Christianity 201

January 29, 2019

Maintaining Readiness: The Parable of the Ten Virgins

by Russell Young

How expectant are you? How committed and faithful? The parable of the ten virgins (Mt 25: 1−13) was intended to remind friends of the groom to always be ready for a call to his wedding. Believers have been called to wait patiently and to anticipate the Lord’s return.

According to the parable, five of the ten virgins were waiting expectantly. They were ready for the bridegroom to return at any moment. The other five knew that he would be coming sometime but were not expecting a call anytime soon. They were not at all excited and anxious; consequently, they did not keep themselves prepared.

Believers have been called to wait patiently, even expectantly. They have no interest in the world or in its affairs and their hearts and minds are fixed on the return of the Lord. They maintain their readiness. However, there are many who are regular attendees of churches, who know that the Lord will return, and they are buying time. To them this world is satisfactory, if not appealing, and they are content to pass the time enjoying its offerings. The Lord was reminding his listeners to be ever ready.

The person loving his or her Lord waits expectantly for his arrival; metaphorically, they will be peering out the window. Five of the virgins were quite indifferent and remained unprepared. They lacked living faith. “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Rom 8:25) “Hope” engenders patient anticipation.

The issue presented concerned oil for their lamps. All ten had lamps; however, without oil they were useless. The lamp must burn if it is to have purpose and to light the way. Possessing lamps, the five needing oil were not without understanding; they had grown apathetic.

Oil is the power that produces light and is a type of the Holy Spirit. Paul cautioned Timothy, that in the last days people would have a form of godliness but denying its power and told him to have nothing to do with them. (2 Tim 3:5) The power, the Spirit, is available without limit (Jn 3:34), so the five lacking oil were without excuse for their negligence. They had let commitment to the Lord lapse until lack of power had destroyed their testimony. He told the five, “I don’t know you.” (Mt 25:12) They were just waiting, not with expectancy or with passion. They were just waiting.

The consequence of being “lukewarm”, and of whiling away time is that the door to the wedding will be closed to the uncommitted. They had not been ready, and they will not be given time to get ready. “It (the day Lot left Sodom) will be just like on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them.” (Lk 17:30−31)

No one who appreciates the Son and who loves him with all their being will be found whiling away their time. They will be looking for opportunities to serve and anticipating his presence. The Lord had offered a similar admonition on another occasion. “Be dressed and ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks, they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes.” Lk 12:35−37) I am reminded of a Christian lady in my community who turned 100 this week. Although in a residence she frequently calls her church to inquire about prayer needs. She maintains oil in her lamp.

The teaching of some does not require believers to expectantly wait. To them, the “hope” has already been secured; they can go about their business without concern and with assurance that the door to the wedding will remain open for them even as they are basking in the world and its pleasures. How sad this is! The parable of the ten virgins brings to clarity the need to be faithful and active in service, ready for the Lord’s call at any moment and to the end of life.

People need to be aware that God will be discerning concerning those who are suitable to attend his Son’s wedding and this parable presents that reality. It deals with the end times and the Lord is not unaware that the love of many will grow cold because of the world’s wickedness but has promised that he who stands firm to the end, the one who is waiting for him (Heb 9:28), will be saved. (Mt 24:12−13)

The wise will remain prepared and will be ready and yearning for the Son’s call.



Russell Young’s column appears here on alternate Tuesdays. His book, Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? is available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also a feature-length article at this link.

Other book promotions posted at C201 do not originate with us.

December 7, 2017

Praying for God to Come Down. Or Not.

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence. Isaiah 64:1

This may not be everyone’s favourite prayer. Some would find the presence of God to be a frightening experience and some would prefer God not exist at all so they need not worry about it. Some have deeply thought through positions of agnosticism or atheism. Many, however, land there having heard or seen slogans like “God probably does not exist, so stop worrying and enjoy your life”, and are quite happy to not give it much further thought. So please don’t talk religion, thank you. Why? Because people assume that if God exists, then they should worry. If God is alive and well, then while we are alive and well for now, all will not be well when we are no longer alive. There is a feeling that we would never be good enough, or could never be good enough to meet our Maker. So please don’t tear open the heavens and come down Lord!

However, there is a tone of confidence in Isaiah’s prayer which runs from Isaiah 63:15-64:12. Isaiah is confident that if God were more fully present, it would go well for His people. Is this confidence based on the goodness or righteousness of the people, or even his own? Far from it, in fact the prayer is full of honest confession:

6 We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
7 There is no one who calls on your name,
or attempts to take hold of you; Isaiah 64:6-7

Given the fact that God’s people have strayed far, praying for God to “tear open the heavens and come down” is sounding like a risky prayer to make indeed. Isaiah alludes to times in the past when God had “come down”:

When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. Isaiah 64:3

The prayer for God to come down could be answered like the time God “came down” at the Exodus. While that went well for God’s people, it did not go well for the Egyptians with plagues and a sea that closed in on the Pharaoh’s army. Given the sinfulness of God’s people as confessed by Isaiah, perhaps this time the plagues will land on them?

