New Wine and New Wineskins
Following a series of ‘disappointments’ that I was struggling to process, the verses in Matthew 9:16-17 really grabbed my attention one day.
“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
It was early in the morning, when Father began a deep conversation with me. Part of the conversation went something like this. “You keep asking me for new wine. To be more specific, you keep asking me to fill you with it…” My eager reply was, “Yes, please Lord!”
This was followed by a very quiet and still moment. Unexpectedly, I felt a growing, intensity of Father God’s presence in the stillness, and tears filled my eyes. Suddenly, I felt words piercing deep into my spirit. “You can only carry this new wine in a new wineskin. The vessel you want to carry My wine in is rigid and cracked. To contain it your vessel has to be flexible and new, just like the wine. Because new wine needs room to expand and mature. It can only do that in a flexible container.”
The Container’s Integrity
Immediately, my thoughts turned to the prophet Jeremiah and the object lesson God gave him at the potter’s house. “’O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord.’ ‘Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!’” (Jeremiah 18:6)
Essentially, to God, the “container” matters as much as the contents. At that moment there was a clearer understanding of God’s requirement and expectation for me to be new. Furthermore, to be consistently renewed. Often we refer to how God used a talking donkey (Numbers 22:28), or a harlot (Joshua 2:1). Yes, God did use them. However, do you remember a man who was called Uzza? Tragically he was struck dead by God for touching the Ark of the Covenant. It seems really harsh, but Uzza died because of the manner in which the Ark of the Covenant was being carried (see 1 Chronicles 13:9-10).
Death and Delay – The Results of Integrity Issues
Lamentably, King David and the priests, did not carry the Ark according to God’s specific instructions (see Numbers 1:50-53, 4:5-15). As a consequence, there was death and delay, instead of life and hope. On a side note: it’s sobering to realise as a leader how much responsibility for those in our care we do have! So, the way we seek to carry and host God’s presence is vital. Our disobedience or slackness can lead not just to our own death or delay, but also to that of others.
Transformed and Flexible
By myself, I will always fall into old mind-sets, rigid routines, and habits. However, when I allow my mind to be malleable in God’s hand, just like the clay on the potter’s wheel, I am changed. I am changed in my capacity and ability. Ultimately, I become flexible like the new wineskins that stretch and breathe to allow the new wine to develop, and mature. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)
So, change is not an option for us as Christians, because our natural progression is supposed to be one of growth.
Stiff-Necked and Missing Out Massively
In several places in the Bible God called the Israelites “stiff-necked”. In 40 years wandering in the wilderness, the people of Israel were not growing in God. They complained and murmured when things weren’t going their way, and they actually longed to go back to the slavery of Egypt (sounds familiar). They even tried to stock pile the manna which God provided for them daily. So, as a result of their blinkered vision, the majority of those who left Egypt did not set foot into the Promised Land. In other words, they did not change.
It’s Time to Be Transformed and Grow Up!
Significantly then, Paul tells us to grow up into Jesus Christ, the Head: “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:14-15)
Growth means change. Change for us as Christians naturally occurs from the inside out.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
Faith Facilitates Transformation
Jesus accepts us just as we are, but He doesn’t keep us in the same condition, no! He changes us as we read and hear His Word. Additionally, this change is all about transformation and allowing God’s Kingdom to come in power to change atmospheres. It is only by faith, through God’s grace, that we can be changed to facilitate change in our families, work places and community.
The oppression of tradition and culture can be extremely subtle. Therefore, all the more reason to expose and put them in their place so we can grow. We will see change if we are prepared to become like new converts, eager to be filled with the pure Word of God. Not relying on old manna from the past that has no more nourishment in it, or our testimony from 20 years ago. Not even relying on our past experiences of God or church. God has promised to do a new thing! How much do we trust God to partner with Him and see it?
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)
Looking Through Fresh Eyes of Faith to See the New
In our old mind sets ruled by culture and tradition we will not perceive the new thing God is doing. However we try to generate or create the new, only with eyes of faith will we see it clearly. When we can see the new thing is actually here we can trust God to be able to walk in it.
This is a time and season of becoming fresh new wineskins so we can carry what God is freely pouring out to His people. Therefore, don’t miss what the Lord is doing in this season. Don’t let old points of tradition and religion be a comfort blanket. It might hurt, but it’s time to throw the comfort blanket away! The Bible tells us ALL things are become new.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Declutter and Clear Out – No Tacking Onto Old Junk
Sadly, a lot of us as Christians have missed the simple fact that Jesus came to bring us something completely new. Ultimately, this new thing does away with stale, old, empty religion. Jesus and the message of the Kingdom isn’t something to be simply added on to the old lifestyle habits and mindsets, like a new patch on an old garment.
So, let’s not miss the fact that we are living in exciting times where we are seeing prophecy being fulfilled. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt.” (Amos 9:13 KJV)
In conclusion, God is doing a brand new thing in 2019. He is calling His bride to be ready, real, clean, and uncluttered. He is also calling us to make room. Time to “chuck the junk”! Be prepared! There’s going to be some shaking and unravelling of things in this season, because God is making all things new!