Removing the Baggage that Hinders Intimacy
By LESLIE LUDY
If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
1 John 1:6
Several weeks ago, the dynamics among the Ludy siblings were a bit “off.” Bickering, tattling, and selfishness had been continually tainting the peaceful atmosphere of our family. Though Eric and I were following through with consistent discipline and regularly pointing our kids toward God’s pattern, nothing seemed to be reaching their hearts. We began to fervently pray for a breakthrough. We didn’t know exactly what our kids needed in order to snap out of their spiral into wrong behavior patterns, but we knew that it needed to be something significant and Heaven-born.
One evening, we sat down for a time of family talking and prayer. We told our kids that instead of a home marked by complaining and bickering, God wanted to make us into the happiest family in the world. But in order for that to happen, things needed to change.
At first, I couldn’t tell if the kids were really engaged in what we were saying. But as we bowed our heads for a family prayer time, I suddenly had a sense of what needed to happen in my kids’ souls. “I want all of you to close your eyes,” I instructed, “and ask God to show you in your hearts if there is anything that you need to make right with someone in this room; anything you need to ask forgiveness for.”
After about thirty seconds, Hudson raised his hand. “Mommy, will you please forgive me for complaining about dinner?” he asked. After I said yes, he immediately turned to Avy: “Will you please forgive me for tattling on you during playtime?” For the next thirty minutes, Hudson humbly asked forgiveness for all the ways in which he had failed to reflect Christ during the past weeks. Surprisingly, he remembered every single offense in detail, even ones that he had committed months ago. As he confessed his sins and made things right with his family members, he began to smile with genuine joy. He told us, “Before I confessed my sins, it felt like I was carrying around a backpack full of heavy rocks. But when I made things right, the backpack was emptied and the heaviness went away!”
Ever since that night of “emptying the backpack,” Hudson’s relationship with God has skyrocketed. He’s been eagerly spending time in God’s Word and talking about significant things God has been speaking to his heart. Once the spiritual baggage had been removed from Hudson’s life, he was able to experience a closeness to Christ he’d never felt before.
How to Get Closer to God
One of the most common questions I hear from young women is, “How can I get closer to God?” Many Christian girls feel a barrier between themselves and God, and they aren’t sure why it’s there.
James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” One of the biggest hindrances to intimacy with Christ is carrying around a backpack full of spiritual baggage. Allowing sinful habit patterns and unconfessed sin to remain in our lives will place a barrier between us and our God. It’s easy to draw near to Christ with our words, but if our hearts are filled with bitterness, jealousy, anger, selfishness, idolatry, and impurity, we cannot truly be close to Him. (See Matthew 15:7-9.)
Contrary to what we often think, it is not enough to merely say and believe the right things about God. If we want true intimacy with Him, we must be willing to empty our backpacks of sin; to let Him gently shine His searchlight deep within our souls and remove any patterns or attitudes that are not pleasing to Him. Walking in the light is what allows us to have unhindered fellowship with our King. As it says in 1 John 1:6: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”
If you’ve been feeling the weight of unconfessed sin in your life, then consider the following practical steps:
Make Things Right
Set aside a long period of time when you will not be interrupted. Come before God with a humble, yielded heart. Pray the words of Psalm 139:33-34: “Search me, O God, and know my heart … see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Ask Him to gently show you any sinful pattern in your life or unconfessed sin in your past that needs to be made right. Write down anything He brings to your mind, and then ask Him to forgive you, cleanse you from that sin, and grant you the grace to repent, which means to turn and walk in the opposite direction. Consider any practical steps that God might be asking you to take in order to walk uprightly in this area of your life. For example, are you in an ungodly relationship that you need to walk away from? Are there sinful habits in your life that need to change, such as gossip, dishonesty, or sensuality? If He brings conviction to your soul, be quick to respond. Ask Him to give you the strength to make decisions that honor Him, even if they are difficult. God’s Word reminds us, “To one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” (Jms. 4:17). So don’t put off any steps of obedience that you know God is asking you to take. When you walk in the light, nothing can stand between you and true intimacy with Jesus Christ.
