Browsing Tag

Holy Spirit

Christian Life, Commentary, Faith

Don’t buy from the fear mongers

December 12, 2016

 

 

Monger: : broker, dealer —usually used in combination
2 : a person who attempts to stir up or spread something that is usually petty or discreditable —usually used in combination

 

When Kelly and I became parents it was incredibly to me how many people seemed intent on selling us on being afraid of anything and everything that could happen to our son Micah. I expected it from advertisements, but the most strident fear-mongering came solid, faithful Christians. The offers to buy into fear were myriad; you should keep the baby’s room warm so they don’t freeze. You should keep the baby’s room cool or else they’ll die of SIDS. You need to talk to your baby constantly or else they’ll never learn to speak. Along with constant offers of immediate worries, most of them involving Micah’s immanent death, there were plenty of people offering long term worries about how our freedom was over, how we wouldn’t get any sleep, how we needed to set aside all sorts of money to pay for our kid’s needs and the like.

Fear mongering seems to be a sport for many people, sadly including Christians. It doesn’t matter what stage of life you’re in, there will inevitably be people trying to sell their fears to you. Whether it’s college students bemoaning the terribleness of finals, co-workers selling fear about the lack of competency of their manager, or advertisers selling fear about your health and good looks, the pressure to purchase fear is immense.

But, brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t buy it. Fear is a garment that doesn’t fit the Jesus in you.

Not a spirit of Fear

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
– 2 Timothy 1:7

If you’re a follower of Jesus you have the Holy Spirit living in you – the Spirit of Christ – and, as Paul writes to Timothy in the verse above, that Spirit is one that fear doesn’t fit on. Fear and it’s accompanying anxiety and worry may have fit the old you in your childish days before Jesus, but since you’ve been born again and grown in Christ fear is several sizes too small. Buying it from someone else would be a silly choice, regardless of how convincing the salesperson is. If you do buy that fear and squirm your way into it it will squeeze the life out of you and drag your days out in long discomfort.

My friends, the Holy Spirit is diametrically opposed to the kind of worry, fear, and anxiety that the people around you are trying to sell. The Spirit that God has given us replaces that fear with power, love, and soundness of mind.

A spirit of power

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

  • Joshua 1:9

Almost all of our fear, anxiety, and worry flows from attempting to be in control and failing. We worry about our kids because we can’t control them or their environment. We worry about our future because we can’t make it go the way we planned. We fear taking risks because we can’t control the outcomes.

For the Christian that fear and worry has been replaced with a Spirit of power. The follower of Jesus has a real, fear-destroying power. It’s not the controlling power that the world and our flesh wants to make us feel secure – it’s the power to entrust ourselves completely to an all-powerful King. It’s the power of faith – the power that enabled Joshua to conquer Jericho, Jesus to face the cross, Paul to speak confidently before Roman rulers, and for thousands of Christians to face martyrdom with smiles of joy.

When you know that the one who is infinitely powerful and can reshape reality at his whim is for you, buying what the fear-mongers are selling seems downright foolish.

A spirit of love

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
– 1 John 4:18

Along with power, the Holy Spirit is also a Spirit of love. Some of the most appealing fears that are offered to us by the world regard those who we love. We’re sold fear for our aging parents, for our adventurous children, for our spouses. They may die. They may get hurt, physically or emotionally or otherwise.

John writes in his epistle that true love casts out fear. That means that if we truly love someone fear won’t be what shapes our relationship. Love isn’t an excuse for fear. When God places in you his Spirit of love you outgrow the fears for those you care for because you discover that He – the good and powerful God – loves them even more than you do and He’s not out to punish them.

A sound mind

“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”

  • John 14:27

Fear causes us to think irrationally and make foolish decisions. When we buy into the fear that those around us offer we’ll inevitably do dumb things. We’ll lay awake late into the night worrying about tomorrow, we’ll be harsh towards people we care about, we’ll use anger as a weapon to defend ourselves from what we’re afraid of, and dozens of other things that we wouldn’t do if we had a sound mind.

