Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Justification”

“Justification”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
There is no peace without God’s pardon. These are strong words if they are true. They are true irrespective of who says them or believes them. No one will find true peace unless God pardons his sin. Peace is not simply the absence of conflict. Peace is having a right relationship with God that is only given by God. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1

The word that this describes and that is the cornerstone of Christianity is justification. Justification is an act of God’s free grace wherein He pardons all our sins and accepts us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us and received by faith alone. (The Westminster Shorter Catechism Question and Answer #33)

Pardon, righteousness and imputation are at the heart of what God has revealed concerning justification, being at peace with Him.

First, when God justifies a man or woman, He pardons their sins. Every human being stands guilty before God. God is the supreme judge and sin is an offence against Him. Sin is lawlessness, 1John 3:4. The Apostle John wrote about every one of us. He wrote, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1John 1:8. We are all guilty. We will all face God’s judgment, from which there is no escape.

I’m sure that you’re familiar with the biblical narrative of King David’s life, especially his great sin. David committed adultery and murder. He fully expected to receive God’s justice which would’ve been death. But, by God’s grace, David was given eyes to see God’s mercy, his only hope. David recorded his prayer in Psalm 51 in which he appealed to God’s mercy.

You may not be a murderer or an adulterer, but you are a sinner. You and I have no basis upon which to cry to God for fairness. Not only are we guilty before God, but we’re all born dead in sin. Like David, our lives rest solely upon the grace of God even to be able to see our sin. God who is rich in mercy must act for us.

The next word under review is “righteousness”. The meaning of righteous is to do what is right, to do what God requires. The Apostle Paul quoted the Old Testament in his letter to the Christians in Rome and said that no one is righteous, Romans 3:10. This means that no one does what is right. No one does what God requires. We can only look at actions, but the Apostle is considering the heart. Paul declared that no man is motivated to do what God requires from his heart. In understanding this inclusive statement, it is necessary to see what God has said concerning the heart of “natural” man. We don’t need to move too far past the Garden of Eden to read God’s view of mankind. Genesis 6:5, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” In other words, the natural man is incapable of being righteous before God. But justification is God’s act of free grace by which He pardons our sins and accepts us as righteous in His sight.

The third word “imputation” describes the means God uses to justify a sinner. As every professing Christian knows, justification is by faith alone! We also know that faith is believing the truth, acknowledging it and trusting in it. We also know that the truth is a person, Jesus Christ the only Son of God. God does not ignore the sins of the faithful. He covers those whom He justifies with the perfect righteousness of Christ and at the same time, God takes their sin and places it upon Christ. He has declared that this is done by faith alone. That faith is a gift of God, Ephesians 2:8. Since the faith that we profess is God’s gift by which He declares us right with Him, we affirm that this great action of God is all grace. No man has any room for boasting. “Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ…” Galatians 2:16a

Martin Luther said, this is “the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls.”

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “How to Interpret the Bible”

“How to Interpret the Bible”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

The Bible is the breathed out word of God. God has revealed what He wants us to know about Him and His plan of redemption. God has told us that all men are creatures. He is the Creator. The Bible reveals His only Son, Jesus, through whom we know God personally. This unique and precious book is a collection of 66 books. Men whom the Spirit of God carried along wrote it. It contains everything necessary for life and salvation. God has preserved what we have today.

God gave us the Bible because He is a God of revelation. He desires that we understand what He has said. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the Bible is understandable. Yet, it seems that many are lost when it comes to interpreting the Bible. One would think that God’s book would have specific interpretations. But, Christians are faced with a myriad of interpretations. We are faced with choices. Who has the “right” interpretation? Whom should we follow? What is “right” doctrine? If we look at this issue of biblical interpretation logically, we must conclude that all interpretations cannot be right. When there are contradicting views of the Bible, one or both may be wrong. One thing for certain is they all can’t be right. There is only one right interpretation of a passage of Scripture. For difficult passages, we may never arrive at the right interpretation this side of heaven.

But, don’t lose heart. The entire Bible does not fall into the category of “difficult”. The vast majority of biblical doctrine is clear. For example, the doctrine of salvation is one such doctrine. It is clear that God has revealed that men are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

As a general rule, how do we know what God has said?

