Christian Devotions

Form Or Substance

Focus verses: Matthew 25:1-13

In speaking of the end of time and the second coming of Christ, Jesus tells the parable of the wise and foolish virgins.

This is a simple allegory. The virgins represent the church – the religious people on earth. The bridegroom is obviously Christ. The lamps stand for a form of righteousness – all the trappings and laws and habits of religion. The oil stands for the Holy Spirit, that Paraclete that connects us to Jesus and the Father.

Those who have the outward appearance of religion, but not the essence, the oil, the Holy Spirit indwelling, will have no time to acquire the Holy Spirit when the bridegroom comes. They are like the whited sepulchers that Jesus saw in the Pharisees.

Masks and costumes will not suffice to get one into the marriage feast of the Lamb. It requires an essential connection to Jesus — complete faith and reliance only on Him. One must be walking closely in the Spirit to have sufficient oil when the bridegroom tarries.

The oil of the Holy Spirit is a self-renewing commodity. The more time you spend with the Lord, the more His oil is poured out upon you. Time with the Lord is private time. That isn’t just being there every time the church door is open. It doesn’t consist of all the good works for social betterment and reform. It isn’t the trappings of deacon or elder or preacher or teacher.

Time with the Lord that results in greater anointing is very private and personal. It is time with His word, reading, studying, then being still to let Him speak to you through those words. It is the Holy Spirit that reveals meanings in deeper layers – that clarifies what is read.

Please don’t misunderstand me here. Private time with the Lord does not negate our doing all the other things – the being present when church is open, doing good works for social betterment and reform, the serving as deacon or elder or preacher or teacher. It is the source from which the power to do these things well flows. They are the evidence of the internal workings of the Holy Spirit.

If those works spring from any other source or motive, they are as useless as dry leaves in the wind. They may look pretty, but they serve no useful function.

You will notice that both the wise virgins and the foolish virgins had their lamps – those external appearances of religion. But the wise virgins had the oil, that close relationship with the bridegroom, and were prepared for His coming at any hour. The foolish virgins had no oil with them. When the bridegroom came, it was too late to acquire the oil, to build that relationship. We must not be caught without oil when He returns.

When one has only the form of religion, it falls apart under stress. The substance of a relationship with Christ only grows stronger under stress. That is the time when you realize you have no – absolutely no – power in and of yourself. You learn to depend on Him for your every breath, for the next word, the next step on the journey.

The substance of that close relationship will carry you through and lift you above any circumstance the world can throw at you.

Father, God,

Deliver us from the external trappings of form. Come and indwell us with Your Holy Spirit. Give us the substance of Yourself as our rock and our foundation.

In Jesus’ most precious name.
Amen.
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