Some of you may remember my friend Basil!
You may remember how he grew and developed after he was replanted, and given more space to put his roots down. You might also remember how after one night, when he decided to go out for the night, he came back the worse for wear and hasn’t been around for a while!
Well, we serve a God of restoration who loves to pick up fallen people and restore them and give them hope and joy again – if you’ve fallen, after a night on the town, or a one night stand, or whatever it may be, know this, if you repent of your actions and turn back to God, and ask his forgiveness, and seek his help to go the right way in the future, through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, he wants to restore you and give you hope and a future again.
That’s what’s happened for Basil! He has been restored and from being an utter mess, he is growing good and strong again. Now, along the way he’s had to have a good bit of pruning – and that pruning has cleaned him up well and helped him grow stronger – and if we have fallen, and we are short of being the fruitful people Jesus wants us to be, then God might have to do some pruning of us.
Today, in our series, ‘Rooted to Thrive’, we’re going to look at some other metaphors Jesus used to help us understand how we can Thrive.
You may well have heard me and others reference ‘new wineskins’ in the past few months – today we are going to look at one of the scripture passages in which Jesus talks about new wineskins, and we’re going to reflect on what those new wineskins mean for us as a church, and as individuals as part of the body of the church.
Turn with me in your Bibles, or click them open on your devices to Luke 5:33-39. I’m going to read from JB Phillips translation
33 Then people said to him, “Why is it that John’s disciples are always fasting and praying, just like the Pharisees’ disciples, but yours both eat and drink?”
34-35 Jesus answered, “Can you expect wedding-guests to fast while they have the bridegroom with them? The day will come when they will lose the bridegroom; that will be the time for them to fast!”
36 Then he gave them this illustration. “Nobody tears a piece from a new coat to patch up an old one. If he does, he ruins the new one and the new piece does not match the old.
37-39 “Nobody puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins—the wine will be spilt and the skins ruined. No, new wine must be put into new wineskins. Of course, nobody who has been drinking old wine will want the new at once. He is sure to say, ‘The old is a good sound wine.’”
So, are you a party animal, or a faster??!! 😉
Well done to all of you who fasted by whatever means over our 10day fast period! I know that some of you have been really blessed spiritually as you have done so, and have gone deeper with God, known your roots going deeper into Christ and your spiritual life thriving as a result – even if perhaps the side effects of fasting have been a bit of a challenge at times!
Jesus was being dug at by some of the people because they saw disciples of John and followers of the Pharisees fasting – many strict Jews at the time would fast on a Monday and on a Thursday – and here was Jesus, this upstart Rabbi apparently not fasting, and apparently not encouraging his disciples to fast.
Though of course Jesus went on to say:
“Can you expect wedding-guests to fast while they have the bridegroom with them? The day will come when they will lose the bridegroom; that will be the time for them to fast!”
Whether they understood or not, Jesus was saying to the people, and sharing with the people one of the images for the first time, that he was to be the bridegroom in a glorious marriage between Christ and the Church – a marriage which is still to be brought to fulfilment in the glorious inheritance that lies ahead of us in Jesus.
And he said to them, whilst we’re together, we rejoice and we celebrate, but when we’re separated, then the time will come for them to fast! And of course, the time did come, when Jesus was taken, falsely accused, sentenced, and put to death by crucifixion – he did rise to life again – but then 40 days later ascended to heaven.
We have limited records of Jesus’ teaching about fasting – just that he expected that as his disciples, we would, and we wouldn’t do it in an ostentatious way – “The day will come when they will lose the bridegroom; that will be the time for them to fast!”
And of course, when Jesus taught the disciples about prayer in Matthew 6, he said v16 ‘When you fast…..’ Not ‘if you fast’, ‘when you fast’ – he assumed that fasting would be a normal part of the spiritual discipline of his disciples – so if it’s not a part of your normal spiritual discipline, maybe it’s about time you started! And when you do it, don’t make a big thing about it.
‘..when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.’
And I’m sure all who have been fasting will be able to talk of the rewards they have received from their fasting – the closer intimacy with the Lord; the deeper awareness of hearing his voice; and other ways in which the Lord has blessed them.
Want to be rooted deeper into Jesus? Want to thrive? Want this church to thrive? Then enter into prayer and fasting.
Scripture doesn’t set rules for how you should fast and pray – it just says do it!
In real terms though, being practical – fasting means that it will cost you. Fasting means depriving your flesh so that you can feed your spirit.
The most obvious way is by fasting from food for a period of time. It could also be following a Daniel type fast, depriving yourself of meats, sweets and treats for a period of time.
1 Corinthians 7, talking about sexual relationships, says to husbands and wives, v5:
‘Do not deprive each other (of sex) except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.’
There may be other things that feed your fleshly desires, so it may be appropriate to fast from them – they key is though, that it’s not just going without – its replacing that time with spending it with the Lord and seeking him in prayer.
Having responded to the questions about fasting, Jesus then took the opportunity to edge the spiritual and practical conversation on a stage further, with some powerful imagery.
He said, effectively, you’ve got this rough old bit of clothing, why on earth would you take a brand new piece of clothing, ruin it by cutting it up, to sort the old one, only to find it doesn’t match up well, and now you’ve got two poor pieces of clothing!! (I illustrated this by holding up an old, worn, much loved t-shirt, and then a brand new nice shirt – and cut a piece out of it to put on the worn t-shirt)
Now, why on earth did I just go and do that illustration with a brand new t-shirt??!!
Because it’s so easy to read words and not really get the picture!
But you get the picture now!
Jesus uses the imagery of clothing, but then goes to talk about wine and wineskins.