So where does Isaiah’s confidence in God come from if not in the righteousness of the people? Why does he pray with anticipation of good things, and not plagues? This prayer for help is not made with an appeal to the justice of God, to rescue the righteous. That option is not open for God knows too much! Rather it is made with an appeal to the character of God and the relationship God chose to have with His people. Consider the following references in this prayer:

For you are our father,
though Abraham does not know us
and Israel does not acknowledge us;
you, O Lord, are our father;
our Redeemer from of old is your name. Isaiah 63:16

Turn back for the sake of your servants,
for the sake of the tribes that are your heritage. Isaiah 63:17b

8 Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
9 Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord,
and do not remember iniquity forever.
Now consider, we are all your people. Isaiah 64:8-9 (emphases mine)

Isaiah prays with confidence because he knows the relationship God has with His people is like that of a father to a child. While God as a perfectly just judge can expect, in fact must expect, perfection, a father can have compassion and mercy toward an imperfect child. So how can God be both perfectly just and yet act “fatherly”? How can God be both judge and “Dad”? The answer is given in God’s response to Isaiah’s prayer.

There is an answer to this prayer, but instead of the prayer being answered with plagues and punishment, it is answered with the arrival of a baby and the beginning of a new kind of Exodus. While the plagues on Egypt resulted in the firstborn of the Egyptians experiencing death, in this Exodus it is God himself that goes through it, both as the grieving Father, and as the dying son. Only a holy and perfect offering could stand in the place of sinful person, taking the consequence of sin. Only God Himself could do that, and in Jesus He has done that. In Jesus God is the perfect judge, taking care of sin at the cross, while also being the good father, being compassionate and merciful toward His children.

For those who feel that they have wandered so far from God that they could never turn or return to Him, it has nothing to do with how far we have travelled away, and everything to do with how far God has travelled toward us. He answered Isaiah’s prayer and has come all the way from heaven to a cross on earth in Jesus, so that we could be reconciled to Him. Turning to God has nothing to do with impressing the judge with our own efforts, and everything to do with the love of a compassionate heavenly Father.

Maybe you don’t think of yourself as God’s child. An opportunity is before you:

12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13

Our relationship with God does not begin with our goodness. It begins with His.

However, even if you recognize that you are a child of God, you may think of yourself as the wayward child, the messed-up child, the stressed-out child, the foolish child, the undeserving child, or even the stupid child. On the one hand these might be accurate descriptions and we have room to grow like everyone else. On the other hand, The Lord’s Table while being a reminder of many things, is also a reminder that there are other adjectives that can be used to describe you. You are the redeemed child, the reconciled child, the forgiven child, the embraced child, the loved child.

Although the presence of God can, and should, be scary to someone who has rejected the Lord’s invitation to a father/child relationship, a child of God can pray with confidence as Isaiah did: “tear open the heavens and come down”. Being in Christ we can pray with confidence the last recorded prayer of the Bible:

20 The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen. Revelation 22:20-21 (emphasis mine)


All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV

Canadian Baptist pastor Clarke Dixon’s writing appears here most Thursdays; read more at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon

July 3, 2015

Come, O Lord

Rev. 22:20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus

I Cor 16:22b …Come, Lord! 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

In the early days of the Jesus People movement, Calvary Chapel had a record label called Maranatha! Music, which meant people often knew more about the meaning of the word discussed in today’s Bible study than they do presently. (The company still exists, mostly producing worship compilations.)

Today’s writer is Jeff Loach, who I’ve gotten to know online over the years at Thinking Out Loud. His blog is called Passionately His, and to read today’s post online, you’re invited to click the title link below to read at source, and then look around at other articles.

Marana tha!

Marana tha. It’s not a phrase we hear tossed around much anymore, even in the church.

Marana tha. Even though it’s alluded to among the very last words of the Bible, most of us aren’t acquainted with it.

Marana tha. Interestingly, I have heard several people speak about it in the past few weeks, given all that’s going on in the world.

Marana tha. “Come, O Lord.” It’s becoming a popular prayer again.

Marana tha. This simple Aramaic prayer, uttered by Paul in 1 Corinthians 16 and hinted at by John in Revelation 22, says so much in so little space.

Marana tha. It’s a term of submission, in which we name Jesus as Lord, suggesting we ourselves are not Lord. It’s a term of hope, in which we look to the future we know God has in store for all who love him. It’s a term of desire, in which we long for Jesus to make right what the human race has made wrong. It’s a yearning for order, a yearning for peace, a yearning for justice.

Marana tha. We are invited to pray that prayer, for the restoration of God’s world and the meting of God’s justice. And while we wait for the wonderful return of our Lord, he invites us to answer our prayer with action on his behalf.

We can’t hasten the second coming. But we can help to prepare the world for it.

For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.  And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed (Titus 2.11-13, NLT).


Speaking of the classic Jesus Music days, you can’t go back any further than the band Love Song, considered to be among the first who pioneered what is today called Contemporary Christian Music. This song is simply titled Maranatha.

