Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Imago Dei (The Image of God)”

“Imago Dei (The Image of God)”
The Rev. Louis B. Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

The world tells us that our value as human beings is based upon our current or potential contribution to society. There are ethicists who teach that human life has no more intrinsic value than plants and animals! I hope that this shocks you. It should. I suggest that human life has been given a unique value by the Creator. Genesis 1:26a, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” God said that we all bear His image! For the creature to bear the image of the Creator sets mankind’s value at an extreme level.

At this point, atheists have nothing to say about mankind. The fact is: there is a God. His existence is undeniable. He has made His divine attributes known by all that He has made, Romans 1:19-20. The Bible says there is no other reasonable explanation for the world around us.

But this article is not about the existence of God, directly. Yet, His existence is the basis for the sanctity of human life. The sacredness of human life proceeds out of being made in God’s image, the Imago Dei. No other creature has been given such a distinction. All mankind is accountable to God, the Creator. We have been set apart by God. We are made in God’s image. One of my favorite Psalms declares, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:3-4

The sense of the words of Scripture, Gen. 1:26, that declare men and women are made in God’s image are likened to objects viewed in a mirror. We are a reflection of God. Distortions of this idea have been offered over the years. Joseph Smith wrote that “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man…” Another famous or infamous personality teaches that God is actually a man who is six feet, two inches tall. He even goes on to describe God’s arm span.

Grounding ourselves in the truth is the best defense against such false teaching. In other words, know the truth in order to recognize error. So then, what is the truth of being made in God’s image? It cannot mean that mankind looks like God in a physical sense, as those referenced above teach. God made us male and female! Both men and women bear God’s image.

Bearing God’s image means to possess some of the attributes of God, called communicable attributes. Attributes are simply characteristics that define a being. Now I used the word “some” to qualify the attributes of God that we bear. We are not God! No man is immortal. No man is self-existent. No man can make the claim that he had no beginning. Yet, all men are able to: reason, think, and have limited knowledge. All men have a sense of right and wrong.

In bearing these characteristics, we are faced with our limitations. For example, we don’t know everything, in spite of thinking we might. We don’t always do what is right in spite of having the moral law written on our hearts. The Bible says that every intention of the thoughts men’s hearts is only evil continually, Genesis 6:5.

Yet man’s sinfulness does not eliminate man’s dignity. God made man in His image, male and female He made them as recorded in Genesis Chapter One. Two Chapters later, the Bible records the Fall of the first man and woman. As a result, all of those attributes were marred by the Fall. We all still have those God-given attributes, but we have also inherited Adam’s sin nature. Adam is referred to as the head of the Human Race, Romans 5:12ff. Along with the dignity of being human comes the accountability we all have before the Holy God who set mankind apart.

Again, the fact that we are sinners does not remove the dignity which God conveyed by making Man in His image. It also does not reduce our responsibility to exercise good management of His Creation.

Human Life is sacred because God made it so. Remember no man can change what God ordained. You have dignity and value because the sovereign God made you in His image, Imago Dei!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Christian Life”

“The Christian Life”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
It was “in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians,” Acts 11:26b. At that time the term Christian was used in a pejorative sense. It was a title of derision. We now proudly claim the title “Christian.” Let us be clear on what it means to be a Christian, not simply cling to the title.

Perhaps, the clearest teaching on being a Christian is Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Mt. 5-7. Jesus taught His disciples the perfect Christian Ethic. Jesus lived what He taught. It would be accurate to call the Sermon on the Mount Jesus’ teaching on the economy of the Kingdom. Matthew recorded the event with precision. Jesus taught this ethic to His disciples. It is a general teaching that is meant specifically to those who have been born again. One must be born from above in order to profess faith in Jesus and thereby be a genuine Christian.

But looking to Christ’s perfect ethical standard serves to show Christians their total dependence upon the Spirit of God. Only Christ lived the Sermon on the Mount perfectly!

