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From Cinderella to a Princess

From the series Precious in His Sight

This message, taught by Theresa Ingram, Chip's wife, explores three myths we tend to hold about our relationships with God and with others. Theresa clearly illustrates the before and after picture of who we were and who we are now, as believers in Christ.

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Message Transcript

Our physical appearance is beautiful in the eyes of God, because He designed our bodies just the way that He wanted them to be. And we learned that true and lasting beauty is that which comes from a heart filled with God, and that our value, our worth as a person, is not determined by our outward appearance. Because we’re already valuable, as we were made in the image of God, and we were created to express His very life through ours, and that His life dwells within us when we’ve trusted in Him as our Savior. He chose to come and live within our earthly bodies, within these tents. And we have become His holy temple. And He will express Himself through us as we depend upon Him.

And last night we also defined our self-image, and that is the picture that we have of ourselves, in our minds, who we believe we are. And that picture can be positive, or it can be negative. And a healthy self-image, or a healthy view of ourselves, is to be able to see ourselves just as God sees us – no more, and no less.

Well, this morning, we’re going to talk a little bit about, how do we develop that self-image? How did we come to think the way we do about who we are? Well, from the very time that we’re little, little children, we’re beginning to develop a picture of who we are. And fortunately, or unfortunately, sometimes, our parents, or those in authority who cared for us as we grew up, play a major role in the development of how we view ourselves today, and how we view ourselves throughout our adult lives.

How a parent relates to a child, the attitudes expressed in the home, whether affection is given, or whether it is withheld, the quality of time that’s spent with a child – all of these things are registering in that young child's mind, and they’re forming a picture of who they are. And they will believe either that they are loved, or they’re not loved. They’ll believe either that they are wanted, or they’re not wanted. They’ll believe that they’re important, or they’re not important.

For example, my mother, when I was growing up – she had a lot of fears. She tended to worry about everything. And I picked up those messages in my own life, and it told me things about myself: that I needed to be really careful, and that I shouldn't do this, or that, because I might get hurt. In fact, I wasn’t allowed to have a bicycle when I was growing up, because it was too dangerous to have a bicycle. And so, I learned to be fearful of many things, and of doing something new, because the outcome might be bad. I learned to worry a lot.

Now, Chip's parents – my husband's parents – on the other hand, were always encouraging him to try new things, to take risks, to step out, and to do something new. And they had a very adventuresome attitude about life. And so, he learned about himself that he could step out, and take risks with his life, and try new things, without the fear of being hurt. And he became very confident. And so, our parents’ attitudes towards us, and the way that they expressed their attitudes towards us in the home, will determine a lot of how we think, and what we believe, about ourselves.

I’d like to read a quote, here, from a book by Josh McDowell, called, His Image, My Image. And he says, “Parents are God's agents. As has been said, the initial development of our self-image lies in our relationships with our parents. Self-images are, most of all, derived from the authority figures to whom we were in submission in childhood. We learned who we were, and what we were like, from them. A child literally discovers what kind of person he is, and how he feels about himself, by the reactions of his parents to him.”

Our parents’ evaluations of us were transferred to our young minds. We saw ourselves in light of their thoughts and actions towards us. From their attitudes, we sense their feelings about us. Those experiences, even if long ago forgotten, serve to form our self-concepts. Thus, the everyday experiences of our childhood, not solely the traumatic ones, were what shaped our self-images. The general atmosphere in our families contributed more to our view of ourselves than any single event. We adopted the general attitude of our families, internalizing these feelings. Understanding that parental influence is a significant ingredient helps in our attempts to see our self-images transformed."

And it’s very important for us to understand how we came to view ourselves the way that we do. Not to blame anyone, you see? We cannot look at ourselves as victims, and we’re not to blame. But it’s important to understand how we came to think the way we do. Because, then, we can allow God to work in that situation, and help us to think what is really true.

And, although our parents do play a major role in how we learn to define ourselves, we also have learned to define ourselves by the kinds of peers that we’ve spent time with, by other significant people in our lives, by major events that happen in our lives. Maybe our parents were divorced when we were young, or we lost a parent through death.

And, also, we are just bombarded, as we talked about last night, by the media, which tells us who we should be, and that we should look a certain way, or that we should have certain things, or that we should have a certain kind of personality to be successful, to be a "somebody." And we’re filtering all these things in our minds, every day, to figure out who we are. Because we all have a need. We all have a great need to be significant, to know that we’re loved, and that we’re wanted.

And if one of those ingredients is missing in our lives, then we’re going to try to fill that up in some way. And, in our own efforts, usually, we try to conform to what we believe will make us a worthwhile person. And we try to fit into the world's mold, which is telling us that, to be significant we need to dress a certain way, we need to have clothes from a certain store, we need to live in a certain kind of house, in a certain part of the city, or have this much education, or this kind of job, or accomplish this many things.

