New Wineskins Part 3

Here is a look at the wineskin we need to embrace regarding how we see others if we are to walk like and with Jesus. In Luke 10:30-37 in response to a lawyer’s question Jesus shares the story of the Good Samaritan. The dialogue concludes with Jesus question and both of their responses.

36  “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” 37  And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:36-37 (NKJV)

While the conclusion is that those in need are our neighbours, the story highlights different wineskins. We have the perspective of the thieves, the priest, the Levite and the Samaritan. The wineskin of the thieves was that they were free to take advantage of others to gain what they desired. Now we may not rob and beat people to steal from them but if we seek to take advantage of the vulnerability of others we may have unconsciously embraced this wineskin.

The priest and Levite (for a distinction, all priests were required to be Levites, not all Levites were priests, some had other duties). Their wineskin said they were not to get involved with those who could make them unclean. They may have thought the man was dead, we don’t know. What we do know is they crossed the road to avoid getting too close. They were experts in the law and knew they were to care for their neighbour (Lev. 19:18) but either ignored the Law or chose to not see the injured man as their neighbour. When seeing those in need makes us uncomfortable and leads to avoid getting involved perhaps we are not actually loving our neighbour.

Lastly we have the Samaritan. The Samaritans were a mixture of Jewish and other races and were despised by the Jewish community for their mixture and the two groups disagreed over who to worship. Jesus uses someone rejected by the lawyer to show a right heart. The Samaritan not only gets very personally involved he, like Jesus, bears the cost and inconvenience of getting involved. If we see those in need as our neighbours then we have embraced the wineskin of the kingdom, thinking and acting like Jesus.

In summary, here are the different wineskins Jesus presents. The thieves, take advantage. The priest and Levite, don’t get involved and don’t become defiled. The Samaritan, help those in need 

Let’s walk with Jesus.

New Wineskins Part 2

Here we are continuing with looking at how Jesus sought to reshape thinking to create a new wineskin. To do that we need to look at what He taught in the gospels. Below is one example.

23  Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?” 24  But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: 25  The baptism of John – where was it from? From heaven or from men?” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26  But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” 27  So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.” And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” Matthew 21:23-27 (NKJV)

In the above passage on the surface it seems like Jesus was looking for a way to avoid answering their question by saying they had to answer His question first. In fact Jesus question was a challenge to get them to reflect on how they viewed Him and how they understood the source of spiritual authority. They demanded to know the source of His authority because they drew their authority from the tradition of Moses, which Jesus affirmed (Matt. 23:1-3) and Abraham, the father of faith (Jn. 8:37-39). Yet the answer to Jesus question was also the answer to their question.

If we look back at Jesus baptism by John we know from the scriptures that John the Baptist was the prophesied figure who came in the spirit and power of Elijah to prepare the way of the Lord (Matt. 11:7-15). Jesus makes a very interesting statement about John.

13  “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14  And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15  He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Matthew 11:13-15 (NKJV)

Jesus was talking about a transition to a new era and John was the prophetic voice declaring and bringing it about. When we look at Jesus baptism by John we have another interesting statement by Jesus in the verses below.

13  Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14  And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” 15  But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. Matthew 3:13-15 (NKJV)

The fulfilling of all righteousness was Jesus submission to the prophetic authority on John to release a new era in the spirit. Jesus said John was the last of a long line of prophetic voices. In essence, had the religious leaders correctly responded to Jesus question about John’s baptism they could have gone through a shift in thinking and recognized that Jesus derived His authority from submitting to the authority that John carried, an authority given by the Father who called him. They could have seen that authority wasn’t merely derived from tradition. A new wineskin began to be formed when John emerged from the wilderness with a message.

For us, we can reflect on our understanding of the source of our spiritual authority, how well we are walking in what we have and if, like Jesus, we derive our authority from submitting to a higher authority.

NOTE – I edited and refocused my initial post in this series.

New Wineskins Part 1

Over the decades I have heard a great deal of talk about the need for new wineskins. Yet there has been little accompanying explanation of how they are made and the purpose they serve. I believe we are in a season where we need clear and sound explanations accompanied by spiritual strategies and right actions. 

Jesus introduced us to the concept of new wineskins when He said the following.