Instead of wild-mindedness that flows from fear, the Spirit of Jesus gives us peace that overrides any worry. A peace enables us to walk with a sound mind, making decisions with the clarity of faith. We don’t do worry, because it just doesn’t fit us anymore. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Today you’ll encounter dozens of people who try to sell you on being afraid. Don’t buy anything from the fear mongers. When you feel worry, anxiety, and fear rising up, pause and ask the Holy Spirit what he has for you. What is his power for you? What is the love he has given you? How does the sound, peaceable mind that is yours in the Spirit asses the situation? Buy what He’s selling. I promise that it will fit you beautifully.

 

 

Christian Life, Spiritual Growth

Letting the Spirit Teach

March 21, 2016

 

 

When was the last time that a spiritual leader said to you that you didn’t need someone to teach you? Can you remember a time where you showed up at church and the pastor said he wasn’t going to preach because the congregation had what they needed already? How about getting a letter from one of the Apostles saying that you had the ability to know what you needed to know as a follower of Jesus?

It sounds strange, unorthodox, and perhaps even heretical in light of our Christian system that is built on the assumption that additional knowledge means additional growth. The problem is, Jesus generally goes out of his way to knock systems aside and reveal to people something they’ve been blinded to.

Something along those lines happens in 1 John when the Apostle, inspired by the Spirit, writes,

“But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.”
1 John 2:26-28

“You have no need that anyone should teach you….his anointing teaches you about everything” is quite the statement, one that we need to wrestle with. Have we bought into a system that’s blinded us to the massive power of the Holy Spirit to lead and teach God’s people? Could it be that there actually is an anointing from the Father that “teaches you about everything”?

Defining the Anointing

John isn’t espousing some new idea in his letter to the early Christian churches. He’s simply reiterating what Jesus had said to him and the other Apostles years earlier before his crucifixion;

“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” – John 14:25-26

The Holy Spirit is the anointing that John is referring to, and apparently he – and Jesus – have an expectation that the Holy Spirit will impart to those who he abides in a knowledge of the truth about “everything,” “all things,” and “all that I have said to you.”

My solidly evangelical, reformed-leaning background balks at the idea that any and every Christian would have some sort of internal teacher. Isn’t that risky? Doesn’t it lead to people going off the deep end into strange theologies and wild conjectures. Perhaps. But that doesn’t mean that we can simply ignore the words of John and Jesus.

Too many people live a “second-handed” Christianity – a Christianity that is defined by what they receive from their pastor, the book they read most recently, or what they’ve heard on the radio. The vast majority of Christians are running on the fumes of their spiritual leader’s encounters with God rather than their own. How much more powerful to be people who have indeed heard from God, been taught of him, and are obeying him. Which has more power, the word of man or the word of God?

The Apostle Paul is a man who exemplifies this kind of personal encounter and the drive that results from it. The Gospel he believed wasn’t one that he heard from other people – he explicitly states, “I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:11-17) This encounter, this being taught by Christ through the Holy Spirit, drove Paul throughout the known world with the Gospel. Oh how we would be blessed by more men and women like him!

You have no need that anyone should teach

Clearly John and Jesus don’t mean for us to do away with all teaching and instruction. John’s letter is in itself teaching, and Jesus devoted countless hours to teaching his disciples. However, we ought to be very wary of setting up systems that teach God’s people to depend on pastors and preachers and “professional” Jesus followers instead of pointing them directly to Christ, and through him, the Father.

We need to teach people to go to God and his word on their own, to tune into the Holy Spirit, and be taught by the Spirit of truth. We need to equip disciples to encounter God in the Scriptures, to discern and apply the truth to their lives without a middleman. Rather than defaulting to our own, safe, easily manageable teaching, let’s release God’s people to be truly “taught of God” (John 6:45).

Jesus is the leader of his people, not us. The Holy Spirit is the Teacher, pastors and preachers are simply instruments in his hands. As Neil Cole writes:

We are not to strive to get our teaching into the saints, but to equip them to use the deposit already in them to teach others. This is a radical change in approach for those who lead.