If we can’t do it for ourselves – you know, some of us, what we try to do is say, “Well, if I can’t be a ‘somebody,’ then I’ll make sure my kids are somebody.” You know, “I’ll make sure things work out for them.”

But you know what God says? He says all these things, all these outward things that we try to do to make ourselves a "somebody," to make ourselves significant, are faulty foundations on which to build our worth. Because when a crisis comes in our lives, or a life change comes, then these foundations crumble, and they won’t hold us up. They won’t sustain us.

Well, all of us, to some extent, learn to view ourselves from imperfect people – for example, our parents – and we live in an imperfect world. And many of the messages we pick up about ourselves are false. And God wants us to know, from His Word, who we truly are. He wants us to know what He says about us.

And He tells us that we are already a “somebody” to Him, and we’re already worthwhile in His eyes. And when he looks at His children, he sees a valuable person. He sees a valuable person. He doesn’t see a mistake, and He doesn’t see a failure, and He doesn’t see a second-class citizen.
He doesn’t see somebody who has to keep trying harder and harder to prove that they’re a worthwhile person. He sees someone who is already significant, and already valuable.

Well, I grew up with a very poor self-image, and I spent the first 25 years of my life trying to prove to myself that I was really a “somebody,” that I was really a worthwhile person. And I tried to do this by using the world's methods to fill up those empty places in my life. You know, I thought, If I could just be pretty enough . . . Or, If I could get an education . . . Or, If I could get married . . . And then, If I could get married . . . If I could have a child . . . Or, If I could have my things . . . Or, If my husband could be successful . . . You know, those things, I thought, would make me significant.

But when I was 25, God began to teach me some very important lessons: that all of those things, all of those ways that I was trying to make myself significant, and I thought would make me a “somebody,” were just empty buckets. They were just empty buckets, because, down deep inside, I still had that emptiness. I still had that lack of self-worth that I constantly had to keep trying to fill up in other ways, and by working harder. And I look back on those early days in my life as my Cinderella story. And I wanted to tell you a little bit about that this morning.

I was born, to parents who were not believers, who were not Christians. I was the second born of three girls. And we grew up in a very small town, in the hills of West Virginia. We were called “hillbillies,” back then. I don’t know if they’re still called that today. We lived a very simple, and a very isolated life.

My mom was a housewife, and she didn’t drive a car. She has never gotten her driver's license. We didn’t have any kind of social life – or she didn’t, and she didn’t spend any time with friends. The whole focus of her life was her home. And she did take good care of her children. She was a very sweet, and kind person, a very quiet person.

I can’t remember her verbally expressing her love to me growing up. But I knew, from her actions, that she loved me, because she worked so hard to take care of us, and to see that our needs were met. She would give us things that she wanted herself, to make sure her three daughters had what we needed. She was a very fearful person, as I told you. She worried a lot about a lot of things that might happen.

One of her greatest priorities was keeping her house spotless. It had to be spotless, all the time. And cleaning her house just seemed to be the major priority of her life.

Well, my dad was a lot different. He was a very, very strong disciplinarian, and he ruled our house with an iron hand. He worked away from home a lot during the week in my growing-up years, and he was home on the weekends – which, as I look back now, was probably one of the saving graces of my life. Even though, when he was away – even when he was at work – I could feel his presence watching over me, and waiting for me to mess up.

He had rules for everything. He had rules for everything we did, and they were strictly enforced by hard spankings if you messed up. And everything had to be done perfectly, whatever you did. He was a very hard worker. He provided for our physical needs, and he expected us to work hard, and, as I said, whatever we did, to do it perfectly.

He never told me that he loved me. He never hugged me, or touched me affectionately. He never played with me growing up. He never praised me for doing a good job. He never encouraged me to accomplish anything with my life, and never got involved in anything that was going on in my life.

He was a man who was never able to resolve conflicts with other people in his own life, so he would just not speak to them anymore. He would just kind of forget that they even were alive. He was very paranoid, and he thought others were always out to get him, and he drank a lot.
Early on, I remember thinking that drinking was a good thing, because he seemed happier when he was drinking with his friends. And so, I thought that was a good thing.

I was terribly afraid of him, because he had such high expectations, and I could never meet them. And I longed for his approval, even though I was terribly afraid of him. I tried so hard to do whatever I needed to, to get his approval, and to get his love. But I never got it. He never expressed to me that I ever did a good job, or that he was ever pleased with anything that I did.

Well, because of where we lived, and because my parents were not social people, and because we were not allowed to participate in hardly any activities outside of our home, it was very hard for me to build friendships when I was growing up. And so, I spent a lot of time by myself. I would sit, and I would daydream about what life was like outside this little town in West Virginia. I dreamed about what I could be, if I could have been born someplace else, if I could have been in another place, in another family.

