April 1 “Wineskins”


Jesus is called the Messenger of a New Covenant that would emerge from the Old.
Still at the dinner with “tax collectors and sinners,” probably at the home of Matthew, newly chosen as a disciple, Jesus taught about the New Covenant using the analogies of new and old wine and wineskins. We are told that wine, fermented juice of the grape, was a safer thing to drink than water in the first century. To keep the wine at peek potency, animal skins were used as containers. New wine was still in the fermenting process and would burst old wineskins that could no longer expand. New wine required new wineskins that were still soft and stretchable.

Power but not Flexibility
The Covenants before the Jesus Covenant, those of Noah, Abraham, Moses, and King David, could not rightly be called flexible. Worship happened in specified times and places with prescribed sacrifices given in great detail. Like old wine, it was powerful stuff but there was little room or need for innovation. Old wineskins were required.

Jesus changed all that when He said “a time was coming and now is” when true worshipers would worship God not in time and place but in Spirit and Truth. The Old Covenant structures of the Tabernacles and Temples would be replaced by a spiritual house—the Church—the Calvary-cleansed People of God, the Habitation of God by His Spirit. Churches have sprung up in the strangest places all over the world because of this flexible New Covenant which adapts itself to the cultures and languages of the believers. This New Covenant wine—the moving of the Holy Spirit—is such powerful stuff that new songs and methods and signs and wonders are needed to transport it from place to place.

The Disciples of John
Those who had repented in response to the call of John to prepare for the Kingdom of God asked Jesus a sincere question about fasting. These were not critics or cynics; they were sincere seekers of the Kingdom. They had patterned their lives after the serious message of John: a life of repentance and the disciplining of fleshly desires for the sake of the Kingdom. They were confused by the joy they saw in the followers of Jesus. It was like a new and potent wine leading to laughter and celebration. Why this difference in lifestyle?

The Bridegroom
Jesus was with them every day! His joy was complete and infectious. Blind people were seeing again and deaf people were hearing as people who once could not speak were singing. Those once lame were dancing as those formerly possessed by demons sat smiling in the presence of Jesus. This was a time for celebration, for feasting not fasting. Those times would come and the disciples of Jesus would do their duty, but not yet.

The New Covenant supplied garments of praise made from the new cloth of redeemed lives. The Spirit flowed from vats in the hearts of those whose sins were forgiven and the old ways could not contain the new.

The dinner at Matthew’s house was a foretaste of the Kingdom to Come, the one Jesus told them to pray for every day. For a moment it was on earth as it was in heaven.

Matthew 9:14—17

Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. 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.”
Malachi 3:1
“Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the Lord of hosts.
John 4:23-24
But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Lord Jesus, You are the Messenger of the New Covenant! You made this covenant in Your own blood, making it possible for us to worship in spirit and truth. You cleanse our hearts from sin, making them fitting hosts for the residence of the Holy Spirit. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is peace and freedom and joy! This is the new wine of the New Covenant! Help me to never substitute earthly wine but to drink deeply of the New Wine kept in these wonderful, creative new wineskins! You are the Joy of My Desire! I Love You, Lord Jesus!

Joy of My Desire
Words and Music: Jennifer Randolph

Joy of my desire, all consuming fire.
Lord of Glory Rose of Sharon Rare and sweet
You are now my peace, Comforter and friend,
wonderful, so beautiful, You are to me.

I worship You in spirit and in truth.
Lord, I worship You in spirit and in truth.
There will never be a friend as dear to me as You

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.

March 23, 2017


Covenants are binding.
Since ancient times, covenants have been sealed with blood. A covenant is more than a promise. It is a commitment to more than an intention. Covenants are binding. They are not made to be broken but to be kept by both parties who covenant together.

The Sin Problem
The problem comes with inequality; when one party can keep covenant and the other cannot. This is the classic sin problem. God has made a covenant with humankind. But these two partners are vastly unequal:

  1. God is holy.
  2. We are sinful.

In this season of Lent, we fully face both His righteousness and our sinfulness.

The Covenantal Names of God
In His covenant with Israel, God bound Himself to be all they would need. He revealed Himself to them by covenantal names to describe His intentions and abilities:

  • Jehovah Jireh –The Lord Our Provider
  • Jehovah Rapha—The Lord Our Healer
  • Jehovah Shammah—The Lord Who Is There
  • Jehovah Shalom—The Lord Our Peace
  • Jehovah Nissi—The Lord Our Banner
  • Jehovah McKeddesh—The Lord Who Sanctifies
  • Jehovah Roi –The Lord Our Shepherd
  • Jehovah TsidKenu—The Lord Our Righteousness
  • Jehovah Saboath –The Lord of Hosts

As The Great I Am, Jehovah bound Himself to meet their needs.

But the people could not keep covenant.
There was no power within it them to resist the urge to sin—that was their part—to obey the Lord’s Laws. When they broke the laws of God they broke the Covenant. To win back their fellowship with God, an innocent life had to be die in their place. An amazing, elaborate system of redemption was devised by Jehovah to provide this way back to humankind’s covenantal partner. For centuries perfect and innocent animals paid the price for the people’s sins.

The Final Lamb
It was all in anticipation of the Final Lamb, the Son of God Himself, to make the final and complete sacrifice for sins. In the season of Lent we prayerfully attempt to gain some small sense of what our redemption cost the Lord Jesus.

The One named Jesus is our Provider, our Healer, and One Who is “God with Us.” He is our Peace, our Banner of Victory, our Sanctifier, and our Shepherd. Jesus is our Righteousness and He is the Captain of the Hosts of Heaven. He has made covenant with us.

He did our part, too.
He obeyed our side of the Covenant by recording His obedience next to our names in the heavenly register. He did this by trading His innocence for our sin, by shedding His blood to save us from hell.

From ancient times, covenants have been sealed with blood

Jeremiah 31:31-34
“The time is coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
Luke 22:20 NIV
… after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
Hebrews 9:15
Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance — now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

From the Book of Common Prayer (adapted SRP)
Almighty and everliving God, we thank you for feeding us with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; (as represented by this bread and this cup), and for assuring us in these holy mysteries that we are living members of the Body of your Son, and heirs of your eternal kingdom. And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord. To him, to you, and to the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

The Blood will Never Lose Its Power
Words and Music: Andrea Crouch

1. The blood that Jesus shed for me Way back on Calvary
The blood that gives me strength From day to day
It will never lose its power.

It reaches to the highest mountain
And it flows to the lowest valley
The blood that gives me strength From day to day
It will never lose its power.

2. It soothes my doubts and calms my fears
And it dries all my tears
The blood that gives me strength From day to day
It will never lose its power.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved