Today John Elmore continues the Resolve series with some great insights into the importance of dealing with out “baggage.” The problem is that if we do not deal with our baggage, it becomes a barrier to our relationship with Christ and others. We must Resolve to deal with these issues so we can be free to run the race God has laid out for us.
Resolve to Be Anchored in Truth
Resolve to Deal with Your Baggage
Resolve to Deal with Anger
Resolve to Remove the Myths Around Love and Dating
16 Things to Convince Your Children of Before 16
Resolve to Pursue Peace as Much as Possible
Resolve to Be Diligent to Stay Together
Resolve to Be in God's Word
Resolve to Do Life Together
You're seeing this baggage here on stage and me carrying my own baggage. It reminds me of a time in my life, my freshman year, when I made my way from Missouri down to Texas. One weekend, one fateful weekend, I set foot in a little place called home of the fighting Texas Aggies. That made me so thankful that I was headed back to Waco, where I was a Baylor Bear.
It's so easy to draw an Aggie offsides. No, I'm just playing with you. I actually really like A&M. It's my favorite community college in Texas. We all have baggage with Aggies. If you grew up in Texas, and you were not an Aggie, odds are you have a little bit of baggage with them, with their Super Bowl rings and their maroon cars, and their whooping in church. It just creates some baggage for the rest of us.
We love y'all. We're one body in Christ, but college was a long time ago. We have baggage with that, and we all can kind of laugh about that, our Aggie baggage, but when some of us left for college or when we left at 18 or even before 18, we took some baggage that is not so easy to laugh about or talk about.
Think about what some of that baggage may be. That may be baggage from divorced parents, maybe baggage from being exposed to porn at an early age, at a time when you should never have been, what should have been a safe place. Maybe baggage of, "I want to get far away from this place and these people and never go back," baggage. Maybe, "My home wasn't a safe place," baggage, and, "I was rejected and not loved there," baggage.
You left, and maybe you went off to school or started your adult years. Then you didn't just have the baggage of the sin that was committed against you or that you were around, but you started to gather your own baggage. Maybe that was baggage of a porn addiction or baggage from a bad relationship in your young adult years or maybe baggage of, "What am I going to do with my career now that I'm an adult and off on my own?"
Maybe it's baggage that you're comparing yourself to other people's careers or baggage that you don't even yet know who you're going to marry. Once you do find the one you're going to marry, you ask them to marry you, and you realize, "Oh, man. They have baggage. They have more baggage than I do. They just don't know it. I need to help them." You forget that you have baggage because you're so concerned about their baggage.
Maybe you're still single, and you're thinking about all of the people who did get married, and you have baggage with them because they got married. Now you have single baggage about their baggage they have because their baggage would be better than the baggage you have. It's this big accumulation of baggage all through life.
The problem is that it weighs us down. It keeps us from doing what we're called to do. It hinders us from our relationship with God and from others and from actually doing the good works God has called us to do, this baggage, if we don't deal with it. Today, as part of a continuation of the Resolve series, we're going to resolve to deal with our baggage.
Now, when I went to school and then left school, I took more baggage than I came with. The baggage I left school with was alcoholism. That's what I left school with. I thought it was just, "I just drink with everybody else. It's college, right?" That's what I thought, but that baggage didn't go away. I thought it would. It didn't.
I didn't even realize. I caught myself. Once I realized, I was like, "I'm a functional alcoholic." That's ridiculous, as if I get a pat on the back for being functional because I was able to hold down a job. "You're still an alcoholic. It doesn't matter if you're functional." That's the baggage I had. Thankfully, 10 years ago, I took this to Jesus, and he set me free of that baggage as I took it to the cross and asked Jesus to free me, and he did.
Do you know what was in this baggage, what was so wrapped around that baggage? Inside was this one: man's approval. That's what actually drove the alcoholism baggage, caring about what other people thought about me. It started in high school. Actually, it started a long time before that. I wanted everybody's approval. I didn't want to do wrong.
I didn't want to disappoint anybody. I had to be a rule-follower. Then I would disappoint them. I would disappoint myself. I wanted to be the fun guy at the party, the fun guy at the high school, the fraternity, and then the happy hour. "I can't let my clients down. I have to just work and work and work." Jesus forgave me of that and freed me from it.
Do you know what? I pick it back up again on mornings like this, and I'm like, "What do they think about me? Todd isn't here this Sunday. Whenever he listens to the message, what is he going to think about me?" I pick it back up again, even though it is forgiven. Jesus wants me to be free. Now, I have my baggage here on stage, and I'm talking about it, but here is the thing. Every single one of you brought your baggage in this morning.
Your baggage doesn't stay at home. It doesn't stay at work. It doesn't stay where you grew up. It's on you. It's in you. You take it with you. It's in your relationships. Your spouse is like, "That's right. He brought his baggage in the parking lot. We fought over his baggage. How does he know that?" We all do. We all have this baggage we bring in. We have to resolve to deal with our baggage.
My name is John Elmore. I serve as the Men's Director of Recovery here in Dallas from a ministry called re:generation. Re:generation is now at Fort Worth and Plano, so if you have friends there, direct them there. I'm thankful to be with you today because that's what we do at re:generation every Monday night: we're resolving to deal with our baggage.
I have to say something. When I was putting this message together, I wrestled with it. It was hard. At re:gen, it takes us a year to go through this process of dealing with our baggage. We have 35 minutes, as it stands. This is a conversation starter. We aren't going to unpack and deal with all of your baggage from your entire life in this amount of time.
Here is what I believe. The Lord is able. By the power of the Holy Spirit working in you, in your heart this morning, today, he would begin a work to help you deal with your baggage. What he begins, he will continue on, and just like it said, he will complete it. He will complete the work he began in you.
When resolving to deal with our baggage… Here is where we're going today. Three things. We release. Release your baggage at the cross. Second, we run. You run the race God has marked out for you. Third, redeem. Even God could redeem the baggage we all have. Release, run, and redeem. In order to do this, we're going to look at a passage in Hebrews, chapter 12, verses 1-2. You can read along. I'm reading from the ESV.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
1._ Release._ Release your baggage. Who here has heard of a gentleman named Roger Bannister? Five percent of people have heard of Roger Bannister. In 1954, Roger Bannister broke the four-minute-mile barrier. On record, no one had ever run a sub-four-minute mile until Roger Bannister did in 1954. Do you know how long that record stood? Does anybody know? That record stood for as long as 46 days.
No one did it in history of keeping record. After he did, it happened 46 days later. That's not a coincidence. Do you know how many people have run a sub-four-minute mile since Roger and whoever did it 46 days later? We don't even know his name. That's not funny to him. He has baggage about that. "Roger Bannister." Thousands of people have run a sub-four-minute mile since Roger Bannister did. How is that possible?
High school students are running sub-four-minute miles. The way they're able to do that is Roger did something for them. He overcame a mental barrier for them. They thought they couldn't because no one ever had. As soon as he did, everybody could who set their minds to it because he did. In Hebrews 11, that's exactly what the author does.
He takes us through all of these people. He says, "Hey. Don't forget Abraham, Noah, Moses, David, Rahab the prostitute, all of them. They had baggage, yet they laid it aside and, by faith, ran the race God had marked out for them, and they did it well. Oh, they had baggage. They were murderers, adulterers, liars, passive. They laid that baggage aside and then, by faith, they ran the race God had laid out for them. Don't forget them."
By the way, the author of Hebrews is not testifying to their great lives. He is testifying to their great God in saying, "Just as God did for them, he will do for you no matter what your baggage." There are two categories in this passage that keep us from running this race. It says there are weights and there are sins. That's what we're going to talk about here on what we release at the cross.
A. Weights. Weights are amoral things. They're without morality. They're neither good nor bad. It all depends on how we use them. Of course, we know sins are inherently evil. No one has to tell us. These amoral things that you think about that are in your lives hinder you from doing what God desires for you to do with your relationships, your time with him, and from doing what you have been called do.