The answer is hermeneutics, interpretation. There are two principles by which we are able to interpret Scripture. The first is called the biblical principle. The second is called the literal principle. The biblical principle is also called the analogy of faith. The Protestant Reformers recovered this principle of interpretation. They understood that the Bible interprets itself. This means the clear passages of Scripture shed light upon the more obscure ones. It is also understood that one place of Scripture must not be placed against another. In other words, there are no contradictions in the Bible. There may be apparent contradictions, but once studied we find that the Bible is consistent with itself, because God does not speak with a “forked” tongue.

The second principle, the literal one, is also called the historical/grammatical principle of interpretation. You may have heard the saying that, “Text without context is pretext.” The words of Scripture find their meaning within the broader context of the passage. For example, because of the difficulty in understanding Hebrews 6:4, it would not be accurate to base a theology on the possibility of losing one’s salvation! Keeping that verse within its context makes it clear that the writer is speaking of one who may profess faith, but does not possess genuine saving faith. In other words, the writer was speaking of those who are called apostates.

Further, to interpret literally means to understand that which is plainly meant. It is how we read and understand any literature. Therefore, in interpreting the Bible: grammar, meaning of words, context, time in which it was written, etc. are involved in understanding the meaning. It is important to remember that the literal interpretation of the Bible is not the same as a literalistic interpretation. For example, we know that when the prophet Isaiah wrote that the “trees of the field shall clap their hands” he didn’t mean that trees have hands. God was describing the joy of all Creation when His plan of redemption is finally consummated. Or, when Jesus said that He was the “door of the sheep”, He did not mean that He looked like a door! John 10 was declaring that Jesus is the only way for His people to have safety and security.

Finally, the Bible is the only rule of faith and practice that God has given to His people. He means for us to understand it. I encourage you to apply these principles of interpretation so that your life will be lived for His glory and your blessing.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “There is One God in Three Persons!”

“There is One God in Three Persons!”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The feast of Pentecost, sometimes called Whitsunday, was rooted in in the Old Testament. The Bible refers to it as the Feast of Weeks. It was ordained by God to be one of the three mandatory celebrations in Israel along with Passover and the Feast of Booths. It was on the occasion of this feast that the Apostle Peter delivered his famous sermon recorded in Acts 2:14ff. On that particular day, God poured out His Spirit on “all flesh” in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy, Joel 2:28 which was also foreshadowed by God’s empowerment of elders recorded in Numbers 11.

God’s Spirit is given to all believers to accomplish God’s work of building the church of Jesus Christ. The visible church in the Old Testament, that is Israel, had only a few chosen people upon whom the empowerment of the Holy Spirit was given by God. For example, those who were anointed kings and those who spoke God’s words fulfilling the office of a prophet were uniquely empowered by the Spirit of God to fulfill God’s purpose for their function.

At the ascension of Christ into heaven the Bible says that “He gave gifts to men”, Ephesians 4:8. The ancient Creeds of the church profess that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Every believer called by God and regenerated by His Spirit is given the power of God’s Spirit to accomplish the ministry given to him by God. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.” 1Corinthians 12:4-6.

Apart from the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we are powerless in terms of ministry. Jesus said that He would build His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it, Matthew 16:18. It is the Holy Spirit who regenerates, illumines our minds and empowers us for ministry in building the church.

The Sunday following Pentecost Sunday is called Trinity Sunday. Every Lord’s Day that follows Pentecost Sunday is marked as Sundays after Trinity Sunday. The traditional name of this “season” in the Church Year is Trinity Season. The early Church and the Reformers continued the practice of referring to the days following Pentecost Sunday as Trinity Season.

Their purpose and the ongoing purpose of celebrating Trinity Season in the Church is that God has revealed Himself as three persons. We worship a Trinitarian God. The word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible. But every aspect of what the word means does. For example, Matthew 28:19 which forms the first part of Jesus’ “Great Commission” commands disciples to make disciples by identifying them with the Triune God! Jesus’ words in this verse also comprise the Baptismal formula in the universal Christian Church.

God created us for worship. The only one to whom worship is due is the one, true God who revealed Himself as: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 2, paragraph 3 declares the Bible’s teaching concerning the Triune God. It states in part, “In the unity of the Godhead there are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity…”

The Doctrine of the Trinity stands against the Cults and False Religions. Every Christian Church holds this Doctrine as basic and fundamental. Knowing and believing it is not optional for a Christian!

