Peninsula Community Church
Strongholds – Baggage
April 17, 2016
Hebrews 12:1-2 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.
I ask your forgiveness in the beginning of this message. I know that it will appear that the message will be focused on my life and my testimony. But I ask that you bear with me because as I was preparing I thought there was no better way to express the power of the baggage we hold onto than through my personal testimony. As I share this I do not in any way want to take away from the Gospel but it is the Gospel and the power of Christ that I am where I am today.
With that said in 1979, when I moved to New York City after Bible College, one of the jobs I had was to help refugees resettle to the United States. In particular, we were helping Christians who came from Communist countries and had lost everything as a result of their stand for Christ. In that job one of my roles was to travel to churches to present the program and seek to have churches sponsor refugees. I enjoyed this because I was able to fly around the country and visit some exciting churches and meet some awesome people. On one such trip, upon my arrival back to New York I found out that the person who was suppose to pick me up was not able to do so and I would have to find an alternative way home.
So I began to consider how I was going to get home from LaGuardia Airport which was not as easy as it might seem. The problem was that I had a huge trunk, a large suit case, and a brief case because I had to carry all of the church presentation material with me. Upon investigating how I was to get home I found out that I needed to take a bus from the airport to the Grand Central Station. From there I had to take a subway to Penn Station where I would catch the Long Island Rail Road to West Islip. On the Long Island Railroad I was required to make one transfer. Can you imagine me pulling a 75 pound plus trunk (with no wheels), a large suit case, and my brief case onto the bus, down the stairs of the subway, up the stairs of the train station, and then down the other side to catch the Long Island Rail Road and then to do it all over at the transfer point.
Once in West Islip I called only to find that no one could pick me up. So I had to get a taxi to take me home. So now I had to wrestle with this stuff again. When I arrived home, I drug the trunk, the suit case, and the brief case into the house only to find the person who was to pick me up was watching boxing matches with his sons. Needless to say I was not a happy camper. By the way it took me almost four hours or more to get home from the airport. I laugh at that story now but the fact is the excess baggage I had with me weighed me down and kept me from being very mobile. I had to drag this baggage around with me in order to make any progress at getting home.
While this is a humorous story the fact is that many of us have baggage that tends to weigh us down as we take this journey called life. The writer of Hebrews expresses this as weights and sin. Both the weights of life and the sin (ongoing sin) that possesses us holds us back and causes us to be immobile and ineffective in this journey called life. It is of note that a weight in itself is not necessarily a sin but it is something that is cumbersome, annoying, and it holds us back from being all that we could be, otherwise.
I am sure that you know what I mean. Our collection of baggage begins early in life as we experience the ups and downs of life. For me, it began as a child because when I was just a year old or so I was rushed off to my grandmother’s house to live so that my mom could find herself in Texas. During this time my grandfather who was my best bud died. It was in that moment that I began to pick up the bag of rejection and abandonment. The problem of course was that as I grew older I began to stuff that bag with more and more rejection and abandonment. When I was six years old I moved back with my mom. While living with my mom we moved every year to two years until I was eleven because of my step dad’s drinking problem. At eleven years old I was moved to my aunt’s house because of the issues at home. And after one year with my aunt I suddenly found myself at the doorsteps of my dad’s home in Alabama. Each of these actions added to the baggage I carried. The bag of rejection and abandonment became much heavier. To make matters worse I began to filter everything through the prism of rejection and assumed that rejection and abandonment was going to be a way of life for me.
In addition to the baggage of rejection and abandonment, I also picked up a bag of abuse and wounds as my step dad was abusive physically, emotionally, and mentally. He would punish me with military type punishments. One such punishment was to have me stand six inches from the living room wall with one foot in the air for 45 minutes. If my foot dropped, he would slap me and the time would start over. This was just one case of the physical abuse. In many ways the physical abuse was nothing compared to the emotional abuse I encountered with my dad. By the time I turned eleven or twelve my self esteem was blown and I had experienced the power of insecurity in big ways.
