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The Parable of the Virgins: Partially Prepared is Eternally Excluded (Matthew Sermon 131 of 151)

The Parable of the Virgins: Partially Prepared is Eternally Excluded (Matthew Sermon 131 of 151)

July 18, 2010 | Andrew Davis
Matthew 25:1-13


One of the most poignant, powerful, and memorable expressions in the prophets is in Amos 4:12, "And now, O Israel, prepare to meet your God." Something about that just bring goosebumps. “Prepare to meet your God.” Just the word “prepare.” Get ready to meet God. Later in Matthew 25, we're going to find out that Jesus is going to invite the sheep into a kingdom He's prepared for them since the creation of the world. But we're told in this parable, the parable of the virgins, to prepare to meet our God. Jesus is going to return some day. He's going to come back in his Father's glory, He's going to come at the head of a fearsome angelic army. If there's something you need to do to get ready for that, can I urge you to do it today? I said, today, do it today because God has ordained something called “today” and a sedative part, by which we can get ready for the return of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 47, "Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: 'Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.'" Today, dear friends. Today, it's all we ever have to obey God and get ready for eternity. Today. Simply put, we can't obey God yesterday. I've said this before, but it's still true, we cannot obey God yesterday, but we can learn from yesterday, so that we can obey God today.

We can learn its lessons and not just our own yesterday's, but the yesterday's of others recorded in the Bible; we can learn from the past. Yesterday is gone forever. Logged in the record books of God. We can look back and gain a heart of wisdom, I think, but all of it is for today. Similarly, we cannot obey God tomorrow. We can't ever get there. It's like that rabbit in front of the greyhounds and they chase it around the track and it never comes, because by the time it comes, it's changed its name and it's called today. We can anticipate tomorrow; we should make plans like the ant in summer lay up stores with a heart of wisdom for the future, but we can't ever get there. We can certainly make tomorrow easier by how we obey today when it finally becomes today, but our lives are made up of a series of todays. Shakespeare's Macbeth, lamenting his wife's death, speaking about the dreariness of life, passing this way, said in this famous expression, "To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time. All our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle. Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing."

He sounds depressed, doesn't he? But it's not about tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow. It's about today, and today and today. So today, if you hear his voice, don't harden your heart. It all comes down to what you do with today. If you have something you need to do to get ready for the second coming of Christ, can I urge you to do it today? For getting ready for eternity, when the Lord Jesus Christ comes back, the time of preparation will be over. What you have, then you will have, and nothing more. What you don't have, you will never have. The time for acquiring it is over. The opportunity will have ended. 

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

Now in our parable, we have ten virgins who hope to participate in a spectacular wedding procession. They want to be part of it when the bride comes. Perhaps they've all dressed up for the occasion. Perhaps they've done their hair, procured their lamps for the torchlight procession. But five of these virgins, they're foolish, and five of them are wise. The foolish ones have not fully prepared. They're only partially prepared for the wedding procession. As a result, because of that partial preparation, they are excluded from the wedding procession and from the wedding banquet. What do you need to do today to be fully prepared for the second coming of Christ for eternity? Are you ready to face the Lord Jesus today? Are you ready to face him right now? What is the best way today for you to prepare for that glorious return? The parable of the ten virgins is given to help us to think ahead by faith for what we will need in that day. We always want to be looking at the main lesson of a parable. The main lesson of this parable is the need for constant vigilance through preparation. We get ready. We get ready and we're vigilant. We're watching. Look at Verse 13, "Therefore keep watch, be alert, because you do not know the day or the hour." Christ has repeatedly made plain, we don't know the exact time, the day or the hour of his return and of the end of the age. My sermon title, I think, says it all. Partially prepared will be eternally excluded. If you're only partially ready, then you will be shut out. As we come to this parable, I can tell you right now, it has a long history of allegorical interpretation, so we're going to have some fun with that today.

