First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @

Changed for Eternity

Luke 16: 24-31

Habakkuk 2: 9-11

Psalm 127: 1

Luke 16: 24 A parable of Jesus concerning eternity.

A rich man has died and is in torment in Hades as a result of his self serving pursuit of money, and lack of mercy, in violation of the Laws of God. A poor man, Lazarus, has also died and is comforted in Abrahams bosom.

Luke 16: 24 The rich man in Hades, looked far away and saw Abraham and Lazarus: “And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’

“But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.'”

Have you ever wondered why, in this scene portrayed, anyone would want to cross over from ‘here to you’, or from ‘heaven’ to ‘hell’? It has to do with the heart attitude of those who are in heaven, their nature has not changed from earth to the heavenlies, that is why they are there. If afforded the opportunity, mercy and love still reigns in their heart and mind, and surely they might attempt such a crossing. Plus if Abraham called for Lazarus to go, he would obey.

In contrast to this attitude, the rich man, who never actually even noticed Lazarus on earth, now notices him, and in an unrepentant attitude still calls out his demands, ‘Have mercy,’ ‘Send Lazarus,’ ‘Bring water.’ The rich man shows no repentance, but expects still to be waited on, hand and foot. He is in Hades because of these attitudes: selfishness, pride, comfort for himself at any cost to others.

Habakkuk 2: 9-11 Speaks to this attitude: “Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house, who sets his nest on high, to be delivered from calamity! You have devised a shameful thing for your house, cutting off many peoples, you are sinning against yourself. Surely the stones of your house will cry out against you from the walls, and the rafters will answer it from the framework.” Those who build only for themselves, who set up empires of safety to exclude others, are building in vain.

Psalm 127: 1. “Unless the LORD build the house, they labor in vain who build it.” (The house being their lifetime, their family, their eternal being, their legacy, their ministry to God)

On this earth we are given the opportunity to repent of known sin, to show mercy, to give of our money, talents, gifts, for the good of others, and the furtherance of God’s kingdom. We are given grace and peace from heaven above, so that we might live gracious and peaceful lives.

We are given choices while on earth, knowing God, and being changed by Him, will last forever.



God’s Providence: The Question of Evil?, Part 2

The previous blog had many verses relating the providential employment of evil actions, both human and demonic, to bring about change. Now, we will explore some examples in Scripture…

a. “God can use all things even evil to fulfill his purpose for his glory and for our good” (Rom. 8:28). This was the experience of Joseph (Gen. 50:20) and Pharaoh (Rom. 9:14-24).

b. “Nevertheless, God never does evil and is never to be blamed for evil” (Luke 22:22). God cannot be tempted to do evil (Matt. 18:7), but we can (Ja. 1:13-14). Here we have “secondary causes” – those of humans, angels, demons, etc. under the permissive will and control of God.

c. “God rightfully blames and judges moral creatures for the the evil they do” (Isa. 66:3-4, Eccl. 7:29). We are to blame.

d. “Evil is real, not an illusion, and we should never do evil, for it will always cause harm” (cp. Matt. 6:13, Ja. 5:19-20, 1 Pet. 2:11). There are things that are right for God to use or do and wrong for ourselves. St. Augustine advises “There is a greater difference between what is fitting for man to will and what is fitting for God…For through the bad will of evil men, God fulfills what he righteously wills.”

e. In spite of all I’ve written, we must appreciate our understanding of how this all really works is incomplete at best. This is what Scripture teaches, not how. We have to agree with Louis Berkhof – “the problem of God’s relation to sin remains a mystery.” I would only add to this – “yet, the problem of our relationship to sin is well known.”

Rich Versus Poor

Luke 16: 19-31.

The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus: Luke 16: 19 Jesus is teaching; “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor everyday. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate , covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich mans table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.”

The obvious is being portrayed here, of the complete disparity between rich and poor. Some of those who have wealth, have earned it by their life long attitudes of self preservation, self promotion, and self achievement, without concern for others along the way to their success.

