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

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “What You Need to Know”

“What you need to know”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

If there is anything you need to know it is this: you absolutely need to know the truth! “Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”’ Jesus also said that He is the truth, John 14:6. As He prayed on the night of His passion, Jesus said that God’s word is truth, John 17:17.

So then, if you want to be free and have an intimate relationship with God, it is imperative that you know the truth.

It is comforting to know that there really is objective truth. Every time that I open my Bible, I know that I am reading the truth. The Psalmist wrote, “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” Psalm 119:160 The Bible is inerrant and infallible. God never lies and He is always reliable.

Knowing that there is objective truth, it is often frustrating to turn on the TV and watch the latest news. Instead of news, we often get the latest spin on the news. Newspapers are no different, this one being the exception that proves the rule. Our culture appears to value commentary on events rather than the facts surrounding events. Even politicians speak around the truth. The truth is used rather than told.

Yet, ultimate truth can be known. God has revealed Himself by what He has made, His creation and He has condescended to reveal Himself in His word written and supremely in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The terms general and special revelation refer to this knowledge respectively. General revelation is God’s revelation of Himself in Creation, Psalm 19:1 and Romans 1:20. Special revelation is the Bible, 2Timothy 3:16; 2Peter 3:16. Finally, the full revelation of God is His only begotten Son, Jesus, Hebrews 1:1-2. Apart from God’s special revelation leading to Jesus as He is offered in the gospel no one can know God in an intimate and saving relationship, John 17:3.

God radically changes a sinner’s life and gives him or her eyes to see the truth. There is no other way to live that is free. God speaks truth. God is truth. No matter what men try to tell you, know that God is always telling you the truth.

All who know Jesus as He is offered in the gospel readily affirm what I’ve just written. When Jesus asked His disciples if they were considering deserting Him, Peter responded by saying, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68.

There is no reason to sugar coat the truth. The fact is, unless a man or woman comes to acknowledge the truth, there is only eternal judgment in store for him or her.

I’ve read that old time gospel preachers used to say, “God said it; I believe it; that settles it.” Here’s a more accurate statement, “God said it that settles it.” There is something very imposing about the truth. It is what it is. No one can change it. In fact, it doesn’t matter if the truth is not received on the one hand. But, on the other hand, it matters for eternity. Man’s only reasonable response to the truth is to submit to it. Seeking to mitigate or spin the truth does dishonor to God and damage to the hearers.

Luke recorded Peter and John’s appearance before the ruling council in Jerusalem because of what they were teaching concerning Jesus Christ. Peter stood before that council of very powerful men and spoke without any mitigation or spin. Peter said, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

With the courage of his convictions and the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter spoke the truth that must be known for all time. Here’s the unveiled truth in the words of Jesus, “Repent and believe in the gospel, “Mark 1:15. Knowing this truth is a gift from God. Knowing this truth leads to acting upon it. Knowing this truth is eternal life.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Holiness”

“Holiness”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We all use the word “perfect” in ways that are not part of its meaning. We say something is perfectly normal. We look at the weather and say, “It’s a perfect day”. Sometimes we get excited by a new purchase and describe it as the perfect house, or perfect car, or perfect (you fill in this blank).

There’s always something wrong with what we describe as perfect. The response of some to these “perfect” items might be “Nothing is perfect”. The truth is: God alone is perfect. Jesus said that God alone is good. But both perfect and good are part of God’s self-revelation. God is perfect because He has no faults. God is good because His character is the definition of good. Both perfection and goodness are attributes of God. But when God described Himself more comprehensively, He used a different word. God used the word “holy”. Moreover, God commanded His people to “be holy (He said) because I am holy” Leviticus 11:44 and 1Peter 1:16. Since God both said that He is holy and that His people are to be holy, we would do well to understand the meaning of holy. For everything that the church is and does must be holy, that is, if we profess to be obedient to the word of God.

I’ve found it helpful to picture an umbrella in understanding the holiness of God. If you were to list all of God’s attributes, His faithfulness, sovereignty, goodness, love, etc. and place them under an umbrella, the umbrella would be God’s holiness. The holiness of God more fully describes each of His attributes. For example, because God is holy, there is no one as faithful as God, nor is there anyone as good as God. God is uniquely perfect because He is holy.

