Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Refusing to Believe…”

Refusing to Believe…
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The most reliable book, the Bible, documents in great detail the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus! The gospel of Mark records the event of Jesus’ resurrection. Mark wrote that the resurrected Jesus “appeared first to Mary Magdalene,” Mark 16:9. Matthew and Luke also recorded the same incident.

The Apostle John wrote that Mary Magdalene ran to tell Peter. John recorded that Peter and John went to Jesus’ tomb and found it empty. They had to see what Mary reported. After all they couldn’t just believe a woman’s testimony. They found that Mary had reported what she saw accurately.

Centuries earlier the writers of the Psalms prophesied of the person and work of Christ, E.G.: Psalms 2, 3, 8, 16, 22 and 23. Isaiah wrote of the “Suffering Servant” who would bear the sins of His people and reign forever, Isaiah 42-66.

Ancient historians also documented Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection, E.G. Josephus, “the Antiquities”.

The followers of Jesus all preached His resurrection. The church has continued to preach the resurrection of Jesus for 2,000 yrs. Persecution did not dampen or alter the message. It only served to spread it. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” as stated by Tertullian (160 – 225 AD).

Yet unbelief persists. The world has attempted every possible means to crush the truth of Jesus’ bodily resurrection and men continue in their refusal to believe!

Resurrection does not simply mean to be made alive again. Lazarus (John 11) was made alive again by Jesus simply commanding him to come out of the grave. Lazarus was resuscitated. He was made to live again as a mere mortal. Lazarus subsequently died as all men do. Jesus however was resurrected. He got out of the grave with a glorified body. He was seen as a man; He was recognized by those who knew Him. He ate with His disciples. Yet, He appeared to His disciples who were in closed rooms. He was able to move to another place in an instant. The resurrected Jesus ascended into heaven. The Lord of glory is physically in heaven. He rules all things from heaven. He is on the right hand of God, the place of power and authority.

The resurrected Jesus is called the “first born among many brothers”, Romans 8:29. All who are in Christ will receive glorified bodies like His when He comes again to judge the living and the dead. If we remain alive when Christ returns, we “shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet,” 1Corinthians 15:51, 52.

The biblical and historical evidence is overwhelming for Jesus’ resurrection. In light of so great a body of factual documentation, it would seem unlikely that men would persist in unbelief. But unbelief is all around us.
Jesus said the reason is that men loved darkness rather than light, John 3:19.

Every Lord’s Day, Sunday is a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. The Christian Church changed the Sabbath Day for Worship to the first day of the week because of Jesus’ resurrection. Many will visit churches on each Lord’s Day, perhaps, some for the first time. Some only make it their practice to go to church two or three times a year. Prayers will be said. The Scriptures will be read. Everyone will be looking forward to an uplifting sermon from the Pastor. Yet the hearts of many will remain cold to the truth. There will likely be no acknowledgement of the impact of the Resurrection of Jesus on their lives.

Nevertheless, the place to be on each Sunday is a local church that proclaims the pure gospel. God has chosen the means by which He saves His people. God’s ordinary means to save the lost is the preaching of His word, Romans 10:14-17.

The Westminster Confession of Faith states, “The visible church… is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.”

My prayer for is that many would attend a local church where the word of God is faithfully preached, so that the word of God in concert with the Spirit of God will effectually call men and women to Himself.

I urge you to find a church shaped by God’s word rather than one that seeks to be like culture, and which is committed to making you “feel” better about yourself! Believe the truth!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “It’s not about me.”

“It’s not about me.”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning and your faithfulness by night.” “It is good to give thanks to the LORD…”

What a radical thought! It is indeed a good thing to thank God. This verse is one of the extreme understatements in the Scriptures. Yet, even though it is generally affirmed, I believe that it is rarely understood so that it can be acted upon. Oh, we say prayers of thanksgiving for various things, but to look to God and know that He is the giver of everything is rare. James wrote, “Every good and every perfect gift is from above…” James 1:17a

The superscription for Psalm 92 declares it to be a “Song for the Sabbath”. The Sabbath was the day set apart to God. The New Testament believers set the first day of the week apart to the Lord Jesus because He was raised from the dead on the first day of the week. The Sabbath was and continues to be an act of commitment by those who profess faith declaring that everything is about and for God not man.

