Thursday, July 31, 2014

Inherently Paradoxical

            Huh?  What in the world is that?  Why do I have such a weird title for a blog post?  What do I hope to accomplish with such an egg-headed phrase?  Over a hundred and fifty years ago the great Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, described true Christianity as “inherently paradoxical.”  In the midst of a thoroughly scientific age in which having answers for everything through identification and classification ruled the day, Kierkegaard pushed back, recognizing and upholding the great mystery of the Christian faith.  Kierkegaard pointed out that we do not have the answers to everything revealed to us, but, instead, we must hold to the tension of what seem like competing realities.  A paradox is a statement that seems self-contradictory or illogical, but in reality expresses a truth.



            For example, the God whom Christians serve is One God in Three Persons: Father, Son, and Spirit.  This seems absurd; it is unexplainable.  But we must hold the tension of the truth that God is both One and Three at the same time all the time.  In addition, Jesus Christ is fully human and fully God at the same time all the time.  It appears foolish.  When Kierkegaard said Christianity is “inherently paradoxical” he meant that that it defies and transcends the scientific method; Christianity may seem to be full of ridiculous religious mumbo-jumbo, but is none-the-less truth.  Christianity is like standing in the middle of a train track with two rails on each side.  Each is there.  Each is real.  They never touch.  We look ahead and see that they much touch somehow since it appears they come together.  But the more we walk the more we never find the touching point.  So it is with Christianity.  The more we bend to rationalistic scientism the more frustrated we will become because we never get to explain the unexplainable; it never seems to touch or to make a lot of rational sense.  Instead, we hold the tension of paradox.

            So, what does this have to do with church ministry and the Christian life?  Oftentimes we want to embrace one truth while denying the other in order for things to make sense to us.  To embrace Christ’s humanity, but downplay his deity is the ancient heresy of Arianism; to emphasize Christ’s deity and toss the humanity aside as only appearing a man is equally heretical position of Docetism.  Both were soundly condemned by Church Councils as misguided attempts to reconcile the inherently paradoxical nature of Christian belief about Jesus.  We serve a risen Savior who was just like us but did not sin; a Champion who was God incarnate.  To downplay either truth is to run the train off the tracks and crash our faith.

            God planned for our deliverance from sin, death, and hell through predestination and gracious call to salvation.  However, we still have a human responsibility to turn from sin and believe the good news of forgiveness in Christ.  God elects us and chooses us; we choose God.  Which is true?  Both are equally true at the same time all the time.

            If we only emphasize God’s sovereignty and providence and ignore human responsibility, we might not pray, serve, or evangelize believing that our efforts do not really matter since God will do whatever God will do.  On the other hand, we might put all our eggs in the human responsibility basket to the point of also never really praying but relying on our own ingenuity, putting pressure on ourselves to serve and work and manipulate others to live the Christian life out of a misguided belief of eschewing the inherently paradoxical nature of our faith.  The truth is:  the way up is down; to save our lives we must give them up; to be great is to be a servant.


            We are to rely fully and completely on our triune God for everything:  salvation; living the Christian life; and, serving in the church.  We are also not to be passive but active in taking charge of our Christian lives and loving God and others responsibly with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  If we do not hold all this truth together in tension we will be frustrated and have endless angst and worry within ourselves.  We do not have to understand everything about the Bible and Christianity in order to be a Christian and serve in Christ’s Church.  In fact, there is so much mystery to the faith that we must take the time to simply stand and gape in wonder at the God who is so big that we are unable to comprehend him and his ways.  So, we need to learn to enjoy this awesome God and embrace the paradox of divine sovereignty and human responsibility so that we may worship, fellowship, and serve the church and the world.  In doing so we are witnesses to a faith that transcends understanding and allows us to freely operate within our churches, our families, and our lives.  May it be so to the glory of God.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Transitions



            At the beginning of this year I could not have anticipated that I would have to face the kinds of changes that have happened in my life.  So far into this year my oldest daughter and grandson have moved in; my wife had major surgery with a host of complications afterwards; my Mom passed away; and, if God didn’t think I had enough changes in my life right now, church ministry has taken a radical turn for me with my beloved associate pastors leaving.  Some changes we encounter are big, some small; some are good, some are bad; most are bittersweet.  The thing about change is that even though we know it will happen and may like it, the transition from one thing to another is the stinker that usually trips us up.  It is the getting from one place to another that gets the attention and the difficulty.  For example, going to Grandma’s house is a good thing; the five hour drive there with cramped car space and ornery kids is not.  If we could eliminate the transition, we’d do it in a heartbeat.  The same is true for church ministry.  Starting a new ministry is a cool thing; changing from a big bible study or worship service to a network of small groups may be a wonderful initiative; grafting spiritual practices into traditionally business-like meetings is an improvement.  But it is that dang transition time that trips us all up, and it is the transitions that need as much attention as the change itself.

            Think about it this way:  when Jesus came to this earth and lived, taught, was crucified, died, rose from death, ascended and glorified, this was all really good stuff.  But the Jewish people had to make a transition from worship focused in the particular place of Jerusalem as a particular covenant people to focusing on Jesus as the fulfillment of all the promises that they anticipated for centuries with a Gentile people that they were not too crazy about.  Most either could not or would not make the transition.  The Apostle Paul spent most of his Christian life trying to help his fellow Israelites come to grips with making the transition from Judaism to Christianity – and he usually got beat up for it, both verbally and physically.

            Transitions are hard.  We’d rather not do them.  But with every change there is a transition time that must be faced and walked through.  If we ignore this reality, we will find ourselves unable to navigate the changes that are chosen not to mention becoming downright depressed with the changes foisted upon us by others and by sheer circumstance.  Here are some things that I have found help me to handle the changes that occur, and to make it through the transitions from one reality to another:

1.      Maintain personal spiritual disciplines.  If the change is one that I did not choose, then having regular times of silence and solitude, prayer and bible reading, fasting and journaling help me make sense of what is happening and put it in proper perspective.

2.      Maintain personal health practices.  Freaking out by burning the candles at both ends, forgetting to eat sensibly, and ignoring exercise only exacerbates the change and makes the transition time unbearable.  Instead, take the time necessary to remain healthy through proper sleep, nutrition, and activity.

3.      Grieve your losses.  Lament, I would argue, is a spiritual practice – a necessary one.  It is also biblical.  To focus on next steps without acknowledging transition is to set oneself up for later emotional difficulty and/or trauma.  Unpack the heart and allow yourself to feel the loss.

4.      Be patient.  God is rarely in a hurry about anything.  He cares more about our spiritual growth and character development than avoiding painful transitions.  Let him teach you all that you need to learn.

5.      God never changes.  Times change, but God doesn’t.  Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Let this truth be a ballast to the challenges of transition.

6.      Listen, learn, and lead.  The time to start listening to others is before change happens.  Learn all you can, especially as a pastor or church leader, and shepherd others with the spiritual resources you have gained over a lifetime of experience.


Churches are sometimes notorious for being inflexible and allergic to change.  But, after all, they are made up of real flesh and blood people.  To struggle with change is to be human.  Let’s first help ourselves to know how to cope with needed transitions so that we can do the important work of moving people from one spiritual place to another in order that the Body of Christ can thrive and not just survive.  May it be so, to the glory of God.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Spiritual Mind



Believers in Jesus Christ have the privilege of freedom from sin and death (Romans 8:2-4).  In Scripture, sin is not only a personal struggle but a present ubiquitous reality in the world.  In other words, the power and presence of sin is found everywhere:  there is personal sin; institutional sin; systemic sin.  Sin is everywhere, even in the church.  If we do not realize this ubiquity of sin we will avoid demonstrating grace, not to mention be constantly frustrated by people’s attitudes and actions.  We need an overhaul of our mindset to sharpen our thoughts in Christ.

Christianity is all about God’s actions, and our mental focus needs to be with him.  God sent his Son; God became incarnate; God’s Son became a sin-offering, an atoning sacrifice for our sins; God condemned sin in sinful humanity; God met the righteous requirements of the law; God effects holiness in us by means of his Spirit.  Rather than saving us from sin then simply telling us to live a holy upright life, God the Father and Son sent God the Holy Spirit to indwell us so that we can live like Jesus.  We must, then, put ourselves in a position to experience this through dwelling in the Scriptures and letting the Spirit and the Word work together to effect practical change in our lives.  I have a tendency to quote Scripture from memory.  I don’t really set out to memorize Scripture so much as I set out to dwell in it to the degree that it ends-up becoming a part of me.  And I want that same thing for you so that you will be so overcome by the Spirit and the Word that in every decision, in everything you say, and in each action you are moved by the Holy Spirit.

