Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » James Merritt » James Merritt - Losing Your Baggage

James Merritt - Losing Your Baggage

  • Watch
  • Audio
  • Donate
  • Shop
    James Merritt - Losing Your Baggage
TOPICS: Forgiveness

It is the traveler's nightmare from hell. If it's ever happened to you, then you're going to know exactly what I'm talking about. It happened like it was yesterday, and I still remember it vividly. It was in the days before roll-on luggage had ever been invented, if that tells you something, and I'd taken one of my first groups to Israel, about 50 people. We'd been in Israel for about 10 days, but we were ready to go home and we were stopping overnight in Brussels, Belgium, on our way home, to spend the night, do some sightseeing, and then we were gonna continue our journey. So we left Tel Aviv on a late-night flight. We got in about one o'clock in the morning on a flight that was absolutely full.

So as we de-plane, we were anxious, obviously, to get to the baggage claim, pick up our luggage, get to the hotel and crash and get a good night's rest before we did a day of sightseeing, and then we headed home. I can still remember, plane was packed. There was over 200 passengers waiting, and so we get to the baggage claim, and you know, this carousel's going around and around and around. The baggage is being, you know, taken off, and it's just magically spitting out piece after piece of luggage. And you know, one by one, every passenger spotted their luggage, they'd pull it off with a smile, and they're headed for the hotel. Everyone in my group did exactly the same thing, until first 10 of us, and then 20 of us, and then 30 of us, and then 49 of us got their luggage. But remember I told you there were 50 of us, and the carousel stopped, and 49 people were looking at this one person that was left not holding the bag.

Well, guess who that was? Yep, the man of the cloth, the man of God, the host of the tour, the most spiritual person in the bunch, the least deserving of this terrible fate. The airline had lost my luggage. I can still remember to this day, looking at the clock on the wall. I'll never forget it. It was 2:05 in the morning. Now remember, no roll-on luggage. All I had on were the clothes on my back. I had no clean clothes, I had no toiletries, I had no underwear, I had nothing, and we still had two days to get home. I kind of felt like the guy who was standing in line to buy an airline ticket and he stepped up to the counter with three pieces of luggage. She said, "May I help you"? He said, "Yes, Ma'am". He said, "I want this first case to go to Phoenix, I want this second case to go to Seattle, and I want the third case to go to New York".

Well, dumbfounded, the attendant said, "Sir, I'm sorry, we can't do that". And he said, "I don't know why, you did it last week". And that's exactly the way I felt. There is nothing worse than losing baggage, unless it is baggage you need to lose. And the truth of the matter is most of us have some baggage that we carry around with us that we need to lose. Let me tell you about it. It weighs down our relationships with our friends, families, neighbors, co-workers. I've seen this baggage destroy marriages, dissolve friendships, and damage our abilities to relate properly to God. And today, we're going to deal with the four biggest relationship killers that we all struggle with, such as the baggage of bitterness, the baggage of unresolved anger, the baggage of a judgemental spirit, the baggage of a critical disposition.

You see, every time you bring two people together, your going to add baggage. Every time I do marital counseling for someone that's about to get married, one of the things we require is professional marital counseling, and in that marital counseling, they go through a test to discover what are their strengths and what are their weaknesses. And I explain to them the reason why is both of you, even though you're wonderful people, you're lovely people and I believe you're going to have a great marriage, you are bringing baggage into this relationship. And the keys to building and maintaining a healthy relationship are, first of all, being able to recognize you have baggage. Don't feel bad. We all have baggage. I got baggage, you got baggage, we all have baggage.

Secondly, being willing to lose it. That's the two things you got to do to make a relationship work. Recognize I'm not perfect, I've got flaws, I've got foibles, I've got problems in my life, and I'm bringing some baggage in, but as much as I can, I'm willing to lose it. And I'm going to give you, today, the key takeaway for this entire series we've been talking about, and it's good news for all of us who carry baggage, who know we carry baggage. It's encouraging news for those of us who are tired of carrying it and you want to get rid of it. So if you don't hear anything else I say in this message, I want you to believe what I'm about to tell you. Ready? You can lose your baggage. You may not want to lose it, it may be painful to lose it, it may be hard to lose it, it may be difficult to lose it, but you can lose your baggage.

