Something that believers in Christ should be aware of is the fact that when you are living for the Lord, people will not always understand you–even if they are Christians. All too often misunderstandings come when the Lord wants us to move in a different direction or use a different method for his timeless message than what religious tradition demands. That is what Christ and his disciples faced in Matthew 9–
14 Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?
15 And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.
16 No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.
17 Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.
John’s disciples wondered, “Why aren’t you guys doing religious stuff in the way we do religious stuff?” They got caught in the rut of thinking God’s people have to do the same thing in the same way all the time. These men mistook uniformity for unity when there’s a huge difference between the two. Just because I may choose to worship only on Sunday doesn’t mean that God requires you to have worship on Sunday, for example.
Jesus then uses two illustrations to point out the importance of three things in ministry for the Lord–the nature of the players in a situation, the timing of the situation, and the method or manner required for the situation. Jesus’ disciples were different in nature in that they were called to celebrate their relationship in the Lord with non-gluttonous, non-drunken feasting while the bridegroom, Christ, was present with them. In a later time when Christ was not among them, they would use the method of fasting because it would be more appropriate.
The nature of the disciples called upon them to focus on worshiping in Spirit and in truth, not on worshiping by man’s traditions, which was the nature of how the Pharisees fasted (Matthew 6:16-18). Christ did not require just an outward change of self-improvement that all man-made religion does. He required there to be a total change from the inside out by God’s grace through faith in him to bring about a total new nature.
Therefore, real change takes place in a time when a person realizes attempts to put new cloth on an old garment will not do. That is an insufficient method and makes the situation worse because not only will the strength of the new cloth make the weak, old garment worse, it will make the new cloth worthless and of no effect.
Real change and real service for God comes at a time where the person possessing the new wine’s effervescence knows that the method of putting new wine in old bottles ruins the rigid, outdated wineskin by bursting it and rendering the new wine useless. Scripture gives us examples of this scenario in Matthew 12:43-45, Hebrews 6:4-9, and 2 Peter 2:20-22. But a new wineskin is flexible enough to accept the reaction and interaction the new wine’s effervescence brings, making the nature, timing, and method all worthwhile and useful for the best impact.
The person born of the Spirit is made strong enough and flexible enough to move as the Spirit leads even when others cannot determine where they’re coming from or where they’re going to (John 3:8), but if others who watch them are in Christ themselves, they should at least be able to test that person’s spirit to know if they are truly of God even if it takes them some time to recognize it. It’s refreshing to have put on Christ’s new clothes and to partake of his new wine.