Excess Baggage . . .

It Seems to Me . . . that there are more and more folks lugging excess baggage through life . . . and paying a heavy price in the process.

I sit on the Board of Directors of a Baptist benevolence . . . an international ministry dedicated to helping troubled families . . . and family members. The ministry is committed to the notion of helping folks to be able to live life as God intends people to live. This wonderful organization does really good and meaningful work, helping many people. The ministry has grown to have a large number of family counseling centers—13 centers in four regions, with 25 staff counselors and a number of student counselors working toward licenses . . . (and they see an estimated 8,000 folks per year).  Those centers are scattered over a large part of the state of Texas. People are flocking to the counseling centers, seeking help with life’s struggles.

From the reports I get and things I read, It Seems to Me that many people are struggling with life and carrying many burdens. Today’s culture is confused and wrestling with issues that seem new and peculiar . . . issues that were of no concern just a generation back, such as homosexuality, same-sex marriages, transgendered individuals . . . and a variety of other issues which are seemingly common sense issues of right and wrong. Many today take medications to help with such interpersonal struggles in order to sleep, find motivation, and function in society.

Depression and anxiety seem to be the two most common general issues which seem to bring folks to counseling. Mood problems can seriously interfere with sleep, interpersonal relationships, physical health and well-being, concentration, and overall motivation. Counseling can help identify, clarify, and often even simplify problematic thoughts and feelings.

Why do so many people find themselves in such dark holes? Sadly, I suspect it is because they simply do not understand that forgiveness is possible . . . cleansing is available . . . and new life is an option. Since the Garden, humanity has struggled over sin and guilt. Carrying sin and guilt through life leaves a heavy burden and is accompanied by a heavy shackle.

Freedom is fragile—and many have difficulties living in freedom. In fact, there are more citizens incarcerated in the United States than in any other country in the world, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. The United States can also lay claim to the highest rate of recidivism. Statistics reveal that there are currently some 2.2 million people incarcerated.

Many others are living in prison cells of their own creation . . . drugs, alcohol, sexual immorality . . . and shame.

In the Old Testament, God introduced a covenant to a group of former slaves. In that Covenant, God pledged to be their God . . . to watch over, protect, and provide for and permit them to live in relationship with him. In the OT book of Leviticus, we see God set before those folks His standards and holiness . . . how they are to live in relationship with Him and with each other. Of course, they failed . . . and in response to their failure, God instituted a sacrificial system that could permit these sinners to approach Him as Holy God. In Leviticus they are instructed on the nature, purpose, and procedure for offering sacrifices to God. It also established a system of priests to serve as mediators between sinful people and God. Moreover, it identified what was clean and unclean, what was holy and what was profane. It also describes an atonement that was available and how it could be appropriated to confessing sinners. Even further, it announced a day of atonement. It was on that day, the priest would atone for his own sin, then using two goats, he would atone for the sins of the people. One goat was killed and its blood was sprinkled about, while the priest then laid his hands upon the head of the second goat and pronounced the people’s sin upon that goat, which was then lead out into the wilderness . . . never to return. That second goat was known as the scapegoat . . . and served as a picture of the people’s sin being forgiven by a merciful God.

Then, in the New Testament, The Lord Jesus Christ enters the human story. He lives a sinless life and then on a remote hill called Calvary, He laid down His life as a ransom for many. Jesus’ death is the reality of what the Old Testament sacrificial system foreshadowed. His ability to transfer a confessing sinner’s guilt and shame is the reality of what the Old Testament scapegoat pictured and foreshadowed.

In Hebrew 9 and 10, the New Testament writer explains how the Old Covenant things were completed and perfected in the new Covenant. Jesus clearly stated in Luke 4:18 that he has come to set the captive free . . . and in John 8:36 that those who get set free . . . are free indeed.

Most Christian counselors work with hurting people who struggle and live fractured lives simply because they fail to take ahold of and appropriate into their lives the great truth that their sins have been forgiven . . . but yet, fail to forgive themselves.

The enemy of the human soul wants to keep folks hooked to the chains, pains, and stains of their sin . . . in spite of the marvelous truth that those sins have been nailed to the cross.

As I read through the Gospels, I am overwhelmed with folk’s reactions as the word got out about that compassionate carpenter from Nazareth . . . that miracle worker who could calm the storm, and walk upon the water. The crowds flocked to Him . . . fractured, hurting, and troubled people. They brought their family and friends and mobbed Him wherever He was. Amazingly, He always had compassion and healed many problems and health issues. He gave sight to the blind; He straightened the crooked and damaged limbs of the lame; and gave strength to the weak. He changed the life of every individual He encountered.

Are you carrying excess baggage around? You do not need to do that anymore . . . Jesus is still doing those very things today!


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