New Wineskins

Posted by Roberta Grimes • November 15, 2015 • 17 Comments
Book News, Jesus, The Teachings of Jesus

Dear friends, here is someone I want you to meet!

Brian D. SmithBrian D. Smith recently contacted me to say that my Seek Reality podcast introducing Liberating Jesus had inspired him to “finally let go of the label ‘Christian,’” and to write this post on the blog that he began earlier this year following the transition of his lovely 15-year-old daughter, Shayna. Brian grew up as a fundamentalist Pentecostal. His grandfather was a prominent pastor, so he says that “it’s been a difficult journey of giving up a lot of family tradition.” What he writes here parallels my own journey, although Brian’s escape from Pentecostal Christianity has been an especially harrowing experience. And the loss of his breathtakingly beautiful daughter, pictured below, was more than anyone should have to bear. You can get to know Brian at his blog and at his business. This is the most moving spiritual testimony that I have ever read. Thank you, Brian! Your generosity in sharing these intimate thoughts with us is such a precious gift.

New Wineskins

Guest Post by Brian D. Smith

After 50 years it’s time to stop calling myself a Christian. I’m 54 years old and I’ve been wrestling with Christianity from the very beginning; literally for as long as I can remember.  The notion that God created me as a flawed being and wanted to destroy me for being the way He created me kept me awake crying in my bed many nights. Why did He hate me so much? The idea that in order to save me, God had to murder Jesus bothered me. I felt bad for poor Jesus. Sorry, you have to die because I’m so bad. The idea that God still didn’t really like me, He just couldn’t see my sins since they were covered over in Jesus’ blood, made me feel dirty and unlovable. I envisioned myself tiny standing before the throne of God, Him sitting way up high looking down on me. Here I am dripping in the blood of Jesus as God reluctantly grants me entry into His Kingdom. The idea that we are saved by “faith” alone boggled my mind. Why is faith, especially faith in the impossible to believe otherwise, so darned important?  It wasn’t until many years later that Marcus Borg would explain to me that faith wasn’t believing in the impossible, faith was a deep abiding trust. But, how could I trust a god who was a monster? It never really added up for me.

I’ve always believed in God. I still do. I’ve always loved Jesus. I still do. I just don’t believe in the religion of Paul any more. I even still like Paul. Paul wrote a lot of good stuff. Paul tried to take the teachings of Jesus, which were meant to be radical and blow the lid off of religion, and stuff them in the trappings of Judaism. Paul created Judaism Shayna2.0. He did a pretty good job, but as the Master said: “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results. No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” (MK 2:21-22) Paul went against Jesus’s own words when he tried to take the teachings of Jesus and put them into the wineskins of Judaism. Jesus didn’t come to revamp Judaism or to start Christianity. He came to free us from all of that. He came to show us the direct way to the Kingdom, not through religion but through right thinking and right action. Paul’s efforts helped preserve the teachings of Jesus. For that we should thank Paul.

However, for me, as I’ve been outgrowing the Sunday school teachings of my youth, I’ve been trying to put the new wine I’ve been producing into the old wineskins of modern Christianity and the bags keep bursting.

I need to thank Marcus Borg, Daniel Helminiak, Thomas Talbott and many others for helping me to make the transition from Christianity to spirituality a relatively smooth one. I had many crises of faith along the way. And some of them were pretty scary. I can recall many steps along the way when my mind was blown. I remember when I gave up on the idea of a young Earth and a 6-day creation. I remember the very moment sitting on my deck in Lexington, KY about 25 years ago. I recall looking up from the book I was reading about this and seeing the entire universe in a new light and God as being bigger and more powerful that I had ever imagined. Creating the Earth in six days was pretty impressive, but creating the universe over billions of years. That’s a whole different perspective. I remember when I gave up on the idea of penal substitutionary atonement (the idea that God needed blood and took Jesus’ blood instead of ours). Wow, did that give me relief. God wasn’t such a bloodthirsty monster after all. Giving up on those things freed me from so many mental gymnastics. However, holding onto the label Christian kept me doing all kinds of others. I studied so many theories of atonement trying to figure out which one made sense. Well, no more. There was no need for atonement, except our own need because we felt distant from God. God never moved away from us.

