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BE ON YOUR GUARD!
"But be on your guard. Don't let the sharp edge of your expectations be dulled by parties and drinking and shopping. Otherwise, that Day is going to take you by complete surprise, spring on you suddenly like a trap, for it’s going to come on everyone, everywhere, at once. So, whatever you do, don't go to sleep at the switch. Pray constantly that you will have the strength and wits to make it through everything that's coming and end up on your feet before the Son of Man.'" Luke 21:34-36 (The Message).
Jesus issued two warnings regarding His return; be on guard, and be ready. Almost two thousand years have come and gone since His appearance on the earth. That's a long time to wait for something to happen that is as revolutionary as His coming promises to be. According to the Bible, when He comes He will rid the earth of every person and thing that conflicts with God's original plan. He will set up His eternal kingdom of righteousness and peace and destroy every opposing force.
He also gave His followers instructions regarding their commission during the interval before He returns. We are to extend His invitation to everyone we meet to follow and obey Him, and we are to take care of His household, loving and serving believers so that we faithfully reflect Him to the world around us.
The temptation to believers is to become so enmeshed in the world and its allurements that we forget Jesus' instructions and either go to sleep on the job or join the world in its selfish and worthless pursuits. We can become disillusioned with Jesus because following Him is tough and sometimes perilous. The promise of His coming seems so remote and illusory that we simply join in with everything that goes on around us. Hence Jesus' warning is relevant and needs to be repeated constantly.
He told a parable about ten virgins who were awaiting the bridegroom's return. The bridegroom delayed for so long that they all fell asleep. Five of them were ready but not watching; the other five were neither ready nor watching. When the bridegroom finally arrived, they were awakened by the shout, 'Here he is!' Their lamps had gone out. Five were able to relight their lamps with the extra oil they carried but the other five had none, so they tried to borrow oil from the others.
Since most of us don't understand the imagery, our misinterpretation causes us to miss the point. The oil in this story represents, not the Holy Spirit as we tend to think, but the "acts of righteousness" referred to in Revelation 19:7: "'For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.' (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)"
The five "wise" virgins were ready because their "lamps" were full of their "righteous acts". It was impossible for the "foolish" virgins to borrow righteous acts. They had to go out and do their own, but for them it was too late because the bridegroom came and the doors to the wedding banquet were locked.
Being ready implies that the life of Jesus in us has so transformed us that we have taken on His nature which is loving and generous towards all people. This is the proof that we are ready to receive Him when He returns and to go in to the marriage supper with Him.
His warning to be on guard is equally sobering. What if, when He returns, He finds that we have forgotten to do what He told us to do and, instead, we have joined the world in its selfish pursuits; drinking, partying and living ungodly lives like the rest? How would He feel about us?
His instruction is clear. To be on guard and ready is to be faithfully carrying out His mandate to share His invitation and to take care of those who have joined His household by feeding and clothing them and by doing our duty to Him by sharing our resources with those in need. Daily focussing on these duties will keep us from falling asleep or becoming sloppy, lazy or irresponsible while we wait.
Living for Jesus, one day at a time, is an effective antidote against the danger of failing to be on guard or ready for our bridegroom when He comes.
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