The Doctrine of the Trinity teaches that the Father initiated my life in Christ. The Son lived a perfect life and died for my sin. The Holy Spirit applied the work of Christ to me. The life I live is in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God, the Father.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 The Father is the initiator. The Son obeyed the Father perfectly and the Holy Spirit gives life in Christ and keeps us for Him.

In this time of questioning the integrity and truthfulness of our leaders, it is good to know that God who is always true and faithful has revealed Himself clearly in His word. May the Lord empower you to draw your confidence and security in Him, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Doctrine of Scripture”

“The Doctrine of Scripture”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Bible is referred to as the best-selling book of all time. I haven’t checked the statistics lately, but, I’m fairly certain that statement still holds true. Witnesses swear on the Bible. Our government leaders make oaths while laying their hand on the Bible.

The Bible also holds prominence in being the most misrepresented and attacked document in history. We live in an age where personal interpretation of the Bible is common place. Some in churches teach that there is no “right” interpretation of the Bible. Some say that the Old Testament contradicts the New Testament. Liberal Christianity teaches that the Bible is an old book; ancient man’s book about God.

However, the Bible declares itself to be God’s word to Man. The Apostle Paul said that all Scripture is God-breathed, speaking of the Old Testament. And the Apostle Peter equated Paul’s writing with the whole of Scripture. God warned His people in Deuteronomy and Revelation not to add to or subtract from His word. The Psalmist declared that all of God’s words are true.

The Apostle Paul and the Psalmist wrote that Creation testifies to the existence of God. The Bible, however, gives saving knowledge of God. It is the Bible that declares God established a plan to redeem His people. It is the Bible that declares God will re-create the world and make all things new. It is the Bible that teaches that God will crush evil finally and eternally. It is the Bible which declares God’s promise of heaven to His people and man’s desperate need for a Savior.

The Bible is more than a book. In fact, it is a collection of 66 books. Each one was written by a human author under the inspiration of God, the Holy Spirit. The Bible has been called 66 love letters from God to His people.

There are four words used to describe the Bible: inerrant, infallible, perspicuous, and sufficient. Each word points to the nature and essence of its ultimate author, God.

First, the Bible is inerrant because God is truth and He has revealed the truth. The church has understood that the Bible is without error in the original autographs. The autographs were the actual writings of the human authors in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Skeptics say at this point, “We don’t have any of the original autographs.” True, but we have thousands of ancient manuscripts for the New Testament and the extremely precise oral tradition copied by Hebrew scribes. The Dead Sea Scrolls supported the oral tradition almost exactly. By using all that is available, the original texts of the Bible are reconstructed.

The next word, infallibility, is connected to inerrancy. The Bible is infallible in that it is always reliable. Everything taught in the Bible can be relied upon to give good guidance for life. This doctrine of infallibility rests upon the previous doctrine of inerrancy. We can have confidence in the reliability of the Bible to guide us in the right path.

Third, the Bible is called perspicuous. Perspicuity is an unusual word, even hard to pronounce. But its meaning is simple. Perspicuous means clear. The Protestant Reformers recaptured the ancient church’s doctrine that light is shed upon the hard parts of Scripture by the clearer parts. In other words, because the Bible is perspicuous, it interprets itself. As the doctrine of inerrancy and infallibility rest upon the character of God, so too does the Bible’s perspicuity. God, the one true God, is a God of revelation. He gave us the Bible so that we might come to know Him. No man can know all of God. He is infinite and we are finite. But, we can know what God wants us to know.

Finally, the most assailed doctrine of Scripture is called its sufficiency. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, that it was the Scriptures that would make him and every Christian complete, 2Timothy 3:17. Evangelical churches hold to the first three doctrines of Scripture. Yet, by the tremendous and unending list of church programs, the insufficiency of Scripture is demonstrated. Christians seem to be more concerned with meeting “felt needs” in particular life-situations than learning to apply the Bible so as to live wisely. I believe that now more than ever, we need to major on the sufficiency of the Bible, learning sound doctrine for God’s glory and our enjoyment of Him.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Feeling Discouraged?”

Feeling discouraged?
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Discouragement is a common life experience. I’ve been discouraged and I know that you have as well. Sometimes the circumstance seems so dark that you think you’ll never be lifted out of it. I know some who suffer with a chronic illness. There seems to be no rational explanation for the suffering. The constant pain and suffering leads one to say, “I give up!”

