Thursday, August 28, 2008
Shut In or Shut Out?
Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. Matthew 25:1
There were ten of them. One half of them were wise and one half foolish. You know about these ten, don't you? If not, I would encourage you to read about them in the first thirteen verses of Matthew 25. I've been thinking about them a lot this week, primarily because they were mentioned quite a bit in the sermon we had on Sunday, and partly because this is a favorite parable of mine.
Soon my granddaughter Selena will be learning about opposites, as young children usually do. She'll learn up/down, over/under, big/little, and so on. I think of this parable as an illustration of two opposites. Only these two opposites are the most important that any of us will ever encounter. You see, these ten virgins all had lamps, but the key factor was the oil that needed to be in the lamps. The five wise had it; the others didn't. The oil represents salvation, or as some refer to it, the Holy Spirit within. So what we have here are five virgins who had true religion burning in their hearts and we have five who had only the outward profession. The latter were hypocrites. Hypocrisy is ever present in the Church at large. That's why this parable should make us look within, as the Apostle Paul exhorts us in 2 Corinthians 13:5.
About opposites, think on these from this parable: Besides wisdom/foolishness, we have oil/ no oil; we have grace/no grace; we have forgiven/unforgiven; we have converted/unconverted, we have mercy/judgment. Shall I go on? But more scary than any of the others--we have shut in and shut out (verses 10-12).
Think about it, please. Your soul depends on it: Is your profession real or are you a hypocrite? Do you have oil in your lamp or is it empty? Are you wise or are you foolish? And finally, when the Lord Jesus comes to claim His own, will you be shut into the marriage feast or will you be shut out for all eternity? It all depends on where you stand with Jesus. Are you really His?
Ahh, I must again quote my dear Mr. Ryle:
"True Christians shall alone be found ready at the second advent. Washed in the blood of atonement, clothed in Christ's righteousness, renewed by the Spirit, they shall meet their Lord with boldness, and sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb, to go out no more. Surely this is a blessed prospect.
"They shall be with their Lord: with Him who loved them and gave Himself for them; with Him who bore with them, and carried them through their earthly pilgrimage: with Him whom they loved truly and followed faithfully on earth, though with much weakness and many a tear. Surely this is a blessed prospect.
"The door shall be shut at last: shut on all pain and sorrow; shut on an illnatured and wicked world; shut on a tempting devil; shut on all doubts and fears; shut to be opened again no more. Surely we may again say, this is a blessed prospect."