Finding True Freedom

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“I felt untouchable. I loved doing what I wanted when I wanted,” said JJ Rosales, “but that resulted in a lot of troublemaking and prideful feelings that would last for most of my life. And while my parents took us to church, I didn’t consider God an authority or loving figure in my life. I didn’t care about God, so why would He care about me?

“Growing up, I desperately wanted friends and to find approval from my peers. But I was easy to pick on and a target for bullies. I quickly learned how to push my feelings aside instead of addressing any hardships. This began a long battle with isolation, people-pleasing, and desiring things apart from God.

“When I moved to Dallas in high school, I befriended a guy who would invite me every week to go to church with him. And every week, I would tell him no.

“His mom would offer to buy me dinner Wednesdays before church, so eventually, I said yes. I was in it for the free food, but as time passed, I kept noticing how kind they were to me. Although I wasn’t her child, she loved me and cared for me. I wondered, ‘What do they have that I don’t? Why are they doing this? I’m not their family, but they love me.’ I now see they are some of the first Christians who really loved me and showed me a different way of life.

“At their church, I heard the gospel for the first time and learned who Jesus is. I realized how wrong I was about Him. I heard and felt the approval and grace from God that I’d always wanted – approval and grace I lacked from my earthly father. Even though I wanted to follow Jesus, I had no discipleship or anyone to show me how to live with this new faith. I started to claim Christianity as my faith, but my actions were not God-honoring at all.

“My secret pornography addiction that began in middle school was still very much a part of my life as I got older. Continued isolation and my struggle with porn manifested into relationships with girls that crossed physical and emotional boundaries. I carried this struggle with me well into my college years.

“Although I was attending a church and claiming Christianity, I had zero accountability for my actions. I was living in sin and hiding so much of my life from those around me. I didn’t want to ask questions about faith or share my life because I was prideful and wanted to continue living life on my own terms.

“When I moved to a Christian college, I realized if I said the right things and did the right things, I could climb in popularity. I just wanted to be the top dog. I took on a persona and role of a Christian leader, but I never truly let the Lord in. I was not surrendered to Him, and the theme of pride and isolation carried on.

“I continued to cross boundaries with women, including cheating on my girlfriend. I didn’t tell anyone about my secret life and how I was managing my relationships. I pridefully avoided the community of believers at my college who would’ve been more than willing to help me safeguard against sin – a provision from the Lord that I refused.

“My girlfriend, employers, and friends eventually found out about my actions. I was breaking rules of conduct at my workplace, which rightfully led to my termination. I knew there would be consequences for sin, and I was finally experiencing them firsthand.

“I felt like I hit a breaking point. I asked the Lord to step in and take over my life (Romans 10:9). Even at my lowest, I never felt closer to the Lord. I took that time of singleness and unemployment to study and learn more Scripture in a way that really felt like my head and heart were finally connected. I wanted to apply the biblical principles I’d been learning, and I trusted the Lord with every part of my life. I surrendered to Him.

“I could finally identify the sins that had marked my life and relationships for so long. I was prideful, manipulative, lustful, and dishonest. I wanted everything to be about me. But the Lord showed me that I was building a kingdom for myself – and He stripped it all away. I learned that my sins have earthly consequences but because I trust in the Lord, it does not change my salvation. My heavenly consequences for sin were paid for in full by Jesus’s death on the cross (1 Peter 2:24).

“I have seen God’s faithfulness and sovereignty as I look back and see how my life changed as I confessed habitual sin. Life as a Christian is not perfect, and I still have consequences from my past. I may have to live with the shadow of my sin, but I do not have to live with the shame. My sin doesn’t change my identity in Christ. He is continuing to redeem everything I’ve ever done. He’s introduced me to so many godly men who have shown me how Christians should love, serve, and abide in the Lord, and I’ve learned how I must apply the biblical knowledge I have to honor the Lord in every relationship. I know the pain that sin brings, and I only want the freedom that Christ brings.”