This sentiment is stated by the Psalmist in Psalms 42 and 43, three times. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” In the midst of declaring his deep desire and desperate need for God, the psalmist recorded his state of mind. He was in the depths of discouragement and despair. He could do nothing but ask himself “Why?” I notice that he didn’t give an answer to the “why” of it but rather, he gave the cure.

The “cure” is to have a hope that is certain and there is only one certain hope. The psalmist declared the object of certain hope. It is God. He knew that God alone saves. God alone has promised to be with His people no matter what circumstance in which they find themselves. God has promised to bring His people to glory with Him. Jesus said that He was preparing a place for His followers and that He would take them to His Father’s Mansion in Heaven.

Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” God gives life to each one He calls to Himself. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13

God’s children have certain hope because He has revealed that heaven is their home!

However, while we live in this world, one of the reasons we often get discouraged is unfulfilled or broken promises. We must remind ourselves of the futility in trusting in man. Placing trust in man or man’s systems will result in discouragement. Even the “best” of us may fail to keep our promises. God alone is always faithful. The Bible declares the truth of God’s faithfulness in the midst of man’s unfaithfulness. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.” 2Tim. 2:13

Knowing God and what He has said is our only defense against discouragement. For example, even though “our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” The Bible declares that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” 2Cor. 4:16-17

In other words, whatever is causing discouragement God said that it is temporary. If you are in Christ, He is renewing you every day. He is preparing you for glory. God has given His people this certain knowledge so that all of the distortions of this world would not overwhelm them. As a Christian, I know that whatever I am facing will pass; and more, God is using every circumstance good or bad to prepare me for glory. Remember, God is faithful and He will “never leave you or forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

As a child of God, I didn’t always look at the beginning of my hope. I’m speaking of the gospel. Paul wrote to Christians that “the gospel is the power of God…” Rom. 1:16. The Lord used every manner of adversity in my life to teach me that He revealed the means and certainty of my hope including my rising from discouragement. He revealed to me the gospel. That He saved me by Jesus’ blood and righteousness is not simply a past action, but the truth upon which I live. The gospel is God’s power to save. I am saved. I am being saved and I will be saved. There is no other power to lift me or anyone else out of discouragement. After all, God raised me from death to life. Will He not also raise me out of the pit of discouragement?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Do We Have Free Will?”

Do we have free will?
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
If I was asked to make a list of the ten worst questions to ask in church this would be on that list. It might even be near the top! I really want you all to read my entire article, so I’ll refrain from giving the short answer to the question.

When seeking to answer a question, especially one that concerns the issue of man’s free will, you ought to be clear on the meaning and use of the words. The will of man is the faculty of the mind by which choices or decisions concerning a course of action are made. The word free means unencumbered, not enslaved, or not controlled by obligation.

So if I substitute the meanings of the words, the question can be rephrased in this way, “Do we have an unencumbered mental faculty by which we are able to make choices?” Still every person that answers this question will give a response based upon their own personal opinion.

Therefore, since there may be many opinions expressed, we ought to seek the one opinion that matters. In other words, what has God said, if anything, concerning the issue of man’s will?

You might try to find the instances of the words “free” and “will” in the concordance of your Bible. The place to start is the Garden. After God made Adam, He told him that he was free to eat of every tree of the Garden except of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Genesis 2:16-17.

We know what happened. Adam and the woman, later named Eve, ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. At the end of Chapter three of Genesis, we read that God “placed the cherubim (mighty angels) and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” God insured that no man would be able to eat of the tree of life and live forever, Genesis 3:22-24.

We next look at God’s destruction of the earth by the universal flood, He surveyed all mankind and declared “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually, “Genesis 6:5. Further, the prophet Jeremiah spoke for God and said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” The New Testament is consistent with the Old Testament. Men have not changed. The Apostle Paul wrote, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” Romans 3:10

God’s view of man’s will is that it is in bondage; it is not unencumbered. Yes we will do whatever we desire. One of the greatest, possibly the greatest American Theologian, Jonathan Edwards wrote a book entitled, “The Freedom of the Will.” The basic premise of his book is that men do whatever they want to do. The problem is that before God regenerates a man or woman, the only thing that they desire is sin!

The reality revealed by the word of God is, “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us … while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son…” Romans 5:8, 10. Man’s will is in bondage to sin! Jesus said that “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32.

All this may strike you as just some philosophical rambling, but this truth is much more. Understanding our human nature is essential if we are ever to know the depth of God’s grace.