Through the ministry of the Spirit, we possess the mind of Christ (Romans 8:5-8).  In these verses we have the rub of the problem we all face as Christians living in a sinful world.  And it all has to do with our mindset.  The word for “mind” in these verses is the Greek word “nous.”  In other words, we are not to have a “loose nous” because we have the mind of Christ.  If we want life and peace, we must possess the mind of Christ and the Spirit.  What our minds are occupied with is what determines whether we will have life and peace or not.  If the objects of our thoughts, interests, and affections are continually away from Christ and the Spirit, we will have a loose nous.  If we put ourselves in a position to indulge the sinful nature, we will have a loose nous.  If we constantly live according to anything other than the Word and the Spirit, our loose nous will bring only death.

For example, there are two choices for the alcoholic, and he really knows those choices well:  the way of life or the way of death and it all has to do with a mindset.  The first step of the twelve steps is to admit that I am powerless over alcohol and that my life has become unmanageable.  The second step is to believe that a Power greater than myself can restore me to sanity.  The third step is to turn my life and my will over to that Power.  So it is the same for us.  We are powerless over sin, which will, if left unchecked, lead to death.  But in the Spirit we have the possibility of life.  Sin, like alcohol, is a daily possibility, even after giving my life and my will to God.  Yet, there is also the possibility of life.  And that hope of life is what we possess when we possess the mind of Christ and the Spirit.  We have the hope that through the power of the Spirit we will overcome the power of choices that lead to death and instead embrace the choices that lead to life.
The Spirit is not some vitamin supplement to the Christian life, or a protein shake that helps us become healthy.  The Spirit is life and peace; he is a person, and not just a force. The Spirit brings us the practical benefits of new life in Christ.  So, what we put into our minds is vitally important.  I choose to fill my mind with God’s Word because I absolutely need it every day in every way.  This is not about personal willpower; it is about putting ourselves in a position to receive the Spirit’s power to mold us, make us, and change us for the glory of God.

If you think willpower is all you need, you are probably setting yourself up for a crash. This is not just advice from the Bible. It also comes from current scientific research.  Dr. Loran Nordgren, a professor at Northwestern University, ran a series of experiments that placed college students in "tempting situations" to smoke, eat junk food, or forgo studying. The research found that we often display what's called a "restraint bias." In other words, we tend to overestimate how much self-control we will have against temptation when we are not in the "heat of the moment." Our "restraint bias" causes us to think that we can handle more temptation than we actually can. Dr. Nordgren warned that "Those who are most confident about their self-control are the most likely to give in to temptation."  He went on to give some sound advice consistent with Holy Scripture: "The key is simply to avoid any situations where vices and other weaknesses thrive and, most importantly, for individuals to keep a humble view of their willpower."


As Christians we have freedom.  But if we want to experience the practical effects of that freedom we will need to discipline our minds for godliness.  Enter the church.  Among the community of the redeemed we find other like-minded believers who share the common values of desiring God’s will and way.  Through worship, fellowship, and prayer the mind of Christ gradually becomes our mind, as well.  Holiness is rarely spectacular and is mostly gained through learning to walk with Jesus in the mundane of life – the very place where our minds tend to wander.  Keeping our minds occupied with godliness does not simply happen but must be deliberate and intentional.  Let’s keep helping one another engage our minds with the resources of the Spirit for the glory of God in the church and the world.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Biblical Colonialism



There is a certain kind of idolatry that is rampant within many churches today.  It masquerades as godliness, but is really full of dead men’s bones.  As with most idolatrous behavior, it is not easily discerned or detected by those who practice it.  This is why it is insidious and dark.  The sin I am referring to is what I will call “biblical colonialism.”

            What I mean by this term is the activity of some believers and churches to approach the text of Holy Scripture with the intent of doing hermeneutical conquering.  That is, coming at the text of the Bible in such a way as to determine the right interpretation and defend that interpretation with life and lips to the point of holy war.  This is to reify in a position that is believed to be the right and true teaching of the Word of God.  The Bible then inevitably becomes elevated to such a level of being the Trinity:  Father, Son, and Holy Scripture.  The Spirit of God is replaced with what such colonizing persons believe to be the only plain and authoritative truth of the Bible.  And they will not be dissuaded even by the blessed Holy Spirit to change their position.  They will die for it, or, at least, go on (un)holy campaigns and wage battle after battle defending their idolatrous behavior.  It is, some Christians believe, the biblical high ground.  But is it?