I probably may be accused of allegory at the end when I try to apply it. When I actually try to make a difference in your life by connecting elements of it to your life, you may accuse me of allegory. I'll give you a sample of some allegory later on, you'll be able to judge whether I'm doing that too. But if I do it, so be it, I just want you to be ready for the second coming of Christ. I want you to get ready. What is an allegorical interpretation? It's basically works like this: every element in the parable has its own symbolic spiritual interpretation. It's like The Emperor's New Clothes kind of thing, that's the way allegory tends to work. We're going to do something different with that, and I'll get into more of those details later. The key with this parable is to get the main point, and I think that's always the most important thing with a parable. 

The parable is about ten virgins, five of them are wise, five of them foolish. The focus is on what makes the wise ones wise, and what makes those foolish virgins foolish, and what is the final outcome of all of it.   The wise virgins were wise because they were ready when the bridegroom came, and because they were ready, they were able to enter into the banquet. They didn't miss it. The foolish ones were foolish because they weren't ready when the bridegroom came, and therefore they were not able to enter into the wedding banquet. The lesson is plain. We need to be ready now for the second coming of Christ.  The bridegroom is Christ, his coming is the second coming of Christ. Jesus is urging us to get ready now and do whatever we need now to be ready for that second coming. The best thing I can do right now is to make a simple and immediate application to any that are here that have not trusted in Christ. You're not ready to face Jesus, you're not ready to meet your Maker, you're not ready to meet your God, because if you stand before him without Christ, He will show you the record book of your life, and everything in it will be sin because apart from faith, it's impossible to please God. There are no good works.  I'm urging you to get ready for the second coming of Christ, to prepare by trusting in Christ, looking to Christ crucified, who shed his blood on the cross for sinners like you and me. That if we just simply trust in him, we will be completely ready for the second coming of Christ.

The Biblical Context of the 10 Virgins Parable

That's the best thing you can do with this message, and I'm going to return to it again without apology at the end of the sermon. Let's set this parable in its context, first of all, just its biblical context, and then I'm going to give you a cultural context, so we can understand the wedding images. First, the biblical context. Matthew 24 and 25 really go together as a match set. These two chapters are all about the second coming of Christ and events surrounding it. Going back at the beginning of Matthew 24, the disciples have been distressed by Jesus' prediction of the destruction of the temple, and by implication, of all of Jerusalem. They went to Jesus privately on the Mount of Olives and said, "Tell us, when will this happen? And what would be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"  Jesus in effect spends two chapters answering that question. It's called the Olivet Discourse because it's a conversation Jesus has with his apostles on the Mount of Olives. In Matthew 24:4-14, Jesus describes in general terms, the events on Earth between the first and second coming of Christ. As things progress there, he speaks of wars and rumors of wars, of famines and earthquakes in various places, of the convulsions of a sin-sick world. He speaks of the special and vicious persecution of the church. Those that are standing up for Christ, they're going to have an especially difficult time. He speaks therefore, in connection with that, of the consistent and escalating apostasy of those who only claim to be Christians, but really aren't. When trouble or persecution comes because of the Word, they quickly fall away, and that's going to get worse and worse as time goes on. Therefore He gives an exhortation, I think very relevant even to the parable we're looking at today: “He who stands firm to the end will be saved." If God has lit a fire in you, it needs to keep burning right to the end. Dear friends, if I can just give you assurance, if he lit that fire, it will keep burning right to the end. I want to give you a word of encouragement while I also give you a word of exhortation, both sides are needful. He who stands firm to the end will be saved. This Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Then He described the general flow of church history, of world history between the first and second comings of Christ.  

The Second Coming

Jesus gets very specific, I think both about the events that surround the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and the Second Coming events that are specific to the Second Coming in the days and years right before the Second Coming. He speaks of the abomination of desolation referred to in the Prophet Daniel and I think as I made the case that that relates both to the destruction of Jerusalem and the reign of antichrist right before the second coming of Christ. And then he goes and describes in great detail the actual second coming in Verses 26 through 31 of Matthew 24. In Verse 29, he says, "Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be dark, and the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. And at that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming." That's the Second Coming right there. "They will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of the sky with power and great glory." Then the Rapture is described at that point, He sends out his angels and they gather the elect from one end of the heavens to the other. Jesus then highlights the suddenness and unexpectedness of his Coming, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father," He says, "As it was in the days of Noah, so it's going to be at the coming of the Son of Man."

