This month: 193 - All Things New
Exploring the Heart of Restoration

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Matt Dabbs

Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

Homepage: http://mattdabbs.com

When I was a teenager I got into wearing Christian/scripture themed shirts. I was (am) a nerd. You already knew that. One of my favorites had 2 Cor 5:17 on it, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…” I loved the idea of God making me new. It was very personal. What I didn’t understand at the time was the context of what Paul was saying in those verses. What Paul was actually saying has a lot bigger ramifications and implications than I knew at the time.

Paul had laid out what made me/us new creation and what was the resulting actions we are called to take to live out that reality. There is far more to Paul’s point than some idea of just me and God doing our thing! It has everything to do with how we see and treat others, starting with Jesus.

Check out all the connecting words and pronouns that tie the surrounding and following verses together in what Paul is arguing for,

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”

2 Cor 5:14-19

You might want to go back and read it again.

The idea that we no longer regard people from a worldly point of view is because of Christ dying for all so that all might live for him. Because of that we now view people from a new perspective rather than a worldly one. Not only had we formerly viewed other people in a worldly way, we had even viewed Christ in this manner. The fact that we used to do that, even of Christ, and do so no longer is evidence that we are new creation.

What also demonstrates our new creation status is our new mission that grows directly out of how we view people. Because we are new creation we have a new ministry…the “all this” points back to our new perspective on Christ and people as well as our new status as new creation people. “All this is from God…” This new creation existence that springs out of a new view of Christ and others leads us directly to a ministry of reconciliation where we help others through those same changes in their view of others which leads to them also being “new creation” so that the old (way of view people and of being) can go away and the new arrive in their lives!

Verses have context and you can see just how rich the message of scripture becomes when read as the whole argument than Paul is actually making rather than reading the Bible as a series of zingers or gotcha quotes!

He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'” – Revelation 21:5

There are moments in our lives when we need a fresh start. Often, New Years seems to be an obvious time for a do-over! As we begin a new year let us consider all the ways God continues to take old things and restore them…to take worn out things and make them new again!

How is God taking tired preachers and re-invigorating them?

How is God taking old churches and breathing new life into them?

How do you see God making things that are from things that are not?

It is happening all around us if we have eyes to see and ears to hear!

Welcome to 2022!

Thanks to each and every one of you for reading the articles, watching the videos, commenting and sharing with others at Wineskins in 2021! I truly believe 2022 will be the best year yet! It is the 30th anniversary of Wineskins! We have a few special things lined up in light of the big anniversary!

Please keep this ministry in your prayers. Prayer is the most important thing we can do. Please pray God guides the ministry and empowers it to reach people, inform and equip for the kingdom!

I can’t wait to share some vision for 2022 and beyond! There are exciting days ahead!

Blessings,

Matt

In John 8, Jesus said he is the light of the world. We already talked about the Jewish background of that statement in regard to the Feast of Tabernacles in a previous article. In this article I want us to explore what it means in practical terms for Jesus to be the light of the world.

It is tempting to make the discussion purely intellectual. We might say that Jesus is the light of the world in that he illuminates the truth, just as light shows us what is really there. That is an accurate assessment but it is not complete.

Jesus shows us what is truly true…he illuminates the truth to what end? I believe the answer to that question is Jesus lights the way to show us truth so that we can and will walk in that truth in community.

Jesus being the light of the world is not theoretical or purely philosophical. I believe we see this most clearly in 1 John 1 & 2.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

1 John 1:5-7

God is light…to what end? To the end that we are “walking” in God’s light. It isn’t enough for the light of Jesus or God to show us what is on the path…He shows us what is truly on the path so that we can *walk* in that truth (not just believe the truth…I think we could question whether or not we can know the truth without living the truth because you don’t truly know something until you life it). Walking in truth doesn’t make us sinless because he says that even as we walk in the light we are still being purified of our sin, not that we have avoided sin entirely.

Or how about 1 John 2 where John wrote this,

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.”

1 John 2:9-11

Again, we see that Jesus being the light shines his light not as a purely philosophical exercise that gives us superior knowledge of what is truly before us…but that Jesus being the light and shining the light is done with the express purpose of encouraging us toward ethical behavior and love of neighbor.