In contrast is the poor man, who is often plagued with illness and maladies that affect him, because of living conditions. Too often health care is sacrificed because of cost, and poor diet, and the working conditions of the jobs they end up doing.

Dogs are mentioned here affording the only compassion shown to Lazarus. In this society dogs are never pets as we know it. Some are trained as guard dogs, some for shepherding, but usually they are strays, adapting to the city streets, eating whatever is tossed out, wandering about seeking only survival. Yet even these mindless dogs can show mercy, in contrast to the rich human.

Luke 16: 22. “Now the poor man died, and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom: And the rich man also died and was buried.” vs. 23 ” In hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom.”

The literary structure in this parable is: A. vs.19 In this life there is comfort. B. vs. 20-21. In this life there is pain. B. vs. 22 In death there is comfort. A. vs. 23. In death there is pain.

This is such a simple parable that Jesus is telling to reveal to the Pharisees that the choices they make here on earth, have eternal consequences. A person cannot fool God, the creator of the universe. One cannot serve himself by being a lover of money, and justify that, by ‘craftiness or adulterating the Law of God’. One cannot say he loves God, and then live in complete pursuit of money. One cannot live without regard to the Law’s demand for helping the poor, showing mercy, and giving aid to the ‘stranger in your midst’. One may say that money once gained, will then be used to help others along the way in a larger manner, but never actually do it. That type of thinking is akin to saying, “I had to sin in order to further God’s kingdom.”

(To be Continued)



Justifying Our Actions

Luke 16: 18

Luke 16: 15

Deuteronomy24: 1

1 Kings 16: 31

In context, Jesus is teaching Israel at large of the New Covenant that is sent by YHVH, their God, who has called them as a people to be separate from the nations. And has given them the Law, by which if they obey, it will in fact set them apart from all nations. But they don’t keep that Law, but live so very much like the nations surrounding them it is hard to tell them apart. Jesus is revealing their heart attitudes, and need for repentance.

Luke 16: 14 says, “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening…and scoffing at Him.” And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men…”

Luke 16: 18 After explaining the eternal truth, gravity, and heart of the Law, He explains the depth of the Pharisees core beliefs. “Everyone who puts away, divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced, in this manner, from a husband commits adultery.” (Put-apoluo- in Greek-to set free, divorce.)

In the Law, Deuteronomy 24:1, there is allowance for divorce. In the Proverbs there are writings that describe both contentious women, Pr. 21: 19, and men Pr. 26:21. But in the patriarchal society of Israel it is the man who gives a letter of divorce to his wife.

By the time of Christ the looseness of interpretation of the Law, the justification of their actions that benefit themselves only, men were allowed to divorce for any whim they chose to. They might become bored, or tired of their wife, they might find someone younger or prettier than, or a better cook, or almost any excuse. All reasons were justified in their eyes.

Jesus then uses this practice, this abuse of the Law, as an example of the previous statement of their “justifying themselves in the sight of men”. Therefore exposing their sins, which according to the Law of Moses, adultery carries a sentence of stoning as its due punishment.

The Pharisees high view of themselves, has blinded them to the Holiness of God and His view of sin. They like Ahab, in 1 Kings 16:31, became King, but did more evil than all before him, “Thought it a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam…”

It is always good for us also to examine our hearts, to see if perhaps we have too high a view of ourselves, less we ‘justify’ our attitudes and actions before men.



God’s Providence: The Question of Evil?, Part 1

There are quite a few passages that indicate God to have, at least, allowed evil or something bad to take place (Gen. 50:20, Ex. 4:21, 7:3, 14:4-8, Josh. 11:20, Judges 14:4, 1 Sam. 2:25, 16:4, 2 Sam. 16:5-8, 24:1-17, 1 Kings 11:14-23, Job 1:12-21, Jer. 25:9-12, Ezek. 14:9, Amos 3:6-12). In each of these instances, Scripture doesn’t blame God for it. Rather, it is the evil of humans that induce the LORD to allow it to transpire. In our fallen state, sometimes things need to worsen before we come to our senses, and come to the LORD for improvement.