Luke’s use of the word “disciple” in Acts 11:26 is very helpful. Fundamentally, Christians are disciples. The word “disciple” means a learner and a follower of a master. Therefore, a Christian is a learner and follower of Jesus Christ the Master.

There is a side road that must be taken at this point in my article. The Bible teaches that followers and learners of Jesus Christ are made not born. In other words, God makes Christians. No one is born a Christian. The Bible declares that no one is righteous, no one even seeks God. The Bible describes all mankind as naturally children of God’s wrath.

Let me guide you to that “side road”. (A “side road” only in relation to this article.) Consider the biblical definition of salvation. Salvation is to be delivered by God from God for God. This important “side road” is necessary to understand the Christian Life. Put simply Christians live for God! We have God-centered lives. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth to hold every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 2Cor. 10:5.

Now back to our main highway, the Christian Life. We turn our attention to the parables of Jesus. Jesus gave a comprehensive view of the Kingdom through the parables. They teach us about the sovereignty and steadfast love of the King. They teach the necessity of living each day before the King expecting His return at any time.

As we read through the parables in Matthew’s gospel, we see them as cumulative. Each one builds toward a climax. The climax is the King’s final judgment revealed in the parable of the sheep and the goats.

Immediately preceding Jesus’ teaching on the final judgment, He taught about living in the Kingdom. That is, how Christians are to live under the Lordship of Christ. We call this teaching the parable of the talents. The Christian Life can be summarized with a single word. The word is investment. I’m sure you all know the story. In summary, Jesus compared the Kingdom of heaven to an owner who went on a journey and gave his property to three of his servants. They were given a specified sum of money, “according to his ability”, Mt. 25:15. The master then left on his journey, returned after a time and sought to settle accounts.

Two servants invested the master’s money and presented him with a return on investment. They hear the master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. … Enter into the joy of your master.” Unfortunately, the third servant hid the master’s money and had no increase to give to the master. This servant did not hear comforting words. He heard words of judgment.

The two faithful servants represent the Christian Life. Jesus owns everything. He is the Lord of lords and King of kings. He has entrusted His people with gifts and talents and yes, money. God’s call to Christians is: invest what you have been given for God’s glory.

The parable of the talents confronts and informs Christians. It confronts by causing us to examine our lives. We are asked if we are living for God. It informs by giving us a practical means by which we can live for God. We live for God by investing all that He has given in His Kingdom for His glory. S.D.G.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Advent”

“Advent”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Advent is a season in the Church Year that was instituted so that Christians would heed the warning of the Prophet Isaiah. “A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3. Several hundred years later, John the Baptist came as God’s spokesman to call God’s people to prepare to meet the Messiah by repenting of their sins. He came in the spirit and power of Elijah, Luke 1:17. We are in this season of preparation. We are preparing to celebrate the historical and miraculous event of the Incarnation. God ordained in eternity that His Son would take upon Himself human nature and give Himself as a ransom for many. Jesus, the Messiah prophesied by Isaiah and others is the God-Man who came in the fullness of time.” He was born under the law to redeem those who were under the law, so that (God’s people) might receive adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:5

John’s message is still applicable. Repentance is one of the two gifts God gives to His people at their conversion. The other is faith. Those who have received these gifts from God live them throughout their lives. That is, professing Christians are penitent people. We repent of our sins and confess them knowing that God has promised to forgive our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness, 1John 1:9. Likewise professing Christians live in reliance on the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is the object of our faith. He is the holy one of God before whom we see the truth of our sinfulness and know that He is life.

The Season of Advent has begun. This year, Sunday, December 2nd marks the beginning of Advent.

Jesus told us how we should prepare in light of John the Baptist’s declaration. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15 The good news declared by Jesus was that the King of the Kingdom had come to earth.

In our country, perhaps in the entire western world, preparing to celebrate the Incarnation has been overshadowed by making sure that we’ve managed to buy gifts for family and friends.

I am not suggesting that Christians refrain from buying gifts for others. In fact, giving is an expression of having received. But, I am suggesting that we remember what we have received and from whom we received it. In response, offer acceptable worship to God in holiness, Romans 12:1; Hebrews 12:28.