Jesus is the light so that we will walk in that light…not so that we can assess the light, examine the light, talk about the light’s qualities, etc…but that we can experience what life is like walking in the light. And what that looks like is a lot like love in real time with real people!

In John 8 Jesus says he is the light of the world. That is quite the focus this time of year…and rightly so. John 1 tells us Jesus came into the world as the word made flesh and that in doing so he brought light into the darkness.

The setting for John 8 is the Feast of Tabernacles. Tabernacles was a celebration of the wilderness wanderings. The wilderness time was a time they lived in temporary shelters and when God led them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

The Jewish people celebrated this in a few ways. First, they lived in temporary shelters. It was harvest time and this allowed them to be out in the fields watching over their harvest. A second way was they would take the worn out priestly garments and make candelabras out of them and light them on fire to light Jerusalem at night. It is during this festival that Jesus tells the crowd that he is the light of the world!

A third practice at the festival is where the high priest would take a cup and go down to the pool of Siloam and fill it. He would walk up to the temple and pour the water out on the altar reminding them of water from the rock. In John 7 Jesus plays off of this when he says he is the source of streams of living water!

Jesus is the fulfillment and embodiment of Israel…as we celebrate Christmas let us have a deep appreciation for this old, old story that is not just a New Testament story but is a whole Bible story! It is amazing to me that God planned all of this over 1000 years in advance and we get to participate in the light as Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:14) that now we too are the “light of the world”! What a glorious blessing that is. We need to live each and every day as the light…to shine into the darkness that is all around us the unending and unbending love of Jesus!

Jesus came into a world that seemingly plunged into divine darkness. The last words heard from God were hundreds of years prior. The Pharisees thought they might change that by forcing the priestly cleanliness codes on the masses. How would God reveal himself, much less come, to an unholy and unclean people? The Pharisees believed the people needed a hard dose of truth and strict regulation. Then they would hear from God. Then Messiah would come.

And he did.

And they missed him…even denied him.

As John said in his prologue,

“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it.”

John 1:4-5

But there were those who did indeed see his glory…and understand it/Him. As John says 9 verses later,

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 1:14

The key to seeing Jesus and his glory is to see him through both truth and grace. The Pharisees thought it would be truth that led to holiness that would usher in the Christ. But they missed the grace…so they missed the Christ.

I don’t know if word order matters any but for whatever reason John put the word grace before he put the word truth. Just something to think about. Maybe it is not that truth is less important than grace but because it is hard to know the truth until you experience and give grace.

Jesus and Paul both linked Jesus as the light to us as the light. Let’s start with Jesus,

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Matt 5:14-16

When we shine the light we receive from Jesus into the world, God is glorified! Or how about what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians,

“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”

2 Cor 4:6

Here we see more directly that any light that is in us is in us because of Jesus. I cannot help but go back to what John wrote in John 1:1 that Jesus was the Word/Logos. In the Old Testament it is the is the Word that is the lamp to our feet and light to our path (Psalm 119:105).

Let us all appreciate Jesus for being the light and bringing the light. He brought the light into the world and in doing so imparted that light to each and everyone of us who are the children of God so that we may bring God glory (Matt 5) and that we might display the knowledge of God to a world that is all too familiar with darkness (2 Cor 4).

May God richly bless you this Christmas! Thanks for reading Wineskins. Love you all,

Matt

Welcome to December a few days late at Wineskins! I apologize for the tardiness of this first post!

This is a time when we focus especially on the coming of Jesus…the incarnation. The reality is, this is one of the main components that sets Christianity apart from every other religion. There were pagan religious that said their gods came down in human form and guess what those “gods” did? Acted like what we sinful people would act like if they could do whatever they wanted to do! But our God came in the flesh and he humbled himself and even died on our behalf! Wow…what a story! Can’t wait to share more!

We have gone through some dark days since the start of the pandemic. It is so hopeful to remember that Jesus is the light of the world! John tells us part of what it means for Jesus to be the light in his prologue,

“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John 1:4-5

Jesus shines in the darkness! If you have ever lived in darkness (which we all have) we know just how important that light really is!

