Have you ever wondered why we can stop growing spiritually?
Yet, when you were first “saved” spiritual growth happened so easy? Naturally, you wanted to read your Bible every chance you got, you prayed often and trials that now seem daunting were overlooked in those early days because of a zealous love for the Lord?
I’ve wondered how it could be that for the first five years in my Christian faith, I was the most passionate and happy “single” person on the planet, without any “real” problems during those years. Everything felt like bliss. Some people call this the “honeymoon phase” with Jesus where the newness of the abundant life takes over and is completely satisfying and fulfilling.
But what happens after these early years and why do we stop naturally growing in our faith and revert backwards? Does life just eventually start eating away at our zeal for God and we accept it?!
Or does it happen suddenly when life starts kicking us when we are down? Horrible things happen to us that ends our “honeymoon with Jesus” season as we rudely are awakened by the cruelness of this life. Every adult has experienced it in one way or another: some kind of major loss, dissatisfaction, divorce, infertility, remaining single with a desire for a partner, and the list goes on. When these “BAD” things happen to us as “GOOD” people, we are tempted to throw in the towel. Okay, maybe you didn’t completely fall away, maybe you just started to doubt God’s goodness after the fill in the blank thing happened. And maybe that doubting led you to take life into your own hands little by little until you realized that YOU were the one in the driver seat. God got shoved into the back seat, subconsciously terminated from His role as Lord of your life. Heartache, fear and control became your new passenger up front, demanding you do all you can to preserve the remains of what is now left after the disheartening trial you endured. So we take control. We form ideas of our own. We put our Spirituality under our own control, knowing we can probably do better than God if He dared allowed this broken mess to happen. Now that we have been “sobered up” into real life and this “adulting” thing, we justify no longer needing to be completely dependent on God.
It’s no big deal. I got this. I’m going to take over.
So we take our old wine skins if you will and we lay them out begging God to fill them with new wine. Another words, we expect God to show up in the way we want Him to. But the problem is, it is 100% impossible to put new wine into old wine skins without them getting ruined. It cannot be done.
In the same manner, we stop growing spiritually because we are choosing to see things one way. The old way that is. And we pout for God to do it our way, our old familiar way (which is again, physically impossible!).
But what if there is MORE than the ways of old? What if God really knows the way we need to go: the way of a restored Spiritual life where new zeal would return and blessings that were stolen would be redeemed, a plan so great we have no idea what it entails?
What if you could press in DEEPER and see that there is so much more? Would you do it? Would you let God back in the driver seat where He could win your heart back?
After my divorce and experience with abuse, I will tell you honestly that I considered throwing in the towel to all the frilly hopes and daring dreams I had for this life! After so much injustice wrecked my life, I could see how people get stuck in that place for the rest of their lives. I truly thought I would too. Everything became stagnant and stalled in the dark fiery trials I went through during a heart-wrenching five year period of my life. Not just in my relationship with God, but with others and in every area. The passion for God was gone. I stopped growing spiritually.
Yet this is where everything changed. I knew that the one thing missing from my earlier days of “life was grand” zeal for the Lord was some major grit. And this was it. From the brokenness, sin and greatest disappointments in my life a new thing was forming.
Instead of giving in to bitterness and anger, I allowed my life’s circumstances and “hellish reality” to push me deeper into my relationship with Christ. I dug in, I plowed through the fields for what I was missing, what I had been doing wrong. And this is what I found.
My faith was conditional. It was conditional on what I received and didn’t receive, on what I wanted, and on what I would accept.
Thankfully, in all of His goodness, God revealed to me a deep revelation of my suffering in this time: If not several, but at least once on this side of heaven, we will all go through a trial so monumental that we will either be sifted out or blessed by it. We will all experience a time when we wake up and realize our life and/or our faith looks nothing like it used to. So what are we going to do?
If we are wise, we will see that God is trying to do something new. New to us and new in us. And sometimes new is not what we wanted. We wanted the old, the comfortable.
But God knows better than us. He knows that what we desire, what will challenge us, what will draw us closer to Him.
Which story do you want to live?
#1- I had a great life until this awful thing happened and life got dark and never changed and I was in severe agony.
#2- I had a great life and then something really awful happened and it caused me to find the beauty in redemption, and a restored flourishing relationship with Christ.
