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From Cinderella to a Princess, Part 2

From the series Precious in His Sight

From time to time, we all have moments when we're determined to make a significant change toward the person we wish we were. Join Theresa Ingram, Chip's wife, as she shares how she experienced a radical, personal transformation, and how you can too.

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Message Transcript

A couple of years after Chip and I were married, he was able to adopt my two little boys. And I’ll never forget receiving their new birth certificates in the mail. Their names were changed! It said “Ingram” on their birth certificates. The old birth certificates were no longer valid. They didn’t mean anything anymore. They were no longer legal. Where it said “Birth Father's Name,” it said “Chip Ingram!” They were born, now, into a new family. They belonged to a new family. They belonged to Chip, and they were heirs of all that he owned. The old was gone. The old life was gone, and they had a new and better life ahead of them.

And that’s what happens to us. We’re adopted as God's children into the family of God, and we become heirs of all that He has to give us, and all that He is. This old life is gone. It’s gone forever. So, we have a new identity, we have a new name, and we belong to the family of God.

Before Christ, I was unrighteous. I was unrighteous. I could try to make myself righteous by doing good things, I could try to make myself a good person, but I could never make myself right with God. In Titus 3:5, it says it’s not by works of righteousness. It’s not by the works that you have done, it says, but it’s by His mercy He saved us, not by anything that we have done. It’s only through Christ that we can be adopted into His family. It’s not by anything we can do. We can never earn our way. We can never do anything good enough to earn our way to get into the family.

After Christ, I have been declared righteous! I’ve been declared righteous! God's stamp of approval is now on my life. Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “He made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” You see, at that moment, at that moment that I accepted Christ into my life, all my sins were poured out on Christ, and He took them to the cross, and He paid the penalty for everything that I had ever done wrong, and everything I ever will do wrong.

They are paid for. I’m clean. I’m a clean person. And because of what Christ has done, out of His love for me, I’m now offered this gift of forgiveness, and this gift of eternal life.

And all I had to do was open up my heart, and receive what God had done for me – by faith alone, not by trying to do anything. I didn’t have to get my life all together before I did that, because He knew that I couldn’t, anyway. He knew that my life was all messed up, and He knew that I needed Him. And He knew what He could make out of me.

By faith, I accepted that free gift, and, immediately, I was declared righteous. See, over here, I was unrighteous. Now, I’m declared righteous. I’m a good person. God declares I’m a good person.
Isaiah 61:10 says, “I will rejoice greatly in the Lord. My soul will exalt in my God, for He has clothed me with garments of salvation. He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garment, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” I love that verse. I think about how He clothed us with His righteousness. We’re different. We’re different now. I’m given new clothes.

You see, those Cinderella rags are gone forever. They’re gone forever. And I have a righteous standing before God, and it will never change. It’ll never change, no matter what I do. I have a new position, I have a new identity, a new nature that I didn’t have before. And I have life.

Now, I want to take a little parenthesis, here, and just define something that’s important for us, as believers, to understand, just so we don’t get confused about the difference between positional righteousness, and practical righteousness. There is a difference, and I wanted to make sure that you understood that.

When I was born again, by faith, I accepted Christ's payment on the cross for my sins, and I asked Him into my life. At that moment, I was declared righteous. I was declared a righteous person. I became a member of the family of God. And my place in the family will never change. It’s secure. It’s secure, for all eternity. Now, when God looks at me, He looks at me through the robe of righteousness that He’s given to me. He sees the life of Christ in me.

Eric and Jason, my twin boys, became Chip’s sons out of his love for them, and they’ll always be his sons. They’ll always be his sons. They belong to him, and they have his name, and they’re in line to inherit all that Chip has. And they didn’t have to earn their place in the family. It just is. They have that position.

And that’s how it is with us in the family of God. When we are saved, we are declared righteous. We have that position. We’re part of the family. We’ll never lose it. That’s called “positional righteousness.” Another word for it is justification. It’s just as if we have never sinned. We’re declared righteous. And I’ve given you a definition, there, in your notes, of the difference between these two.

Now, do children in a family disobey? Yes, they do. And do they make mistakes? Of course. And do they need to grow, and do they need to learn? Well, yes, they need all of those things.

And it’s the same in our spiritual lives. The process of learning to live out, on a daily basis, what we already have, what’s already true about us, you see, is called “practical righteousness.” Another word for it that you may come across is progressive sanctification. It’s important that we understand this.
And this “practical righteousness” is a process of growing to maturity in Christ. It’s that process where we’re transformed in our lives in obedience to God, and that we want to do His will, instead of wanting to do what we want to do, and what the world tells us to do. Now, it’s not achieving perfectionism. It’s not being perfect. We will never be perfect, this side of heaven.

