by David Y.
Today I thought I might share a few things that have been on my mind concerning the fascination by many religious folks with revivals and reformation movements. A number of these things I’ve shared before in other articles so I hope you’ll forgive any redundancy or wordiness (though most everyone who knows me knows I tend to write a little long-winded anyway… ok ok, a lot – hehe).
I know that many folks tend to draw inspiration from the stories surrounding revivals in years past. Others seek desperately for such events to transpire again today and within their religious organizations (i.e. “churches”). For many the hope seems simple and perhaps understandable enough on the surface; People want to see their boring religious routines upset, but not just for the sake of being upset, but they claim to desire a fresh touch from God… which may beg the question, Where is God in their services to begin with? Has he left? Was He ever there to begin with? Or has religion simply imposed itself as His substitute and left many in bondage? How much of this desire is simply desperation wrought from religious boredom and burnout? How much of it is evidence, if any, of a genuine spiritual hunger for the life and joy of the Lord to return to their lives? Why is it that these folks do not already have a sustaining revelation of the life and joy of Christ that carries them day by day? Is that even possible?
Those of you who know me well know that, while I am not a proponent of organized religion as a whole, I do try very hard not to come across as disrespectful to my brothers and sisters in Christ who remain part of denominational churches. I spent so many years of my life there as well. In my heart there is a separation between the evil of religion and the people who are sometimes associated with it or in environments that appear to dabble with it. While I often speak boldly concerning my perspectives concerning organized religion, I try not to presume every reason why each person may gather in the way they so choose. My heart is to highlight what I believe the Lord is revealing to me and then encourage others to seek the Lord for their own lives and then act on what He instructs them to do.
In fact, though I sometimes receive emails from folks who would like me to tell them what to do about their “church predicament”, I refuse to get in the middle of their relationship with Jesus as it concerns this matter. Each must learn to hear the voice of the Spirit of God for themselves and whether or not God is calling them to withdraw from a group or participate in some fashion with them.
While I am personally in disagreement with the bulk of religious concepts that drive institutionalized Christianity (or Churchianity as I most often refer to it), I acknowledge that God (who is completely perfect) often intersects with humanity on imperfect terms because He loves us. This is not to say that God always approves of our methods, but I believe that His grace is able to reach through to us in spite of them. If Christ was able to give His life for a world of sinners who stood mocking him and whom literally crucified Him on a cross, then certainly God is able to reach through even the most misguided program and still touch a heart that is genuinely reaching out to Him.
When God set me free from religious bondage, I was still a believer in its merits. I was completely absorbed with religious mindsets and sometimes even angrily defended them. My entire context of Christianity was defined according to the organized system I was a part of. Naturally, this made it next to impossible for me to willingly accept any truth that had not first been filtered through my religion. Yet on occasion, the light would shine through into my little realm of understanding and there would be little breakthroughs of revelation… but I still didn’t fully let go of so many of those concepts that formed my consistent pattern of thoughts concerning spiritual things. Though I thought I was very mature spiritually, I later discovered that I was only as a baby. I had also grown so accustomed to being fed by religious leaders, supplemented by all the different kinds of religious material around me (not all of which was spiritually healthy I might add), that I found I really didn’t know how to hear God for myself. I was, in effect, spiritually dull (though my religion deceived me to think the opposite). The writer of Hebrews might have just as well directed his comments toward me…
- Hebrews 5:11 – There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.
Amazingly (and for some time), God continued to meet me in my box I had made for Him. It seems that the King of Glory essentially limited Himself for my benefit (at least that’s the only way I can think to describe it). Certainly God did this when He clothed Himself in the human body of Jesus; For our benefit, God basically “reduced” Himself that we might be able to grab hold of God’s intent to be kind to us and to draw us to the Father. It would be some time before I realized that, despite my perception of things, God was never really stuck in that box at all (as though the magnificent Lord of heaven and earth could be contained in anything), but He continued to call to me from outside of it and reach in to let me know He loved me and desired me to find the truth. His love for me was not distracted by the religion around me, though it was I who was hindered by it and distracted. I’m sure it must grieve the Lord when we tangle ourselves up with so many things about Him rather than simply following Him and embracing Him. How sad when we have become so enamored with religion that we can’t even tell the difference.