In fact, the love that I have for reading came out of those years of being alone, where I would go to the library – or, we didn't have libraries, but the bookmobile came through our little town. And I would just wait for that thing to come, because I could get a book.

I would read stories about young woman, about girls who were really doing something exciting with their lives, and who had careers. For a while, it was like I was them. I would dream about what it would be like to really be someone significant, to really be a “somebody.”

And I remember, early on, watching the movie Cinderella on TV. And she sang the song that was sung this morning. It so touched my heart, because I thought, That is who I am. That is what I feel like. I would sit alone in my house, or, sometimes, I would go way up on this hill behind our house with my dog. And I would sit, and I would daydream, and think about what it would be like to be a “somebody,” to live someplace else. In the Cinderella story, she sat in the corner, and she sang this song, and then, her fairy godmother showed up. Well, my fairy godmother didn’t come. But I had something better, which came later.

Well, during those years, I was developing a picture of who I believed I was, and many negative things began to develop in my mind. These are just some of them: I can’t really expect to do anything significant with my life. That’s what I thought. If I make a mistake, it will be devastating. If I make a mistake, or do anything wrong, then I am a bad person and I should be punished. I must work hard to prove that I’m a “somebody.” If something goes wrong, it must be my fault. Those are some of the negative beliefs that began to form in my mind.

Well, during my high school years, I watched as my older sister really bore the brunt of our parenting, even worse than I did. She couldn’t handle all the restrictions that we had in our lives. We were not even allowed to date, and we were not allowed to mention boys in our home. It was almost like that was a bad word. And so, she began to sneak out, and go on dates. I knew all this was going on. She even got dressed up, and went to the prom, without my parents knowing that she went. And I was so scared for her.

But, pretty soon, I started sneaking out, too. She taught me well. We learned all the tricks. But the fear of being caught, and the guilt of doing these things behind my parent's back, for me, was enormous. It really bothered me.

Well, eventually, my sister did get caught. And I’ll never forget the night that my dad punished her – just the yelling, and the screaming between the two of them. She tried to run away from home that night, and my bedroom window was the only one she would be able to get out of to run away. And I would not let her out, because I loved her so much. She was a beautiful girl. She was beautiful, inside and out. She was tender, and sweet, and she was fun to be with, and I loved being around her. I loved being with her.

But she became pregnant near the end of her senior year in high school, and I just watched as this beautiful girl turned into an angry and bitter woman over the years. And to this day, to this day, she has never embraced all that God has for her, all that He wants to give her, and she’s never been able to resolve the bitterness that she has in her heart towards my dad.

Well, I was determined, as I watched her life, that I was not going to be like that, and that I was going to break free from my dad, that I was going to make something out of my life, that I was going to be a “somebody.” And I knew that, if life was going to work out for me, I was going to have to do it myself. The only problem was those same old recordings that kept playing over and over in my mind – you know, You’ll never be significant. You’ll mess up. You know, I still kept hearing those same things.

Well, I went off to college – not with my dad's blessings, but he did agree to let me go. At the same time, though, I got involved with a young man, and this evolved into a very unhealthy relationship. But I was desperate. I was desperate to be loved, and I didn’t want to lose him.

We dated for a couple of years, and then, we got married, and I was finding fulfillment now. I was finding fulfillment in that, now, I was married, that I had a job I liked, and my husband was working on his degree, and we were going “someplace” with my life. I was finally thinking, I am really becoming a “somebody.”
During that time, my husband was involved a lot in drugs, and a very party-type lifestyle. And I just couldn’t face the fact that these things could destroy our lives, because I’d watched my dad drink all these years, and it didn’t seem to hurt him. So, it didn’t concern me all that much as I watched my husband go through these things.

Well, he graduated from college in May, and our twin boys were born in August. When they were six months old, he left us. He just walked out. I had quit my job to take care of our children, and so he left us with no income. And he got involved with another woman. And my life was devastated.

In my efforts to become a “somebody” – all those things that I thought would make me a “somebody” came crumbling to the ground. And this devastating time just validated, in my mind, that what I believed about myself was true: I really do mess everything up, and I am a failure. I’m not important. But, you see, I had a faulty believe system, and I didn’t know it.

It’s like the story about the crooked little man, and he had a crooked wife, and he had a crooked cat, and he lived in a crooked house. He didn’t know that everything was crooked, because that’s all he knew. He had a faulty belief system.

