Monday, July 30, 2007

The new wine

At the marriage in Cana, where Jesus was present, the
old wine ran out. The old wine was made with human
effort, over a period of many years - but it could not meet
the need. This is a parable of life under the law - the old
covenant. The old wine runs out; and the Lord has to wait
until it runs out before He can give us the new wine. "For
the Lord God says: Only in waiting for Me will you be
saved. ... but you say, We will get our help from Egypt
(human strength)! So you will be chased by your enemies.
.. And the Lord is waiting for you (to come to an end of
yourself) and to come to Him, so that He can show you
His love; He will conquer you to bless you. ... Blessed are
all those who wait for Him to help them'' (Isa. 30:15-18
Living Bible). When we have tried and tried and tried to live
in victory and failed repeatedly, this is the lesson that God
is trying to teach us: "You cannot have victory in your own
strength." As long as you are under the law, you will be
ruled by sin. The chief work that God seeks to do in each
of His children is to break down the strength of self totally.
Jesus waited for the old wine to run out, at Cana, before
He did His miracle. He is waiting now for our strength to
come to an end. All our failures and defeats are meant by
God to bring us to the end, for He can manifest His power
perfectly only in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). We can see
the strength of self in the moments of temptation and
provocation, when we react with bitter words, angry
expressions, self-justification, criticism and judgment of
others, unforgiving attitudes, a grabbing-love for material
things, fighting for our rights and our reputation, seeking
vengeance etc. These and other similar attitudes show
how strong self still is in us - the old wine has not yet run
out; and Jesus waits on the sidelines doing nothing for us.

If only we allow God to break us, if only we would humble
ourselves and gladly accept death to our rights and
reputation, how quickly He could lead us into life under
the new covenant! All the trying circumstances,
frustrations and disappointments, heartaches etc, that we
go through are meant by God to bring the strength of our
self down to zero. This was how God dealt with Job.
Finally Job reached that zero-point where lying on his face
in the dust, he said, "Lord, I am nothing. (I am zero.) ... I
lay my hand upon my mouth in silence. ... I had only
heard about you (second-hand) before, but now I have
seen you and I loathe myself and repent in dust and
ashes'' (Job 40:4;42:5,6). This is what happens when God
has finally broken us and given us a revelation of Himself.
The same Moses, who once thought himself to be so
capable (at the age of 40), when broken by the vision of
God (40 years later) says, "Lord, I can't speak. Send
someone else" (Ex. 4:10,13). The same thing happened
to the great prophet Isaiah when he saw God's glory. He
said, "My doom is sealed, for I am a foul-mouthed sinner"
(Isa. 6:5). Daniel says that when he saw the vision the
Lord gave Him, that his strength left him. He came to a
zero-point (Dan. 10:8). When the Spirit-filled apostle John,
after having walked with God for 65 years, saw Jesus on
the isle of Patmos, he fell at His feet as a dead man (Rev.
1:17). Such has always been the experience of all who
have seen the glory of the Lord! Their face is in the dust
and their mouth is shut. When God can bring us to that
place, it is but a quick task for Him to give us the new
wine, the life of Jesus, the divine nature, the pre-eminent
blessing of the new covenant sealed through the blood of
Jesus. Oh that we might all come there quickly and live in
that place - with our face in the dust before God - all our
days! For there is a development in this life from light to
light (Prov. 4:18), from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18). John
speaks of "Walking in the light" (1 Jn. 1:7). There is no
standing in the light, but rather a walking - a progression
closer and closer to Him in whom there is no darkness at
all. Thus the light shines brighter and brighter upon us and
we become more and more conscious of the hidden sins
that lurk in our flesh, which we were not aware of in earlier
days; and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all those