My point in sharing this is to say that, although God is good and does reach into our lives in spite of the religious distractions we are sometimes occupied with, this doesn’t mean He endorses them. In fact, the hard reality is that sometimes God even sends delusions our way to expose the error we have entangled ourselves with and even judge us accordingly to drive it far from us. His loving desire is to lead us to truth. But when we refuse to hear it and allow our lives to be changed by it, He may very well turn us over to the deception we seem to be more willing to embrace.
There’s a lot of talk today in many churches about how they desire all the promises of God, but I wonder how many want to acknowledge that some of God’s promises are meant to bring rebuke to our error and provoke us to turn from sin? This was, in fact, the case in the following passage of Scripture…
- Ezekiel 14:9-11 – If a prophet gives a false message, I am the one who caused that prophet to lie. But I will still reject him and cut him off from my people, and anyone who goes to that prophet for a message will be punished in the same way. I will do this, so that you will come back to me and stop destroying yourselves with these disgusting sins. So turn back to me! Then I will be your God, and you will be my people. I, the LORD God, make this promise.
In today’s church there is a lot of talk about revival and reformation. If you’ve been a Christian for a long time, you’ve probably heard these buzz words over and over throughout your life. I’m approaching the age of 40 at the time of writing this article and I’ve seen several “revival” movements come and go over the years. In each one there was declaration about God doing a “new thing” and there was much excitement. And while sometimes very good things seemed to take place at times during these movements, they always fizzled out and died…. Always! As I read through the history books about the great revivals of the past, I discovered that all of them died out too. For years I secretly wondered why…
My observations over the years have led me to some personal conclusions about why revivals seem to have a shelf life (those conclusions probably not without their inadequacies I realize). For example, I’ve noticed that when God does reach in and do a supernatural work among His people, they often do like the disciples did when Jesus was transfigured before their eyes on the mountain (and when Elijah and Moses also appeared with Him); They seek to build a tabernacle on the site (a memorial, a holy place, etc.)… thus totally missing the point. They get caught up in the excitement and wish to camp there.
- Mark 9:5 – And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. And let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.
If you’ll recall, God’s voice thundered out of the heavens, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, HEAR HIM!” Upon hearing this the disciples were afraid. Peter was full of zeal and, no doubt, good intention… but building memorials to Moses, Elijah and Jesus to try and somehow hold on to this experience was NOT God’s will!
This has often been my general response to the question of “why do revivals die out?” In addition, I have felt that men often misunderstand God’s dealings. God sometimes reaches in and touches people in the midst of their religion, though He Himself has no need of religion. Some hear His voice and truly follow and this is the point! But many do not really hear. Instead they presume it is their religious method that has obtained this godly favor, so they seek to duplicate it. In their minds, God is validating their religious format. Soon everyone is talking about their church and why it’s the best. Suddenly special services are born, new meeting schedules, and often new teachings. Pastors often take advantage of the heightened sense of spiritual electricity in the air and seek to capitalize on it.
To be fair, I suppose not every pastor has intentions that are always so base as to just want to increase the size of their congregations or make more money, but I dare say that most have already bought into the notion that successful Christianity is all about successful religion. There is this mindset that develops, which suggests that if your church service is popular or very “polished” then God is really into your program. But the truth is, I really think God could care less about programs. He wants a solitary devotion unto Him. He wants His people to follow His voice.
As soon as a “movement” becomes the focus, it generally begins to die out (though sometimes it will get bigger before it gets smaller). Until men discover that God is not interested in the church organization with the hottest program but that He simple wants His family to follow Him, this cycle seems doomed to repeat itself. Amazingly, it does repeat itself, and this is somewhat impressive to me. God often continues to pour Himself out despite the fact that so many remain distracted by religion and continue trying to draw focus to the revival rather than the Reviver!
I have often noticed how God may sometimes do incredible things among a group of people and yet those same people will make a monument out of it (an idol if you will) and turn it into a static routine. If they’re lucky to milk a couple of good years out of the experience, it always seems to conclude with things returning to normal (dry, boring routine)… Preachers then find themselves having to make up all kinds of excuses about how we need to endure through even when the emotion is not felt as strong. Often the guilt sermons increase at this point, since the excitement is gone and other means must be employed to keep people attending and donating their money. In the worst case scenarios, very destructive doctrines begin to infiltrate the group. I’ve watched pastors, who once preached the truth, embrace all kinds of error in the aftermath of a so-called revival… and not just subtle error, but obvious error! I was amazed at how these educated men and women could so easily embrace lies… Now, looking back, it seems clear…… God gave them over to delusion!
