21 “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. 22 “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.”
The placement of this little analogy seems odd. It is stuck between the Pharisees criticizing Jesus for partying with sinners and criticizing Him for picking heads of grain from a field to eat on the Sabbath. Is it a mistake or are we missing the point altogether?
Jesus’ analogy hints at the principle of being “born again,” a phrase which has since become dulled down by repetition and solely a phrase indicating protestant spiritual rebirth into the realm of Christianity. Yet Jesus points out that if we truly are reborn, if we truly decide to answer His call to follow Him, then we cannot remain our old selves. I recently told someone about my “conversion story,” that at the young age of 10 my eyes were opened and I received Christ’s Spirit by acknowledging my need for Him in my life and the necessity of His sacrifice on the cross for my inherent sinfulness. What I was not informed of until my late 20s, however, that I started understanding the principle of “all or nothing” when it comes to our allegiance to Christ as we see in Luke 17:
[quote]30 “It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. 31 “On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back. 32 “Remember Lot’s wife. 33 “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.[/quote]
I know this passage is taken out of a bigger explanation of the end time, but pay attention to what Jesus is saying here. We cannot simply “accept” Jesus to be saved from hell and then go on living our previous lives. I’ve struggled with this principle for years now, trying to understand the significance of following Christ but understanding that our actions do not save us from our condemnation. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book The Cost of Discipleship, really lays out for us that if we truly are saved, our lives will be changed. As Jesus explained in Mark, you cannot live two lives or else the new life will destroy the old. Actually, if we ponder that for a moment, isn’t that what we want? (I might have stumbled upon a double meaning here). Just because we understand our need for Jesus’ blood and our sinful nature and accepting those facts, it doesn’t make us His follower or disciple (which is the point of our conversion in the first place). No, we must make a new decision, based on this information, to actively follow Him and work to conform to His will instead of our own.
Our new lives (new wine/ new patch) tear and pull and destroy our old lives. I’ve actually used that imagery to explain how God “wrecked” my life when I took the decision to follow Him. As Bonhoeffer states, “when Jesus asks a man to ‘come, follow me,’ He bids that man to come and die.” This is the cost of discipleship, dying to yourself and living for Him. This is our original design. In Matthew 6, Jesus is warning against the trap of serving money:
[quote]24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. 25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?[/quote]
Our trust in God and dedicated service to Him results in us being taken care of. If we trust in Him and serve Him fully (ie our original design as humans), then we will have nothing to worry about. Yet, if we still try to serve two masters, our new master/life will tear and pull and burst the old, ending in much more heartache and turmoil than we need to experience. Yet, we learn from those things. That pain teaches us that we should have put the new wine in the new wineskin or instead of trying to patch old jeans with a new cloth we should have invested fully in the new jeans anyway. Notice how the analogy feeds into the lesson of trying to save money? (possible triple meaning?)
The point is that our relationship with God is all or nothing. Until we understand that, we will not be fully committed to our spiritual growth. Much like a relationship with anyone else, if we aren’t fully committed, it will not flourish and we will not witness the glory of a fully matured and developed relationship where both parties fully rely upon and trust one another. This isn’t to say God need to trust and rely upon you, He already knows what you are going to do before you do; He’s already reached the finish line and now He is running back to find you and help you achieve it too. Are you running towards Him?