Church leadership must shift from trying to put good stuff into Christians and start releasing the God-stuff already within. That is a complete 180º turn for most in church ministry. The deposit is already made and the treasure is within, sealed with a pledge that cannot be broken (2 Tim 1:14; Eph 1:13-14). Christ in you is the hope of glory…and nothing else is (Col 1:27). Our role as leaders is not to try and add anything to it in some egotistic way as if we have anything that deserves to be in the same conversation. Imagine telling people that they have the powerful, continual, presence of the Spirit of Christ within them, and if they just add my teaching or read my book they can be used by God. Sounds awful doesn’t it. Because it is. Our role is to help people realize what they already have and walk in that power rather than try and put anything within them. All leadership, speaking, books and methods should be about that.

Maturity in Christ is about discovering who you are in Christ, rather than trying to become something that you are not. Equippers have a single role, help people discover what it means to be connected to the Head and to serve Jesus.

– Neil Cole

 

 

Christian Life, Commentary, Discipleship

The Voice of God

June 29, 2015

A disciple-maker’s greatest task is to help the people they are discipling hear God’s voice and do what He says. The goal isn’t to fill people with exhaustive knowledge of the Bible or get them to lead a city-impacting ministry. It’s to bring them into a space where they can encounter God and get to know him on a level where they are able to discern His voice and obey His commands.

Samuel was one of the great men of the history of Israel as both judge and prophet, one of the few that remained faithful throughout his whole life. God anointed David as king through Samuel’s ministry, restored Israel to worshiping the true God, and judged the nation. None of those things would have taken place if it hadn’t been for the instruction he received in his childhood that helped him discern the voice of God.

In 1 Samuel 3, Samuel, still a boy, lies down to sleep in his usual place in the temple. As he’s lying there a voice calls his name. Thinking it’s Eli, his master, he runs to Eli and asks what he wants. Eli tells Samuel to go lay back down – he didn’t call him.

The voice calls a second time, and Samuel again runs to Eli to ask what it was that he wanted. Eli sends him back to bed. Then it happens a third time, and Eli realizes something bigger is going on. “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” (1 Sam. 3:7)

It’s not until Eli tells Samuel that it’s the Lord calling him that Samuel is able to identify God’s voice. Samuel listens to Eli and believes him. The next time he hears the voice he responds by saying, “Speak, for your servant is listening,” and the Lord declares the first of many prophecies to Samuel.

This incident is the launching pad for Samuel’s ministry. Eli’s brief instruction apparently reveals the word of the Lord to Samuel and enables him to discern God’s leading for his life – a leading that shapes the course of Israel and ultimately leads to the messianic line being established.

Teach the people who you are discipling to discern God’s voice and obey; his voice both in the written word and the word that he so often speaks to us through the Holy Spirit on a day-to-day basis. As we and those we are discipling learn to hear, discern, and obey, we will encounter God in massive new ways that will radically shape our future and the futures of the people around us.

The goal of discipleship isn’t to get people to do what you want them to do or be who you think they should be. It’s to empower and release them to do what God has called them to do. Let’s be that kind of disciple maker.

Christian Life, Journal

Five Things I Want in 2014

January 4, 2014

We’re four days into a new year. Looking out over the foggy landscape of the days and months to come I believe that God has bigger plans than ever for each of us. We can’t know what exactly will come. God in his sovereignty has determined that we humans would have no control over the future, yet at the same time he has called us to look forward with hope and expectant faith. Here are five things that Kelly and I are praying expectantly for and working towards in 2014.