As a child I remember that Christmas wasn’t fully realized until our whole family went to church on Christmas Eve. It has been our church family’s practice to celebrate Christmas Eve with a traditional worship service called, “Lessons and Carols”. We seek to involve our children in the service both for their worship and education. The service of Lessons and Carols was first used in 1918 at the Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge.

This 20th Century worship service’s purpose is to worship God by rehearsing God’s plan of Redemptive History. We read nine Scripture Lessons beginning in Genesis and ending with John’s gospel. As we hear from God, we respond in song with familiar Christmas Carols. Our aim is to turn our minds to God’s grace in saving His people. As God’s word is read, we are reminded that God established His plan of redemption in eternity. The Father and the Son made a covenant. The Son agreed to give His life to redeem those whom the Father chose before the world began.

If you have not thought of preparing to celebrate Christmas in this way, I would encourage you to begin. Celebrate the Incarnation by attending corporate worship on each Lord’s Day and on Christmas Eve.

Jesus called all to “repent and believe in the gospel.” God has ordained that outside of the church there is no ordinary means of salvation. As you come to worship, come expecting to hear the good news that Jesus came and died for the sins of His people and that His work of redemption has been confirmed by His bodily resurrection. This is the gospel by which you are being saved, if you receive it in faith and live by it. 1Corinthians 15:1-4

May this season of Advent be one of holy preparation as you remember God’s incomparable gift of His only Son, Jesus.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Providence of God”

“The Providence of God”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Anxiety plagues all of us. We would all like to live an anxious and worry-free life. Jesus said that Kingdom life is indeed worry-free! Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is Kingdom Life. It is how Christians are to live now. Kingdom life is impossible apart from the God who provides. Jesus is the only One who lived the Kingdom life perfectly.

The once popular song, “Don’t worry, be happy”, denies reality. It is for those who live for themselves. The song represents a philosophy of life. There are those who would tell us that reality can be created. They suggest that worry can be overcome by thinking happy thoughts, whatever that means. After we awake from our “happy” dreams, life with all its cares and worries is still there.

How then can God’s book, the Bible, that is without error and always reliable command believers, “Do not be anxious about your life”, Mt. 6:25?

Yet, God commands His people not to worry. This is not a denial of reality but an embrace of it. Specifically, God has revealed Himself as the One who always provides for His people. The reality that must be embraced is the truth of God!

Abraham, the father of all who believe in the God of the Bible, declared the truth of the providence of God, see Genesis 22:8, 14. The psalmist wrote, God “provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever,” Psalm 111:5. The Apostle Paul commanded the church in Philippi, “do not be anxious about anything,” Philippians 4:6.

What did Abraham, the psalmist and Paul know? It is clear as we read about their lives and what they wrote they were not ones who denied reality and simply thought happy thoughts. Abraham, for example, was in the process of obeying God by preparing to sacrifice his son, Isaac when he confessed trust in God to provide. Abraham embraced reality and he trusted God. He knew as Paul did that God would never be unfaithful for to do so would be to deny Himself! 2Timothy 2:13

The popular song quoted above was written by Bobby McFerin and was the number one song in 1988. It presents an apparently innocent and harmless suggestion. But on closer examination, we learn that Bobby McFerin didn’t originate the phrase. It was promoted by an Indian mystic, Meher Baba. Meher Baba considered himself to be the Ancient One and god. He believed that he was the real self within everyone. His view of himself was revealed by one of his recorded statements, “I have come not to teach but to awaken.”

Life in Christ is in direct opposition to that guru’s philosophy. God has not only revealed Himself but He has revealed propositional truth. We don’t need some self-proclaimed guru to find the meaning of life. The source of worry is not our lack of “happy thoughts” or not embracing the god within us. The source of worry is unbelief in God, the true God. The God who provides is the one who created all that we see. He is the one who ordains all that comes to pass. He is transcendent, not part of Creation. The Bible says, in Jesus Christ “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,” Colossians 1:20 and in Him we can have intimacy with God.

