Ready or Not?

~ We welcome back Andrew Wahlstrom to bring us our Sunday message.
Every year, when the weather turns nice, I think back to the days when I had a convertible. Years ago, I owned an MGB. It was a fun little car. I used to run around with the top down, drive it to the dunes or on a date. The car was in perfect shape. It was up on blocks every winter and never saw bad weather. There was only one flaw, the gas gauge didn’t work. But that wasn’t a problem, I had a system. See, I knew how far I could go on a tank of gas, so I kept an eye on the odometer and be able to judge when I would need to get gas. Now there were some who suggested I keep a can of gas in the trunk for emergencies, but that wasn’t necessary, I had a system and it was foolproof!
One night, on the way home from Schaffer Lake, the car broke down. Now it wasn’t even remotely possible that I had run out of gas, remember, I had a system and it was foolproof! After having the car towed the next day, I received a call from the mechanic with the diagnosis for my car. There was no gas in the tank. You believe that?! My foolproof system had failed me! I wasn’t prepared for what I knew would eventually happen. I knew that the time for getting gas was near, but I wasn’t ready.
How about you? Have you ever run out of gas? Or at the very least, have you ever been in a situation that you knew was coming but found yourself completely unprepared for? You just weren’t ready? In the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), Jesus teaches us the importance of being prepared and helps us to understand what it means to be prepared.
Jesus used parables, which are actually real world examples, to help the people of his day understand the Gospel. He used traditions of the day to illustrate His points. In verse 1 of Matthew 25 we read, “At that time the Kingdom of Heaven will be like…”, and Jesus goes on to describe a wedding ceremony that the disciples, and others of that day, could relate to. He uses that illustration to describe the second coming. Now, we might not be able to relate quite as well since we are not familiar with the traditions of the day, but a little research and we can understand just what Jesus is saying. In a traditional Jewish wedding it was customary for the groom and his friends to gather at the groom’s home later in the evening and walk from the groom’s home to the home of the bride. When they arrived at the bride’s home it would be dark so the bridesmaids would go out with lamps and “light” the groom into the house in a formal ceremony. They would be married at the bride’s home and then there would be a torch lit processional would take them back to the groom’s home for the reception. This was the custom for the wedding celebration. So Jesus says, “…the Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.” We understand what that means in the context of the wedding ceremony but we need to understand what that means in the context of the parable.
The bridegroom represents Christ. Throughout the Old Testament and even the New Testament Christ is referred to as a groom. The ten virgins represent the members of the church. They represent believers, they represent us and just as the bridesmaids attend to the bridegroom, we as Christians we are attendants of Christ. And just as the bridesmaids waited expectantly for the bridegroom, we too are to wait expectantly for Christ’s return. So what does the oil represent in this story? Matthew Henry spells it out quite succinctly in his commentary on this parable when he says, “Grace is the oil which we must have in this vessel.” The saving grace of God is the oil Jesus is referring to here.
After some delay, the bridegroom arrives and in verses 7-9 we read, 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.’” So, all of the virgins lit their lamps in anticipation of the arrival of the bridegroom. They were all able to get them lit, even the foolish. This was possible for the foolish virgins since the lamps were more than likely used before and had residual oil in the wicks so they burned for a short time. But before the bridegroom arrived the foolish virgins’ lamps were going out and they asked for oil from the wise virgins. What was their response? 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.’”
What is the takeaway here? Were the wise virgins being selfish? No, the bottom line is they were not able to share the oil and just as they were unable to give oil to the foolish virgins we are not able to share the grace of God that is within us. We can’t give some of our grace to someone else in need of grace. That’s not how it works. We know that grace is available to everyone, Titus 2:11, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.” Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:8 “…it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” God’s grace is available to all through faith in Jesus Christ. The gift is from God, it is not something that we can give to someone else.
So the foolish virgins ran to the nearest oil store but guess what, it was too late. We read in verse 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.” And just as it was too late to buy oil, when Christ comes again it will be too late to seek out the saving grace of God. Too late! Because the door is shut. When the foolish virgins did return, they said “Lord, Lord, open the door to us.” But what does the bridegroom say? “I do not know you.” How is that possible?! They looked like the other bridesmaids. They acted like the other bridesmaids. They were called to attend to the bridegroom. They even called Him Lord! But the bridegroom says, “I do not know you.” The parable ends with this warning, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
There is quite a bit to digest in our story today, but I want to boil it all down to two points, two things I to stay with each one of us. The first point is this, we don’t know when it’s time. Let me repeat the last sentence of the parable, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” Certainly we don’t know the day and the hour of Christ’s return, but I believe this warning is more than just about Christ’s return. You see there are really only two things that can happen, Christ comes again or your life comes to an end. Either way, you do not know the day or the hour. Friends, tomorrow is not guaranteed, today is not guaranteed, the next hour is not guaranteed. “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
The second point is this, you’re either ready or you’re not. There really is no in between. It’s like being pregnant, you’re either pregnant or you’re not. You can’t be kind of pregnant. Well, you can’t be kind of ready either, you can’t be kind of saved. You are or you aren’t. You either have oil or you don’t. You are saved or you’re not.
Friends, this teaching from Jesus is not intended to create doubt in the heart of the Christian, it is a warning to those with false assurance. There are those who look like Christians, act like Christians and even think they are Christians, but are not. The only way to have that grace, the only way to have that oil in your lamp, the only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Now I know there are some who would say, “That’s not fair. How can Christ be the only way?” But the truth is, nothing could be more fair. Jesus Christ came to this world, He allowed Himself to be tortured and killed and hung on a cross to save all of mankind from the consequences of sin because of the great love with which He loves every one of us. John 3:16 reminds us that, “…God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Whoever! Friends, this is for everyone who believes. And if we read a little further in the verses that follow, Christ spells it out plainly, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
That’s it! You either believe or you don’t. You’re either ready or you’re not!
So here’s my question for each of us today, have you put your trust in Him? Are you ready?
If you are, Hallelujah! Amen! Then you can be about the business of using your talents for God’s kingdom. That’s what it means to keep watch. It’s no mistake that the parable of the talents is included in this discourse!
If you haven’t made that commitment to Christ, friend I pray you would respond today. Do it now
Jesus says in Revelation 3:30, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” It is vitally important, eternity hangs in the balance.
Well, I haven’t run out of gas since I had that MGB. Maybe technology has made a difference. I would like to think that I’ve become wiser. That point could be argued. What I do know is that having oil in my lamp is infinitely more important than having gas in my car. I want to be found ready when Christ returns or decides my time on this ball of dirt is over. I want to have the assurance of an eternity spent basking in the light and love of my Savior, my God. Do you want that too? Well, we can all have it. It is the gift that God offers everyone. All we need to do is respond and receive the gift.
I pray that Hope church would be filled with those who are found with oil in their lamps, ready for the bridegroom and the celebration that follows. If you would like to know more about Jesus contact Hope Church at 219-690-8889 or join us every Sunday for our 10 AM service. 
~ Andrew Wahlstrom is a speaker, a member of the Hope Church Steering Team and is active in getting our sound, projection and lighting systems here at Hope Community Church.

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