Life is going to go on, the life that people are aware of. They're going to say, "Where is this Coming He promised? Everything's going on as it always has." But that's the way it was in the days of the flood. People didn't know what was coming. They should have known, they should have listened to Noah's preaching, but they didn't. They weren't ready. When the flood came and swept them all away, that's the first they knew of it, and they were not ready. So we are not certain, and so we, therefore, must be prepared. He ends Matthew 24 with two parables that we looked at last week. — the parable of the thief in the night and the house owner, who, if he had known when the thief was coming, he would have gotten ready and not let his house be broken into. So you also need to be ready, you need to be prepared for the Second Coming because you don't know when it's going to come. Then he gives the parable of the chief steward in a household, a servant who's over the other servants, whose job it is to give them their food at the proper time.  He says, "It's going to be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. He's going to put him in charge of all his possessions but if that servant is faithless, if he's wicked," and  says, "You know, my master's staying away a long time, and  he begins to beat his fellow servants and eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant," he says, “He's going to come at a time when he's not expecting him, a day he's not aware of, and he's going to  cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites where there'll be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Both of those parables tell us, be ready, be faithful.  Be watchful, be faithful. Frankly, I think that's exactly what's going on in the parable of the ten virgins as well. Be watchful, be faithful. Do what you need to do now to get ready, and then be watchful. Be watchful all the time. That's the Biblical context. 

The Cultural Context of the 10 Virgins Parable

What's the cultural context of this parable of the ten virgins? A Jewish marriage consisted generally of three parts, the first stage was the engagement, generally between the parents of the bride and the bridegroom. They would draw up a contract of an arranged marriage where, generally, the couple had no little or no direct involvement.  The second stage was a betrothal ceremony. The bride and groom and exchange vows in the presence of family and friends. At that point, they were considered legally married. The relationship could only be broken by formal divorce proceedings. If the husband happened to die after the betrothal ceremony, but before the wedding feast, the woman would be considered a widow, even though their marriage had never been consummated. During this time which could be several months up to a year, the soon-to-be bridegroom would get his house ready, get his trade in order so that he could support his wife and family.  That was the second stage. The third stage was the wedding feast or the wedding banquet. During the feast, the entire community would become involved, the festivity could last as long as a week.  It started with the groom coming with his groomsmen to the bride's house. She would be waiting with her bridesmaids, and there would be a procession through the streets of the city, usually at night, so they would need these torches that are mentioned here. Most everybody would be invited, and so people were coming, and it would be a big festive procession. They would go to the place where the feast was and they would have that feast time, and at a certain point, when the time of feasting had reached its conclusion, a close friend of the groom would take the bride's hand and the groom's hand and put it together, and then they would go off and be alone really for the first time. The marriage would be consummated, and from then on, they would live together as husband and wife in the house that the bridegroom had prepared. You can see then in the context  of this parable, the third stage, the beginning of that third stage, coming to the wedding banquet is the context for the parable that Jesus tells.

Let's look at the details of this parable without any overt allegory. We’ll go through and just look at the details. I do want to apply, but I don't want to allegorize, so let's do what we can with it. First you have the virgins. Throughout medieval Roman Catholic history, they were always big on virginity,  abstaining from marriage. It's very much an ideal, after Augustine especially, to avoid marriage, so priests and nuns and  bishops and all that were celibate.  They would use this and speak a lot about virginity, but I don't think that's what this parable is talking about. These were just young women who would have been the bridesmaids for the bride, and I think that we want to  focus on that rather than specifically on the virginity aspect. The girls fall into two categories,  five in each group, five of them wise and five foolish. Augustine said that the number five signifies the five senses. You're ready for some allegory? This is what it sounds like. Augustine says, "Every soul in the body is therefore denoted by the number five because it makes use of the five senses. For there is nothing of which we have perception by the body, but by the five folded gates, either by the sight, or the hearing, or the smelling, or the tasting, or the touching. Whoso then abstains from unlawful seeing, from unlawful hearing, unlawful smelling, unlawful tasting, and unlawful touching, by reason of his incorruption has gotten the name of virgin." That's a sample of  allegory. I actually enjoy reading allegories, they're really imaginative and fun. But at any rate, why don't we just say it's just five of each so that we have a sense that the numbers are divided generally, and what's more significant, in my opinion,  than the number five, is the descriptions of each of these groups, five of them are wise and five of them are foolish. That's really what's more important.

