There are at least two results of sinful choices: guilt and consequences. By guilt, I mean the debt that God places on your spiritual account and for which the impenitent will be lost. By consequences, I refer to the adverse temporal circumstances in one’s life that are brought about by the sin. Consider these two components.
When a man commits sin he transgresses God’s law (1 John 3:4) and incurs a debt to God that he is incapable of repaying (Matt. 18:21-35). But through the blood of Jesus poured out for the remission of sins (Matt. 26:28), that debt to God can be removed (Rom. 3:24; 5:9). It matters not what the sin is. God is “faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20).
Saul of Tarsus is a good example of this. Regarding his pre-Christian life he wrote, “I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it” (Gal. 1:13). He was “a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor” (1 Tim. 1:13). Still, he “was shown mercy” and abundant grace (v. 14).
God be praised for the salvation that is in Christ!
Though the guilt of sin can be forever removed, the temporal consequences may remain long after God has forgiven. Consider the bittersweet case of Moses. While leading God’s people through the Sinai wilderness in search of water, God instructed Moses to speak to a particular rock and water would miraculously come from it (Num. 20:8). In a moment of anger, Moses dishonored God in the presence of the people by striking the rock instead of speaking to it (v. 10-11). As a consequence of his sin, God barred him from entering the Promised Land (v. 12; Deut. 34:1-6).
We know that Moses had the guilt of that sin removed, for centuries later he appeared in his glorified state with Jesus and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-3). But even though God removed the guilt of his sin, he did not remove the temporal consequences. Moses still was not allowed to enter Canaan.
A man may commit a crime, subsequently seek and obtain God’s forgiveness, but still face a lifetime of consequences. The penitent and forgiven drug abuser of the past may still endure health and family problems the rest of his life.
The Wisdom of Forethought
Wisdom demands that we look before we leap. We should consider the consequences of our actions before we follow through with them because when we choose an action we choose the consequences of that action. Scripture puts it this way: “Watch the path of your feet” (Prov. 4:26). “The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, but the naive go on, and are punished for it” (Prov. 22:3).
While God has made available to us his grace to remove the guilt of our sins and set us on the road to eternal glory (Titus 2:11), he has never promised to remove the temporal consequences of those sins.