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New Wine
by Kim Harrington

     "And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’"     

Luke 5:37-39


     Winds of revival or "refreshing" are sweeping the land.  New/old terms are being added to the vocabulary of charismatic believers around the world... Ezekiel’s river of life, fresh fire, falling under the power, holy laughter, the "tangible" anointing of God, among others. Perhaps the most curious terms to the uninitiated refer to getting "drunk in the Spirit" and drinking the "new wine."  It somehow seems irreverent to talk of holy things in such language. Yet these terms are straight from the pages of the Bible, and even from the lips of Jesus Himself.

     Jesus used the term "new wine" as a description of His ministry and the Spirit-empowered life. It didn't originate with Him, however. The ancient Hebrew prophets before Him saw new wine as a symbol of God’s refreshing Spirit, a sign of God’s blessing and abundance. It’s no coincidence that Jesus’ first miracle was turning the water into wine—figuratively, transforming the life-sustaining waters of salvation into the vibrant wine of the Holy Ghost.

     In Luke chapter five Jesus was approached with some concerns about His lifestyle. "You eat and drink with sinners... you don’t fast," etc. Basically the complaint was, "You don’t act religious enough, you have entirely too much fun in church, you’re not like the Pharisees or the disciples of John the Baptist. How can you be a true man of God?" Jesus answered them with a parable, an illustration about new wine, quoted in our text above. Let me point out three characteristics of that spiritual brew...


New Wine Is New

     Notice that the Lord makes a point of saying "new" wine, not just any old wine, but new wine, especially as opposed to mellower, vintage wine.  New wine is new.  It’s this year’s harvest.  It’s the latest wine on the scene.

     The ministry of Jesus is the cutting edge of what’s happening in the spiritual realm. He was God’s most recent move back in Galilee. It was no longer good enough to be a follower of Moses (as the Pharisees claimed to be) or even a disciple of John. The baptizer wasn’t even dead yet, but he was already yesterday’s news. He had been superseded by the Son of God Himself.

     The Holy Spirit is always doing something new. God is the God of the living, the God of now. He has something for every generation. He is forever raising up new moves of the Spirit, pioneering new things, initiating new thrusts into uncharted areas. As His last move begins to fizzle out, turning inward, relying more and more on the arm of the flesh, He starts something new, something often regarded as too radical by the older folks.

     God is radical rather than conservative. How is it then that the Christian community in the United States today has become known as the guardian of the old ways, at the far right of the political spectrum? Certainly we share some of the moral values of the conservatives, but we must operate in a completely different spirit. We’re not looking back with nostalgia upon the good old days, but forward with anticipation to the kingdom of God.

     The children in the wilderness were warned not to eat yesterday’s manna. It became a seething mass of worms and rot if not used in its time. So it is when Christians refuse to partake of the new things that God is doing. The old is not good enough, it is becoming rotten, it doesn’t sustain the same degree of spiritual life. You must enter the new, pick today’s supply of manna from heaven, and enjoy the God of the new things!


New Wine Is Active, In Ferment

     New wine is not finished. It is still in the fermentation process. The chemical reaction that forms the alcohol is still going on. It’s bubbling, expanding, releasing gasses. That’s why you can’t put new wine in an old skin. The old skin is dry and not flexible enough to handle the activity within; it soon cracks, and you lose both the wine and the skin.

     So it is with a new move of the Spirit. Unpredictable things are happening all the time. It’s not finished, it hasn’t reached its final state; when it does settle down and fall into a predictable pattern it is no longer a revival; it’s business as usual as man finally brings the move of God under his control.

     I have no desire to bring the Holy Spirit under my control. I’m not too crazy about order, not man’s order anyway. My father is buried in a military cemetary. In it are thousands of identical stones, arranged in orderly rows—seen from any angle the lines are geometrically perfect. Nothing could be more orderly—or more lifeless.

     God is a God of order (1 Cor 14:33,40) but God’s order is not the order of straight rows and predictable services. When the Holy Spirit is in charge you may get out by noon and you may not. You may hear two sermons that day or you may hear none; there may be a time of ministry that looks like complete chaos to those who have been reared in more traditional religious surroundings. But if the Spirit is orchestrating the events it is in order. Our own concept of church order is not based on the New Testament pattern anyway, but rather on the ritualism developed by the church of the Middle Ages.

     You have to leave the Spirit of God room to work in your life—if you’re too busy to accommodate yourself to His will and timing, then you’re too busy. He must also have liberty to do what He desires in our churches. How dare we put the Lord on a timetable? How dare we dictate to Him when He can and cannot move among us? How dare we relegate the gifts of the Spirit to a few seconds’ time after the worship, in which we allow a message in tongues or an occasional prophecy? How can we say we are the church of Christ if He is not allowed to have His way in our midst?