So what are we to make of the question? Do we have free will? Even in a purely physical sense, we are limited. No one can honestly claim that he can do whatever he wants. All of us have certain restrictions placed upon us. Next time, may God forbid, that you’re pulled over for driving above the speed limit, try telling the officer that you are free to do whatever you want, because the speed limit doesn’t apply to you.

Apply that same logic to life in Christ. Tell God that you’re free to choose Him or not. Tell Him that you did not inherit Adam’s sin. Tell him that your will is not in bondage to sin that you are able to take and eat of the tree of life and thereby you can choose to live forever!

So, what’s your answer to the question?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Eternal Decrees of God”

The Eternal Decrees of God
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Don’t you wonder who is in charge especially when bad things happen? There is a powerful statement made by the great prophet Jeremiah. He is often referred to as the weeping prophet. He wrote two books of the Old Testament. One is called by his name and the other is called Lamentations. Jeremiah was weeping, lamenting over the state of the once great city of Jerusalem. God used the Babylonian Empire to crush Judah. Judah’s capital city, Jerusalem was destroyed and the people were sent into captivity. Jeremiah wept over what had happened knowing that God had exercised judgment against His people for their idolatry. He gave us the answer to who it is that controls all things. “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” Lamentations 3:37-38

Jeremiah’s answer is clear. God is in charge of everything that happens. There is nothing, good or bad that occurs outside of His sovereign authority.

Likewise, answers to this question and others were sought from Scripture during the Sixteenth Century Protestant Reformation. By the Seventeenth Century England’s Parliament commissioned many pastors and theologians to give biblical clarity concerning the true religion, their description of man’s expression of biblical faith in Jesus Christ. They produced a document called a confession of faith. The Westminster Confession of Faith is still used as an expression of sound biblical doctrine. This Confession is part of the constitution of my denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). We began in 1973 as a Presbyterian Denomination committed to: biblical faithfulness, reformed doctrine and obedience to the Great Commission.

Chapter 3 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, paragraph 1 reads in part: “God from all eternity did ordain whatsoever comes to pass… “. In ordaining everything, they re-stated what the Bible declares: God is not the author of sin. God does not offer violence to the will of His creatures.

Reasonable people know that if God is not in charge, we live at the whim of someone or something else that has different intentions than the God who is always good! The fact that we often don’t understand events does not nullify the sovereign authority of the God who ordained them.

This truth reflects the character of God. If He’s not in charge, He’s not God! If God has not ordained everything that happens, then all creation is at the mercy of some indeterminate entity or force. The Bible is clear and even man’s fallen reason testifies to the truth that a sovereign God ordains everything.

What then are we, believers in the truth to make of this? Jeremiah wrote in the same book, Lamentations 3:22-23, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Likewise, the Apostle Paul wrote, “And we 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

God is in charge and He has a good plan because He is good. Jesus said to the rich ruler, “… No one is good except God alone,” Luke 18:19.

Notice that, I asked, “What are believers to make of the truth that God is in charge?” God promised that all things work together for good for those who love Him. The one’s who love Him are those whom He called. Therefore, there is comfort for believers, the called ones, because God ordains everything that comes to pass. In other words, God has a wonderful plan for those who have placed their trust in Him. Those who place their trust in Him are those whom He calls.

So, when things look bad, they often are. But, if you believe in the Risen Lord Jesus know that God will work those bad things together for your good. Trust in a good God. Don’t place your trust in circumstances or in some human savior who promises to change your circumstances.

Remember that everything that happens has been ordained by God. In the midst of life, even the bad things, God has promised the ultimate good for His people and He never goes back on a promise!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Mission of the Church”

“The Mission of the church”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The purpose of the church is holiness. The church has been set apart by God for God. He said because “I am holy you are to be holy.” A purpose is a reason for being or existence. On the other hand, when we speak of mission in the church, we are looking to do something. The difference between purpose and mission is the difference between being and doing.

The church’s mission was prophesied by Isaiah. The Suffering Servant, Jesus, would come and be a “light for the nations”, Isaiah 42:6. God also said it is “too small a thing” to only save “Jacob” but that He would call all peoples to Himself through the gospel, Isaiah 49:6. The Church of God was on mission, His. God set the mission and He does it, Isaiah 55:10-11!

