Is it possible to have been a Christian for a long time and not know your need for grace and the gospel? In my case the answer was “yes”. I had been a Christian for many years, held various leadership positions in campus ministry, and struggled with sexual and relational brokenness in the form of an internet pornography addiction. While I had been transparent with other Christians, I never dreamed I could be free from this addiction. But that was about to change.
I came to the University of Minnesota for graduate work, and because I was still struggling with my addiction, I started meeting with my pastor, Craig Krueger, at Sojourn Campus Church. At our first meeting, after describing my addiction and how long it had been going on, he said that my real problem wasn’t the addiction, but rather fear and that I needed the gospel. I was shocked at his answer, to say the least, and even slightly offended. But in the ensuing months and years I found out how right he was. I had been a Christian a long time, but did not know God’s grace, my identity as Jesus saw me, or the power of Jesus’ cross. And it turns out I was deeply hungry for that.
Craig gave me a series of scriptures that combatted lies I had believed over the years and asked me to meditate on them (see Psalm 1:2; in short, scripture meditation is taking a verse or section of scripture and rereading it multiple times until it starts seeping into your heart). At that point I was using Galatians 3:26 as my daily meditation verse, “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith (ESV)”. While I had been reading it for a couple months and starting to truly believe it, as I was reading it again, I felt the Holy Spirit whisper, “you are my son and not a failure” and I was undone. I realized how deeply I believed I was a failure, and God was finally convincing me that I was his son and that was the first and only way he saw me. While I still had much healing to go through as far as my addiction, that was not the primary way God saw me.
While there is much more to my story I can say now, years into the process, God has done tremendous healing- not only of my addiction, seeing many years now without relapse, but more deeply, in my identity in him. And from all this, God has gifted me with a beautiful wife and three wonderful children as well as the privilege of leading other men through the same healing I’ve gone through, through Restoring Wholeness Ministries. I never would have dreamed any of this could be possible, yet I now know that was only because I didn’t understand or believe how deeply God loves and is committed to me. And if you’re struggling, please, connect with other Christians you deeply trust and start to take time to know the gospel – to know that Jesus’ death is enough for you and to see yourself as he does: sinful, yes, yet deeply loved and treasured.