Bobby McFerin’s song concerns happiness. As we all know, happiness is very elusive. In the midst of anxiety and worry it’s nearly impossible to find happiness. The impossible becomes possible with God. The Apostle Paul gave advice to Timothy concerning the source of true joy which exceeds happiness. “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy,” 1Timothy 6:17.

Notice the connection between the providence of God and enjoyment. God provides and believers enjoy what He gives. You don’t need to search out some new age philosopher which really is old age, eastern mysticism. Only knowing the truth of God will bring joy, the joy that lasts forever. The God who provides is the only One who gives joy. He gives joy by revealing the truth of Jesus to your heart. Knowing Jesus is the only thing that will dispel the worry and anxiety with which we burden ourselves. So, glorify God and enjoy Him forever!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Acknowledge the Giver!”

“Acknowledge the Giver!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17 Our nation has set aside one day to give thanks. Giving thanks implies that there is a giver. Whether God is acknowledged or not, we exist by His favor. We are particularly blessed to live in a country that sets a day aside for giving thanks to God.

We often experience things that are not to our liking and complain about them. It seems distasteful, even contrary to thank God for those “bad” things. It makes no worldly sense to give thanks to God for hardship. Exactly, it is nonsense to the world, but to those who have been changed by God it is wisdom. God has said to give Him thanks in all circumstances, Philippians 4:6; 1Thessalonians 5:18. Believers “know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose,” Romans 8:28.

Thanking God is the response of one who has been changed by Him. Let us look back at one of the greatest celebrations in the Bible. It was a thanksgiving service! 1Chronicles 16 records King David’s organization of a thanksgiving worship service. It was motivated by the return of the Ark of the Covenant. David organized this great worship service to, “invoke, to thank and to praise the LORD.” 1Chr. 16:4 The Ark was a visible sign of God’s faithfulness to His covenantal promise made to His people.

The Ark contained the stone tablets upon which God wrote the Ten Commandments. There was also with the Ark in the Holy of Holies, the golden urn containing the manna from heaven and the budded staff of Aaron.

King David knew that the people of God needed a visible reminder of His providence. As a man of God, David knew that God’s people were commanded to thank Him. The Ark of the Covenant was a constant reminder that God would be faithful to His promise made to Abraham and his seed, Genesis 17:7. God demonstrated His faithful providence by providing food for Israel in the wilderness. Jesus confirmed God’s faithfulness. He declared that the Father will provide the needs of His people, Matthew 6:25-32.

God’s people in the wilderness were fickle as are we. Even though God gave them a sign of His leading them through Moses and Aaron rebellion broke out regularly. As a visible sign of Aaron’s leadership God caused his staff to bud. God told Moses to keep that budded staff before the people to remind them of His chosen leadership. It continued as a reminder of God’s promise to lead His people by His chosen instruments.

Now, consider what God has given to us! We have been given God’s word written. We hear Him every time we read His word. Every Christian has been given the Holy Spirit who works in concert with the Word to change us and speak to our hearts. God has said that believers can approach His throne of grace with confidence because Jesus has given them access through His shed blood. As we come to the Father in our quiet moments, He has promised to hear us and to answer our prayers in ways that are beyond what we ask or think.

In addition, Christians are told by the Holy Spirit that they are children of God, Romans 8:16. Believers have God’s constant presence leading and protecting them. Believers have eternal security. Believers have been given a clear revelation of God’s plan of redemption in the Bible. Christians, therefore, should have a greater desire to give thanks to God. The Church of Jesus Christ belongs to Him. He is the head and king of the Church. The most fundamental reason to give thanks to God is His grace of adoption, Galatians 3:26-29. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” 1John 3:1

If you have been adopted by God through faith alone in Christ alone thank Him every day and set apart a time during this Thanksgiving Season to gather with His people to corporately thank Him for what He has done in Christ.

