failureDo not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows (Galatians 6:7).

Very few things motivate us to give God our undivided attention like being faced with the negative consequences of our decisions. Regardless of our guilt, we find the courage (or nerve) to turn to God for help and oftentimes a miracle. We make promises to Him as if this would change His mind about our situation. Suddenly, we’re concerned for the welfare of others. We look for whatever leverage we can find to get God to do something on our behalf.

Many of us experience tension because we live daily with the painful consequences of sin. Mistakenly, we thought, hoped, or were told that once we accepted Christ, God would miraculously erase our consequences. With the daily evidence He has not taken away our consequences, some of us conclude we have not received God’s forgiveness. If God really loves me and truly forgives me, we surmise, surely He wouldn’t allow me to suffer as I am. We expect the financial problems that threaten our very existence to disappear once we accept God’s forgiveness. We count on God to heal a broken marriage or return a runaway child once we accept Christ as Savior. The person who lived a promiscuous life and is at high risk for AIDS is convinced that his relationship with God will eliminate this horrific nightmare.

Seldom is that reality. God is under no obligation to remove the consequences of our sin. In fact, He often allows us to live with our consequences as He faithfully loves and teaches us the lessons we would otherwise never learn. This is very difficult to accept, but often we learn our most valuable lessons as the result of the continuing consequences for something that happened long ago. A friend once told me in response to his consequences, “It’s just not fair! I quit drinking six years ago and I’m still not able to get a decent job. It’s just not fair!” My heart goes out to him.

If we struggle to understand why God allows us to suffer the consequences of sin, it is helpful to realize that forgiveness is relational, but consequences are circumstantial. The man who drank for so many years and develops cirrhosis of the liver knows that his disease has a direct link to his drinking. He knows, even though he may deny the truth, that as a result of his drinking, he is experiencing the negative effect of his choice to indulge in liquor. The woman who gave into temptation and has an affair with a coworker knows that her ruined marriage is the consequence of her choice to sow to her sinful nature.

There are many illustrations to explain this principle, but perhaps the most compelling comes from the Cross itself. Jesus gave us an example that cannot be argued or debated. As He hung there, dying for you and me, He was in the process of teaching us priceless truths for our lives today. Remember the criminal who hung on the cross next to Jesus? (Luke 23:40-43). He was completely forgiven, yet moments later, he died a painful death. Forgiveness and consequences stood side by side. The criminal was forgiven; yet he suffered the full extent of the consequences of his sin. This act of forgiveness stands as a testimony of God’s grace, while the stark reality of sowing and reaping is portrayed for all of us to behold. Unlike many of us, who rededicate our lives at some point as Christians and vow to live as we should, that man did not have time to rededicate his life. He died within minutes of trusting Christ as Savior. Forgiven, yes; free of consequences, no.

It’s never easy for us to face the negative consequences of our decisions, but nothing is so bad that we can’t rejoice in the grace of God and the forgiveness He offers. Many people who have become effective in leading the lost to Christ bear the scars of consequences God has chosen not to eliminate from their lives. We all have scars, but they have a purpose, not to cause us grief, but to be used as a tribute to God’s mercy and grace. The way we look at our scars makes the difference in how we face the consequences of our decisions. Whatever our consequences, whatever our scars, our attitudes will determine how we relate to the Lord. Either we will reach a point of understanding and thank Him for the daily reminders of His grace, or we will become bitter.

If there were no consequences, as the world tries to convince us daily, where would we be? Headed for trouble, most likely. The negative consequences of sin have led many into quiet desperation to the throne of God’s forgiveness. It did for me.

* Did you enjoy this post? Read more in my book, Back to the Basics: A Guide for Christian Living.

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  1. This was very well written. I especially was struck by this line, “forgiveness is relational, but consequences are circumstantial.” Very true!

  2. Thank you Joe. How true, and yet how compassionate – what a good way to preach the Good News. The only sinless man suffered – and He had done nothing to deserve it. if we are honest, we know we have deserved nothing – and yet we get God’s love.

  3. “Many people who have become effective in leading the lost to Christ bear the scars of consequences God has chosen not to eliminate from their lives.” I hope to be counted among those people someday as I bear many MANY scars of my past. Addiction, eating disorders, promiscuity….every time a “counsequence” resurfaces I thank God for His mercy. I was certainly spared a far worse fate.

  4. Yes Joe, the consequences of sin stare us in the face constantly with the most obvious example being the sin of the first Adam. His sin infected all humanity causing a spiritual death resulting that his son Seth is no longer described as being created in the image of God, but now in the image of his defective spiritually dysfunction father Adam.

