New Wine for New Wineskins July 2013

By , July 6, 2013 8:57 am

More Of The Same

Jesus said that the Father is seeking worshipers who will worship him in spirit and truth!

Let me ask you a question.  Do you love truth?  Do you believe the following statements to be true or false?

God is good all the time!  True or false?

God’s love is unconditional!  True or false?

God wants everyone to be saved!  True or false?

Personally, I believe all of the above statements to be true.  How about this one?

God is doing a new thing!  True or false?

Most people will respond quickly by declaring that statement to be true, but maybe we should dig a little deeper… In a sense God is doing a new thing, but it is the same new thing that he has been doing for a long time now in that the new thing he promised to do has actually already been done and has been known as new ever since.

Isaiah 43: 18 – 21

18 “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. 20 The beast of the field will honor Me, the jackals and the ostriches, because I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My people, My chosen. 21 This people I have formed for Myself;  they shall declare My praise.”

This month’s message has a title that could possibly describe many people’s worst nightmare.  It is “More Of The Same”.  It could have been titled, “Same Old, Same Old”  or a modified, “Same Old, Same New” or “Same New, Same Old” but I doubt if any of these would have proved any more exciting for some.

To many in the church the thought of “more of the same” is equivalent to death by boredom, whereas “more of the same” is actually our heavenly Father’s elixir of life – his prescription and formula for a life enjoyed in all of its fullness!  Not convinced?  Listen up!

I don’t know how many times over the years that I have heard someone (including myself on more than one occasion) say, “God is doing a new thing…” and seen those who heard this proclamation get very excited at the prospect.  That is because we have often been more akin to dedicated followers of fashion and fads than dedicated followers of Jesus.

fadan intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, esp. one that is short-lived and without basis in the object’s qualities; a craze

There is a natural inclination and tendency to be fascinated with every “new thing” whether we approve of it or not.  But the “new thing” that Isaiah prophesied about is the New Covenant which was established two thousand years ago and has never grown old.  It is as fresh and new today as it was on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came and sealed in the experience of the first New Covenant believers what Jesus had made provision for on the Cross.

Jesus said that new wine must have a new wineskin.  The new covenant life brought by the Holy Spirit must have a new creation established in a new covenant or else there will be a burst and the opportunity to have an ongoing experience of the Holy Spirit’s fullness will be lost.

Lamentations 3: 22 – 24

22 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”

The good news is that we have a brand new opportunity every new day to get right what we got wrong yesterday.

There is a common misconception – based on a misunderstanding of some verses in John 2 – that God is saving his best until the end.  The truth is that God had been saving his best until the end and so he gave us his best when he gave us Jesus two thousand years ago!

I have heard people say that the good can be the biggest enemy of the best and so they then go on to strive for the best not realising that they already have the best and that you can’t better the best!  Consequently, every attempt – however well-intentioned – to better the best may result in a temporary feeling of euphoria but will always inevitably end in frustration and failure and actually leave you feeling even further away from what you were aiming for than you had felt before your attempt.

Over the past while I have felt drawn to a series of messages that I have taught on before. In fact I think I may have taught on this particular series twice in the past ten years or so.  When I finally had time the other day to dig around and find the notes on this series I was amazed on reading through the series notes how they dovetailed with this message.

The title of the series is, “Transformation Through Restoration”.

I have heard and continue to hear many good people say that the church needs another reformation, and I can see why they would think that but I don’t believe that is the answer.  To reform simply means to make changes in something in order to improve it.  I believe that the greatest need of the church is the supernatural transformation that will result from the restoration of the church back to its original simplicity of message and ministry.

Reformation may be included in that process, but the work of restoration is a much deeper one and results in complete transformation.

Restoration is the action of returning something to a former condition, or the process of repairing or renovating something in order to restore it to its original condition.  For example, the restoration of an item of furniture can be a painstaking process as it sometimes involves removing several layers of paint or grime before the piece begins to look like it did originally.  It may be a painstaking exercise but it is also a transforming one as the old is restored to its brand-new condition – to its original condition and purpose.

In the middle of last month we had our church anniversary and so that is always a good time to reflect and consider who we are and what we are here for.  As I was meditating on this I was reminded that over the years as we have been hearing and applying what the Lord is saying regarding his perfect will we have actually been digging down and removing layers of tradition and wrong teaching as we aim to become a church that reflects God’s design in its original glory.

Instead of the church looking for the “new thing” that we can add to our existing structure and practice, we should focus more on getting stripped back to basics and the commission we have been given to reach the lost of the world with the good news of salvation, healing, and deliverance!