God’s holiness sets Him apart from all. He is totally other, as some theologians put it. The Westminster Shorter Catechism’s first question and answer deals with man’s purpose. “What is the chief end of Man?” The answer is, “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” To glorify God is to attribute all the honor, respect, majesty, etc. to Him. In other words, man is to live knowing that God is holy, and everything is due Him.

We are given glimpses of God’s holiness in the Bible. Isaiah 6: 1-5 is probably the most familiar. The occurrence is God’s commission of the Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah is allowed to see the throne room of God in heaven. The vision that he received included great winged creatures crying out to each other “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts…” “Holy” is the only word repeated three times in describing God. Twice would be emphasis in the Hebrew Language similar to the English use of an exclamation point. But three times is supreme emphasis.

The basic meaning of “holy” is unique but there is also a range of meaning. The range is from unique to absolute perfection. Holy and variations of it are used to describe things and people whom God sets apart. For example, the Apostle Paul referred to the children of one believing partner in marriage as “holy”. Things and people that God sets apart for Him are called holy.

We understand consecration and sanctification in light of the word holy. Both words are descriptive of God’s action in setting people apart for Himself and changing those whom He sets apart to be like Christ.

So what? What does God’s holiness have to do with our lives? The simple answer is everything! Everything in the Christian’s life is to reflect God’s holiness. All else is sin. The Apostle Paul wrote that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, Romans 3: 23. Yet, God requires perfection. God requires that those who will see Him face to face must be holy as He is holy. In this life: our lives, our worship, and all that we are and do must reflect the holiness of God. The gospel is the only means given by God for our holiness. Those whom God justified, He glorified, Romans 8:30. God glorifies His people by sanctifying us. He makes us holy. By God’s work of grace, He continues to sanctify us so that when we see Jesus face to face, we will be holy. Jesus as He is offered in the gospel is our only hope.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “World Views”

“World Views”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Haven’t you ever asked yourself the question? “Why don’t they see what I see?” Sometimes we’re dealing with perspectives. But other times we are dealing with reality. Everyone has a perspective of an issue based upon their past or current experiences. Theologians call those kinds of perspectives “presuppositions”. Yet, when the issue of reality is involved, perspectives are usually irrelevant. What is… is.

I believe that confusing our perspective of an issue with reality is an all too common occurrence. You may have heard the term “World View”. This is the term that concerns reality. Simply stated, a world view is one’s view of reality. There are basically two kinds of world views. One is biblical and the other is man-centered. A biblical world view looks at reality knowing God is at the center of the Universe. The man-centered world view sees everything revolving around man. A God-centered world view is based on absolute truth. A man-centered world view has not absolutes except that there are no absolutes.

The concern is truth. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life”, John 14:6. The word “truth” means that which is real. Jesus is reality. For us to fully understand reality and live in the real world, Jesus must be at the center of our life.

Truth is not dependent upon our embracing it. The Roman Governor, Pilate, uttered an understanding of truth which many today still hold. He said, “What is truth?” in response to Jesus who said, “I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth.” John 18:37,38 For Pilate, truth was irrelevant. From is perspective, what really mattered was who had the most power. Without knowing it, he pointed to the One who has supreme power, God.

Genesis 1:1 declares, “In the beginning God…” God is eternal. God is self-sufficient. God created everything that we see. The Apostle Paul wrote that God has revealed His invisible attributes by what He has made, Romans 1:20. Jesus said if His disciples would abide in His word, they would know the truth and be set free, John 8:31-32.

For example, the reason many in our society may not see what I see is because of the failure to acknowledge reality. Man’s refusal to see the truth or accept reality is at the heart of the problem!

I propose that the world view on which one can be confident of seeing the truth is the God-centered one. Truth is objective. Reality is not in the eye of the beholder. Here is the truth; the only self-existing being, God. He is the same yesterday, today and forever, Hebrews 13:8. All truth and reality proceed from Him.

Obviously, much of society, some might even suggest that most of society doesn’t look at life through a biblical world view. The basis of a man-centered world view, namely, moral relativism is the primary means by which truth and reality are suppressed.

The man-centered world view is attractive because it suits man’s sinfulness. The Apostle Paul wrote that men suppress the truth in unrighteousness, Romans 1:18. Jesus said that men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil, John 3:19.

