Friday, February 28, 2014

Putting New Wine in New Wineskins


I am indebted to someone(?) for some of these thoughts here, as I am uncertain where they came from. If you have a propriety interest in a portion of this message, let me know and I will certainly give credit where credit is due.

Most are pretty familiar with the wineskins parable of Jesus (Luke 5:36-39). The focal point is typically..."you must not put new wine in old skins or else they will burst" (vv.36-38). I think that we understand what Jesus is saying -- He was not interested in patching up Judaism, but was offering the leaders and the people a whole new way -- His way. He offers new life that is not some reformation of the old paths of the Scribes and Pharisees. Current application -- Jesus is not interested in patching up "our religion," but offers up a new way...a relationship that is dynamic and changing to follow His leading day by day. Yet, the intention of this message is not to focus so much on the familiar verses from this passage, but v.39, which seems like an odd, out of place statement. Upon further review, we will see that it is an integral part of what Jesus is trying to say.

"And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new...for he says, "the old is better"(v.39). This sure sounds like a wine lovers preference for old wine, right? Or, an excuse to hang on to old time religion. Remember, that this parable is delivered by Jesus in Capernaum in response to the Scribes and Pharisees who were very critical of Jesus' "radical" ministry. What Jesus was threatening was not their doctrine or their livelihood, but their traditions. The Scribes and Pharisees were committed to the past and resisted change. Jesus intended that His people be new wineskins...those who would hear and understand His dynamic, life-changing words. We are to present to Christ daily the new wineskin of an open mind, a receptive heart and a ready will to follow Him.

The challenge is not as simple as it sounds...because, like the Scribes and Pharisees, we become secure in our own traditions, pre-suppositions and resist change. We become satisfied with what we have experienced of the Lord's power in our lives and become fearful of new challenges. This wineskin becomes dry, brittle and inflexible as we fearfully try to maintain the status quo of our "life" in Christ. This old wineskin that Jesus speaks of could only hold water -- it was incapable of holding new wine. New wineskins are distinguished for their elasticity, flexibility and adjustability as containers of not only Jesus' new teaching, but of His indwelling Spirit presence.

Now, we come to see why Jesus' conclusion to the parable is challenging to understand. Jesus is not commending "old wine" to them, but condemning their inability to receive "new wine." Some say about the wine of their stage of growth in Christ -- "the old is better". But, what it really means is -- "allow me to stay where I am...I know all I need to know...I am content with what I have." The old wine in new skins presents some significant problems. We pray daily for the Lord's leading and His will for our lives, in our worship sing many hymns of commitment...and yet many would say that they have not received new spiritual power(?). Yet, what does old wine do in a new wineskin? It just sits there like water! Some would desire to offer the Lord a new wineskin, but want to fill it with old wine...they are thoroughly satisfied with the old wine of past experiences. Some constantly rehearse what has happened in the past, rather than rejoice in what the Lord is doing or wanting to do right now! Many of our greatest difficulties in our churches is the comfort of the uniformity and complacency of old wine.

We need to continually offer the Lord new wineskins that are ready for His dynamic power -- the new wine that he desires to pour into them...fresh ideas and strategies for evangelism, worship, programs, etc., where the Lord can truly use us to be His people for the world of the 21st century. If we live in this way, guided by His Spirit, we live according to faith and fear will have no power over us. Only new wineskins filled with new wine are able to handle this challenge.

Blessings, Don

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