Tuesday, July 28th, 2009 | Author:

Welcome to the Word for Wednesday meme. You are invited to post a scripture on your blog each week that has current meaning to you, with as much or as little commentary as you choose, and leave a link here in the comments. You never know who God may touch with His Word.

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But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved. (Matthew 9:16-17)

No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results. No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins. (Mark 2:21-22)

And He was also telling them a parable: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’” (Luke 5:36-39)

A couple weeks ago I posted about a question in my heart: Given the apparent paucity of new born-again Christians, has God stopped drawing people in the United States? While I know I don’t have the full answer, I believe the Lord has lead me to a piece of it as I meditated on the above scriptures.

It occurred to me that while Jesus is clearly saying we shouldn’t put new wine in old skins, we can assume that God feels the same way. He isn’t going to pour out His Holy Spirit into old wineskins.

So what are wineskins? Whenever I’ve read these passages, my understanding was that the “new wineskin” was the new birth, which the Holy Spirit could then fill with new wine. Conversely, the Holy Spirit could not fill people who had not been born again. I think that’s still true, but it limits the application, implying that once you’ve been born again and filled with the Holy Spirit, that’s it. These verses then only apply to the unsaved.

But there are several New Testament verses, mostly in Acts, that speak about Christians being filled again and again with the Holy Spirit. In most every case, the infilling occurred just before the Christians were given an opportunity to witness. So perhaps God only fills those who are willing to witness to the glory of Jesus Christ, which is supposed to be our true mission.

Another thing that really struck me is this verse from Luke:

And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new;
for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’

Our churches and our nation have been drinking old wine for a long time. It comes in many different wineskins: reformed, baptist, and pentecostal among them. For the most part, we say ‘the old is good enough.’ We cling to our traditions and our buildings – the old wineskins – and have no desire for new wine. We’re not willing to get new wineskins, which requires change on our part, so we’re stuck with old wine.

We’re comfortable. We know “how to do church” and, like the church at Laodicea in Rev. 3, we say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing” – including the infilling and leading of the Holy Spirit. So perhaps God is viewing our nation as Jesus viewed the church at Laodicea.

Old wineskins generate nothing, as we can see in the many empty church buildings that litter our landscape. Will we continue to cling to the old wineskins of a once rich nation, or give them up for some new wine that generates new life?

To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Revelation 3:14-22)

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4 Responses
  1. Queen of Pith says:

    Awesome post and so true!

    Our church is searching for a pastor right now since our current one is retiring. I knew someone on the search committee and it was just amazing how many stereotypes they used to throw out certain resumes. They want no change in the church.

    The thing is the message doesn't have to change, but people need to get excited for the Lord and not just go to church out of tradition or networking.


  2. Rebecca says:

    So true!!! Great post. I read this passage just this morning, too.

    I don't know if you remember Kathryn Kuhlman (she was before my time but I studied her life and watched her services on videotape), and she said in the 50s and 60s that if the mainstream churches did not repent, God would call others, others not in the churches, but outside of the churches. She basically prophesied the creating of the non-denominational churches.

    It's always been this way, I think. God is always on the move, but people in organizations get so comfy in their organizations.

    Nonetheless, He is moving!! I pray I am worthy to move with the cloud. :)

  3. Jim Wetzel says:

    Very substantial and thoughtful post. I'm still in some doubt about the meaning of the wine/wineskins passages, and the reason may be that I'm not a wine drinker and don't know anything about it, really. I thought, for example, that no one wanted new wine after drinking old because wine improved with aging. But I may well have been mistaken, because that doesn't fit very well with "good enough" … I think that's more apt to your ideas here. Anyway, your post leaves me with lots of food for thought.

    I kind of wish the people of Bible places and times had been beer drinkers, instead of wine. Then I might be getting a few points much, much quicker. :-)

    Oh, here's mine.

  4. akaGaGa says:

    Thanks, Lisa. The last "pastor search" I knew about, they tossed a guy because his sample sermon lasted one hour and 10 minutes. They went with the guy who never goes over twenty minutes. He doesn't preach the Word, but at least he's quick about it.

    Rebecca, I am indeed familiar with Kathryn Kuhlman, and I'm of two minds. I know an older couple who went to several of her meetings, and still revere her. On the other hand, her life generated a lot of controversy and often reflected poorly on our Lord. I guess I probably won't know the truth until all is said and done.

    To your point, I think God moving outside "the church" has indeed always been that way. The Holy Spirit reveals some particular truth to someone … and they create a new doctrine and a new church and abandon the leading of the Holy Spirit. We are indeed creatures of habit. It's SO much easier.

    Jim, I'm not much of a wine drinker, either. Then again, I hate beer, so maybe focusing on the patches for clothing would make more sense.

    As I think about it, though, I do remember someone, somewhere saying that new wine still has to ferment, so perhaps that process is what damages the old wineskin. Or maybe some connoisseur will give us the real skinny.