New Wine, Old Wineskins

Post by Chris Hartenstein
Amid challenging times such as a world-wide pandemic, we get into a mode of surviving and not thriving because it's easier just to survive. But, Romans 8 says that "all things work for our good and His glory." So, by design, our Dad wants to use this time in history to mold and shape us as His beloved sons and daughters. Are we in a posture for this? Are we listening to His voice above all the other noise and voices? If we are, what do we do with His words? Let's take a look at an ancient process that can bring practical relevance to thriving today!
“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.”
Mark 2:22

Ancient Lesson: New Wine, Old Wineskins 

In ancient times, people made wine through fermentation or the process of aging wine. New, unused wineskins, usually made from the skin of a goat or lamb, were the primary vessels for the aging process. The new wineskins were filled with unfermented juice and left to age for a period of time. Gasses formed within the wineskin as the flavor, color, balance, and boutique of the wine grew. Because the wineskin was new, it could expand and hold both the wine and the gasses. However, if someone poured unfermented juice into an old wineskin, the forming gasses caused the skin to burst. As a result, they lost both the new wine and old wineskin.

New vs. Old Nature

The greek words for "new" and "old" do not merely denote age, but "nature" or "essence." New wineskins by nature are elastic, full of oils, supple, thick, and can be sewn and shaped. Whereas old wineskins are already stretched, thin, rigid, and brittle, making it impossible for the aging process to take place because they lack the necessary capacity for the juice to ferment into good wine. The potential for good wine is lost. Nothing is gained. 
"And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins."
Luke 5:37-38  
This analogy adds something significant to the lesson Jesus teaches in Mark 2 and Luke 5 and Paul in Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3. 

Why can the new not inhabit the old?

Jesus is a master storyteller. So, it is no surprise that the analogy gives profound and agitating truths to us about life. The analogy takes something very practical to reveal to us the futility of adding our new nature to our old way of life. Jesus is making it clear: The old man cannot hold the new, or the new will be lost. Just like the old wineskin, the old man cannot expand or grow to accommodate the new man. Because there is a new nature within us, within our being, we are not, in essence, or nature, the same. We are a new creation. (Col. 3:9-10; Eph. 4:22-23)  Only our new nature can contain the new growth, good fruit, character, healing, and maturity our Dad has for each of us as His sons and daughters. He loves us where we are, but wants continually to take us and make us who we were created to be; always trying to "produce new wine" in our lives. 

Why do we want to put the new into the old?

Because of our fallen, broken nature, we seek out more without making sacrifices. We desire the new, but we don't want to release the old, craving change, yet, allowing things to stagnate. In our present culture, we are inundated with the temptation to consume, "the more, the better." Excess results in a better life, right? So why would we get rid of the old? All the while, experience tells us "having it all" just isn't possible. We can not have it both ways.  
We must choose new wine in new wineskins or new wine in old wineskins. This choice is vital to our lives! There is so much our Dad desires for us to be and to have, but it cannot co-exist with the old fallen nature. The old nature must be "put off" and the new nature "put on." It is the same choice as in the Garden. We either choose to be who our Creator designed us to be, or we remain the same (Deut. 30:15-20). Most prefer to continue doing the same, and the result is the same. It is like trying to build a house of cards in a windstorm. We don't have to choose this, though! As sons and daughters, our Father gives us both the power and the authority to choose life, to have a new life. 

New Heart + Renewed Mind
+ Changed Actions = Life to the Full

A new heart is our new wineskin. A renewed mind and changed actions are our new wine, the BEST tasting wine! The three together signify a changed life. We are sons and daughters MOST IMPORTANTLY, and now, we live as sons and daughters. Our Dad gives us a new heart (EZ. 26:26). He has provided both His Word, written and in Jesus (John 1), as well as the individual revelation of the Word's application in our lives (Eph 1). Now, we are asked to change the way we think and act. He knows our true hearts and who we are more than anyone. He loves us more than we could ever imagine, but he won't force us. The choice is ours to choose the new or old. Life or death.
“ put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds.”
Ephesians 4:12-32 (22-23)
  • Where do I feel “stretched” or “thin” like I am attempting to put new wine into an old wineskin? Why?
  • Why am I struggling to release the old wineskin?  What does holding onto the old wineskin really giving me?  What is it really costing me?
  • When I put new wine into old wineskins what does that produce in my life?
  • Do I believe in the “new nature” I have in Christ?  Why or why not?
  • If I TRUST in this new nature and allow it to bring new things into my life, what do I think it will do for me?  How do I think it will make me feel?
  • Compare what is “produced” from the “old wineskin” to what is “produced” if you put the new wineskin?  Which bears good fruit?  Which gives me life?
  • What would it look like to put the new wine into a new wineskin?

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