May your Thanksgiving Day be centered in giving thanks to God for the Person and Work of Christ.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Understanding God’s Forgiveness”

“Understanding God’s Forgiveness”
The Rev. Louis B. Tiscione, Pastor Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Matthew and Mark recorded Jesus’ healing of a paralytic. As significant and real as that physical healing was there was something more significant that is essential to all who profess Christ. That which is more essential is: Jesus’ healing of the paralytic pointed to His authority to forgive sins.

The Scribes thought, “This man is blaspheming,” Matthew 9:3 and Mark 2:7. Jesus knew what they were thinking. Jesus said, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins – he said to the paralytic – “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”’ Mark 2:9-11

The Scriptures are clear. Sin is a direct offense against God. Sin is defined as missing the mark of God’s perfect righteousness. The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines sin as “Any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.” The Apostle John wrote, “Sin is lawlessness.” 1John 3:4b All sin, no matter how minor, is a direct offense against the Holy God. In light of this truth, there are no “private sins”. God is always the offended party. King David made this truth clear in his psalm of repentance, Psalm 51. In the fourth verse, David wrote, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.”

That verse continues with these words, “… so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” As you may know, David did not appeal to God for justice. He appealed to God for mercy. God is holy. David knew the truth of God’s holiness. Every Christian should likewise know that God is holy. God never “winks” at sin. We should also know that justice is what is deserved. All mankind deserves to go to hell. That is perfect justice. Since the Garden, all are born dead in sin. There was only one born sinless. He is the Son of God, the God-Man, Jesus Christ. He was born out of the normal course. His conception was of the Holy Spirit.

This is not my opinion. Although, I hold firmly to it. This is the word of God. “(We who are in Christ) were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:3c-5

The gospel is the power of God for salvation! Romans 1:16 The gospel is the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. He died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; He was buried; He was raised from the dead in accordance with the Scriptures, 1Corinthians 15:3-4. There is no other payment for sin, 1John 2:2. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness, Hebrews 9:22 (Leviticus 17:11). Jesus offered Himself to God in obedience. He offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice. His resurrection proves that His sacrifice was accepted by God the Father. The summation of the matter is, “For our sake he (God) made him (Christ) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2Corinthians 5:21 Jesus Christ bore our sins, each one, past, present and future. He experienced the full wrath of the Holy God in our place! In Christ, God’s perfect justice was satisfied.

All that is above represents propositional truth. These are God’s words of hope to His people! We know that they are true because God said it. We may or may not “feel” forgiven. But, if you are in Christ, your sins are forgiven.

There is an ongoing need to regularly read these truths. When God makes an individual a “new creation” in Christ his sinning does not stop. It has been said: ‘we sin because we are sinners’! Paul dealt with this struggle, Romans 7, justified yet sinner. The truth is our struggle with sin begins when God makes us a “new creation” in Christ. Because one is in Christ he recognizes his sinfulness. Those in Christ must live relying upon His finished work. Christians preach the gospel to themselves and confess their sins to God every day!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Biblical Praise”

“Biblical Praise”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
You would expect that the most fundamental activity of the Church, namely Praise and Worship, would be demonstrated and taught by every Bible believing, Christ exalting congregation. Yet in our age of consumerism, it is necessary to define biblical praise; to identify the object; and to enable deep and critical thought concerning it.

Our surrounding area is blessed with an extraordinary number of churches. The primary reason is that God made us for worship. Biblical worship includes praising the object, the Triune God.

Webster’s Dictionary defines praise as expressing approval or admiration. The definition continues with the idea of giving glory to God. The essential ingredient in praise is that it requires an object.

Since the Garden, men have had the desire to praise. All too often praise was given to other men or places. The desire to praise was built into us by our Creator. We will praise someone or something that we consider worthy. Praise and worth are intimately connected.

You might take a little test. Think about that which consumes your time and money. Then, consider whether the objects you identify are worthy of your praise. In other words, would you choose to praise the one(s) to whom you give so much of your time and finances?

