Sunday, May 30, 2010


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.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Mark 12:37

“And the common people heard Him gladly.”

A few words to encourage the souls of them that publish Christ

I write these words to minister to the hearts of those involved in publishing Christ to the world. By “publish” I mean any and all who proclaim Jesus Christ. You may do so from a pulpit. You may do so also as a teacher, a neighbor, an employee, a friend, a father or mother, a son or daughter, a young man or woman, or an aged saint in the faith. You may do so as a writer, a blogger, a singer or an artist. Proclaiming Christ is the business of every Christian, but there is a great variety in the manner and method which the Lord has equipped believers to do so. And all who publish Christ meet with discouragements along the way, and these words are intended for your comfort.

In this passage Christ was being published and proclaimed, by none other than Christ Himself. He proclaimed Himself in a parable in the beginning of the chapter. He proclaimed Himself by a puzzle in the immediate context of our passage. Jesus said “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?” He set their minds to thinking about Christ. Is that not what you have done? You write of Him, you speak of Him, you try to imitate Him and acknowledge Him before a watching world. Here in a tract, there in a sermon, again and again in a lesson. Over coffee in the shop, over tea in the parlor, in an email, with a flyer, by a book…you have set others to thinking upon Christ.

Maybe you have met with much success. Praise the Lord! But most likely you have had your share of discouragements and disappointments as well. Here we find the Lord Jesus Christ Himself performing the office of a prophet and proclaiming Himself to men. Let us learn 3 things for our instruction and encouragement:

Learn that…

I. Those that publish Christ will not be gladly received by all men. The text says “And the common people heard Him gladly.” The crowd, that is, was pleased to hear Him. But this was said by way of contrast. The great throng was glad to hear Him, but the Scribes and Pharisees were not. What you say will not be well received by all men. What you write will sometimes be written against. Some will scoff, others mock, and many simply laugh and leave. Do not be surprised that your sermons are sometimes ignored and that your pleas do not impress. Do not wonder that even from within the circles of the church you will find some who oppose your efforts to proclaim Christ. Remember what our Savior said in Luke 6:26Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” The scribes were not glad that Christ spoke. Do you expect it otherwise for yourself? Dear reader, you who seek to publish Christ, but find your efforts often ill received; know that you are in the very company of Christ Himself.

II. Those that publish Christ sometimes will be hated by great men. “And the common people heard Him gladly.” Note: it was the “common” folks the “general crowd” that were pleased by Christ. Those in higher positions, those of greater authority, those of more means and influence all opposed the preaching of Christ. It is an interesting observation that when the nation of Israel was beginning to press into the Promised Land that the Holy Spirit says this of their enemies “all the kings who were on this side of the Jordan…gathered together to fight with Joshua and Israel with one accord.” The kings are singled out, though surely it was the soldiers who fought. But the kings especially hated them. Those with greater authority are often the most aggravated with the advancement of the kingdom of God. So it was with Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar and Herod and Nero and so forth. “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His anointed (Psalm 2:2).” So it was with our Lord. “So they sent some of the Pharisees and the Herodians to catch Him (Mark 12:13).”

Paul and Barnabas found this out at Antioch. They preached the Word. They published Christ. But the Jews were “filled with envy (Acts 13:45)” and they “stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecutions against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region (Acts 13:50).” Notice: prominent women and the chief men. Things haven’t changed much in 2000 years.

You, who publish Christ, do not be surprised when great men or women oppose you. Do not be shocked by those who put on religious airs, who quote Scripture, who sit in churches sometimes, who have some measure of influence over the opinions of others when they stand against you to tear you down. Do not be discouraged when politicians and leaders distance themselves from you and your message.

III. But finally, be absolutely persuaded of this: those that publish Christ will be gladly heard by many men. “The common people heard Him gladly.” There was a listening and attentive crowd. Many were moved by His message. A great throng were hungering and thirsting after Him. There may be at any moment unnamed and unnoticed multitudes that have heard of Christ through you and rejoice. Our text simply says “the common people.” They may be the ordinary bunch. We do not know their names. They were not the high and mighty. They were not the people of great influence, great means, or great status. They were the “common people.” This is the way of the Lord. "For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty (1 Corinthians 1:26-27).”

Many more than you now know are listening as you publish abroad the Lord Jesus Christ. The Scriptures say “who can number the dust of Jacob?” And who, I say, can number the lives your words, your music, your lessons, your tracts, your sermons, your witness may have touched. Those “common people” may be some students in your school, some co-workers in the shop, an email recipient, a total stranger overhearing your conversation about Christ, an internet surfer thousands of miles away. They heard gladly! Keep up the good Word! “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly (Col. 3:16).” Sow bountifully! Cast the bread of life upon the waters of this world. “Blessed are you who sow beside all waters (Isaiah 32:20).”

Dear reader let this also remind us not to aim too highly with our message. Do you seek the praises of high men, dignitaries, the wealthy, the popular, and the influential? “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not (Jeremiah 45:5).” Christ called you to feed the lambs, not the giraffes. Publish Christ gladly among all classes of men, but especially among the common folks, amongst those who are sometimes otherwise neglected and the children, because “the common people heard Him gladly.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010



I turned 40 today. Funny, it feels just like any other day. I got up around 5:30, took out the dog, made some coffee, read a chapter from the Bible, a section in a book, and spent some time in prayer before beginning my work. I don’t really know what I expected 40 to feel like. But for those who haven’t hit 40 yet, I can tell you it feels just about the same as 39 did, just a little more so.

