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Is your lamp full or empty?

November 24, 2015

Last Sunday of the Church year-Eternity Sundayten

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish and five were wise.  The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.  The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

Matthew 25:1-13

 

How many people have ever run out of gas? In most audiences, this would be nearly everyone. I cannot verify these statistics, so I caution you that they may be flawed. It would appear that every year at least a thousands of people call CAA for help because they have run out of gas. Besides flat tires, dead batteries, and misplaced keys, running out of gas ranks right up there as one of the top reasons why people call for roadside service. One might expect this to happen frequently a generation ago, when gas gauges were not entirely accurate and when all of the warning lights of our present day cars were non-existent. But we now have warning messages that our fuel is running low (giving us perhaps an hour more of driving), and then additional more and more urgent warnings indicating just how many estimated kilometers of driving we have left. One must say that most people who run out of fuel are without excuse.

Why, then, do we do it, apparently as often today as people did years ago, when all of the advantages of technology were not available? We’ll come back to this question at the end of our message. In our text, it is not gasoline that is lacking, but “olive oil,” the fuel burned in the lamps of Jesus’ day. And, I believe we will discover that the five foolish virgins did not really “run out” of oil; they never had it.

First, we must say that this parable from Jesus is aimed at a more intimate audience. If you start reading from a chapter back you can see that this parable is addressed to his close disciples that are his followers and believers.
We could also say that the message for today is also intended for the church, the believers, that is, it is directed to the membership of our church.

We know that parables are stories that Jesus made up to teach something. They are like comparisons. Who are the virgins of the parable? They are the full membership of any Christian church. Five of the virgins, half of them according to the count of Jesus, were foolish, were not wise. Five of them were not prepared for the encounter with the bridegroom. They had no oil to light their lamps. These five were to be part of the wedding procession of virgins but did not take part as they had not prepared for their task responsibly.

It reminds us of a life of appearance which is not real. This is what the attitude of the foolish virgins symbolizes. They were shown as part of a wedding procession but in reality, were not aware of being part of it. They were not. At first glance they seemed willing to accompany the bridegroom with their lights shining in the darkness, but they were only in possession of the outward appearance, like a lamp without oil; as a dull human spirit, not nourished by the Holy Spirit; an empty body not connected with God.

The greatest foolishness of man is the misreading of God. The fool who says “there is no God” (Ps 14: 53) is a fool, not so much in the sense of denying His existence, but by not recognizing Him as necessary in life. Man’s sin is foolish because it expresses an apparent craziness. Such was the situation of the prodigal son, until the time he realized his situation and came back to the father.

If in the case of the foolish ones we see a sense of appearance, in the prudent ones we see a sense of reality. We see that they lived authentically, in a sincere and honest way. The wise virgins symbolize the spiritual reality of people’s life with a true conversion. Prudence confers wisdom. It gives them a spiritual wisdom, and that is the fear of God, the respect of God by accepting His terms. Not only they have lamps, but they also had an oil provision with them.

Oil is the biblical representation of the Holy Spirit.  In order to shine in the darkness we must have fuel; it is the Holy Spirit who gives us this light. When the Spirit is not present in one’s life, all forms of piety and religiosity are merely spiritual appearance and empty; fruit that is the result of human effort and not by the grace of God. It is an outward appearance of godliness and just human power.

One of the most important verses in this parable is the one about the delay of the husband and uncertainty about the time of his coming. However, only the faithful and prudent will keep watch. Likewise, the wise, prepared and faithful Christian can meet the bridegroom, our Lord Jesus Christ. Weak faith slumbers due to the delay. Strong faith prevails until the right time.

The oil in the parable symbolizes the Holy Spirit, God’s presence. Neither a minister nor any of us can judge anyone as not having the Holy Spirit of God. We are not judges; we just want to read and understand what Jesus is warning every one of us about today. And each of us must judge ourselves in the light of the words of Jesus. We must ask ourselves whether we are prepared or not.
Are we prepared for the encounter with the bridegroom? To be prepared means having experienced a conversion in our lives, regardless of how old we are and whether or not we have attended church for a lifetime. We have to be aware of saying: I do believe in Jesus Christ, I do believe in his word, the Bible, and I believe his word is the authority in my life, and I decide to obey his word while I’m showing my devotion and belonging to him. I’m showing that I believe in him. I’m showing I’m ready. And if I’m ready I’m putting God first in my life. I believe in him, and that also means I have confidence in him above all my fears and insecurities. Being prepared means a life of fruits before God and in front of people that I am a Christian with my way of thinking, speaking and acting. Of course we are not perfect and sin every day, so we ask for forgiveness and we need the Lord’s Supper as often as possible. And we also know that we will not be saved by our merits. But every day I have to be aware that that’s what God wants from me, that is, to be prepared. Showing that the Spirit of God lives in me through my lifestyle of obeying God; showing that there is oil in my lamp and God will produce heat and light. Judas was one of the 12 disciples, but eventually it was seen that he was not a true follower. He acted like one of the foolish virgins. Likewise, there may also be in every church a proportion of empty lamp virgins when the bridegroom arrives.
We do not go to church out of custom, tradition or religious duty. We come to church because it is part of our obedience and commitment to God that we have made on our confirmation day or the day we truly accepted Christ. And Christ wants to see how our lamps are today: full or empty?

Taking Matthew’s words literally (and not supplying words for him), I read that the difference between the foolish virgins and the wise virgins was one thing: the wise virgins had oil for their lamps, while the foolish virgins did not. The wise virgins had the opportunity to obtain oil, and did so. The foolish virgins had plenty of opportunity to procure oil, but did not.

Jesus is warning us in this parable that there will be a number of people who look like Christians, who associate with Christians and Christian Churches and who even think they are truly Christians because they are part of the ‘wedding procession’, but who will be shocked to learn that they are not saved when the Lord returns. What an instructive thought. This text is not seeking to create uncertainty and doubt in the heart of the Christian. It is not seeking to rob the Christian of his assurance. But it is seeking to warn those who have a false assurance, but not salvation. In the last days, just as in Jesus’ time and today, there will be those who appear to be Christians, but are not. And the worst thing is that most of them even realize it.

How can we know or measure our commitment to God and realize if we are prepared? Here are some thoughts:

Those who are Christians no longer fear death, as they once did as non-believers; those who are Christians have a hunger for God’s Word and for going to church to worship God; those who are Christians now see spiritual truths, to which they were blind as unbelievers; those who are Christians have the internal witness of the Spirit; those who are Christians desire to know Christ more intimately; those who are Christians are happy to leave this life behind, and yearn for the day when Christ returns;
Our question to ourselves for today: Do these things which characterize Christians characterize you? Do you have these “vital signs” of spiritual life? If not, then you have to take the time to really accept Jesus Christ in an aware and conscious way and confess your sin and trust in what Jesus did for you on the cross of Calvary. He bore your punishment, and He offers you His righteousness and eternal life. Don’t wait until it is too late to acknowledge that you have no oil (are not saved). Trust Him now. Amen

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One Comment leave one →
  1. margkahl permalink
    November 24, 2015 10:02 am

    Thank you! Margaret

    >

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