What Cannot Be Begged, Borrowed, or Stolen
Rev. Kit Billings
March 13, 2005
You and I are very blessed by the Lord. We have the honor and privilege of walking through Lent together in preparation for celebrating the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem one week before His suffering, death, and resurrection into fully Divine life! Lent is a sacred journey, a journey of honor and depth. It is not for the faint of heart nor for those with a shallow faith. During this time we remember the deep, awesome spiritual battles that our loving Lord and Savior suffered through to overcome the many varied kinds of evil spirits who had been overwhelming humanity with their crafty ways. Those evil spirits or devils were getting their kicks forcing people like you and me to drown in self-centeredness, heard heartedness, in doubt and despair concerning God, as well as in many forms of wickedness (malice, debauchery, lust, deep hatred, and feelings of dominion and control).
Christ entered our world to save us from bondage to such evil, and during Lent we remember the amazing unselfishness with which the Lord came and took on our many forms of spiritual sickness, idolatry, and the evils that were not only possessing many people beyond their ability to find relief but also that were creating many forms of natural sickness and suffering. In fact, all we have to do to advance our understanding of how serious the situation was is to recognize that the 430 years the Israelites spent in Egypt (the latter of which was suffering under physical slavery and bondage) were a representation of the overwhelming spiritual control the hells held humanity in years before the Lord’s incarnation began. Simply put, it would have been easy to languish in despair and hopelessness, especially with the horrible socio-economic life of being a peasant Jew back then in the days when Jesus was born into our world.
But then, in the fullness of time, God Himself incarnated into our finite humanity and took upon Himself the sins and evil and false doctrines of the world. The Divine Itself…the Almighty God…the One Savior and Redeemer of the universe came as a divinely loving Shepherd to do battle with the “wolves” of life, with the “poisonous serpents” of humanity. And it was only through Christ’s journey, through His many, many spiritual victories that He won every day of His incarnation that gradually began to win us our freedom back! The Lord fought and died for you so that you can have the vital, precious spiritual freedom you need to also choose, if you will, to not only see the great and wonderful potential you are born with (in God’s eyes), but also to choose to pick up your cross and follow Him. Lent is an important time to get re-oriented about the core elements of our mission here on earth—and that is to follow in Christ’s footsteps and join Him in “the Way,” in the crusade against selfishness and false ways of looking at God and life and ourselves and what it truly takes to follow the Lord into spiritual salvation. We need to remember that because the Lord was always victorious, that now in His Divine-Humanity He is present with us every day of life to overcome the spiritual ills and addictions with which the hells want us to suffer under and obey.
The major difference between life back than and life today is that you and I can have total confidence that the Lord has conquered evil with His love, and therefore now all of the power and strength and fortitude we need to overcome the inherited evil inclinations inside of us are here for the taking! For indeed, you were born to become a very awesome and beautiful creature! You were born to grow into deep and intense (yet peaceful) spiritual love and glory…you were born to discover and learn what true love and wisdom are and how to be able to prayerfully be so deeply interconnected with the Lord’s loving power that does not faint in the presence of fear, depression, hatred, malice, crushing low self-esteem, suffocating worldliness, religious ego-centrism, racism, et cetera. Psalm 23, and so many other places in the Word teach us that part of the reason we are here is to learn how to face down evil in its many forms and variations and choose God and His goodness instead. You were born to make a fundamental choice in life—the choice to walk with the Lord into the spiritual Promised Lands of the spirit and take on whatever spiritual “giants” and unholy thoughts, feelings and behaviors are working hard to pollute and damage your life…your potential…your dignity as one of God’s chosen ones. And, you were born to help others with their injustices, with their sufferings, with their addictions to what hurts and destroys us.
The blessings that come with this mission, this great purpose, is that for those who choose to pick up the gauntlet, there is growth within that simply stuns and amazes us. For example, the growth we can encounter into discovering the unbeatable joy that comes from God whenever we can be of use and help to others—the joy of being of service to God by being of service to our brothers and sisters of every race, color and background. And sometimes, to be sure, the sort of usefulness or kindness and support we are called into by God will simply shock us, since it may well pull us out of our narrow-minded comfort zones.