September 26, 2013

Jesus is Coming…Ready or Not

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Today I want to introduce you to Dwight L. MacPherson who blogs at Son of a Parson Ministries.

Click here to read at source and encourage this ministry.

“Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, ‘What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.’” – 2 Peter 3:3-4

jesus is comingAs I was surfing the net today, I came across this cartoon on an Atheist website. But I had to wonder if I could have found it on many Christians’ websites nowadays.

Last week, as I was tweeting about the fulfillment of the judgment against Egypt (Isaiah Chapter 19) and the impending fulfillment of prophecy regarding Syria (found in Isaiah Chapter 17) and how we were seeing Bible prophecy coming to pass before our eyes. I went a step further to say that these events certainly point to the End Times–and, most notably, the return of Christ. I was not shocked to receive a mocking response, but I WAS shocked to receive an open rebuke from someone who claims to be a “Theologian” in their bio. Really?

The New Testament (and Jesus Himself!) makes many, many references to the return of Christ. So how could a Theologian possibly miss such a prevalent and urgent doctrine? I can understand the world looking, scratching their heads, and saying, “You Christians have been saying this for a couple thousand years.” But someone who has made the study of God and the Holy Scriptures their life’s work?

The truth is that we don’t know when Christ will return. But we are certain that He will. So why hasn’t He returned yet? Peter went on to say:

“The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” – 2 Peter 3:9

It is important to remember that, “the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:2)” That implies that it will come as a complete surprise to many. And because of this, many will not be ready for His return. The proper response to believing in the soon return of Christ is to pursue godliness. The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthian Church in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4:

“For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband–Christ. But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent.”

Do not be deceived by the naysayers, beloved. Pursue purity. Pursue godliness. Throw off the cares and pursuits of this perishing world and commit yourself to preparing for His glorious appearing. Reach out to those who do not know Christ with reckless abandon. He has given us this time to snatch souls from the fires of hell… we dare not take it for granted.  Our time is running out!  Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.”

Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!

In Christ’s true love,

Dwight


Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest spectrum of the Christian blogosphere. An individual article may be posted even if some or all readers might not agree with other things posted at the same blog, and two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading. You might even decide to make some of these a daily habit. Any advertising appearing beyond this point in this article does not originate with C201, nor are we aware of it.

December 5, 2010

Eschatology as Entertainment

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This is David Wells, General Superintendent of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (direct Canadian equivalent of the Assemblies of God) writing this month in the denominational magazine, Testimony.  I believe his writing has broad application to Evangelicals and Christians in general…

An emphasis on the soon return of Christ (“Are you ready?”) has been replaced by a speculation regarding prophecy that tends to thrill more than mobilize.   It has to be said of Pentecostals that “…upward social mobility is clearly affectin gthe apocalyptic fervor and urgency as the world looks a little better to contemporary and more affluent North American Pentecostals.”  Thus in our orthodoxy (doctrine), we believe in the parousia (second coming); but in our ortopraxy (practice), the majority of us are not influenced by its reality.   This has obvious impact on values, lifestyle and ministry priorities.

When Jesus told His followers He would return again, He warned them about slipping into speculation or apathy.  “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father”  (Matt 24:36).  Then, using three parables, He taught them to focus on watchfulness and fruitfulness while waiting for his return.   Lots of things were going to distract them from kingdom truth and priorities, so their posture had to be to one of watchful prayer (Parable of the Ten Virgins, Matthew 25: 1-13).  In that condition of readiness they were not to go and hide in a cave, but they were to live their lives in Him with productivity (Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30) and selfless service (Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, Matthew 25: 31-46).

While we may not speculate quite as much today as those before us did on issues such as the identity of the Antichrist, we must ask ourselves if we are prepared to take Jesus’ promise of His second coming seriously.

~ David Wells

 

Quotation is from Steven Land, Pentecostal Spirituality (Academic Press, 1994)

September 21, 2010

What Would He Say?

Today a classic.   My father always had multiple copies of this poem in his Bible.  I was sorry to see that one of the last copies had fallen out and gotten somewhat trampled, so I decided to make it today’s post in order to preserve it for the ages, so to speak.

Christians live looking forward to the imminent return of Christ.   While certain prophetic markers have yet to fall before that can happen, some believe that they are stacked like dominoes, and when one goes, the others will follow quickly.   Besides, the second coming per se may not happen tomorrow, but who’s to say when he could come for me?

If He should come today
And find my hands so full
Of future plans, however fair,
In which my Saviour has no share,
What would He say?

If He should come today
And find my love so cold,
My faith so very weak and dim
I had not even looked for Him,
What would He say?

If He should come today
And find I had not told
One soul about my Heavenly friend
Whose blessings all my way attend,
What would He say?

If He should come today
Would I be glad — quite glad?
Remembering He had died for all
And none, thru me, had heard His call,
What would I say?

Unfortunately the author’s name is torn off.  The one online version (containing an error) has it credited to Grace Troy.    This is a kind of sentiment you don’t hear much these days.   It’s strange that living even closer to the imminent return of Christ, we’ve tended not to think that much about it.