This post is from a larger series under the cat­e­gory Friend to Jesus. It is a detailed explo­ration of the three stages of faith: the believer, the ser­vant and the friend of God. If you want to start at the begin­ning, it begins with the post How Look­ing at a Car­avag­gio Paint­ing Can Change Your Life and then con­tin­ues chronologically.

‘The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul.’ (Psa. 19:7). Most laws condemn the soul and pronounce sentence. The result of the law of my God is perfect. It condemns but forgives. It restores—more than abundantly—what it takes away. Jim Elliot

If you live in Chicago, you know that you naturally spend a lot of time in your car because of traffic and getting from Point A to Point B. On these stop-and-go drives, I usually listened to Chicago sports radio. The Bulls were winning championships left and right and it was fun listening to the banter about the pride and joy of our city.  If you know me, you know that I am not a regular listener to Christian radio or television. However, that night for some reason I turned the dial to some Christian radio station being piped in from one of the suburbs. That night driving down Roosevelt Avenue lonely and sad, I inadvertently came across Bob George’s People to People radio program. If you have ever listened to Bob George or read his books you know that he talks about one thing over and over at great length—God’s grace. For the first time, as I was listening to his words, God began showing me a grace I had not seen before—one that I actually began to experience. In that car ride, listening to his Southern twang talk about acceptance, it opened up my eyes like never before. It was as if Jesus mixed some mud together, rubbed it on my eyes and then commanded me to open them. A couple of days later I grabbed Bob George’s book Growing in Grace off the bookshelf at a store and took it home. I read it in one sitting and in that time came across this passage below:

Now realize that I am talking about ourselves being acceptable to God, not necessarily our actions. In my identity I am eternally acceptable to Him, but that doesn’t mean that everything I do is all right. He may put His arm around me, so to speak, and show me the truth about something in my life that is out of line: an attitude, action, or habit. Why? So He can change my attitude that is out of line, resulting in a change of action. But at no time is His acceptance of me ever in question.

But at no time is His acceptance of me ever in question. This was one of the missing pieces for me. I knew something like this in concept, but had yet to experience it. Now I began to do that or as the psychologists term, I began to internalize this truth.

During that period in my life, Jesus was also saying that some significant changes needed to occur in my life so that I could really begin to understand that freedom he desired for me. At that point, I made a commitment to not date anyone, even casually. Likewise, I decided I needed to pursue friendships with men, which for the most part was a bit of a challenge for me. Hanging out with women even from a young age was easier for me and for the most part, I enjoyed their company more than hanging out with the guys. However, I began to see that this on some level was contributing to my problem with having healthy relationships with women. With this decision, not until years later did I realize that in this time of healing for me, as I was pursing my relationship with God, I was also pursuing healing in terms of what it meant to be a man. I also decided to remove myself from any ministry context and began reading voraciously books on sexual healing. Specifically, the works of Walter Trobisch had a tremendous influence on me; his books speak openly about sexual issues from a Christian perspective and address certain issues that most books written at that time wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.  Jesus, no different than with Peter, had flipped my world upside down and it was an amazingly lonely, but healing time in my life. In essence, with all that he was doing in my life, he was saying that I had all this focus on ministering to others, but that I had gotten the cart before the horse, and that first, he needed to minister to me. Something, for the most part, I had never allowed him to do.

Ironically, at the end of the day, the main way in which Jesus dealt with me in this healing in terms of all these relational and sexual issues was that he simply forgave me and just as importantly, taught me how to forgive myself. Strangely, these were the two key components that began to change my behavior. Yes, I was reading books, seeking counsel, and doing a myriad of other things to attempt to bring change to my life, but it was these two pieces that began to transform me—His forgiveness and my own forgiveness toward myself. I, for the first time in my life, had truly experienced forgiveness beyond just knowing it in text-book fashion and in word only.

In particular, I can remember one day when I was reading the Bible, God through His words basically said, Buddy, there are a lot of other areas of your life that you pay little attention to that need even more change than just this area of lust. I remember that moment because it struck me that I began to see that in some ways the sin of pride was just as damaging to myself and to others as what my sexual sin could be. This was a freeing moment for me. It made me realize how focused I was on this one area of my life, but was neglecting so many others. Again, God was teaching me in a way only that he could, that I was a sinner through and through to the very core. Through this relinquishment, not only did I begin to heal, but I miraculously began to change. The beauty of this time, now that I look back at it now, was that even though I was in this completely broken state, Jesus was extremely patient with me and slowly, but surely was in the process of changing me for the better.

In: Friend to Jesus
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