            Instead, could it be more of the modernist impulse to have answers for everything?  It seems to me that the Enlightenment project of sheer rationalist thought has left in its wake a draining of all mystery; the belief that every biblical problem can be answered; the endeavor and even compulsion to understand every cultural, social, and political issue through the modernist lens of sheer objective knowledge.  In other words, it is the aggressive attempt to colonize the Bible and conquer it so that it serves my need to have clear black and white answers to every issue there is, as if this is the real task of the church.  It is to try and master the text of Scripture, instead of putting oneself in the humble position of being mastered by the Scripture.  If we are so certain about our interpretations of Scripture, then no wonder so many women feel oppressed by the church and even more gay individuals will have nothing to do with the evangelical church, not to mention the wholesale flock of entire generations of young persons from institutional church life.  It is the height of hubris to think that when we get beyond the core cardinal doctrines of the faith as expressed in historic Christianity that we can colonize the Bible and conquer it so that our interpretations on a range of issues are on par with God himself.  It is to value hermeneutics over love; to esteem interpretation over grace; to seek conquered territory over hospitality.

            Perhaps alongside the commonly identified idols of money, power, and sex we must also include the Bible itself.  After all, Holy Scripture is the revelation of God – not God himself.  To treat it otherwise is to miss its central message of redemption in Christ, and the great need that the entire world has to come to grips with the person and work of Jesus – not with my interpretation of particular Bible verses that are ancillary to people knowing Christ.  King Jesus is the rightful ruler of the universe – not me or my supposed conquest of Bible passages that purport to have all the correct and right answers to all of life’s problems and woes.


            If I am “right,” the only real posture to take for many believers and churches today is to prostrate ourselves before the God who is jealous for his Name to be set apart as the only one to be worshiped and adored.  There is a great need for repentance – not for other people, but for us who claim to know Christ and serve him.  Instead of belly-aching and complaining that the world should be serving the interests of evangelical Christianity, we have desperate need to come back to the ancient practice of seeing the church as the continuing presence of Christ on earth and serving the world’s people.  Only then will we reverse the curse of biblical colonialism and spread the good news of new life in Christ.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

No Condemnation



           One of the great promises and privileges found in the entire New Testament of the Bible is from Romans 8:1 – “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  No condemnation means “without judgment.”  God has pronounced a verdict, and that decision is final.  Christians have been united to Christ by means of God’s Spirit.  Think about the implication of that reality.  Since God does not condemn us, there is no need whatsoever to condemn ourselves or other believers.

Since no condemnation is our reality as Christians, we are to believe this promise of God and swim in its wonderful privilege.  Believe that the sin issue has been taken care of once for all through the life and death of Christ.  If you do not feel forgiven, then put yourself in a position to believe.  Let the Holy Spirit of God take the redemption of Christ and apply it to your life.  Allow God’s Holy Spirit to do His work of giving life to you in a very real and practical way.  It would be silly to go into the bathroom, turn on the shower, and then just stand in the middle of the bathroom without getting under the showerhead.  It would be silly because you did not put yourself in a position to actually become clean.  You may believe that a shower and using soap and shampoo would make you clean, but if you do not actually avail yourself of the privilege of actually taking the shower but just stand there and look at it, you will not really be clean.  We must all put ourselves in a position to experience the privilege of knowing our wonderful state of cleanliness and no condemnation by actually reading the Word of God on a regular basis; by praying in the Spirit on all occasions; by practicing the silence and solitude necessary to receive the cleansing work of the Holy Spirit.

            Let’s use the picture of marriage to help us understand both our reality and our responsibility.  A man and woman are declared “married” in a formal wedding ceremony.  The couple then works out their shared union together over a lifetime.  The minister does not pronounce condemnation at the ceremony; he declares a blessing.  But from that point forward the two people must work on their marriage.  They must believe their relationship is important enough to warrant putting themselves in a position to grow together by intentionally doing things like creating date nights and conversations on the couch; by learning and appreciating and participating in the other’s interests and life.  God is not opposed to effort – He is opposed to the notion that we save ourselves.  Just as we do not marry ourselves and pronounce ourselves a married couple, so we do not save ourselves.  But having a marriage license does not mean there is no effort to be done in the relationship.  A marriage is both a legal reality, and a kind of mystical union between two people.

