Change by Chip Ingram

Chip Ingram is the teaching pastor and CEO of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. Ingram has written many books, and his latest is “Yes! You Really Can Change,” which condenses a whole library of how to grow in Christ.

Ingram pours out his personal experiences, showing the path forward for people who feel discouraged, frustrated by sinful habits or exhausted by “trying to measure up by praying more, reading the Bible more, giving more, serving more and being at church more.” They are “joyless and weighed down with duty, and all the church activities and disciplines feel more like a second job than a dynamic relationship with the living God.”

Ingram shares how he found God’s grace and liberation from being a workaholic.

He explains spiritual principles that transcend common do’s and don’ts: “In what ways do you need to see, think and believe differently to conform to God’s perspective? What do you need to add to your life that will make you more like Jesus?”

Stats show that committed Christians (active in church, Bible readers, etc.) suffer much less divorce and addictive behaviors. But pornography, infidelity and workaholism still beset many. Our seductive, omnipresent, worldly culture overwhelms weak, passive, Sunday-morning-only Christians.

“Those who seek the kingdom of God first (Matthew 6:33) get that and more; those who seek worldly pursuits above the kingdom of God usually miss out on the satisfaction of both,” Ingram writes. “When my work, my time, my goals squeeze God’s Word and authentic spiritual relationships out of my schedule, I end up with shallow relationships, isolated from the transforming grace we receive when we serve and give of ourselves sacrificially.”

God offers us spiritual power and miraculous transformation into his new creation—caterpillar to butterfly. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

We must recognize our new identity in Christ. He commanded, “‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’” (Mark 8:34). We aren’t striving to be improved caterpillars. We don’t live for God’s approval and forgiveness; we live because of it. As saints, we must put aside our caterpillar identities. “We all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

To excel in competition, athletes must prepare, prioritize goals, eat smart and train. Simply desiring and striving by themselves won’t enable them to compete. Christians feed on God’s Word and thrive when serving in and integrated into solid church fellowships.

Ingram writes that our life change takes time and includes some setbacks—failures, but it reveals itself in renewed priorities, Christ-like attitudes and others-centered relationships as God’s Spirit works in and through our yielded hearts. “You will find a new compassion and patience growing inside you, a desire to help people …. You won’t be immune to discouragement or frustration, but you’ll draw new strength from a deeper source. The Holy Spirit will shape your thoughts, feelings, and actions …. The new you is supernatural, not your best version of the old you.”

Christians often need to switch some focus from such things as jobs, news, sports, movies and music to focus on Scripture to change our thinking and plug into “regular, loving, accountable relationships centered on God’s Word.”

“Family is the most important small group God ever designed,” Ingram writes. “A believer who is not in deep, intentional, authentic relationships with other believers in some kind of small group is probably … not growing.”

Developing virtues, like humility, gentleness, and patience, requires being in community. Patience “is rooted in our realization that we don’t need others’ approval and have nothing to prove because God loves us, defends us, vindicates us and proves our value in His timing.”

Richard Penn graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.