It must be clearly stated at this point that seeing life through a God-centered world view is necessary not only for Christians but for all men. The reason is obvious. The reason is truth/reality is not in the “eye” of the beholder. There are absolutes whether we think there are or not. There is a supreme being whether we think He exists or not. The Supreme Being who has revealed Himself as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit has established absolutes. Theologians refer to these absolutes that apply to all men as Natural Law. God established laws by which all nature is governed. God has also established moral law. All men have the moral law on their hearts. By God’s moral law, we are able to know whether something is right or wrong.

As a Pastor, I am accountable to God to ask you, “What is your world view?” “How do you decide what is right or wrong?” I close with the words of the Psalmist, Psalm 119:130, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” And the words of Jesus who said that the word of God is eternal and unbreakable, Mathew 5:17-18 and John 10:35.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “God’s Means of Grace”

“God’s Means of Grace”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“… “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”’ Hebrews 13:5 “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” Joshua 1:5

So many church attendees have heard that the gospel is something to “settle” with God. An invitation is given to “accept” Jesus and be saved. After accepting Jesus, one then pulls himself up by his own boot straps and gets on with life, or worse, now that your saved you can just go about life as usual!

This type of proclamation is reflective of man-centered religion, referred to as the theology of glory, where suffering is not considered to be part of life in Christ. The real question is not whether one accepts Jesus, but that one is accepted by Him!

The promise God made to Joshua and repeated in the letter to the Hebrews is critical as those whom He chooses live by faith and not by sight, 2Corinthians 5:7. Nothing happens in life, especially salvation, unless God does it. To this end, God has provided the means by which Christians live. They are referred to as God’s means of grace. There are three prominent ones: the Word, Sacraments and Prayer.

There is an initial statement that I must make. The means of grace are for those who have been saved, are being saved and will be saved. In other words God’s means of grace are for Christians.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism Q/A #88, calls them “outward means whereby Christ communicates (to believers) the benefits of redemption.”

The first is the Word. As a believer reads the Bible he is strengthened by God to live for Him. This does not only refer to our private reading of Scripture, but also to its public reading. A distinctive of Reformed Worship is the reading of Scripture in the worship service. In agreement with the Bible, the Ancient Church and the Protestant Reformers, the public reading of Scripture is an element of biblical worship. As such, it is separate and distinct from the text used by the preacher for exposition. Certainly, the preaching of the word is an integral part of this means of grace. As the preacher expounds a text of Scripture, making clear its meaning, grace is received by those who have placed their trust in God. God may also choose to raise a spiritually dead person to life through the preaching of the word in concert with His Holy Spirit during corporate worship. However, the salvation of the lost is not the primary purpose of corporate worship.

The second means of grace are the Sacraments. There are two, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Both are called holy ordinances. Both were instituted by Christ. Baptism was given to the church by Christ, Matthew 28:18-20. Baptism is a sacrament that looks forward to what God will do. It is a sign of the work of the Holy Spirit. It is a seal that authenticates God’s promise. It is properly administered to believers and their children. The Bible calls the other sacrament the Lord’s Supper. It is a sign and seal of the New Covenant in the blood of Christ. In this ordinance, the believer looks back at the finished work of Christ on his behalf. It is reserved for those who have been baptized and have made a profession of faith. As either or both of these sacraments are administered in accordance with Christ’s institution grace is received by those who have professed faith in Christ.

Third and finally, Prayer is a means of grace. It is communication with God comprised of adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication. Prayer is a means by which God bends our wills to His. We hear from Him and He has promised to answer our prayers in ways that are beyond what we can think or ask.

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He began by saying, “When you pray”, Luke 11:2. He assumed that disciples would pray. Jesus has given believers access to God’s throne of grace. Christians are exhorted to approach His throne with confidence, Hebrews 4:16.

So then, there are three: The Word, Sacraments and Prayer. Each is God’s means of nourishing and strengthening His people. We depend upon His grace, certainly given in these means in order to grow up in Christ.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Covenant Theology”

“Covenant Theology”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
One of the main vehicles used in society that stipulate requirements for establishing relationships is a contract. A contract is a written or verbal agreement between two or more parties that establishes their mutual relationship. All the parties commit to adhere to the agreed upon requirements. The failure of one party to meet their contractual obligations is called a breach of contract. A breach may support the other parties’ desires to make the contract null and void. Men and women freely enter into contracts in order to legally bind all the parties to perform the requirements of the agreement.

