Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How Much Luggage Are You Carrying?

By S. Michael Durham

Does your walk with the Master seem a bit more difficult these days? Do you feel like you’re carrying extra baggage? At least once a year I conduct pastors’ conferences in Eastern Europe. The return to United States soil is the worst leg of the trip. Normally my flight home originates from Amsterdam, Netherlands and lands in Memphis. By the time I land in Memphis I have been up for 24 hours, already so weary from the rest of the trip. But what makes the Memphis landing so hard is that I have to get all my luggage, and then run it through customs, and finally resubmit it through security. Bone-tired, I drag two large suitcases and my carry-on luggage through the airport, so that hopefully I can get the luggage boarded for my final flight home. I’m exhausted just writing about it! But some of you are feeling the same way, not physically, but spiritually.

You’re carrying way too much stuff. Baggage, if you please. The Apostle Paul says, “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ” (Philippians 3:8). When Paul was converted to Christ, he willingly laid aside everything he deemed important in life. He repented. Isn’t that repentance? Turning away from the things you lived for and turning toward Christ? Yes, that is a brief summary view of repentance. For every Christian reading you can say, “Me too! I willingly laid aside everything important to me and followed Jesus.”

Yet, many of you reading are still spiritually tired, drained and feel weighted down. Why? Perhaps it is because you are not doing what Paul did after he counted what was gain as gone. He continues, “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). The apostle continued to “count all things loss.” His repentance did not stop with conversion but continued long after. It continued until the moment he left this world.

Repentance is not a one-time deal. It can’t be. By nature it must be continual — that is, if it is genuine repentance. If repentance once counted everything in comparison to Christ as rubbish, then it must continue to do so. Paul went on past his conversion comparing things to Christ, and of course, nothing can compare to His beauty. Thus, he did not carry things tightly in his grip. In fact, he carried nothing. He was as light as the breeze and could even say in chains and in a dark, dank dungeon, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Remarkable isn’t it that a man who has nothing, who is in prison can tell people who have freedom, and homes, and food and water, and changes of clothing, and comfortable beds, and Christian fellowship, and many other things Paul did not have, to rejoice? How could the roles be reversed that the man who has nothing must tell the man who has more than he needs to rejoice? Because in this case, Paul counted everything lost so that he could gain more of Christ.

When you forget, or worse, choose not to count everything loss for the inestimable value of knowing Jesus, then you will start to carry whatever you deem not worthy to be lost. The more you treasure, the heavier your load. The heavier your load, the more drag you feel. The more drag you feel, the more spiritually impotent you become. Isn’t that your problem—you’re spiritually powerless?

What’s your remedy? Repentance, or in other words, throwing stuff overboard. Again, I’m using physical metaphors to speak of spiritual realities. The way to heaven is so narrow that it only allows for you. Not you and whatever else you value. Turn loose of all that is held dear so that you may gain Christ. What else is needed for your trip home?

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