What might those be? Fantasy football, professional sports, The Bachelor… "No. The bachelor is a good man. He's not a weight." If you're so distracted by that and caught up in that or him or her, that becomes a weight that hinders you and keeps you from doing what you ought. Social media has now become a huge thing. Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instabrag…
You see these Instagram messages that are like, "Sitting on the beach in Tahiti with my rocking body, rocking my umbrella drink. #blessed." I'm like, "What? I think that's the prosperity gospel. Last time I checked, you're supposed to boast in your weaknesses or boast in the Lord, not in…" Some of you are like, "How did you know I was in Tahiti?" You're deleting your feed.
TV, news, the stock market (or lack thereof), professional sports, fishing, hunting, golf, kids, sports (yes, I did), working out. Do you want to know what mine is? I didn't know what mine was, my weight, my amoral weight that is keeping me from doing what I'm supposed to do. No one had told me. I didn't know. I thought I was doing pretty good. I was giving my son, Hill, a bath. I got home from work and put him in the bath with bubbles, toys, and all of that.
I was like, "He's good. He's having the time of his life. I'll just knock out some emails, check the news for the fourth time, make sure my Amazon orders are on time." My little boy stands up out of the bubbles and goes, "Bye bye, Daddy's phone." I was like, "I didn't know you knew all of those words and could speak in sentences." I just look at him like, "What?" He says it again. "Bye bye, Daddy's phone," with a scowl on his face.
He was telling me what the weight was in my life, this amoral object. It's not bad, not good, but it was coming between me and him and what God has called me to do, to disciple my boy, to love him. I've been at work all day, and here I am just working more. It kept me from him. Odds are, like me, you don't know what your baggage is, what those weights are that are keeping you from doing what you want to do.
Here is how this looks in our household, as a matter of analogy. Every time we get ready to take a picture, Laura says, "Babe, do I have anything in my teeth?" I'm like, "Are you going to smile like that?" She's asking me because she knows I'll tell her. I care about her. I love her, and I don't want there to be anything in her teeth.
You as a spouse, you as a Community Group, you as a roommate, you're able to tell other people, but don't go out of here and be like, "I know what your weights are." It's for you to invite them and say, "Hey, would you mind telling me what you think the weights are in my life that are keeping me from doing those things?" Otherwise, your weight is control or a critical spirit. Start the conversation. Begin the conversation with yourself before you take it to someone else.
There are other kinds of weights. There is affliction and suffering, disabilities, physical illness. When life doesn't go exactly as you think it should, you're like, "I didn't do anything to bring this about. I didn't want this disability or this affliction or this sickness. This isn't because of sin. I didn't bring this about."
There can be a dividing line of… Are you going to become bitter and indifferent and let it sideline you or will you say, "Okay, God, I'll trust you even with this weight that was given to me, sovereignly allowed." You think about 2 Corinthians 12, where Paul writes, "…there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me…" Why do you think Satan wants to torment Paul? To sideline him, to take him off track, to distract him, to keep him from doing the things he was called to do. Paul pleads with Jesus to take it away.
He says, "Paul, my strength is made perfect in weakness, and my grace is sufficient. I'm not taking it away. Will you still run the race? I'm not taking that one away, but I'm going to get you through it." He'll do it for us. The third kind of weight is sin committed against us. You think about gossip, rejection, mistreatment by a parent or a spouse, a rebellious spouse, sexual abuse. Those are some heavy weights. Those are the weights.
B. Sins. There are also sins we commit, and those are a little bit more glaringly obvious to us. If they're not, I pray the Spirit would reveal those to you and that you would recognize them because those things… These are weights. These entangle us. They wrap us up so tightly that we can't move forward. Porn, eating, pride, a critical spirit, a gambling addiction, gossip, cheating, an adulterous relationship, lust, alcoholism, pills, laziness. You know what yours is. Or you can ask God and he'll tell you.