  1. Threshingfloor multiplying to 3 communities. Sometime around the middle of last year we transitioned from 2 communities back to one as our friend Stephen left for the amazing opportunity to work with New Hope Uganda. Rather than being a setback we believe that it was something that moved us forward as a family of believers. But from the beginning the goal of Threshingfloor has been to develop a network of discipling communities, which means we don’t want to just grow a few really big groups of believers. Instead we want to see disciples matured to the point of leadership and sent out to launch new communities and reach new fields with the Gospel. We’re praying for, planning for, and working towards growing from 1 community to 3 in 2014.
  2. Grow in the Holy Spirit. I’ve mentioned this before in other posts. I believe that, simply because of omissions in what we learned and experienced growing up, many believers have lost (or never had) the awe and wonder of the immanence of God’s power and presence in the Christian’s life. The supernatural is something for scripture and the distant future rather than our day-to-day life.

    As our culture moves further and further from its Christian roots the supernatural is becoming an increasingly critical tool for bearing witness to the truth of the Christian faith. Kelly and I are planning on devoting specific time to learning from people who have more experience and understanding in the things of the Spirit, studying the Word with careful attention to spiritual gifts and the Spirit’s role in the believer’s life, and prayerfully pursuing more. We’re starting with Terry Virgo’s book The Spirit Filled Church.

  3. Live like my work is a mission field. As I mentioned in a post a few months ago I’ve started working full time and posted an update not long ago. It’s been harder than I expected to step out of the mindset (that I didn’t think I had!) of an 8-5 job being less ministry than “ministry” events. There’s been a serious tension in my life because I’ve felt like I’m wasting time doing the work that I’m being paid to do when my passion is to be making disciples. This, I believe, is a fleshly division. For the last couple weeks I’ve been saying to myself “I’m heading to the mission field” rather that “I’m heading to work.” It’s helped, but I want 2014 to be a year where the divide between “everyday life” and ministry is torn down. Jesus owns it all and if he’s sent me to work it’s because he has a kingdom mission for me there.
  4. A trip to Sri Lanka. Kelly and I, along with a few awesome friends of ours, have been talking for well over a year about taking an extended trip to Sri Lanka and India. It will be both a vacation and a chance to experience what God is doing across the world as we engage with local churches and believers. We’re planning and saving money and, Lord willing, we’ll leave for at least a few weeks sometime near the end of the year. I’m pretty pumped.
  5. A sustainable schedule. The end of 2013 was wild in its busyness. Kelly and I hardly got to see each other between work, school, and ministry. As we move further into this new year we’re planning on honoring the limitations that the Lord has given us as humans and leveraging our weakness. Part of this means that we’ll be cutting back in areas so that we have a sustainable schedule of life. There are times where long nights and busy seasons are God’s plan, but to be doing Kingdom work for the next 55 years requires a sustainable pace. We’re planning on starting that now so that we can still be rejoicing in the Lord and making disciples when we hit 75.

Those are five things I’m looking forward to in 2014. How about you? What has God put on your heart as a vision for the new year?

Book Highlights, Quotations

Quotes: Mike Breen – Leading Kingdom Movements

September 24, 2013

I recently finished reading Mike Breen‘s book Leading Kingdom Movements. I can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone who has a passion for seeing Jesus do amazing things in and through them. Check out the 3DM store to buy a copy of the book. You won’t regret it.

Below are some of my highlights from the book. May they inspire and help you in your kingdom work.

—————————————

“Follow Jesus. And then teach others how to follow Jesus. He’s the compass we can all follow.”

—-

“Kingdom movement is a community that functions as a portal to the new world that God wants for all his children. Put another way, a Kingdom movement is a community of disciples who passionately seek the expansion of God’s reign here on earth through the reproduction of disciples, seeking the transformation of the places they inhabit.”

—-

“The more time I spent listening to God, and the more time I spent asking him to show me where he was already at work, the more spiritual breakthrough I saw in my life and in the life of our community. The closer I was to God, the more breakthrough I saw. It was absolutely amazing. By simply paying more attention to where God’s Kingdom was already breaking in, and by resting in him, I spent far less energy and produced far more fruit.”

—-

“Things like Missional Communities are a fantastic vehicle for mission. They really are. But without the embracing of the Holy Spirit, it’s just another thing you’re doing on your own.”

