I recently had the privilege of hearing Christopher Yuan tell his story at Victory Church in Lancaster, PA. While attending dental school, Christopher began living promiscuously as a gay man and experimenting with illicit drugs. Within a few years, he was expelled from dental school, imprisoned for drug dealing, and discovered that he was HIV positive.
Prior to hearing him speak, my wife and I had the opportunity to spend time with he and his mother over a lunch on Saturday afternoon. As I sat across the table from Christopher, all I could think to myself was, “If I didn’t already know this guy’s story, I would have absolutely no clue of his previous life.” I was sitting across the table from a completely changed man. God turned Christopher’s nightmare into an exciting and inspiring story of redemption, grace, and transformation. Christopher went from homosexuality, promiscuity, drug using, & drug selling to being a graduate of Moody Bible Institute in 2005 and Wheaton College Graduate School in 2007. He is now a professor at Moody Bible Institute and also manages his speaking ministry, which has taken him to four continents across the world. Christopher went from being a prisoner of his own sin, to a Christ-centered man who now has an understanding heart and a desire to minister to those working through issues of sexuality and to those living with HIV/AIDS. Only God can write such an amazing story! The details of Christopher’s story can be found in he and his mother’s book, Out of a Far Country – “A Gay Son’s Journey to God. A Broken Mother’s Search For Hope.”
Like many other people who know Christopher’s story, I kept asking myself, “How did this guy go from such a dark place to a life full of blessings?” As I thought about it, I realized that my question was one that most of us ask about our own lives. Many of us struggle with some sort of sin. In fact, we tend to have that one sin that seems to creep into our lives more often than any other sin. It’s the one thing that we feel we just can’t beat. We feel as though this sin defines who we are and think that we will never be able to break free from it. This sin becomes like a prison and we are the prisoner.
Chris shared his story that morning and explained how he broke free from his “prison.” He explained the importance of 1 Peter 1:16, which says, “Be holy, because I am holy.” His challenge to each person was to make pursuing holiness a major focus in life. Like Christopher, I would encourage each of us to put all of our efforts into breaking free from our prisons by pursuing holiness. Talking about pursuing holiness is easy. Executing it is no easy task. So, how do we go about this?
In his book, Holiness: Day by Day, Jerry Bridges states, “The pursuit of holiness requires sustained, vigorous effort. It allows for no indolence, no lethargy, no halfhearted commitment, and no laissez-faire attitude toward even the smallest sins. In short, it demands the highest priority in a Christian’s life because to be holy is to be like Christ – God’s goal for every Christian.” While this heavy emphasis on personal discipline may seem like a daunting task, Bridges does go on to say, “At the same time, however, the pursuit of holiness must be anchored in the grace of God; otherwise it is doomed for failure.”
Christopher Yuan considers himself as a man undeserving of God’s grace. While he may consider himself undeserving, I believe he would be the first person to tell you that accepting God’s grace was the first step in breaking free from his prison. Once you choose to accept God’s grace, then it’s time to focus on pursuing holiness. Pursuing holiness requires a plan of personal discipline and commitment.
If you truly desire to want to break free from your prison, then the first step is to stop beating yourself up. Accept God’s grace. Once you make the decision, then you need to decide how you are going to pursue holiness. This requires a plan, a full-hearted commitment, and accountability. It’s not easy, but anything is possible with Christ. Just ask Christopher Yuan.
“Grace and the personal discipline required to pursue holiness, however, go hand in hand. An understanding of how grace and personal, vigorous effort work together is essential for a lifelong pursuit of holiness.”