But even before this happened, I noticed that some of these pastors genuinely appeared to grieve over the fact that the revival had dried up. They loved the experience of God touching their lives in such a profound way. They loved to see people getting saved. Sadly, they again misunderstood the point; thinking that their program and faithfulness to the church routine had something to do with it. They thought that because God did a good thing among them, He must also have been endorsing their religious method.
As a side note here, I might add that I’ve experienced the same kind of mindset in play by some folks outside of the religious system. In fact, just recently, a brother questioned how I could dare darken the door of a church service when I have this whole website that speaks so derogatorily against organized religion. In this brother’s mind I was essentially endorsing false religious concepts by occasionally sitting in a pew. I tried to explain in reply that if visiting a church equated endorsement of false religious mindsets then Jesus must have done the same by visiting the homes of sinners, non-believers, and religious leaders alike! Jesus pronounced Himself as the replacement for the Temple, yet the Scripture says He visited it daily! In fact, this He began to do immediately after He angrily drove out the moneychangers, overturning their tables and cracking a whip!
- Luke 19:47-48 – After that, He taught daily in the Temple, but the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the other leaders of the people began planning how to kill Him. But they could think of nothing, because all the people hung on every word He said.
It is evident by this passage that Jesus certainly wasn’t endorsing the false religious leaders who presided in the Temple. In fact, they hated His presence there so much they wanted to kill him! Jesus was following the lead of His father and this is all that mattered!
- John 8:28-29 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I AM He. I do nothing on My own but say only what the Father taught Me. And the One who sent Me is with Me—He has not deserted Me. For I always do what pleases Him.”
Jesus loved the Father and He loved the Father’s children, no matter how tangled up with religious notions they had become. Here again is evidence of God reaching into to call His people unto Himself. But again, the fact that God sometimes reaches in, does not mean He endorses all of our activities or the mindsets that tend to manipulate us.
I know pastors who have expressed to me how they love the Lord. They know there is a lot of overly-religious garbage that has infected how people think about God and the relational nature of the body of Christ. I know of pastor friends who have read many of the articles on this website and found themselves agreeing with much. There are some who occupy the modern role of pastor who are hungry for truth and who simply want to see God’s children grow up into mature saints. They tell me this is why they busy themselves with running a church… They want a place where people can draw together in godly fellowship and grow up spiritually. Many pastors, I do believe, have genuine hearts that love Jesus and only want people to come to the same understanding of how incredible the Lord is. Yet the problem often is that they are infected by this thing called religion and they don’t realize how much. They falsely think they can manipulate it (religion) to a positive end. They see it as a “tool” instead of a threat. They even pray and ask God to fix it, revive it, reform it!
I have told the story before about the pastor friend of mine who told me he hopes to create the kind of church organization that even I will want to attend. Of course this makes me nod and sigh at the mentality that such individuals are controlled by (the same mentality I too was once controlled by), to the point where they think life revolves around religion and the idea that if they just perfect it a little better, then it will appeal to everyone… never mind whether or not God has any use for it.
What’s worse is that many pastors tend to think far too highly of themselves; believing that God cannot effectively transform lives or lead His people without them preaching to a congregation week after week (not to mention for a living). This is actually an incredible problem because it essentially sets them in a place of prominence among (or over rather) a group of believers, whereas Scripture teaches us that ONLY CHRIST is to hold this place among His people.
- Colossians 1:18 – And he is the head of the body, the church: the starting point of all things, the first to come again from the dead; so that in all things he might have the chief place.
I know good men who seem to have the best of intentions, yet they also clearly seem to love the title “pastor” and it appears they really do see themselves as separate and above their brethren. One major indication of this reality is how they speak about themselves… I’ve often noticed that men who are in love with their position and title will exercise a measure of false humility. They will often say things like, “Look folks, I’m just a man like you… I’m nobody special up here…” The fact that they take numerous opportunity to acknowledge the impression people have that they are in a higher position (i.e. “up here”) than their fellow brothers in Christ, may actually be evidence that they are using this same opportunity to emphasize this division! It’s almost reverse psychology.
