I was reading through Matthew the other day, and an old familiar passage jumped out and assaulted me. Jesus was challenged by the Pharisees about his disciple’s failure to fast at the prescribed times, and he responded with:
“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 men 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 NIV
The Pharisees might have been OK with Jesus if he had been content to just tweak a bit here and there; patching up a few places in the garment of Judaism as practiced by the Pharisees. But Jesus told them, and his disciples, that anything short of a new set of clothes would be a waste of time. Any patching of the old man would result in a state worse than it was before.
So what does that have to say to me today? He tells me that the person I was when I came to Christ is not compatible with living in the Spirit. Just tweaking my life a bit here and there; putting a little paint on the worst spots; and sprucing up the outside a little won’t cut it. If who I am on the inside remains unchanged, then all of the patching I do is doomed to failure. Constantly patching up my life is bound to leave me frustrated and defeated. So long as the original me is at the heart of things, the struggles will be never-ending. Just washing off a pig won’t keep him from rolling around in the mud. You’ve got to change him to something else if you want to keep him clean.
Be Transformed, Not Conformed
In Romans 12:2, Paul encouraged us not to conform to the world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. I believe this is also what Jesus is saying to the Pharisees here. Rather than patching up the old me, I need to become something else. I need to die to myself and be born anew in the Spirit. If I will put on the new life of the Spirit then there is no patching required. And I can experience the life he created for me to have.
Now you may have noticed that there are those in our world today who seem to enjoy wearing clothes that are in need of some serious patching. In fashion, I guess that is OK. But when we as Christians walk around in the rags of sin and boast about that, something is wrong. We are not called to be like the world, but to be transformed and to be a witness to it.
Father, my prayer is that you would lead me to be a living sacrifice; to not conform to the ways of this world; but to be transformed with a renewed mind. Help me to set aside the old garments of sin and self. And to be clothed instead with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and love.