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The Catch 22 of 2022

At the beginning of every new year, people start saying things like “New year, new me!”  Do you know why that saying doesn’t work? It’s because if we could make ourselves new, we would have done it already! There’s only ONE person who can make us new. There’s only ONE person who gives us a new identity and that’s God. Here’s the thing, in order to experience becoming a new person, the old person has to die. That in itself is a Catch 22. 

According to the Collins English Dictionary, “a Catch-22 situation is an impossible situation because you cannot do one thing until you do the another thing, but you cannot do the second thing until you do the first thing.” It’s a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape due to the mutually conflicting or dependent conditions.

Think about it this way, does it mean more to you that Jesus lived for you or that he died for you? What’s more important to your faith: that Jesus has showed you as an example how to die or he showed you as an example of how to live? You might be hesitant to answer and I get why. In order to know new life, something has to die before it can live. In order to know the empty tomb you’ve got to know the cross. In order to experience the truth of God you often have to encounter the grace of God. 

Here’s the thing, God has great things for you this year, but unless you let some things die, those things are not going to live. He wants to do things in you and He wants to do things through you, but you’re going to have to make room for those things. Sometimes things have to die before they can live. Some of you may be thinking, “I’m praying that I meet the person of my dreams this year. I’m just gonna continue to date this person until that new person comes along.” Hey, sometimes a relationship has to die before a new one can live. Why don’t you break up with that person now? If you already know it’s not a good thing, then surrender and wait for God to bring that new person in your life.

Catch 22 of the Gospel 

Jesus is looking at a crowd and notices that the group following him is getting big. He says in Luke 9:23 “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their own cross daily and follow me.” Basically, he is saying if you want to follow me, you’ve got to stop going where you were going. If you want to know new life, first you have to experience death. The old has got to go, if you want what God has for you in 2022. You’re going to have to let 2021 die. 

We find in Luke 10 a great story about Mary and Martha. We know that this family has two sisters and a brother named Lazarus. Not only do we know about these siblings but we also know that they were good friends of Jesus. At one of the times Jesus was visiting Martha’s house we find out something interesting.

Luke 10:38 “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha had opened her home to him.”

The fact that Martha has a house is a big deal. Back in that time, ladies didn’t like own property and have a house. The fact that she has a house says a lot about her and that possibly she could have a successful business or maybe she’s a widow. What we do know is that she’s got this estate and when Jesus is resting from ministry or when he’s going to Jerusalem, he would spend time there. We know that these three siblings, were not only Jesus’ friends, but they were his followers, too. Finding out that a rabbi in the first century had women disciples is like a full-on revolution. Jesus made it clear that he was not going to treat people different because of their gender. He shows us this by allowing ladies to stay in the room when he teaches instead of making them go to another room as was the custom. Jesus teaches everyone together and doesn’t give into gender disqualification. 

Luke 10:39-42
“[Martha] She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

Here we first notice that Mary is at Jesus’ feet. That term to sit at rabbi’s feet means you have been invited by a rabbi to be an apprentice. It means that as an apprtentice you are in the closest of proximity of your teacher. Sitting at their feet was a place of honor. This place was reserved for when a rabbi believes that you can do not just what he does, but possibly even greater things. Not only are you close to the rabbi but he is also letting you know that he believes in what he’s teaching you. The goal in the apprenticeship is learning is so that you would take it and pass it on and move it forward. 

Now look again, we see that Mary is at his feet. She’s receiving, asking questions and wants to know more. Mary probably doesn’t know or fully grasp that soon Jesus would not be with her and this is one of the last times she’s gonna sit at his feet. I don’t think Martha had any idea either. Think about it, she’s in the kitchen banging around in the pots and making sure everything goes well. Then Jesus says in Luke 10:41-42:

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Jesus tells her that Mary has chosen the better thing. It’s not that what Martha wasn’t doing something good, but there’s a better way.

Do you want to settle for just a good 2022 or do you want a better 2022?

Do you want the better thing for this year? Maybe you had a good year last year, but I want you have a great year! I want you to have a God-sized year. 

