None of these examples are about mismatching patches, wine, or wine skins or shoes. All these examples are the silly things we do, not wise. Luke 5:36 calls them parables. A parable is a story from everyday life that has a larger point. In this case, the much larger point is that when you accept Jesus Christ as your savior you must put everything on the table. You need an entirely new way of thinking. You don’t just take the teachings of Christ and add them to your old life ~ you start over…
In the days of Jesus the juice from the grape was put in new leather pouches that were supple and fresh so that as the juice fermented and turned into wine, the leather expanded with the fermentation of the wine. An old used wine skin could not expand anymore, so new wine in an old wine skin would burst. Before Christ, your life is full of conditions centered on your own needs, your own way of thinking, your own sense of priorities, your own patterns and behaviors and conditions. Now that you know Christ, everything goes on the table so that you now must think differently, a new wine skin….
Here’s a silly example of resisting a new way of thinking. (This joke is submitted by Nettie Bos in an e-mail a few months ago. I hope it is not biographical in nature):
Have you ever been guilty of looking at others your own age and thinking, surely I can’t look that old? My name is Alice. I was sitting in the waiting room for my first appointment with a new dentist. I noticed his graduation diploma on the wall, with his full name. Suddenly I remembered a tall, handsome, dark-haired boy with the same name had been in my high school class 45-odd years ago. Could he be the same guy that I had a secret crush on? Upon seeing him, however, I quickly discarded any such thoughts. This balding, gray-haired man with the deeply lined face was WAY TOO OLD to have been my classmate.
After he examined my teeth, I asked him if he had attended Morgan Park High School. “Yes, Yes, I Did. I’m a Mustang,” he gleamed with pride. “When did you graduate?” I asked. “In 1968. Why do you ask?” “You were in my class,” I exclaimed, as I prepared for a mini class reunion right then and there.
He looked at me closely with a puzzled look as he tried to remember me// then that ugly, old, bald, wrinkled faced, gray-haired, decrepit man asked, “What did you teach?”
When you accept Christ everything is new. For years I wore a size 32 waste jeans. I wore size 32 at least two years when I needed a 34 (that was several sizes ago…). The Bible says “No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one,” but actually we do it all the time. We try to stuff ourselves in pants that are too small. We try to take the teaching of Christ and stuff it into our familiar world, thinking the purpose of Christ is to bless my former life. That’s like trying to patch a new piece of cloth on an old garment, nothing matches… When we accept Christ as Lord, we need new wine skins a new way of thinking. We think of Christ as new engine oil that will help us run our engine more smoothly. But Christ is more like a new engine ~ everything new. Fully receive Christ into your life and allow him to change everything about you. Everything is on the table, your patterns, habits, your way of thinking…
Today’s scripture is a summary principle of the book of Luke up to this point ~ in Christ everything is new. For the last month we have been in Luke 5. Let’s take a quick look back to see the newness of Christ in action….
When Jesus says “no one puts a new patch on an old garment” he is responding to the Pharisees and keepers of the religious laws ~ they were the experts in how to be religious. They are upset with Jesus because he went to a party with Levi, a tax-collector, and other outcasts. In other words, and this is an amazing point, in the estimation of the religious experts, Jesus was having way too much fun!
They were grousing about fasting ~ now don’t get me wrong, fasting is a good thing, I would just be a terrible person to teach about fasting because I don’t practice fasting in my life, the practice of giving up food for a period of time as a discipline to focus on the Lord. But this is not about fasting. The Pharisees are just trying to get Jesus lost in the weeds, try to get him to admit that fasting would be better than having all that fun at a party with sinners. When you become a Christian allow yourself to have more fun than you can ever imagine. I’ve been around enough and seen enough that I can absolutely declare that excessive drinking, drugs, over blown drama, gossip, it’s all boring, a dead-end... if I show up at a door and the person is obviously not in their right mind, I dismiss myself ASAP because there is nothing of substance that is going to happen, no conversation will be meaningful, it’s just a silly season…
But give me a good party where everyone is in their right mind, where people enjoy being with each other, bless each other, affirm each other, the family nights, the SOH gatherings, the Clothesline often takes on a party atmosphere to the point where some of the ladies of the Clothesline Crew will whisper on the side to me it’s too loud, the customers can’t shop… so I have to quietly tell Rachel and Kim to tone it down.
A new way of thinking in Christ is to push Joy onto the center stage of your life. A new way of thinking is to hang out with broken people. A new way of thinking is to love people that are nothing like you.
