NOT ALL WHO THINK THEY ARE PREPARED REALLY ARE

March 3, 2009

 OUTLINE:

IDEA: Parables give us lessons about God that relate to life.

TEXT: "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard, 'Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!' Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise answered, saying, 'No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.' And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us!' But he answered and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.' Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming" (Matthew 25:1-13).

PURPOSE: To have listeners understand what the parable teaches.

Suppose you felt that I could tell you about the future. What would you like to know? How would you feel if, in answering you, I told you stories?

In Matthew 25, Jesus was talking with His disciples about the future and, in doing so, He told them some parables.

I. For example, He told them the story of ten young women who were invited to a wedding feast in their community.

The ten carried lamps to light the way for the bridegroom if he arrived for the wedding after dark. Jesus said that five of the young women were wise and five were foolish.

The wise women showed their wisdom by taking extra oil for their lamps in case the bridegroom was delayed. The foolish women neglected to do so. The bridegroom took his own sweet time, and the young women all fell asleep. Suddenly a cry went up that the bridegroom was coming. The wise women got up and trimmed their lamps. The others realised they were out of oil and asked to borrow some. "No," said the wise, "there may not be enough for both you and us. Go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves." While they were gone, the bridegroom came, and the five who were ready went in with him to the feast. The door was shut. Later the foolish came and found the door barred. "Open the door for us!" they shouted. But the bridegroom said, "I do not know you."

Then Jesus concluded, "In the light of this story, you keep watch, because you do not know the day or hour of My return."

II. So that is the story. What are the lessons you can draw from it?

Not everyone who is invited to the wedding and wants to go will be there.

Like the bridegroom, Christ may delay His coming longer than people expect.

What did that mean for people in the first century?

What does that mean for us today?

Like the five wise young women, His followers must be prepared for such a delay. Discipleship may be more demanding than some would suspect.

Like the foolish bridesmaids, those who do not prepare adequately may discover that there is a point beyond which there is no return. When the end comes, it will be too late to undo the damage of neglect.

"To keep watch" [dragoreo] does not necessarily mean "to stay awake" but merely to "be prepared." This is the major lesson of the parable, but not the only lesson. Are these "lessons" better than the parable itself in communicating truth to us

When we feel guilty, how can we know whether the Holy Spirit is convicting us or Satan is accusing us?

Because this is a fallen world, we do nothing from entirely pure motives.  As the prophet Isaiah said:

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away (Isaiah 64:6).

Because our motivations are always imperfect and our choices often difficult, one of Satan's most effective ploys is to confuse and paralyze Christians with his accusations, putting them out of effective action. As our accuser and enemy (1 Timothy 5:14-15; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 12:10), Satan delights in our anxiety and fear. Although we may intellectually accept the premise that no one merits God's grace, Satan knows how to use our emotions to cause us to feel outside of the reach of God's mercy. His accusations are often vague, indefinite, and persistent. They throb like a spiritual migraine. They torment us even after we have acknowledged known wrongs and asked God for forgiveness (1 John 1:9). Whenever we are overwhelmed by guilt feelings that are not traceable to a specific sin, or whenever feelings of condemnation persist even after we honestly confess them to the Lord, it is reasonable to assume that we are suffering from false guilt -- guilt that is either coming from our own hearts or from our spiritual enemy.

Why can we assume that these feelings of condemnation are not coming from God? The Bible tells us that godly conviction is based on love, not fear. Its purpose is to instruct and to correct, not to torment. The apostle John wrote:

In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like Him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (1 John 4:17-18).

God is not arbitrary or cruel. He always convicts His children out of love (2 Samuel 12:13; Luke 15:10). Conviction is His tool to bring us to a deeper reliance upon Christ (2 Corinthians 7:10; Ephesians 2:1-10; 2 Timothy 1:9). His Spirit does not overwhelm us with feelings of condemnation for sins that have been confessed and forsaken or for choices that are unavoidably troubling and ambiguous.

When we sin, we will have to live with the consequences of our actions and with the loving correction of the Lord if we do not correct ourselves. Our position as God's children does not shield us from responsibility. But the natural consequences of sin will never cause us to lose our family relationship with God or any of the spiritual security that Christ has given us.

We need to always remember that it is not our good works but the blood of Christ that has provided for our every spiritual need (Ephesians 2:4-10). Christ is the foundation of our spiritual freedom and our emancipation from fear. Christ is the reason that Christians, unlike unbelievers, have no need to deny or conceal their sins. The entire price for sins has already been paid by the Lord -- which gives us reason to quickly confess any sin that would damage our wonderful family relationship with God (1 John 1:9).

When we get to heaven, the process of our spiritual perfection will be complete and our motives will be pure (1Corinthians  13:12; 15:49; Hebrews 12:22-23). But in this fallen world, we will always struggle with some legitimate feelings of guilt. Here we wrestle with the tension of knowing that everything we do falls short of perfection. But faith trusts God's promises. It is willing to go forward in spite of uncertainty (Hebrews 11:1,6), to be a good steward of God's gifts (1 Peter 4:10), and to be as fearless of God's wrath as a child is of a loving Father (Matthew 25:24-26).

I pray that you have been blessed by this teaching message. Amen.