Ultimately, it will all work out for God’s good purposes through the demonstrations of his justice, holiness, and power (Ex. 9:16, Isa. 45:7, 63:17, Lam. 3:38, Jonah 1:14-15, Rom. 9:14-24).

The most evil, unjustified event in human history was the crucifixion of Christ – not just that it would happen but that those involved with it would all play their predestined part in it (Acts 4:27). They were not forced by God against their will; rather they brought about God’s plan “through their will,” for which they were, nevertheless, responsible for.

The Law Fulfilled

Luke 16: 16-17

John 5:45-47

Deuteronomy 18: 18

Luke 16:16 ” The Law and the prophets were proclaimed until John, (the baptist); since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached and everyone is forcing ‘his way’ into it.” Jesus is addressing the Pharisees and Scribes who were scoffing at His teaching. And His response to them was that they had no authority to rewrite or interpret the Law to their advantage. To misconstrue the Law to their benefit is unacceptable to God the giver of the Law. He continues:

Luke 16: 17. “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail.”

John 5: 45-47 Is a Parallel to this passage: “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; The one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. For if you had believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Deuteronomy 18: 18 “(YHVH says), ‘I will raise up a Prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.'” This is the writing of Moses that prophesied a coming One that Jesus is specifically referring to. All the priests/leaders believed in this coming One, until He, (Jesus), came, because He did not fit their interpretation of this promised One.

Jesus came to complete the Law of Moses, He concluded and fulfilled all the promises of the Law. These promises are: The forgiveness of sin, the perfection of the Levitical and Aaronic High Priesthood. He is the Manna, the wine, the Manora, the bread, the door, the temple, the Mikvehs, the baptisms, the washings, the robes, the separation of sins, the offerings of sacrifice, the body, the blood, the water, the propitiation, the cleansing, the mercy, the sprinklings, the Holiness. He healed the deaf, He restored withered hands, healed the lame, and the lepers, of whom great detail is written in the Law yet no Israelite was ever healed until Jesus, therefore a sign of the Messiah, which He fulfilled. Jesus completed all things written in the Law, yet somehow it escaped notice by the Religious leaders, Pharisees, Sadducees, and devoted students/scribes/lawyers, in Jesus lifetime.

The Law did not fail, the Word of God did not fail, Jesus did not fail. Heaven and Earth have not been promised eternity, they can be done away with, and the book of Revelations indicates they will. (Heaven being the skies in this instance)

When we look in detail at the life and ministry of Jesus, considering the prophecies fulfilled, it is amazing what has been revealed about Him for all who will hear. We really do serve a remarkable Savior, who will fulfill all that He promised to do. We who believe in Him have a bright future, based upon His impeccable record.



God’s Providence: Concurrence, Part 2


5. The Affairs of Nations. Scripture speaks of God’s providential oversight of governments (Job 12:23, Ps. 22:28, Acts 17:26, cf. Acts 14:16). Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, learned to appreciate God (Dan. 4:34-35) as ruler of him.

6. All Aspects of Our Lives. Most everything in our life comes under providential care – food, (Matt. 6:11), days (Job 14:5, Ps. 139:16), set apart (Jer. 1:5, Gal. 1:15), directed (Prov. 16:9, 20:24, Jer. 10:23), fortune (Ps. 75:6-7), decisions (Ps. 33:14-15, Prov. 21:1, Ezra 1:1, 6:22, cp. Phil 2:13), and skills/talents (1 Cor. 4:7).

These “behind the scenes” causes should not lead one to deny the reality of our choices and actions. Scripture is clear that we cause events to happen by our thoughts and actions. God has endowed us with the ability to make willful choices.