Thus it is, that the closer we come to the Lord, the more
aware we become of sin in our own flesh, and less and
less of the sin in others around us. We no longer desire to
throw stones at the woman caught in adultery, for we are
aware in Jesus' presence, of the sin in our own flesh, and
we cry out, "O wretched man that I am", rather than "O
wretched woman that she is" (Rom. 7:24). Adam pointed
a finger at his wife, even while standing before God (Gen.
3:12). But the Lord made him aware of his own sin (3:17).
This is what the Lord will do for us too. And this is really
the test of whether we have just a religion and some
doctrines or whether we are living before the face of God
Himself. Has the wine run out in our personal life, our
married life or our assembly life? Then it is about time that
we sought the Lord's face and acknowledged our need
honestly. He alone can give us the new wine! The new
wine in Cana was not produced by human effort. It was
the supernatural work of God. So too can it be in our life.
He will write His laws in our heart and mind, making us to
will and to do His perfect will (Heb. 8:10; Phil. 2:13). He
will circumcise our hearts to love Him and cause us to
walk in His commandments (Deut. 30:6; Ezek. 36:27).
This will be as much His work as the new wine produced
in Cana was His work. This is the meaning of grace. We
cannot produce the life of Jesus - even if we try for a
lifetime. But if we bear in our body "the dying of Jesus"
(the taking up of the cross each day, the dying to our ego,
our self-will and our rights and reputation), God promises
to produce the new wine of the life of Jesus in us (2 Cor.
4:10). We are to run this race looking unto Jesus,
comparing ourselves with Him alone, all the time. Thus
alone will there be a constant cry from our hearts, "O
wretched man that I am" - for we shall be constantly
aware of how unlike Jesus we are, even when we have
come to a life of victory over conscious sin. "Those who
compare themselves with other believers are spiritual
idiots" (2 Cor. 10:12) for that is the surest way to spiritual
pride and a hundred-and-one other evils. We can never be
in danger of spiritual pride as long as our eyes are fixed
on Jesus and we compare ourselves with Him constantly.
The Holy Spirit shows us the glory of Jesus in the mirror
of God's word and then only can He conform us to that
likeness (2 Cor. 3:18). Paul said that he had only one goal
that he pressed on towards - not the conversion of the
lost, but "the upward call of God (to become like) Christ
Jesus" (Phil. 3:13,14). And then he said, "Let us who are
perfect (in our conscience, living in victory over conscious
sin) have this same attitude (of pressing on towards total
perfection, total likeness to Jesus)" (Phil. 3:15). This is
the mark of the spiritually mature Christian. Service for
God, evangelism etc, - all take a secondary place to this
goal, in the life of the mature man of God.

John also tells us that it is through such a walking in the
light of God that we can have fellowship with one another
(1 Jn. 1:7) - not only fellowship with God, but also
fellowship with other believers in perfect unity. The reason
for this is very simple. The one who is walking in the light
of God, living before God's face, will always be aware of
his own shortcomings and will be living in a constant self-
judgment, and will not have anything to accuse other
brothers of. Thus there can never be any strife between
any two brothers who are walking in this pathway. This is
the narrow way to life that, Jesus said, few find (Matt.
7:14). Judgment begins at the house of God even for the
righteous, because in God's house, God dwells in
unapproachable light (1 Pet. 4:17,18; 1 Tim. 6:6). "Who
can live with the consuming fire? ... He who walks
righteously (facing up to the truth concerning himself)"
(Isa. 33:14,15). This was the sin of the leader in the
church at Laodicea that he did not live in this constant
self- judgment (and it is easy to slip into that error when
you become a leader) and thus did not know that he was
'wretched' (Rev. 3:17). May we so live before God's face all
our days, so that we live in constant brokenness and
constant self-judgment crying out "O wretched man that I
am". Thus even when we reach the heights of holiness
that a saved sinner can reach on earth, we shall still say
(sincerely and honestly, without any false humility) "I am
the very least of all the believers. ... I am the chief of
sinners" (Eph. 3:8; 1Tim. 1:15). Thus we shall have a
fellowship with other believers who walk the same way
and gradually our mutual fellowship will become more and
more like the fellowship that the Father and the Son have
with each other (Jn. 17:21). This is the new wine Jesus
desires to give us.


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