The Psalm is often used on the Lord’s Day precisely because it directs all attention to the LORD as is appropriate for Sunday Worship.

The hard teaching of Psalm 92 is that everything is for God. It was a humbling realization that I was not the center of life. This principle is not only humbling for individuals, but it compels all mankind to submit to our Creator. Life is not about us. All life, all that God created is about Him. “All things were created through Him and for Him”, Colossians 1:16b. Jesus is the subject of Colossians 1:16. Jesus is the focus of everything.

Therefore, the psalmist said, “It is good to give thanks to the LORD.” He affirmed that there is no other object to which thanks can or should be given both individually and corporately. We rightly thank others but forget that God is the ultimate source of everything good. He has chosen to work through secondary causes, that is, other men and women. God is the ultimate source of every good and every perfect gift.

We all know this. Yet at the first sign of difficulty we focus attention on ourselves. We become introspective and sometimes spiral into a sense of despair. As long as the Lord tarries in coming back, there will be tribulation. Adversity will tend to challenge our security and hope in Christ. Our sinfulness will lead us to change our focus from God to us. Even during times of great prosperity, we will be tempted to look inward rather than outward toward God. The battle is constant. Our hope of victory is solely resting upon the sovereign Lord Jesus.

The Apostle Paul reminded the church in Ephesus that every Christian will be engaged in a spiritual battle. We will be regularly challenged to lose hope and doubt God’s word. Paul’s exhortation is for the believer to “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the might of His power.” Ephesians 6:10

So then, believer beware that you are not immune from worldliness and self-centeredness. There is a biblical remedy. It is God’s gift of repentance. God’s remedy is the only lasting one. God said, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” 2Corinthians 7:10

Thanking God begins with acknowledging that we are self-centered. In other words, we are sinners in His sight. May your acknowledgment lead to a deep sorrow for your sin. May that deep sorrow, a godly sorrow, lead you to turn from your sin of self and then to exercise the other gift that God gives to His people, namely faith.

Just as saving faith is a continuing reliance upon the person and work of Christ, repentance is an ongoing turning from sin. Christians live penitently. We confess our sins and turn to Jesus with the assurance that God will forgive our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness. Therefore, for all those who possess genuine repentance and faith follow the psalmist’s exhortation. “… Give thanks to the LORD.” Life is all about Him.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Do the right thing!”

“Do the right thing!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We seem to be constantly bombarded with complicated situations that call for making an informed decision. Of course, generally, all would want to do the right thing!

Therefore, one must know what is right before he can do it. Further, to know what is right, one must know the source of all that is right. The source of what is good, right and true is God. He has revealed what is good, right and true in His word. All actions must be held up to the light of Scripture to determine right or wrong. God said that blessing is the result of obeying Him and curse is the end of disobedience, Deuteronomy 11:26-28.

But, you won’t likely find a verse of Scripture that will tell you which car to buy or where you ought to work, etc. But the Bible does give principles by which decisions can be made. The Spirit of God working in concert with the word of God informs the conscience of one who has been born again, that is, a genuine Christian. The Apostle Paul wrote to Christians to hold every thought captive to obey Christ, 2Corinthians 10:5.

In addition, Romans 12:2 calls Christians not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewal of the mind, “That by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Ephesians 5:11 points out that Christians were once in darkness but are now “light in the Lord.” Therefore, believers are to live as children of light, that is, to follow Jesus, which includes doing the right thing. Disciples of Jesus Christ are told that the “fruit” of living as children of light is “found in all that is good and right and true.”

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom”, Proverbs 9:10a. In order to live wisely; to do what is right, it is necessary for man to know the Creator. God has revealed what He wants us to know of Him through His word written. Every believer is called to apply God’s word and obey Him for His glory. Thereby, believers seek to do the right thing.