Sun Through TreesAs I told my wife about my revelation, a couple of days ago she asked me why labels are important anyway. I know a lot of people reject labels, but labels are useful and necessary. Labels should never define us. Labels shouldn’t tell us who we should be. But, labels are useful for describing us. For years though when I would say “Christian” people would get this image of me and I’d end up explaining that 60-90% of those things they thought didn’t apply to the type of Christian I am. I hate the phrases “I’m not a Christian, I’m a follower of Jesus” and “I don’t have a religion, I have a relationship.” They’ve been played out to the point of being trite. I don’t know what I’ll call myself or how I’ll describe myself. Right now there isn’t a label that fits. We’ll see. But, I can’t keep up the futile effort of putting new wine into old wineskins.

Roberta Grimes
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17 thoughts on “New Wineskins

    1. Thank you in behalf of my friend Brian, dear Renee! I confess I didn’t realize that some denominations teach children that God won’t accept them unless they are covered in the blood of Jesus? To think that those precious little children that God so perfectly loves are made to believe such things breaks my heart! But I love this beautiful, courageous man who speaks now for so many people who need to be freed to love the Lord in truth. He is a gift.

      1. Thanks for your kind words.

        I guess I’m a very visual and literal person, Roberta. When I heard songs like “Are You Washed In the Blood”, I would picture myself covered in Yeshua’s blood. They don’t strike most people that way. I guess.

        1. Dear Brian, thank you for your beautiful contribution here! And yes, any child hearing adults singing that would envision it literally. Grownups don’t appreciate how literal children are, nor do they ever comprehend how much they damage their children’s lifelong relationship with Spirit by the awful things they teach them. Just imagine if every church taught children ONLY the Gospel words of the Master on love and forgiveness. The whole world could be transformed in one generation!

  1. Yes, that was a wonderful post by Mr. Brian D. Smith, a real winner!

    I, too, was raised a fundamentalist Christian and have gone through many changes over the years. Some similar to Mr. Smith’s.

    Thanks for posting this guest blog, Roberta.

    1. What is so wonderful about you and about our beautiful friend Brian, dear Michael, is that you are paving the way for others who feel trapped in fear-based beliefs that no longer make sense to them to begin to notice, too, once they loosen those bonds of fear, that Master Jesus has been standing there right beside them with His arms around them all along.

      To watch people who love Jesus come to realize that they can have a closer and more genuine relationship with the Lord once the Church is out of the way is the most wonderful thing that I have ever experienced!

  2. Brian has a very good point in that we need a new language for what it means to identify as a person who accepts the fact that a tiny piece of God’s energy (love, freedom, creativity and a lot of other frequencies and vibrations that are true, good and beautiful), resides also in our personal energies. We are talking quantum physics at the soul level here, and the new ‘language’ we use to identify will be one of speech AND sensation. And the idea of a ‘label’ will be embedded–not worn like a sign that can be judged!

    1. This is beautifully said, dear Mary. Thank you!

      I don’t know what we will end up calling ourselves, but I do know that we cannot allow our Walk to devolve again into being just one more religion. The original followers of the Master called His philosophy “the Way.” Perhaps that will work for us as well?

  3. I don’t know what we will call ourselves, but I agree 100% Roberta. It cannot be just one more religion or one more denomination of Christianity. 30,000-40,000 (it’s a number no one really knows) is more than enough.

    For now, I’m content to just know that I am made in the image of God and that Jesus taught the best way to be my best self, but that God won’t love me any less if I don’t do things perfectly.

    1. So beautifully said, dear precious friend. This awakening to the truth is being orchestrated very far above our pay grade ;-), so we can be content to do what is put before us. We know – we have been told – that in this movement, Master Jesus is going to triumph. So we can with joy and without fear each do our own part!