One of the most familiar passages in the Bible declares God’s global mission for the church, Matthew 28:18-20. All Christian Churches know this passage to be our marching orders given directly by the Risen Lord Jesus. We refer to this as the Great Commission! The weight of this mission is supreme because of the weight of the one who gave it. Jesus said “All authority in heaven and on earth” was given to Him. This is an inclusive statement. That is, regardless of whether or not men submit to Him, Jesus is the one who has all authority. We all would do well to think of Jesus’ ultimate authority when faced with other authorities in life that make clams upon us. Men have a granted authority. For example, we are called to submit to governmental authority because God has ordained their limited authority for the good and welfare of all men, Romans 13. The same Apostle wrote that a sign of the culture in the “last days” is that there will be a lack of submission to authority, 2Timothy 3. He was writing of the culture in the church. The church stands under the word of God and therefore, we receive His commands concerning purpose and mission and submit to Him.

Therefore, the Risen Lord Jesus directs the church on her mission. The church has been given a granted authority by the one who has supreme authority to do what He commands. So, we ought to be clear on the Savior’s command. Concerning mission, His command is to disciple. Those who are following Him are to go and make disciples. The word “disciple” is the main verb of Matthew 28:19-20. In order to translate Jesus’ command in English, the word make has been inserted. Further, the command is in the Aorist tense. It is an emphatic command to be obeyed by the church until Jesus returns. Since this is so critical, the means of making disciples was further described by two participles, baptizing and teaching.

The first means of making disciples is baptizing which concerns identity. Discipling requires that the one discipled be identified by the One he is following, the Triune God. Followers of Jesus are identified with Him. This text is also the source of the church’s receiving of the sacrament of Baptism, the sign and seal of the New Covenant.

The second means of discipling is teaching. In the process of discipling, the disciple is taught “everything that Jesus commanded,” namely, the whole of Scripture. A disciple is a learner and follower of Jesus throughout his entire life. Christians are disciples of Jesus. “And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” Acts 11:26

Discipleship requires teaching the whole truth. Paul spoke to the elders in Ephesus, Acts 20:26, and told them that he was innocent of their blood because he did not “shrink from declaring… the whole counsel of God.” The content of discipleship is the Bible, the word of God written.

There is a revealed priority in what is taught. The first thing taught is the gospel. When Jesus began His public ministry, He preached that the Kingdom was near, therefore, He said, “repent and believe in the gospel”, that is the good news of the Kingdom, Mark 1:15. Paul wrote that the gospel was “of first importance” 1Corinthians 15:3. The Apostle referred to the Person and Work of Christ, prophesied in the Old Testament and fulfilled in Jesus.

Finally, as God’s purpose for the church is clear; be holy because He is holy; the mission is likewise clear. The Mission of the church is to make disciples “of all nations.”

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Devotion and Duty”

Devotion and Duty
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Duty proceeds from obligation and devotion from desire. They are separately defined but connected. Both duty and devotion are considered to be virtues. I suggest that their connection is critical for those who profess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. I believe that the relationship between the two is God’s design for His people. Jesus didn’t come to save His people and place them in another form of bondage. He came to set His people free. God sets His people free from the bondage of sin to be free to live for Him, Romans 6:11. I believe that the connection between duty and devotion is made clear by the Bible’s description of one who belongs to God. The psalmist wrote, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you,” Psalm 73:25. And the Apostle Paul wrote these words to the Philippian Church, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…” Philippians 3:8.

God’s command to those who are His to hear, understand and obey Him cannot be ignored. God requires obedience, which is our duty, but mere obedience is not enough. Therefore, God changes the heart of a sinner to make him a saint. He gives the sinner a desire for Him.

Growth in the Christian Life is manifested by moving from the duty to obey God to a profound desire for Him which motivates our obedience.

Jesus was asked to define the “great commandment in the Law,” Matthew 22:37. He referred to Deuteronomy 6:5. The command is to “love” God! In His command, we come face to face with the connection between duty and devotion. We are obligated to love God. However, Love is a choice. Before the Christian’s obligation can be met, there must be a desire to carry out that duty.

The Bible says that men are not born with a desire to love God. On the contrary, the Bible teaches that the natural man is an enemy of God. God must change a sinner and give him a desire to love Him.

The words that God caused the human authors to use for love are critical for understanding. The New Testament word in Matthew 22:37 has at its heart the idea of sacrifice. It is referred to as sacrificial love. In Deuteronomy 6:5, the word for love conveys the meaning of total devotion. God’ command written by Moses called God’s people to a total devotion, to submit to Him and to demonstrate their devotion by a holy life.