—-

“The Father’s gift to you is Kingdom breakthrough. It’s not yours; it’s his.”

—-

“Living in faith and grace needs to be the warp and weft of your life. Leaders create culture. If you want a culture that looks for the grace in Battle and responds to Frustration with faith, you have to model that for them.”

—-

“Movement leaders won’t care if their salary is coming from a church or somewhere else. Why? Because of two words that I think define Kingdom movement leaders above and beyond leaders of Christian institutions: disciplined and entrepreneurial.”

—-

“The higher the challenge, and the more difficult your purpose on the missional frontier, the more you need time playing together. Movies. Dinners. Baseball games. Times to laugh, enjoy each other, and just be team apart from any higher purpose you have.”

—-

“What Jesus tells us over and over again is to follow the fruit. Ruthlessly find the places where there is fruit (and as we just covered, when Jesus refers to fruit, he means disciples) and put every ounce of yourself in going after it. Having a big tree doesn’t necessarily mean lots of disciples.”

—-

“We need to be disciples before we become a missionary. You simply can’t be a missionary if you’re not a disciple, first and foremost. It’s impossible. But the natural outgrowth for any disciple of Jesus is the life of a missionary.”

—-

“I believe the miraculous will happen if you depend on the miraculous power of God, embrace your weakness, and say, “The cracks of my life are the places where the power of God is able to seep through.”

—-

“Massive conferences with amazing, charismatic leaders aren’t sustainable or scalable.64 History has shown us this time and time again. On the other hand, having people who know how to invest their lives in others, people who disciple others to disciple others, and who create lightweight and low maintenance vehicles for discipleship and mission have always been the principal way the Holy Spirit has created movemental change.”

—-

“I cannot say it long enough or loud enough: You must lead from your own brokenness so that, as the Lord achieves breakthrough in your life and those you are close to, he will use the overflow of that in the wider community.”

 

Christian Life, Commentary, Theology

New Wine

September 5, 2011

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”

Mark 2:18-22

 

I’ve pondered this passage of scripture several times in the past, especially the logical connection between verses 19-20 and 21-22. How does Jesus make the jump from bridegrooms and fasting to old clothes and wineskins versus new? At the first (or in my case fourth and fifth) glance there doesn’t seem to be much to connect the two. Maybe Jesus was just really scatter-brained and random, or perhaps he was looking to throw the Pharisees off his track by distracting oratorical techniques. However, after a bit of prayer and meditation on this passage this morning, I think I see some of the connection here.

In verse 20 Jesus speaks of the bridegroom leaving and the followers fasting. The thought of him leaving earth, I believe, is a train of thought which he continues on and begins to speak about will happen after he has ascended. And what does the Savior tell his disciples will happen after he has left? That he would send them what the Father had promised, saying, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49).

This leads him to speak verses 21-22;

No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.

In doing so he gives an analogy of the renewal and new life of all who recieve the Spirit. Just as new wine cannot be poured into old wine skins for fear of them bursting, so the newness of the Spirit of God cannot be poured into the old, earthly container of the fallen, fleshly man. God will only pour “new wine into new wineskins.” And we can trust that the new wine from God will be much sweeter than the old, earthly drinks we attempt to satisfy ourselves with. (John 2:8-10)

As Romans 7:6 says, “we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” Because as Mark 2:21 declares, the new clothing, the “garments of salvation” (Isaiah 61:10), will not stick hold to the old letter of the law. No, it must be a completely new garment that we are covered with.

Again, it is not be the letter of the law that a man is saved. It is through a man’s death in Christ and his renewal and rebirth as a new wineskin; as a man with a new arrayal of clothing, that he is saved. The Spirit is a seal and an assurance of our salvation, filling us with the wine of the blood of Christ that is pleasing to God.

I exhort you, brothers and sisters, to seek such newness. If you now attempt to yet live through the word of the law, cease your striving! It is “not by works, so that no man can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-10). Instead, embrace the casting away of the old garments and old wineskins. Join with Christ through faith in His death and take upon yourself a new life, thereby allowing God to fill you with the new wine of the Spirit.