As a matter of fact, if you are a true follower of Jesus Christ, you've got to lose your baggage. You say, "Why"? Because you've been called to a higher standard in your relationship with other people. We've got a witness to maintain. We've got a name to uphold. We've got a reputation to guard. Because we don't just represent ourselves, we represent the Lord who died on the cross, who was raised from the dead, and who we say has made a radical difference in our life. And that difference needs to be manifested in our relationship with other people.

Now, look, I know what some of you are thinking right now. You're saying, "Wait, time out. Stop. You don't even know, A, what baggage I'm carrying. B, you don't know how heavy it is. C, you don't know how long I've been carrying it around. D, you don't know how attached I am to it. E, you don't know how attached it is to me, and you're kind of sitting there saying, oh, you can lose that baggage". Well, I know you can, and here's why. Because a man writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit said you could. We're in Ephesians 4, and there are two verses we're going to study today, and if they are followed both in the Church and outside the Church, the transformation in relationships, marital, political, national, international, would be absolutely staggering.

Now Paul begins by saying this, "Get rid of all," let me just stop right there. Whatever we're about to read, just say baggage. Get rid of all your baggage. Your baggage of "bitterness, rage, anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice". Now, I love the way this translation renders that verse. Paul just simply says, "Hey, do you have any bitter feelings towards somebody that did you wrong"? You say, "I sure do". Here's what Paul said. "Drop it. Get rid of it". Do you have... Are you mad or are you ticked off at somebody because they really messed you over? You say, "Yes I am". Paul says, "Stop it". Do you find yourself, in your mind, hanging people by their toenails in hot acid, cursing them out, calling them every name in the book, you say, "Yeah, I sure do". Paul looks at you and says, "Quit it. Enough is enough".

Now, I know you're probably thinking, "Well, that's Paul. I'm not Paul, I'm me. That may be easy for him, but it's not easy for me". Well, let me just correct you. No, it wasn't easy for him, because this man was writing from a prison, who had been unjustly incarcerated, unfairly treated, who eventually was going to have his head chopped off for doing nothing more than loving Jesus and telling the truth. Yet, you can look with a microscope or a telescope and here's what you'll find with Paul. No bitterness, no rage, no unresolved anger, no ill will in his heart. And Paul was saying, in effect, one very simple thing. "I am not asking you to do what I can't do. I'm asking you to do what I can do, what you can do, what we can do through the power of the Holy Spirit. I lost my baggage and you can lose yours". No, Paul didn't know your story. Neither do I.

Now, I realize I'm speaking to people right now who are literally in bondage to the master of bitterness. You may even be bitter toward God because of a tragedy that happened in your life and He didn't keep it from happening. You may be bitter toward a spouse who left you to raise your children on a meager salary. You may be bitter toward a company that fired you with no severance even though you served them faithfully for many, many years. You may be bitter towards someone who physically or sexually abused you. You may be bitter toward a dad or a mom who never gave you any approval or never affirmed their love for you. You might even be bitter toward a Church because of a bad experience that you had.

Let me tell you something, you better lose your baggage because baggage can not only ruin your life, it can follow you to the grave. There is a true story. This is a true story about a 94 year old lady by the name of Hazel von Jeckie. She's what used to be referred to, back in the day, an old maid. That's not politically correct to say today, but that's what she would have been called when I was a boy. She had never married. So at her funeral, her pastor felt it necessary to put a note in the order of service because of something unusual that she'd requested. This woman, who had never married, had left very specific handwritten instructions for her funeral, and even the songs that she wanted sung, the scriptures that she wanted read, but here were her final instructions. Quote, "There will be no male pallbearers. They wouldn't take me out when I was alive, and I don't want them to take me out when I'm dead".

Now, it's a amazing how some people go through all of their life and they live with their baggage, and they carry their baggage. They go everywhere with their baggage. Then they die with their baggage, and unfortunately, many will spend eternity with their baggage. Well, thankfully, Paul gives us one of the most powerful sentences in the Bible. The secret on how to lose your baggage. How to blow the bitterness, get rid of the grudges, and free yourself from the prison of unforgiveness once and for all. And today, we're going to deal with one of the greatest benefits that comes from truly knowing a risen savior and that is forgiveness. It is because Jesus Christ is alive that I know, number one, if you know Jesus, you have the experience of forgiveness, and if you have the experience of forgiveness, you have the enablement of forgiveness.

