Hiding is Heavy |01.07.24| Blessed Year Ever pt1.
It’s a new year, and I want to make sure to not bring the wrong burdens into this year. Megan and I were able to have a small get-away with the kids last week, and even though it was only a single overnight, we definitely had to pack a lot of bags to make sure we had everything we needed for our family to be away.
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And the kids loved the hotel, and we got to do a movie night with popcorn – it was special. But my favorite part was getting to connect with Megan and chat about this past year, what we’ve learned, and our hopes for the future.
It was a nice holiday season for us, but we also could remember times when we had some rough seasons. Times when we felt super stressed. Times when we experienced deep loss. Times when we felt like we weren’t connected at all.
And that might be the experience for you this morning.
Now that all the holiday festivities are over, we come down from the “holiday high” and start to feel a bit low.
Will this year be the same as last year? Or will I actually be able to experience some of the growth or connection I’ve been longing for?
Because sometimes, it all feels the same.
People are still afraid of COVID
people are still worried about their kids or grandkids.
The economy is still uncertain.
People are still struggling with their health.
Now, the minimum wage just went up in our state!…but inflation is higher. And if you have people working for you, you’re feeling the squeeze as well to provide for your folks while keeping things afloat.
How can this year get BETTER than last year? How can my life get better? How can I make sure to not carry all the burdens from this past year into my journey looking forward?
Well, before Christmas, we began to study Jesus’ Greatest Hits, called the Sermon on the Mount, where he outlines all of his best teachings on what it means to follow God, to live his way, and experience BLESSING in life in the kingdom of God.
So he starts with “blessed are the poor in spirit…blessed are those who mourn…blessed are the meek…” showing us that the “blessed” life, the happy life, the full abundant life that Jesus offers is available in surprising ways sometimes.
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And this month, we’ll continue learning from Jesus so that we can have the “Blessed Year Ever.” And I GUARANTEE that if you pay attention and listen to Jesus, and then try and apply it to your life by taking small steps of obedience, like practicing the spiritual habits that help us be transformed by Jesus…you WILL experience a more fulfilled life this year.
So let’s pick up with our next statement from Jesus, where he says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
Remember, he’s talking to people who are wondering how to have a better life, how to get rid of the burdens they carry, how to have more happiness and contentment in their lives.
So he says, “Blessed…happy…fortunate are those who are pure in heart…”
The ones who have divine favor in their lives, who are blessed, are the ones who are pure…clean…FREE from moral guilt, for they will see God. They will be able to perceive God. They will be able to NOTICE God.
Jesus is saying, “Do you want a happier life? The secret is to have a heart that is free, and then you’ll be able to notice God around you and join in with the life he is laying out before you.
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And that makes sense, because if our hearts are burdened, if our conscience feels weighed down by guilt, if our minds are heavy with dark thoughts, then we’ll never get to see God around us, because we’re too burdened with what we’re carrying.
To experience freedom, to remove that weight, to see God in our lives…we need a pure heart!
But that creates a new problem, because no one is pure.
No one has a fully clean conscience. Everyone has brokenness, things they hide because of guilt and shame.
And even if you “seem” better than someone else, even if you don’t mess up the way “they” do, we all still hide stuff. Stuff you plan on taking to the grave with you.
I remember it was early on in my marriage with Megan: we had gone through our ups and downs before, but this time, I thought our marriage was over.
We had been married for a few years, and we had been through a lot together already, overcame a lot together already, but this…this was too heavy to carry.
This was too big to cover over and pretend didn’t happen.
You see, I had struggled with lust since I was a young teenager. And I had spent most of my life after that trying to battle it, trying to get healed from it, trying my best to follow Jesus and honor others.
And even when Megan and I got married, it didn’t solve things for me. I still was tempted. I still hid things.
I was ashamed. I knew I needed help, but I didn’t want to admit to anyone what I was going through.
So I carried it alone. And did my best to honor my covenant with Megan. And when I failed and went to parts of the internet I shouldn’t, when I let my eyes and my thoughts wander to where they shouldn’t, I would hide it. And I would vow to change. And I’d keep the weight of it all stuffed in my bag, getting exhausted carrying it all the time. Feeling ashamed every time I got pulled back.
Until it all came out. I had been unfaithful to Megan with my eyes and my mind. I had broken my covenant to her…broken her heart. And I thought our marriage was over.
What happened next would forever change my life.
Because I was not free. I had been hiding, and hiding is heavy. Jesus says that the blessed life is experienced by those with clean hearts because they will see God.
