What happens if we put new wine in old wineskins? The new wine will continue to ferment, produce gas and expand the old wineskin that has already been expanded. The old wineskin will burst, wasting both the new wine and the old wineskin.
In Mark 2, Jesus was explaining to the people that you can’t put new wine into old wineskins. When we give our lives to Christ, we can’t be a new creation but hold on to old mindsets at the same time. Specifically, one of the old mindsets that Jesus was addressing here is how humans think that we need to do lots of “holy” things to gain God’s acceptance. We need to earn His favour to be good enough. We need to prove ourselves to be worthy of Him.
Recently, a distant memory resurfaced in my mind. More than ten years ago, I faced one of my first major failures in life. Unexpectedly, I didn’t do well enough in the national examinations to go to the junior college I had planned on, and I didn’t have a backup plan. I ended up in my third choice. The shock caused me to be in a pretty bad state, but I found solace in being part of the school choir. We had spent about 3 months training hard for the national choral competitions that were coming up.
It was about 2 weeks til the competition and suddenly, a selective audition was announced. A handful of us – maybe about ten – had to go through an audition to be deemed worthy to join the competition with the rest of the choir. I was one of them.
This was a HUGE shock because no one mentioned anything about an audition until now. I was mentally unprepared for the solo closed-door audition I had to do (the virtue of a choir is that you sing together as a group) and in the end, I didn’t make it. I was completely devastated – I had spent countless hours practicing diligently with the rest for 3 months and never skipped a practice, totally expecting to ace the competition together, and all the effort went to waste in one surprise audition. Symphatising with those who did not pass the audition, the rest of the choir students petitioned for us to be allowed to join the competition still.
“OK, they have to do a solo audition in front of the whole choir then.” There were just about three or five of us who failed the first audition, and now we had to audition again. In the presence of everyone, in a huge lecture hall, acapella. Once again, I didn’t make it. I felt utterly rejected. No matter how much effort I had put in, I was not good enough. Added with the setback I experienced just 3 months before and the camaraderie I thought I had with the choir, and having been in school choirs since I was 8, this was a big blow to my self-esteem. What were some of the lies being planted in my heart through this incident?
“You’re not good enough.”
“You have to prove yourself to be accepted.”
“Life is unfair – even if you give your everything, it won’t get you anywhere.”
“God sets up surprise tests for you to pass, and He gloats when you don’t.”
“You’re not worthy.”
Fast forward many years later, I have forgotten about this incident. But it has since resurfaced, and I got to see how the Holy Spirit has been working in my heart to change my ungodly beliefs.
One of the most revelationary things that I had learnt from my time with YWAM Thailand’s DTS is about our Father and His tests. Just like how earthly fathers should not overly-shield their kids from the troubles of this world, our heavenly Father will also allow circumstances to test our faith and mould our character. However, many of us have/had a picture of God as a gloating Father. We think that He sets the test up for us to fail. We think that He laughs at us for faring miserably. We think that He is determined to waste all our efforts and thwart all our plans.
But He is not a Father like that. The world is fallen and we all experience the bad consequences of being tainted with sin. Bad things happen because of our own sin or the sins of others. Setbacks and suffering are a natural part of the current world we live in. Instead of wishing for us to fail, our Father cheers us on to pass the test of faith. If we fail, He has to allow the test again, but He cheers us on again. He empowers us to overcome. He gives us strength to persevere in the pursuit of holiness. And through all these, we never had to prove that we are good enough. God already made the way for us to be good enough – Jesus came to take our sinful place so that in Him, we can be the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
As new creations in Christ, we need new mindsets. So this is my new wine in a new wineskin:
“I am good enough.”
“I am accepted by God.”
“Life is unfair – but God has a good plan for me.”
“Father God cheers me on in the tests of life, and He’s the first to rejoice when I pass.”
“I am worthy of Him and His love.”
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”Ephesians 2: 4-10 (ESV)