What a glorious thing that God has done! We have been saved and made new, as is testified by the prophets, the apostles, and even Christ Himself. Revel at that though and rejoice, my friends, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls, and it is a salvation that is much more glorious than anything that the old man, the old wine, could offer!

Poetry, Spiritual, Theology

God Like

January 23, 2011

Like fire rushing in.
Like wonder, like starlight
Like marrow in my bones
Come, Lord Jesus
Come.

Like power, like thunder
rolling through the earth.
With hunger, with feasting
We await you at your cross
We beg for the second coming;
For the first coming of your grace.

Like moving, like creating,
Like a river shaping stone.
Like flying, like falling
Come, Our Father
Love.

Like passion, like a sky opening
and the heavens being real.
With faithfulness, with pleading
We wait for your gates to open;
To reveal the kingdom come.

Like growing, like living,
Like bearing richest fruit.
Like awaking, like resting
Like a new soul being birthed.
Move, Holy Spirit,
Move.

Like water, like tongues of fire,
causing men to sing.
For salvation, for the redemption of the world
We run to every nation
We bow ourselves before your throne.

Like water, like mountain,
Like fire rushing in.
Like wonder, like starlight
Like marrow in my bones
Come, Lord Jesus
Come.

Isaiah 64:1- 3, Ezekiel 36:25-29, Acts 2:1-13

Poetry, Spiritual

Spring Cleaning

December 9, 2010

Curtains hung over the bedroom doors
drying for summer
and smelling of Lysol,
brushed by a half-spring breeze
whisked in through open windows
along with three laughing voices
playing in the dirty melting snow
and splashing in the puddles.

Splashing, till mother notices with a scolding voice
and calls them to the bathroom
to fill a tub with foaming bubbles,
for a warmer, cleaner playing
where they sit and splash as mother works
to scrub, dust, and vacuum,
preparing home for father’s return.

Much like you, oh gentle Spirit
clean me from my staining
to make me a ready home
for full and final salvation
with my heart, body, and soul
all dressed in summer glory
for their soon-coming Savior.

Prose

My Comfort In Distress

July 26, 2009

“I am in distress and I want consolation. Some passer-by hears of my sorrow, and he steps within, sits down, and essays to cheer me; he speaks soothing words, but he loves me not; he is a stranger; he knows me not at all; he has only come in to try his skill. And what is the consequence? His words run o’er me like oil upon a slab of marble; they are like the pattering of rain upon the rock; they do not break my grief; it stands unmoved and adamant, because he has no love for me. But let someone who loves me as dear as his own life come and plead with me, then truly his words are music; they taste like honey; he know the password of the doors of my heart, and my ear is attentive to every word: I catch the intonation of each syllable as it falls, for it is like the harmony of the harps of heaven. Oh! There is a voice in love, it speaks a language which is its own; it has an idiom and a brogue which none can mimic; wisdom cannot imitate it; oratory cannot attain unto it; it is love alone which can reach the mourning heart love is the only hand-kerchief which can wipe the mourner’s tears away. And is not the Holy Ghost a loving comforter? Dost thou know, O saint, how much the Holy Spirit loves thee? Canst thou measure the love of the Spirit?”
– Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeons Sermons, Vol. I, Sermon III

Last night I wrote of how my conversation with my man Justin had such a great impact on my mood and outlook, and here this afternoon I read these words from Spurgeon that so eloquently explain the reason why it is so. Spurgeon here is talking specifically about the Holy Spirit and His part as our comforter, a role which we so often and easily forget. And how much we need a comforter in this life! From within and without there is war against us; David and the other Psalmist’s mourning about how all other men, even their friends and family, seeming to be against them is simply a part of this life. Would not all our hearts have resounded with the words of Psalm 55 when David writes, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would flee away and be at rest – I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.”

