The sainted Doctor Norman Nagel said, “It is a constant temptation of little faith to try to calculate God’s scenario. If we can figure out the when and the where, then we have God tied up with our calculations. We can predict where and when He is going to jump.”
The five foolish virgins thought that they had enough oil in their lamps. In order to have enough of something, you have to know how much you need. The foolish virgins thought they knew how long it would take for the Bridegroom to arrive. They calculated how much oil to bring based on their prediction of how long He would be. But they were wrong. So they ran out of oil.
To be fair, the wise virgins did not know how long it would take for the Bridegroom to arrive, either. But they did not pretend to know, and instead planned for the worst case scenario. They carried extra oil so that no matter when the Bridegroom came, they would be ready.
That’s the problem with how most approach the Second Coming of Christ. So-called experts try to read the signs to tell you precisely what to do to get ready.
That is not wisdom, but foolishness. You cannot know when the Lord returns, or for that matter, when your life ends. Readiness is not based on reading signs at all. You do not prepare because of the particular dispensation you are in or whether the rapture is about to happen or if the millennium is about to kick in. No, those things are irrelevant to readiness.
Readiness is paying attention to the Lord and His Word. It is obeying His commands and repenting of our sins and eagerly receiving His Gospel. In other words, readiness is when we act like Christians. Readiness is giving your whole attention to the Bridegroom and following Him.
It is not that we are made ready by good works we do. But if we treat the Word of the Bridegroom as if it is not important and He is not important, then we may find that our faith has gone out.
On the Last Day, there will be many people who thought that they were Christians. For a whole bunch of different reasons, these people were mistaken. They are the people who will cry out to Christ, “Lord, Lord, open to us!” They will find, to their very great shock and dismay, that the gates of heaven are closed to them.
Instead of letting them in, the Bridegroom will say, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.”
Do not be in that group. Do not try to read the signs and say, “Now I have to do this thing to be ready for this event,” while in the meantime you neglect Christ and His Word.
In the same way, do not settle for a minimum amount of preparedness. You may say to yourself, “This much is enough. I have worship, but I don’t need Bible Study.” Likewise, do not let the Word that is preached bounce off your ears because you think you already have enough spirituality in your life. No need to get all obsessed with religion, a person might say.
But if the Word deeply affects you, then there is serious examination of your life and sorrow for the sins you commit. Perhaps you might attend private confession to receive absolution, because a repentant Christian hungers for the Gospel. Perhaps, you may say, the Supper is enough once a month or two months. No need to have too much of a good thing, right? Except that this is not how a person acts who yearns for the Bridegroom and His coming. And The Supper and the Word of His Gospel are also His coming.
But perhaps in that group of people stuck outside the gates of heaven, somebody might say, “Lord, you said, ‘Whoever calls upon the Name of the Lord will be saved.’ But here we are, Lord, calling on Your Name to get in, and You don’t let us in!”
This is no excuse, and actually hits the core of the issue of why some who think they are Christians will not be saved in the end. For them, the Name of the Lord was not called upon in a wise fashion. This means that the foolish call upon the Lord not so much as a Savior, but as the Man who helped me get my salvation. He showed me the right decision to make, or the right ordinances to follow, or the right penances to make, or the right emotions to feel, or the right prediction of the end time to follow, etc. etc.
If Christ is the Lord who saves, then we do not in any way save ourselves. We do not lift a finger or speak a syllable or think a thought that contributes to our salvation from sin and death.
A wise person sees that he was completely helpless and doomed until the loving Lord rescued him. A wise person will love this Lord with all his heart. The Lord is everything, who did all for me! I will not set limits on my readiness. I will stick close to Him on this earth. I will let the Bridegroom instruct me every way that He desires, and His Spirit will work in me, and I will never turn away and say, “That’s enough, I don’t need any more.”
What if we say just that, and so treat the Bridegroom as if there is only so much of Him that we can stand? To put it more in the language of the parable, what would happen if a bridegroom gave you instructions for how to show up to the wedding. He told you, “Here’s what to do. Be ready!” By inviting you and giving you instructions for the wedding, he is treating you as a close friend who has a reserved seat at a very exclusive event. He is saying, “You are my friend, so show up and be ready.”
But then you ignore him. Maybe you obsess over some things he says, but ignore others. Due to your poor preparation for the big day, you miss the wedding. How foolish! An earthly bridegroom should be furious when you show up late and say, “This was my big day! Why did you ignore my instructions? You have not treated me as a friend, so I will not treat you as a friend.”
As heartbreaking as that illustration is, how much more devastating if we were shut out of the eternal wedding banquet! There will be no excuses then. If you shout at the closed gates, “Open up! I sat in a pew on Sunday mornings! I listened to the preacher!” - it will all be meaningless if you did not really take to heart, if you did not repent, if you did not attentively seek and heed the Word of the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.
So now, be ready! Act like a friend of the Bridegroom. Be eager to hear His Word, and take it seriously. Examine your life and turn away from your sins and seek forgiveness. Cling to the Supper of Life. Love everything your Lord does out of love for you. That is how to be His friend, now and forever. Amen.
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