God’s concurrence upholds his providential control in such a way that he somehow upholds our ability to make willing choices, good or ill, for which we are held to account. Exactly how this happens, Scripture does not explain. But it is undeniable both are taught. Just because we cannot understand how something happens does not mean we are able to deny the reality of it’s happening.

We Are Justified By Faith

Luke 16: 16-17

Romans 5:1

Romans 8:3

Hebrews 8:7

Jesus is revealing to the Pharisees the fallacy of their self-justification. They are finding excuses for their sinful behavior, some of which is being exposed by Jesus teachings. All the while some of the populace is beginning to understand the weakness of rote behavior to the Law, and seeing their need for a redeeming Savior.

Luke 16: 16. Jesus said, “The Law and the Prophets were ‘proclaimed’ until John; since that time the gospel of the Kingdom God has been preached, and everyone is forcing ‘his way’ into it.” (Compare Matt. 11:12, Mark 12:7)

The Law of Moses was given to Israel to establish Gods standard of righteousness, Israel failed in every attempt to adhere to the Law. Romans 8:3, “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: Sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh…”

The Prophets then came to reveal a coming Savior, as “a New Covenant”, Hebrews 8:7 “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.”

In Jesus life on earth He has been establishing the Good News of the kingdom of God, John the Baptist, and Jesus have been preaching repentance of sins, for the ‘Kingdom of God’ is at hand. So what we see here in these Pharisees response, is not repentance of sins, as has been proclaimed, but rather their own self justification, excuses for their sin. And Jesus reveals that action as, “everyone is forcing ‘his way’ into the kingdom.” The Pharisees wanted to be acceptable to God on their terms, their definition of acceptable.

When Jehovah established a standard for Israel, (and mankind), to follow, and when that was revealed by time and effort as impossible to adhere to, it was then that God provided a substitutionary sacrifice for our justification. There is no way man can substitute his own self determined justification as an acceptable substitution for God’s approved sacrifice, Jesus. That sacrifice we must accept by faith.

This is the crux of salvation, God provided a way, we must believe and accept that way. We don’t have the authority, or holiness to try something else. God does it all, through Jesus His Son, the only sinless, substitutionary, acceptable sacrifice whereby we must be saved. It is a gift from God.



Self Justification

Luke 16: 14-17

Luke 15

Psalm 51: 17

Luke 16: 14-17 Jesus had just taught, ‘No man can serve two masters, you cannot serve both God and wealth.’

“Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. And He said to them, ‘You are those who ‘justify yourselves’ in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; For that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.’

Having just taught a parable on how the world uses, and abuses money, all for their own advantage and gain, Jesus unveiled the proper use of this ‘little thing’ in the hands of His disciples. Money is necessary in the worlds economy but has no eternal value. Therefore do not covet it, but use it for eternal purposes.

Now He is revealing the hearts of those who love money, and in so doing exposes a deeper rebellious attitude for which the ‘love of money’ is just a symptom. These Pharisees are attempting to Justify themselves in the sight of men. The meaning of Justification is ‘to absolve’, to ‘acquit of wrong doing’. It is a judicial term that does not mean, ‘not guilty’, but rather the judgement is merely set aside. Usually a judgement is limited to the use of the Judge, not the defendant. But these Pharisees are hi-jacking that power and giving it to themselves. They are absolving themselves of their sins. They love riches, and authority, and power, and are justifying these actions of bad behavior so that other men, who have witnessed such behavior, will leave them thinking it’s proper behavior.

This is revealed now as the antithesis of the repentance teachings that Jesus had just finished, the sheep, the coin, the two sons. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, there is joy in heaven when one repents, from the seemingly benign, to the most despicable cases, repentance is welcome to the loving Father. But now in the view of the Pharisees, no repentance is necessary, but ‘self justification’ before men is now acceptable.

Psalm 51: 17. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise”. Behold: God loves a repentant heart.



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