You may not agree with me at this point, but I am seeking to get you to think about worth. As you examine the definition it is clear that praise and worth are connected. The psalmist identified the greatest object of worth. Psalm 146, written by a man carried along by the Spirit of God, described a singular commitment to praise God! He said that he would declare praise to God throughout his entire life which he acknowledged was given by God.

Why would he make such a commitment? The answer is God alone is worthy of man’s praise! God alone saves man. Every instance of deliverance from oppression is by the sovereign hand of God. Only God is eternal. Opposed to this all men die. There are no exceptions. The only hope for man is God. Only God gives eternal life, a life that will never end. God raises the dead. He gives those whom He chooses eyes to see the truth who is Jesus as He is revealed in the gospel. Jesus defined eternal life as knowing God and the One whom He sent, even Jesus Christ, John 17:3.

We see injustice all around us intent on robbing us of hope. Conversely, the Bible declares that God will execute perfect justice. The Bible, God’s word written, is always true and altogether reliable. The psalmist affirmed the holy justice of God and wrote: God “executes justice for the oppressed, (God) gives food to the hungry.” Jesus said that God the Father will provide everything that is needed for His children, Matthew 6:25ff.

If this isn’t enough to convince you of God’s worthiness to be praised, then know that God is King. He rules all of His Creation. God’s absolute and sovereign rule of all Creation is not relative. The truth of God’s word is true whether it is believed or not. That is, you may be thinking that I write such things because I’m a Christian Pastor. Indeed, that is my calling! I not only write these things, but I also believe them! God is the Creator and Ruler of His Universe. Jesus said that “all authority in heaven and on earth” was given to Him. God who made us for worship is the only worthy object. Praise, which is part of worship, is to declare the attributes and mighty works of God. As we understand and apply praise in this way, we likewise know that God is its only worthy object.

I’ve come to the end. I’ve defined biblical praise as the declaration of the attributes and works of God. Hopefully I’ve made the case that God alone is worthy of praise. And, finally, I hope that I’ve been successful in informing how you think about this very important aspect of life.

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in you that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Protestant Reformation… Still Reforming”

“The Protestant Reformation… Still Reforming”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The faithfulness of an Augustinian monk changed the church. Martin Luther nailed 95 theses on the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517. The Pope sent a cleric to Germany to raise money for building St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The cleric was Johann Tetzel. He summarized his message by the saying, “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings a soul from Purgatory springs.”

Luther was outraged by connecting salvation to giving money. As Luther studied the Bible to teach it, the doctrine of justification by faith alone became clear to him.

God caused Luther to see that the gospel revealed the perfect righteousness of God which He imputes to a sinner. He does so only by faith alone, Romans 1:17; 3:28 and 4:4-5. The Latin term is Sola Fides. Luther said that when he understood the doctrine of imputed righteousness it was as if the gates of Paradise opened and he walked through.

In addition to Sola Fides, four additional biblical doctrines were recovered from the Scriptures. They are: Sola Gratia, by Grace Alone; Solus Christus, by Christ Alone; Sola Scriptura, by Scripture Alone and Soli Deo Gloria, to God Alone be Glory. The Five Solas reflect God’s plan of redemption. They had been taught by the church until the Middle Ages. The Reformers recovered these doctrines and faithfully taught them as the “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”, Jude 3

The second Sola, Sola Gratia, means by grace alone. The Bible teaches that salvation is by God’s grace alone. All men are sinners, born dead in sin. We have inherited the sin nature of Adam. Genesis 6:5 and Romans 3:10-18 are two passages that teach man’s total bondage to sin. Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus makes this fact clear. Salvation is by grace through faith, Ephesians 2:8. Even the faith that Christians profess is a gift of God’s grace. Salvation from start to finish is solely by God’s grace.

The Protestant Reformers did not originate new doctrines. They did not offer an alternative perspective on salvation. They declared and taught the plain truth of God’s word. The Reformation was a providential blessing from God through which the truth was recovered. The magisterial church in Rome had perverted the truth of the gospel. Today, the truth of God’s salvation is taught in every true Church and it can be said that the Church is in an ongoing state of reformation in accordance with the word of God.