Now, we’re all God's children; we belong to Him. But we still live in these earthly tents, and they’re weak, these natural bodies, and we have a tendency to want to do things our old, natural way. Because we’ve always done them that way. Now we have to learn a new way to do them, in the power of Christ. And we live in a corrupted world, and we have an enemy, Satan, who is always trying to tempt us and to get us to do wrong.

And then, you put that all together, with our natural flesh wanting to have things our way, and then we think we don’t need God, and we do things outside of His will. But, you see, we’re still in His family. Our position is secure. And as we grow in that relationship with God, you see, our thinking begins to change, and our outward actions begin to reflect more who we really are: the children of the living God.

I sin a lot in my life. I don’t know about you, but I still sin a lot. But when I do, I know that I can run to I John 1:9, which tells me that if I will confess my sin, that He is faithful to forgive me, and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. That’s all I have to do. I don’t have to try to earn my way back to God, because I’m already secure in my position with Him. But I need to go and confess my sin to Him.

Sin, in a believer's life, does break that sweet fellowship with our Lord. It’s like when a child disobeys, and you have to send him to his room – the fellowship is broken for a while, until it’s restored with repentance. And it’s the same in our relationship with God. He hates sin. He hates sin! And He cannot bless our lives when we’re not obedient to Him. And so, it’s important that, as we go through each day, we continually confess those sins that come to our mind.

Now, today, I sin a whole lot less than I did 10 years ago. And as I continue to grow in Christ, as I continue to allow Him to have control of my life, I know that, 10 years from now, I’ll sin even less than I do today. But I know sin is a part of my life, and I’ll never be perfect. But do you know what? I am forgiven, and I am secure in my position in the family of God, and that will never change. And I know that, in heaven, I will be perfect, and I will have a perfect body.

Well, I want you to understand the difference between these two: positional righteousness – we are declared righteous, the position that never changes – and practical righteousness – living out who we already are, on an everyday basis. Our truth (it’s there in a little bracket, or something) says, "I am now a righteous person in God's sight. Since I have trusted Christ, I am covered with the robe of His purity, and His goodness. Since I have a new nature, I am a good person in my general practice of life, as I continue to grow in Christ.”

Do you believe that? Do you believe that about yourself – that you are a good person, that you are righteous in the sight of God, that you are covered with His robe of righteousness?

I’m going to share the rest of my Cinderella story tonight, and we are going to learn some tools to use to change our negative thought patterns, how to reprogram the way that we think, so that we can live out our lives according to who God says we truly are. But before we end this morning, we need to answer some questions.

We need to know, what does embracing this truth – that I am a good person in God's sight, since I trusted Christ, that I am righteous – what about embracing this truth? What makes a difference, anyway? You know, what difference does it make if I believe this, or not?

If I embrace this truth, it should affect my life. It should affect the way I live, in two major areas. And the first one is, I no longer have to try to earn God's approval and acceptance, because I already have it. You see, I do not have to try to earn it anymore. I already have it. We have Ephesians 2:8-9, there: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not as a result of works, that no one should boast." You see, we could not earn our way to heaven. We could not earn our way to salvation.

Now our position is secure, as we live out our lives, as we live out our Christian lives. It is the same--we are secure. We cannot earn that position any more. We cannot earn what we already have, and that is that we are righteous, no matter what we do, no matter how we mess up. With this truth in mind, that we no longer have to try to earn God's approval and acceptance, we need to expose three myths that Christians sometimes tend to have, either consciously or unconsciously, about themselves.

The first myth is that God only loves and approves of me when I do certain spiritual activities: when I read my Bible, and when I pray, and when I go to church, and when I serve Him, and when I fellowship with other believers. You know, sometimes I think, and I live like He approves of me more when I do that.

But God says that you are righteous in His sight, and He approves of you, and He loves you, no matter what you do, you see, because your position is secure. You are righteous in His sight. I cannot do anything bad enough in my life right now to lose my position in Christ. I have it. It is secure.
Nor does doing certain spiritual activities earn me brownie points with God. You know, it is a great thing to read your Bible. It is one of the most important things we can do in our lives. But it does not earn me brownie points with God, because I am already secure. I already have my position. Now, I do those things – I spend time in God's Word, and I pray, and I serve Him, because I love Him. I serve Him out of that relationship that we have. I have a desire to grow, and to know Him. And it pleases God when I do that, and He blesses those things. But, you see, those things do not give me brownie points, and they are not earning me anything, because I am already secure in Him.

