"Therefore behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I shall send to him those who tip vessels..."
One of the fondest memories of my childhood growing up in Portugal was the time for the “Vindima”—the harvesting of grapes. My maternal grandfather had a patch of land where he grew various small crops, from potatoes to beans, cabbage and so on. My favorite however, were the fruitful grapevines in the vineyard.
I grew up in the city but visiting my grandparents’ home on the outskirts always filled my heart with joy. I had the best of both worlds. My grandfather was a God-fearing, hardworking man, with a firm stance but a gentle heart. He was the patriarch to twenty grandchildren, yet always seemed to have time for each single one. “Marta, Marta! Maria escolheu a melhor parte!”, he would say to me with a big ol’ smile and stretched out arms every time he greeted me. He was lovingly referring to the instance when Jesus said to Martha that her sister Mary had chosen the good part, which would not be taken away from her—to sit at the Lord’s feet listening to His message (Luke 10:39). I loved it! To this day, I fondly recall his reminder every time I read this portion of Scripture.
The harvest season would typically fall sometime in the month of September and it was a whole family affair! Grandma would make delicious snacks and fill a large basket that could feed the entire tribe. Portuguese cornbread, olives, cold meats, and so on would definitely satisfy! Uncles, aunts and cousins, all hands were on deck. Harvest was an exciting time! The smell of freshly picked grapes filled the air, and in the process of time would turn into the aroma of mature wine. But not before the most labor-intensive part of winemaking—the crushing.
My grandfather employed the traditional age-old process of grape stomping to make his wine. Crushing the grapes through stomping provides a greater control of the color and flavor development that later on takes place through the process of fermentation, which will ultimately determine the wine’s final character, quality and profile. It was fascinating to witness the transformation process of turning simple grape juice into new wine.
Jesus is in the process of transforming those who accept the call of discipleship into “new wine”. He is making vessels of honor, who have in turn chosen to be poured out before Him like drink offerings (Philippians 2:17). They are those who have chosen to forsake all and follow Him (Matthew 5:11). Those who accept to go through “the crushing”!
Today’s modern Christian, particularly in Western societies, has this fixated mentality that the Christian walk should be one of continuous bliss, undisturbed comfort, and without disruptions. Yet, Jesus’ radical invitation into discipleship is the most difficult call to accept because it will completely challenge, test and interrupt one’s personal plans, preconceived ideas, notions and life. It will seriously turn one’s world upside down because it will operate in stark contrast to the ways and patterns of the world. Not only will it be challenged by the world itself, but sad to say, it will also be questioned and possibly ridiculed by those who proclaim Christ as their Lord but who have chosen to simply bask in the “outer courts” of salvation, never truly entering into the innermost “holy chamber” of discipleship. Consequently, many turn a blind eye to the invitation because they know they will have to pay a price, but they are not willing. My goal today is to encourage you to see and to focus on the value in the price, not the cost of the payment. If you truly value something that’s of worth, it becomes priceless. You will be willing to go through the crushing to get the wine!
These are some of Jesus’ words regarding discipleship:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)
And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:25-27)
So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. (Matthew 16:33)
They are challenging and seemingly harsh words that completely disrupt the natural way of looking at everything that pertains to life. With spiritual discernment and correct biblical interpretation, we understand that Jesus is not requiring a man to divorce his wife, or encouraging children to dishonor their parents; He’s not asking for one to adopt a self-loathing attitude, and then turn into a homeless hobo, no. Jesus is desiring something much, much deeper and holier than what is immediately perceived. Jesus desires our full, undivided, unconditional devotion and surrender to Him and His will. Jesus’ words point to the fact that following Him will require us to make difficult decisions in the Holy Spirit for His sake and the gospel’s. His word and personal will for our lives is to be valued above anyone else’s and above all things. Doing so, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, will sometimes be regarded as an act of betrayal, disrespect, dishonor, hatred, and outright foolishness. It will challenge everyone’s status quo, cause you to let go, and possibly even lead you into the testing “wilderness”. It will deeply hurt as you go through the “crushing” process. And many will not accept it.