Back up another story: A new of thinking in Christ is to be creative, to think outside the box. Four men and a paralytic cannot get to Jesus inside the house because of the crowd, so they carry the man on his mat up the stairs to the rooftop, dig a hole in the roof and let the man down. Creative. Brilliant. If it is God’s will, there is always a way. If you have a problem that is eating away at your life, if you are discouraged, never give up ~ there is a way. We talked during that story about intercessory faith: putting hands and feet on the prayers for others. Taking action. Taking risks. A completely new way of thinking. The Bibles says of the four men and the paralytic who were peering at him through the roof, “Jesus saw their faith.” Put hands and feet on your faith.
This week on FB, Pastor Dave Browning of the Burlington CTK posted a powerful story: “On a particularly cold night, in February 2010, a very lost and broken homeless alcoholic man was wandering Fairhaven Blvd in Burlington where he had come to be known as the "town bum". He had not showered for months and was quite unhealthy physically, mentally, and spiritually. His connection with God had diminished to feelings of abandonment and prayers for death. As he passed CTK when it was next to the tattoo shop, a man and his family were closing up for the night and welcomed the sorry soul into the building to get warm. After a short discussion of the pitiful man's circumstances, he was given a sleeping bag and allowed to spend the night in the warmth and comfort of The Lord's house….
Having a slightly renewed sense of God in his life, the homeless fellow continued his prayers for death and relief from his mortal maladies for several more weeks, often pausing at the church during his late night travels, to beg the Lord for "an end to it all". One evening, almost immediately after a very sincere, heartfelt and unconditional prayer for death, he was again welcomed into the house of the Lord where he attended an AA meeting.
It took a couple of days to really sink into the hazy mind of the man, that the Lord had been answering his prayers all along by giving him what he needed as apposed to what he had been asking for. The man writes, “Today I am three years sober, have moved to Minnesota , where I own a business, and have a very active and conscious contact with God and AA. I no longer pray for death, nor do I ask for anything more than I need. The Lord gives me what I need, and vast opportunity to help others. I never was able to thank the pastor for the role they played in getting my life back…. May God Bless You.”
I see a creativity in how the Lord works, the unexpected, an open door or perhaps an open ceiling, when you give yourself to Christ there is an amazing creativity in how he works, intercessory faith, at the end of almost everyday all I can say is “Wow, the things I saw, the unexpected phone call, the surprises.” TV is so boring compared to that which I am privileged to see and experience everyday! If you want a totally predictable and controlled life, don’t become a Christian. Christianity is a new creative way of thinking, expecting the amazing, minor miracles, a beautiful song conducted by the Lord himself.
Back up another story. A man with leprosy dares to approach Jesus. A new way of thinking is boldness with a heavy dose of humility. This old world provides many reasons to be stressed, to feel alone, and to be pessimistic. In Luke 5:12-14, a leper, an outcast by society, dares to say to Jesus, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” That is a powerful way of thinking, of approaching the Lord… “If you are willing,” no presumption requiring that the Lord has to organize my life according to my desires. The leper has desires, but he gives God the flexibility to do with his life as he chooses. When Sally and I were going to school and it became apparent I was going to choose the pastoral ministry, our prayer used to be, Lord, we’ll go anywhere you want us to go, but if it be possible, keep us on the west coast of the U.S.
A new way of thinking is to give your life to God entirely, but it’s ok if you act as an advisor to God: If you are willing.
One more story from Luke 5:1-11. Peter is called as a disciple. Jesus tells Peter to let down his nets after the empty nets of fishing all night… obviously Peter does not think this is the wisest move ever, READ Luke 5:5. A new way of thinking always gives the Lord the benefit of the doubt that he knows what he is doing. It doesn’t mean we suspend our own logic, put our own mind on hold, it simply means that we recognize we have major limitations and so we trust in God that even when things don’t make good logical sense to us, if God is in it, we will be successful. We will be amazed.
Listen for the Lord’s whisper upon your heart. Even when it makes no sense to your mind, trust him. I know a man who turned down a good job recently because he felt the Lord calling him to accept a lesser position with less prestige but a whole lot more satisfaction in serving God. Peter says to Jesus, “I’ll let down the nets one more time only because you say so…” That’s a new way of thinking.
Trust in the Lord even when it seems unreasonable. Listen for his voice and be obedient. When you accept Christ, an entirely new life is yours, that’s scary, because the familiar has it’s own comfort, yet it’s time to let the Lord completely change your life. A new way of thinking, a surprising joy, an amazing creativity, an “If you are willing” boldness with humility, obedience even when it makes no sense ~ “because you say so Lord.
Receive Christ. He will give you a new way of living, a new way of behaving, a new way of thinking. Amen.