It is a beautiful thing to be in a relationship where there is no condemnation.  Because of Jesus Christ we are free to be the people God created us to be:  forgiven and no longer burdened by sin’s condemnation.  An apropos description of the church is that they are the community of the redeemed.  Since followers of Jesus possess redemption they now have the freedom to serve the church and the world without worrying about what others think.  There is no fear because our position is secure in Christ.  Ornery people do not have the last word – God does.  And God has pronounced that there is no condemnation for the believer in Jesus. 


Let this verse of Romans 8:1 be your constant companion by putting it to memory and using it throughout the day to remind yourself of your standing in Christ.  Mull it over at night as you fall asleep.  Bring it to mind as soon as you wake in the morning.  Then watch the Holy Spirit take those sacred words of Scripture and transform you from the inside-out.  May it be so.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Spiritual Growth



            When it comes to church ministry, the value and necessity of spiritual growth within individuals is of vital importance.  When we were created, God made us in his image and like himself – a spiritual person.  Since this is who we are, we must therefore recognize that the area of our greatest value, potential, fruitfulness, and life fulfillment will be in the realm of the spiritual.  If we deny our spirituality, whether in thought or in practice, we will inevitably become confused and set ourselves up for failure because our basic nature is one of being spiritual persons.  Nothing is more valuable for us than spiritual growth and the provision God has made for us to experience this growth.

            There is a verse tucked away at the end of Peter’s second epistle that states:  “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).  Grace and knowledge are important words that both point to Jesus.  Grace refers to all the benefits of being redeemed people; knowledge denotes all the benefits of God’s revelation to us.  I want to make a simple yet profound observation of this verse:  the word “grow” is a command.  It is not optional.  It is not something to maybe think about having happen when we get around to it.  God insists that we grow.  He has made every provision for our spiritual growth and we have been given the ability as God’s redeemed community to do so.  So, then, each and every believer in Jesus Christ must face his/her personal responsibility to obey this scriptural exhortation.  To do otherwise is to live outside of God’s will.

            Sticking with the Apostle Peter’s words, here is another verse of importance for our spiritual growth:  “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).  This verse explains that we are to seek the Word of God with the same kind of intensity that a newly born baby will seek for food.  As babies, my girls were barracudas when it came to feeding time.  They went at breast-feeding with so much gusto that my poor wife was often left in downright pain afterwards.  That same kind of desire for feeding must be present with us as believers in Christ’s church.  When we obey this command of Peter and make it a priority in our life, then we will grow.

            The problem with this spiritual growth is that we all have a disease-like force in our lives – a destructive tendency toward lethargy and passivity toward spiritual things.  It is ironic that people who confess Jesus as Lord can be so determined and attentive about trivial things and yet can, at the same time, be so unconcerned about giving focus to feeding on the Word of God.  We cannot go on living like this and expect to be successful in the Christian life.

            If we are going to grow spiritually we must be about the business of “speaking the truth in love” with the result that “we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).  In other words, we are to have an aggressive application of the truth in both speaking and in life that impacts our daily faith walk with Jesus.  The only way we are going to grow up spiritually, whether personally or corporately, is through practicing the truths of Holy Scripture.  Our priorities, goals, and values need to reflect a solid commitment to fulfill scriptural truth in daily life.  We must ask ourselves some penetrating questions:

--Have we humbled ourselves before God and confessed the things we have done and left undone when it comes to God’s revealed will?
--Have we humbled ourselves before one another in the church and asked for prayer?
--Have we read the Bible on the subject of spiritual growth and followed its teachings so we can know the joy and love God has for us?
--Would we be this lethargic and passive about treating a physical cancer in our lives?


            God has given believers his Holy Spirit for our spiritual growth so that they might be brought into close fellowship with the Lord Jesus.  Once we begin to obey the Scripture in this area of practicing biblical truth we will begin to experience spiritual growth and the joy of the Lord.  However, if we allow ourselves to remain lethargic and apathetic concerning spirituality we will never become our true selves.  We must choose to make a biblical response both to God and to one another in the church.  This is not a matter of personal willpower that can be achieved or cured by our own efforts.  We must face our spiritual condition and seek help within the community of the redeemed, the church.  Only then will spiritual growth become a reality.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Who Is Your Master?



There are many people in this world that carry with them an invisible backpack.  They lug it around everywhere they go.  It is a backpack of unacknowledged grief, of ignoring problems and difficulties.  The problem is that over time items are added on top of old ones. Hard feeling after hard feeling gets caked on top of unresolved issues.  When that happens, the backpack becomes our Master.  It begins to influence the way we talk, what we do, and don’t do.  It becomes sin because rather than Christ, the Spirit, and the Word informing and influencing what we say and do, the invisible backpack calls the shots.

