and prayed, “God, since I can't get victory over my sin of pornography, would you just strike me blind? I'm going to close my eyes and while they are closed I am asking you to strike me blind. He was desperate. But, when he opened his eyes he could still see the desert out the window. God didn't take away his sight.

In the midst of the article he shared a great insight into the lie of pornography: “The great lie of playboy, TV commercials, and racy movies is that the physical ideal of beauty is attainable and oh, so close. The truth is, of course, that if I sat next to Miss October, she wouldn’t give me the time of day.”

Sports Illustrated magazine puts out an annual swimsuit issue with increasingly scantily clad women. The first cover photo to cross the line of decency was of super model Cheryl Tiegs wearing a fishnet swimsuit. At this point Anonymous Pastor gained an insight which began leading to his freedom. He wrote, "I began to realize that I can have luscious Cheryl if I wanted--teeth flashing, breasts exposed, and coming right at me out of the magazine. I can have luscious Cheryl," he said. “But, I can't have Cheryl and also have God.”

Two Christian classics, “The City of God” by St. Augustine, and “What I Believe” by the fifteenth century French priest Francois Muriac, contained the keys that opened the door to his freedom. Anonymous Pastor wrote:

I began reading a brief and simple book of memoirs, What I Believe, by Francois Muriac. After brazenly denying the most common reasons I have heard against succumbing to a life filled with lust, Muriac concludes that there is only one reason to seek purity. It is the reason Christ proposed in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Purity, says Muriac, is the condition for a higher love—for a possession superior to all possessions: God himself.

Sins are not a list of petty irritations drawn up for the sake of a jealous God. They are, rather, a description of the impediments to spiritual growth. We are the ones who suffer if we sin, by forfeiting the development of character and Christlikeness that would have resulted if we had not sinned.”

Cheryl Tiegs coming toward me out of the page, her teeth flashing, her eyes sparkling, her body glistening, is that City of Man. The pure in heart shall see God. Set against luscious Cheryl, somehow that promise does not seem like much. But that is the lie of the Deceiver. The City of God is the real, the substantial, the whole. What I become as I strengthen my citizenship in that kingdom is far more worthy than anything I could become if all my fantasies were somehow fulfilled.

“I can have my sin if I want to,” summarized anonymous pastor, but I cannot have my sin and also have pure access to God—and somehow or other, the desire to see God means more than my desire to see Cheryl.

We can sin if we choose; but, we must remember that the degree to which we sin is the degree to which we impair our abilities to see and hear from God! “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God."

Ask RogerDr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.

Publication date: June 25, 2013