Ditch the Baggage: Marks of Genuine Repentance

Sept. 28, 2019 Mary Kassian

Session Transcript

Mary Kassian [she is dragging a large luggage cart filled with suitcases across the platform]: How many of you packed a suitcase to come to this event? How many of you overpacked!? (laughter) Okay, who had to sit on their suitcase to get it closed? A few of you. 

And I don’t want to forget about you ladies at home and in groups. How many of you left clothes lying all over the floor? How many outfits did you try on this morning before you left the house? Well, about ten o’clock—late at night—the night before we flew to Indianapolis, Dannah and Nancy and I were texting each other about our wardrobe and packing woes!

So, Dannah talked about humility. We’re going to let you have a look at some of our texts. [video starts with Dannah Gresh, looking sadly at her phone].

Dannah [on video]: Just because one suit fit does not mean my wardrobes problems have been solved! I have so many problems! [Mary and the ladies laugh as the camera zooms on to Dannah’s bed piled with clothes and her open closet nearby] Look at my bed! Nothing there fits. Look at that! Nothing there fits, nothing there fits.(whimpering) I’m getting hysterical!

Mary [video moves to Mary at her home, her bed and the bed in the guest room]: Hey, girls, it’s the pre-conference packing woes! Yeah, there you go. (ladies laugh) And that’s like my guest bedroom (laughter). This is my bedroom . . . on the floor . . . (sighs) . . . everywhere. Aaaaah! It’s conference ti-i-i-i-me! 

Now, Nancy didn’t even send us a video because she hadn’t even started packing yet! (laughter) She was just going to get Robert to throw her entire wardrobe in the car so that she could decide what to wear when she got here. And this is what they looked like, driving to Indianapolis. (laughter at image on the screen.)

Wait a minute! Nancy, did you get a new license plate?! (laughter) Greater love hath no man than to schlep luggage for his wife! Well, in some parts of the world it’s common to see vehicles overloaded like this. 

When I was traveling through Asia, I was amazed to see motorbikes and tuk-tuks and trucks and all sorts of vehicles—buses—piled sky-high with obviously way more than they ought to have been carrying. They were dangerously top heavy and unstable, and I could tell that they were just really susceptible to crash.

So I didn’t want to be anywhere near them in case they hit a bump or in case a strong gust of wind happened to blow! Now, here in North America, we have strict rules about how much weight can be on a vehicle. I couldn’t bring my whole closet of clothes to Indy because airline passengers are limited in the amount of baggage that they can check in on the airline . . . and there’s a good reason for that.

Overloading an airplane is extremely dangerous! In 2001, twenty-two year-old actress and R & B singer Aaliyah and her film crew were killed because the plane that they were on (they had boarded in the Bahamas) was carrying more people and more baggage than it was authorized to carry. 

And there’s a spiritual analogy here. Like that overloaded plane, we can be overloaded with unauthorized baggage. And that was the case with a group of weak women in Ephesus that I wrote about in my book The Right Kind of Strong. One of the reasons they were spiritually weak was because they were burdened with sins.

The Greek word for “burden” means “to be loaded with a heap or with a pile of something.” The word was sometimes used to describe loading up a cart with more and more, by piling more and more on top. It’s just an accumulation—a pile that’s heavy and weighty and cumbersome and really difficult to manage.

These weak women were overloaded with the piles of sin that made them spiritually unstable and susceptible to crash. Now, there are burdens we are meant to carry, and there are burdens we are not meant to carry. The Lord gives us the ability to face the hardships of life, the difficulties of life. 

Many of you today are feeling overwhelmed and overloaded by the difficulties you’re facing in life. Well you can be assured that God will give you the strength to bear those burdens, but we’re not meant to bear the burdens of unconfessed sin and of guilt and of shame. That’s why Jesus came! Jesus came to relieve us of that burden and to take that load from us. 

If you’re loaded down with sin, you will be far more likely to crash; you will be weak, and you’ll be unstable. The writer of Hebrews admonishes us: “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). Are you laying aside every weight? Are you ditching the baggage?