There is much that conspires against us. In my own life perhaps the greatest frustration is my own shortcomings and failings. “What a wretched man I am!” is often my cry, and a true one it is. What a wretched man it is that turns from his Savior and King time and time again, knowing full well that what he turns to will bring no lasting satisfaction. How blind! How weak! How foolish to turn from the one whom I love and trade His sweetness for the false candy-coating of earthly, sinful pleasures!

And yet it is as I mourn and struggle in this life; as I and wounded by those around my and as I am frustrated by the futility caused by the curse; as I look within myself and am confounded by the sin within myself and my own shortcomings; in all of these things the Holy Spirit is there, closer and more gentle than any human companion. He knows our every breath, thought, and emotion, and moves with the infallibility of God Himself – for He is God – to bind and heal every wound, removing that which must be removed, repairing what must be repaired, and adding what must be added.

What an amazing thing to think that the Lord of heaven and earth has chosen to be so close to us, to be ever present to meet our needs. If only we could but grasp this massiveness of this truth, we would know neither fear nor shame, and would be swept away in that “peace which transcends all understanding” as a kite is caught up on a steady, never ending breeze. Listen, friends; listen to the Spirit as He speaks to you! As I wrote last night, be ready and willing to turn to those who God has placed in your life, but be even more adamant in your attention to the Spirit. He knows you and loves you, and as Christ promised, the Spirit is the comforter of our souls; the one who bears us up in all afflictions. Cast yourself upon Him in all things and you will not be disappointed.

Prose

New Wine (Mark 2:18-22)

March 1, 2009

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wine skins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.”

Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.

– Mark 2:18-22

I’ve pondered this passage of scripture several times in the past, especially the logical connection between verses 19-20 and 21-22. How does Jesus make the jump from bridegrooms and fasting to old versus new clothes and wine skins? At the first (or in my case even fourth and fifth) glance there doesn’t seem to be much to bring the two together at all.

Maybe Jesus was just really scatter-brained and random. But after the thought I believe God placed in my mind this morning, I think not. I think I understand the connection between these two glorious paragraphs, and so will attempt to lay them out for myself and for anyone who would read.

In verse 20 Jesus speaks of the bridegroom leaving and the followers then fasting. The thought of him leaving earth, I believe, is a thought that he follows on to what will happen after he has ascended. And what does the Savior tell his disciples will happen after he has left? That he would send them what the Father had promised, saying, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49).

This train of thought leads him to speak verses 21-22;

No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.

and in doing so gives an analogy of the renewal and new life of all who have the Spirit. Just as new wine cannot be poured into old wine skins for fear of them bursting, so the newness of the Spirit of God cannot be poured into the old, earthly container of the fallen, fleshly man. God will only pour “new wine into new wineskins.” And we can trust that the new wine from God will be greatly sweeter than the old, earthly drinks we attempt to satisfy ourselves with. (John 2:8-10)

As Romans 7:6 says, “we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” Because as Mark 2:21 declares, the new clothing, the “garments of salvation” (Isaiah 61:10), will not stick upon the old from of the letter of the law. No, it must be a completely new garment that we are covered with.

Again, it is not by the letter of the law – by works – that a man is saved. It is through a man’s death in Christ and his renewal and rebirth as a new wineskin; as a man with a new arrayal of clothing, that he is saved. The Spirit is a seal and an assurance of our salvation, it fills us with the wine of the blood of Christ that is pleasing to God, giving the small and unappealing wineskins that we are worth in God’s eyes.

So I exhort you, brothers and sisters, to seek such newness. If you now attempt to yet live through the word of the law, cease your striving! It is “not by works, so that no man can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-10). Instead, embrace the casting away of the old garments and old wineskins. Join with Christ through faith in His death and take upon yourself a new life, thereby allowing God to fill you with the new wine of the Spirit.

What a glorious thing that God has done! We have been saved and made new, as is testified by the prophets, the apostles, and even Christ Himself. Revel at that though and rejoice, my friends, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls! (1 Peter 1:9)