Michael Oxentenko, Senior Pastor, Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church, Takoma Park, Maryland.
Summary: Are you a cryogenic Christian, almost dead, not quite alive, and hanging in there? The three parables in Matthew 25 have the necessary ingredients to reverse the chilling effects of cryogenic Christianity.
Scripture: Matthew 24:11-13
The modern science of cryogenics has come a long way. Research centers have frozen people in liquid nitrogen at the very instant before their death. Because the body is made up of living cells that are fragile, freezing has to occur within a few seconds to produce a state of cell preservation. Once this is accomplished, the body can be kept frozen indefinitely. While frozen, the body is neither dead nor really alive. It just hangs in there. People choose to be frozen because they believe that when medical science finds a cure for the disease that is killing them, they can be revived to start living again. In the meantime, they are almost dead, yet not quite alive.
Are you one of the frozen? Is your Christian experience in a survival mode? Are you suffering from a state of suspended animation? Are you pulled back from others in a lost existence of cold indifference? Are you satisfied with the Christian experience that is on hold? Are you waiting for the day when your frozen heart will be revived and you’ll feel warm again? Are you a cryogenic Christian, almost dead, not quite alive, and hanging in there?
Jesus identifies cryogenic Christianity: Because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold (verse 12). Can love decline in the life of someone who never had it to begin with? Is Jesus talking about believers or nonbelievers? He uses a very special word for love here. It’s agape love--the kind of love that only God can give. The kind of love that is the result of interacting with our Lord, of seeing Him as a Savior, experiencing His grace in our life. Jesus is saying at the very end of time, just before the gospel goes to the world there will be an overwhelming coldness that will settle upon the Christian world.
Now in contrast to cryogenic Christianity, the real thing will finally triumph. The one who endures to the end will be saved (verse 13). I like the certainty of the Bible’s language here. It doesn’t say they might be saved; it doesn’t say they could be saved. If we abide with Jesus, Jesus will stay with us. If you cast your lot with the Savior, no matter what, He will see you through. And the good news of the kingdom shall be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all the nations and then the end will come (verse 14). I look forward to the end. I look forward to the day when Jesus Christ comes through the clouds of Heaven to take me home. I look forward to the day our loved ones will be resurrected.
There is an end in sight. The good news is that Jesus is the focus of that glorious end. Jesus makes a call for the Christian who will be ready for His coming: Who is it that will be ready for my coming? Who will be the wise one that knows me, and that uses his talents for the cause of God? (verse 45). He calls for three living components: wisdom, faith, and service. They are God’s answer to cryogenic Christianity. The three parables in Matthew 25 have the necessary ingredients to reverse the chilling effects of cryogenic Christianity.
The parable of the ten virgins teaches us that the wisdom of God is given only through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Only one thing finally separated the wise from the foolish maidens. The wise chose to fill their lamps with oil; they made it to the marriage feast. The foolish chose to ignore the oil; they did not make it. If we are to make it in the darkness of the night, the darkness of earth’s final hour to the grand gathering that Jesus has for us, we need the oil of the Holy Spirit in our lamps because our lights will go out unless the presence of God is in our hearts. The oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit (Zac 4:1-6). We receive the Holy Spirit when we accept the Word of God. It is not by might, it is not by power, it is not by education, it is not by natural talent, it is not by the storehouse of our fellowship that we gain a connection with God. It is through the living and dynamic word of God that our souls that are dead can once again, suddenly, become alive. We can only find the Holy Spirit when we find Jesus in the Bible. For thus says the High and Holy One who inhabits eternity whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite (Isa 57:15). We cannot approach God and live if we approach Him with pride. We cannot look into the face of our Savior and experience grace if we think we deserve that grace. We cannot be transformed on the eve of the advent of Jesus Christ if we think we don’t need to be transformed. Ultimately we cannot be saved unless we feel within our being; we know within our intellect that we are utterly bankrupt before a living God and we need the living Savior to save us from our sins. And so the Bible says we must approach God in our humility to feel His presence, to have Him in our lives. So the wisdom of God is to seek God on God’s terms. And God will make us wise.
The parable of the talents focuses on the importance of an active faith (Matt 25:14-30). A householder entrusted his belongings with three servants, to one servant he gave five talents, to another two and to the next he gave one talent. When the master returned, he commended the man with five talents and the man with two. But the focus of this parable is on the person with one talent. For the gospel to go to the world, for our church to prosper, for Jesus Christ to be felt within our midst, the person with one talent is critical. It is the person with one talent who is vital for the cause of God. The person with the talent that seems unimportant will in the end determine the success or failure of God’s movement. It is people like you and me, one-talent people, whom God depends upon to finish His work. The basic problem with the one-talent man in this parable is rooted in his misunderstanding of the character of his master. The Bible says he refers to his master as a harsh man. He sees God as someone to be afraid of--not someone to be a friend of. He sees God as someone who is out to get him, someone who was keeping a scorecard to somehow keep him out of the kingdom of God. But he does not see a kind master who forgives, who motivates and inspires. Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 5:1). We have peace so that we can live for Him without fear and the motivation that it brings. I think that if we use our one talent and we fail, God will not be dishonored. In fact, He will be honored that you used it in His cause. He is not nearly so concerned with failure as He is with an inability to use that which has been given.
The parable of the sheep and the goats illustrates the importance of selfless service for the weak and the lost. And there are many who long for something meaningful, something that can solve the sin problem, something that can relieve their life of guilt, something to nourish their inner being. God has given us Jesus, God has given us the Savior of the world, God has given us food for those who are hungry and He calls on us to go feed them physically and spiritually. The great judgment parable about the sheep and the goats outlines the future destiny of those who have followed Jesus in every way and those who have not. And in that great judgment day our eternal destiny will not be decided by how much theology we know. It will not be determined by how many degrees we hold. It will not be a product of how much wealth we own. In that great day, our eternal destiny will be what we have done as a result of Jesus in control of our lives (Matt 25:31-33).
The opposite of cryogenic Christianity is holiness, faith, spirit-filled wisdom, and love for the lost. Holiness is not a mystical experience reserved for the enchanted. Holiness simply means being separate. It means being wholly His. In the judgment, cryogenic Christians will not stand with their divided loyalties and their cold hearts. There will be no place in heaven for the frozen. Only one thing God will be looking for--and that is holiness. He’ll be looking for men and women who have accepted His gift of Jesus Christ on the Cross. He’ll be looking for those whose hearts have been strangely warmed by the white hot heat of the spirit of love. He’ll be looking for the faithful and the wise who have seen Jesus in the face of an orphan or a widow, the lonely and the lost, the broken and the beaten. He’ll be looking for people in the end who are wholly His.