Friday, August 10, 2012

Handouts are for Losers, So Get in Line.

Luke 5:36-39 (ESV)
He also told them a parable: "No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. [37] 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. [38] But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. [39] And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, 'The old is good.' "

Jesus goes on to explain things a bit more, the new and old don’t go together. The old is the piety of the law, by which people think they will earn heaven. People who take this path think it is just a matter of receiving a special power with which they can finally overcome. Too often they confuse the gospel with just such power, or a charisma. In this way the law is never fulfilled, and the gospel is never the gospel. The gospel is a completely new thing, it can’t be used to patch old garments, it can’t be put in old wineskins. The old forms aren’t going to work with the new. (I am shamelessly paraphrasing and rifting on Bo Giertz here.) The Gospel is a completely different way of relating to God. With the gospel it is not dependent on what we do, but what Jesus has done for us.
Then Jesus ends these examples, these pictures to comment on why people do not receive the gospel. “no one after drinking old winde desires new, for he says, ‘the old is good.’ Jesus speaks on a truth here, that Baptists have to recon with when they try arguing that Jesus drank new wine, meaning grape juice, and not actual wine. The old is good Jesus says it himself. It’s tasty. The older the wine, normally the better, taking into account how and where it has aged. Wine does go off after a while. And it is not that it ferments more, but the longer it stays aging, the more the flavors coalesce and develop, why is a mystery. It just is. If you don’t drink, then just trust me. I do. And as it is, once you are exposed to good wine, you develop a taste for it that makes Cold Duck, Boones Farm, Maneschevits, and Mad Dog 20/20 unbearable. As they say in the coffee world, once you go black you don’t go back… I presume that is about coffee.
But as true as it is of wine, it poses a problem when we consider our relationship with God. Jesus is the new, the gospel is the new. And the old might taste good, but it isn’t. People love the law, it is what we understand. It appeals to our old adam, it appeals to our flesh. Yes we think the flesh wants to live the unbridled bohemian life. Mine certainly has its moments that way. But even more appealing is that I can be lord of my life, by avoiding these base desires of my flesh, and by overcoming the wants and desires of my body, I can attain a spiritual victory over sin. Of course this is the problem with fasting in many cases. The idea that you can do this for God, and earn your position with him, it won’t work that way. That is what your old Adam wants though, it does not so much want salvation as it wants equality with God, equal standing. And that is the way of the law. That is why the law has so much appeal to all of us. We want to think we somehow retain the right to address God by our own righteousness. We don’t practice righteousness out of love for neighbor, but to “grow in our sanctification”… we regard the gospel as nothing more as that special power that God gives us to use to do this. We want to feel “good about ourselves.” Forget about it. be honest with yourself. You have no reason to feel good about yourself. You are a sinner, a self absorbed twit. That is the fruit of the law when it is used for such purposes. You become self absorbed, turned in on yourself, you do all sorts of mighty works, you say you do them in the name of Jesus, but you do them in the name of delusional self preservation, you want to be able to say, God should save me because I did X. This is why so many religions look so similar. Christianity is different, Jesus is different. He won’t let you have your delusion. He comes for sinners, and if you aren’t one, your lot is hopeless. But the law, it stokes our ego. Given the choice between the righteousness Christ gives, and the righteousness the law tells us to earn. Well we’ll try to earn it. We don’t want no charity. Hand outs are for losers. Yes, handouts are for losers, so get in line.


Unknown said...

Thanks for an explanation on these verses. It was always unclear what they meant.
Sue J in NJ

Scottydog said...

On Baptists, try this line of reasoning: Q: In Jesus' day did they have pasteurization? A: No. Q: Did they have refrigeration? A: No. Q: Did they have grape juice? A: Yes. Then they had wine. You can't keep unpasteurized unrefrigerated grape juice around for long without it becoming wine. Maybe not real strong right away, but it's wine.

And as you say, "the old's better." They probably still won't get it, but I like the argument.

Bror Erickson said...

You are welcome Sue J in NJ

Bror Erickson said...

Scotty Dog,
If arguments and logic worked with Baptists, if logic only worked.