21  No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. 22  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.” Mark 2:21-22 (NKJV)

The difference between new and old wineskins is their flexibility. New wine expands and will burst hard inflexible wineskins. I’m not sure how many of us see that in the three and a half years that Jesus walked with His followers teaching about and demonstrating the kingdom of God He was forming a new wineskin to hold the wine that was to be poured out on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).

A concept I have come across over the years is the idea of plausibility structures, presented here by professor and philosopher J. P. Moreland, a committed evangelical, “The lesson here is that culture, which has a set of background assumptions – or, a plausibility structure – set a framework for what people think, which affects how they are willing to listen, evaluate, feel, and behave. The framework shapes what people consider plausible or implausible.” I believe plausibility structures are akin to wineskins. They are a filter or way of viewing the world that determines what we accept or reject. We tend to think with rather than about our wineskins while they sit in the background influencing our thoughts and actions.

I see in Jesus life that He spent His ministry time here teaching, demonstrating and sharing parables that were designed to help people actually look at how they viewed the world and what they believed was or was not possible. Jesus demonstrated over and over that many things people thought implausible were in fact not only plausible, they could happen right in front of them – healings, the dead being raised, the religious leaders being silenced. Jesus released hope for something new and better, a kingdom that cared about and ministered to people. He publicly declared His kingdom charter when He began His ministry.

18  “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19  To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” Luke 4:18-19 (NKJV)

This kingdom charter was a new wineskin that embodied freedom and hope because the kingdom of God had drawn near. In our lives let’s allow Jesus to help us take a look at the wineskins that are guiding our thinking, what we think is plausible or implausible. We can start by reflecting on whether we have a wineskin that is alive with hope, expectation and confidence in Jesus.

I leave you with those thoughts for now – more to come as we seek new wineskins and new wine.  

Vision?

Recently lying in a tent in the back country listening to the rain I was reflecting on Proverbs 29:18. The old King James is likely familiar to people from the oft repeated quote, “Where there is no vision the people perish.” It is applied by business people and self help gurus alike. Yet the latter half of the verse receives short shrift. Here is the whole verse.

18  Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law. Proverbs 29:18 (NKJV)

To properly understand and apply the first half we need to embrace the second half. The first half tells us that the lack of something leads to a casting off of restraint, a loss. We find in the second half of the verse that the thing lost is an understanding of the law, in this case the Mosaic Law. The law was given to guide proper behaviour and as a restraint on wrong behaviour. The implication is that it isn’t about the need for vision or revelation in general. It is a need for a revelation of the role of the law in our lives.

The English Standard Version translates the first phrase as “Where there is no prophetic vision.” While the word ‘prophetic’ is added for clarity it is implied in the context. The role of the prophets in the Old Testament was primarily calling the people back to obedience to the law.  

So, given this let’s apply it to our lives. In our natural lives one of the roles of parents and other authority figures is to provide external controls in the lives of children. As they grow and mature children develop greater internal control and so need less external control. As believers we start out as spiritual children and are supposed to mature and grow (see 1 Jn. 2 for examples of the stages of spiritual growth). 

The implication from Proverbs 29:18 is that in our growth we need to learn to adhere to the principles of scripture by knowing His word and as we mature we develop a greater sensitivity to His internal leading and less reliance on knowing the ‘right’ thing to do in different situations. The learning of the principles is the fruit of disciplined time spent in His word and meaningful fellowship with more mature believers.

In the church at present we have many varied and conflicting beliefs. One movement gaining many adherents is ‘progressive’ Christianity, which when examined isn’t Christianity at all. Below are the first two of the eight points from progressivechristianity.org, updated for 2020.

1. Believe that following the path of the teacher Jesus can lead to healing and wholeness, a mystical connection to “God,” as well as an awareness and experience of not only the Sacred, but the Oneness and Unity of all life;

2. Affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience “God,” the Sacredness, Oneness and Unity of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom, including Earth, in our spiritual journey;

Notice that Jesus is just a good ‘teacher’ and one of many ways to God. This movement has made great inroads in the evangelical church because of our lack of knowledge of and understanding of scripture. There has been a casting off of restraint and a rejection the ‘law,’ the truths of scripture. So, if we are seeking vision or revelation let us seek that which calls and draws us to adherence to the timeless truths of scripture and anchors us in His word and presence.