The Master Vintner

(John 15, Luke 5:37-38)

 He alone knows how to make wine, that is, spiritual wine.  It represents His joy, and he wants to fill us with it.  Jesus prayed that His joy might be full in us (John 17.  I cannot get away from that prayer.  Why would I want to?)  I have recently expressed to a sister that I felt like I was dying on the vine.  She responded that the grape must ferment in a cold, dark place.  Some weeks later when I saw her, she repeated those words about her own situation.  Wow.  He has us as grapes in His winepress.  No, we are not grapes of wrath.  Jesus drank the cup of wrath for us all.  We are in His wine press that His joy might fill us and overflow to others.  That joy is His life.  He turns water, living water, into new wine, joy unspeakable and full of glory.  I am understanding that the feeling of being in the winepress is that work of the cross causing us to let go of the things not pleasing to Him.

Jesus spoke of the need for new wineskins.  The oil that is the Holy Spirit of God will keep us flexible and supple.  Let Him flow over you and soak in to the dry places.  The dry, cracked skins would burst because of the continued fermentation and effervescence in the vessel.  Today I saw this finish of His process related to our modern wine bottle.  The natural skin provides such a wonderful picture and I prefer it especially as Jesus used it.  But He still speaks today with new pictures for each of us, and for us together.  A brother twice prayed for me for the Lord to pop the cork, the Spirit using that picture of a wine bottle.  The Spirit did frequently erupt from me during the worship and even during the preaching.  I was in a gathering where that could happen.  The main instance of such an eruption occurred during preaching one Sunday  at the mention of love for the brethren.  (That includes the sistern too, by the way) From within me erupted the words, “Fervent love of the brethren.  May we love like Paul and those who wept on his neck when they parted.”  Paul Black was preaching, and he responded, “My heart is pounding in my chest.”  The Spirit erupted with fervency from my inner man.

Back to the bottle.  Now we distribute wine by bottles.  At the right time the vinter draws the wine from the cask, or whatever vessel they use, and fills the bottles.  As we ferment, as we mature, being processed by His Spirit, He can pour us into other vessels, other people, and they can receive life and joy.  Paul (the apostle) wrote that he was being poured out on behalf of others.  At the time he wrote those words the hearers were observing his manner of life from a distance.  He was in custody in Rome, expecting to lose His life on the earth. That was a true witness.  They knew what Paul had endured for Jesus’ name sake.  A tremendous lesson for us all.

So is the working of God’s Spirit among us, a work of growth and refining.  Personally, my attention was drawn to the fact that the neck of the bottle is narrow.  The Lord knows how to direct the flow out of us.  He is able to do that very accurately and precisely.  I am all too aware of my imperfections and humanity in this matter.  Yet He has surprised me by doing that through me.  I am learning I cannot be overly concerned about the reaction of others.  Yet I honestly want to be a blessing, and a benefit.  So, as our brother Bob Jones has said (as from the Lord), “Did you learn to love well?”  We are all learning to love well, and to love fervently from the heart.

Out of the heart, the mouth speaks.  Are our hearts fully His?  Do we love Jesus, and so spontaneously love those who are truly His?  Do we love all men, and especially those who are of His family?  Paul described it as the household of faith.  What if they don’t say it like us?  What if we see their imperfections?  Love is patient, kind, and long-suffering, bearing with one another.  So much comes down to this.  Reminds me of a song that came out in the 70’s, “Jesus, Reduce Me to Love.”  Not a bad prayer.  We have the truth, and like His most wonderful son, Jesus, He is making us to be letters read of all men.  He is making us vessels that represent and bring the truth that Christ is.  Let Him mold you in the secret place of His presence.  There, as you worship Him, He will fill you up so that He may pour you out, as He only can.  He anoints my head with oil; my cup overflows.

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