Midland SDA Church
December 31, 2016
You’ve heard the expression, there’s no place like home? I would agree, but every once in a while it is nice to travel to someplace new or different. Travel usually means packing some things you’ll need for the trip, baggage. If I’m flying and get a window seat, I can watch all the activity outside between boarding and take-off. A lot of that activity involves the baggage. Little trucks pulling trains of carts overstuffed with suitcases and packages going this way and that way, loading and unloading planes. Now, I’ve had baggage arrive 2 days after me, but really, it is quite amazing how well the system works.
When my son Keagan and I went to Cuba on a mission trip, I noticed something that at first, really surprised me. When planning our trip, we were told to leave a lot of time between our arrival in Miami and our charter flight to Cuba. It seemed unreasonable to me. When we arrived in Miami and made our way to the charter company desk, it began to make sense. Keagan and I were standing there in line with 2 carry-ons and 1 suitcase. All around us were individuals, couples, and families with massive amounts of baggage, giant suitcases, big carts, like you would use at Lowes or Home Depot, piled high with luggage and enormous shrink- wrapped bundles. All this baggage had to be weighed and paid for. I’m sure it took longer to load the plane with baggage than it did to load with passengers.
But it really hit me on the return trip home. We were waiting at the airport in Cuba for our plane to arrive from the U.S. to take us back to Miami. It was a small airport with windows facing the run-ways. The plane landed, they brought the steps out to the plane, and the passengers unloaded and walked into the terminal. At the same time a long caravan of empty luggage carts arrived at the plane to be loaded with baggage. When that was finished, they brought the baggage to be loaded onto the plane for the flight to Miami, 1and ½ carts, that’s all. All the baggage is brought into Cuba, things they can’t get or afford, very little baggage leaves Cuba.
We often use the term baggage another way and that is what I’d like to focus on today. We put a negative spin on it, baggage is a bad thing. We might say, “He or she came into the relationship with a lot of baggage”. Or,” The new employee, manager, boss, etc.” has some baggage. We use the term baggage to refer to trouble, problems, negative issues.
That’s not the way God meant it to be. He did not create us with baggage, with sin.
Turn with me please to Genesis, chapter1, verse 26
(Read Gen.1:26-27, 31)
But Adam and Eve were created with free wills and Satan the serpent was right there in the Garden of Eden. And Adam and Eve ate fruit from the tree in the midst of the garden, and as a result, we’ve been dealing with the baggage of sin ever since.
And the baggage piled up fast. Genesis, chapter 4 is about Cain and Abel. In verse 8 it says,” Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.” In the second generation from Creation, murder is an issue, and by the time of Noah, the 10th generation from Creation, things are really bad.
(Read Genesis 6:5-8)
But God loves us, each one of us so much. Think of the heartache and trouble we’ve caused, both individually and collectively through-out history. Being a parent is hard, but God is the Supreme Parent, our Heavenly Father, patiently waiting, ever ready to lovingly walk with each one of us at any time.
God had a plan. Jesus would come and live an earthly life and die as a sacrifice for my sins, your sins and all of mankind’s sin. An incredible mountain of nasty, sinful baggage. If we stop for a moment to think about it, it is truly, truly amazing that God loves us so much that He would do that for us. We certainly don’t deserve that love or the gift of eternal life that is offered to each and every one of us.
Please turn with me to Psalm 103
(Read Psalm 103, v.1-14)
As far as the east is from the west, God will take our sins, our baggage, and they will be gone, never to be counted against us. The only catch? We need to believe and have faith that God will do what He has promised, AND we need to hand over the baggage, we need to confess our sins and repent. And it must be all of our sins, we can’t hold back one or two, let go of it, sin is sin.
People in Cuba, the refugees in Europe, and those in other hard places or difficult situations will happily leave the baggage behind to get to someplace better. How much more should we as Christians leave the sin behind to arrive at what God has promised us?
And if you’ve done that, you’ve left the sin behind, remember the joy and peace and lightness you felt, to be free of that sin.
As Christians we are called to choose the narrow way, the narrow path. Matthew, chapter 7, verses 13-14 says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Look at Proverbs 4, verses 10-15, 18, 19, 25-27
(Read Proverbs 4, verses10-15, 18, 19, 25-27)
The path is narrow, not because it is exclusive, but because so few choose it. God wants us all to choose the path that leads to Him, but so many are caught up in the sins of this world. All around us we see people on the broad path that leads to destruction and we must stay off that path, but we must help as many as possible to find the narrow path that leads to God. God is waiting to take our burden of sins and help us along the way that leads to eternal life.