Spiritually strong women keep sin, guilt, and shame from piling up in their lives through the ongoing habit of confession and repentance. In this session we’re going to look at David’s confession in Psalm chapter 51, and we’re going to talk about some of the marks of genuine repentance.

David wrote this psalm after he was confronted about having an extramarital affair. And, for those of you unfamiliar with the story, David was Israel’s second king. His men were off fighting a war and, for whatever reason, David stayed behind at the palace. 

Looking out of the window one day David caught a glimpse of a beautiful woman taking a bath. Her name was “Bath”-sheba. (laughter) (No pun intended there.) Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah. Uriah was one of David’s elite, mighty fighting warriors. If David were King Arthur, Uriah would have been one of his Knights of the Round Table.

So David summoned Bathsheba to the palace for dinner, and one thing led to another, and he ended up sleeping with her and getting her pregnant. He called Uriah back home from battle in hopes that Uriah would sleep with his wife and claim the baby as his own, but Uriah was a man of integrity, and he wouldn’t break wartime protocol by sleeping with his wife.

So David sent him back to battle, and he instructed another general to withdraw the troops and leave Uriah on the front, essentially having him murdered. And then, David took Bathsheba as his wife. And after this sordid betrayal that reads like some sort of soap opera—messy situation—the prophet Nathan comes and confronts David about his sin, and Psalm 51 is how David responds. David prays,

 Be gracious to me, God, according to your faithful love; according to your abundant compassion, blot out my rebellion. Completely wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin. For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me (Ps. 51:1–3 CSB).

The first mark of genuine repentance is genuine conviction. David said, “I am conscious of my rebellion. My sin is always before me!” The fact that he had sinned was eating David up. It bothered him; he was aggravated; he was conscience-stricken. He understood that, at its core, sin is an act of rebellion against a holy God!

In Christian circles we tend to use the word “conviction” as an adjective. We associate conviction with the way that we feel. “I’m feeling conviction. I’m feeling guilty. My conscience is bothering me.” But, technically, conviction isn’t an adjective; conviction is a noun. It’s much more than a feeling.

What is conviction? Conviction is a fixed or firm belief; it’s the state of being convinced that I am guilty of wrongdoing. Genuine conviction says, “I am conscious of my rebellion . . . and my sin is always before me!”

In Canada, when you say the word “sin,” people think you’re talking about their social Insurance number. (laughter) Your SIN is a nine-digit ID issued by the government that authorizes a person to work. So every year when I’m filling out my taxes I come to the question, “What is your SIN?” (laughter]) And the form leaves a space of about two inches! 

I always chuckle, because I think, There’s no way I can list all my sin in that amount of space! Well, what is sin? Scripture teaches us that sin is failing to reach God’s perfect standard. I sin whenever I do something that God says I should not do, or whenever I do not do something that He says I should do.

Almost everyone would agree that actions like adultery and theft and murder qualify as sin. We’re not shocked that David was convicted of sin. Of course he was! He was clearly guilty! Adultery, murder . . . his sin was obvious! But what about sins like comparison, jealousy, resentment, sensuality, contempt, self-promotion, snarkiness, gluttony, lack of self-discipline, self-indulgence, cowardice, materialism? 

Like it or not, the Bible also calls these things “sin.” And God is the One who defines what sin is—not you, not me, and not popular culture. I sin whenever I fail to love God, whenever I fail to esteem Him and trust Him and wholeheartedly seek after Him. Anything that is not a faith-filled response to circumstances is also sin. 

Therefore my worry and anxiety and fear can be sin. And then there are the sins of neglect: leaving good works undone, failing to use our talents, squandering time, or ignoring the injured and needy. And then there’s the sin of pride. 

Now, we could tend to categorize some sins as “minor.” They’re minor sins; we do them all the time. We don’t even think about them as sin. We don’t feel that they too are the sign of a rebellious heart. The problem with sin is a serious one. It interferes with our relationship with God; it burdens us; it wearies us. It weighs us down!

