Luke 17: 1 - 5, Then He said to the disciples, "It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him." And the apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith." NKJV
Jesus commanded us to love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls. He also commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Have you ever stopped to think about what we are saying when we say that we love God? God has given us life and through the death of His Son, He has paid our sin debt so that we might live free from sin and shame. What's not to love about God? Once we get beyond the initial experience of accepting God's gift of salvation, we soon discover that being a Christian can't be fulfilled in the weakness of our flesh nature. Before we came to Christ, we could show sympathy for people who hurt. We could show compassion and, at times, forgiveness to the people we love.
When God gave us His Holy Spirit, it was His way of telling us that we can't accomplish any spiritual task apart from Him. Even though we had the capacity to have sympathy and love for others, and we could, to a degree, forgive, we were wineskins that were old and rigid. Now that we've been made into new wineskins in Christ, we must develop our faith and the willingness to become larger containers of God's love in the earth. In the original Greek language of the Bible, there are three levels or categories of love mentioned. One level is friendship (phileo). The next level is the intimate love between a man and wife (eros), and the greatest level is God's love (agape). However, when Jesus commands us to love our enemies, He intends for us to love them with God's kind of love.
Look at the response of the disciples when Jesus told them to forgive their brother seven times a day. They admitted that they neither had the faith nor the capacity to forgive someone that much. Let's fast-forward two-thousand plus years to today. Have you ever made a mistake or committed a sin and the people who said they loved you suddenly forgot your name, or that they even knew you? Has someone offended you, and you removed them from your contact list and moved on without them? I bring this up to illustrate that we can be very rigid when being confronted with other people's offenses against ourselves, yet demand mercy when we're the one at fault. Jesus warned the disciples, and us, to take heed when someone offends us. We must be very careful how we respond to the wrong they have done against us, so that it isn't allowed to prevent us from loving them in the same way God loves us. The disciples responded in much the way that you and I would respond, "Lord, increase our faith or capacity to love." Since we are now the children of God, God allows opportunities for our new wineskin to be stretched and filled with more of His grace and love for others.
The Apostle John asks us a very penetrating and revealing question in his writings. He asked, "How we can say that we love God, whom we have not seen and not love our brother whom we have seen?" Obviously, God knew that as humans, we would struggle to love others to the same degree that He has loved us, so He has given us the Holy Spirit; it is through Him that the love of God has been dispersed.
Consequently, we must allow our minds to be changed or renewed because we're not limited to love others only with human love. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we now have a greater capacity to love people. As we submit to the Lord to become willing to forgive and to love after the offense has occurred, God can stretch the new wineskin and fill it with more of His love.
God Stretches New Wineskins,
Pastor Asa Dockery