Holy Spirit Wine and Human Wineskins

One of the worship groups I listen to released their annual album a couple of months ago. It usually takes me a few listens through the list and each song before I hear all the words and get a taste of the message being conveyed.

Driving in the car one day, my wife and I were talking about worship and this album in particular as she considered bringing a new song to our worship team. As I was scrolling through the songs in her car, I saw the title of one having to do with new spiritual wine.

I blurted out, “You know the scripture about new wine has nothing to do with wine, and everything to do with the wineskins.” My comments at the time were not about the song specifically, but the concept of new wine in general. Jesus wasn’t placing the focus on new wine, but on being vessels ready to hold the new wine. Today’s post unpacks that thought, and at the end I’ll mention what I thought of the song when I really heard the words.

Before we get too deep here, I just want to make sure you understand that I am only talking about wine as a metaphor for spiritual outpouring. I don’t drink alcohol, and my fellowship of churches calls for abstinence. 

All three synoptic gospel writers (Matthew, Mark and Luke) record Jesus being asked about why His Disciples didn’t perform the same spiritual acts the followers of the era’s top teachers.

Jesus gave a simple but profound answer to their question, and then used the picture of new wine and its containers to explain an important mindset for all of us.

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth over a hole in an old coat. If he does, the patch will shrink and pull away from the coat, making the hole worse. Also, people never pour new wine into old leather bags. Otherwise, the bags will break, the wine will spill, and the wine bags will be ruined. But people always pour new wine into new wine bags. Then both will continue to be good.” (Matthew 9:16-17 NCV)

The Vintage is Always New

Wine is made from grapes. Grapes are a fruit. Grapes grow and are harvested each year to made into the current vintage from the vineyard. A vintage is typically known by the year it was grown and harvested.

Each year’s vintage is likely to be different from others produced by the same vineyard. Every once in a while a year will produce a vintage highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts.

The spiritual wine God offers us is always being refreshed. He could release a new vintage in our lives and congregations each year, month, or day. God is pleased with the vintage He pours into us. At the same time, He desires to release more. Not just a refill of the first vintage, but the premier of a new one.

What’s Your Favorite Vintage

Problems arise when we decide on a preferred vintage and close ourselves off to the new God wants to pour into our lives.

Like when Coca-Cola and Pepsi tried to launch new formulas but people wanted the “classic” taste. But then there is the Mountain-Dew brand which frequently introduces new flavors into the market. Even M&Ms recently launched three new flavors.

To help get an idea of how varied preferred vintages can be, I ran a quick Google search for famous vintages. A few of the regular appearances include Chateau Mouton-Rotschild 1945, Chateau Margaux 1787 and 2009, Penfolds Grange 1951, and Chateau Lafite 1787.

In our personal lives and churches, we sometimes have our favorite spiritual vintage. I’ve heard of some like Sunday School 1985, Worship Choir 1992, and Tent Revival 1962. We attach value to key moments in our spiritual and personal lives.

Like a connosieur who finds a favorite vintage, we try to go back and revisit those previous vintages. A revisit, a taste, is not a bad thing once in a while. But wanting to live there, back at that time and in those feelings, is a recipe for trouble. It means forfeiting the future, the fresh, the undiscovered goodness of what God desires to share with us.

We don’t really long for God’s new vintage. Instead, we really want to feel like we’ve drunk the new while getting to enjoy the same old, same old. We aren’t interested in a new vintage at all. Just a new bottle of our favorite vintage.

It Isn’t About the Wine

When Jesus spoke about new wine and wine skins, His message was not about the wine. God desires to do a new thing, and He often puts it in motion without being asked to do so. The vintage is always fresh.

The real issue is whether or not we have prepared ourselves for the new wine. Are like the dusty bottles of old vintages? Or have we opened our hearts to the fresh, untested vintage?

The new vintage is not unknown. It must line up with God’s Word and be in character with how He has already revealed Himself to us. Otherwise we are drinking from a vineyard. Rather it is untested, not tasted and appreciated for its uniqueness in the history of the chosen vineyard.

When we ask God for new wine, the request should be for our hearts and lives to prepared for the fresh moving of God. It is to be made into flexible, receiving vessels, instead of remaining the cracked, dried out skin that cannot handle the pressures and growth of what is new.

“Make me a vessel”

I mentioned that it can take me a few times around the playlist to get the handle on songs when they first come around. This particular song and it’s call for new wine lands perfectly with the message Jesus is giving us to consider.

The words of this song encourage us to be shaped and changed into what Jesus would have us be to receive and pour out the new wine.

Make me Your vessel
Make me an offering
Make me whatever You want me to be
I came here with nothing
But all You have given me
Jesus, bring new wine out of me
(“New Wine”, Brooke Ligertwood, Hillsong Music Publishing, 2017)

It can be hard to look past what we have always enjoyed or become comfortable with when it comes to the things of God. But He yearns for us to grow – in spiritual maturity, in representation of His goodness to the world around, and simply in our personal relationship with Him.

This growth involves being undone, to be shaped and molded, so that we can receive all He continues to prepare for us. If we don’t grow, if we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to turn us from used up and stretched out wineskins, we miss out on the new vintage.

Chances are, that vintage will go on to another. God won’t let it sit untasted, aging in a cellar. It wasn’t prepared to be wasted or stored away.

It is better to give up our favorite to receive God’s latest.

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