The Bible doesn’t mention too much about sports, but it does mention races. I’m not sports oriented, never have been. I couldn’t tell you who played in the World Series, I’ve no idea who is going to be in the Super Bowl and I can’t name more than 3 or 4 Pro basketball teams.
In school my baseball career was 1 year of Little League, Coach wanted me for the football team but I declined, and nobody suggested I had any talent for basketball. But in the 11th grade my friends talked me into joining the track team. Many of them had been in track since the 7th grade and several held school records in track events. So there I was the new guy. I couldn’t throw the discus or shot putt, didn’t know how to pole vault, had no jump for the high jump, and most definitely wasn’t a sprinter. The high and low hurdles were fun but several of the other guys were much better. So what was left? The coach had me focus on the ¼ and ½ mile events. I had to learn to run as fast as I could but still pace myself so I didn’t die before the finish.
I showed up for every practice. I did what the Coach asked me to do, (usually several miles of running). I tried my best and I was improving.
And I must say I enjoyed the experience. But I wasn’t very good. In the meets with other schools I usually finished in the middle or lower, I never placed.
Near the end of the season, we had an invitational meet with several schools and 1 of my events was the mile relay with 3 other guys. We ran the race and finished 4th, close behind the 3rd place team, (maybe the length of the Sanctuary), but not close enough, we were 4th. But then, moments later, we found out 1 of the teams ahead of us dropped the baton in an exchange and were disqualified. So we placed 3rd.
Now I really wasn’t aware of the fact, but if we placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in an event, we received a varsity letter for track. So I have a varsity letter for high school track.
We’ll come back to this in a minute.
Please turn with me to 1 Corinthians 9, verses 24-27, let’s look at what Paul wrote.
(Read 1 Cor.9:24-27)
I was on the track team to win medals and ribbons and points for the team. I practiced hard, I ran my best, I focused on the goal. Did I deserve a varsity letter? Probably not, but that was the rule. And as we just read, this is all perishable.
If we consider our Christian lives as a race, as Paul suggests, think of the prize offered each one of us at the end. An imperishable crown, eternal life, to be with Jesus.
Do I deserve a prize like that? Certainly not! Do any of us? No, there is nothing we could do on our own to win such a prize, it is an eternal gift beyond measure.
I’ll read to you Hebrews, chapter12, verses1-2 (thank you to for reading this as our scripture reading.)
The great cloud of witnesses refers to the men and women in Hebrews, chapter 11, the “faith’ chapter. Men and women whose great faith got them through difficult circumstances. Notice how we are called to lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us? We are called to get rid of the baggage of sin. And then we are called to run the race with endurance. We are to set our eyes on Jesus and live our lives with faith in the promise.
Tomorrow is the start of another new year, 2017. It seems that 2016 went by awfully fast. And to many, 2017 is just another year. But wait, 2017 IS another year, another year since the birth of Jesus and another year closer to His return. We so easily fall into the trap thinking time is infinite on this earth.
God created the world in 6 days. Noah labored and preached for 120 years, then it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. The Israelites lost hope in bondage in Egypt, but God brought them out when it was time. People were waiting for the Messiah to come, and He did come, but many missed it. We’ve just celebrated the birth of Jesus, 2017 years ago. Two thousand seventeen years since He was born to live a short life and be crucified and resurrected for us.
2017 marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg. Luther and the other reformers gave mankind back the Word of God and brought us out of the Dark Ages. We’ve had 500 years since then, 500 years. Over and over, the Bible tells us that Jesus is coming soon, ………..watch and be ready. We call ourselves Adventists, are we ready for His return?
Please turn with me to Matthew, chapter 25, beginning in verse 1
(Read Matthew 25:1-13)
Are we watching and waiting? Are we filling our lamps with oil now? Are we putting the sin out and the Holy Spirit in? And this is personal, someone else can’t vouch for my character, I must do that for myself. And I can lead my family, friends, and loved ones to the door, but I can’t get them in, each of us has to open the door for ourselves. Am I making an effort to improve my character to reflect Jesus in my life? He’ll help me if I ask, He’ll help each one of us.
Tomorrow, we are one more year closer to Jesus’ return. If we are still hanging on to some sin baggage, it is time to let go, give it to Jesus. Are we on the narrow Christian path or the broad worldly way? Are we running the race or sitting on the sidelines? Are we asking God to help polish our characters? Are our lamps full of oil? Do we “Love the Lord God with all our heart and love our neighbors as ourselves”?
Can we say as Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:6-8?
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing”
God loves each one of us more than we can comprehend. Let’s love Him back.
Tomorrow is 2017.