Gimme That Old Wine Religion
"And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’ ”" Luke 5:39
We want a religion that is like old wine: reliable, dependable, and consistent. We want a religion that doesn’t change much, and likewise doesn’t change us too much either. We want a religion that is consistent with our traditions, our habits, our way of thinking, our system of values and priorities. Simply put, we want a religion without surprises. “Gimme that Old Wine Religion!” we cry.
But then in comes Jesus Christ. He turns the tables of our traditions on their heads. He calls mankind to radical change and repentance. He upsets our way of doing things, our way of thinking, behaving, and living. He brings radical grace into the lives of the undeserving. He says “Man, your sins are forgiven you (Luke 5:20)” and calls us into a surprising walk of faith “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house (Luke 5:24).” And like those observing these events we are filled with fear and say “We have seen strange things today (Luke 5:26)!” Christ disturbs our spiritual status quo.
“The old is better” our stubborn hearts stammer, willfully resisting this radical intrusion into our religious rest. We like it the way things were. We like a God we can control. One who does things the way we are used to. Who shares the same system of justice, right and wrong, deserving and undeserving. We pick and choose our converts from the commendable classes. But Jesus sits with the sinners. He offers forgiveness to the lowest of the low. He dares to bring into His own fellowship and family the dregs of society. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinner, to repentance (Luke 5:32).”
New wine breaks the old wineskins of our religious patterns. We want the old wine that does not demand any changes in our way of thinking about things. Old wine is safer, old wine is comfortable, old wine makes no demands and expects no response! Gimme that old wine religion! We want our set times of fasting and prayers. This is the way it has always been done! With the Pharisees we question Christ “Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink (Luke 5:33)?” We prefer a long distance relationship with God, rather than the radical intimacy of coming near to Jesus Christ and rejoicing in His grace.
Old garments would be torn by new material, and our old sins would be torn if ever we were born again through faith in Christ. “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old (Luke 5:36).” I don’t want changes, I don’t want to tear the old garments of my comfortable religion, I don’t want to be stretched. That living, changing, growing new wine of reckless faith in Christ would break me.
Praise God He changed me! He didn’t pour the new wine of regeneration into my old-ways-wineskin. He gave me new skins: a new heart, and new life, a new love. This new religion isn’t safe, it isn’t easy, it isn’t comfortable…but it is the only one which God approves. Oh my soul…no more old wine religion! I had said “the old is better” because I was terribly afraid of what the “new” would do. But now I want the new! I want the changing, the fearing, the crying, and the rending of my old sinful heart and practices as I grow into the new fabric of holiness, trust and mercy.
Dear reader, how about you? Are you still comfortable with your old wine religion? Do you like a relationship with God that is predictable, easy and undemanding? That old religion will never surprise you and it will never save you. The new way of faith in Christ brings shocking salvation to all who believe. “Will you keep to the old way (Job 22:15)?” Will you continue to resist new grace, crying out from your soul “the old is better?” The old and unchanging wine of a religion built upon self-righteousness and works is incompatible with the new covenant of God’s grace. New wine religion requires me to change every day. I have to grow. Sins must be killed, obedience must be kindled. I don’t know what God is going to do next in my life. But it is a new life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.