Duty is not enough to satisfy God’s command. There must be a desire to fulfill this duty. God gives that desire. Jesus said that one must be born again in order to see the Kingdom of God, John 3:3. As regeneration precedes faith; so too desire precedes duty. God changes the heart and gives the desire to obey Him. This desire motivates the believer to obedience as an act of devotion to God.

All Man’s actions are dictated by desire. The same is true for Christians. The difference between Christians and non-Christians is God’s grace in changing our desires when He makes us new creations. We as Christians have a desire to love God with our whole heart, soul, and strength because He gave it to us. When we don’t desire God, the Holy Spirit convicts us to confess our sins to Him. God promised believers, “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”, 1John 1:9. God is always faithful to His promise to forgive because of the atonement of Christ.

To summarize, Jesus said knowing the truth sets one free, John 8:32. Knowing Jesus is freedom. God has set His people free from the bondage of sin through Jesus Christ. We have been freed from sin and given a desire for God.

Many Christians are in bondage by legalism or moralism. Remember God’s commands are to be obeyed. Also remember that legalism and moralism are tools of manipulation. Therefore, obedience taught as a duty alone is bondage. But the obedience that proceeds from the desire God gives is freedom. Growing in the knowledge and love of Christ moves one from duty to devotion. The greatest evidence that God has given the desire for Him is the priority one places upon worship of Him.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The King of Glory”

“The King of Glory”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” Psalm 24:1

The God who spoke and all things came into being is the King and Ruler of all Creation. He rules all things and owns all things. God ordains all things that come to pass. He provides all things for the enjoyment of His people.

David wrote Psalm 24 roughly 3,000 yrs. ago. We sometimes think that man in our time knows more than David did. We think that we’ve grown in wisdom, strength and knowledge since king David’s time. In many ways, however, we have actually regressed.

David was king in Israel by God’s anointing. He ruled Israel under the authority of God. David knew that God was the sovereign Creator of all things. David was also confronted in his sins of adultery and murder. David acknowledged his sin and appealed to God’s mercy for forgiveness. David’s sin was forgiven but his household experienced the consequences of his sin during his lifetime.

A comparison of our society with King David’s reveals that little growth has taken place. Paul predicted our current culture accurately in 2Timothy 3:1ff. We’ve become lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant and abusive, disobedient, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, etc. Even some of our leaders think that they are above God’s law. They govern to suit their own self-interest. They have a thirst for power forgetting that they are God’s ministers for the good and welfare of all people. But, there will come a day when they will have to give an account to the only King of Glory.

In light of this there is a celebration approaching. The Christian Church will celebrate Palm Sunday. This is the day on which the church remembers Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, 2,000 yrs. ago.

The people cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:9. The leaders read Psalm 24 in the Temple and were blind to the King of Glory in their midst.

At the same time the people begged God to save them and do it now the leaders read “Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors that the King of glory may come in.” Psalm 24:9 Both were blind to the meaning of their words.

Evidence of their blindness was revealed less than one week later. The cry of “Let him be crucified” was heard in the city. Matthew 27:23. In less than one week Jesus’ position before the people changed from the object of praise to the object of hatred. Had I been there I would have joined the crowd. But God broke into my man-centered life causing me to see the truth.

A celebration of the King of Glory is what we all need. We must remind ourselves that we would have been right there with the crowd crying “Crucify him”. But, by the sovereign grace of the King we see the truth.

The time-tested hymns of the church convey sound doctrine. One such hymn, “All Glory, Laud, and Honor” is traditionally sung on Palm Sunday. The first verse declares the truth of God’s plan of redemption. ”All glory, laud, and honor to thee, Redeemer, King, to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring! Thou art the King of Israel, thou David’s royal Son, who in the Lord’s name comest, the King and blessed One!”

I can picture worshipers processing around the sanctuary while waving palm branches. All who affirm the truth of the King of Glory who is Jesus have been given eyes to see Him as their Lord and Savior. At one point in your life you may have been counted with those who cried crucify Him. But, now, I pray that you have embraced the truth revealed in God’s word. May you have a joyous celebration of the coming of the King of Glory. May you with the rest of God’s people wait with eager expectation for the King to return. Place your hope in Him!

“He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20