We have the weights, and we have the sins. Do you know what one of the heaviest ones is? One of the heaviest ones we'll talk about today on this stage is this one: unforgiveness. This unforgiveness is heavier than almost any of these others. It belongs at the cross. Let me tell you why. There are two kinds of unforgiveness. One is to say, "I can't forgive myself for what I did. I can't believe what I did. I could never forgive myself for what I did."
Nate Graybill, the director of re:gen, stares guys straight in the eyes and said, "Oh, you're right. You can't forgive yourself." "Wait. What? I know I can't, but why do you say that?" He's like, "Because only Jesus can. You can't forgive yourself of your own sin. You're the one who committed your sin. You can't say, 'Look how much time has passed or how much penance you've done or how many good works.' Jesus alone can forgive you of your sin, and you have no authority to forgive your own sin."
"I can't forgive myself," is not in the Christian vocabulary because the cross was sufficient. Jesus either died for all of your sin, or he didn't complete the task, and there is something left for you to do. That's heresy. He died for all of your sin. Some of you are like, "No, that's not the unforgiveness I'm dealing with. I'm dealing with the unforgiveness of what was done to me, against me, the sexual abuse, the abuse, what my spouse did to me, my employer," whatever.
Here is the deal. If they're a Christian, that sin was also nailed upon the cross. Jesus bore their sins that they committed against you, meaning that sin is already dealt with too. If Jesus has forgiven them, who are you to say, "I know he might, but I won't." What? He forgave us. See also the merciless servant of Matthew 18.
You might be thinking, "They're not Christians. What that person did to me… They're not a Christian, and they deserve justice." That is the most fearful thing you might ever think or say because the justice, if they do not trust Christ, will be eternity in hell. Look. I have had some horrible things done to me, but I don't wish that for anyone, for them to have to spend eternity in hell.
Instead, we should go to them and say, "I want you to know that I have harbored unforgiveness against you, but you need to know that I have done terrible things too, and Jesus has forgiven me of them. Did you know that you too can be forgiven?" That root of bitterness and unforgiveness would drive you to them to extend them your forgiveness, that they might also be forgiven in Christ and escape the flames of hell.
That baggage weighs us down. It's like the Dead Sea. All of the rain in Israel runs down those mountains, into the Jordan, into the Dead Sea, and guess what? It never leaves. All of the minerals, everything, all of those toxins come filtering down into the Dead Sea. It never runs out. That's why the Dead Sea is dead.
If that happens to our baggage, if we don't release it at the cross, we too will be dead. We'll be lifeless. We'll be stagnant. We have to release that baggage at the cross, that we could live the full, abundant life God wants. The application… What do you do? You ask those around you, "What are the weights in my life?"
Invite them to share those with you. "What are the sin struggles you see?" You confess those to God. You do release it at the cross by confessing it to the Lord and to another. Maybe come to re:gen. Maybe say, "You know what? For the next 10 or 12 months, I'm going to go resolve to deal with my baggage. He's right. I couldn't deal with this in a morning. It has been a lifetime of baggage, but I'll go to re:gen."
You trust in Jesus. You think, "I've never dealt with any of my baggage. You trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior who died for your sins and rose from the dead. You have new life." The problem with releasing our baggage is that oftentimes, we stay right here by it. We're like, "I know I'm forgiven. Thank you for forgiving me."
You just kind of stay in it rather than… What Scripture says is that we are to run the race that God marked out for us. That's the next part of that passage. We release the baggage. Now what? We run.
2._ Run._ "…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…" Fact. When I was two months sober, I finished a marathon at four hours and two minutes. Not bad, huh? That's not even a humblebrag. That's just a brag. I have a picture for you of me crossing the finish line. Do you notice anything weird about that picture? I don't have numbers. I'm in slacks and boots and a coat.