Doing what is right, wise living, is the way of blessing. By ignorance or avoidance of God’s word, we will do the wrong thing and head towards destruction. Don’t be fooled by following someone who commits to do what he thinks is right. First, know yourself what is right. Then do it.

The method for knowing the right thing is not easy. The method is the systematic, intense study of the Bible and the theology which proceeds from it. This is not only a personal endeavor. God has ordained that we grow in discernment and wisdom corporately. I am speaking of the necessity of growing in a church that teaches “sound doctrine”, Titus 2:1, so that you are equipped to know the right thing and then encouraged to do it.

All that I have said above applies to Christians. Only those who have been born again are able to see the truth and thereby know the One who has revealed it. Are we then to think that only genuine Christians can do the right thing? What of the rest of mankind?

The Bible applies to both believers and non-believers. For example, God gave the Law, Exodus 20. The Law has three uses. The first is to put bounds around sin. The second is to point to man’s need for Christ and the third is to be the guide for living the Christian Life, the means of sanctification, Galatians 3:19ff The Law reveals to all men what is good, right and true. Man’s laws stand under God’s law so as to protect the innocent and punish the wrongdoer. So for a believer and a non-believer the first step in doing the right thing is to obey the law.

In my view there are two basic questions to ask when discerning what the right action is. First “Is it lawful?” and second, “Does this agree with God’s Law?”

In conclusion, God “has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

This simple and plain truth of God is perhaps more needed today than at any other time in our history.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Justice or Mercy”

“Justice or Mercy”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

God spoke through the Prophet Micah during a time of prosperity. He required His people to do justice and to love kindness (mercy) and to walk humbly before Him.

This divine imperative is simple and bears repeating. Do justice. Love Mercy. Live with a right assessment of ourselves before a sovereign God. God said that this is good. In light of this clear declaration, no one needs to struggle to know what is good.

Our good God commanded His people to do justice. God’s people are accountable to seek and apply justice. As God ordained civil authorities, He placed upon them the responsibility to rule and govern justly. What then is justice? In part, justice is fair treatment based on the law.

Therefore the application of justice requires a standard. Our civil government operates under such a standard. It is the rule of law. When authorities consider themselves above the law anarchy is not far behind. An orderly and safe society requires all citizens and their leaders to obey the rules of law that govern them.

So it is for the church. The authority of the church is under the word of God. Christ is the King and Head of the church. He exercises His Lordship through His word. Authority in the church is a granted authority. That which is just and right is determined from the Bible, the church’s standard.

The Bible teaches that to do justice is to do what is right. That which is just is right and fair based upon the standard which is the word of God written.

Micah 6:8 also declares another critical concept. The Prophet called God’s people to love kindness. The original word is also translated loving kindness, steadfast love, or mercy. The word reflects the very character of God. Justice and mercy are not opposite sides of the same coin. Mercy stands in contrast to justice. Justice applies the rule of law. Mercy is granted to law breakers. Justice is deserved. Mercy is underserved and can only be granted by the benevolent action of a ruler. Mercy and grace are the unmerited favor of God.

Following the revealed truth of God’s word, all men deserve justice. The just and right action of the holy God is condemnation. The Bible is clear on this point throughout. From Genesis to Revelation, God has revealed that all men are born spiritually dead. All men are born in bondage to sin. Sin is defined as lawlessness by the Apostle John, 1John 3:4. Adam’s sin is inherited by every human being. The Apostle Paul wrote that “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Romans 5:12

Left on our own we are all children of God’s wrath, Ephesians 2:3. It’s at this point that the cry of “It’s not fair” is often heard. The offense of the truth causes men to define God in their own view. I’ve heard the statement, “My God is a God of love. He wouldn’t send people to hell. It’s not fair or loving.” My response is that definition of God is not the God of the Bible. God has revealed Himself as holy, holy, holy, Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8.

In the light of God’s holy justice, how can we hope to be saved? The Apostles, Prophets and Jesus called people to repent and believe in the gospel. This is God’s ordained means to deliver men and women from this present darkness. The question that lays beneath God’s command to repent and believe in the gospel is “How”? How are men born dead in sin able to repent and believe? The only possible answer is by God’s grace. God extends grace to those whom He chooses. God said that He will have mercy on whom He has mercy, Romans 9:15.

