Dear Younger Me: Sterling Hill

Dear Younger Me,

First of all, I want you to remember that God is rich in grace. He lavishes you with grace. His grace abounds. His grace is the basis of your salvation. His grace cannot be earned. His grace is free.

I want to remind you of His grace because you’ll need to drink from it often when you feel like a failure. Drink deeply. Thirst for it. And then return to the well. Why am I stressing grace so much? Although you do have moments when you abuse grace, your inclination is to think God is poor in grace. I know you easily stray toward self-condemnation and are quick to beat yourself up. In those moments, you need to cling to grace for life. God will still give grace freely, always forgive you, and never forsake you. All of this is because you are in Christ.

Now, let’s talk about intimacy. I know you want it. The desire for intimacy is a great thing. But remember that God wants us to experience true intimacy and reject counterfeit intimacy. He wants us to have joy and pleasure. But we find the ultimate experience of joy and pleasure  in Him. He is the water your soul is thirsting for.

I know you’ve had seasons where you’ve struggled with pornography. Don’t think that it is going to satisfy your soul’s thirst for intimacy. It is an imposter form of intimacy. It promises to fulfill your craving for intimacy, only to leave you more starved than you were before you gave in.  It’ll entice you to crawl back to it, reaching out its hand to pinky swear to be true to its word this time. With a new sense of hope and amnesia about the outcome of the last time you gave in, you’ll want to reach up and lock pinkies. You’ll think, “It’s not really that bad, right?” only to feel the weight of guilt immediately afterward and for years later. Constant intake of porn can distort your view of sex much more than you can imagine now. Turn from trusting in porn for nourishment. Jesus is far greater.

Physical interaction is also crying out for your attention as an answer to your thirst for intimacy. I know you also struggle with physical boundaries. The question you ask yourself is, “How far can I go and still be OK?” You think, “Everything except sex is fair game, right?” Let me introduce you to a different perspective: If you’re trying to pursue purity, it is a lot more than just staying away from sex. It’s not about knowing how close you can get to the fire without getting burned. It’s a heart posture. Guard against giving in to the temptation to inch closer to the fire. Care about protecting the heart of the other person and your own heart. Turn from thinking that physical interaction will give your soul nourishment. Jesus is far greater.

Look to the Creator of your soul for the sustenance for your soul. Yes, it’s easier said than done. It’s not going to be easy. Spiritual warfare is intense. That’s why you need to start investing in spiritual disciplines. Develop a strong prayer life. Enjoy fellowship with God in His Word. Confess to community. Fast with the expectation that God will move. Yield to the Holy Spirit, remembering that one of the Holy Spirit’s fruits is self-control. That self-control will give you the power to fight temptation.

I’m not writing these things because I want you to be legalistic or give you a checklist of items to check off. I’m writing this because I want you to experience internal transformation that will lead to you becoming more Christ-like. I want you to experience the deep, inexpressible joy of knowing Christ intimately. I don’t want you to just know Him through other people’s faith. I want you to have a thriving relationship with Him.

You’re an ambitious young man. You have dreams about going to college and having a rewarding career. Those things are good. But don’t make them ultimate. Don’t neglect your spiritual life because you’re too busy investing in your educational and extracurricular life. Your relationship with Him will not only help you fight sexual sin, but it will lead you to the intimacy your soul thirsts for. I’ve repeated this phrase twice, but I want to close with it because you need to let this sink into your heart: Jesus is far greater. Know Him. Trust Him. Love Him.

With love,

Your future self