And unconfessed sin usually leads to more sin. Sin leads to sin. The pile gets higher and higher and higher. The Bible teaches that we get rid of this unauthorized baggage by earnestly and habitually confessing our sin. 

Now, the word “confess” is a translation of the Greek word homologeo, from homos, which means “the same” and lego, which means “to speak.”

To confess means to say the same thing as another or to agree with another. Confession of sin means that we agree with God. We say the same thing about our sin that He says about it. We view it the same way that He does. Do you view sin the same way that God does? Does sin bother you? Or do you tolerate it or shrug it off as inconsequential? Do you take the problem of sin seriously?

The first mark of genuine repentance is genuine conviction. Genuine conviction says, “I am conscious of my rebellion. Those condescending words that came out of my mouth today were rebellion against God. That lustful image that I entertained and fantasized about was rebellion against God. That feeling of envy and resentment was rebellion against God. That misrepresentation about what really happened was rebellion against God. That procrastination and lack of self-discipline was rebellion against God. That attempt to appear what I am not was rebellion against God!”

Romans 8:1 assures us that there “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” God mercifully forgives and cleanses us from all sin: past, present and future—but that does not mean that sin is a trivial matter! Anyone who wants to live a victorious Christian life needs to take the problem of sin seriously. They are genuinely convicted about the sin that they see in their lives. 

The first mark of genuine repentance is genuine conviction. The second mark of genuine repentance is genuine sorrow. Have you ever had someone hurt you and tell you he was sorry, but you suspected he really wasn’t? They say things like, “I’m sorry if you were . . .” Like politicians, right? They are masters at the “unapologetic apology.”

They say things like, “I’m sorry if some of you were offended by what I did.” Everyone knows that’s not a genuine apology. That’s not genuine sorrow. Scripture teaches that there is a right way and a wrong way to relate to God after we have sinned. True confession is more than just verbally acknowledging our guilt, or that we did something wrong.

True confession requires genuine sorrow. In 2 Corinthians 7, Paul uses the contrasting terms “godly grief” and “worldly grief.” What’s the difference? Well, first off, grief is the heartache, sorrow and remorse that we feel when we do something wrong. It’s feeling sorry. But according to Paul, our sorrow can fall into one of two categories: it can be worldly or it can be godly.

Worldly grief is self-centered. It is caused by the loss or denial of something we want for ourselves. We mainly feel sorry about the fall-out. We’re not really sorry that we violated God’s laws; we’re just sorry about the painful mess. Worldly grief results in counterfeit confessions. When you say “sorry” with worldly grief what you’re really saying is, “I’m sorry I got caught!”

“I’m sorry this will damage my reputation. I’m sorry that someone else feels hurt by me and angry with me. I’m sorry about the consequences that I’m going to face. I’m sorry this has created so much conflict and turmoil. I’m sorry it’s diminished my peace and my happiness. I’m sorry I’ve made a mess of my life!” Worldly grief is wrapped up in how my offense is impacting me; it’s self-centered. 

Godly grief is inherently God-centered. We’re sorry that we’ve sinned against God and that we’ve broken His holy and just law. Even though we feel sorry about how our sin has hurt others, we’re mainly sorry that we have damaged our relationship with Him.

Psalm 51, verse 4: David says he’s sorry. He says, 

Against you—you alone—I have sinned and done this evil in your sight. So you are right when you pass sentence; you are blameless when you judge.

Notice the words of David’s confession: “Against you—you alone—I have sinned.” Well, wait a minute! Wasn’t David sin against Uriah and Bathsheba? Well, while the Bible recognizes the horizontal person-to-person nature of sin, it mainly presents sin as a vertical person-to-God offense. 

When the wife of Potiphar tried to seduce Joseph he cried out, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” He didn’t even mention her husband. The most important truth about sin is this: all sin is primarily sin against God. David understood this. He recognized that the essence of sin is rebellion against a holy God.

