Sometimes I wonder why we don’t take the words of Jesus seriously, even though we will like to (make ourselves) think we do. We have creeds and statements of faith that evangelically lists our “biblical” beliefs but I am beginning to think that they are mere formalities that end up as an official document or a decoration gorgeously decked on the wall of the senior man of God’s office.
Now, look at something Jesus said, “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the skins burst and the wine is spilled out and the skins are destroyed. Instead they put new wine into new wineskins and both are preserved.” Matthew 9:17 (New English Translation). It is clear that the LORD is stating a principle that MUST guide His works. Every time God is seeking to continue His work, He will (and “can”) only work with those who will break the old wineskins of human traditions that has become a veil unto them, that does not allow them to see the LORD clearly.
“And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations.” Isaiah 25:7
Practically, this sometimes will mean a raising of a new generation of men and women who will seek the LORD wholeheartedly without being trapped by the unholy traditions of “fathers”. Many times this has led to the rising of new movements that became severely persecuted by the established groups and “churches”. However, what is of utmost importance is this: the fresh, unadulterated flow of pure doctrine and the work of the Spirit to glorify Jesus, as it was handed down to the first apostles, must be preserved.
Whenever a group has settled into inertia and has allowed their human wisdom to take over from the Holy Spirit, they have unwittingly collected a number of traditions that rendered void the Word of God. And wherever the Word of God is mixed with human ideas/traditions, the continuity of God’s work is hindered and perhaps delayed until God can find fresh hearts who are either of the old order but have purged themselves of the oldness of the letter or entirely new brothers who do not have any history with the establishment.
“Nobody pours new wine into an old wineskin. If he does, then the new wine will tear the old wineskin. The wine will run out and he will lose it. And he will destroy the wineskin. Instead of this, you must put new wine into a new wineskin. Then there will be nothing to destroy the wine or the wineskin.” Matthew 9:17 (EasyEnglish)
Why signs and wonders are not a proof of divine approval
Many are tempted to think that since God is saving souls, healing the sick, setting the captives free, it is a sign that “God is with us and approves of what we are doing”. First of all, let us clear this misconception by letting you know that the order of principle we are dealing with here is higher and we can call it “dispensational”.
That is, we are talking about what God is focusing on today based on the consensus of Scriptures and the witness of the Spirit. However, there is a lower order of principle that God cannot also deny a portion of His virtue, which is, wherever there is a genuine need and the hearts of men are focused on Him, virtue will be released towards that need, regardless of their disobedience to the higher order issues. So a healing here, a raising of the dead there was just a compassionate work, purely on account of God’s mercy and not necessarily His justice.
This is why Jesus said, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:22-23
A higher order of things
Please note that Jesus did not deny the fact that they prophesied in His name and that they did “many wonderful works”, the issue He had with them is that they worked iniquity. Apart from the personal and moral issues of a life that falls short of God’s grace, to work iniquity speaks of a higher order of things that are generational and dispensational.
God considers it a work of iniquity, if you dishonor God’s Word on account of human traditions (Mark 7:7-9). “Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.  For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men…” (Mark 7:7-8) Can you see His verdict here? They will be worshipping Him but because you are more emotional than spiritual, you will FEEL that God is there and approves all that is done. But He said it is a worship in vanity; it amounts to nothing.
God considers it a work of iniquity, if you preach any other thing “…save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified…” (1 Corinthians 2:2). We are not talking about the perfunctory mentioning of the name of Jesus or singing, “oh how I love Jesus”, after which we begin to teach the doctrines of men that we are already used to. It is the doctrines of men that has divided the church so sharply in the last 500 years, as we see in church history.
What is a doctrine of men? A perspective that a Bible teacher had at a particular time in history around which he raised loyalists, such that his/her sincere followers limited their reading of Scriptures to the “established thought” of their human teacher.
Bring me a new cruse
“And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren.  And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him.  And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the Lord , I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land .  So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake.”
2 Kings 2:19-22
At this point, I am trusting that it is clear to you that your personal sincerity is not enough in the matter of pleasing God. In the lower order (of) things, God in mercy, will always respond to every genuine need because He is a compassionate God. However, in the higher order of things, which has to do with His eternal counsel (purpose), His glory, the establishment of His kingdom, all of which will culminate into the new heaven and new earth of Revelation 21, He can only work according to the good pleasure of His will (Ephesians 1:9,11).
In essence it means, we may receive things from God simply because of His generosity, which is not an approval of our lives, but a credit to His kindness. This does not mean we are in His will, and as we saw in Matthew 7:21, that does not prove that we are His true people. (cf: Matthew 12:50, 25:11-12, James 1:22, 2:20-26, Ephesians 6:6).
