Interview with Roger and Mandy Wyatt
For today’s interview, I interviewed a lovely couple who attend the same church I go to (and have a fairly important role in the church’s life and growth). I interviewed them over skype (which was an interesting experience, you should try it sometime…) on their understanding of the parable we’ve read this week and what encouragements they took from it.
During the interview the notions of ‘old’ and ‘new’ crop up a fair amount:
Old = us in our secular and worldly way, when we act out of pride, in a hate-filled way etc.
New = us when we come under Christ, when we start to live to serve, in a love-filled way etc.
I don’t want to waffle any further, so here is the interview (pretty much in full):
So, I don’t want to be rude or anything, but how old are you?
At what age did you become a Christian? Or, to phrase it another way, how long have you been a Christian?
I’ve been a Christian since 1988/9, somewhere around then: so for 25 years.
It’s difficult to say. I was around 14 or 15. It had some impact but not a great deal.
How long have you been an active Christian? By active, I mean someone who has acted on their Christian beliefs?
Since I was 22.
And, I’m talking about your occupation, what do you do?
I’m a pastor (at Harbour Church, Falmouth) and I run a business as well, an IT business.
I run a business. It’s separate to Roger’s one.
Now, we’ll start talking about the parable of the new wine into new wineskins, who is this parable addressing?
He was talking to tax collectors, scribes, basically a whole bunch of people.
I assume he was talking to the Pharisees who were complaining against his disciples. I guess it depends on the translation, because some say Pharisees and scribes.
Before we get into the minutiae of how this parable can affect our day to day living, what would you say is the main message of this parable?
I don’t think it’s an easy parable, to be quite honest. It makes a few overarching comments to the Old and New Covenant (the bible is split into the time before Jesus walking the earth, the Old Covenant, and the time during and after Jesus walking the earth, the New Covenant) and stuff. Primarily, though, it’s talking about the old versus the new: attaching the old onto something new doesn’t work. It’s making the point that life in Christ can’t have old, that’d just be mismatched. With Jesus we need to grasp onto the new start, though people typically hang on to the old.
You can think one thing and then think move onto another, it’s a bit cryptic.
Well, it’s talking about Jesus: He has come and things are going to be different. Things can’t continue in the same way, as he and his arrival have changed the way people perceive God. With regards to the old and new and things, God can’t just attach and bolt on Jesus to the religion the Pharisees and the teachers of the law already have. With Jesus: it’s about newness and change. Also, the parable is to do with our own salvation that’s tied in with change and the Holy Spirit (a guide, teacher and companion that God has sent down to those who believe in Him). We can’t be the old person we used to be. God makes us new wineskins (the new bottles in the Message translation) and we can be filled with the new.
Basically, we need to change how we’re living.
In what way can we encourage each other to be filled with new wine?
It’s about the attitude. We need to encourage one another that the new wine is better. We can’t live as the Pharisees and Scribes did, who preferred the old way that wasn’t compatible with the teachings of Jesus. And, even if we taste the new wine we need to embrace it fully. If we don’t, there’ll be a tear (a spiritual split between us and God)
We can’t in the sense of persuading someone, that’s not our job. You see, it’s not a mental decision but a conviction that happens when the Holy Spirit enters us (this isn’t like God possessing us but, rather, giving us a gigantic hand in how to live). The Holy Spirit is then responsible for this process of being filled with new wine. Our job is to be the sort of people who help lift others up when they’re being dragged into the old. We need to encourage one another not to feel guilt, shame, negative emotions when the old has a hold, a pull.
Help them to get up again by getting alongside them. Remind them that God is bringing change and encourage them not to focus on feelings of failure. Encourage and remind them they are a new creation, despite the striving and the stress and the, seemingly, no heart change. Welcome them to experience God’s goodness and faithfulness.
If a person has experienced spiritual tearing by trying to put the new belief into old practices, or old practices into the new belief, what’s the remedy?