Not only that Jesus talked about our connection with being the light,

“You are the light of the world!” – Matt 5:14

Jesus’ light became a light in us. Just as Jesus’ light pierced the darkness, so will ours. Just as Jesus’ light gave hope to those who lived in darkness, so will ours.

The question isn’t whether or not we are the light. We are. The question is how then will we let it shine unless we position ourselves in places of darkness?

Welcome to December at Wineskins!

The most important things in church life have a high degree of sensitivity to them. Feelings can get hurt easily. Relationships can get broken. Hard conversations are exactly that…hard. Many hard conversations go unsaid because it isn’t worth the cost.

How do we have the difficult conversations even though there may be fallout? At the heart of all of this is the key – vulnerability…Our capacity to receive the truth and keep in the conversation.

First, we pray and ask God if this is a conversation He wants us to have. Too often pride and other blind spots can get in the way of us truly seeing the situation (and our role in it) accurately. There are some conversations that we don’t need to have. Maybe they are a distraction or maybe there is something else more important to discuss and work on.

Second, assess our place in the problem or issue at hand. We may bear more responsibility for the issue than we first would be willing or able to admit. There have been times in ministry I was completely blind to my part of the problem or even that I was the cause of the problem. Some of these instances were not obvious until much later.

Third, be willing to accept push back without being defensive. Defensiveness, while natural and understandable, can get in the way of progress and reconciliation. If we have pushback it may be because we didn’t thoroughly work through the first two items. Or it may be there was more to the situation than we realized…so take a moment to listen and learn in order to find a path ahead rather than get bogged down in defensive posturing to save face.

Fourth, be open, receptive and anticipatory of the Holy Spirit’s work. Allow the Holy Spirit to work the fruit of the Spirit in you before, during and after the conversation. The Spirit is our unifier and part of creating unity is using the fruit of the Spirit to mend broken relationships and ease difficult conversations to make them more manageable.

Fifth, understand that a favorable outcome may take several tries. You can’t always get it all done the first time. The first conversation may be a learning conversation that preps resolution the second or third time around. Be realistic about the pace of a positive outcome. That allows you to not push for resolution when it isn’t truly resolved. The problem took time to develop, resolution will as well.

Sixth, work through the issue with others with integrity. Be honest. Do what is right. Have no regrets.

Even after all of this there is no guarantee that anything got fixed but at least you can know that you did your best to allow God to do His best.

There has been a lot of criticism leveled at the church over the years. Criticism can become a hobby if we are not careful. It seems to me our culture is becoming a lot more overtly critical and now has the platforms to leverage that to a wider audience. Or maybe the criticism level hasn’t changed, it is just more visible now than it was before.

What is the place of criticism in the church?

Matthew 18 sets the standard for resolving conflict with individuals. I don’t think that applies to all systemic issues.

Paul addressed congregational issues but he was inspired and had apostolic authority.

I believe we can critique the church in a way that does not distract from her beauty. There are two categories that the critique can fall into:

1 – Critique of local issues in a specific congregation

2 – Critique of general issues that are common to congregations

The first should be dealt with in person and not through a megaphone to the world. It involves actual relationships that need to be maintained and are not hypothetical. The second, I believe, is fair game for both public and private discourse. In both instances the goal of the critique should be to find a path to improvement rather than to vent or rant with no eye for improvement.

A followup question is this – How does one effectively critique a network of loosely connected autonomous churches? Is there a way to offer a better path forward for church leaders who have little to no incentive to make things better through change? And who gets to decide what is actually “better” for one church vs another? I don’t claim to have good answers to these questions. Maybe you do!

In all of these situations the person doing the critique needs to do some soul searching to make sure they are not doing this out of pride or spite. One can grow a following faster through talking about what is wrong over talking about what is right…bad news catches on quicker than good news (Bob Goff aside!). This is of the flesh and the critiquer needs to process this internally before moving forward.

Here are four questions you can ask yourself to make sure your heart is in the right place:

1 – Do I want to see this church (these churches) succeed or fail? If it is the second, don’t do it.

2 – Do I get any pleasure out of seeing the problems? If yes, don’t do it.

3 – Do I have any feelings of superiority in pointing out issues in others? If yes, don’t do it.

4 – Have I addressed these same issues in my own life and ministry successfully? Often we are most sensitive in others what we struggle with most ourselves.