When I finished that race, they didn't give me that neat Mylar foil blanket. They didn't so much as give me a water. They didn't give me a shirt. I didn't get anything. Do you know why? That wasn't my race. I should never have been in that race. I just saw a friend at the end and just ran alongside of him and was like, "Uh oh. There are gates up. I'm stuck. I have to finish."
I didn't belong in that race. I know. I'm no Roger Bannister. I had no business being in that race, so I didn't get anything at the end. When I finished, it was like, "Why are you here? What are you doing?" Many of us (and I've been there) were forgiven at the cross. We're like, "Oh, wow. Thank you, Jesus, to have that baggage off."
Then we go run the world's race. We're like, "I'm going to get the girl, get the guy, get the job, the career, the house, the ZIP code, the right schools, do the right things, get everything all put together. I'm going to make a lot of money. I'm going to get that 401(k) built up so I can retire and maybe retire early, get the golf house, the beach house, the lake house, whatever."
You run that world's race. We're going to finish that race. If we run the world's race, a race we were never even supposed to be in, like me in that marathon, we're going to finish, and God is going to be like, "Oh, I'm so sorry. There are no rewards for running the world's race. You didn't run my race. You jumped in a race you never should have been in."
What Scripture says right here is that when we release our baggage, we're to run God's race, the race he has marked out for us, not the world's race. The other thing we don't do though is we don't run another Christian's race. We're not racing against each other. It's not like we look and go, "Okay, where is Todd in the race? Where is the person in my Community Group?"
He has a unique, individual race for every single one of us to run. For some of us, that's going to look like a child with a disability. For some of you, it's going to look like single motherhood. For some of you, it's going to look like a teacher, some a stay-at-home mom, some a CEO. All of the stay-at-home moms are thinking, "Those two things are one and the same. I am CEO of my kids at the house."
We all have unique races to run, and it is the good works God has created for us to do. Guess what. It doesn't matter the occupation or the title. It's all about making disciples. From evangelism and sharing your faith all the way to maturity in Christ, all you're there for, in whatever circumstances you find yourself, is to further God's kingdom by telling others about Jesus, that you could release your baggage and run, and he would redeem it. That's it. That's your role.
Right now, the race of Jennifer and Scott Clouse is battling cancer, difficult cancer. Yesterday, in their race, they weren't getting treatment. They were up here, teaching a class, making disciples, on heaven, running that race well. Deb and Dan Frazier have been battling cancer for years. Deb says, "My cancer room where I get my treatment in the hospital is my sanctuary. Do you know why? I get to tell people about Jesus. I get to tell them, 'Do you have a faith?' and engage them."
Maybe they don't go to church, but the church went to them through cancer. Galatians 4:13. You know that it was out of an affliction that I first shared the gospel with you. They're running the race well. We run the race God has given to us. Fixing our eyes on Jesus. It's true that you go where you look.
Whenever Laura and I go on a family walk, we pack up the kids in the big, double-wide stroller. Our little boy is 2, so I'm always like, "Squirrel! Dog! Look at the birds!" He's just looking nearby. I go where I look. If I'm like, "Look, there is a squirrel," I will run Laura off the sidewalk or clip her ankle every time. You go where you look.
In this passage, he says, "You release it. You run the race. You fix your eyes on Jesus." That's not some Sunday school answer, like, "Yeah, look to Jesus." It's because he did it perfectly. He ran the race God gave him perfectly. "Yeah, but he was perfect. He didn't have baggage." No, he had more baggage than any of us because he carried our baggage.
His race was to be rejected in his hometown. His family thought he was crazy. They mocked him and ridiculed him. They said, "You must be possessed by demons." They tore out his beard, a crown of thorns, scourged his back, put nails through his hands and feet, mocked him, spit on him, beat him. He ran his race perfectly.
It says, "Just as Jesus did, fix your eyes on him, because whatever you face, you fix your eyes on Jesus, and it will help you endure. Run the race with endurance just as Jesus endured the cross." The application: make disciples. No matter where you are or what you're doing, you make disciples. That may be at work. It may be at home. It may be in the cancer ward. You make disciples.
