When you read the scriptures, what do you look for? Are we looking for evidence that proves we are right? Are we looking for contrasts between right and wrong? Good or bad?
We tend to look for those things that separate Christians from Non-Christians. We look at things like ‘Right vs. Wrong’ and ‘Good vs. bad’; we are looking for those things that are extreme contrasts.
As we walk down life’s pathways, we want to know how we should act and what we should do.
When the non-Christian confronts the Christian, they are usually looking at those actions that seem to be opposite of what the Non-believer thinks those actions should be.
However, the real threat to Christianity today is not the extreme contrasts but the subtle contrasts that exist. We need the Holy Spirit to help us determine the subtle differences!
In 1 Peter 5:8-9 we read:
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 1 Peter 5:8-9 (NIV)
Christians need to be looking for prowling lions. If the lion is roaring, he has already caught his prey; His prowling has ‘paid off’!
In the Gospel of Matthew there are recorded several parables that Jesus used to teach the people about heaven and the future.
In the Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus is telling about heaven and is comparing it to a situation where ten virgins went to meet the Bride Groom.
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
9 “‘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.’
10 “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.
11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. Matthew 25:1-13(NIV)
In this parable, Jesus is contrasting two types of virgins: five wise virgins and five foolish virgins.
At first, we may think the wise virgins are believers and the foolish virgins are the non-believers. But when we look closely we find that all ten virgins were looking for the Bride Groom; They were all wanting to go to heaven; and They were all professing Christians.
I believe this parable is addressing the modern day church congregations, those people who want to go to heaven when they die.
All of the virgins had lamps; they all fell asleep waiting; they all heard the announcement of the Bride Groom coming; they all trimmed their lamps; but only the wise virgins had jars of oil to replenish their lamps.
In our churches today, we have professing Christians singing in the choir; serving on the worship team, serve as deacons or elders, teaching Sunday School Classes, VBS lessons, children’s services ; serving on pastor search committees; they may all volunteer for working in charitable organizations, or donate large sums of money to charity, etc. but we cannot determine from their work whether or not they are true Christians. Only God has access to the Lambs Book of Life. We do not know if people have a genuine relationship with God merely by their assignment, church membership, or appearance. We must rely on leading of the Holy Spirit.
In the same way, we cannot know which virgins are foolish and which are wise merely by their actions. However, there is one subtle difference between the foolish virgins and the wise virgins; the wise virgins had jars of oil. In other words, they had the Holy Spirit dwelling in them and depended on the Holy Spirit to light their path.
Most Bible scholars tend to agree that term ‘oil’ used in the Bible, frequently represents the Holy Spirit. Every living person has a spirit, but only those who have accepted the gift of salvation are given the Holy Spirit. In other words, wise virgins in the parable are those who have the Holy Spirit living in their lives; foolish virgins are those that are trying to get to heaven in their own strength, doing it the way that they, not God, want to do it.
When God separates the ‘sheep from the goats’, those people who are trying to get to heaven their own way, will run out of oil. Those who are trying to go to heaven God’s way, will have oil that lasts for eternity.
Do you have a jar of oil?