My feeling is that if they really believed this; that they are just like everyone else, then there would be no need for them to maintain a title and to consistently preface their name with it on virtually every occasion. There would be no need for them to continually highlight the fact that a difference in position is perceived. There would also be no need for them to continue as the central figure of that religious organization. There would be no need (and this is the one that really hurts for a lot of these guys to face) for them to continue accepting a paycheck for their service… They could simply get a regular job like every other average Joe… That’s if they really saw themselves as merely one of the bros. They wouldn’t need to feel an obligation to be the central mouthpiece for God among a group of saints. The existence of this mindset is a clear throwback to the biblical accounts of men like Moses. The problem is that Moses is not a pattern intended for New Testament followers to adhere to. Moses was a type and shadow of Christ Jesus, not a local pastor. In fact, the example of Moses (completely fulfilled in Christ) was intended to fade away (as far as the human perspective is concerned). Put another way, Christ is our Moses. No man can ever fill those shoes! If he attempts to, he does err.
- 2 Corinthians 3:11 – So if the old way (under Moses), which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever! Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold. We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away.
The sad fact is that, for many of these individuals who sit in the pastorate, their sense of spiritual calling is very much tied up in an elitist mindset. Not that they intend this deliberately, but I believe they have been infected by the same years of religious ideology that so many of us have been infected with as well… How often have we heard them talk about how wonderful it must have been for Moses to commune face to face with God as a man does with his friend? I remember many sermons on this very subject. The problem with this mindset, as we have already touched on, is that many of these men already see themselves as a modern-day Moses to their “flock” and thus desire this face-to-face encounter, that they may bring God’s message to His people. This is a seriously flawed doctrine because it is not New Testament in any way, shape or form! Even Moses did not want this exclusive arrangement. Moses desired, as God has always desired, that ALL of His people hear from Him directly.
- Numbers 11:29 – And Moses said unto him… “Would God that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!”
If you remember the story, it was ultimately the people who refused to hear God speaking to them directly and requested Moses to stand in the middle. God allowed this for a season, but God also spoke this word through His servant Moses:
- Deuteronomy 18:18 – I will raise them up a Prophet (speaking of Jesus) from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in His mouth; and He shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him.
When this day came to pass, it would no more be God through a mere man such as Moses… but through Christ! So, the face-to-face arrangement between one man and God on behalf of the people would no more be God’s way among His people. Instead, God would pour out His love upon all people by placing His own Spirit inside of them!
- Romans 5:5 – (we are infused with hope) that will never disappoint us. All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love.
Hebrews 8:9-13 – This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of the land of Egypt. They did not remain faithful to My covenant, so I turned My back on them, says the LORD. But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know Me already. And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” When God speaks of a “new” covenant, it means He has made the first one obsolete. It is now out of date and will soon disappear.
I realize how easy it might be for us to romanticize the thought of standing face to face with God as Moses did, but when we gain a revelation of what the Gospel of Jesus has really afforded us, we will not become overly enamored with such envying. As hard as it may be to accept for some, Moses’ arrangement was inferior to what all of us are granted through Jesus Christ by His Holy Spirit! All of this to say: Watch out when you hear preachers start getting weepy about the glory of Moses in his face-to-face encounters with God. Use discernment. Many of these religious leaders have been enticed by their own words and led away from the simple truths of the Gospel and many others are at the door, about to be swept away into error themselves. Pray for them!
I believe God has been long-suffering with so many of these types of leaders. Their heart longs after God, but their religious mindset and mixed up understand of the Gospel vs the Old (and expired) Covenant continues to cloud their eyes from seeing more clearly.
- 2 Corinthians 3:11-18 – So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever! Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold. We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away. But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand. But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image.
My prayer is that they will begin to really hear His call instead of desiring the glory of Moses or always expecting God to repair and improve their religious program. Sadly, for so many, the thought of abandoning the program is unthinkable when they have already invested so much into it.
Eventually there comes a point where the cost must be counted. God calls out and either those He’s called will listen, follow and obey – or – He may give them over to delusion! I have watched this happen with my own eyes, even in the very church organization I once attended! It’s very sad to behold… although, it seems that there is often a remnant whose eyes begin to open through the process and they come out to follow only Jesus. Please note, I am not saying this always means that they will never gather with other believers in some fashion, but they cease to be manipulated by that religious mindset and control.