Don’t Go Fishing
Remember that when God forgives you, He washes you completely clean, and removes your sin as far from you as the east is from the west: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12). Once you have repented and asked Him to forgive you, He no longer sees that sin when He looks at you. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Once you have repented, do not allow the enemy to continue to hold your past sins over you or fool you into thinking that you are unqualified to experience intimacy with Jesus Christ. As Corrie ten Boom said, “When God casts your sin into the depths of the sea, He posts a sign that reads: ‘No fishing allowed!’” So whenever you are reminded of your past sins, immediately remember that old things have passed away and all things have become new — and then live according to that reality. In other words, don’t go digging in your backpack to rehash sins that have already been covered by Jesus’ blood!
You Can’t – But He Can!
Only the grace of God can give us victory over sin, enabling us to do in His strength what we could never do on our own. Elisabeth Elliot wrote, “God never issued instructions which He is not prepared to enable us to follow.” This is the reality we must accept when it comes to walking in the light and living uprightly. Of course, we will all have times of stumbling and failure. But by His enabling grace, sin does not need to control our lives. (See Romans 6:14.) Rather, when we reckon ourselves dead to sin but alive to righteousness, He provides every bit of enabling power we need to triumph over sin and compromise. (See Romans 6:11.) He doesn’t just tell us to live a set apart life; He gives us strength to fulfill that call.
If living a God-honoring life feels impossible, that’s because it is! At least, it’s impossible in your own strength. Beware of trying to muster up your own willpower as you seek to live a set apart life. Rather, ask God to enable you, by His grace, to live the life He has called you to live. Coming to the Cross means much more than believing that Christ died for your sins. It means exchanging all that you are for all that He is. It means being overtaken by His divine indwelling power, which supernaturally equips you to live a holy, triumphant life that would be impossible on your own. When you grasp the mystery of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27), you will grasp the secret to true set-apartness.
Many believers have resigned themselves to the attitude, “I’ll always struggle with sin; I shouldn’t expect victory this side of Heaven.” We read Paul’s statement in Romans 7, “O wretched man that I am! Who will save me from this body of death?” and reason, “Well, if Paul couldn’t overcome sin, who am I to think I’m any different?” But the answer to Paul’s question is presented clearly in the next sentence. “Who will save me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:24-25). Because of the work of the Cross and the enabling grace of Christ that dwells within us, we have the power to “reckon ourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:11). Our “old man” has been crucified with Christ. Therefore, we are free to no longer serve sin, but to “walk in the light, as He is in the light.” (See Romans 6:6; 1 John 1:17.)
If you hear the voice of God’s Spirit calling you toward greater levels of purity and consecration unto Him, beware of hiding behind the excuse, “I’ll always be weak and sinful; I can’t expect anything more.” Such logic will be deadly to your soul and toxic to your spiritual life. Andrew Bonar wrote, “It is more humbling for us to take what grace offers, than to bewail our wants and worthlessness.”
This does not mean living in “sinless perfection” and never stumbling again (see Philippians 3:12). But neither should we expect to be controlled by the bondage of sin or legalism. Let us no longer underestimate the power of the Cross or doubt God’s willingness and ability to transform us into “new creations” in Christ! (See 2 Corinthians 5:17.) Remember that in your weakness, His strength is made perfect. (See 2 Corinthians 12:9.)
Keep in mind that Jesus longs for fellowship with you, even more than you desire to get close to Him. He is eager and ready to cultivate a daily relationship with you. As you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you. The Bible promises us that when we seek Him with all our hearts, He will be found. (See Jeremiah 29:13.)
So if you feel that barrier standing in the way of intimacy with your God, remember that you don’t have to resign yourself to it. As you take steps of obedience to remove all the spiritual baggage that stands between you and Christ, you will begin to experience the closeness to Him that you long for. It may not be easy, but it will be more than worth it. The King of Heaven and earth desires to walk closely with us each and every day! What an exciting opportunity — let’s not miss it!