Remember – the title of this message is, “More Of The Same”.

Personally, I love natural wood and I can never understand why people apply layers of paint to wood in order to try and improve how it looks when all they are really doing is masking its original character and beauty.

Jude 1 – 3

1 Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ: 2 Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.3 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

The faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.  Does that sound like it needs modification or upgrading?  Does that sound like it needs a “new thing” to spice it up or help it along?  To me it sounds like what we are being asked to contend for is not a “new thing” but for “more of the same”!

After Moses’ death Joshua was commissioned to lead God’s people into the Promised Land.  The Lord didn’t say to Joshua that Moses had failed because he had rejected God’s new thing, but he actually in effect told him that he would succeed if he basically did more of the same of that which Moses had been doing!

Joshua 1: 5 – 9

5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

The Lord was saying to Joshua that he was not to seek out a “new thing” but that “more of the same” would suffice to prosper their journey and succeed in their commission!

Matthew 28: 16 – 20

16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Do you see the similarity between this commission and the one given to Joshua?  The first apostles were not told to spend their lives looking for God’s latest “new thing” but were exhorted to believe that “more of the same” was the key to successfully reaching the nations with the fullness of the gospel.

That is why in Acts 2: 42 we are told that the first disciples continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship which was the same teaching that the apostles themselves had received from Jesus.

2 Timothy 2: 1 – 2

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Paul was instructing Timothy that he was not to spend his ministry chasing after the many “new things” that show up in the church but that his ministry would be fulfilled in faithfully teaching “more of the same”.

My desire for the local church (with a global vision) which I lead is to hear its members speak words that are aligned with the message that we have been established in so that we can release church planters who will not be distracted by pursuing a “new thing” but who will be faithful in proclaiming and declaring “more of the same”!

The Lord has clearly shown me that we have not been adding new revelation but that we have been stripping away layers of extra-scriptural ‘isms’ that have been masking the revelation that was already there.  We have been digging down and stripping away the layers in order to restore the simplicity of the original – the faith once for all delivered to the saints!  True revelation of Scripture in the church is generally an uncovering or a recovering of something that has been masked by tradition and error.  It is when folks think  that they have discovered some new revelation that the “new thing” diversion often kicks in as those who think they have discovered it run around like a kid with the latest i-gadget!

1 Corinthians 12: 25

25 that there should be no schism in the body

It is the ‘isms’ that create schisms (splits or divisions caused by differences of opinion or belief).  That is why it is essential to strip away all of the ‘isms’ in order to restore the true unity of the faith that will allow the church to grow up into the fullness of Christ.

Very soon after the church was birthed there were those who were trying to apply a layer of Judaism – which was in effect legalism – to the first believers.  Even some of the apostles were caught up in it for a season but Paul exposed it for what it was, and on several occasions he warned churches to beware of adding any legalistic layers to the simplicity of their Holy Spirit-empowered lives of faith.  There are still those who try and apply this layer of legalism but they dress it up as sanctification and holiness.

Think of the many schisms created by denominational‘ism’ with all of its many ‘isms’. In our small island community on the Isle of Lewis which has been a stronghold of presbyterian‘ism’ for the past two hundred years there have been several schisms within that one ‘ism’, and so you can imagine the level of schism that exists between the advocates of presbyterian‘ism’ and those who promote pentecostal‘ism’.

I was thinking recently about some of the layers of ‘isms’ that have been applied to the church that have hindered her progress and how the Lord has been faithful in helping us recognise them and remove them during the restoration process, and how he has revealed what was being masked by these layers.  Here are just a few:

elitism – hierarchical leadership structures focused on titles and position that have masked God’s true plan for the priesthood of all believers that includes a servant leadership focused on function rather than position.  When this layer is removed there can be a restoration of true relationships across all levels of the church with the appropriate honour and respect.

asceticism – severe self-discipline and avoidance of all manner and forms of what is regarded as self-indulgence.  This layer can seem very noble and holy but when it is removed God’s heart to prosper his people is revealed and Jesus’ desire to bring people into the enjoyment of a life of fullness is restored.

stoicism – the endurance of pain or hardship by repressing emotions, and without a display of feelings and without complaint.  Again this can sound good and admirable but it is far from the best.  It is passive endurance and not active enjoyment because there is no resistance of the negative circumstances. This layer can mask the revelation of God’s heart and his will to heal and deliver, and so when it is removed the opportunity to access and live in Divine health and peace of mind is restored.

