The Bible draws a distinction between temptation and sin. For instance, it says that Jesus was “tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). It is important to keep this distinction because the strategies for dealing with temptation are different from those for dealing with sin. For example, you are to flee temptation (Gen. 39:12), but you are to confess sin (1 John 1:9).
While the first step of protection is to admit the reality of the temptation (https://philmoser.com/2012/01/09/help-for-those-struggling-with-sexual-sins-step-1-admit-the-reality-of-the-temptation/), the second step is to repent where sin has been committed. Once you have succumbed to the temptation and willfully sinned against God and others repentance is necessary.
Please note: Sin is not limited to one’s visible actions. It also includes one’s thoughts. While you may comfort yourself in the fact that your thoughts are invisible to others, the Bible declares that they are known in intimate detail by God.
The Psalmist said, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me…you discern my thoughts from afar” (Psalm 139:1,2). And the writer of Hebrews added, “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13).
Jesus made specific reference to our thoughts regarding sexual sin in Matthew 5:27-28
27 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
The phrase “looks at a woman” is in the present tense. It is communicating more than a harmless glance at someone passing through your field of vision. The word communicates an unwillingness to look away. A lingering look. An intentional stare. Like the shutter of a camera, your eye and mind are working together capturing images. A few words later we discover the reason this is forbidden; because, it’s done with lustful intent.
So once the sin has been committed, whether literally or mentally, repentance is necessary. It helps me to remember the first steps of repentance with 3 letters, A,B,C.
Acknowledge the wickedness. Bear the responsibility. Confess the sin.
Acknowledge the wickedness (Psa. 32:5).
Because we often feel shame with sexual sin, we do everything within our power to avoid admitting it. We hide it. We cover it up. We lie, when asked about it. King David attempted to cover up his adultery (2 Sam. 11-12). Yet, when rebuked by the prophet Nathan for his sin, David quit covering. His words reveal his first step, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam. 12:13). David later wrote, “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:5). There is a remarkable paradox here: When you cover your sin, God reveals it. When you reveal your sin God covers it. How our great God loves to forgive, but he waits for us to humble ourselves and acknowledge the sin.
Bear the responsibility (Psa. 51).
The 51st Psalm mentions David’s partner in adultery (Bathsheba) in the heading, but that’s the last you’ll hear of her. There is no blameshifting going on here. When remembering the sin David responds with: “my transgressions”, “my iniquity”, “my sin” (Psalm 51:1-3). Once he acknowledges his sin, he fully takes responsibility for it. Such an attitude prepares us for the final and most difficult step.
Confess the sin (1 John 1:9; Jam. 5:16).
We are told to confess our sins to God (1 John 1:9). We are also told to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16). So which is it? God or others? Actually an understanding of two different Greek words will help. The word used in 1 John 1:9 is homologeo. Homo is the prefix meaning “the same.” Logeo means to speak. Hence “confess” in 1 John 1:9 means to “speak the same about.” Or another way of saying it is to agree with God about our sin. What he calls sin we call sin — no if, ands or buts. When we do that, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. Notice the verse.
If we confess (homologeo) our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
In James we are told to confess our sins to one another. The word translated confess there is the word exlogeo. You probably recognize the prefix ex from the word exit. It means to “go out.” Attached to our word logeo it means “to speak out.” We aren’t looking to hide our sin anymore. We speak it out so that others can pray. Notice its use in James 5:16.
Therefore, confess (exlogeo) your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:16).
This is one of the best kept secrets about confession and victory over sexual sins. You need to do both kinds of confession. First, humble yourself before God, and then humble yourself before others.
I once met a husband who told me he never knew victory over his sexual sins until he confessed to his wife, and sought her forgiveness. Actually . . . I’ve had a number of husbands tell me that. That’s because genuine, true confession is an essential piece of repentance, and the eventual victory that follows.