We know that contracts are entered into voluntarily and that they are agreements made between equals.

The Christian Faith also includes the idea of contracts, but with significant differences. The main difference is that the Christian Faith’s contract is called a Covenant and it is not made between equals!

The distance between God and Man is so great that God initiated covenants to establish the requirements for a relationship with Him. (Taken from Chapter Seven, Paragraph 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith)

The Bible reveals two major covenants that God made with Man. Both are revealed in Genesis. The first of these is called the Covenant of Works, Genesis 2:17. God promised life to Adam if he obeyed God’s command. The consequence for disobeying God was death.

The second covenant that God made with Man is called the Covenant of Grace. It is first revealed in Genesis 3:15. In the Covenant of Grace, God promised to crush the head of Satan through the “seed” of the Woman. Not only is this the first revelation of the Covenant of Grace, but it is also the first prophecy of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. God declared that Jesus, born of a virgin, would deal a mortal blow to Satan. This was accomplished on the Cross. Jesus defeated Satan and won the victory over death, confirmed by His resurrection, Hebrews 2:14; 1Corinthians 15:54-57.

There are many other covenants in Scripture, for example, God’s Covenant with Noah, Abram, Israel in the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. Yet all of these are part of the Covenant of Grace. It is within the context of what is called Covenant Theology that the gospel is set and understood.

Charles Spurgeon once said, “The doctrine of the covenant lies at the root of all true theology. It has been said that he who well understands the distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, is a master of divinity.” God chose to reveal His faithfulness by way of covenants, supremely the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace.

The Bible also speaks of another covenant, one not made with Man. This covenant was made within the God-Head, the Trinity. It was made in eternity. It is called the Covenant of Redemption, John 3:16; Hebrews 13:20-21. This covenant was made between God the Father and God the Son. The essence of the Covenant of Redemption is that the Son agreed to lay down His life in accordance with the Father’s will to accomplish redemption for those whom the Father would give Him. Jesus is the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world, 1Peter 1:19-20; Revelation 5:6.

One of the clearest promises of God was made in Genesis 17:7. “I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.” God promised to be God to Abram and to the seed of Abram who is declared by the Apostle Paul to be Christ, Galatians 3:16. This is God’s promise and Jesus is the seed through whom God fulfilled His Promise. The consummation of God’s promise is yet to come. Revelation 21:3, “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”’

God is always faithful to His Word. God has declared that He will accomplish all that He has promised. The Apostle Paul wrote, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself, “2Timothy 2:13. Christians are secure not because of our faithfulness but only because of the faithfulness of our Covenant God. Covenant Theology emphasizes God’s faithfulness!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Fundamentals of the Christian Faith… Knowing the Basics”

The Fundamentals of the Christian Faith… Knowing the Basics
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Biblical Faith includes three parts. They are: knowledge, assent and trust. My focus in this article is the first, knowledge. Simply stated, having faith assumes a certain body of information about the object. The Christian Faith is not some self-contained “force” like the Star Wars expression, “May the force be with you.”

I am a Presbyterian by conviction. I have brothers and sisters in Christ who belong to many different Christian Denominations. When we push aside our denominational differences, we all affirm several basic truths revealed by God concerning our common faith in Jesus Christ.

Theologians and pastors of the early twentieth century called these basic truths the fundamentals of the Christian Faith. These men were given the name, Fundamentalists. They sought to list what every Christian throughout the ages affirmed to be true about God’s plan of redemption. They arrived at five basic truths. History recorded these truths as the Five Fundamentals of the Christian Faith. They are:
1. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are inerrant;
2. Jesus was born of a virgin;
3. The atonement of Christ was full, penal and substitutionary;
4. Jesus’ resurrection was a bodily resurrection;
5. The miracles recorded in Scripture were authentic.
The first is the basis of the other four. The inerrancy of Scripture means that the Bible is without error. It does not refer to translations of the Bible but to the original autographs. Now, if you have been reading and studying the Bible for any length of time, I’m sure you’re aware that we do not possess any original autographs of Scripture. But we do have thousands of New Testament manuscripts, the blessing of the oral tradition of the Ancient Hebrew people (the Masoretic text), the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, circa 250 B.C.)

