River of God | Day 10

Scripture Verse &/OR citations

           Receiving the flow of the river is not optional if we want the fresh life of the Spirit. Ezekiel said, “Everything will live where the river goes” (Ezekiel 47:9). But the “swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt” (v. 11). Places where the river could not flow were left in their state of stagnation.


            When God brings something to our worship service that violates our orthodoxy, we tend to reject it. In this sense, our definition of orthodoxy has created swamps and marshes in the Spirit. If we want the river to flow, we must reject the temptation to become “old wineskins” that cannot hold “new wine”.


           The Bible talks about this concept of old and new wine and wineskins in Luke 5:37-39. “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”


           The wineskin is made of sheep’s skin. Initially, the skin is flexible, pliable and elastic. As the new wine begins to ferment, the wineskin is able to stretch along with it, like a balloon. But once the wine has been in the same skin for several years, the wineskin can become inflexible and stiff.


           The new wine represents the harvest of revival God is sending us. The wineskin is that which contains this harvest. We must guard ourselves against becoming old wineskins - inflexible and unwilling to move with God where He moves.


           There is no biblical basis for the way we conduct church services. What is actually important when we come together is doing what the Scriptures clearly teach - worship, the teaching of the word, fellowship, and prayer. The order and method of doing them isn’t sacred. We must not make doctrines out of methods, and we can’t equate doctrine with truth.


           Jesus would have violated our orthodoxy and sense of order in many of His meetings. He allowed people to crawl to Him and ask Him questions. He even allowed prostitutes to weep at His feet, bathing them with tears.


           That said, it’s not wrong to become comfortable with certain methods or ways. The danger comes when those methods begin to control us and the way we view God. If we can stay flexible and open to God’s unconventional ways, we will be new wineskins, ready to expand and move with the river.


           How were wineskins renewed in Christ’s day? An understanding of this method will help show us our part in preparing for His outpouring.


           The wineskins were soaked in water for several days, which for us symbolizes the Word of God. Ephesians 5 tells us that Christ gave himself for the church, that we might be sanctified and cleansed by the washing of the water of the Word (vs. 26).


           At this point, the wineskins were rubbed with oil, which of course symbolizes the Holy Spirit. If we will allow Him, the Lord is ready to soften us with the word and His Spirit until we are ready to receive new wine.


           It is interesting to discover that the Greek words “new” are different when examining new wine and new wineskins. When referring to wine, “new” is neos - numerically new, but not qualitatively new. How does this translate to our understanding of God’s ways? We receive new doses - outpourings of the Holy Spirit, but it is always the same spiritual drink, the same wine. It may be packaged differently, He may pour it differently, but it is the same wine.


           However, “new” in the context of wineskin is the word kainos, which means the opposite. This word expresses qualitative newness. The wine of the Spirit may not change, but the wineskins must. We must allow the Holy Spirit to work newness into us, changing us from glory to glory. We can’t stay the same, never changing, becoming stiff and rigid. Neos wine must go into kainos skins.


           We have to be willing to adapt, unlike the religious people of Christ’s day. Their preconceived ideas of the Messiah kept them from recognizing and receiving Him. The One they’d awaited for centuries didn’t look the way they felt He should, so they rejected Him. The miracles, signs, and wonders were performed before their very eyes and yet they still turned away. God had been put inside their box - and the box was too small.


           It might be easy to feel disappointment at the response of the Pharisees to the ministry of Jesus, but we are no less guilty of this. Many blessings have been lost by believers because instead of seeing the blessing, we see a threat to our finite limitations.


           However, we can’t expect God to fit our limitations. If we want a supernatural God, we’ve got to let Him do things that might seem “unnatural”. 1 Corinthians 2:14 reminds us that the things of the Spirit are foolish to the natural mind. His ways will violate our intellects, shake us up, and stretch us to capacity. We must let God be God.


           The word paradoxa was often used to describe the works of Jesus. This word is where we get the word paradox. It means “contrary to acceptable opinion, something beyond one’s expectation, a miracle”. By these very definitions, Jesus was a paradox. In fact, many of the people we admire from the Bible were paradoxes. How would we have responded to them if we’d lived when they did?


           The river of God is often paradoxa, contrary to popular opinion. Its method of flowing is usually different and requires change. We tend to reject these paradoxes. Even Peter was guilty of this. In Acts 10, he almost opposed a move of God by calling “unclean” what God called “clean” (Acts 10:28). We must be careful that we don’t label a move of the Spirit as unclean.


           When God is doing something we don’t understand, let’s strive to understand it instead of rejecting it outright. The river might not look, feel, or seem like what we expected, but we have the word of God as our measurement. We can trust Him and His ways. Let’s wash ourselves in the water of His word, stay covered by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and be ready to contain the wine that He is pouring out. Let’s be new wineskins.

These teaching concepts are derived from chapter ten of The River of God by Dutch Sheets.