(Post by: Lilly Hobbs)
Wednesday, January 15th, I was in downtown Fort Worth right beside the jail and courthouse waiting for our friend Rocky to be released from jail. In the midst of all of the busyness and all of the people trying to avoid eye contact with the person that was passing them on the sidewalk, I noticed that many of them were carrying crinkled up brown paper bags.
Some were waiting on a bus, others just sat down on the street or paced the sidewalks. One thing I noticed about all of those people carrying a brown paper bag was that they were alone. No one was with them and many people purposely stayed away from them.
I found that to be a little odd, and honestly kind of rude.
No, many of them weren’t the cleanest, they didn’t have expensive shoes or the nicest clothes on. In fact, they really didn’t have anything besides that brown paper bag that looked like it had been thrown around for months.
Well, I came to the realization after watching, and observing them, that these people were convicts who had just been released from the jail. Each one walking out with a brown paper bag that sheltered their very few belongings. In this bag was anything they had bought with their commissary money, and if they were lucky, maybe some letters that they had received from friends or family while being in jail.
As I sat with my dad and Sebastian (Rocky’s son) waiting for Rocky to walk out, just like the others, it hit me. He is going to come out with a brown paper bag too. In that bag will be all he has to start over besides the shirt on his back, and us.
Do you want to know what really hit me though? What really hit me was that not one of the other convicts that I saw walk out had anyone to meet them. Not one. All that they had was the shirt on their back and their brown paper bag.
You may be wondering why I’m even telling you this. I am kind of wondering the same thing myself. But here’s what I think the Lord wants someone to hear today…
We’ve all got our own brown paper bag.
I don’t care who you are, what you have done, or where you have come from. You’ve got one. It’s called your past.
Galatians 5:24 says, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
If you have given your life to Jesus and are a committed follower of Him, then you well know that you have to intentionally choose to crucify your past and live in the freedom that Jesus has won for you.
Y’all, as I looked around and watched these convicts, I thought about how every time they look down at that flimsy bag in their hand, they will be reminded of their past. They will be reminded of what they have done, what the world now “classifies” them as, and they will revisit those thoughts every single time they see that bag.
You may be reading this post thinking that it doesn’t apply to you because you’ve never walked out of jail with an “official” brown paper bag.
I guess I’m here to give you a little wake up call. This does apply to you because we’ve all got our bag; like I said earlier. Here’s the problem though: You and I look back at our past, the things we have done, and the labels that we have, and even though we have been set free from our brown paper bags, we go back and pull stuff out of it.
As Christians who have found our freedom and worth in Him, we MUST walk in the identity that He alone has given us. When you live in that and what the Lord has done for you, your brown paper bag is destroyed.
You don’t revisit your past because you’re a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Your penalty has been paid by Jesus on the cross.
Guys, God doesn’t set us free and then leave us with our brown paper bag to drown in our sorrows every time we look at it. That’s what the enemy does. He reminds us and takes us back to our past hurts and scars and the things that we are ashamed of.
Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
If we are changed then it’s time we start acting like it. If our brown paper bag has been destroyed because of what Jesus has done for us, then we need to stop revisiting our past and listening to the enemy.
Francis Chan once said, “Only the Holy Spirit can give you the power to not think about yourself, to set you free from yourself.”
We need to take our focus off of ourselves. That is a daily decision. It’s a daily choice that you have to make to not pick up your bag, to not buy into the enemy’s lies about you. You know the ones he so desperately wants you to believe.
Do you know why the enemy wants you to focus on your past? Because as soon as your focus is off of Jesus and fixed on yourself, he knows that you’ll go through your bag again. The enemy knows that if he can get you to waste time on what happened in the past, and all of your regrets, that you’ll forget about your freedom and what God really has for you.
Crucify that crinkled up brown paper bag and focus on Jesus with everything you’ve got. Then make one right choice. And then another.
Talking from experience, when you get rid of that bag, you will walk a little lighter.
SO WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE?
= Do you really understand that Jesus has paid your penalty?
= How hard is it to focus more on the Lord than your past?
= What are you going to do differently?