Using textual criticism, the original can be reconstructed. For example, nearly all of our English translations are based on the work of the textual critics. The end result is that you can be assured that when you open your Bible and read it you are reading the truth of God. Textual Criticism increases the accuracy of the Bible! It does not challenge it.

Second, the virgin birth was challenged during the period known as the Enlightenment. The fact of Jesus’ birth was challenged because, they said, it’s naturally impossible. But, that’s exactly the point! Jesus was born outside of the natural course. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and Mary. If you look at Genesis 3:15, you’ll notice that it was the “seed” of the woman who would bruise or crush Satan’s head. The Messiah was born without sin because He was born out of the natural course. Jesus was the sinless and perfect sacrifice. Without the virgin birth, we’re all still dead in our sins! The Apostle Paul wrote, “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2Corinthians 5:21

Third, the atonement of Christ was substitutionary. He took our place. It was penal. He was punished for sin. Jesus bore the full wrath of God. It was full and complete. There is no other sacrifice for sin. The Apostle John wrote that Jesus is the propitiation for “our” sins and not for “ours” only by for the sins of the whole world, 1John 2:2 Jesus’ last words were “It is finished”, John 19:30.

Fourth, a man got out of the grave! The body that was buried was the body raised in glory. The Bible says that if Christ was not raised, our faith is in vain and we are the most to be pitied, 1Corinthians 15:12-19.

Fifth and finally, miracles are supernatural events. Only God can break into His Created world and ordain a miracle. The miracles recorded in Exodus, of Joshua, of Elijah, of Jesus and Apostles were factual occurrences.

Jude, the half-brother of Jesus said,” Contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints,” Jude 3. The fact of the matter is, we don’t as Christians make up our faith. We believe in a faith that has been revealed by God and given in His word written, the Bible.

The Five Fundamentals of the Christian Faith simply condense and articulate biblical doctrine that all who profess Christ affirm.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Upsetting Your World”

“Upsetting Your World”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“In the beginning God…” are the four words that upset my world. My hope is that they will upset yours as well! These words are revealed truth which can also be called reality. You know reality is that sticky truth that hits you in the face like a brick wall. Some may think that reality is what you make of it or believe it to be. Try standing in front of a brick wall and imagining that it’s not there. Then try running as fast as you can in the belief (even strongly held) that you’ll just pass through that wall. The result is obvious; so too, the confrontation of these four words.

Just like that wall, God’s words knocked me off of my throne. I was a Christian when it happened, but clearly, reality and truth are true for all or not true at all.

Genesis 1:1 declared clearly that there was a time nothing existed; therefore, God made everything out of nothing! Nothing existed in the beginning except God Himself. He spoke and all things leapt into existence. This God changed me. He made me a new creation. His words told me that I had no right to claim the throne of my life, to think that I was “in charge.”

In making me a new creation, He gave me new desires, specifically a new desire, a profound and deep desire for Him. The Great “I Am” is the only self-existent being. All things that exist proceed from Him. I am because He is. We know Him in Jesus who said, “Let Me tell you how to say Yahweh in Greek (I’m paraphrasing), It is Jesus.” (read the “I Am” sayings in John’s Gospel.)

The confrontation came when I realized that He alone had the right to claim ownership of me and sovereign control of my life. There was no other reasonable response that a creature (me) could make to the Creator. Since all existence proceeds from Him, “In Him we live and move and have our being”, Acts 17:28 ESV, the claim of an absolute self-determination is unachievable.

At the risk of repeating myself, let me re-phrase. Before there was anything there was God. By His sovereign will alone He chose to make everything out of nothing. Opposed to this is the view of eternal matter. A once great secular philosopher of the 21st Century said, “The cosmos is all there ever was or ever will be.” Acceptance of this view, in my opinion, requires a blind leap of faith into the dark rather than a step into the light.

King David said it best, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.” Psalm 19:1, ESV

In light of God’s confrontation of Man’s idea of an autonomous, self-directed control over life, the question must be asked. How do you or have you responded to the reality that you’re not in control?