  4. Hi Roberta, I was very moved by Brian Smith’s post. Things he said remind me of the thoughts and struggles I have gone through as a Southern Baptist. I never understood why Jesus had to die on the cross for my sins! Just didn’t make sense to me. Does Brian Smith have a blog and if so, how can I go to his blog? Thank you for being such a wonderful teacher and resource to so many of us who have been seeking the truth.
    Nancy Stroble

    1. Hello dear Nancy! Brian blogs at his daughter’s website for the moment – the link is above, in my preface to his post. But he is such an extraordinary writer, and such a deeply gifted thinker, that I have no doubt we are going to be hearing a lot more from him!

      Thank you, darling, for your wonderful compliment, and thank you even more for always being there. This voyage that we are on toward finding and revealing the truth that actually has always been there is one that we are taking together. And there are so many of us now!

  5. This is a road I’ve been down too. I grew up as a member of a small sect that later merged with the Methodists but it was originally stricter than they are. looking back, I think my parents used religion and the church as a safe haven from the world. I had a terrible time trying to fit into the template. about 20 years ago when I started to read and study the Conversations with God books I was talking to a good friend about the concepts in it and what she said to me was: “you’re still a Christian, aren’t you?” in her world I could think or believe anything as long as I called myself a Christian. what’s that about? security?

    “Follower of Jesus” sounds to me like a reasonable name but it probably doesn’t go far enough in divesting us of Christian trappings. lately to a few close friends I’ve been identifying myself as a Spiritualist but I haven’t really come out of the closet publicly yet because I haven’t found a local community of like-minded people yet. I will. I just don’t know where or when yet.

    1. Dear Lorie, all of us are wrestling with the fact that Jesus is so tightly associated with Christianity in people’s minds that the two seem to be almost interchangeable. A rejection of one is seen by most to be a rejection of the other, when in fact the opposite is true! You can be a Christian, or you can follow Jesus, but His teachings are so utterly different from those of the religion that bears His name that it is impossible to follow both. Whenever I say that, I can see people’s minds sort of go on “tilt,” much as if I had insisted that the sun and light are two entirely different things!

      I don’t know what we will end up calling ourselves, either. For now, I am using “the Way,” which is what the Lord’s first disciples seem to have called their nascent movement. Whatever we call it, we CAN’T let it become just another religion! And we can’t let it become tied to any existing religion. So, Spiritualism is out. I think that perhaps even “follower of Jesus” smacks too much of Christianity. But just as Master Jesus has chosen this year and this moment to focus our attention on His teachings and to make the basic point that He came to abolish religions and not to start yet one more; so I think that when the time is right, He will show us where He wants us to take this. Our job is to share, to teach, to listen, and to at last and with joy follow the Lord’s genuine eternal truths!

  6. I think part of the problem is that when people ask what church you go to or what your spirituality is or however they put it, we’ve decided not to be part of a religion and that alone scandalizes some people. some say Bhudism is a philosophy and the teachings of Jesus are too. I’ve met Christians who somehow figured it out. maybe their intuition steered them toward Jesus’s teachings instead of all the legalism and other stuff most of us grew up with.

    I remember in the 70s there used to be a ttranslation of the Bible, maybe just the new Testament called “the Way.” I used to like it because it was in such plain English.

    1. Hi, Lorie! I found “The Way; The Living Bible Illustrated” for sale on Amazon for a very reasonable price used. This may be what you are referring to, I don’t know. There are other versions titled “The Way” also available on this Amazon page.

      There’s another “The Way” Bible that’s based on the New Living Translation, but it was published in 2012.

      If you or Roberta find out any more info on “The Way” Bible published in the 70’s, kindly let us know. Thanks.

      1. Thank you, Michael! This considering new versions of the Bible that may be more understandable and accessible seems to be an important step toward our better understanding the teachings of Jesus.

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