fatalism – the belief that all events are predetermined and therefore inevitable leading to a submissive attitude to everything that happens.  This layer is often disguised by holy sounding words like God’s sovereignty and predestination, but when this layer is removed it reveals man’s free will and restores his right to choose between life and death and blessing and the curse.  This layer has actually developed into a theological ‘ism’ that impacts and affects countless believers.  I will let you guess which ‘ism’ that is.

cessationism – the belief that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit are no longer operational in the church.  This layer masks the true nature of the church which has always been supernatural and so when it is removed the revelation of Holy-Spirit empowerment to counter every circumstance is restored, and there is a renewed access to heavenly wisdom and direction through the prophetic gifts.

revivalism – the form of religious activity that manifests itself in revivals.  This can be the toughest layer to remove because it is so popular, but nevertheless it is also the most counter-productive because it is the the most effective in masking the best that is already there underneath!  I was listening to a revivalist preacher recently and I can fully understand why many of God’s people are swayed by the message because it sounds so right and is so emotionally stimulating as there is so much passion in the preaching.  But ultimately it is a re-application of John the Baptist’s ministry which was forever displaced by Jesus’ ministry.

The good news is that when this layer is removed there is a restoration of the faith once for all delivered to the saints.  We are designed to live by faith – hearing and applying God’s word and expecting the Holy Spirit to bring it to pass.

Back in the early 90’s when there was a peeling away of a layer of religious formalism – excessive adherence to prescribed and traditional forms – and there was a restoration of joy and laughter in church meetings there was a strong reaction against what was happening from many believers including those of a pentecostal persuasion.

At that time there were many schisms and I was caught in the middle of two groups of friends who were at opposite ends of the debate.  I remember asking the Lord if what was happening was from him and he never did say yes or no.  Instead he gave me a dream.

In the dream Catriona and I were driving around a Scottish sea loch, the kind which often have bridges or ferry crossings to speed up your journey to the other side.  I remember turning to Catriona and saying, “I wonder why there this no bridge or ferry here”.  Before Catriona had an opportunity to answer a voice boomed in the car and said, “Search out the old paths because with God there are no shortcuts”.  When I awoke from the dream I knew that this was a reference to Scripture in Jeremiah 6 and so I looked it up.  When I was meditating on this message I was reminded of the dream and the associated Scripture.

Jeremiah 6: 16 – 19

16 Thus says the Lord: “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is,
and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.  But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
17 Also, I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.’ 18 Therefore hear, you nations, and know, O congregation, what is among them.
19 Hear, O earth! Behold, I will certainly bring calamity on this people—the fruit of their thoughts,
Because they have not heeded My words nor My law, but rejected it.

I believe he was telling me that there were those who were treating the restoration of joy and laughter as a “new thing” and so to them it was just the latest fad.  Because of this many of them would lose the revelation that was being restored – that the joy of the Lord is our strength – as they moved on to the next “new thing”.

The old paths are where the good way is.  The Hebrew word translated “good” is the same word used in Genesis 1 that can be translated as “best”.  God’s best is already ours and so there is no “new thing” that can better the best!   If we don’t receive God’s word then our thoughts will not line up with his thoughts and so our words will not be aligned with his word and we will not live by faith the life that is God’s best for us!

God says that we need to hear what he is saying today because today is the day when salvation is available.  The word is refreshed every new day so that it is still relevant and still available and accessible to those who will simply believe and receive.  If you failed to apply the word yesterday then leave yesterday in the past where it belongs and apply the word today!

Do you ever get bored in church?  Does “more of the same” sound like your worst nightmare has just come true?  Do you know that boredom leaves you wide open to deception and will have you chasing after every “new thing” that comes along?

The transformation that results through restoration will be accomplished through the effective removal of every layer of religion and tradition that has masked the simplicity of true kingdom life.

It is possible to enhance the beauty of natural wood by applying clear varnish.  In the same way the substance of the first post-Pentecost message still holds true. Peter exhorted people to repent – to abandon the old and embrace the new – and to apply two coats of clear varnish that would enhance their experience.  When the layers of religion and tradition are stripped away and the supernatural power attached to believer’s baptism and the baptism of the Holy Spirit are applied there will be a renewed momentum for mission that will reveal afresh God’s new thing that has never become old!

Remember what the LORD said to Joshua:  There is no new thing – more of the same will guarantee you succeed!

Remember what Jesus said to the first apostles:  There is no more new thing – more of the same will accomplish your commission!

Remember what Paul said to Timothy:  There is no new thing to distract you – more of the same will fulfill your ministry!

Remember what I am telling you today:  There is no new thing that you have to pursue – more of the same will equip us for victory!

Get ready for more of the same!

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