A very dignified pastor was visiting a lady in a nursing home who was confined to a wheelchair. As he stood to leave, the lady asked him to have a word of prayer. He gently took her hand and prayed that God would be with her to bring her comfort, strength and healing. When he finished praying, her face began to glow. She said softly, “Pastor, would you help me to my feet?” Not knowing what else to do, he helped her up. At first, she took a few uncertain steps. Then she began to jump up and down, then to dance and shout and cry with happiness until the whole nursing home was aroused.
After she was quieted, the solemn pastor hurried out to his car, closed the door, grabbed hold of the steering wheel and prayed this little prayer: “Lord, don't you ever do that to me again!” Indeed, sometimes we are called to leave our personal, inward comfort zones.
Yes, you were born (in part) to become very tough and strong, yet humble, yielding to God’s will—flexible, hopeful, full of growing faith! So that through you God will move mountains and forge new developments of goodness upon our world (whether that stage is big or small). Indeed, just as we see the development in strength and power in Christ, this teaches us that you and I are designed to grow and change in ways that will help the Lord to transform our world. Thus, you have been called into strong spiritual love, into strong goodness and faith; you have been called to discover an ability to think and discern well under pressure and stress, just as Christ’s disciples were too. For indeed, when we look at the life pressures and stresses that Jesus dealt with, and then what His disciples did as well, we find spiritual leaders who had learned how to expect spiritual attack from both outside of themselves and most of all from within themselves. For true, devils love to attack, or simply slink their way within. In the Gospels we see a Messiah who was very tough and strong under pressure, who chose well righteousness over sin…goodness over evil. In the New Testament narrative we find disciples who had been brought through the spiritual ringer in a way that taught them how to be spiritual leaders, movers and shakers. Obviously this means we need, as spiritual beings, to learn well how to get up again after falling down many times, after we have failed God, others and ourselves. There is a big difference between Christ and you and me, and yet this doesn’t mean that we are not expected to give God and life our best, walking in the Lord’s commandments. Especially since the ultimate issue is so very, very huge—the issue of our salvation into an angelically loving human being.
We are given one chance, one long opportunity through this life to learn with God’s help what it is to be a loving human being—to have more concern for the Lord and His truth, as well as our neighbor’s feelings, needs and issues…in addition to our own. For those whose lives end early in childhood or teenagehood, their development just continues after natural death.
Be that as it may, there were times when the Lord needed to remind us of these deep and sobering realities, which is why He told the parable of the 10 virgins. When we look into the awesome symbolism within this parable, one can feel like God is saying to us, “Hey you! Wake up and smell the coffee! You only have so many years together on Earth. You’d better not waste them and skip over your choices that will enable you to receive the spiritual oil of goodness and gladness with which only I, your God, can give you. Every day you can choose to be one in spirit with the five wise virgins.”
In short, the parable of the 10 virgins teaches us these greatly important things. First, that the primary substance and ingredient on a down-to-earth practical level of salvation is love…God’s love. The Divine’s love is the primary ingredient of life and it is the primary element that makes us into the Lord’s likeness, that turns us into a heavenly being in the conscious sense of things. The lamps of light and life the virgins were carrying represent the inward lanterns we are born with—our hearts. And second, there is a growth and transformation process that every person born into this world must undergo and traverse (what our theology refers to as spiritual regeneration) if we are to gain the gift of becoming filled inside with the oil of God’s love. The details of our spiritual growth journeys will be unique to us, but the overall journey is the same—our journey from the Garden of Eden to the descent of the Holy City New Jerusalem.
Now, this parable is so intense in that the Lord knows how easy it can be to think that after a person has neglected her or his own, unique spiritual growth process (of change from within) we might be able to beg, borrow or steal someone else’s spiritual transformation process at the end of our lives, at the point when our divine “bridegroom” (the Lord) has deemed it important that you physically die and leave the natural level of existence. Clearly God loves you and wants you as much as an adoring groom loves his bride. You are precious to God. You are the Lord’s beloved, indeed.
