It has always been challenging to take our "On Eagle's Wings" team of young Native American believers to do reservation outreach. But going to Alaska to do it has meant a really challenging challenge! With a suicide rate 20 times greater than that of the rest of the young people in America, the young Native Alaskans are a desperate mission field. You can probably imagine that the logistics of this kind of outreach are pretty exciting - especially when some of the villages you're in are 400 miles from the nearest road! The entire team has to be transported by missionary planes and fishing boats! Since the planes are just single or twin-engine aircraft, you can choose between taking less people with more luggage or more people with less luggage. Since we need every seat filled with a team member, the sacrifice is going to be in how much baggage each of us takes. The limit is 20 pounds per person - for five weeks! It's hard to travel that light, but it's important. When you carry just the basic essentials, you can move more people and go a lot farther!
Well, I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "More Baggage...Less People."
A team moves farther and faster with less baggage...and so does the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That's why the powerful Apostle Paul, who could have dazzled a crowd with his incredible theology, kept his message to the lost very simple. Our word for today for the Word of God, 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 - "When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified."
Now with all the Christian truth Paul could have presented, (that he knew there was to present), when it came to the lost, he carried an unencumbered Gospel. Like us packing for our missionary trip to Alaska, he limited himself to the basic essentials, and he left out anything that would unnecessarily encumber the message he was carrying. His message: Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for you.
Now one reason we may not see more people interested in our Jesus is that we may have, without realizing it, added baggage to the simple Gospel message. Baggage like rules, rituals, religion - all of which obscure the real issue, which is a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Sometimes we encumber the Gospel with lifestyle issues. "Now you need Jesus - and what are you doing with an earring there?" Or we attack their wrong music...or their wrong relationship...or their wrong entertainment. We're trying to clean them up before they have the Cleaner-Upper inside them! Stick to Jesus and His cross!
It's also tempting to load down the Jesus story with the baggage of our group's special theological emphasis. There are distinctives in every denomination and group that makes them them - and they often concern very important areas of Christian truth. But they're not part of the Gospel. They are what we will teach this person after they have been to the Cross and made Jesus their Savior. Then, those teachings may become essentials to their relationship with Christ. But now, before they know Him, those emphases may be extra baggage- baggage that means, like traveling in those little planes in Alaska, will be carrying less people - to Jesus.
If a lost person stumbles over Jesus or His cross, then the responsibility is theirs. If they stumble over baggage that we add to Jesus and His cross, then the responsibility is ours. And the consequences can be eternal.
Aren't you glad you don't have to carry all the Christian baggage when you try to win the heart of a lost friend or loved one? Unpack all the other Christian things, and just deliver the essentials - the incredible news that Jesus loved us enough to die for us, to rescue us from the death penalty of our sin. Stick to Jesus!