    1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. 2 Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. 3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.
    Gen 5:1-3 (ESV)

    The consequences of the sin of Adam, the federal head of all fallen humanity, is trumped by the perfection and and obedience of Christ, the last Adam, the federal head of all who believe.

    19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
    Romans 5:19 (ESV)

    You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’
    Gen 3:3 (ESV)

    The day Adam ate of the fruit he died spiritually, separated from God, and began to die physically as well.

    All are born naturally in the same condition as Adam. This is why Jesus tells us we must be born again such that we can again have the ability to interact with God and again be called the Son’s of God.

    “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
    John 3:3 (ESV)

    But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
    John 1:12 (KJV)

    1. Right on, Brad! Your comment reminds me of the article I wrote on the Fall of Man – Did you ever read that article? You inspired me to write it.
      I have a request because I think very highly of you. Would you comment on the conversation at the bottom of my post “Why Did Jesus Have To Die?” – Thanks Brad!

  5. Joe, your comment was something I have thought about. I wonder why all the work I do for the Lord brings no profit. This is my weakness for wanted more in my life. I know it is wrong. But what gives me satisfaction is knowing that scripture tells me that the poor inherit the Kingdom. I read this scripture in James 2:5 “Listen, my beloved brethren. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him?” Then the scripture in James goes on to say 2:8 “If you really fulfill the royal law, according to scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well.” 9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”
    This seem contradictory to consequences, but we decide our own consequences by the things we do and our actions. Being a born again Christian is not a free gift to sin. But I have heard people say that now they are born again, they can do anything they want and will remain a born again christian. I think there are many questions regarding this, and I feel your blog has touched the hearts of those like me who wants to do my best for Jesus, because He did his best for me

      1. “The negative consequences of sin have led many into quiet desperation to the throne of God’s forgiveness. It did for me.”
        Thanks Joe for your constant guidance through scripture and teaching.

    1. escaping the inevitable???? i think of the scripture,…..WHO A FATHER LOVES,…..HE CORRECTS,……

      does punishment for our sins (actions) as christians, mean eternal separation from God,….NAY, HEAVEN FORBID!!!! (you know i love my old english, huh joe???! lol)………………it means we will get “disciplined”,…does that word sound “familiar” to anyone here? disciplined???? hhhhmmmmm…….how about the word “DISCIPLE???” DISCIPLINED???? yup,…..there ya go, joe bro,……….

      a student,…a follower,…etc, etc,….someone who is being prepared for something, perhaps???

      there is a spiritual order of growth in all of our lives as christians,…..period. start at the bottom of the ladder,….and go from there,……..correction is a huge part of this,…..that is why “dying to our self”ishness is mandatory,……..when we “were” as children,….we thought and acted as children,…….correct???

      the word “were” is very important here……………..past tense usage. how many of us are still being childish spiritually??? it’s all about choice,……as joe said,…and as jesus said,….GOD WILL NOT BE MOCKED,…AS BELIEVERS,…WE WILL REAP WHAT WE SOW,……………………do we sow childishly, with and in selfish/fleshly actions and attitudes?????? or,….DO WE SOW IN SPIRITUAL MATURITY??? WITH SELF”LESS” AND SPIRITUAL ACTIONS AND ATTITUDES?????

  6. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Our choices, decisions and actions have consequences. Just like if you commit a crime. Even if you ask for forgiveness and repent you still have to serve your sentence. The law is still the law. If I go to the roof of my apartment complex and jump off I will not start flying like Superman, I will fall to the concrete ground and probably meet Jesus a little sooner than expected. Why? The Law of Gravity. Best thing is to learn from other’s mistakes. Not that we won’t err but as my Dad used to say, “If you lay down with dogs, you’ll get up with fleas.” Amen Brother Joe.

  7. hi there “miss dancing!!!” long time, no see!………i’m gonna beg to differ with you just a tad here,…ok?????? you just said that the “best thing” is to “learn from others mistakes”, correct????? ok,…so i totally understand what you mean by this, and I GET IT!!!!!!!!,…..BUT,…IS IT “RRRREEEAAALLLLLLYYYYYYYY” THE “BEST THING??????”


    just a thought for ya there, ok???? much love to ya!!!!

    1. Yes of course the best course is to follow Jesus, but in reality young people are really good at that and are often pulled in various directions. However, and this is a true case within my own family, if your older brother is in prison why do you cut class, disrespect the teachers & other adults, start fights and wonder why you’re on probation at the local precinct. Now the other child in this scenario has seen the light she is studying to finish high school, putting in applications for jobs and has plans to attend college. In five years where do you think all these kids will be?