But because of the millennia in which many of our ancestors wanted idolatry over goodness and faith, we will likely find it quite attractive to prefer life wherein the innate spiritual aspect of our being (symbolized by the Israelites back in Moses’ day) is put into shackles by the natural degree of our being. And if this happens then we trundle through life serving ourselves more than God and others, and then our internal “lamps” begin to run dry. There is inherent goodness in the natural degree of the human mind (symbolized by Egypt), the level that can deal creatively and intelligently with learning what it takes to feed and clothe us. The natural mind represented by Egypt loves to master knowledge for its own sake; it enjoys mastering a skill or trade; it loves to get a grasp of the stock market; it enjoys learning how to master life in the material world; it’s the part of me that enjoys caring for ME. It is the part of us that can sing with gusto the song made famous by Madonna in the 1980’s: I’m a “Material Girl.” In short, we deeply need the natural mind that corresponds to Egypt in the Old Testament story. However, to enter into heavenly life (both here on earth and after death in God’s kingdom) the Lord’s Word clearly teaches that Egypt must be the servant of the Lord and the Israelites, and not the other way around.
This Bible narrative reminds us that it is easy for an evil Pharaoh to get in charge. It is easy to start wanting to try to find our ultimate happiness in the “stuff” from earth, and not from heaven under God. And that is why, in part, it is so tempting for some of us to become addicted to all manner of worldly and natural materials and substances—this happens when the “Egypt” aspect of our minds has started running amuck, when it desires to run the show and kill off many aspects of our deeper being (our spiritual being), which needs to remain our central focus in life at all cost. Part of the good news of the inner meaning of the biblical narrative in Exodus is that we can have faith that if or when the spiritual degree of our minds becomes enslaved by the natural degree there will likely come a time when that deeper level of our being begins to “cry out to God for help!” And also that God will send us (both outside of us as well as inside of us) figures like Moses—voices and friends who will work for God in calling us back to see the higher and better purposes of life. Perhaps you are able right now to identify some of the “Moses” people in your life, or the Moses-like thoughts and impulses within you that helped the Lord to bring you up and out of bondage in “Egyptland.” And then, as our story goes this morning, we too shall be amazed at God’s mighty hand that calls that evil Pharaoh onto the carpet, as the Lord Almighty brings you too up out of a truly meaningless existence with a mighty hand!
God does not leave His children, His chosen ones (and this means you!) in slavery forever. He will let us languish in it long enough so that one day we will hopefully see the light and realize our life or lifestyle needs to change. Perhaps you are in such a place right now? Or maybe that was really a time for you that happened years ago? Whenever the time is right, the Lord signals this great change-time with new, internal leadership, and reveals that a new and precious form of spiritual bread (symbolized by the Passover unleavened bread) is yours now. And as this story reveals, any time a human being chooses to follow God’s leading out of bondage within is a great and wonderful time! Something for us to commemorate and honor, just as the Jews to this day honor and commemorate their escape from bondage thousands of years ago with assistance by the ten great plagues brought upon the Egyptians by the Lord.
Yes, your own life (and everyone’s life) is a mighty story indeed. And the stakes of life are very high. For it is through life, through every unique and important choice and jog in the road of life, that God is able to steadily fill His lamp within your breast…the interior lantern that can hold the Lord’s love for all people. The Lord loves you as His beloved, so to speak, and His intention is to join intimately-spiritually with you. We do not know when our “number will be up,” when physical death shall come a knockin’. But we are assured that one day the Lord will come for us after death has claimed our finite bodies, and then the time of judgment is upon us—when we discover for real whether or not our own lamp will have the oil of true gladness and goodness within it (which originates in God as its source), or whether we’ve put our hope in begging, borrowing or stealing from another.
I thank God that He has given us the dignity of wanting to live life in Christ in such a way that His oil of love will not only flow inside of that lantern of spirit, but that it also can burn so warmly and beautifully making the lives of others to feel blessed by the warm glow of the light of Christ within us.
And the Lord said, “ I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. I am the light of the world.” Amen.