Unfortunately many of us also carry a lot of extra emotional and spiritual baggage, and we never seem to completely unload it. Jesus stated His reason for coming very clearly: “. . . I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). Jesus did not die on the cross so we could continue to be burdened with guilt, shame, and sin. He came to set us free to enjoy life the way it was meant to be enjoyed! So let me suggest some spiritual bags you might want to empty so you can enjoy your summer vacation a lot more abundantly.
First there is the garment bag of unconfessed sin. Some people think that maybe there is some sin hidden in their past that they have forgotten to confess and that although they have forgotten it, God knows about it and He is withholding a blessing until we finally remember it and confess it. Nothing could be further from the truth. As a matter of fact, our sin prevents God from absolutely nothing. If something limited Him then He would be God, would He? Unconfessed sin only prevents us. It is like wax in our spiritual ears that prevents us from hearing God as He speaks to us. Confession clears our heart and restores our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Unconfessed sin is both KNOWN to us and HARBORED by us like those attitudes, actions, and affections we are fully aware of that we know go against God’s plan and standard for our lives. So let me challenge you to zip open the garment bag of your heart and make sure you have removed all of the dirty laundry. It is high time you get with God and agree with Him about your sin and quit trying to ignore it, hide it, or rationalize. Admit it for what it is and get it out of your life. 1 John 1:9 teaches us: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” If we admit our culpability and own up to our sin, the blood of Jesus forgives – as though we had not even committed the sin.
Then there is the overnight bag of guilt. There are two kinds of guilt – real and imagined. Real guilt is more a forensic issue than anything else. Real guilt can best be illustrated by its application in the legal system. In that context guilt is a label that identifies that an individual is responsible for the commission of a particular crime. He DID it. Not questions about it. We handle real guilt by doing what I wrote in the previous paragraph.BUT, the guilt that is so often in our spiritual suitcase is not this real guilt, but it is rather an imagined, self-imposed guilt. We committed a sin in the past and we still feel bad about it even though we have confessed it and Jesus has forgiven us. We can unpack the overnight bag when we forgive ourselves. When we fail to forgive ourselves we belittle the work of Christ on the Cross and say that it really didn’t work. We may not verbalize that feeling, but in truth that is the attitude we take – “Jesus couldn’t forgive me for that.” If words mean anything – and they do – there is no sin too bad to be forgiven and no number of sins too many to be forgiven. God’s forgiveness is deep and wide. So, cut yourself some slack. Jesus has forgiven you . . . what makes you think you have higher standards than Him? "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." - John 8:36
The final piece I want to challenge you to unload is the suitcase of bitterness. Bitterness is a lingering feeling of discontent over a circumstance or set of circumstances or a lingering spirit of unforgiveness toward someone who has done something to hurt you. This is probably the most damaging piece of luggage we carry. Sometimes when we come home from a trip, we get all the bags in from the car, but the suitcase remains in the bedroom floor for days. Rather than empty it and putting the contents in their place, we step over and around the suitcase, allowing it to cramp us, even stumbling over it from time to time. We do the same with the hurts in our lives. We get the idea that life has dealt us a raw hand or that someone has treated us unfairly. You know who is the one who suffers from bitterness the most? The one who harbors it and refuses to put it in it place. Just like the duffle bag of guilt is full of instances in which we refuse to forgive ourselves, the suitcase of bitterness is full of instances where we chose not to extend grace and forgiveness to others.
The book of Hebrews gives us an ominous warning about holding on to bitterness:
See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (Hebrews 12:15)
Bitterness is an insipid canker that eats away at the one who harbors it and infects all others who come into contact with it. Have you ever known a person who is holding a grudge against someone? They are no fun to be around, are they? They let their discontent be known and they spread their poison to anyone who will listen. Do you REALLY want to be that person? Is it possible that someone right now is reading this line and thinking of you? Oh sure, for a short period we can zip up the suitcase and ignore the contents, but it is always there, always in the way, always causing us to stumble?It is high time to unpack and put away all this baggage. Confess your sins to God and be assured that you will receive His forgiveness. He promises it based on His faithfulness and righteousness. Then forgive yourself and forgive others. Summer vacation is a lot more fun when you can travel light.