Belonging To God: The Church
Lesson 12

Lesson Twelve

Contrast: The Baggage Concept

Text: Ephesians 4:17-32

Years ago I worked first as a counselor then as a director for a Christian camp for many summers (a session per summer).  When the camp first opened, campers brought themselves and their clothes—going to camp was “getting away from it all.”  As time passed, campers brought more and more “things” with them.  The camp board made rules about what a camper could and could not bring to camp.  Then came the petitions.  Every year the camp board was petitioned to allow campers to bring “this.”  When my going to camp experiences ended, there was little difference between going to camp and moving!  The campers’ baggage contained far more than clothes!  Going to camp became “bringing it with you.”


There is a lot of parallel in the above illustration and the experience of entering the church.  More and more people do not choose to enter the Christian community in order to leave the world.  In fact, being an “official” part of the Christian community has less and less to do with the decision to “leave” anything.  In too many people’s thinking, being a Christian has to do more with combining than leaving.


Whether we wish to admit it or not, all of us enter the Christian community with baggage from our past life and past experiences.  Increasingly, local Christian communities become a strange combination of devotion to Jesus and baggage from people’s past.  Increasingly, congregational confrontations, power plays, and divisions have more to do with the baggage people brought with them than devotion to Jesus Christ.


Attention is called today to a group of converts that brought a lot of baggage from their past into the church.  They were suffering because of their baggage from the past.  Bringing unchristian baggage into the church is not a new problem!  It was a common problem 2000 years ago!


Begin by reading today’s text.  Do this to have that scripture fresh in your mind as some things are called to your attention.  Notice there was (a) a “before conversion” existence, (b) the understanding that formed their “reason for coming to Christ,” and (c) an “in Christ” behavior.  Verses 17-19 speak of conditions in their pre-conversion existence.  Verses 20-24 deal with the understanding of people who entered Christ.  Verses 25-32 deal with the behavior they should have as people who belong to Christ.  In these verses, there is the “what you were,” the “why you came to Jesus Christ,” and the “how you should act” as people who belonged to Christ.


Second, notice that coming to Christ involved a definite transition.  There was the “old self” that was corrupted by the lusts of deceit which formed the spirit of their pre-conversion existence.  Conversion occurred because they were renewed in the spirit of their mind.  Because of what they learned about Jesus Christ, their thinking was changed.  Because of this different way to understand existence, they were converted.  The new existence created in the righteousness and holiness of truth was called the “new self.”


Third, notice that the reality of the existence of the “new self” was verified by the way they behaved.  Pay particular attention to the contrast in behavior: old self—deceitful, new self—truthful; old self—prolonged anger, new self—short-term anger; old self—stole in selfish greed, new self—earned to help the struggling; old self—destructive speech, new self—edifying speech; old self—enemy of God’s influence, new self—helper of God’s influence; and old self—ruled by negative emotions, new self—devoted to positive emotions.  Why the transformation?  They allowed God’s behavior demonstrated in Christ to become their model.


Fourth, notice that not all their behavior has been transformed.  A case could be made that this congregation had deceit problems, anger problems, stealing problems, speech problems, godly influence problems, and problems caused by negative emotions.  It is entirely possible that Paul used these specific examples because these areas were trouble spots in their Christian community.


However, to be beyond speculation, consider verse 28.  Some Christians in the Christian community were still stealing.  Stealing was not a moral issue!  It was a way of life!  Perhaps it was like one place I lived—stealing from “the well-to-do” was not stealing, but a way for the less fortunate to share in the good fortune of someone who would not miss what was lost.


Take note of how Paul addressed the situation.  He did not say, “You should know better than that!” which would not address the problem.  He said that it was the nature of Christians to be helpers of those in need, not takers from others.  Christians share!  They help those in need!  There is no need to fear violent acts from the man or woman in Christ!


Fifth, notice that the divine part of transformation is immediate.  Forgiveness, redemption, and sanctification are immediate acts that occur when a person enters Christ.  That is God’s part.  However, it takes some time to educate the person to act consistently with what God did for him (or her).  To learn the behavior that is consistent with divine forgiveness, divine redemption, and divine sanctification takes time.  The relevant question is “Is the person growing?” not “Has the person arrived?”  Arrival involves (1) a subjective human expectation, (2) the person’s past, and (3) what society told the person was okay prior to the person’s conversion to Christ.


Never allow your baggage to provide justification for ungodly behavior.  Let Christ be your example.  Let God in Christ be your model.



For Thought and Discussion


1. In too many people’s thinking, being a Christian has more to do with what than what?


2. All of us enter the Christian community with what?  Where did we get it?


3. Increasingly, what three things have more to do with baggage than devotion to Jesus Christ?


4. What five things are you asked to note?


5. How did Paul address the situation?


6. What part of transformation is immediate?  What part requires time?


7. Arrival involves what three things?


8. Christians should never allow baggage to do what?


9. In behavior matters, who is the Christian’s example/model?

Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 12

Copyright © 2009
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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