In other words, if you know Jesus, you know what it means to be forgiven and you have the might to be forgiving. So let's listen to this verse. Paul said, "Be kind and compassionate to one another". And then here's the zinger. "Forgiving each other," and he didn't stop there. He really drives it home. "Just as in Christ God forgave you". Now, this is one of the three rules of forgiveness you will find in the Bible. Let me give them to you. One is what we call the Golden Rule, right. That would say you should forgive others the way you would want others to forgive you. But then there's what we call God's Rule. You will be forgiven the way you forgive. But then there's the Grace Rule. The way you should forgive is the way God has forgiven you.

Now let me just say something that you already know, and I know it. Forgiveness doesn't come easily. If it did, we'd all be forgiving. Forgiveness doesn't come naturally. If it did, we wouldn't have to work for it. The reason why is because of what the word means. The word forgiveness literally means to let it go, to let go or to send away. It refers to the cancellation of a debt. So in other words, here's what's happening, when somebody does you wrong, that means they're in your debt. Forgiveness is simply your willingness, on your own, to write off their debt. It is your decision, voluntarily, to cancel their debt. It is the willingness to simply say to a person who has done you wrong and who does owe you, "Hey, from now on, you don't owe me any more".

Look, I've had a lot of practice at it. It is difficult. It's gut-wrenching. It can sicken you. It is one of the hardest things, sometimes, you may have to do, when you've just got to, at times, decide you're going to forgive someone who's hurt you. I mean, I promise you, if there's some of you listening right now and you're saying, "If you only knew my story, if you only knew what you were asking of me, if you only knew the size of the debt that you're asking me to cancel. If you only knew the pain and the anguish and the suffering and the heartache that I've been caused by this person, I've been caused by these people, and you're asking me to cancel that debt? Why should I do that"? Well, the motivation in this verse is found in just two words. Just As. Forgive others just as, in Christ, God has forgiven you.

See, both the motivation of forgiveness and the model of forgiveness, why you should forgive and how you should forgive, is found in this sentence. It's real simple. We should forgive others the way God has forgiven us. And let me just tell you, if you say, "There's just somebody I can't forgive," I would challenge that you've truly been forgiven yourself. See, do you understand what really happened on Good Friday and Easter Sunday? On Good Friday, Jesus paid for our sins, for dying for our sins. In other words, he paid a debt he didn't owe 'cause we owed a debt we couldn't pay. He paid our sin debt. Now you know what happened on Easter Sunday when God raised his son from the dead? It was God's way of saying, "Son, I accept that payment. I'm writing off everyone's debt that they owe. I'm writing across everyone who will receive my forgiveness paid in full".

So, Colossian 2:14 puts it this way. Having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us, He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. I mean, is that not just an absolutely incredible, incredible verse? God took the biggest debt ever incurred which is the sins of the whole world, of everyone who's ever lived, and He let His son pay them and cancel them. Nobody ever owed a greater debt than we owed to God, and no one ever forgave a greater debt than Jesus did for us and if you believe that and you've experienced it then the simple reason why you ought to be a forgiving person is because you are a forgiven person. Because only forgiven people are motivated to forgive. Only people who understand what it took for God to forgive us, understands that we can have the power to give what it takes to forgive others. You forgive because you are forgiven, and you are forgiven because Jesus died for you and was raised from the dead.

Now, again, I listen, I'm hearing what you're saying, "But you don't know how he hurt me. You don't know how she hurt me. You don't know how they treated me". I want you to listen to me carefully. You will never forgive if all you ever do is always focus on those people who've hurt you. You will only forgive when you finally begin to focus on what you've done to Jesus, on focusing on the fact, on why he had to die on that cross for you. So we're to forgive others just as God forgave us in Christ. That raises a question. How did God forgive us? Well, if we're going to forgive others the way God has forgiven us, we got to do several things.