When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? (…) From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” (John 6:61, 66-67)
We are currently living in a world that is growing increasingly intolerant to anything that “offends”, yet Jesus’ gospel undeniably offends. Jesus said, “blessed is he who is not offended because of Me” (John 11:6). I pray you will not be offended by the inevitable “crushing” seasons in the process of discipleship. Regardless of what Jesus is requiring of you, or the “wilderness” the Holy Spirit is leading you through, remember, although there is a great price to pay in the “crushing”, there is so much more to gain! Jim Elliot once said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.”
So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. (Mark 10:28-30)
Such wonderful promises!
God is equipping you to fully live out His calling on your life. Going through the crushing season will confidently prepare you for the Kingdom-task specifically designed for you to carry out. Youthful zeal and passionate pursuit is excitingly contagious, and a thrilling season of life! There comes a time, however, when zeal and passion alone will not be enough to carry you through into the higher purposes of God. Godly maturity and wisdom is needed. In the same manner that wine is not meant for a young one but only for a mature, responsible adult, you also can only progress into the higher purposes of God if you allow Him to mature you through His designated and tailormade process.
The pressing and crushing season, the time in the wilderness, is not meant to harm you, but to transform you, to strengthen you, to mature you and to lead you from glory to glory into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). You will come out stronger, as new wine, ready to be poured out for the joy and glory of the King!
Jeremiah 48:11-12 gives us the perfect picture of a life suddenly confronted by the crushing season.
“Moab has been at ease since his youth;
he has also been undisturbed on his lees,
neither has he been emptied from vessel to vessel,
nor has he gone into exile.
Therefore he retains his flavor,
and his aroma has not changed.
Therefore behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I shall send to him those who tip vessels,
and they will tip him over,
and they will empty his vessels and shatter his jars.”
My husband Fraser shared this scripture and excerpt with me, which could not be more fitting. Rick Joyner explains it beautifully:
"When the Lord here talks about being emptied from vessel to vessel, He is talking about change. This was how wine was purified in those times. It was poured into a vessel and allowed to sit for a time. As it sat the impurities would settle to the bottom. Then it was poured into another vessel and was allowed to sit so that the remaining impurities could settle. Therefore, the more the wine had been emptied from vessel to vessel, the more pure it would become. Because Moab had not been subjected to the purifying changes, the "wine" of that nation was impure, therefore the Lord vowed to pour it out.
This is a reason why the Lord often allows radical changes to impact our lives. They are almost always disconcerting. Every time the wine was poured into a new vessel it was unsettled—there was commotion and stirring which would bring out the impurities that were left. Whenever we are thrust into change many things will begin to surface in our lives. Usually we will see very quickly just how much we have put our trust in the "vessel" that we're in, instead of in the Lord. But we will settle down again, and we will be more pure. Change is cleansing. That is one reason why the Lord kept Israel moving most of the time in the wilderness."
It is a mysterious adventure that only you and the Lord will fully know and comprehend. The outworking of that season, however, will visibly and publicly witness to others His great and mighty works as you live out your Christianity in the leading and power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14).
Keep your eyes fixed and focused on Jesus, on His word, and His promises. Remain strong and steadfast, yet pliable and moldable in His hands. Allow the nail-scarred feet of Jesus to continue doing the crushing as He leads you on to the road less traveled of radical discipleship. What an exciting invitation! You are being equipped for such a time as this!
I will always cherish the “vindima” memories of my childhood, but my greatest joy and desire now is to see you coming out of the crushing season in the glory and power of the Holy Spirit, to accomplish all that He has set out for you! I guarantee you, there is nothing greater in life than to fully embrace the higher call and mandate of the Kingdom.
May the Lord Jesus bring “new wine” out of you!