Though he undoubtedly sinned against Bathsheba, Uriah, their families, his family, his men, all sorts of people, and he owed them an apology, what he was primarily concerned with when he came to confess was getting his relationship right with God.

So when Brent [Mary’s husband] says something that rubs me the wrong way (not that he ever does that, Sweetheart) and I respond, and I’m irritated and I’m kind of snippety and bite his head off, the main problem I’m having is not with me and Brent. The main problem I’m having is with me and God!

Until I get this vertical relationship right, I have little chance of getting the horizontal one right. The reason you’re having trouble in your relationships, the reason you can’t seem to ditch the baggage, the reason you are dealing with the baggage of sin and guilt and shame and are stuck in a sin pattern may be because you are repenting with worldly sorrow instead of godly sorrow.

Genuine conviction . . . genuine sorrow . . . and the third mark of genuine repentance is genuine transformation. Confession that’s motivated by worldly grief depends on human effort for change. The attitude is, “I’ve got this! I’ll do better. I’ll try harder. I won’t mess up again. I’m so sorry. I’ll take care of it.” And there’s an element of self-sufficiency and pride in addressing the predicament. 

But a “sorry” that is motivated by godly grief runs to God and humbly relies on Him to take care of the problem. The attitude is that I cannot do this without God. “I need You, how I need You, God! Every hour I need You, my One defense, my righteousness. Oh, God, how I need You!’”

In Psalm 51, verses 9–13, David cried out: 

Turn your face away from my sins and blot out all my guilt. God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious your ways, and sinners will return to you. 

David says, “Oh, God! Oh, God, please, please. I can’t deal with the problem of sin in my life. I can’t pull myself up by my own boot straps. I’ve tried and it doesn’t work!”

“Create a clean heart for me! I need You! Renew a steadfast spirit in me. Help me abide in Your presence. Deal with this rebellious spirit! Give me a willing spirit. Then things will surely change. I will change, and my changed life will have a ripple effect on others. Sinners will return to you, oh God.”

If you’re ditching the baggage of sin in your life on a regular basis, you will inevitably change! You will be changed by the redemptive and transformative power of God because change is what repentance is all about. Repentance is a turn-around; it’s a change of mind, a change in one’s life, a change in thinking, a change in doing things my way to doing things God’s way.

And it starts with an admission that we are thinking the wrong way and acting the wrong way and that there are things in our lives that actually need to change.

  • Are you becoming more godly? 
  • Are you being transformed to be more like Jesus? 
  • Are you genuinely repenting? 
  • In your life, do you see the marks of genuine conviction, genuine sorrow, genuine transformation? 

Twenty-seven-year-old Ben Ogden and a group of friends were embarking on the biggest adventure of their lives. Ben had just finished passing the bar exam, and before he hunkered down at his new job as an associate at a law firm and got married and started having kids, he thought, I’m going to go on a big adventure! 

He and a group of his mountaineering buddies had dreamed of an Everest adventure for years, and they had spent the last year training and preparing for it. Spirits were high as they tossed all their climbing gear into the cargo hold of the small plane that would take them from Kathmandu, Nepal to the gateway to Everest. 

They watched out of the window as a crew member handed the necessary paperwork to the airport official. The loadsheet, which was part of the paperwork the airlines required for take-off, reported that the plane was a few pounds under its maximum load, so the plane was cleared for take-off. 

What Ben and the rest of the passengers did not know was that the take-off weight on the load sheet did not include the weight of all their climbing gear and equipment. To clear weight regulations, the crew had reported on the sheet: “No baggage.” If that plane had had no baggage, Ben would have made it to the top of Everest.

But, tragically, it crashed into the hilly embankment on a river just minutes after take-off—killing Ben and everyone else onboard. Investigators reported that the drag on the plane was greater than the power available for ascent. The plane had enough power to carry all the authorized weight. Surely it did.