You release your baggage to God. You run God's race for you. Those are steps one through seven at re:gen. We just covered a lot of ground. Some of you feel like, "If I do that… I have done that. I am trying to make disciples, but I still feel the weight, the shame." Satan is an accuser. Although we're forgiven, we still hear those whispers. I do every week, the whispers and lies.
Lauren and I went on a vacation last summer to this cabin that doesn't get used much. We did our laundry there and brought it home. We put our bags down and just hit the ground running, back to work, back to the kids. Every time we would come back in the house, we would go, "What is that smell? Something reeks. What is that? What did we bring home?"
We would leave, and we would come back. "That is toxic." We realized, "Oh, my goodness. It's the mothballs from the cabin. It's in our baggage." This cabin had mothballs in the dressers, in the closets, everywhere. I didn't even know that people still used these, but the mothball scent was so in our baggage.
You're probably thinking, "What did you do? Did you get them dry cleaned? Did you have to throw away the clothes? Did you wash it?" Nope. Do you know what we did? We unpacked it. We simply unpacked the bags, hung them up, wore them, and all of that smell, all of that stench, all of that toxic stuff just went away as we unpacked the baggage. That's what we do. We unpack the baggage. When we do, God redeems it.
3._ Redeem._ He redeems the baggage that was nailed to the cross, no matter what it is. If we unpack it, he will redeem it. It says in the Scripture, Hebrews 12, "…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…" The reason why Jesus was able to endure the cross was because of future joy.
He faced present circumstances by fixing on future joy. He knew he was going to be welcomed into glory. He knew that what he did would ransom sons and daughters. He knew he would be setting us free from sin. It was all for the joy before him that he was able to endure the cross. That word endure is the same one where it said, "Let us run with endurance." He's saying, "Just as Jesus did, so should we."
I have never understood this next part until I studied this. It says, "…despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." We think about the word despise as, "I despise cats," or, "I despise Aggies," or, "I despise…whatever." We think of it as hate. I'm kidding. I love Aggies. I have two of them in my Community Group. We think of the word despise as hate. That's not the word here.
There are some translations that say disregard, and it's more accurate. That word in Greek is also used in 1 Timothy 4. Paul writes to Timothy, and he says, "Timothy, don't let anyone despise you because of your youth." It's like, "Well, no one would despise him because of his youth." It says, "Don't let anyone disregard you because of your youth. Don't let anyone think of you as insignificant because of your youth." That's the word, to disregard.
Get this. Jesus disregarded the disgrace of the cross. He was not clothed on the cross. He was naked upon the cross as they mocked him. He disregarded all of that because he knew that God was going to take the greatest tragedy the world had ever seen and was going to make it the greatest message the world had ever heard because he was going to raise him from the dead.
That's how he was able to disregard the disgrace. As Jesus did, so do we then. We have to. We have to disregard the disgrace of our baggage and think of it as insignificant. We have to disregard the disgrace if we want God to redeem it. We release it. We run. If you want God to redeem it, you disregard the disgrace.
The first time I told someone I was an alcoholic, I thought I was going to throw up. It was the most painful, difficult thing I had ever uttered out of my mouth. I probably say it three or four times a day now. I'll tell anybody because I disregard the disgrace. That's why Jesus died for me. My son, Hill, will bring me his toys whenever he breaks them. He just comes with the parts with this certainty. He says, "Daddy fix it? Daddy fix it?" He knows I can.
It's not that I'm some crazy engineer. I have superglue. He knows. Every time, he's like, "I don't know how, but he fixes it." That's what it is with God. We would take him all of our broken parts and say, "Daddy fix it? God, can you fix it, this horrible thing that was done to me, this terrible, disgusting thing I did? Can you redeem even this?"
This is the Gerasene demoniac, the guy who had a legion of demons that were cast out into the pigs. Do you remember the story? He goes up to Jesus afterward, and he says, "Jesus, can I follow you?" This is one of the craziest things in Scripture. Jesus says no. You're like, "Why would Jesus not want him to follow him? Isn't that what he was all about?"