Wisdom vs. Foolishness

Frankly, Matthew is very interested with the issues of wisdom and foolishness. Matthew as a gospel writer uses more than half of the Greek expressions for wisdom in the New Testament. He is the number one wisdom writer in the New Testament. He loves to talk about wise. Jesus says, "Who then is the faithful and wise servant,” etcetera, and Matthew records these samples of wisdom. He uses more than half of the terms for foolishness in the Greek in the New Testament. A prime example of this we find at the end of the Sermon on the Mountain, when Jesus says, "Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Then you've got the foolish builder who builds his house on the sand. I I had time, I'd go into the remarkable parallels between the wise and foolish builders and the wise and foolish virgins in this story, it has to do with foresight.

But we've got these two categories, wise and foolish. Five in each group. They're both young women, they're both waiting for the bridegroom to appear. They each have torches for the procession. The torches  would have had wicks with some oil in them so that they could burn, but also oil reservoirs or receptacles that could draw or suck the oil in, somewhat like a hurricane lamp. They'd be mounted up on wooden poles so they could be carried high in the procession and light  the darkened streets of the city. The wicks would have some oil in them and could burn for a little while, but couldn't continue any length of time.  The whole system, of course, worked only if you had that reservoir of oil filled, and then it could burn for a good long while for the time of the procession. The essence of the foolishness seems to have been, clearly in Jesus' parable, lack of foresight. Look at Verse 3, "The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them." They had the torches, but they didn't take oil. They didn't think through what they would actually need when the bridegroom came. They had the external accoutrements. They looked like they were ready to go in the procession, but they really weren't. Hendrickson said they were careless, they were not forward-looking, they were guilty of inexcusable and senseless neglect.

Conversely, the essence of wisdom here is foresight. What will we need to take part in the procession and get into the wedding banquet?  Verse 5, "The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps." We're going to need not just our lamps, but we need a jar of oil, so they thought it through. Next in the parable comes the delay and the slumber. "The bridegroom was a long time in coming," it says, "And they all became drowsy and fell asleep." Once again, I think we have here pretty clear evidence Jesus is giving not only the apostles, but through them the whole church, that he's going to be a long time in coming. He's preparing the church for a long delay between the First and Second Coming of Christ. Do you see the wisdom of God in setting up the New Testament, and all of the conversations and verses about the Second Coming in which every generation of Christian has thought that the Lord would return in their lifetime? Perhaps even now.

Do you see the wisdom of God in that, without him in any sense being a liar? He is, I think, hinting in the parable, "It's going to be a long time between the First and Second Comings,” and so it has been. They all become drowsy and fall asleep. What does this signify? I don't really know, I actually think we shouldn't make much of it. Clearly, both the wise and the foolish are asleep, so it really is immaterial, it's not important to the story. Some commentators say it refers to death, everybody is going to die. Maybe, maybe not. I know in the New Testament frequently death is like slumber. It could be. Then we have the coming of the bridegroom. At midnight, the cry rings out, "Here's the bridegroom, come out to meet him." The key moment that they were all focused on and looking ahead to, at least the five wise ones,  has come at last. The bridegroom is coming. Can there be any doubt, as I've already said, the bridegroom and the coming of the bridegroom is Jesus Christ and the Second Coming? The midnight cry is likened to the cry of the archangel, and the trumpet call of God. "Here he comes, he's here." They all wake up and get busy, and they trim their lamps. Verse 7, "All the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps." Verse 8, "The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil. Our lamps are going out.'" The tragic lack of foresight is exposed by the coming of the bridegroom. They hadn't thought about it until then, but at that moment, they're going to see clearly what they needed, and their foolishness is exposed. They say to the wise in Verse 8, "Give us some of your oil. Our lamps are going out." Their wicks are beginning to sputter and fizzle, and they immediately realize why: They don't have a supply of oil. They turn to the others and say, "Give us some of yours." 