It’s harder, as people are accustomed to the old way. However, whatever our background there’s one thing that remains the same: we need to embrace God. I guess with some people, it’s a little like water and oil. They’re always going to separate.
God’s love. When we just experience His love and keep experiencing it, we allow that truth and reality to become deep within us. It’s healing. Forgiveness is the key, forgiving ourselves as well as others.
The only way the heart can change is with God’s love and forgiveness. We can’t heal ourselves. The love of God our Father is healing and should underpin everything else. Sometimes we need more help, have intensive ministry for things, allowing God to put His finger on something. Often, during this, we will return to past hurts.
Know the truth and hold onto it. We can’t rely on feelings. Just because you’re not ‘feeling it’ doesn’t stop it being true. We need other people, other believers, to remember God’s grace: that we are part of a body. Share that understanding with someone. Pray with someone. When you feel the hardness in your heart, remember the truth and socialise with others. Don’t withdraw and isolate yourself. When we’re alone with our thoughts, that can be the worst.
What encouraging and practical ways are there to embrace God?
Seek and experience God, ultimately there’s nothing that’s going to help unless there’s a personal encounter. Seek and be real and honest, feel free to ask God to prove his existence and that he’s there. We don’t need to make others believe, they need to believe themselves. When people encounter God they’ll want to pursue him. Jesus was never afraid to tell people to go away and think. People need to decide and discover for themselves.
Worship and music, if you’re not in the mood to take part then just listen to it.
There’s also being in nature, being in creation.
You can listen to biblical teaching, this can be really helpful, just make sure that the material is uplifting.
Main thing, though, is grace: you have to live and understand God’s grace. Don’t be hard on yourself or on others.
God embraces us and that doesn’t have to be a struggle as the truth is God always embraces us. This truth is to become the centre of our lives. We don’t have to jump through hoops as it’s not about our rubbish efforts.
Grace is centre, though often we don’t understand it and feel like we want to run away. Grace is all consuming and doesn’t discriminate. You don’t need to flee in fear from God.
There’s times where we encounter hollow Christianity, what ways are there to be filled again?
We will all go through patches of feeling empty. There was a time when I returned from work, feeling very empty. I sat down and read Ecclesiastes and, by the time I’d finished, the depression left. The thing is, we need to grab hold of God’s truth and fill ourselves with good things.
The solution to the emptiness is unique to each of us. We need to discover why, what and how we’re empty and why, what and how it can be changed. What, personally, can help us?
Everyone goes through it, so when they it’s important that they don’t think they’re alone or that they’re somehow less of a person or that there’s something wrong with them. Encourage them that God loves them and thinks that they’re amazing. He cares and we care about them and love them. Encourage them to get that truth in as we can focus on feelings and feel inadequate and then become really knotted up. This knotted feeling can be damaging, so don’t focus on it but on truths and the fact that they’re loved.
What about when we find it difficult to escape the old ways?
The things that they struggle with are dependent on their upbringing. We want to be rid of those ways but those ways don’t want to be rid of us.
However, we need to become disciplined, to persevere, pray and hope that they will, one day, go. There are some things that hang around for a long time but remember grace. God always love us.
Welcome to the human race, I just think it is part of life. We struggle. Be real about stuff going on. Be honest and bring it to the light. If we tell anyone, Satan says, people will reject us. However, we need to trust that we can talk things through with others and that others are for and with us. And we need to be for and with others.
What concrete advice would you give to people who are still new to Christianity or are seeking?
Don’t give up. Remove the word ‘quit’ from your vocabulary.
The single most important thing for me is the revelation of the father’s love. This has helped me understand the bible, and has brought peace and life. Understanding the father’s love is powerful. I was a Christian for twenty years before realising it’s not just that God is love but that God is father and deeply loves us as the perfect father. God is my father. God is your father. That is the message.
It’s a process; we don’t just arrive but keep getting dragged back. However, God’s grace never runs out.
Thank you Roger and Mandy for your time, these answers are amazing.