Now, it may not be that easy for us to get this picture because we are used to our wine coming like in the picture above!
But at the time of Jesus wine was stored and matured in skins made from leather, like big pouches. Now when the skin is fresh, it stretches and expands, but when its old, it becomes stiff and doesn’t flex well anymore.
As new wine ferments and develops, stored in old wineskins, the skin can’t stretch so the skin ends up bursting and you have a broken wineskin, and you’ve lost all your precious wine! (Illustrated by pouring out a whole bottle of nice red wine into a washing up bowl)
So, you use new wineskins, made from fresh leather which is supple and able to stretch to be able to contain the new wine as it ferments and develops.
God wants you, and he wants me, and he wants us corporately to have and to be new wineskins that can absorb all that he wants to pour out into us! He is wanting to ferment the wine of his presence in our lives – that’s where pursuing a life of prayer and fasting is key!
In Acts 2, on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out, the disciples had been in prayer for 10 days – scripture doesn’t tell us whether they had been fasting or not, but they’d certainly been waiting for the gift that Jesus had promised the Father would send – the gift of the Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit came upon them in power, he had a similar affect to wine, so that people seeing them said, Acts 2:13 ‘They have had too much wine.’
They were ready to receive all that God had for them – they had flexible new wineskins – and we need to have flexible new wineskins – not the old, so that we can absorb all that God wants to pour out!
We need to have new wineskins at a personal level – a new level of devotion, relationship, walk, obedience with the Lord – but we need to have new wineskins corporately too!
That’s why we’re not jumping back to the old at this time!
Back in February last year Paul Wilcox share the prophetic picture of the book – one chapter being closed – the page turned and a new chapter being opened which hadn’t yet been written – a blank page which was going to be progressively revealed.
Steve Uppal shared this week how he felt God was saying:
‘I’ll give you enough to take the next step, and then when you take it, I’ll give you more.’
God is calling us at this time to walk into the new page, the new chapter that he is writing, but we don’t see the whole chapter ahead to know where we are going, just the next steps.
We have to be obedient to Proverbs 3:5,6
‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will direct your paths.’
We have to submit to him in creating new wineskins so that the new wine being poured out into us can be allowed to ferment and grow – to allow us, like Basil, to be restored, to grow, to develop, to flourish, to see fresh gifts developed and used to build one another up – to see the 5-fold ministry in Ephesians 4 of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher being released, not to do all the work, but to equip the body for works of service!
So as the Government gives us permission to regather for worship, whilst limiting some of the outworking of that for safety reasons (i.e. particularly, no corporate sung worship) we are going to regather as a new wineskin for Thrive at Five
We don’t want to go back to the old wineskin and not be able to encourage the release and development of everyone’s gifts. We want to equip and enable everyone to thrive and for the church to thrive. We believe that this is what the Lord has called us to do – to thrive!
We need to be preparing new wineskins in every way for all that God wants to do, as he writes the next chapter on the blank pages.
As part of that, the potential change for the church as a charitable trust has been on the cards for several years now – at this month’s trustees meeting on the 20th July we will take the decision on whether the trust becomes a CIO – a Charitable Incorporated Organisation or a Charitable Company Limited by Guarantee. And when we form the new charitable trust we will have a new board of trustees which will be half members of the Leadership and half others who can bring their skills to enable the board to fulfil its administrative and accountability role in ensuring we fulfil our Charitable Objectives.
In forming the new charitable organisation or company we will also look to change the name – something that has been on the cards for some years also – prophetically, coming out of our Leadership day in February, leading to our theme of Rooted to Thrive we will look to reflect that in our name, Thrive Church Tamworth.
All of this will of course have to be affirmed by the membership at a church meeting in due time.
But, we need more new wineskins if we are to absorb everything God has for us! The church in Acts 2 went from a congregation not dissimilar to our own to one of over 3000 in a day!
How did they absorb all these new people?
They met together in the big, and they met together in the small.
In the period before Julie and I arrived at the church, the small group, house group structure in the church fell apart leaving just a few effective functioning groups.
During this period of lockdown we rushed to establish ‘connecting groups’, to just try and ensure that people were able to stay in touch with one another, but it’s become apparent that this hasn’t always functioned well, and some have felt isolated, only having any contact with others when they perhaps initiated it. That is not how we are going to be able to absorb, support, disciple, develop and release others as God’s Spirit moves with the new wine that is coming, so we need to be developing new wineskins in terms of our small groups too – so we’ll be coming back to that in coming weeks.
Jesus says we are not to take the new and try and patch it on to the old – it won’t fit and look right on the old and it’ll ruin the new, and all you’ll have is 2 messed up garments which are no good to anybody.
We don’t want to go and try and squeeze or attach the new to the old – so Jesus says we need new wineskins – so as a church we are not to go back to what we were, we are to step into what God calls us to be as he writes down each successive page of the chapter ahead.
At the end of our reading today Jesus says:
Of course, nobody who has been drinking old wine will want the new at once. He is sure to say, ‘The old is a good sound wine.’”
NIV says, ‘The old is better’ The Living Bible, ‘The old ways are best.’ NET Bible ‘The old is good enough.’
Change is always difficult.
The Israelites in the Wilderness on the way to the Promised Land longed to be back in Egypt, but God was calling them on to something better.
There are many of us who would probably love to go back to the good ol’ days, or to go back to ‘how things were’, but God is calling us on; he’s writing a new page, he’s preparing us for all he wants to do and he’s preparing us to Thrive!
Let’s pray, and then let’s sing that song together, something we won’t be able to do initially as we gather.