King David wrote Psalm 51. He was confronted in his sin. David did the only thing that is possible. He threw himself upon the mercy of God. This is the truth of man’s only hope. There are only two alternatives. You will either experience God’s perfect justice or receive His mercy.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Heaven or Hell”

“Heaven or Hell”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
What’s the “bottom line”? What’s at stake? Jesus taught about the “bottom line”. He said, “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” Luke 9:25 In other words, there are only two options for all mankind, heaven or hell!

One of the most frequent themes of Jesus’ teaching was judgment. Jesus said that there will be a final accounting given to God, Matthew 11:20-24. He instructed His disciples to fear the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell, Matthew 10:28.

Jesus was a master teacher. He used parables to teach His followers about the Kingdom of God. He also used those same parables to confuse those who were destined to perish, Matthew 13:10-17 and Isaiah 6:9-10. All the parables of Jesus have a cumulative effect. That is, each one builds upon the previous. The final parable, Matthew 25:31-48 is about judgment. It is undeniable to all who read the Bible that God is holy and He will judge the world. Judgment has been given to the Risen Lord Jesus. When He returns, He will put an end to all that is unholy and evil.

We would do well to examine that final parable that is referred to as the “Parable of the Sheep and the Goats”. For the sake of brevity, I want to draw attention to the beginning and the end of the parable.

Jesus gave the time of judgment. He said, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory”, Matthew 25:31. The exact date was not specified. But, clearly, the day of judgment is what the prophet Joel referred to as “the Day of the LORD”. The Apostle John was given a vision of that day, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it. From His presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.” Revelation 20:11

Jesus used the title “Son of Man” when speaking of Himself. This was a familiar Old Testament description of the Messiah, the King of Righteousness. Jesus said that He would come in His glory. That is, when He returns, He will not come as the Savior, but as the King who has all glory and honor and power. He will come sitting on His glorious throne. This is figurative language describing the absolute power and authority that Jesus possesses and will exercise.

The initial actions of King Jesus are clearly stated. Jesus said that He will have all nations gathered before Him. No one will escape this divine appointment. Immediately, Jesus said that He will separate the sheep and the goats. The sheep are described as those “who are blessed by My Father”, Matthew 25:34. They are said to inherit the kingdom that was prepared for them from the foundation of the world. In other words the sheep are those whom God chose in eternity to be in Christ, Ephesians 1:4-6.

In the parable, Jesus described characteristics of sheep. The sheep discovered that as they ministered to Jesus’ brothers, they were ministering to Jesus. The sheep’s behavior was not a checklist of reasons for being “sheep”. It was a declarative statement that described the behavior of sheep.

The Bible teaches that those who are in Christ live differently by God’s grace in the Holy Spirit. In the context of the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, sheep live like sheep. James wrote about the genuineness of saving faith. “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead”, James 2:17. The Apostle Paul also wrote concerning the lives of “sheep” (believers). “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16

The Parable ends with the fact of an eternal hell. Jesus said, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” We learn that the horror of hell is separation from God’s favor. The “goats” are commanded by Jesus to depart from Him. Their eternal home was prepared by God for the devil and his angels. The goats will share this residence forever. The bottom line is the reality of heaven and hell. God has chosen those who will live with Him forever. This truth may not tickle men’s ears, but God has promised to raise the dead by His word in concert with His Spirit.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “God’s Method for Ministry”

“God’s Method for Ministry”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“He (the LORD) bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under His feet. He rode on a cherub and flew; He came swiftly on the wings of the wind. He made darkness His covering, His canopy around Him, thick clouds dark with water. Out of the brightness before Him hailstones and coals of fire broke through His clouds.” Psalm 18:9-12 (ESV) David wrote these words and through them painted a picture of the awesomeness of God. His description of God laid the foundation for the succeeding verses that declare God’s holy judgment! The true God whom David described will execute perfect justice.

