Sunday, 21 November 2021 06:12

Article of faith: New wine, new wineskins (2) - Femi Aribisala

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Femi Aribisala Femi Aribisala

If you have concluded that you cannot meet Jesus’ standards because they are impossible to meet, I want to congratulate you because that means you are finally ready for a Saviour. When you finally recognise that you cannot save yourself from your sins, then you are ready for Jesus to be your Saviour.

Many years ago, I heard someone quote this scripture and the Holy Spirit gave me a translation that I have not found in any bible. It says: “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4). This is how I heard it: “Christ is the end of trying to be good for those who believe in Him.”

When we are apostles of “do-it-yourself salvation,” we make Jesus irrelevant and continue to knock our heads against the wall. Jesus says: “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” (Luke 9:24). 

When we finally recognise that we need divine help to live a godly life but are simply incapable of accomplishing this on our own, then Jesus says we are blessed. That is the real message of the Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus says those who recognise their deep spiritual needs are blessed: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3). The poor in spirit are those who acknowledge that they are spiritually inadequate.

Jesus says blessed are those who are sad because they know that they are not good enough: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4). They will be comforted because God will perfect everything about them.

Blessed are those who have a strong desire to be like God: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6). They will be fulfilled because God will give them the desires of their hearts. (Psalm 37:4). They are blessed because that is precisely why Jesus came to die for our sins: so that we can be perfect, just as the Lord our God is perfect. (Matthew 5:48).

Vain efforts

Many of the spiritual disciplines that we establish in the name of religion lead us further and further away from the beatitudes of Christ. Many assume the faith in Christ is amenable to rigorous exercise. If we go to church and pray every day, cram a few scriptures, then we convince ourselves that we are holy.

Indeed, many of the religious disciplines we glory in merely foster in us a critical spirit towards others. They fool us into believing that we are better Christians than others simply because we are more able to fulfil them.

This brings to mind Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee who despised the tax collector in the Temple, saying: “God, I thank You that I am not like other men- extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.” (Luke 18:11-12). Jesus says the man was not justified by God.

Paul says Christianity is all about: “love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5). But some have reduced this imperative to obeying man-made rules and regulations and fulfilling the traditions of men.

In Nouveau Schools that God gave me I have guards that open the door of my car to let me in or out but do not do the job I employed them for satisfactorily. They want to help me to carry my bag when I never required that of them, hoping foolishly that it would be to their credit.

The brother of the Prodigal Son was convinced that he loved his Father more than his brother because he stayed at home and did not leave. But love is not merely achieved by marking present on a register. Similarly, some people are deluded into thinking they are lovers of God because they go to church every Sunday. No such luck.

Many stress formulas rather than the centrality of the Christian relationship with God. Many elevate self-righteousness to a virtue, thereby honouring those who keep the rules rather than honouring only Jesus Christ. Many prescribe bodily exercise as a means to spiritual growth, rather than the purification of the heart by faith.

Jesus says: “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:16-17).

Water baptism

John the Baptist could show people their sins, but he could not help them to become sinless. All he offered was water baptism. Water baptism cleanses the body on the outside, but it does not cleanse the inside which remains filthy.

John himself recognised these limitations. He told the people: “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3:16).

Only Jesus baptises with the Holy Ghost and with fire.

The difference is fundamental. The good news of Jesus Christ not only calls us to repentance, it works repentance in us. It gifts us repentance. It makes us repent. Jesus does not only show us our sins, He enables us to overcome them. His atonement enables us to receive the Holy Spirit, who works in us both to will and to do for God’s good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13).

The Ten Commandments that Moses wrote on tablets of stone are now being re-written in our hearts by the Holy Spirit precept upon precept, line by line. Thus, in the volume of the book, it is written that we now delight to do the will of God. (Psalm 40:7-8).

The fire baptism of the Holy Spirit cleanses and purifies the heart from the inside. Holy Ghost fire purges the dross that is within and enables you to come out as gold.

But you will tell me that you have received the Holy Spirit, so why do you still have nagging inclinations to sin? Yes, but after you received Holy Spirit, you continued to listen to John the Baptist in the churches where new wine is served in old wineskins. John himself says: “He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30).

So, let us ask the same question that John could not answer, but now in the light of the New Testament: “What shall we do?” 

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom (God) sent.’” (John 6:28-29).  

The jailer asked the same question of Paul and Silas: “‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So, they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’” (Acts 16:30-31).

For every question about what to do, the answer is that all we are required to do is to believe. CONTINUED.