Yet there was a main issue that concerned the great Reformers. It was authority. The Latin phrases Solus Christus and Sola Scriptura which mean respectively, by Christ Alone and by Scripture Alone, emphasize the rightful source of authority. The Reformers asked the Scriptures, “Who has supreme authority the Church or God?” Of course, we would all say that God has supreme authority. The Bible reveals that God is absolutely sovereign. The Bible also reveals that Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven and on earth, Matthew 28:18. The Reformers saw that the Roman Church usurped God’s authority and held God’s people in bondage.

To state the issue of authority clearly, Christ is the King and Head of His Church. He exercises His Kingship and Lordship through His word, the Bible. The Bible is the ultimate authority of all life and salvation. All men live under the word of God.

Of course, there are many authorities over us. God established the church, civil government and the family. All derive their authority from God’s word. His word, the Bible is the ultimate Authority and Christ is the Supreme King and Ruler. Men possess a granted authority. When men usurp God’s authority, it is invalid.

The four Solas described above reveal God’s means of redemption. Men are saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone as God has revealed it by Scripture alone. The fifth Sola describes God’s purpose for redemption. Soli Deo Gloria, to God alone be glory. God’s own glory is His purpose. Everything is ordained by God for His glory. Isaiah 42:8, “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” And, Romans 11:36, “For from Him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Life is not about us; it is all for God. Soli Deo Gloria!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Sovereignty of God”

The Sovereignty of God”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Have you ever asked yourself, “Who’s in charge of _______ (you fill in the blank)?” When the evil of men is observed, this question of authority rises to a higher degree of relevance.

Rather than answer the question, we would often rather fix the blame. We blame everyone from society to God. We blame everyone except the actual perpetrators. Concerning fixing the blame, there are still some who blame America for 9-11. The fact is, evil men flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, murdering thousands.

It is reasonable, even necessary to investigate fully what happened. It is prudent to seek ways for the prevention of such evil in the future. But, placing the blame in the right place or studying prevention still does not answer the question, “Who’s in charge?” Since, I believe the question is so important, I’d like to offer the answer and then explain my basis for it.

God is in charge! By the plain meaning of the word, “God”, He must be in charge or He’s not God. God has absolute authority over all His Creation, even the evil one, Satan, is under God’s authority, CF Job 1,2.

God has revealed His Character, Name, in the Bible. The Bible is God’s self-revelation. He has revealed His character by way of declaring His attributes. One of God’s attributes is His sovereignty.

Years ago, a man in a church that I served was concerned about using the word “sovereignty”. He said no one understood that word anymore. My response to him was that we shouldn’t stop using words because people may not understand them. Rather, it would be more edifying if we explained the meaning of important words such as sovereignty. (The organized church has been tasked with building up the body not reducing it to the lowest common denominator, CF Ephesians 4:11-16.) It is this word, sovereignty, which provides the answer to our question. We know God is in charge because He is sovereign. Jesus said “All authority in heaven and earth” had been given to Him, Matthew 28:18. Jesus’ declaration to His disciples is a statement of absolute authority!

God not only revealed His sovereignty by declarative statements such as Matthew 28:18, but He also revealed it through the historic narratives. One such historical narrative is recorded in Daniel 4:34-37. The human author, Daniel, a faithful worshiper of God, recorded an incident that involved a king who thought he was the be-all and the end-all. The king’s name was Nebuchadnezzar. He was a ruthless man, king of the ancient Babylonian Empire. This king had a very confusing dream about a huge tree that “a holy one from heaven” ordered to be chopped down. God empowered Daniel to interpret the dream. Daniel’s interpretation predicted that the king would be humbled until he acknowledged the one true God. The tree in the king’s dream was him.