One of the keys of the parable, is that they can't share the oil. My oil is mine and your oil needs to be yours. There's some things I just can't do for you. I don't think the wise virgins were being unkind or sassy, saying, "Go find somebody who may be awake at midnight who can sell you some oil." In effect, they're saying, "Look, I care, but there's nothing I can do to help you. If I give you my oil, then I will be transferred into the foolish category, and you'll be one of the wise virgins. I can't do it. I've got enough oil for the procession, you've got to get your own." Now, what is this oil? It seems to be quite the point, isn't it? Is it time for allegory?  Tell us what the oil is. Somebody told me with absolute definitiveness, "It's good works. No doubt about it." Maybe so. Note the endless diversity of opinion as to the emblematic significance of the oil, every interpreter has his own conjecture.  A.B. Bruce put it this way.  The oil is faith, the oil is love, the oil is giving to the poor and needy. The oil is desire for the praise of God rather than for the praise of men. Good works in general. The Holy Spirit.” We'll come back to that one. Diligence in the culture of grace. Religious joy.

In short, it's anything you please. Each conjecture is purely arbitrary, one is as legitimate as the other, and the multiplicity of opinions justifies the inference that they are all alike illegitimate.  I don't know that I totally agree with him, but he does bring up a valid point. How do you know which it is? In my opinion, I don't think it really much matters. Why don't we study the whole of Scripture and find out what we need to have in place when the Lord returns? Whatever it is you think you'll need, get it now. I would urge you to think that way. A.B. Bruce thinks the big problem wasn't the lack of oil, it was that the foolish virgins left and didn't enter when it was time. Interesting theory, I don't know that I agree. But at any rate, that's what they do next, isn't it? Look at Verse 10, "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."  So they go out to find the oil. Were they successful? I have no idea. They  drop out of the story for a little while. They come back in at a key moment, but I have no idea whether they came back. "Look, we've got a bunch of oil now." Apparently it's irrelevant whether they're actually able to find somebody to sell them some oil. In any case, the time for that wasn't then. Do you get that sense? That was not the time to be going and buying the oil. They should have had it when the bridegroom came. That was the time for greeting the bridegroom.

So when they return, they are excluded from the feast. Verse 11 and 12, "Later the others also came, 'Sir, sir,' they said, 'Open the door for us.'" "Sir, sir" is the NIV translation for "Lord, Lord." I think it's appropriate to sticking within the parable, but isn't that striking, "Lord, Lord"?  "Not everyone who says to me, Lord Lord, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do the will of my father who's in Heaven. Many will say to me on that day, Lord Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you. Away from me, you evil doers." In this parable, he replies, "I tell you the truth, I don't know you, and you're not getting in." That door shutting, doesn't it have a ring of finality to it? Don't you just hear it ringing down over time? It's like the shutting of the door into the ark. If you're on the outside, you're dead, you're a dead man, a dead woman, the time for entering is over. Notice also in the story in Genesis who it is that shut that door. It was God who shut it, not Noah. God knows when the time is over, when the day of salvation will have ended. He knows. While the door is open, we can come in, but after the door is shut, it's done, it's finished.


That's the parable in detail. What lessons can we draw from this parable? First of all, nominal Christianity will not save you. Nominal Christianity will be worthless on the Day of Judgment. All around the world, there is a plague on the Church called nominal Christianity or nominal Christians. These are people that have an outward form of Christianity, but there's no reality, there's no power behind it. They can talk the language of the Church, they can act like Christians, they are moral, they appear quite pious on the outside, but they are lost on the inside. Let's take Europe, for example, after Constantine's conversion. I hope it was genuine. In 312, after that, church and state were wedded together in a very dangerous and unhealthy way. Soon after that, kings started to think about advancing the kingdom by conquest, just like they'd always done. You have Clovis, the King of the Franks, being baptized and immediately the next day, 3000 of his soldiers were baptized. What a great revival, equal to the days of Pentecost. Amazing. Then he goes and he wins military victory after military victory, and just spreads the Gospel everywhere, and lots and lots of people are being baptized. Look, if you're given the choice of convert or die, what are you going to do? He's spreading nominal Christianity.