The very real truth is, as even Scripture teaches, is that God doesn’t patch up the broken systems that man has made for himself to exist inside of. Instead, God makes all things new and then calls His people to follow HIM after HIS way – NOT our way. This was true with Noah and his family. God did not merely “fix” the world, He pushed the reset button. Only those who chose to follow Him were protected and blessed. And Jesus said that this day is coming again!
- Matthew 24:37-39 – “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.”
So please hear what the Spirit of God is saying… There is a day of accounting coming soon! God is calling us to follow HIS way. Will we take the time to seek out what that means for each of us? Or will we just continue carrying on like nothing matters? To those of my friends who still believe in the merits of organized religion, what if what I’m saying here is right and what if God really is calling us all out unto Him; to leave behind our static forms of worship and patterns of religion? What if God really is seeking a people who are known only by His name and not the name of this church or that church or this denomination or that one… or this pastor or that one? What if all this stuff that so many think matters (i.e. consuming our lives with religious organization) is actually pulling our hearts away from the heart of God? What if this really is a delusion and what if the organized church really is the devil’s playground?
- 1 Corinthians 3:4-7 – When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world? After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.
1 Corinthians 1:12-13 – Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter, ” or “I follow only Christ.” Has Christ been divided into factions? Was I, Paul, crucified for you? Were any of you baptized in the name of Paul? Of course not!
1 Corinthians 4:6 – Brothers and sisters, I have applied this to Apollos and myself for your sake. You should learn from us not to go beyond what is written in Scripture. Then you won’t arrogantly place one of us in position over the others.
My brothers and sisters, don’t be deceived! Indeed there are good men and women out there who even occupy the pulpits and pews of churches. Many of them are sincere children of the Lord, but many are themselves deceived and caught up in religion. If we are not careful to separate the truth from religion within our own hearts, the one will overtake the other. None of us should be so confident as to think we are immune to deception. We must remain diligent and steadfast in the faith. When God opens our eyes to truth, we must also be careful to continue walking in love towards others who may not see that same truth.
Remember, even though the folks who have been captivated by religion tend to create a division in their minds between the no-longer-religious and themselves, we – as followers of Jesus – have no business getting caught up in sectarian mindsets. We ought to continue praying for one another and asking God to make us a light that shines in the darkness. Whether that means the darkness of the unchurched world, or the darkness present within the organized church, there is still simply one body of Christ and then there’s “the world”. We must discern the body of Christ regardless of the existence of religion.
Again, in suggesting this I am not presuming to direct anyone apart from God’s own direct will. Perhaps God will call some to visit organized churches and to be a light in the darkness (even the darkness of religion). Perhaps some God will call away from it altogether, no matter how uncomfortable or unfamiliar this may be. Perhaps God will call others to draw together for periods of time, to encourage one another in dark times or to even organize together for a season to accomplish some purpose God has ordained. I do not mean to presume any particular direction for anyone who may read this (nor am I endorsing “church” as most perceive it today). I simply mean to call us all to a place of realization that we are to be led by CHRIST JESUS!
God’s heart is to seek and save those that our lost and to draw us all closer together in relationship with Him… Our purpose here on earth is not to build religious institutions to busy ourselves with, or to set up religious routines to govern our conduct, or denominations to tell us what we’re allowed to believe. We have ONE Lord and ONE faith! There is also only ONE Family of God and therefore ONE true Church (not many). God has no interest in reforming what man created and malformed in his own corrupted wisdom.
Jesus put the whole matter in terms of a wineskin. If you pour new wine into old, dried out skins, the skins will burst. In fact, you can’t even take a piece of the new and use it to patch the old! Therefore new wineskins are required to contain new wine – PERIOD.
- Luke 5:36-39 – Then Jesus gave them this illustration: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment. For then the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t even match the old garment. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine must be stored in new wineskins. But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say.”
Isn’t this true today? So many (not unlike many of us not so long ago) don’t want anything to change. They like their old wine and their old wineskin. And just like this parable, I’ve seen folks who tried to patch their old skins with cloth from the new… They thought, “If only we can patch this old bag up just a bit, maybe we can make it better?” It never works! The fresh wine of God’s Spirit cannot be maintained in dried up religious routines made by man. They are wholly incompatible. For this reason, revivals will continue to fail and reformation won’t work!
