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Following Jesus Today: The Disruption of Wine and Wineskins

July 19, 2020 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – Luke 5:36-39 (NRSV)

[Jesus] also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and 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 wine, but says, ‘The old is good.’”

Focus

God wants to do a new thing in our lives. Sometimes this new thing involves minor adjustments. Sometimes it means a radical reordering of how we live. When we are willing to surrender what is familiar and comfortable in order to step out in obedience to God, an amazing adventure lies ahead. God will do new things in us and through us for his purposes and glory.

This devotion is part of the series: Following Jesus Today.

Devotion

In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion we examined Jesus’s parable about wine and wineskins. I talked about how the new wine of the gospel challenges us to adopt new wineskins, even though we generally prefer the old wineskins because they are familiar friends. In today’s devotion I’d like to share with you how this passage from Luke, with its teaching on wine and wineskins, disrupted my own life.

In January of 2007 I was the Senior Pastor of a church in Southern California. In that role, I was preaching through the Gospel of Luke. When it was time to preach on Luke 5:36-39, I delivered an unusually passionate sermon in which I challenged my people to be open to the “new wine” of the gospel and the “new wineskins” God might have for their lives. I acknowledged that we tend to prefer the “old wineskins” because they are comfortable. New wineskins, I admitted, can feel pretty scary.

As I preached that sermon, little did I know that God would soon be challenging the wineskins of my life. Through a series of unexpected events, I found myself confronting the possibility of leaving my pastorate in California and taking a new position in a retreat center in Texas. Though I had the highest regard for that retreat center and its people, I found terrifying the thought of leaving behind my old, reliable wineskins in California: my church, friends, extended family, home, and community. My wife shared my feelings and, of course, had a bunch of her own. The scariest part of all for us was removing our children from a great church, a loving family, excellent schools, and wonderful friends, right as they were entering their teenage years. What! Were we crazy to consider the new wineskins in Texas? It took Linda and me several months to figure out what we believed God wanted us to do . . . and what we were willing to do in response.

Irvine Presbyterian in mirror

I took this photo on my last day as pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, as I began my drive to Texas.

In the end, we believed that God wanted us to have new wineskins in Texas. By grace, we were able to trust that God would be in this move with us. So we left California and moved to Texas, where we spent some amazing years filled with more blessings than we had imagined. But there were also many losses for us, things we needed to grieve along the way. It’s almost always like that when it comes to switching out wineskins.

When I look back on how God used Luke 5:36-39 in the life of my family, I feel tremendous gratitude. This passage changed the course of our lives in astounding and marvelous ways. Yet, I confess that I approach Jesus’s teaching about wine and wineskins with trepidation. I know how much power to disrupt my life is present in this parable. Yet, I also know how much new wine God is able to pour into our lives when we’re willing to accept the new wineskins he has for us.

In many ways, it all boils down to trust. If I believe God is calling me to something new, will I trust him? Or not? I’d like to say that I would always choose to trust God. But sometimes I find myself preferring what is familiar, known, and seemingly under my control. I want to hang on to my old wineskins. Yet, deep down, I know that God is trustworthy, that whatever God has for me is best, that the new wineskins are worth discarding the old. Most of all, I want to be a willing, open, expandable vessel for God’s new wine, the reality of his kingdom offered through Jesus Christ.

Reflect

Have you had an experience in your life rather like what I have described in this devotion? What happened and what was it like for you?

What makes it hard for you to give up your “old wineskins”?

What encourages you to take up “new wineskins”?

Act

Take some time to think through your life, remembering times when you trusted God in exceptional ways. Consider how God has led you and blessed you. Offer thanks for his goodness and for the gift of “new wineskins.”

Pray

Gracious God, thank you for the new wine you give us through Christ. Thank you for choosing to put your new wine in us. Help us, we pray, to choose the new wineskins you have for us. When you’re leading us to something new, something unknown, even scary, may we trust you to be faithful.

O Lord, pour into us once again your new wine, for your purposes and glory. Amen.


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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling Archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: A Big Gulp of New Wine


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