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.Only ONE person gives us a new identity, and that’s God. Here’s the thing: 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 impossible because you cannot do one thing until you do another thing, but you cannot do the second thing until you do the first thing.” It’s a dilemma or difficult circumstance without escape due to 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 shown you anexample of how to die or 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. To know the empty tomb, you’ve got to know the cross. 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 something in you, and He wants to do things through you, but you’ll have to make room for those things. Sometimes things have to die before they can live. Some may be thinking, “I’m praying I meet the person of my dreams this year. I will 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, surrender and wait for God to bring that new person into your life.
Catch 22 of the Gospel
Jesus looks at a crowd and notices that the group following him is getting big. He saysin Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their own cross daily and follow me.” 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 toexperience 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 something interesting.
“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 then, ladies didn’t own property or have a house. The fact that she has a home says a lot about her and that she could possibly have a successful business, or maybe she’s a widow. We know that she’s gotthis estate, and when Jesus is resting from ministry or going to Jerusalem, he would spend time there. We understand that these three siblings were not only Jesus’ friendsbut also his followers. Finding out that a rabbi in the first century had women disciples is like a full-on revolution. Jesus made it clear that he would not treat people differently 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.
“[Martha] She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 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 a rabbi has invited you to be an apprentice. It means that as an apprentice, you are in theclosest proximity of your teacher. Sitting at their feet was a place of honor. This place was reserved for when a rabbi believes you can do not just what he does but possiblyeven 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 of the apprenticeship is learning 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 Jesus will soon not be with her, and this is one of the last times she’s going to 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 ensuring everything goes well.
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 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 to 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. Perhaps she cares too much about what other people think. I don’t know what it is, but there’s some fear. 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 ourlives that we can’t control. Others of us 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 the whole year with multiple colored pens and highlighters. You may have already detailed everything outfor 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 in balance. People came up to Jesus and wanted to be his disciple. Do you know what he said to them? Jesus said, “We don’t know where we’re sleeping tonight. Are you sure you want on the team? The Son of Man doesn’t know where he will lay his head.” Jesus also said,
“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 to seek priorities. What is a priority in your life you want? To live a year without regrets, you need to ask what the most important thing to you is. 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 falls in line.
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 those things. When you say “no,” you’ll be able to see what 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 it’ll cost you everything, but he also says it’ll be worth it.
You may think 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 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 will 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 thought God wanted him to grow in his relationship with Him more. My son wanted to put that into practice by reading the Bible, starting in the book of Mark. My son asked if I could help him by waking him up early the following day to read his Bible with me. I can tell you that everything in me wanted to make that happen for him and support him that way. The thing is that if I were to wake him up myself, then where is the self-discipline? I told him I would go out to my truck (where I do my devotions) and turn my heater on. I‘d be there at 6 am 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 of Mark together. We made a plan to continue 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 will not be able to follow Jesus where he wants you to go. You might think you can, but your heart won’t be there. God wantsto take you somewhere you don’t want to go. Once you deny yourself and have moreof God, your desires change for more of him. Boldness and passion will come over you.
“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 will 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 take away those things that worry you. Obliterate that fear, and then you watch where He will lead you.
If you’re carrying stress, worry, and anxiety about the things in your life (job, husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, kids, health, etc.) and are completely overwhelmed. Maybe you are too busy for your own good or constantly trying to control everything. Deep down, you are afraid to be alone with God or surrender to him. If you want to make that change right now, I want you to give those things to God right now. Say, “God, I’mgiving you these things I’m worried about.”