Charlemagne, who I think by other accounts was a godly king and sought to advance genuine Christian instruction, fell into the same trap. When he's fighting some of these Germanic tribes, he'd go and conquer them and give them an option, "Be baptized or perish."  So nominal Christianity was spreading throughout so-called Christendom everywhere. Infant baptism came in at a certain point, I think, and kind of settled that into these churches, and state-run churches just guaranteed a bunch of nominalism. After the Reformation, every prince who was in charge of his own region got to say what everyone in his region was, if the prince was Catholic, everybody was Catholic, and if the prince was Lutheran and everybody was Lutheran. So you have in Italy, nominal Roman Catholics, you have in England, nominal Anglicans, in Scandinavia and Germany, you have nominal Lutherans, in eastern countries, you have nominal orthodox people, nominalism everywhere.

But it's not just out there, is it, dear friends? No, it's here in America, too. There are nominal Baptists that go through the name and the outward appearance of what it takes to be a Baptist. It takes a little bit more than an infant baptizing kind of nation-state, but if you can go through that route, you can profess Christ, convince a pastor, get water baptized, you can be a nominal Christian. The Baptist churches are filled with them. And not just Baptists, but Presbyterians, it's everywhere. Paul, I think, comments on this whole issue in 2 Timothy 3:5, when he speaks of those who have a form of godliness but deny its power. Oh, dear friends, what is the power of godliness?  You need to have a burning desire for godliness inside. You need to have the fire of true Christianity burning inside you, and not just a form or an outward show. It will do you no good. Like the foolish virgins, they meet the outward profile of a virgin about to take part in the procession. They've got the dress, they've got the torch, they've got maybe their hair done, they look like all the others, they're just there, they're all in the same place, they're all mingled together, but they don't have what's really needed to take part in the procession. They have the outward show, but not the inward reality. They're going through the motions. The wise virgins represent those who have the outward forms of the Christian life, but there's a genuine life in them: Bible reading, prayer, Christian conversation, church attendance, spiritual gift ministry, care for the poor and needy, involvement in missions. For the wise virgins, this is a true principle of grace acting out through their physical bodies and their physical lives. Christ is in all of it. He's alive in their actions, he's alive in their Bible reading, he's alive in their prayer lives. When they reach out to the poor and needy, it as though Jesus Christ himself were reaching out. There's just a living principle in the wise virgins. 

But there's just a deadness to the foolishness here. There's no life in the external show, it's not genuine. So therefore, get the real thing. How's that? The real life of God in your soul. Be alive to God through Jesus Christ. Be alive to God through faith in Christ. Today is the day of salvation. It says in 2 Corinthians 6:2, "In the time of my favor, I heard you. In the day of salvation, I helped you. I tell you, now is the time of God's favor." This, today is the day of salvation. Jesus Christ shed his blood for sinners like you and me. He died on the cross, not for his own sins, for he had none, he was the sinless lamb of God, but he died in our place. If you look to him in faith, you'll be forgiven of all of your sins. If you look to him in faith, he will give you the indwelling Holy Spirit, and that indwelling Holy Spirit will come as an operative power and force in your life and change everything. You will become a new creation in Christ, and you'll live a different life, You'll live the internal journey of holiness. You're going to grow more and more like Christ. You're going to be on that external journey of caring whether other people come to Christ too, and seeing the advance of the Gospel. Today is the day of salvation, and friends, today is also the day of preparation.

