Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Year, New Skin

Have you ever stopped to think how amazing snakes and crabs and other such creatures are? God has given them the incredible ability to shed their old skin or shell and grow new ones. It gives them room to move and function as they should. It’s not something they have any control over; it just happens.

Like them, our physical skin sheds constantly and grows to accommodate our increasing size without any effort on our part. Spiritually, however, we can choose to keep our old shell; live in our old skin. But it tends to cause problems, especially when it comes to being a vessel God can fill and use.

Jesus wants to give us new skin to hold the blessings He pours out. Three of the four gospels present Jesus’ parable of the wineskins. That alone shows this is an important teaching. Jesus said: “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved” (Matthew 9:16-17). In other words, old and new don’t mix because the old loses elasticity. Mark records the same thing in chapter two, verses twenty and twenty-one. Luke contains this additional sentence, “And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better’” (Luke 5:39).

Even then people said, “We like our old stuff just fine, thank you very much. We’ve always done it this way and we’re comfortable.” Oh yes, there are times when we realize we have some gaping holes in our life that need patching and moments when we thirst for the wine of truth. But when we try to try to combine the new with the old it doesn’t work. So we go back to our old ways. We like the flavor of the old because we’ve developed a taste for rotten fruit. We continually go back, even when we know it’s the cause of our guilt and pain.

Since it’s a new year, I’ve been thinking a lot about the person I want to be in 2011. I’ve noticed that even though I daily drink in the pure wine of His Word, I still have trouble holding what God gives me. For example, why is it that after all these years of walking with Jesus that my words still do so much damage? It’s my old skin. It taints the purity of His wine, or worse, won’t expand to hold God’s message and blows up in my face. The old skin of humanity affects my perception, interpretation, and application of God’s truth.

I obviously need Jesus to give me some skin. I need the new skin of Perception. I want to see things from His perspective instead of my own limited vision. I need the new skin of Interpretation. His ways are not like our ways. I need to interpret what I see, hear, and experience according to His will, rather than my desire for momentary comfort. And finally, I need the new skin of Application. Understanding doesn’t mean anything unless I put it into practice. The new wine Jesus gives is not for me alone, but to pour through me to a thirsty world.

I’ve heard that snakes and crabs are anxious to shed their old skin or shell when it gets too small. I’ve also heard that they’re vulnerable while the new skin is growing. There’s a risk involved. What about you? Are you willing to risk being vulnerable in order to grow, in order to contain what God has for you? Do you want new skin this New Year?

Beth Vice, (c) 2011