It is the higher order of things that deal with God’s glory, that really determines those who belong to Him. When we choose to follow Jesus, that is what we sign up for: death to self and living fully for the glory of God (Luke 9:23, 14:26-33)
“…the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth…”
On God’s side of things, the city of God, the body of Christ is pleasant. Nothing is amiss on God’s part. However, the faithfulness of God’s side of things cannot be claimed by us unless we proceed to respond in obedience to Him, which makes our “faith” a living faith, for faith without works is dead (James 2:26).
“…but the water is naught, and the ground barren.”
How is this possible? Water represents “life”. The life is bad. It is not the same with the LIFE we actually received at newbirth. We wonder what happened to the divine exchange at newbirth. Refusing to follow Jesus and what He says will make the “water” bad, not good for anyone to drink. This is why the world cannot drink from us Christians. Mohandas Ghandi said about the Christian of his days, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” It is even worse now.
The ground is barren. Some versions translate “barren” as “miscarries”. Even when we think we have won souls unto the LORD, how many of them have turned into lifetime followers of Jesus Christ? So much numbers are reported of souls saved, it is yet to produce a positive spiritual effect on society. This is a miscarriage. God did not plan to save a soul that will not continue to follow Jesus through out his life. It is our omission that has made God to look like a liar, and has given calvinists and non-calvinists more reasons to dispute about God’s sovereignty in evangelism.
A new cruse is needed
The old cruse or container can no more suffice. It has brought us to a point of ridicule among the unsaved. They have written treatises and books about our faith, and dismissed it as a waste of time, or like one of them said, it is the opium of the masses. It is a great disgrace that has befallen us. Meanwhile, the faith of the (correct) fathers could not have been so easily dismissed and despised.
“And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them.” Acts 5:13
“The others, in fear, kept back from joining them: but the people made much of them” BBE
It was not like today where it is fashionable to be a Christian, an error that has been traced to Constantine, the emperor of Rome, who made Christianity a state religion, and by that singular act emptied it of its power. The unsaved people saw God at work among the Christians and even though they had to think twice or more to join them (and many never joined them), they held them in high regard.
Now, Elisha told the men to get a new cruse or container, which is like the wineskin we have been speaking about. They were to put salt in it. Any salt they put into the “old cruse” will be compromised. The new cruse (new wineskin) is like a new heart that has been delivered from the power of human and religious traditions.
Every existing religious tradition in Christianity has consistently ignored certain clear aspects of God’s Word, just because that was how they have “known” it. These cannot hold the “salt” of transformation that can affect men today. If you put the salt, it will only decay, and rather than the salt destroy any element of the flesh at work, it will magnify it. The wineskin will burst. Which means it cannot hold the Word of God again. It cannot allow the Spirit again.
So even if God were to pour out His Spirit on a “church” that has not done away with the old wineskin, it will only bring trouble. The result of such an outpouring will not be preserved. So, even if men are saved, they will be stuck; they will not be able to go on to perfection. They will settle for the existing status quo since the flow of the Spirit and the unadulterated Word of God has leaked away.
The living water
The water cannot be healed unless we have a new cruse, which is a new heart of utmost surrender to Him. In the words of Oswald Chambers, “my utmost for His Highest”. The extensive waters of poor Christian life that is a global issue today cannot be resolved, as we await the return of the Bridegroom, until we give up all allegiances to traditions and systems that compromise God’s Word.
As simple as this is, it is also quite complex. For even when we are faithfully following the LORD Jesus in our own lives and families, that in itself will make us to run into conflict with those whose commitment are lower, and it can make men to perceive us as “rebels”. I beg you in the name of Jesus, don’t allow anyone in the name of their “spiritual office” to cajole you into not following through with whatever the LORD is doing in and with you. A true disciple of Jesus does not look for trouble but if He follows Jesus all the way and lives like Jesus did, trouble will definitely look for him.
The testimony of Jesus is what the Holy Spirit is recovering today. And He is preparing the bride (body of Christ) for her eternal joining with her LORD (Ephesians 5:27, Revelation 21:2). If you are also standing on the shoulders of the apostles and prophets, you will see that this is what to live for and if need be to die for. This is what should bind us together as one in the communion of the Spirit. This is the weightier matter that should preoccupy us and not the lesser issues of which offering is correct or which one is wrong (or who is more New Testament-like in approach than others).
May you also receive the testimony that you “…follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth…” (Revelation 14:4).
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotation is from the King James Version.
Picture Credit: Valley Baptist Church, thenewcruse.pentecostalpioneers.org