But with all that unauthorized baggage, it just couldn’t get enough lift to clear the obstacles in its way. Many of you are in the same situation. You’re carrying baggage that you shouldn’t be carrying. Maybe you’re on the verge of crashing. Maybe you already have crashed due to the sin in your life. Spiritually, you’re weak because you are burdened with sin . . . and you’ve gotten used to it. 

You don’t even feel it; you don’t even sense it anymore. It doesn’t convict you. You don’t realize it because you haven’t been taking the problem of sin in your life seriously. You’re dragged down; you’re not getting enough lift. Perhaps you haven’t confessed with godly sorrow. You haven’t genuinely repented.

Now, for the Christian, confessing sin isn’t about salvation. It’s about sanctification. We are saved; we are forgiven. There’s not a doubt about that. So we can run to the Cross every day! Every time I see sin in my life rear its ugly head, I can run to the Cross and say, “Jesus, I need You! I’m so sorry!”

When we confess, we recognize and declare the force of what Christ has already accomplished on our behalf. We claim the amazing mercy and forgiveness that became ours the moment of our salvation. Confession is about applying the gospel. It’s not something we have to do as much as it is something we get to do. We get to unburden ourselves, sisters! We get to do it!

Isn’t that amazing? We get to feel the load lift; we get to experience the cleansing. We get to approach God with confidence, and not with fear, knowing that we will receive mercy and find help in our time of need. (see Heb. 4:16) And nothing makes us more needy than the sin we wrestle with every day.

We get to feel the force of God’s love and forgiveness. We get to claim His power and His victory. We get to get rid of it! It’s a privilege and it’s a joy that’s inaccessible to those who don’t know Jesus. And each time we confess, we claim and reaffirm the truth of what our Savior did for us on the Cross! 

The grace and the forgiveness that we receive makes the joy of our salvation more precious every time we receive it. “There is . . . no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 1:8). God does not condemn you, but He says: “Girl, I want to free you! I want to see that lift in your life. I want to breathe air into you. But you need to get rid of the drag of sin that is weighing you down. All you need to do is come to me.” 

If [you] confess [your] sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). 

Every time we come to the Cross with our sin and lay it down, we’re reminded over and over again about the reality and the wonder of it all!

We’re going to spend just a few moments confessing sin. I know we did it yesterday, but you’ve probably sinned since then. (laughter) I have. You know, when you start addressing baggage, it’s a good thing to look at it, go: “This is a pink suitcase.” Be specific about what sin is in your life, and then just say, “O God, I need You! Against You, You alone have I sinned!” 

[Sound of the pink suitcase dropping to the floor.] “I’m leaving this at the foot of Your cross, and I ask You to forgive me. I am so sorry! And how I need You, God! I need You to give me a willing spirit . . . a spirit that is not rebellious against Your ways . . . a spirit whose heart just is inclined to want to do Your will.” 

So I’m going to ask all of you to stand. We’re going to take just a few moments to do what I just did with that pink suitcase. And this is not where I want you to feel, “Oh, oh, I’m so bad.” No! This is freedom! This is victory. This is the power of the Cross. I’ve been praying that the Holy Spirit will be in this place convicting your hearts of what He wants you to confess in this moment.

So what I want you to do is, symbolically, whenever He points out a sin (and some of us are just going to be going at it! That’s fine, that’s good) . . . Grab hold of that sin, that load that is weighing you down. Come to Jesus and say, “I am laying this down. I am unburdening, because of the power of the Cross. I do not want this sin to reign over me. I do not want the drag.”

And maybe you do not feel genuine conviction. Well, then, that’s your sin that you can pray about. “God, I need to know what it is that, in my life, needs to be cleaned up.” So I’ll just get you to close your eyes and begin to do that. Grab hold of the sin. Drop it.

And we’re just going to spend a few more moments doing that. You don’t have to take a peek at what everybody else is dropping . . . all their kind of baggage. Because we’ve all got it. I have it. You have it. So let’s just take a few moments before the Cross to unburden ourselves of that weight.

All Scripture is taken from the CSB.