The critic might say that this view of reality is demeaning and renders men and women to be pawns. But just the opposite is true. Understanding that you’re not God and He is brings you to the profound realization that He has condescended to reach down and bless man above all creatures. David wrote in Psalm 8:5 about man, “You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” In light of the whole of Scripture, this supremely points to Jesus Christ but declares the significance of the entire human race.

You are free to ignore this reality. But, for the sake of repetition, it would be like ignoring the wall I mentioned in my introduction. So then, “How do you respond to the truth that you’re a creature made by the Sovereign Creator? The simple, not easy, response is one word, “Submit.” Men continue to suppress this truth in unrighteousness. Nevertheless, I call you to submit your life to the truth.

This is not a matter of perspective or experience. Your submission to the Creator is a matter of reality!

Let me emphasize a propositional truth. Whether you believe God’s revelation of His sovereignty or not is irrelevant. That is, God is not anxiously awaiting your acceptance. Your belief or unbelief will not impact Him in the least. But, concerning your life, knowing that you are a creature in the hands of the Creator will frame your existence.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Salvation”

“Salvation”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

As we prepare to worship God on each Lord’s Day, the issue of salvation is critical. I suggest to you that salvation is always and fundamentally the critical issue not only of worship on the Lord’s Day but also for all of life! Take for example Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. The people cried “Hosanna” as Jesus rode into the city. The meaning of their cry was “Save us now we pray!” Matthew 21:15

Of course, salvation can be applied to any dire circumstance. In Jesus’ day the people sought to be delivered from Roman rule. Every adverse circumstance of life drives us all to seek deliverance, another word for salvation.

Yet, ultimate, that is, eternal salvation is to be delivered from the wrath of God. The Bible refers to this salvation in three ways. Salvation is a past event, an ongoing condition and a future hope. “For by grace you have been saved…” Ephesians 2:8, “… (the gospel) by which you are being saved…” 1Corinthians 15:2, and, “for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” Romans 10:13.

All too often pastors, even I, sometimes ask the wrong questions. That is, we sometimes ask questions that others aren’t asking. Before Christ broke into my life, I must admit that the question of salvation, that is, ultimate salvation, was not in the forefront of my thoughts.

Before I became a Christian, my response to the question of salvation would certainly have been, “I don’t need to be saved! I’m doing fine; saved from what?” If someone would have asked me, “Brother, are you saved?” I would have probably laughed and/or been offended. The problem now is that I know the truth about myself. I was far from fine. I needed to be saved; to be continually delivered and to have the certain hope of heaven. I was blinded by sin. I was dead in sin and unable to see my need to be delivered.

By God’s grace alone, I now know the profound nature of the question. The following statement may offend some. Yet, it must be stated because it is the truth revealed by God. Ultimate salvation is being saved by God from God.

John 3:16, because God the Father chose to demonstrate His love, He gave Jesus so that whoever would believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life. God must cause an individual to see his need. When confronted with his sinfulness, a jailer cried out to the Apostle Paul and his companion, “what must I do to be saved?” The answer given to him is the timeless answer for all. “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your whole household” Acts 16:30-31.

When the Apostles Peter and John were confronted by the religious authorities in Jerusalem for proclaiming the bodily resurrection of Jesus, they told them God’s command for salvation. They said, “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven (Jesus) given among men by which we must be saved” Acts 4:12.

Now the hard truth, salvation is by God from God. All men are born dead in sin. There are no natural children of God. The children of God are adopted. God alone saves men and women from His wrath. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church of Ephesus that all men are naturally children of God’s wrath. He said that God is “rich in mercy”. He extends grace to those whom He chooses. Therefore, salvation is by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. God has given the only means to be spared from His wrath. The wrath of God is the necessary response of the Holy God against sin.

Years ago, while teaching a Bible study concerning salvation and a young woman got visibly upset with the term “the wrath of God.” She said to me and to the entire class that her god was a god of love. I responded saying that truly God is love. And, God is holy. The holy God and sin cannot co-exist. Nothing imperfect can enter heaven. This isn’t my opinion. This is simply the clear teaching of the Bible. The depth of God’s love cannot be understood apart from knowing His holiness.

Jesus, the full revelation of God, the second person of the Trinity, will come again to judge all mankind. How will you meet Him?