This lead me to take on other baggage such as fear and guilt. I feared for my life as I did not know how my step dad was going to be when he arrived home. I also felt guilty because I felt I was the problem. After all my step dad would regularly remind me that the issues at home were my fault. He would say such things as I was never wanted and that I should have stayed with my grandmother. He would blame me for all of the problems he was facing and would blame me when he and my mom would fight which was often. At 7 years old I began to accept the idea that my parents issues were my fault.
Throughout my life I picked up more and more baggage until I was weighed down and had became immobilized by the baggage I carried. The fact is I knew no better. The fact is that people who were around me did not even know that I was dealing with this burden as I did a great job of hiding my real self. I assumed that this was just the way of life so I had to a accept it and move on. On March 4, 1974, as a teenager, I received Christ and through that action I thought that life would be grand. While I had been forgiven of my sin, I still carried the baggage I had collected throughout my life. In fact, instead of getting rid of my baggage I actual picked up another piece of baggage called religion. Even though I had accepted Christ and I was going to church regularly, I still carried the baggage of my past. Instead of living in freedom, I tried to obey the rules that had been given me. But as I continued my journey with Christ, particularly after my Bible college years, I began to realize that I did not have to walk with the baggage that was weighing me down. I learned that there was a better way of living.
Let me share with you a few of the Biblical truths I learned that helped me let go of the baggage in my life. First of all I learned that true forgiveness meant that none of my past issues had to dictate my present circumstances or my future life. You see I had accepted Christ but I had not accepted His forgiveness. I confessed Christ but I not taken what He had accomplished for me to heart. I failed to grasp what Peter had stated in 2 Peter 1:3-5. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. You see one of my problems was that I was relying on my own strength and I was good at keeping all of the rules to be a “good Christian.” I did not fully realize that God had already given me everything I needed to overcome the baggage in my life and that I could be a partaker of the divine nature of Christ which brings freedom.
Secondly, I learned that I did not have to walk in the fear of rejection or abandonment again. The words of Timothy reminded me that God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. You see I had so much fear that I could never be free or so I thought. I was afraid of everything. I was afraid of rejection. I was afraid of being abandoned. I was afraid of the future. But once I grasped the power of the words of Timothy, I now know that I do not have to walk in fear but I now have a power to overcome the baggage in my life.
Thirdly, as I grew in Christ, for the first time in my life, I began to realize that I was accepted and received by Christ. Even though I had accepted Christ I still struggled with the fact that Christ really accepted me. What I did in life was in fact done to get Christ to love me and accept me. I did not want Him to reject me. After all I felt everyone else did so. As I began to grow in Christ I began to realize and grasp that I was accepted by Christ not because of who I was but because of who He is. Listen to the words of John 1:12-13. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. Look at this, Christ gave us the right. He gave us permission. He opened the door for us to be children of God. You see Paul is saying you are not just forgiven, you are accepted by God as His child.
Fourthly, I learned that I was not responsible for the actions or decisions of others. I also learned that I needed to take responsibility for my life, for who I was, and what I had done. While I had many things done against me I defaulted into the blame game mode. I had become good at pointing out other’s sin and their shortcomings. I was good at blaming my parents, my step dad, my mom, my real dad, my step mom, my brothers and sisters for my sin and the wrongs I had done. But I had to take ownership of what I had done. I had to own up to my sin. I had to come to terms with the fact that I had allowed baggage to begin to dictate how I was to live.
Fourthly, as the baggage began to fall off, I realized that I had to fill my life with something. According to physics, a vacuum is never empty, it always filled with something. It is for this reason that Jesus Himself explains the need to be filled with all that God is and not to remain empty. “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came. ’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation (Matthew 12:43-45).
You see I can get rid of my baggage but I need to be filled with something good or else I will begin to fill my life with more baggage and I will find that seven more evil spirits will come. You see I need to be filled with Christ’s love and the power of all He has given me. I need to be filled with His word, His spirit, and His power. In so doing, I can let go of all of the baggage in my life and not worry about being entrapped by those things again.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom