Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”
Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.
“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.” (New International Version)
The late Abigail Van Buren, better known in her day as the columnist, “Dear Abby,” was the person who made famous the phrase, “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum of saints.”
We occasionally need words like Dear Abby’s that are reminders of why Christians and Churches exist in the first place. The Church does not remain on this earth solely for its own benefit, any more than a hospital exists for the benefit of doctors or insurance companies.
The Church exists to extend the mission of Jesus through proclamation of the gospel, the good news of forgiveness and new life in Christ. The Church calls people who are ensnared, entrapped, and in bondage to guilt and shame, and who need the restorative touch of grace.
Our calling is not to find out what others can do for us (e.g. tithing and attendance) but what we can do for others. That’s why we are the continuing presence of Jesus on this earth as the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Even though I am a church pastor, it is not my church. The church is not your church. It is Christ’s Church and we are to act in accordance with that truth.
Some of you reading this blog post are unhealthy. Some of you are sick with sin; some are heart-sick; others are just plain sick and tired of being sick and tired. Jesus (nor me!) is not looking to heap on you a load of expectations and guilt for things you are not doing; but instead is pointing you to the source of healing and change and inviting you to admit your need and come to him.
Conversely, you may be healthy, spiritually alive and well. Therefore, it’s your job to roll up your sleeves and serve, to participate fully in the mission of Jesus for the church and the world.
Why did Jesus come?
Jesus came to set up a new structure that could embrace his mission of bringing new life to people.
Christ used the occasion of John’s disciples asking him about fasting to communicate that his mission of reaching people through mercy and forgiveness will need a significant structural change.
The two illustrations Jesus used – cloth and wineskins – is to simply point out that old and new wineskins are incompatible; and old and new pieces of cloth don’t go together. I would put it this way: You don’t put a new collar on a dead dog.
The Lord Jesus didn’t come to this earth just to perpetuate the status quo; he didn’t enter this world through the incarnation to simply dress up the Jewish religion, or to make a few minor adjustments to what already is going on. No! Christ came to change the old and do something new so that his mission could go forward through us.
We need a structural system which can accommodate the finished work of Jesus on the cross.
The entire sacrificial system and ritual laws of the Old Testament were only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings – external regulations applying until the time of the new order.(Hebrews 9:10)
Christ is the one who arranges a new covenant, so that those who have been called by God may receive the eternal blessings that God has promised. This can be done because there has been a death which sets people free from the wrongs they did while the first covenant was in effect. (Hebrews 9:15, GNT)
Jesus canceled the first covenant in order to put the second into effect; the old is obsolete and has served it’s purpose. Now, Christ’s new covenant is in effect – a system big enough to hold the mission of the Church. (Hebrews 8:13; 10:9)
- Is there anything in your life or in your church that is obsolete?
- Is there a practice, ministry, system, or structure that is ineffective and not contributing to the mission that Jesus has for us in reaching others?
- Are there any dead dogs you keep trying to prop up on its legs?
- Are you focused on what is important to Jesus? Do you know what’s important to him?
- Do you keep performing the same rituals over and over because that is what you’ve always done?
- What needs to change in your life to accommodate the mission of Jesus?
If the mission of Jesus is to occur we must develop:
- A relationship with Jesus. Engaging in spiritual disciplines of prayer, giving, fasting, reading and meditating on Scripture, are activities that put us in a position to know Christ better and respond to what is important to him.
- Relationships with each other that are not superficial but help one another to grow in Christ. We need to hold one another accountable for how the mission of Jesus is being accomplished, or not.
- Relationships with those outside of the church. This world is filled with sick, needy, hurting, lonely, unhealthy people who are stuck. They need a major change of life that can come from Jesus working through his followers.
May it be so. Soli Deo Gloria.