I turned 40 today. This, for those who may not know, means that I spent just about half my lifetime so far running from God. I was born into a Christian home and raised by godly Christian parents. I went to a Christian school and to church every Sunday (twice usually). But for my first 19 years on this earth I could not for the life of me understand Christians. They seemed to enjoy being Christians, I’ll give them that. But it made no sense to me. I figured they just didn’t know what they were missing out on. Not to mention the very thought of God just made me uncomfortable. So I kept running, kind of like a hamster on a wheel.

I turned 40 today. This means I have spent about half my life now getting to know the God I formerly ran from. My life changed forever about 20 years ago. The Bible text that best captures what happened to me is Ephesians 2:8-9For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourself, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” I was saved by God’s grace through a gift of faith in Jesus Christ. I did not expect to be saved, but the Lord saved me. The particular verse of Scripture He used was a few short words from the Old Testament book of Haggai: “Consider your ways!” I was living my “way.” I was headed in the way of destruction. I was on the road to Hell. “Consider your ways!” Christ Himself met me on that road. I’ve never been the same again. And now I get to spend the rest of my life getting to know Him. He still makes me uncomfortable…but in a different way, an inviting way, an accepted way.

I turned 40 today. I have a lovely wife whose outward beauty is surpassed only by her inward beauty, and whom I have enjoyed the company of for almost 17 years. I have four children, two boys and two girls. I love them so much and it is my heart’s desire and prayer that they would come to know my Savior as well. There are many other precious people that the Lord continues to bless me with: my parents and in-laws, my brother and his beautiful family, my church family who are all so dear to me, my other friends and wonderful acquaintances I have made along life’s way. I have a good job doing work that I enjoy. At age 40 I am quite humbled by the goodness of the Lord toward me and can say with David “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that you have brought me this far (2 Samuel 7:18)?”

I turned 40 today. That makes me a 40 year expert in the field of sin. I am not a great man. But I have a great Savior. I am a transgressor. But as I read in Mark 15:28 this morning, a quote from Isaiah 53, “He was numbered with the transgressors.” That is why I am what I am today. Christ died for me. And I died with Him. And if the Lord is pleased to give me 40 more years I want to spend them all getting to know Christ, and helping others to know Him too. Do you know Him? I do not ask if you have a religion, or a church, or if you have been baptized. Those may be good things. But do you know Christ? Or have you, like me, spent a good portion of your life running from Him? If so, “Consider your ways.” Where are you headed? What do you hope to accomplish? "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul (Matthew 16:26)?”

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Jeremiah 18:4
"And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make." 

Oh my soul. These 4 words - "he made it again" - proclaim a Sovereign Savior who has not allowed my sin to be the last words in my story. I ruined my life. He made it again. I polluted my heart. He made it again. I forfeited my soul. He made it again. The Lord God is not only the Creator. He is the re-Creator. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17)

These words remind me that every life is a gift of God. Whoever you are or wherever you are, God made you. Like the clay vessel in the potters house was made by him, so your life was made by God. “The Lord who made you and formed you from the womb,” says the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 44:2). He planned your birth. He chose your parents. He determined the hour of your first breath. He framed every circumstance and influence you ever had. “He made it.” Men proudly call themselves “a self-made man.” You did not make yourself. God made you. Rich or poor, black or white, male or female, healthy or sick…the Lord God made you. The very God who made the sun, moon and stars also made you a living soul. Have you given this much thought? Have you ever paused to consider that a holy God, for His own good pleasure, chose to make you? He did not have to. No force compelled your creation aside for the force of His own desire, His own will, His own plan. God made you. “The breath of the Almighty gives me life (Job 33:4).”

These words remind me also that every life has been wrecked and damaged by sin. If God is making “again” it can only be that we have ruined this gift of life by willful disobedience. We have polluted our souls in pursuing evil. "Truly, this only I have found: That God made man upright, But they have sought out many schemes.”" (Ecclesiastes 7:29) Not a day has gone by in which I have not willfully added to the ruin of my own soul. Not a moment passes that does not find me in some neglect of God’s law or some violation of His command. “Oh wretched man that I am” (Romans 7:24) is the cry of a soul that really understand the weight and seriousness of sin. Do you think your life successful? The only thing we are successful at is ruining our lives. I may have money, friends, influence, power, good works and a good name, but God has said “treasures of wickedness profit nothing (Prov. 10:2).” People today want a good life. What we need is a new life. "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" (Mark 8:36)

But these words finally remind me that our God alone can rebuild what we have ruined. “He made it again.” Oh my soul, and you my dear reader, have you engaged the help of this God who came and died and rose again to give you new life through faith in Jesus Christ? You have tried to rebuild on your own. You have sought to “build again the things [you] have destroyed (Gal 2:18).” You only make it worse. Repent and believe the gospel. What are you waiting for? Why do you linger? I fear that many today do not come to Christ because they really do not want a new life. They want a new wing added to their home, but they do not want to demolish their home and start again with God. You need a new foundation altogether, and His name is Jesus Christ. When God “makes it again” He does not make half a life, half a home, half a new creature. With God it is either all made new, or not at all. You must die to all that was before: old thoughts, old patterns and old priorities. Only the grace of God can do this. And He will do it for all who call on Him. "For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you." (Isaiah 41:13) Dear reader…linger no longer! Your life is not ruined beyond repair. His grace saved a wretch like me. I wrecked my life, but this is what He did for me through Jesus Christ: “He made it again.”  Praise be to God...Glory to God in the Highest....for "He made it again!"