Jesus wanted the people of the Decapolis, the 10 cities, to be saved. How would they be saved? Jesus wasn't going there. He was going the other direction. He said, "You go back and tell everyone what God (Jesus, God in the flesh) has done for you." It says that that man did. He went back to the Decapolis, told everything that Jesus had done for him. What does it say?
It says all of the people were amazed because they said, "Hold on. I know you. I know who you are. You're the one who lived among the tombs who was shackled with iron and used to break them. You would take stones and cut your arms and cry out among the dead. I know exactly who you are. How is it that you're now in your right mind, clothed, and proclaiming Jesus?"
It's because he unpacked his baggage. He went and told everybody, "This is who I was. This is who I am. It's all because of Jesus." God redeemed him. The most humiliating thing about your baggage will become the greatest message for you to tell others about Jesus. It will become the most blessed part of your ministry.
What is the application? "Okay, I released my baggage. I have run God's race for me making disciples. Redeem it how?" You just start talking about it. You just tell somebody. Tell one person. "Hey, have I ever told you who I was before? I didn't just start trying to be a better person. Here is my story."
At re:gen, we say it's, "Ow, how, now." Ow: "This was the pain I went through or what happened to me." How: "This is what Jesus did." Now: "This is what life is like as a result. It's not perfect. I'm not perfect." Ow: this was the pain. How: this is what Jesus did. Now: here is what life is like as a result. That's it. You don't have to go life story on them. It's simple.
Baggage packed is still a burden. Baggage unpacked is a message. I asked some friends, "Can I unpack your baggage on stage?" Not a single one of them said no. Every single one of them said, "Absolutely. Not just that. You tell them this and that and this." We're going to unpack some baggage.
The first one we're going to unpack is the heavy one: sexual abuse. My friend Andy was sexually abused as a boy. Statistically, one in five men have been sexually abused. One in three women have been. It's a horrible problem. This man Andy was abused. For much of his life, he carried so much shame. It wasn't even sin he committed. It was committed against him, but he didn't tell a soul.
Finally, he was like, "God, could you redeem even that? If I start telling people, could you redeem even that?" God redeemed it. From Andy's story, Andy wrote the curriculum for MENd, men who have suffered through sexual abuse, that they would find freedom, forgiveness, and life in Christ. Another ministry called Shelter is the exact same thing. Andy is a leader in the community, has a great marriage, a father. God took his baggage and made it his message, not to proclaim Andy, but to proclaim healing in Christ.
Here is another one. This one is heavy. This is loss. Julie and Mark Nicholson struggled with infertility for years. They finally got pregnant with triplets, a dream come true. They lost all three children, all three, Annie, Lucy, and Will. It didn't end there. They took that brokenness, that pain, that loss, as an offering to the Lord and said, "All right, God. We can't carry this anymore. We have to release this to you. If possible, could you even redeem that?"
Out of their loss came GriefShare. It did not exist here at Watermark until Mark and Julie started talking about their loss. Other people came forward and said, "Could you tell us how you got through this? I've lost a loved one. I've miscarried. How?" God started using them, their mess, as a message. He reengineered and rebuilt their broken parts, and he redeemed that message.
You might look at those and think, "Yeah, but those two things are things they suffered through. My baggage is sin, horrible, disgusting sin. What could God do with that? I see how he could redeem these things, but what can he do with my disgusting sin like porn, like a lifetime addiction to porn?"
Nate Graybill, my boss, was exposed to porn at a young age. It haunted him. It carried on through his single, early adult years and even into his marriage, until his wife, Teresa, was like, "We have to tell somebody. We can't do this anymore. We have to take this to the cross, and we have to get this lie out into the light."