But I had a hurting heart. A heart that I kept hidden.
Maybe you’ve experienced that, too. You’ve got a burden you’re carrying. You’ve got a weight that is holding you down.
Maybe it’s some hidden guilt and shame. Maybe it’s some bitterness of unforgiveness you’re holding onto against someone.
Maybe it’s an addiction or a vice that you’re not proud of. Maybe it’s some way that you’re cutting corners and not keeping integrity.
Whatever it is, you’re hiding, even though it’s so heavy.
You are not free, and you cannot see.
So how do we get free? How do we remove the burdens we carry? How do we experience the freedom that Jesus is talking about so that we can experience the fortunate LIFE he offers?
Psalm 51 gives us some lessons. So open your Bible to Psalm 51, which is probably right near the very middle of your black, seat-back Bible on p???
While you’re pulling it up, Psalms is a Jewish prayer book, a collection of poems, prayers, praises, and laments from many different people that are compiled together to teach us about the human condition and the character of God.
Psalm 51 was written by King David after Bathsheba. Now, you might know all about King David, how he defeated the giant Goliath, how he took over after Israel’s first king died, and how he was known for being brave and following God.
And you might also know that he was completely broken as a person, even though he tried to hide it.
He had been king for a while, was very successful, and seemed to be the ideal leader from the outside. But he had an affair with a married woman…he forced himself on her and got her pregnant.
At first, he tried to cover it up by saying that her husband was the father, but when that lie didn’t work, he killed the guy.
He hadn’t yet decided what to do with the woman or his unborn child when his trusted advisor called him out and revealed the truth of it all.
David was crushed. There was no hiding anymore. There was no pretending anymore. So he did the only thing any of us can do when we’re being crushed by the weight of our harmful choices: he went to God.
He writes, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”
Have mercy, because your character is love. I trust that.
“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.”
I’m trying to hide my sin from others, but I can’t hide from what I’ve done. It’s always before me. It eats me up and holds me down and makes me super defensive against others.
He continues in verse 6, “You desire truth in my inmost being…purge me…and I shall be clean. Wash me…blot out all my iniquities.”
I know you want different for me, God. You want better for me. You want to make all the wrong things right, and the dark things light.
“Create in me a clean heart,” a PURE heart, a heart FREE from moral guilt. And this word is actually the same one Jesus uses in our earlier verse. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and sustain in me a willing spirit.”
David knows it’s all God’s work. Transformation isn’t something WE can muster up or accomplish apart from God. That was what I had been trying for years, with no permanent change.
Rather, we PARTNER with God. We join Jesus in the work he’s doing IN us through CONFESSION, coming into the light.
But David continues in verse 13, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me…O God…and my mouth will declare your praise.”
Transformation ALWAYS leads testimony. Because when you’ve RECEIVED from Jesus, you want everyone to SEE Jesus.
“For you have no delight in sacrifice…The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart.”
Mercy isn’t earned. God doesn’t need us to achieve something or outwardly prove something.
He just wants our heart. Not hidden. Not held back.
Because a held-back heart can’t be healed.
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But too many people are carrying too many HIDDEN things that weigh them down. It’s heavy, it’s tiring, but they think they CAN’T take out anything, because they don’t want the ugliness out there.
If others see the ugliness I’ve been hiding, they’ll think less of me. People won’t love me anymore.
But God’s love doesn’t go away because of our sin. God’s love doesn’t go away because of our failures, or the things we’re ashamed of.
He already knows ALL of those things, and his love prompted him to pursue us to help heal us!
Hiding is too heavy. And a held-back heart can’t be healed. We are not free. We cannot see.
To be free, God gives us the way through Confession and Forgiveness.
Confession and Forgiveness are VITAL habits for followers of Jesus, because they free us from burdens so that we can see how God is at work and then join him.
If we want to leave behind the burdens that have been weighing us down, if we want to experience the blessed life, the full life that Jesus offers, we need to regularly and frequently practice confession so that Jesus can begin the work of transformation in those areas of our lives.
Now, we have a moment in every single Sunday gathering where we practice confession as a whole church family, and that is a great start. But it’s also only a beginning. Because the point of confession isn’t to silently say something in our head to Jesus (as if he doesn’t know it already), and then SILENTLY keep going about our lives. That probably won’t bring very much freedom
If we notice from David’s story, his shame and honesty are forever written in our Bible. I’m not telling you that you have to publish your burdens and sins in a book, but the process of becoming free through confession is not: “confess and keep it hidden.”