I didn’t know that my belief system was crooked. And I know that, in this room, there are some of you who have been living your lives with crooked beliefs about who you are. You have faulty beliefs about who you are, and it affects every area of your life. It affects your relationships. It affects your marriage. And God wants you to begin to become aware of what those beliefs are, and, this weekend, to start turning the corner in the process of allowing God to transform those faulty beliefs, those crooked thoughts that you have about yourself, and to begin to believe what’s really true about you. That’s what He wants us to know: what God says about us. And He says that His truth gives us freedom. See, it breaks the bondage in our lives. It’s God's truth, He says, that sets us free.

Well, about six months after my husband left, the most wonderful thing happened to me. This Cinderella, who thought that she would never be significant, was about to become a princess. I just happened to get a job in an office where my boss was a born-again Christian, and, for the first time in my life, I began to hear about God. I began to hear about a God who loved me, and who wanted me, who heals the wounds of the brokenhearted, and sets the prisoners free, a God who will never, ever reject us. He wants me – a God who loves me, and who will never, ever turn His back on me.

So, at age 25, at a little Free Methodist church in West Virginia, I invited Christ into my life as my Lord and Savior. I didn’t realize, at that moment when that was happening, what God was doing inside me. I didn’t realize the changes that were happening at that moment, or how I would change, even more, over the next several years of my life.

And some amazing things happen to all of us, the moment we receive Christ. At the moment of our salvation we’re changed. We’re different people. We’re not the same people that we used to be.

And this happens to all of us, no matter what our backgrounds are. We’re transformed, at that moment, from a Cinderella into a princess, into royalty. We become the daughters of the King, and we become His princesses.

And so, in your notes, if you have your notebooks open, turn to the part of this session that says, "Spiritual transformation occurs at the moment of salvation." This is so important for us, as far as our identity is concerned, to understand who we are in Christ, to understand what happened to us at the moment we were saved, that this is who we were before, and this is who I am now. It’s a huge difference. And it makes a huge difference in how I view myself, and in how I live out my life. And so, I just want to briefly take you through that.

If you look at that chart, there, it says, first of all, “Before Christ” – before Christ, before I was saved – “this is who I was: I was spiritually dead, and I was separated from God.” In Romans 5:12, it says, "Therefore, just as through one man” – and that’s Adam – “sin entered into the world, and death through sin, so death spread to all men." Because Adam sinned, because he turned his back on God, sin has been born into every life on this earth, ever since. We are born into sin. And that’s who I was before I knew Christ. I was separated from God.

At the moment of salvation – after Christ – we become spiritually alive. And that means that I become indwelt with the Holy Spirit. The very life of Christ indwells my body. As we talked about last night, we become His temple, and He lives within me. And so, we’re no longer separated from God. Not only do I have life, over here – see, I am not dead anymore – now, I have life, and I’m not separated from God anymore. Now I have an intimate relationship with Him, because He lives right inside me, and we’re as close as we can ever be.

It says in Romans 5:17, "For if, by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ." So, those of us who have been born again, into new life, are over here, and we have life, and we have intimacy with God.

Before Christ, we have the old nature that is a slave to sin. We have the old nature. And everything we do, over here, is outside of the will of God. I’m trying to live my life in my own efforts, in my own flesh, within the limits of my own mind, and my own ability. Over here, without Christ, I’m trying to do everything the natural way that I think it’s to be done, and it’s without Christ.

Now that I have become saved, now that I have the life of Christ, He says that I’m changed, and I receive a new nature. I have the very nature of Christ now. Second Corinthians 5:17: "Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature. The old things passed away; the new things have come." Over here, I had an old nature, and all I could do was sin, just do things that came naturally, in my own mind, and my own abilities.

Now, I have the life of Christ in me. I have His nature, and I have a longing to do what Christ would do. And I have the power to do it. I’m no longer a slave to sin, but I’m a slave to righteousness. In other words, I don’t have to sin anymore. Now, I will, but I don’t have to. I have the ability to live out my life in the power of the Holy Spirit, who indwells me, and I have a power that I didn’t possess before, because I have the power to live for God.

Well, before Christ, my identity was determined by faulty foundations that were sometimes good, and sometimes bad. That may be, I determine my identity by what other people think, or by the world system that we live in, or by my achievements, or what I own. Proverbs 16:25 says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." These things are empty buckets. They’re these things that we try to use to tell ourselves who we are, to make ourselves significant, and they’re empty buckets.

After Christ, my identity is determined by my relationship with Christ, that will never change, or crumble, and it’s always good. It’s always good. I become a child of God. I become royalty. I become a princess who is an heir to all the blessings that God has to offer.

In 1 Peter 2:9, it says, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him Who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." You see, we are a chosen race, it says, a royal priesthood. We belong to Him. We have His identity now.

Romans 8:15-16: "For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself bears witness that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him." We become a part of His family. We’re adopted as His children.
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.