By its very nature, time takes what is new and makes it old. Subtly and slowly transforming that which was once innovative and demanding attention into something considered status quo and taken for granted. Morphing that which once invoked wonder and clothing it in a malaise of weariness. Translating what once sparked enthusiasm into something served only through endurance. It’s only natural.
But the gospel is supernatural. The salvation which makes all things new need not be subject to the atrophy that comes so often with the passage of time. The wide-eyed wonder of a new way doesn’t have to devolve into a mindless routine of trudging along in an old way.
That’s what I’m chewing on as I think about the perpetual need for fresh wineskins.
“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.'” ~ Jesus
(Luke 5:37-39 ESV)
His enemies were on the attack. They were outraged that Jesus would claim to forgive sins and then heal a paralytic to prove it (5:17-26). They were mortified that He would recline at a banquet table with tax collectors and sinners (5:27-32). And were indignant that His disciples were more inclined to live like they were at a party than behave in the more traditional manner of those who fasted and prayed as if at a wake (5:33). The Pharisees had been drinking the old, aged wine of religion and could not fathom the need or desire for anything else.
But the gospel was never meant to be a new and improved law. Grace never intended to be cut up and used to patch and repurpose the old garments of religion and works (5:36).
In fact, the dynamics of the kingdom proclaimed by Jesus could never be contained within the confines of any system of regulations or traditions achievable by men in their own power. Jesus’s kingdom was a new wine kingdom. New expectations coming out of a new life enabled only through a new power. And trying to contain it within old structures was simply a recipe for failure. New wine must be put into fresh wineskins.
And the thing that occurs to me is that if the One who makes all things new never becomes old Himself, if the kingdom which has come is even now coming and is still yet to come, then the active agency of the kingdom will continue to stretch whatever practices, traditions, and familiar routines we may set around the kingdom. If the new wine is ever new, then it continues to demand fresh wineskins.
I’m getting to that stage where I’m understanding more and more the reality of the difficulty of old dogs being taught new tricks. But I can’t help but think that the gospel demands it. Not that the gospel itself changes, but by its very nature of being living and transforming it can’t be contained by traditions and practices which are inert and inflexible.
The gospel becomes stale to us when we become content with whatever wineskin we last placed it in. When we no longer pant after God’s word. When we no longer expect the Spirit to lead us into all truth through supernatural illumination. When we’re content with our religious routine and aren’t looking to be stretched by the dynamic agency of the new life residing within us.
How I need to be a fresh wineskin.
The new wine of the gospel requires it.
For the dynamics of grace thrive on it, and the glory of God is made manifest through it.