They took it, and they talked to Todd about it and said, "All right. Here is the thing. This is what we're struggling with." Todd said, "Look, you're not the only ones. We just don't know who else is struggling. I guarantee you there are hundreds if not thousands of other men and women who are struggling with porn. Would you be willing to talk about it? Would you unpack your baggage by allowing God to redeem it? Would you talk about it?" They said, "Okay, we'll do it in faith."
Out of that mess came re:generation, a Christ-centered, 12-step program that is pointing people to Jesus, and he is setting thousands of people free, not just here but nationwide at all of these other churches because Nate and Teresa said, "We'll talk about it." You think your marriage is beyond repair? You think your marriage is so broken beyond repair that God couldn't do anything with it, and you may as well just pursue divorce, may as well just… "Nothing could ever come from this."
Adultery. Susan and Raeul Cox struggled through adultery, infidelity in their marriage. They came forward and told one person, "This is where we are. We're headed toward divorce. There is all sorts of brokenness." They began finding healing in Christ. As they did, they began telling more and more and more.
What God did in their marriage is not unique. It's a miracle he'll do for every marriage. Susan and Raeul Cox are now leaders in re|engage and are helping others who are beyond hope say, "No, no, no. You are never beyond the hope of what Jesus can do. You bring him all of your broken parts. It doesn't matter what you've done, what has been done to you. Jesus redeems it all if you'll allow." You unpack it, and you let him heal it.
You know, the one thing God has used in my life more than anything to talk about Jesus is not my seminary degree. I don't know that I've ever been able to tell someone about Jesus by starting with, "Let me tell you about seminary." This is the thing God has used in my life to tell more people about Jesus than anything else. I can say, "It wasn't always like this. Can I tell you who I was before?"
I've had people tell me before, "Why do you always talk about alcoholism? You have so much more to offer. Don't talk about alcoholism so much." I tell them, "No, no, no. You don't understand. I will always talk about alcoholism because this is what Jesus set me free from. I am not a good person, but because of what Christ did, he set me free from that. I don't know what you're dealing with, but Jesus will set you free too."
I will always boast in who I was before because now I can tell you about what Jesus does, and he'll release all of that sin from upon you that you can't carry, that you were never meant to carry. You can run a race of purpose by making disciples, and he will take that brokenness and redeem it to proclaim the gospel.
Friends, look at that cross. That's not pretty. The cross is not pretty. That's where Jesus died because he took all of not just that sin but all of our sin upon him at the cross. It was all nailed to the cross. That cross no longer stands because Jesus is raised from the dead, and your struggles were nailed to the cross. Now you are raised with him to walk in freedom. That is the gospel and the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Walk in it.
Father God, we thank you and praise you that you made a way for us. Though we were dead in sin, weighed down and entangled, through Jesus Christ our Lord, you took all of that off of us. You released us from it. Not only that. You saved us, and then you sent us, that we could actually partake in your good work. As we begin to unpack our baggage, we could tell others that what you did for me, you will do for them. That is the hope and message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
It may feel strange for some of you to come into a church because of how you grew up and the church you grew up in and to hear words like adultery and porn and sexual abuse and miscarriage. I want you to know that that is biblical Christianity. If you look at 1 Corinthians 6, Paul writes to the church in Corinth, and he says, "You were adulterers, homosexual offenders, male prostitutes, drunkards, swindlers, slanderers, but that's who you were. You were washed. You were sanctified by Jesus Christ our Lord, by the Spirit of our God."
The church is never a place to put on a nice outfit, come dressed up, and say, "I'm great. How are you? I'm great." It's a place to come that we can be healed by talking about our baggage that Jesus has already paid for. If you feel today like some of that baggage got put on your heart that you're carrying, and you're like, "Man, what do I do next?" Come to re:gen. Go to MENd. Go to Shelter, re|engage for your marriage, Shiloh for infertility, whatever it may be.
I guarantee you there is a ministry for whatever baggage you're carrying that you are no longer meant to carry. I promise you the Lord God will redeem it. He promises, and he will use it to glorify the Son. Just watch. That's what he lives to do. Thanks be to Jesus. Amen. Have a great week of worship.