The second myth is, if I make a mistake, or fail at something, then I must be a failure, and I should be punished. Well, if we go back to our truth – if I am already approved of, and I am already righteous, then that means I do not have to do everything perfectly. Right? And it means that it’s okay to fail. When I make a mistake, or I fail, that does not make me a bad person. I am going to fail sometimes. We all are going to fail sometimes. But I am not a failure, and you are not a failure.

Last summer, we were barcoding the books in the library – we took on this huge task of computerizing the library at the church. And so, we got everything ready. I had everybody lined up. And we worked for hours.

And, I don’t know, a few weeks later, we discovered that we had barcoded 700 books wrong. Now, you talk about feeling like you really messed up!

And it was so wonderful – I was talking to my sister, Fredina, on the phone and I was telling her what happened. And she read me a quote out of a book, and she said, "Failure is the opportunity to start again, more intelligently."

And you don’t know how much that helped me! I thought about that: Right. Yeah, we’re going to. And I’m learning. I know the computer a whole lot better than I did before. I understand how to do it now. You know, God is in control, isn't He? It’s okay.

We got that work done a lot later than I thought we would, but, in God's timing, in God's timing, we got it done. And we had fun doing it! All the ladies who worked –we had so much fun being together. It was just great.

I’m going to fail sometimes, and you’re going to fail sometimes, but that does not make you a failure. And we really need to remember that. And I can learn. I can learn from my failures, and I can gain good experience. It helps me to grow. It means that I don’t have to wallow around in discouragement, and get down on myself, because God’s not down on me.
In fact, God’s on my team. He’s for me. He’s the coach, and He’s cheering you on. He’s not down on you. And when you fall, He says that He immediately reaches down, and holds us by the hand. He doesn’t let us fall very far. We just need to grab hold. And He never, never gives up on His children. He never gives up on you, so don't you ever give up on yourself because He never gives up on you.

Well, the third myth is that I need other people's approval in order to be happy. And I want to tell you right now, that that is a big, fat lie. We don’t need everyone's approval in order to be happy. I have God's approval, and that’s all that really matters. That’s all that really matters. I’m free to be who God made me to be.

Now, there’s always someone, it seems like, who comes along and has a good plan for your life. Right? They know just exactly what God's will is for your life, and what you’re supposed to do. And they know that you’re supposed to be involved in this ministry, and you’re supposed to be doing that, and . . . There are always people who will come into our lives like that.

But we need to remember that we’re never going to make everyone happy, and pleased with the decisions we make. It means that, sometimes, I’ll disappoint people. It means that I don’t have to say “yes” every time someone asks me or expects me to do something. It means that I have the freedom to say “no.” I have the freedom to say “no,” and not feel guilty.

I remember times when I told people I couldn’t do something, and I just condemned myself for a week, and felt guilty about letting people down. And I finally realized, You know, I need to do what God wants me to do!

It means that I have the freedom to determine what God's will is for me, and then to do it, even if it means someone else is disappointed, and even if it means that a need isn’t met, especially by me. It means that I have the freedom to set boundaries in my life that are reasonable, and good for me, that will help me become the kind of person God wants me to be. You see, if I’m running around all the time, doing everything everybody expects me to do, I’ll never know what God wants me to do, and what He wants me to be.

You see, Jesus set boundaries in His life. Think about that. He set boundaries. He said “no.” There were many, many needs that Jesus didn’t meet, and many, many people that He did not talk to. Now, He loved those people, and He cared for them, but He didn’t stop and meet every need. He did the will of His father. He did exactly what God wanted Him to do. And He knew God's plan for His life. He knew that would mean saying “no” to some very good things.

God respects your boundaries. Have you ever thought about that? He respects your boundaries. In Revelation 3:20, God says, "I stand at the door and knock." Think about that. He didn’t just barge in. He stands at the door, and He knocks on the door of your heart. He says, "If anyone hears my voice and opens the door" – He waits for you to open it – "I will come in and be with him." So, God respects your boundaries. And we should at least respect our own boundaries, and others’.

Well, this leads us to our second truth – the way that this should affect my life. And it is that I don’t have to live with guilt, condemnation, and defeat over past sins and failures, because I am already forgiven. You know, I’m over here, now. I don’t have to bring up all this garbage all the time.

Isaiah 1:13 says, "Though our sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." We’re clean! We’re clean. Psalm 103 says, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." They’re completely removed. The slate is wiped clean! All the sins listed next to my name were erased.

So, let's pray.

Lord Jesus, I just, first of all, thank You so much. If there’s anyone here who would like to ask Jesus to be your Savior today, to transform your life, just pray, and repeat these words after me: Lord Jesus, I believe that You died on the cross to pay for my sin. Please forgive me.  Thank You that I now have a new identity, that I am, at this moment, declared righteous in Your sight, and I have eternal life. Help me to live like the princess that You’ve created me to be. And we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.