Number one, we must forgive freely. We must forgive freely. Jesus Christ didn't charge anything for us even though he died for us. He didn't extract a pound of flesh, he didn't say, "I'm going to take some revenge first". He didn't say, "First, you're going to pay me what you owe me". He didn't say, "No, first you clean up your life and get your act together, then I'll die for you". He died for us freely. The only thing he asked in return for our being forgiven and him dying for us was for us to repent and surrender our life to him. See, there are some of you, let's be honest, you want to forgive the principal of the crime only after you've collected the interest of revenge. And before some people forgive, they say, "Well, I'll forgive, but I want him to suffer for a while. Yeah, I'll forgive, but I want my pound of flesh. I want my quart of blood".

Listen to me, true forgiveness comes with no strings attached. True forgiveness is unconditional forgiveness. True forgiveness has no print at the bottom of the contract, no conditions. Number one, we must forgive freely. Number two, we must forgive fully. We must forgive fully. Forgiveness is not fractional. I mean, think about this. If God decided all of a sudden, you know, "There's one part of one fraction of one decimal point of one scintilla, of one sin, that I'm not going to forgive," guess what? We're sunk. We're not going to Heaven. We're not going to have a relationship with him. We're going to die in our sin. But God not only forgives all of our sins, plural, He forgives all of our sin, singular.

When God forgave me, when I gave my life to Jesus as a nine year old boy, God didn't put me on probation. God didn't just suspend my sentence. God forgave me fully. Every sin I'd already committed, every sin I might commit that day, and every sin I would ever commit for the rest of my life. You know, there's some of you listening to me right now and you have cancer, or somebody like myself, you might be diagnosed with cancer one day. So you go to the doctor. He diagnoses you with cancer. You don't ask him how you got it. You don't ask him what put it there. You don't ask him if you can live with it. You only got one question, what is it? Can you get it out? Can you remove the tumor? And you don't want part of it out. You want all of it out. Well, if you're going to forgive anyone, you've got to forgive them fully. You've got to get all the bitterness and all of the rage and all of the anger and all of the malice out.

So if you're going to be forgiven and be forgiving, if you're going to lose your baggage, you've got to forgive how? Freely. You gotta forgive how? Fully. And here's the last thing. We must forgive finally. We must forgive finally. When you cancel a debt, it means it can never be brought back up. You never collect on that debt again. That's why the Bible says this in the book of Jeremiah. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, "Know the Lord," because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their wickedness, now watch this, and remember their sins no more. Final. God forgives finally. In other words, here's what God said, "I don't hold grudges. I don't keep a list in the drawer of all the things that you've done. I'll never throw your sins back in your face. I wipe the slate clean". And he does it for only one reason, because Jesus died on the cross and he was raised from the dead.

Let me tell you a story. Several years ago, I was flying to Syracuse, New York, on a Monday, I was going to preach. And there was a soldier that sat down next to me and I want to tell you for the next two and half hours I had perhaps the most fascinating conversation I've ever had in my life. I'll just call him John. That's probably the name that we use. I'm just going to call him John. John was headed to New York to see his girlfriend and their son for a couple of days before he'd go back out for a little more training and then he was going to ship out to Afghanistan for 10 months. So after, you know, some small talk, he asked me the question I always welcome that people ask me. He says, "What do you do? You know, what do you do for a living"? And so I told him I was a pastor. And he said, "Oh, really"? and I said, "Yeah". So then I said, "Well, John, let me ask you a question. So where are you on your spiritual journey"? He said, "Well, I don't believe in God and I don't believe in the Bible".

And it's not what he said, it's the way he said it. He said it with a finality and a coldness and it startled me. And for some reason, I said, "You have a story to tell. I'd like to hear it". He said, "Really? You really want to hear it"? I said yes. Well, that's when the ride really began. Here was his story. His father committed suicide when he was three years old. He was raised by a mom who, in his words, was verbally abusive. He was always, he said, "I'm always looking for a reason to kick his..". and you know what that word is. And he said, so just when I thought the story probably couldn't get any worse, what I heard next left me absolutely speechless. When he was nine years old, he witnessed a 13 year old boy murder a four year old boy. He froze in terror as he saw this friend of his sexually assault this four year old boy and then kill him in a brutal fashion.

The 13 year old boy saw him, ran over to him, and threatened to kill him if he told anybody. For three days, he lived in terror, afraid by day this boy would find him and kill him, couldn't sleep at night because of the images that were burned into the mind over the murder of this four year old boy. Well, police found that boy three days later and for some reason, the 13 year old boy confessed and it came out that this nine year old boy, John, had witnessed this murder, so he became the prosecution's star witness. He had to go through a grueling trial, he had to recount every single moment of that event. He said, "To this day, pastor, I wake up at night and I see that little boy in my mind".