Confession is an act of stepping out into the light of Jesus and then moving forward in the light.
That’s why I want to encourage you this week: practice confession. Yes, here in church. But maybe also with your family. Maybe with a trusted friend. Maybe with a pastor.
Pastor Erik and I are available for any type of appointment you could want to set with us. Do you have questions about what’s going on at church, call the church office and ask to set an appointment with one of us.
Do you want guidance or prayer? Call the church office and set an appointment with us.
Are you going through a tough time and just need a listening ear and some support? Do you need a safe place to process doubt or shame or just simple questions? Set an appointment with us. It’s our honor to walk with you towards Jesus. That’s what we do as a church so that we can be transformed by Jesus, together, for others.
But practice confession this week. Because confession brings our darkness into the light. And that can be scary, but it’s for our good because it means we don’t have to hide anymore. We don’t have to fight anymore to keep it hidden.
We don’t have to keep track of the lies we’ve said that have piled up. We don’t have to keep everyone at a distance for fear of the truth coming out.
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Practice confession this week. What is God putting on your heart to bring into the light? It’s okay to start small. It’s okay to find a trusted friend or a pastor and confess that you’ve been holding some bitterness towards someone.
It’s okay to start with confessing your doubts. It’s okay to start with confessing the anger you have towards someone in your family.
Because when we do that, when we bring it out into the light with someone who loves Jesus, we realize that it’s not a weight we are carrying alone anymore. Our heart is a bit clearer. Our bag is a bit lighter. Our eyes are more able to see.
When we confess before God and each other, we get to hear the words of Jesus that say, “You are forgiven. And I am continuing the work of healing in you so that you can turn and declare my praise and share my grace with others.”
It was that night when Megan confronted me, and I thought my marriage was over. I thought my life was over. I had messed up too much. I was going to lose the love of my life.
And as all my grief and fears and confessions poured out to Megan as we sat at the kitchen table, she looked at me and said, “Jesus can heal this.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, she was hurt. She felt betrayed. She felt like everything she trusted had been pulled from her. Except for the fact that something gave her the strength to know there was someONE bigger who was holding our marriage together.
SomeONE was providing the strength when we had none. SomeONE was providing the grace to create a way forward.
She reached across the table and took my hands. Her face had changed. It was tender. It was strong. It was full of love. I had no idea how.
“Jesus can heal this. Jesus can heal us.”
That forever changed my life. Now, the process of healing is gradual. It’s a journey. Trust is easily lost and not so easily rebuilt.
But I’ve worked to create boundaries to protect myself, to protect my eyes, to protect my commitment to Megan and my kids. I have accountability partners who I can be open and honest with. And when I confess to them the burdens and sin that I am carrying, no matter how big or small it is, they look at me and say, “Jesus’ forgiveness is already yours. His grace is sufficient.” And they continue to walk with me in the process of stepping into the light and being transformed by Jesus.
What if we practiced confession like that as a whole community? How would that freedom change us?
It might look like Romans chapter 12. Let me read you a short excerpt. Just listen.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, on the basis of God’s MERCY, to present yourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable act of worship. 2 Do not be conformed to the ways of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Not once, but renewING over and over again, bringing ourselves into the light of Jesus over and over again, so that we may SEE what the will of God is. So that we can be free enough to see him.
3 For by the grace given to me (GOD’S GRACE ENABLES THIS →) I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many parts and not all the parts have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are connected to one another.
9 So… let love be genuine; hate what is evil; hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal; be ardent in spirit; serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of your church family; pursue hospitality to strangers.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another… 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all… 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
What if this was true of US? What if the way that we regularly practiced bringing our whole selves to Jesus led to THIS kind of freedom and this kind of life?
It would definitely impact the whole community we live in. People would notice! We wouldn’t just be “the big green church on the hill.”
We’d be noticed for looking like Jesus. Better yet, GOD would be noticed!
And as more and more people saw the beauty and light and love of God on display in the lives of the people who follow him, more and more people would be drawn to his light. More and more people would be drawn to his love. More and more people would be drawn to the life of freedom he offers.
More and more of our neighbors would experience his love. More and more of our families would experience his grace. More and more of the Sauk Valley would be invited into the journey that we are on, invited into the journey of being transformed by Jesus, together, for others.
And THAT’S how more and more of our world will look more and more like heaven, showing the glory of God the Father.
Isn’t that good news?