“Grasping the Gospel” (In an Age of Discount Discipleship)

Part Six: Two Critical Requirements: Patience and Productivity” 12.08.2018

Matthew 25:1-5 (NIV) 1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.”

Matthew 25:14, 19 (NIV) “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them… After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.”

“What? Would my Master find me idle when he returns?” John Calvin

It is May of 1564. In Geneva, John Calvin is quite old and sickly. His Elders and friends urge him to reduce his schedule of preaching and shepherding. “Get more rest!” they say. His response is bewilderment. For the great reformer, there is no time to lose and as long as he can be productive, he will be. Even on his deathbed, he is writing letters to distant places to encourage others in the Christian faith. Actually, he is probably a bit of a work-a-holic but at least he is passionate about the Kingdom of God. Yet, the story has greater value than one man’s actions. It touches on a critical question. Namely, how are we to conduct ourselves as we await the return of our Lord? In short, with patience and productivity.

Consider these two parables found in Matthew Twenty-Five. Parables always have a central meaning, but they also have sub-themes. Little hints of other truths that are revealed by Jesus. Ideas that speak to us in this in-between age. I mean by that we are a strange people living between the first and second comings of Jesus. Often called the period of “Already But Not Yet.” The Kingdom of God has already broken into humanity with its power and might. Jesus has conquered death and opened the way to eternal life. But the Kingdom of God is not yet fully in place when sin will be no more and the redeemed will live in paradise in His presence (See Revelation 21.1-5) So … how shall we then live in the “in-between?” Again, in short, with patience and productivity. Consider the first of these stories. Sometimes called “The Parable of the Ten Virgins.” We read:

Matthew 25:1-5 (NIV) 1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.”

These “virgins” were the bridesmaids expected to be ready with their lamps. A groom might well come in the dark and they would lead him to his bride. So, they needed to be ready! But readiness requires planning and thought. Five of them were “foolish.” Literally, they were “moronic.” Rather harsh but think about it. They did not have enough forethought to allow for any “delay” or the idea that the groom’s plans might be different from their expectations. The early church struggled with this also. Many obviously thought Jesus would return very shortly. We might not find anyone in fifty AD who would have thought the world would go on to the year 2018! The wise disciple does not have a “timeline” for our Lord’s return. He or she must simply be ready.

Now, this parable is about many other things. Including the frightening realty that the door will, at some point, be shut! It’s a hard word picture:

Matthew 25:6-13 (NIV) “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ ‘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.’ “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. Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

This reminds us to share the Gospel whenever possible. To be ready and in possession of extra oil for our lamps. And it reminds us that we are to be patient. Just because our Lord is a long time coming does not mean that he is not coming! Those who are not ready for him will be told “I don’t know you!” What a terrible thought to contemplate. Hearing that from Jesus would be the worst experience of one’s life. Anyway … we are to be patient and keep ready.

PATIENT. The following parable is about being PRODUCTIVE. The time in between should never be spent just goofing off waiting for Christ to take us or return. That was Calvin’s point. Our Lord portrays a person who had used his time wisely. We read:
Matthew 25:19-21 (NIV) “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Interesting that once again, Jesus says there was a “long time.” By now we really should get the idea that it may be much, much longer than even today before he returns. Until all the elect from all the ages have been gathered in, his return will be on hold. But he will return.

This raises a practical question. “What can I do to serve the Lord and advance the Gospel at this point in my life?” Still working for a living or retired, there are many opportunities to serve in the Bible-believing church and in the community. Nurseries and grounds keeping are always in need. Teachers and sweepers and drivers. Etc. I’m working as a part time chaplain in an assisted living facility. I try to find ways to share Christ daily. Donna is working for “Love, Inc.” (Love in name of Christ helping to assist the needy.) Everyone can serve him with patience and productivity. A very old person without much physical strength said to me “I have a full-time ministry … in prayer!” Her notebook was bursting with entries that she prayed over daily.

I hope this provokes much thought to us as disciples lest we take the discount route. Are we patient and productive?

Blessings! Pastor Alberta

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