Well by now, I'm fighting back tears. But the story's not over. At 18, he gets a girl pregnant. He has a daughter. So now he's got a child support payment to make and he doesn't have a job, so he joins the army. While he's in the army, he meets another girl in New York, gets her pregnant, now he's got a little boy who's now, at that time, was two years old. Well, a month before this conversation, his girlfriend had called him while he was away in training to tell him that she'd had to go to work and that, you know, she did not know who to leave their son with. So he says, "Well, you know, leave him with either, you know, my mother or your mother". Well, she lets him know, no, both mothers are unavailable. He says, "Well, quit your job and do whatever you've got to do, but just don't leave our son with just anybody".

Well, she calls him back a little later and tells him she's going to leave him with a girlfriend of hers who's very reliable, very sweet lady. Well, the problem was she lied to him. The girlfriend had to work also, so she left him with this girl's boyfriend who proceeds, according to this little boy later, to sexually assault this little two year old son. So as I'm watching this young man, I mean, the rage and the bitterness and the anger is just literally pouring out of his eyeballs. Then he goes on to tell me he's a mixed martials art expert and he goes on to tell me that he had recently won the army championship. And then he looked at me with these cold eyes and he said, "All I want to do, I want to find that boyfriend and kill him because of what he's done to my son. Because," he said, and he said it just like this, "I am a killing machine".

He tells me how he really hates going to Afghanistan because he doesn't want to be away from his son and his daughter the way that dad has left him. So I said to him, I said, "Well then John, why don't you try to get relief from duty in Afghanistan and be with your family"? And then he told me, "Oh no," he said. "I volunteered to go". And I said, "What"? He said, "I volunteered to go". When I asked him why, listen to this, he said, "I'm a machine gunner, and I know I'll probably get a chance to kill some people over there". And then he looked at me, never quavering, never wavering, and he said, "Pastor, I need to kill somebody". He said, "You know, my life has just been plain blank". And then tears begin to come down his cheeks and he begins to stare out the window.

Now before I had heard his story, I've got to be honest with you, I'd intended on saying something like this. John, God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. But I didn't think that was a good idea at that time. So he's looking out the window with tears in his eyes, and I'm looking up to him with tears in mine, and I'm saying, God, what do I say to this young soldier? And then it hit me. I looked at him and I put my hand on his shoulder. I said, "John, I'm sorry for the life that you've lived and I'm sorry for the tragedies that you've endured. I'm sorry for the junk you've had to go through. But John, I want you to hear me. If you go through life without getting this bitterness and this anger and this rage resolved in your heart, you're either going to wind up doing something you regret or you're going to live a miserable, miserable life".

He said, "Yes, pastor, I know". And then I said this. "John, the only solution to your rage and the only solution to your bitterness is the resurrected Jesus Christ, and let me tell you why". I said, "You don't believe in God". He said, "No, I don't". I said, "But you don't hate Christians, do you"? He said, "Well, no, I don't hate Christians". I said, "Well, John, there was a man who did believe in God, but he hated Christians. His name was Paul. He had as much rage in his heart as you do in yours, but just different reasons. But when he met the risen Christ, his hatred was replaced by God's love. His grudges were replaced by God's grace. His bitterness was replaced by God's blessing". And then I said, "John, what God did for him, God can do for you".

I've thought about that soldier many times since that day. I corresponded with him. I sent him a Bible, I sent him some books to read. Never heard back from him. But I wonder, did he die in Afghanistan? Or if he didn't die there, how will he die? I wonder, will this young man die full of bitterness and anger and rage? Which leads me to this question. How will you die? I'm talking to you that's carrying this barrage everywhere you go, bitterness, unresolved anger, rage, jealousy. You carry it everywhere, you go everywhere, and you're determined never to let go of it. Is that how you're going to die? I know how I'm going to die, because Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead and because I trusted Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior. And because I've handed Jesus Christ my baggage, I'm going to die forgiven. And because of Christ, you can lose your baggage. You can be forgiven. You can be forgiving. And I pray today is the day that you lose your baggage.
Are you Human?:*