Look again at what Jesus notices about his friend Martha. She was distracted by all

the preparations she’s made. Then she asks, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?” For some reason Martha’s in the kitchen, I don’t know why. Jesus has made himself available to Martha. He’s chosen her house. He’s invited people into the room. He’s made a space for her at his feet. Yet for some reason she doesn’t want to be there. Maybe she’s afraid of what other people think. Maybe she cares too much about what other people think. I don’t know what it is, but there’s some sort of fear there. My assumption is that fear is manifesting itself as control. We all have this mechanism when we get afraid of fight or flight. Often we run from stuff in our lives that we can’t control. There are others of us that dig our heels in and try to control everything like Martha.

Sometimes Fear Disguises Itself as Balance

We all fall for that balance trap. You may have even planned out the whole year with multiple colored pins and highlighters. You may have already detailed every single thing out for the year and plan on sitting back to watch everything go according to your balanced plan. Here’s the thing, Jesus does not preach balance. Not only that, Jesus does not live balance. People came up to Jesus and wanted to be his disciple. Do you know what he said to them? Jesus said something like, “We don’t know where we’re sleeping tonight. You sure you want on the team? The Son of Man doesn’t know where he’s going to lay his head.” Jesus also said,

Matthew 6:33
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

Jesus doesn’t say to seek balance. He says seek priorities. What is a priority in your life you want? In order to live a year of no regrets, you need to ask what is the most important thing to you? What’s the most important thing to God? Set those priorities up now it’s not too late. Then watch, when you put him first, everything else fall in line. 

Luke 9:23
Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their own cross daily and follow me.”

To deny yourself means there are things that you want to do but you have to say “no” to that thing. When you say “no,” then you’re going to be able to see the thing God wants for you. For example:

If you want love, say “no” to lust.

Want purpose, say “no” to fulfillment and contentment.

God’s plan for your life is so much bigger than anything you could plan for your life. 

Jesus says that it’ll cost you everything, but he also says it’ll be worth it.

You may be thinking that taking up our cross is a one-time decision to say “yes” to Jesus. In reality you’ve got to say “yes” to Jesus tomorrow, and you got to say “no” to yourself tomorrow. Then you got to say “yes” to Jesus again the next day and you got to say “no” to yourself the next day. Continuing that pattern in 2022 is how your year is going to be different.

Recently while my kids were home for winter break, I had a text conversation with my son that I will never forget. My son is 11 years old and likes to be able to use our home Wi-Fi to text our family. One evening he texted that he felt that God was speaking to him. When I asked him what God was saying, my 11-year old said that he felt God wanted him to grow in his relationship with Him more. One way that my son wanted to but that into practice was by reading the Bible starting in the book of Mark. My son asked if I could help him by waking him up early the next morning to read his Bible with me. I can tell you that everything in me wanted to make that happen for him and support him in that way. The thing is that if I were to wake him up myself, then where is the self-discipline? What I did tell him was that I would go out to my truck (which is where I do my devotions) and I would turn my heater on. I’d be out there at 6am if he wants to meet me. But I couldn’t wake him up if he’s going to be a disciple. He’s got to take this first step to learn to deny himself.

I’m happy to say that even on his  winter break, when he could be sleeping in, we got to the end Mark together. Afterwards, he asked what are we gonna do next? We made a plan to continue on and read the book of Luke. It all started with him listening to what God was asking of him and taking the step to deny himself to make it happen.

Sometimes Balance Has to Die So Priorities Can Live

Sometimes, Busyness Has to Die so Quality Time Can Live.

But if you’re not willing to deny yourself then you’re not going to be able to follow Jesus where he wants you to go. You might think that you can, but your heart won’t be there. God wants to take you somewhere you don’t want to go. Once you deny yourself and you have more of God, your desires begin to change for more of him. A boldness and a passion will come over you.

Psalm 37:4
“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.”

He doesn’t mean he will give you what your heart desires. No, he means he’ll give you a new heart with new desires for Him. If you choose to deny yourself now in January and put to death the old things, your February is going to be radically different. March is going to be radically different. Then the sky will be the limit.

Set a priority to be in God’s presence. His spirit can overwhelm you and can take away those things that you’re worried about. Obliterate that fear and then you watch where He will lead you. 

Prayer

If you’re carrying stress and worry and anxiety about the things of your life (job, husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, kids, health, etc.) and completely overwhelmed. Maybe you are too busy for your worn good or always trying to control everything. Really just deep down you are afraid to be alone with God or to surrender to him. If you want to make that change right now, I want you to take them and I want you to give those things to God right now. Say, “God I’m giving these things I’m worried about to you.” 

Pastor Justice Coleman
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