I know that I had a choice to make– and when I chose to see Jesus as more than a genie in a bottle who didn’t grant my wishes, my redemption story started playing out. My divorce was a great turning point in my life for me to seek the Lord like never before. My heartache drew me near to the heart of God more than a religious system and I found comfort and healing in tears. I discovered a new path and a new life. But the most hardest and most liberating discovery was a new revelation of God — and that was — that God is good even when bad things happen. Why is He good? Because He has a NEW PLAN when bad things come into play. But it’s when we equate the “bad thing” experience as being the end of a matter, we have no hope. We are cut off from God’s new plan. He is going to do something brand new, something better and we can’t see it. We physically can’t see it and we start doubting. Our faith dwindles. That is why Jesus rebukes us in Mark 2:21-22: “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”
When I stopped demanding the Lord to fill my old wine skin with new wine, I allowed Him room to move. To speak. To reveal. There was a stirring desire to receive the “new” finally! I no longer wanted my old plan, my old desires!
Jesus warns us that He has come and that we will not be able to accept even Him unless we get rid of the traditions and religious ways of old. It will be impossible for us to receive Him when we mandate and stomp or feet for our silly non-biblical traditions — which are ends in themselves. Jesus always calls us to “think outside our small little Christian box” and see it His way, as His ways are so much higher than ours. Although we are not wrong for wanting to honor the Lord in our “ways of old”, unless we make these alterable, we can never be completely changed according to the Word of God. We can never grow spiritually. We will remain stuck in old wine skins.
We need to make room for the new! The new has come! Let’s stop subconsciously arguing with the Lord and submit to His ways. Handing over the reigns of our life to Him once more in order to find our life again. Is new wine in a new wine skin really that scary? Let’s stop fighting the bigger picture– which ultimately is nothing but a wonderful story of redemption for us!
I came across this article after God started tugging on my heart about wanting to do a new work in me first (prepare a new wine skin) so that He could give me a new thing (new wine).
“Christians have, throughout the history of the church, created many religious structures and rituals in order to develop a closer walk with God. At their best, things such as prayer books, specific patterns of spiritual disciplines, and other devotional aids have served as helpful frameworks that have assisted many people in deepening their piety. At their worst, when things that have not been given immediately by God are treated as having been given directly by the Lord Himself, they have become burdensome in the church. This reality shows how careful we must be not to treat good things as ultimate things, that we must not allow useful spiritual practices to become markers of salvation when our Creator has not made them such.
Sometimes, the need for reform is so great that the fresh work of God cannot be contained in old or expected forms. Jesus makes this essential point in Mark 2:21–22. This teaching comes right after the people’s confusion about why Christ was not engaging in the practice of fasting as the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees did. As we noted in our study of verses 18–20, Jesus did not condemn fasting itself; rather, He said that His presence meant it was not time to abstain from celebration. He did not conform to their expectations of piety, not because their views of piety were entirely wrong but because God was doing a new thing. If they were to receive Him, they would have to adjust their expectations and not try to contain the new in the forms of the old.
To do otherwise would cause spiritual damage, as Jesus’ illustration reveals. After a piece of clothing has been washed many times, it has shrunk to a point where it cannot shrink any further. Used wineskins have been stretched as far as they will go without bursting by the gases produced by the fermentation of fresh wine. If one tries to mend a shrunken piece of cloth with a new patch, the patch will eventually shrink and tear away from the shrunken cloth, because the shrunken cloth will have no give left in it. Similarly, the gases produced by fermenting wine will stretch old, stretched-out wineskins beyond their breaking point. New patches are for new cloth that can accommodate shrinking, and new wine is for new wineskins that can accommodate expansion. Jesus could not be fit exactly into preconceived patterns and expectations, and those who tried would find themselves suffering great spiritual harm.”
Dr. R.C. Sproul mentions in his commentary Mark that Jesus “was warning them that their King had come, and they would not be able to deal with this King unless they got rid of the structures that made it impossible for them to receive Him.” If our non-Biblical mandated traditions are ends in themselves, they will keep us from seeing Jesus. Such things may themselves be fine, but if we make them unalterable, we will never be reformed according to God’s Word.
So friends, what is it in you life that God is wanting to do? What are the ways of old that He is trying to clear out to make room for a new thing?
Get excited to leave behind the old ways, the old thoughts, the old zeal, the old plans. God is making a way in the desert, streams in barren fields, He is making a way back to Him, with new plans for us, new purpose and new hope! If you have stopped growing spiritually and couldn’t find your way….be encouraged, the NEW IS ON THE WAY!
“Seek the Lord with all your heart and you will find Him.” Let your roots grow DEEP, with grit, and press in to what He ACTUALLY IS doing– a new and exciting thing in you and in your life!
I’d love to know what you are leaving behind in 2019! Leave a comment below 🙂
Be blessed friends!