After a time, because of the king’s pride, God drove him mad. He made him act and appear like a wild beast. At the time appointed by God, the king’s senses returned to him. Daniel recorded what the king said. Nebuchadnezzar said this about God, “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and He does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”’

This radical statement was spoken by a pagan king. The king was humbled by God and caused by Him to see the truth. He declared that all creatures are under the sovereign authority of God. He rules over every man’s actions and He holds him responsible. This great and mighty ruler who thought he was a god was used by God to declare His absolute authority.

Unfortunately, many churches erroneously teach that God’s sovereignty is somehow qualified by man’s “free” will. Yet, the Bible says God will make even the mighty submit to Him either now or when Jesus returns. God is sovereign whether or not man submits to Him. God’s rule is absolute. God is in charge regardless of whether we think He is or not! Jesus is Lord of lords and King of kings, whether we believe it or not. This is our comfort in the face of evil. S.D.G. (Soli Deo Gloria)

Pastor’s Viewpoints “False Prophets”

“False Prophets”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
In our declining western culture, some have been manipulated to think that character doesn’t matter. One of the symptoms of cultural decline concerns the importance of character. We are told it’s not appropriate to look into someone’s past to determine how he or she might act in the future. As opposed to this, the Christian Faith is a step into the light not a leap into the darkness. We who are Christians don’t possess a blind faith. We trust in what we have “learned, firmly believed and been convinced of” 2Timothy 3:14. Christians trust in the Person and Work of Christ revealed in the Scriptures.

Jesus had much to say concerning character. He provided direction concerning determining character. He taught His disciples how to live as citizens of the Kingdom. The Church under King Jesus is to live by His teaching in His Sermon on the Mount.

You will find this greatest sermon ever preached recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, Chapters 5 through 7. The entire sermon was a teaching that Jesus gave to His disciples. Matthew set the context on a mountainside. Jesus saw the crowds that were following Him, and He went up on the mountain and then sat down. Matthew 5:2, “And he opened his mouth and taught them (his disciples) …”

This sermon was given by Jesus not as another Law but to describe His ethic or practice. In other words, Jesus laid out the standard of life in His Kingdom. He lived what He preached. The purpose of His Sermon is to drive those who have been born again to their knees. We who profess the name of Christ do so by the sovereign grace of God who has raised us from death to life. We read the sermon and realize that it presents an impossible life-style. We are compelled to rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit of God in order to live the Christian Life. Jesus was the only one who actually lived in accordance with His sermon. Nevertheless, the ethic of Jesus’ sermon is not for some future time or supposed age. It is the economy of life for every citizen of the Kingdom now!

The verse concerning a person’s “fruits” is near the close of Jesus’ sermon. He declared that there will be false prophets. He said that these false prophets will look and dress like sheep but will actually be wolves. These wolves will seek to devour the sheep. The sheep represent the people of God. The wolves naturally, are those who are opposed to God and seek to destroy God’s people. Note that this condition is within the visible church.

The Bible is God’s word to His children. But, it is absolutely and universally true for all men. What the Bible says, God says. What God has said is binding on all people regardless of whether or not it is believed. Jesus declared a universal truth concerning the recognition of character and genuineness within the visible church or wherever character must be assessed. An individual’s character is not found in eloquence or erudition, real or imagined. It is not found in appearance, popularity, or charisma. Character can be assessed by looking at past behavior. In order to discern a man or woman’s character it is necessary to study his or her past behavior. A man’s past actions are his “fruits” in accordance with Jesus’ words.

False people have “rotten fruit” produced by their past actions. Sometimes these false people actually say things that might be true. They may be lifted up by those who have ulterior motives. Jesus said look at what they have produced before determining their genuineness.

The Church needs leaders who are genuine. A man of character will necessarily understand his need to live penitently before the Holy God. He will regularly confess his sins to God and trust in His forgiveness in Christ Jesus. It is critical that the church choose men of character to be Elders for the spiritual growth and well-being of her members. What is taught ought to be matched by what is lived.

So then, we have the words of our Savior to direct us in recognizing the sheep and more importantly recognizing the wolves who come to us dressed as sheep. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits.” Matthew 7:15-16a