It's not just for justification that He's given us today. If you're genuinely Christian, maybe you've been so for decades, you were justified decades ago, but you've had a lot of todays since then. What were they for? Were they not for doing the good works that God had prepared in advance for you to do? Isn't that what they're for, that you would be active in doing what God wants you to do every day? Faith by itself, if it's not accompanied by works is dead [James 2:17]. Why is that word spoken to us? So that we would have a living faith that produces the good works God has ordained for us to do. Today is the day to do the ministries God's prepared for you to do today. Today is the day for you to use your spiritual gifts in the church. Today is the day for you to lead people to Christ as the Lord gives you opportunity.

In Mack Stiles’  ministry, he takes people like me and maybe like you who don't really enjoy evangelism and struggle with it and all of that, and teach us what kind of people we ought to be, not so much a technique we ought to acquire. Isn't that wonderful? If you get a chance to come listen to him  tonight, please do it. But what a blessing that is. But today's the day, today is the day for you to disciple your children, speak the words of heaven to them. This is against procrastination. Do you get that sense? For the second straight week, we've got a strong message here against procrastination. Don't put off going and buying the oil. If you need something, go get it today. 

Allegory alert, allegory alert. The oil of the Holy Spirit. Look, the whole problem with allegories is for the allegorist to tell you, "This is what it is, and if you don't see it, you're not as holy as I am." I'm not saying that. Let's somewhat step aside from the parable a bit and talk about the oil of the Holy Spirit because it is the Holy Spirit, the indwelling Spirit, that gives the fire to the Christian life and sustains it day after day after day.  I think about the image in Zechariah 4 of a seven-fold lantern that's burning, a golden lamp stand with oil flowing through pipes to keep the lamps burning. The lesson of that image of the burning oil lamp was given in Zechariah 4:6. "This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: 'Not by power, nor by might, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.'" What that's saying is, "Don't try to drum up your own strength and your own power. You can't do it. But by the Spirit, your fire will keep on burning." What does this says to me? It's a lesson of perseverance. He who stands firm to the end will be saved. Didn't the foolish virgins say, "Our lamps are going out"? They were lit, but then they went out. I don't believe anyone can lose their salvation, I'm not pressing that detail. I'm just saying those that continue to burn are truly saved, because there's a reservoir of grace, a reservoir flowing to you. If you're genuinely a Christian, if you're a child, a son or daughter of the living God, he who lit the fire in you will keep it burning until the day of Christ Jesus.  He's going to feed you what you need. Do you feel like you're flickering sometimes? I do. Like the fire is about to go out. Think of this in Matthew 12, "A bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out until he leads justice to victory. In his name, the nations will put their hope." Put your trust in Jesus. If you feel like you're drifting from Jesus, come back and say, "Lord, give me that Holy Spirit again. Empower me. Fill me. Forgive me for my sins. I'm sorry for the way I've been living. I want to be close to you, Jesus. Fill me again." And He will, as it says in Psalm 23, restore your soul. Do you need your soul restored? I need a reservoir and I need it flowing. 

Let me close with this illustration I've used before, but it fits so perfectly. It's from Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. He's at the interpreter's house.The interpreter or a pastor, I think, is showing Christian, a standard Christian on the journey from the City of Destruction to heaven, the Celestial City, the things he'll need for his journey. There are different vignettes, different allegories or parables really, and one of them is of a fire burning against a wall. There's this hearth that’s burning, and there are men on two sides of the wall. The man on the left side is pouring water into the fire to try to put it out, but the man behind the wall is feeding oil in the bottom, keeping the fire burning. So Christian says to Interpreter, "What means this?" He said the fire is the work of grace in the Christian's heart. The man trying to pour water on the fire to put it out is the devil. The one behind the wall feeding oil into the bottom is Christ feeding grace to keep the work of grace alive in the Christian soul. No matter what the man with the water can do, he can't put that fire out because the oil is flowing in that Jesus is putting in. Why is he behind the wall? Because it is not always obvious to the Christian how Jesus is sustaining your faith and your grace, but if you're truly a child of God, He's feeding the oil in. He's the endless reservoir. You get connected to Christ through genuine repentance and faith, He'll keep you alive until he returns.

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