Shed the Shell
On Monday we talked about allowing Holy Spirit to reignite us, preparing us for the “new” that is coming. In the New Testament, two Greek words are translated “new,” and have different meanings. Understanding the difference is important.
The word neos means numerically new, but not qualitatively different. For instance, if you buy a new car of a certain make and model, and like it so much you buy another one for your spouse, that would be neos. It’s new, but not different. I’ll give you a reference in a moment.
The other Greek word for “new” is kainos, which also means numerically new, but includes qualitatively new, as well. For example, a new car manufactured today is obviously quite different from a new Model T in its day. Today’s version would be not only numerically new, but also qualitatively new (kainos).
Distinguishing the difference between these two words—neos and kainos—is very important to our proper understanding of Scripture. For example, 2 Corinthians 5:17 says we are new (kainos) creations. We’re not just duplications or replicas of the former, which would be neos. We’re new in the sense of being different—kainos - qualitatively new. When we’re born again, God transforms us, gives us a different nature, and fills us with His Spirit. We’re not just forgiven, the same sinful people with a few changes; we are kainos, completely new on the inside.
A very important passage in which these distinctions are significant is Matthew 9:17. Jesus used both Greek words in one statement when He referred to the importance of putting “new wine” into “new wineskins.” His choice of words was that new (neos - numerically new) wine had to be put into new (kainos - qualitatively new) wineskins. Wineskins, made of leather, become dry and hard between uses. Before being used again, they have to be soaked in water, then rubbed with oil to soften them. If this does not occur, the fermentation process expands the skin and it breaks. The application for us is that we must allow the water of the Word and oil of Holy Spirit to prepare us for new seasons of wine.
The neos wine Jesus spoke of is another outpouring of Holy Spirit. He, the wine, won’t change. Holy Spirit can’t change - no improvement is possible or necessary. He simply pours more of Himself into us.
However, we, the wineskin must change, progressively transformed (kainos) from glory to glory and faith to faith. In order to have another measure of Holy Spirit poured into us, we are renewed, changed, metamorphosed. If we do not allow and cooperate with this change, we won’t be able to contain the new wine He pours out in subsequent revivals. But if we do embrace the change in our lives, He can pour neos wine into our kainos wineskins.
God has done an enormous amount of work in the church the past few years, preparing us for another move of His Spirit (more wine). Some of the change we all experience is obviously character related. We are consistently being transformed into the image of Christ (2 Corinthiand 3:18). Other changes, however, are in our thinking - both theologically and practically. Many in the church have gone through theological adjustments over the past few years regarding the 5-Fold ministry gifts of Ephesians 4:11, the meaning and calling of the church (ekklesia), understanding marketplace ministry (which we discussed yesterday), maturing in prayer and more.
And yet, we must be willing to change more than just our theology. Our wineskins must become flexible in a practical sense. We all become comfortable with certain ways, methods, customs, traditions, etc. This is true in every area of life, both naturally and spiritually. Cultural “norms” are present in homes, businesses, age groups, society as a whole and, yes, churches. This isn’t wrong; it is normal.
However, just as businesses must adapt to new products and tastes, innovating to succeed in a new season, we in the church must also. When Holy Spirit is poured out in a new season, He is ministering to a new generation with new tastes and styles, that experiences new and different problems, and that processes everything through a new set of paradigms. When Holy Spirit is poured out on this generation, He is wise enough to know what they need and how they need it delivered to them. The key for us is twofold: remain flexible enough to adapt our methods; and follow Holy Spirit’s guidance in doing so without compromising the message - innovate without ignoring or violating truth. Truth is sacred and unchanging; methods and preferences are not.
“From time to time, lobsters have to shed their shells in order to grow. They need the shell to protect them from being torn apart; yet when they grow, the old shell must be abandoned - it can’t grow. If they did not abandon it, the old shell would soon become their prison and, finally, their casket.
The precarious time for the lobster is the brief period between the discarding of the old shell and the forming of the new. During that terribly vulnerable period, the transition must be scary to the lobster. Ocean currents gleefully cartwheel them from coral to kelp. Hungry schools of fish are ready to make them a part of their food chain. For a while at least, that old shell must look pretty good.
We are not so different from lobsters. To change and grow, we must sometimes shed our shells—a structure, a framework—that we’ve depended on.”(1) Becoming a new wineskin means shedding the old in order to embrace the new. It’s uncomfortable, but necessary.
It’s worth pointing out that the two Greek words for “new” - neos and kainos - are also used to describe “renewal.” By adding the prefix ana to them, which is equivalent to the English prefix “re,” we have two different concepts of renewal. Ananeoo is being renewed to what we previously were or possessed; God restores to us something we once walked in. What He restores isn’t qualitatively new or different, yet there is renewal or refreshing. Perhaps He restores to us our joy, health, first love, or a state of faith we previously walked in.
The other word, anakainoo, means that the renewal process has changed us. God has brought to us another stage of maturity; we are different. This type of renewal transforms us from glory to glory, into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). When finished, we are more mature, more knowledgable, more like Him. This is the word for renewing the mind (Romans 12:2), the way we think, enabling us to operate more in the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).
God is doing new things on the earth, both in the sense of neos and kainos. He’s beginning to pour another round of wine, another rain of Holy Spirit. To prepare for this, He’s also making radical changes in the church. Ready yourself to receive these changes by being a kainos wineskin.
Shed the shell!
Pray with me:
Father, we position ourselves before You, asking for the ability to change in whatever ways necessary to receive the new wine of Holy Spirit. We want to experience the ongoing transformation into the image of Christ, from glory to glory. We are expecting new wine and we intend to be new vessels.
Show us any areas of our lives needing change or adjustment. Show us any way of thinking that would keep us from receiving the new wine. And grow us in our understanding of Your word and ways so that we can be used to reveal Christ as never before. You speak of the church coming to a place where we reveal the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13). We want this!
So transform us. Transform our minds. Move us into a greater understanding of You, which will release greater authority and power. Move us into a new expression of Your gifts and will in the earth. You said we would do the same works Christ did and greater works. We release our faith for this now. In His wonderful name we ask, amen.
We decree that we are becoming new, in order to receive the new!
Portions of today’s post were taken from my book God’s Timing for Your Life.
Click on the link below to watch the full video.
Edward K. Rowell, Fersh Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching (Grand Rapids, MI: Christianity Today, 1997), p 43.