            When the Scripture talks about not offering ourselves to wickedness but offering ourselves to God (Romans 6:12-23), it means that we must take off the backpack because it has become our Master.  We may have become so accustomed to it that we cannot imagine life without carrying it around.  But we are to take it off, unpack each and every item we have stuffed into it, and allow ourselves to face the pain and hurt and take up Christ’s easy backpack, his yoke (Matthew 11:28-30).  We are told that, since we are redeemed people, baptized into the death of Jesus Christ that we do not need to and ought not to carry a load of sin any longer (Romans 6:1-11).

            We were actually meant to have a Master and to carry a backpack – just not the backpack of unconfessed sin and unresolved problems, but the backpack of righteousness which listens to and follows the Master, Jesus Christ.  Who is your Master?  Jesus Christ, by his grace, took the backpack of sin that you were carrying and took it upon himself.  He took the crushing weight of our backpacks of sin for us.  Jesus took out the stinky gym socks of sin and the half-eaten sandwiches of bitterness within; they were then nailed with him to the cross.

            We must deliberately and intentionally take off that invisible backpack.  Perhaps, like me, you have known people who were moral and ethical and well-respected; and, you never would have guessed that they carried such an invisible heavy load on their backs.  The backpack as Master caused them to work themselves into the ground in order to keep ignoring the hurt, to keep everything completely clean and in control on the outside because on the inside it was emotional chaos.  What appears on the outside may not be true of the inside.  When we look at one another in the church, we cannot assume that just because everything looks good on the outside that the inside is just fine.  Our stronghold of secrecy and invisibility needs to be broken and pulled down in Jesus’ name!

            It is time to put off the backpack of sin and put on Christ’s righteousness.  It is time to say the following statement with some flavor to it:
Ø  “I will not carry you any longer, old Master, because I belong to God!”

The church must stop looking for either some dramatic deliverance or expecting others to change, and do the hard work of confession and offering/presenting ourselves to God:
Ø  “I will not carry a load of immorality any longer because I belong to God.”
Ø  “I will not carry an unresolved load of pain any longer so that I keep using my tongue to gossip and slander and backbite another, because my tongue is not my own.  My tongue belongs to God.”
Ø  “I will not be burdened by the clock and let it control my life, because my time is not my own.  My time belongs to God and I will steward it wisely.”
Ø  “I will not let the invisible backpack keep me in bed because my true Master desires me in prayer.  My waking hours belong to God.”
Ø  “I will not carry the troubles of my job with me by working myself into the ground, because my job belongs to God and my Master calls me to a Sabbath rest.”
Ø  “I will unload this backpack of pain and deal with it so I do not keep compulsively spending my money, because my money belongs to God.”
Ø  “The invisible backpack no longer has any power over me because I have unloaded it, grieved my hurts and losses, and have moved to taking on Christ’s backpack.  I belong to Jesus Christ!”
Show me a miserable Christian, and I will show you a Christian who is carrying the crushing weight of an invisible backpack that informs and influences every decision and each action.

            The church does not need an attitude adjustment or behavior modification; we need to do away with the backpack of sin completely because Christ has already taken care of it.  To put that backpack of sin on is to do something that Jesus died to take away.

            Who is your Master?  Are you a slave to the invisible backpack?  Or are you a slave to God and his righteousness?  If you find that you want to change but seem unable to, it might be because you have a kind of spiritual Stockholm syndrome where you identify more with your captor who is oppressing you than with freedom in Jesus Christ. 


            Today, take the backpack off.  Unpack it.  Deal with the pain and the hurts you have accumulated but have not lamented over.  There will be no spiritual growth and development apart from doing this.  You cannot have Christ as your Master unless you get rid of all competing masters in your life first.  What has the backpack every really done for you?  What benefit do you receive from lugging it around everywhere?  The wages of continually carrying the unconfessed load on your back is death – it will eventually catch up to you and you will die (Romans 6:23).  But the gift of God is life, freedom from sin and a life under the new management of Jesus Christ.  Take it off.  Unload the contents.  It may take a long time depending upon how long you have been carrying the weight.  But there will not be freedom apart from it.  You have been set free from all other Masters, and have become slaves to Christ.  Do the hard work of dealing with the contents of your backpack so that you may know freedom, that others will no longer feel the tyranny of your backpack, and so that you will enter the life that is truly life.