      1. i guess where they are in five years is going to be based on their decisions,….correct????? so,….if someone teaches them and shows them what it means to truly follow jesus,……then they will “still” be “making choices” where they “will be” in five years,…..correct???………….hhhhhmmmmmmm what are your thoughts on this???…….you had said, “in reality????”…….life will prove that jesus is THEE REALITY……at least,….my life,….as well as my choices (and some of their consequences) has proven jesus is THEE REALITY,….TO ME……….do ya follow me???

        1. Yes their future will be based on their decisions. As I stated the oldest boy age 25 is upstate in prison. He gets out this year. Who knows? If he goes back to his old friends he’ll wind up back in prison. The youngest boy, 15, is hard headed, violent, selfish and has a big ego. He thinks the world owes him. Either he will follow his brother into prison or if he continues with the thug life he might wind up dead. The girl she lives with me. Unfortunately these children all have the same mother but different fathers. The mother is very unstable and was an addict. That’s why the girl chose to live with me. To be perfectly honest the mother is nuts and makes excuses for her sons, only her sons. The girl, age 17 wants the chance to succeed in life. She has direction, purpose & goals. I see a bright future for her. As you can see I have a very strange family. Sometimes when I go see Tyler Perry’s Madea movies I could swear he pulled the characters from my dysfunctional family, only in real life it is not funny. As for me I have no time for the thug mentality or their twisted reality. My baby girl and I are moving on.

          1. my heart goes out to you and them,…….me and you both know that life can have some great difficulties,….that is for sure,………………as you for you and your baby girl moving on??? sometimes that is the best thing to do,…….although that DOES NOT mean that it is easy to do,…………..much love lil momma!!!!!!

  8. P.S. i gotta say that i do not see that you have a strange family at all,……….k??? i see a very human family, in a hard world,…………….toksoon

  9. Indeed, this is true as I read from the Scripture. Reminds me of King David and some people from the Bible.

  10. I like this: “forgiveness is relational, but consequences are circumstantial”. If I didn’t have to live with the consequences of my sin, I think I’d be less apt to resist sin because I’d know that all I had to do was ask forgiveness and everything would be okay.

  11. Blessings Joe. All of us carry the consequences of our sins, but praise be to God, the best consequence of all is our forgiveness from God… Yay, Jesus. Carley

    1. hey joe,…my little thought-o-the-day,……sometimes the results of and consequences for our actions are just God’s way of letting us stop dead in our tracks,….and start a brand new life,…..each day………and that can be a beautiful thing,….unless we repeat the same destructive behaviors,………………..jus sayin,……..

  12. Hey Joe….I really enjoyed reading this wonderful post! Thank for so much for sharing, many, many blessings to you…Robin

  13. Joe, I know God has taught me more in the hard time then when everything was going my way. What always amazes me is why God does not bring more hardship in my life. I know I deserve it. David

    1. Yes actions and decisions have consequences as my 15 year old nephew rudely found out last month when he was arrested. Kids want to live this ghetto thug rapper life but they don’t want what goes with it. Jail is no joke. Maybe if the courts decided to release him he will have learned his lesson but then again maybe not because as always his mother continues to make excuses for his arrogant violent behavior and always tries to rescue him. However this time her rescue did not succeed. Now he will sit in the jail cell and have time think about where his life is going.

  14. Joe, I am sorry I missed your post when it came out. Today I looked you up and another great topic you have again done an excellent job covering. I can testify to the fact lets us go through the consequences of our sin. I can also testify the the fact I have been forgiven the wages of my sin. As for going through the consequences of our sin I will also testify to the fact that Jesus never lets us go through those consequences alone. All I have to do was give of own freewill my life to do as He wishes. Amen! James

  15. I revisited this post and want to say “Thank you my brother” for an absolutely anointed post. You are a gifted writer and it is obvious that you are anointed to evangelize through the medium of internet ministry.

    “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)

    Cyber ministry is a growing in significance, effectiveness and outreach. Continue to walk in the authority of the Word. I believe that you are an example of that “greater work.”

    “Keep Looking Up!”
    ~ bishop~
    [Reblogged & Shared on FaceBook]
    AWESOME!!! 😀

  16. I love the line, “we all have scars, but they have a purpose…” That is so true! God is totally ready to use our bad decisions or the painful situations we’ve been in to bring him glorify and to point others to him. If only we would let him. Like you said, it’s all about our attitude.

  17. Beautifully said and amen! About those ‘scars’, here’s a beautifully worded quote from a singer/songwriter named Sally Klein-O’Connor who said this: “It is my hope that my scars may become windows through which people may see the beauty of God’s Son and how everything He touches is transfigured by His love.”

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