We all have personal baggage we carry that holds us back. John Maxwell has observed that moving trucks move people everyday to "happy land." They think, “This town will be better." Or maybe they hope the job will be better. Some people even trade in their spouse because they need a better one. The problem is that the problem isn’t the town, the job, or the spouse, it’s you. The same moving truck moving your belongings is also loaded with your disfunction and moving it into your new job, relationship, and town. We'll never be able to start over until we walk away from the stuff that holds us back.
Sometimes it's easy to identify what is holding us back. Perhaps you have a bad habit (ok its an addiction) that keeps you from moving forward. Sometimes it's the way we treat people with our gossip. Sometimes it's our laziness (aka procrastination) that holds us back. We're trapped regularly by fear, guilt, shame, and sin. This happens on a personal level and also on a national level. As a people we often find ourselves trapped by legalism, racism, and classism.
It's easier to identify the things that hold us back when they're negative. It's harder when what's holding us back is actually good. Netflix is good, but if you’ve seen that, “Are you still watching?” screen pop up twice in a row…it might not be helping your marriage…or your job search…or your chances to keep working from home are getting slim. Our problem in America is that we are surrounded by so much good stuff - it can sometimes crowd out God! Even godly things can take the place of God! There are countless pastors who have burned out of ministry and come to question their faith in God because they substituted the godly for God.
In the book of Hebrews, this ancient theologian, philosopher, describes how the very law from God isn’t good enough to take God’s place.
Hebrews 10:1-4 (NIV) The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
We can think of the law this way, it was a teacher. It was there to teach us about God, about his holiness and about our sinfulness. God gave it to teach us about our need for him. He gave it to us to make us hungry for the best that was to come in Jesus. The law however was not enough. It was only a shadow.
According to Hebrews 10:14 Jesus came and by his one sacrifice made perfect all those who believe in him! This is why when you let go of the old and bring the new that Jesus brings into your life things change. I was just talking with a man who gave his life to Christ after living without him for decades. He told me that after he came out of the water he was filled with joy. He laughed as he describe how he was set free from his guilt and shame.
God wants to do something new in your life. Try it God’s way. Try inviting God into your life and see what happens. If you’re already a Christ follower maybe try living like Jesus did!
You’ve tried being married without Jesus - try it with Jesus. Come together as a couple and pray saying, “God fill our marriage and make it new.” See what happens!
You’ve been doing business without Jesus - try it with him. Invite Jesus to come and use your work as a tool to build up communities and people through work. See what happens!
You’ve been raising your kids without God. Try it with him. Today get together as a family and say, “We’ve not been doing this right. Let’s pray that God would come into our home!”
Try it and see what happens! I will personally refund your frustration and disappointment. Your dysfunction will be waiting for you if you want to return to it. You have nothing to lose! If it holds you back, leave it behind. Give it up, and take the best that Jesus has to give!!! If you need to walk away from something so that you can walk towards Jesus, here are four steps that might help.
- Trust that Jesus is enough. It can be difficult, but move forward with confidence in Christ. Know that what he has done for you is enough. He came to do for you what you could not do for yourself, so rest easy knowing that Jesus has this handled.
- Encourage those who are moving forward with you. In this time of social distancing it is increasingly important that we connect together as a church. Churches are reimagining community and working to create connection opportunities. They're there to help you, but you don’t have to wait on them. Pray for the people around you and let them know you’re praying. Text a friend, call another Christian, and ask them to pray for you. Church isn’t just some CW quality TV show you watch. It is something you belong to!
- Value the importance of moving forward with Christ. Right before quarantine I had been going to the gym, lost weight, started running, and felt fantastic. Quarantine hit and I kept running, 3 days a week, then 2, then 1, then it was either too wet, cold, hot, or dry to run and I stopped. When the gym opened back up, I was hurting for certain! Spiritually we do this all the time. It’s just a white lie. I’m just not feeling church this week. This adds up! In society it happens too! We saw this with the "Me Too" movement that said the excuse "boys will be boys" was no longer going to cover up for sexual harassment or assualt. We’re seeing this now in terms of race. How jokes and skits and comments thought of as being harmless are in fact quite harmful. We can avoid all of these situations by only valuing what’s best and ignoring the rest!
- Remember the passion of your new relationship with God. Things happen in relationships, they cool down - even in our relationship with God. This is why the author of Hebrews reminds us in Hebrews 10:32 (NIV) "Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering." They needed to remember what it was like when they first started with Jesus because it can still be like that.