Can ambassadors be swept up in the currents of thought and busy-ness of the foreign land in which they serve? Of course, and so much more easily when our human nature has its origins in that foreign land. The consciousness of our mind never actually changes and so remains bound up in this world. (Just like the Israelites, who, according to the flesh, were bound in Egypt even after the Lord brought them out.)
Therefore, in order to remain faithful and effective ambassadors, it is essential that we continually raise up the mind of Christ in our consciousness (Philippians 2:5ff). When we wake up in the morning and throughout the day, a faithful and effective ambassador considers where his/her consciousness is—is it stuck in this world or is it reaching into this world from the kingdom of heaven?
Three texts are easy to remember, profound, and powerful forces to renew and reorient our consciousness. The first text is the parable of the wine and wineskins (Matthew 9:17). The second text is the first beatitude, having to do with being poor in Spirit (Matthew 5:3). The third text is about Jesus’ yoke being easy and His burden light (Matthew 11:28-30). In today’s podcast, I discuss the wine and wineskins.
First, remember how Jesus said you can’t put new wine in old wineskins? If you do, the skins will burst and the wine and the skins are lost. Instead, new wine must be put in new skins. This is one of the easiest parables to understand. The old wineskin is our corrupt human nature (our old Adam skin). Old wine would be the law. The new wine is the good message and the new skin is the regenerate soul. If you try to put the good message in corrupt human nature, Jesus warns, you will lose both. How so?
Corrupt human nature is contrary to the good message. So, when we hear of God’s grace and love, we will do one of two things with it. Either we will turn grace into law or we will abuse grace as if it condoned our corruption. The history of the physical Christian church is a history of corrupt human nature turning the kingdom of heaven back into a physical kingdom of human labor under the law. Notice the “have to” language and the preoccupation with physical structures since the early centuries after Christ. “What do I have to do to go to heaven when I die?” “How often do I have to go to church or commune or confess my sins?” “How much money do I have to give to the church?” Corrupt human nature makes the gift of life and living Word from God the next obligation that we must satisfy if we are to expect God to help us satisfy what we think He is obliged to do for us.
On the other hand, corrupt human nature is just as happy and eager to use God’s grace as an opportunity to gratify its own selfish, self-destructive desires. “Ah, so now we can do whatever we want and then just ask for forgiveness and God will be fine with it.” Paul addressed this thinking in Romans 6. Either way—whether by turning grace into legalistic obligation or by turning grace into opportunity for worse degradation—the good message is lost by our corrupt human nature and at the same time we lose hope of having that human nature redeemed and restored to us. This is a catastrophic loss.
But God’s will and work to save are powerful, effective, and inspiring. New wine, the good message, is spirited and active. Therefore, new skins are malleable, making them able to respond to the chemistry of new wine. Thus a regenerate soul, created by the Word and Spirit of God, is perfectly suited to serve the good message that now lives in us and comes to others through us. The good message is full and rich, as we considered in the previous podcast episode. All the many aspects and features of the good message bring joy to our consciousness and a bounty that wants to be extended to others. All the aspects and features of the good message give us breadth of perspective as we do the work of ambassadors with our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and others. As we hold the new wine in our regenerate soul, our consciousness of what matters changes and we become alert and effective ambassadors of the kingdom of heaven.