Recently my husband Steve and I were talking with a sleeper. Do you know what a sleeper is? A sleeper is someone who has pushed the snooze button so many times in life, they’ve lost touch with the world we live in. Of course when I say “the world we live in,” I mean the real world we live in…today. Which is no longer the world of 1950s America, but a different age altogether, as clearly evidenced by events continually unfolding before our eyes.
However, as Steve and I both quickly observed, the sleeper we spoke with didn’t want to acknowledge the realities of today. Instead, the individual became visibly irritated and even hostile when their “sleep” was interrupted by our frank conversation.
I cringed — as I always do when I encounter a slumbering soul who refuses to wake up to the hour we live in, choosing instead to live in denial. I understand these are hard times. Even frightening at times. I get all of that.
But I still cringe in horror in the presence of denialists, as I can never escape the echo in my heart of one haunting scripture:
“A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” Proverbs 27:12 New Living Translation
God’s Word is clear.
Living willfully blind, clueless, and unprepared – aka living in denial — is a strategy for destruction. Indeed, to be blunt, God calls it the strategy of fools.
And I don’t want to be a fool. The cost is too great.
What is the cost exactly?
Just read The Parable of the 10 Virgins. Talk about spelling it out.
To my heart, no other parable Jesus taught speaks more powerfully — or more horrifically – as to the stark contrast in fates awaiting those who live ready vs. those who refuse to.
Consider this alarming warning from the Lord Himself:
The Parable of the Ten Virgins
Matthew 25 Modern English Version
“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be like ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were wise and five were foolish. 3 Those who were foolish took their lamps, but took no oil with them. 4 But the wise took jars of oil with their lamps. 5 While the bridegroom delayed, they all rested and slept.
6 “But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out to meet him!’
7 “Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 But the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps have gone out.’
9 “The wise answered, ‘No, lest there not be enough for us and you. Go rather to those who sell it, and buy some for yourselves.’
10 “But while they went to buy some, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. AND THE DOOR WAS SHUT.
11 “Afterward, the other [foolish] virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us.’
12 “But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’“
Friends, this is the parable that shakes me to the core every time I read it. Though no one really wants to believe it, including myself, the words couldn’t be any more plain. Jesus warned us.
And Jesus doesn’t lie.
One day, just like the parable warns, there are those who fancy themselves the Bride of Christ who will instead be completely shocked when they are shut out of the very wedding feast in heaven they presumed to be part of.
And why will they be shut out?
Because they disqualified themselves from being Jesus’ Bride.
REPEAT: They disqualified themselves.
Now how exactly will that happen?
Let’s break it down:
Oil in the Bible represents the Holy Spirit.
Thus, the picture of the wise ones being prepared by gathering extra oil would be a clear symbol for those who sincerely love Jesus with all their hearts, and stay filled with His Spirit by virtue of their ongoing, intimate love relationship with Him. Their lamps are always full of oil. And thus, even in the darkest hour of human history, just before Christ returns, the wise ones will shine brightly…because they are filled with the Light of the World Himself — Jesus. And that keeps their lamps burning.
Wise ones indeed…who live ready. So in love with the Bridegroom are they.
And then we have the fools.
Five fools who, when the hour comes for their Bridegroom’s return, will discover they have zero oil. And zero light. In fact, their lamps will be completely out! For one simple reason:
Sheer lack of passion for God. Period. Nothing else.
For clearly…so indifferent have they been toward their Bridegroom, that in the dark days leading up to their wedding day to King Jesus they don’t even bother to keep their lamps burning by spending time with Jesus, loving Jesus, seeking Jesus, delighting in His Presence, and thereby continually refilling themselves with the “oil” of His Presence in their hearts. Just couldn’t be bothered.
Now does that sound to you like someone in love? No, I don’t think so.
And for their indifference, these foolish ones will one day pay dearly, as each and every last one of them will be denied entrance to the wedding banquet with King Jesus.
Imagine it: Shut out by the Bridegroom Himself!
And if you wonder who these tragic souls might be…these foolish ones…I submit, beloved, that the Lord has already identified them for us in His Word:
“Behold, the people praise me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Isaiah 29:13a
Now who does that sound like to you?
To me, it appears pretty obvious. I believe the scripture is pointing directly at that vast company of souls who, though week after week may be observed habitually attending some local church, in reality they are merely “playing church.” Nothing more.
Oh they know the Gospel, these “foolish” ones. Sure do. They know exactly Who Jesus is and what He did for them. They’ve heard the gospel many times, even from the time of their youth many of them. That’s why they’re represented in the parable as part of the company of virgins waiting for the Bridegroom to return. Because they know the Truth of Jesus. And they even know He’s coming back. No question.
But the difference is this:
In reality they are only what might be called “social” Christians. Because for all their outward, public display of allegiance to Jesus, in the private sanctuary of their hearts – which God alone sees and knows well – there is no real love for Jesus residing there at all. None whatsoever. Just an ingrained …passionless…habit of worship.
“Behold, the people praise me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Isaiah 29:13ath
Too late one day, just as the parable warns, these foolish ones will surely discover – to their utter shock – that their own hearts have disqualified them from being Jesus’ True Bride.
For Jesus won’t have them!
And what sane person would ever marry someone whose heart toward them was blatantly indifferent…blatantly lukewarm? I know I wouldn’t.
And Jesus surely won’t.
“I would that you were hot or cold,” Jesus said.
“But because you are neither hot nor cold, but LUKEWARM,
I am about to vomit you out of My mouth!”
Revelation 3:15b -16
Startling words of warning from the Bridegroom. Yet know this:
Jesus only warns out of love. Pure love. Never ever out of cruelty. He is full of compassion and mercy, and doesn’t WANT to have to say to you or me:
“Truly I say to you, I do not know you.”
Beloved, it is time now for each of us to take stock, examine our hearts, and seek to discern the true temperature of our hearts toward our Bridegroom.
Am I hot? Cold? Or merely lukewarm toward Jesus, just going through the motions?
Can it be said of me: “My lips praise Him but my heart is far from Him”?
Jesus knows the answer to all these questions. And He’ll show anyone who asks the true condition of his or her heart.
So let us ask. Each and every one of us. Ask today. And then join me, won’t you, in a heartfelt prayer:
O Father! Help me never, never, never to be lukewarm toward Jesus! Help me to live ready, to be wise, and not a fool. Help me to wake up to the late hour we’re living in, and keep my lamp burning… watching for You continually, pressing in to You daily, my beloved Bridegroom…until that great and glorious Day when at last I see You face to face. Amen!
God bless you saints. I love each and every one of you. Live ready! He’s coming!
“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”
Matthew 25:13 Modern English Version