Be aware that deception is everywhere. In many of these recent so-called “revival” or “renewal” movements, they like to use the wineskin lingo as well. They often use it as a proof-text for their manifestations and religious experiences. I know because I used to do it as well. Therefore anyone who chooses not to embrace those experiences or who might consider the doctrines that go along with them to be errant, these get branded as “old wineskins” and, ironically, “religious.” The funny thing is, when you step back and look at the overall picture, those who boast that they have the new wine, often do not adequately demonstrate any significant spiritual fruit. Their attitudes often lack Christ’s love, doctrinal truth, and godly character. So just because they use the lingo, doesn’t mean they understand what Jesus was really saying.
John Gill put it this way in his commentary on Jesus’ words:
- “The Lord exposes the folly of the Scribes and Pharisees (the religious leaders), in their zealous attachment to the traditions of the elders; so in this, he gives a reason why he did not call these persons by his Gospel, who were settled upon the old principle of self-righteousness, but sinners, whom he renews by his Spirit and grace: for by “old bottles” are meant, the Scribes and Pharisees. The allusion is to bottles, made of the skins of beasts, which in time decayed, waxed old, and became unfit for use…”
Adam Clarke said it like this:
- “The institutes of Christ, and those of the Pharisees, could never be brought to accord: an attempt to combine the two systems would be as absurd as it would be destructive. The old covenant made way for the new, which was its completion and its end; but with that old covenant the new cannot be incorporated.”
Albert Barnes said it like this:
- “So, says Christ, there is ‘fitness’ or propriety of things. It is not ‘fit’ that my doctrine should be attached to or connected with the old and corrupt doctrines of the Pharisees. New things should be put together, and made to match.”
In short, God’s new and living way is not compatible with any other way that man prescribes. The fallacy of those folks who think this passage about wineskins applies to their “revival movement” are missing the point just as badly as those old-time religious traditionalists who resist change of any kind. They both err because Jesus was not talking about new wine in terms of new revival movements. No. He was talking about HIS way period; a life reborn through His Gospel, led by the doctrine He taught, and now actively led by His Spirit within us! His way is not impacted by, nor is it validated by the movements of men. We are simply called (as the disciple of Jesus were) to drop our nets and follow Him! How much better we would all get along if this was our united purpose.
I do believe there will come a day when this world will take aim at the Christian faith. Eventually this world’s governments will target that which is visible and tangible (i.e. Christ-professing religious organizations). How terrible it will be for those who have wrapped up their entire concept of “Christianity” in those organizations. When they are shaken, what will remain of their faith?
I believe there will be enormous pressure placed upon many of these organizations to either conform or to shut down. I don’t know if we will see the day when Bibles will be burned or Christianity made illegal… More likely I think what will happen and, in many ways, already is happening is that “Christianity” is being transformed before our eyes, and not according to any godly design. The changes are subtle and millions are believing lies, which are being introduced carefully, systematically and slowly over time… much like a frog that is boiled alive and doesn’t even realize what’s happening to himself until he’s dead.
Now is NOT the time to seek another revival or reformation or get all excited about starting a new movement. Rather it’s time to simply listen and follow ONE Master… JESUS… not a pastor, not a church, not a denominational viewpoint. GOD must be the one King of His people! We shouldn’t be discouraged when revival movements fall apart and fizzle out… Rather we should understand that God’s interest is NOT a movement but a people. This desire of God has never changed in this. Our emotions, they will change. Our movements, they will come and go. Jesus remains the same yesterday, today and forever! In that we should rejoice! The following is my paraphrase of Hebrews 13:7-9…
- Hebrews 13:7-9 – Remember those who have gone on before you in the faith, demonstrating by their conduct what it means to follow Christ; whom also taught you the Scriptures. Consider the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas and doctrines. Your strength comes from living in God’s grace, not from religious rules made by men, which do nothing to help you maintain your relationship with Him. It is better to have the heart established in the grace of God than to have the most accurate knowledge of the distinctions which are made on useless or unimportant subjects of religion.*
*That last bit was adopted from a quote by Albert Barnes that I love.
God bless you guys!!! Keep walking in the joy and liberty of Christ!