     We must allow the Holy Spirit sufficient room to move among our doctrines as well. No, we won’t be replacing fundamentals such as the deity of Christ or salvation by grace through faith. But many of our other teachings and practices are far too restrictive. A move of the Spirit will force the rethinking of much of our scriptural understanding and our methodology. Is your skin flexible enough to handle new wine?

     Pastor John Arnott of the Toronto Airport Vineyard said, "God is offending our minds to test our hearts." He is pushing our religious wineskins to the limit to see if we’re flexible enough to handle the great work that He desires to do in our day. The manifestations are as uncommon as have been seen for a few decades, but the needs of this hour call for strong medicine. The conditions are extreme, there is much to do, and the time is short. Look for God to institute even more radical measures in the next few years. New wine is active, in ferment, ever changing and repositioning itself. Let the Holy Spirit do what He will.


New Wine Is Intoxicating

     The disciples in Acts chapter two were accused of drunkenness because they were acting drunk!  If someone is walking straight and has his emotions under control he won’t be accused of having too much to drink. If he’s speaking an unintelligible language he may be accused of being a foreigner, or even a nut, but not a drunk!  Peter replied that it was only nine o’clock in the morning, that there hadn’t been enough time yet to drink enough to get as drunk as they were!   "It’s the Holy Spirit," he explained, "as prophesied by Joel."

     Emotional "excess" has been a characteristic of almost every historical revival. Manifestations of drunkenness are not uncommon.  Jonathan Edwards, one of the great theologians and thinkers of American history, experienced this sort of behavior in his meetings during the Great Awakening of the Eighteenth Century. His wife was often so drunk in the Spirit that her head would fall into her food at the dinner table. A hundred years later, Evangelist Charles Finney reported people falling off the benches while he preached. Efforts to revive them or bring a semblance of order to the meetings were often in vain. In the original Methodist camp-meetings, people were laid out like cordwood as they fell under the power of the Holy Ghost. Peter Cartwright spoke of heads snapping like whips as the convicting power of the Spirit pierced their hearts. The Azuza Street and Latter Rain revivals of the Twentieth Century experienced similar manifestations: drunkenness, falling and fainting, uncontrollable laughter and weeping. Like it or not, this is what happens during a move of God.

     Paul exhorted the Ephesians, "be not drunk with wine...but be filled with the Spirit," (5:18). In his mind the two conditions were similar or at least comparable in some respects. As we’ve said, new wine is associated in the Old and New Testaments with the blessing and joy of the Holy Spirit. Judges 9:13 says that "new wine cheers both God and men." Certainly God doesn’t drink earthly wine, but He rejoices in the wine of the Spirit, and the cheer that it produces in His children. If Bible scholars recognize wine as a symbol of the Holy Ghost, why should they be surprised if people act drunk when they get in the Spirit?

     We do not seek the manifestations. We do not seek the laughter, or the falling down. If laughter itself is spiritual, let’s rent a Laurel and Hardy movie!  If falling is a blessing, in and of itself, let's all dive onto the floor!  We seek the Manifestor, we seek a genuine touch of God and the conversion it brings. But understand that there can be no manifestations without the Manifestor—a manifestation is simply the outward display of the inward reality.  The power of God is real.  If someone goes to church and gets drunk without drinking, it’s a reasonable assumption to say that they've encountered the Holy Spirit and tasted of the new wine.


No Wine For The Satisfied

     Notice the final statement of Jesus regarding the new wine of His ministry. "And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better,’" (vs 39). Those who are satisfied with what they already have will not be willing to drink of the new. Those who like business-as-usual churchianity will resist the rocking of their religious boats. The person who is content in a time of spiritual decline will not be happy in a time of revival. The two conditions are totally contrary to each other.

     But the Holy Spirit knows how to make even the smugly self-satisfied to hunger and thirst for new depth in their walk with Jesus.  He knows how to expose their inner needs and challenge them to come and drink, to "taste and see that the Lord is good."  Don’t force people along against their will, just shine all the brighter so that your joy will create a thirst in them for the wine you’re drinking.

     And if you’re still undecided about the new wine and the present refreshing wave of the Spirit, you needn’t be afraid. It’s of God. History, the Bible, and every responsible student of revival in the land give it their unanimous support. The only danger is that you may miss what God has for you today by clinging stubbornly to the stale old drink you’ve been nursing all these years. Reach for the new wine and be revived.


All Scripture quotations are from the New King James version, unless otherwise noted

Copyright 1998 Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries


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