Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

The Marks of a Life Transformed

The Marks of a Life Transformed

Taste and see that the Lordis good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Psalm 34:8

I grew up allergic to chocolate. Actually, all four of us kids were allergic to it. We simply went with alternatives: peanut butter cookies instead of chocolate chip, white cake instead of chocolate, Pay Day candy bars instead of Snickers. Every Easter, my dad would buy us a white chocolate Easter bunny because it was the only time of the year white chocolate was available. White chocolate was our chocolate indulgence!

People always ask me how I survived. The answer is easy: I didn’t know what I was missing. I knew all my friends loved chocolate. I was curious about it. But, it never bothered me because I had never tasted it.

Now that I’m older, I have developed a certain level of tolerance to many substances I was allergic to as a child, including chocolate. I don’t know when I first tasted a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but I suddenly understood what I had been missing all those years! Oh, how that milk chocolate melted in my mouth and blended with the creamy peanut butter center. My mouth waters just thinking about the taste!

Staying away from chocolate is not as easy these days because I now know that amazing taste!

I fear there are many Christians today who are much like I was as a young child. Perhaps they gave their heart to Christ. Maybe they attend church regularly. They might even read the Word. And yet, they have never truly tasted the goodness of the Lord!

I was one of those Christians for many years. I spent my life following God, reading his Word. I desired to know Him, to follow Him, to serve Him. I even committed my life to full-time ministry, knowing that was God’s plan for my life.

And yet, it wasn’t until my life fell apart, I lost everything, and I ran away from God, that I truly tasted the goodness of God. He relentlessly pursued me in my unfaithfulness. He carefully bound up my wounds and healed my broken heart. He faithfully provided for my every need at precisely the right moment. He lavished me with grace and forgiveness that I didn’t deserve.

Oh, how good He is!

So what is different today? Now that I have tasted of His goodness, how has my life changed?

The closer I get to God, the less I understand Him.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

I used to think I understood God. I knew His Word, clung to it religiously. I adhered to the doctrine taught by my denomination: Good Christians don’t smoke, drink, dance, curse. The gift of tongues has ceased. Miraculous healings and baptism by the Spirit were false doctrines. Strictly speaking, I thought I understood God, how He can and cannot act. I had Him in a neat little box.

Oh, how wrong I was! I still cling to the Word, but I realize that our understanding is limited. I am very cautious about limiting God, saying He does not work in any certain way. I am also cautious to be discerning, testing the Spirits, but who am I to say how God can work? I do not want to limit Him.

My goal is to adhere to a Savior not a set of rules or doctrines. I don’t know everything, don’t even want to pretend I do. I know my interpretation of scripture is not possible simply because I am human. And I want to see God work in any way He chooses!

I am keenly aware of my sin.

For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. Psalm 51:3-4

In my younger days, I took a firm stance against sin and unrighteousness. Sexual sins. Divorce. Abortion. Cursing. Alcohol. These things had no part in my life, and I certainly wouldn’t associate with anyone who allowed them to creep into his/her life. I shudder to think how I was blinded my own pride.

I still long for holiness, but I’ve come to realize I was more concerned about others adhering to my doctrine than I was about my own sins. I was quick to judge, but slow to see my own sin.

Today, after walking through my own failures, I am more aware than ever of my need for forgiveness. The truth of who I am without my Savior keeps me humble, reminds me that I am no better than anyone else. Rather than judging those living in sin, I find my heart breaking, longing to love them into a closer walk with the Savior.

I am focused on loving God and loving others.

I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6

Jesus told us the greatest command is to love God and the second is to love our neighbors (Matthew 22:37). Jesus Christ prayed for all believers in John 17, and He chose to pray for unity for believers. Is it possible that we have spent so much time dividing the Church over doctrinal issues—human interpretations of scripture—that we have failed to follow the most important commands?

I will never again argue over doctrinal issues. Instead, I will choose to love, to seek unity. I will choose to encourage others to get so close to God that they can discern His will for their lives without me trying to tell them how they should behave. I will always choose to err on the side of grace and love, just as I believe Jesus did.

I see others through eyes of compassion.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36

Rather than judging others, I now see them through eyes of compassion. I ask God to open my eyes to the pain others are facing rather than judging them by their actions.

Have you ever been betrayed, deeply hurt by another? I have. Anger and bitterness ate at my soul as I harbored unforgiveness in my heart. It wasn’t until I began to ask God to help me see those people as helpless and harassed that my attitude changed. It was then that my heart softened and I was able to truly forgive.

Oh, I could go on and on about the lessons I have learned! I could talk about the depravity of man, our need for forgiveness. I could talk about the unending faithfulness of my Father who tenderly cares for my every need. I could talk about His relentless pursuit of me when I was faithless. I could tell of the sweet whispers of encouragement and hope.

The truth is, our Father is good! He loves us so perfectly, every moment of every day. He takes our failures, our mistakes, and uses them for our good and His glory. He truly makes all things work for good (Romans 8:28)! And I never would have understood who He truly is if my life hadn’t crashed all around me.

If you haven’t experienced the goodness of our Savior, I encourage you to dive in! Seek Him with all your heart! Let Him transform your life as only He can. Take a taste of the Father I know. You will see that He is truly good!

Dena Johnson is a busy single mom of three amazing kids. Her greatest desire is to use her darkest days—days marred by adultery and divorce—to encourage others to find the joy of a life restored by Jesus Christ.

Dena is the founder of Dena Johnson Ministries, a non-profit organization with a mission of bringing hope to lives broken by the pain of this world. Her first book, Picking Up the Pieces: Rebuilding Your Life After the Storms of Adultery and Divorce, will be released later this year.

In her spare time, Dena works as a Registered Nurse and is a regular contributor at Crosswalk.com. If you would like to contact Dena, please feel free to interact with her on her blog Dena Johnson Ministries or email her at Dena@denajohnson.com.

Publication date: March 9, 2016