through His Word
by Jennifer DeFrates, contributor to Heart Renovation
For a long time, God wasn’t real for me. I grew up believing in God and loving Him, but somewhere along the way, I lost sight of Him.
In high school, I had some very serious events affect how I saw myself and God. To me, the Bible became an authoritarian set of rules about how to behave and what was acceptable to God. I felt that being a Christian was about what I did or didn’t do, not who I was.
I even tried to walk away from my faith for a time. I was tired of living with the guilt of never being good enough for God based on my broken understanding of who He is, but God never let me go. He occasionally broke through my hard heartedness to remind me that I belonged to Him. However, I was never ready to hear Him clearly until I was ready to know Him truly.
When my marriage was in tatters, I had done everything I could do, but we were still so very broken. We were on the way to divorce. Desperate to save our family, I realized only God could heal our relationship. I didn’t even know where to start.
I didn’t know what to do except seek God’s face. I cried out to God that I was going to follow Him no matter what, that I was determined to know Him.
I began to read the Bible with a passion I hadn’t had since I was a young teen. And then it happened, a Scripture I had recently read convicted me about my attitude towards my husband.
When the conviction stopped me in my tracks, prompted me to pray, and changed how I handled things, I was astounded.
Years and years of trying to be a good person on my own had never yielded lasting, tangible results, but allowing God to work in me began to have fruit immediately.
That day I quit nagging my husband and began to serve him instead. The more I served him, the more I loved him.
Now that is a mystery!
The more selfless I was, the more mindful I became of my husband. The more I let the Holy Spirit prompt my attitudes and responses, the more I grew to love my husband.
On a human level that just doesn’t make ANY sense. How would giving up my expectations and needs in order to serve his, help me feel more love for him?
Because that is how it is with God’s love.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love, does not know God for God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8 NKJV
Knowing God’s love filled my heart until it overflowed into my marriage, my home, my parenting, and my relationships. I had spent years praying for God to change my husband, but the most beautiful answer in the world was, You first.
My sanctification began to redeem and renew our marriage. Nothing I had ever done of my own power had ever made any lasting difference, but God’s work was real and active in our home.
I want to tell everyone the dramatic way that God works in our hearts! It changes everything. I don’t want anyone to miss the miracle that He can work in our lives.
My second contribution to the book was about the first real fruit of the Spirit I saw in my life: humility. I never realized how arrogant and selfish I was until God began to change my heart. Even before the day I cried out in surrender to Him, God gave me the gift of humility.
Before I returned to God, I already felt worthless and defeated. The last thing I wanted was humility. I puffed myself up with external honors and earthly pursuits, but I really felt like I had no worth at all.
But the second I recognized my own need for God and began to accept His love, humility became a natural reflection of gratitude for His grace.
For Christians, humility is a gift. We see our needs honestly, which allows us to speak truth in love and to serve those who cannot serve us in return or do not deserve it, just as Christ served us.
My parenting falls short daily, but if I can teach my children one thing, I want it to be Godly humility, because from that comes seeking God and choosing to walk in His sanctifying love as He renovates our hearts.
For these reasons, I was so excited to write about the process of heart renovation. When I saw God working in my life, I knew for the first time what salvation meant, what serving Christ means, and who I truly am. I don’t want anyone to miss the miracle that heart renovation really is!
© Copyright 2018 by Jennifer DeFrates
Jennifer's articles in our new compilation, Heart Renovation, can be found on pages 33 and 209. Her first article, "The Hidden Work of Sanctification," is found in the first section which discusses the hidden problems of growing in godly character. Her second article, "Helping Our Children to Grow in Humility," is found in the fourth section.
About Jennifer DeFrates
Jennifer is a military spouse, high school teacher turned homeschool mom, and passionate follower of Christ. She writes about the ways following Christ has changed her marriage, parenting, homeschooling, and daily life on her blog Heaven not Harvard (heavennotharvard.com), which is about living with a focus on God's kingdom over this world. Jennifer shares unabashedly the joyful, hard, and tender places of her personal walk with Christ in a way that invites us to be real about where we are as individuals and in community as the body of believers.
You can follow her on:
and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/heavennotharvard/)
About Heart Renovation
How does God make our character more like Christ's? What is His part, and what is ours?
Under construction is the condition of our hearts as children of God. He is the Contractor in charge, and Christ's likeness is His flawless design. We contribute to the process by cooperating with His work within us and by following the principles and instructions of His word. Then transformation happens.
This Bible study compilation is a construction guide to building godly character and overcoming the hidden problems that sabotage it. It explores how God works in our lives and gives us wisdom to handle such real-life issues as unwanted change, grief, loneliness, financial debt, and difficult people. It shares God's blueprints for a renovated heart by looking at Jesus' character, godly people in the Bible, the Fruit of the Spirit, and the Beatitudes. It also discusses how to help our children grow in godly character.
Whether your heart renovation started recently or years ago, this book will encourage you to continue to cooperate with God until the job is done. After all, the goal and the reward is building a heart like His.
A leader guide for a group study is included.
Subscribers, comment here.
Heart Renovation, Spiritual Growth, marriage, Humility, Jennifer DeFrates, small group Bible studies, Katy Kauffman, Lighthouse Bible Studies