Surprised By Freedom

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Written from video audio:

My name is Justin Rule. 

I thought it would be helpful to share where I came from and testify to what God has done in my life.

I grew up in God-fearing Jesus-loving family. When I was seven years old, I remember finding a magazine (with nudity in it) and one thing led to another, curiosity upon curiosity, on into middle school and high school. If you asked anybody who knew me, they would describe me as say, “Oh Justin, he’s going to be the next great evangelists!” Because on one side I was so bent on letting everybody see “the perfect” – and to pretend that everything was together.

The lifestyle of those that are in the struggle becomes so secretive. 

I was so good at deceiving everybody who knew me. I was leading youth groups and prayer groups on one hand, and yet, on the other hand, getting darker and darker in my sin.

My sin led to viewing adult films, rigging up secret computers, sneaking out of the bedroom to engage in sinful behaviors. When I went to college, I can remember people saying, “Go share Jesus with the world! It’s going to be amazing!

But all college did was turn the lights out again.

I lived a totally double life. I started getting involved with the church, youth ministry, and campus ministries. But on the other hand, with the onset of the internet, things just began to grow dark and expand my curiosities.

I was acting out the pleasures of flesh and the sin of self.

Along the way, I met this woman who I fell in love with and she later became my bride. I remember Whitney said, “So do you struggle with pornography?” And I’d say, “Yeah, you know, it’s a struggle – it’s every man’s battle – I fight and struggle and there’s victory!” Not at all giving her the half of what was really going on. 

I was too afraid and too deceived.

The lifestyle of those that are in the struggle becomes so secretive. 

I had never heard of anybody talk about the hope of freedom

The best I heard was in youth group that “we’re just going to wrestle and ‘we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood….even Paul struggled and said ‘the good things that I want to do, I don’t do, but I find myself doing the things I don’t want to do.! So it’s normal. And he (Paul) had a thorn in his flesh…” 

I heard all these justifications for heterosexual, homosexual, sexual desires and things that I wanted to go after.

I heard it all and I gave myself permission to normalize the struggle.

Well, I got married and I feel like the Lord said, “You know, your wife is the mirror you were never willing to look into, Justin!” She would begin to expose things in my heart…

One time I was in another town and my wife called me and said, “Hey, are you making good choices?” (Referring to looking at pornography – of which she knew I had a “small struggle” with…) And I said, “I am!” 

And my tooth shattered in my mouth!

I was chewing a piece of gum and my tooth shattered. 

No reason, no explanation. 

And I heard the voice of the Lord say, “Justin, that’s how I see you; you’re whitewashed on the outside, but you’re rotten to the core on the inside!” 

You think that changed me?

You think when my wife caught me and in the midst of literally looking at pornography and said “Enough! I am going to my mom’s house with our child until you choose me or porn and living for yourself!” — you think that changed me?

It didn’t.

I heard it all and I gave myself permission to normalize the struggle.

In fact, I said, “Let’s go to this pastor over here. He’ll justify my struggle. He’ll let you know that every man’s struggle is just every man’s battle. And this is just part of the war!

Well, at the end of that conversation that pastor told me, “Justin, I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe you go live at this place or go to that place and spend time in a live-in program because as messed up as you’re telling me things are, I’ve seen people come out changed by the grace of God!” 

That happened to be a place called Pure Life Ministries (in KY), and instead of going to their campus, I engaged in a distance counseling program (called Overcomers At Home).

Over the next 9-12 months as I did their ‘program’, kicking and screaming, cursing out my counselor after I’d hang up the phone because ‘he was so dumb’ (that’s what I thought) – every day I had to get in the word of God. 

The Lord showed me later what was happening was that the loving hand of God was shoving my head underwater until I drowned at which point the only thing I began to breathe was The Water. You know, that’s why you drown because you can’t breathe water – except the Bible says that the Word of God is like pure water – and it began to renew my heart and my mind, and I didn’t even realize it!

I didn’t even realize what was happening! But one day I remember thinking, “Wow, I haven’t broken into a hotel room. I haven’t looked at this. I haven’t done that. I haven’t gone here. I haven’t even thought about that. What is going on? No one ever talked about this. What is this?!

And what the Lord began to show me was “this” is freedom. 

This is what it means to be set free by the truth. “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free!” It’s not just free that that Christ paid for: it’s freedom!  (As it tells us in the book of Galatians 5:1 – It was for freedom we were set free!)

I was expecting to live every day of my life struggling against temptation, and struggling to not look at this, and struggling to not look to her, and struggling and not to go there. And the Lord began to show me that freedom is when you are dead to sin and alive to Christ.

It’s different than living from victory to struggle. Then victory to failure, to victory, to failure. That’s not the life that God calls us for! It’s not what he paid for on the cross! 

It’s freedom

Freedom is the death of the struggle! It’s not the absence of temptation, but it’s the death of the struggle. 

When you are living by the spirit, and temptation comes and things that resonate with your flesh go by, drive by, or come through your mind – freedom is saying, “No! I already know who I am. The Son has set me free. This isn’t even a struggle anymore!” 

Temptation doesn’t go away, but the struggle does. That is what freedom is. 

And so my journey was from that moment three years into our marriage – when I was forced against my will to do this “program” and dig in The Word and began to be set free by the renewing of my mind – over the next seven years, by the grace of God, the relationship with my wife was restored.

About seven years later (after that Pure Life program), we felt like the Lord saying, “Justin, you need to now share this. You need to now begin to help people understand that they can’t break free on their own efforts.” 

I tried for 20 years to break free. I read every book. I did programs and I wanted to be free, but I didn’t even know what that meant. I didn’t believe it was even possible. Quite honestly, I thought victory sounded okay, but what’s the value in just working really hard to just struggle a little less? 

When the Lord began doing His work, I was broken free. 

Temptation doesn’t go away, but the struggle does. That is what freedom is. 

It was the Lord who came and set me free by His doing – not my own program, or book, or coming to the right altar call, or attending the right conference, or memorizing the right thing, or doing the right 12 Steps, or finding the exact keys, or setting up the right walls, and the right filters!

Freedom is bigger and better than that! Our God is bigger than that!

If you’re settling for the hope of “a little less failure” – it was part of my process: learning how to get back up and not be defined by my failures and having my identity rooted and grounded in who I was in Christ so that I could continue to move forward. 

That’s part of the process, but there’s a destination called freedom that you are set free for. It’s the death of the struggle and it is life by The Spirit, and it comes by the grace of God. 

When we repent and we die to ourselves, and we understand the sinfulness of our sin before a Holy God, and begin to let him begin to redefine who we are, and whose we are, we can walk out in who He called us to be. 

I hope that if you’re hearing this, that you’re encouraged because I can tell you after a decade of being a free man walking in the freedom that God has purchased for me, that He didn’t just purchase it for me alone. 

It’s for you too.

My encouragement is to pursue God for all that He has (Jeremiah 33:3) and don’t settle for merely seasons of victory, but pursue Him for the freedom.

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