As a pastor called by God and sent by the church to preach and teach His word and shepherd His people, I often ask, “How much of this God is really proclaimed in churches?” It has been said over the centuries by theologians and philosophers that man’s most basic need is to know God and oneself. Accurate knowledge of man proceeds from the revealed truth of God.

Knowing God and ourselves in relationship to Him connect our hearts to our heads. That is, making this connection motivates how we live. Ministry practices in the church begin with the revealed knowledge of God and continue as that knowledge is applied to all life situations.

The verses quoted are revealed truth. God is full of majesty. He is the one who created everything and therefore owns everything. All life is lived before Him. Therefore, it follows that all Christian ministry which is service is performed in light of and because of the knowledge of God.

On the occasion of my graduation from seminary our Commencement Speaker, Dr. J.I. Packer said, “Do not seek to interpret Scripture until you have been interpreted by Scripture.” As a minister of the gospel I am made constantly aware that my study and preparation to preach and teach the Bible is the means that God uses to change me. My conviction by the Spirit of God occurs prior to standing in the pulpit.

King David was living proof that God’s word in concert with His Spirit changed him. He wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit about the God he worshiped. In the verses quoted from Psalm 18, David wrote not only of God’s supreme majesty but also of His holy justice. Like David, we all live before this God.

In addition, the book attributed to David’s son, Solomon, says this about God’s method for life and ministry, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7.

Both King David and Solomon understood the fear of the LORD and were caused see their lives in the light of God’s word. Likewise, as we combine God’s revelation of: His awesomeness, His holy justice with the source of knowledge and understanding we discover that “fear of the LORD” is the root of life and ministry in the church.

God revealed His method for ministry. His method is this: learn who He is and apply His revealed character in every situation. God’s method stands in stark contrast to Man’s. Men suggest that proper and effective ministry in the church requires that we learn what people need and then set out to meet those needs. This has proven to grow churches larger. Yet, growing numbers does not appear to accomplish growing influence, growing holiness, or the ability to make critical decisions. When we use man’s methods we get man’s results. But when we use God’s methods, we see His results.

One problem with man’s methods is: each new circumstance requires a new program to answer it. The church becomes a program generator rather than a place where the truth is heard, lived and shared. I believe that we are seeing the results of man’s methods. More and more professing Christians are unable to articulate what they believe or why. Surveys reveal that the lifestyles of church members look like the lifestyles of the world.

My purpose in this article is not to “bash” churches. I love the church and all that she represents. I love the church so much that I believe that I am accountable to God to briefly outline His means to make us more like Christ. This is what it means to follow Jesus.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The End Times”

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

There is, it seems, a never-ending flow of books on Prophecy and the End Times. Theological experts hold the Newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other. Warnings are issued to mankind that either the world will end on a specific date that is based on some current events or that an unsuspecting public will be “left behind” when the so-called Rapture occurs.

Very few of the prophecy experts or those who promote the “left behind” theory seem to ask the one expert. His name is Jesus and He gave very specific answers to questions concerning the end of the world.

“As Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?”’ Matthew 24:3

These questions were motivated by Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. He said that not one stone would be left upon a stone, Matthew 24:2. Jesus declared what would happen in 70 A.D. The great siege of Jerusalem by the Roman army was led by Titus. The ancient Jewish Historian, Josephus recorded the total destruction of the temple and the barbaric actions of the Romans toward the Jews.

The disciples also wanted to know what Jesus’ return would be like as well as the day of the end of this world. The first answer concerning the sign of Jesus’ second coming was answered very directly by our Lord. He said that His coming would be like lightning! The book of Revelation describes Jesus’ coming in these words. “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.” Revelation 1:7

The Apostle John was allowed to see Jesus’ future coming and he sought to explain the unexplainable in words. The fact is no words are adequate to describe pure glory. But, the Revelation of Jesus Christ which was given to John was intended to reveal the certainty of Jesus’ return. All the nations will mourn because of sin. There will be great wailing by all because the time for salvation will be ended. When Jesus comes again, He will come to judge both the living and the dead. He will come not as the Savior but as the Judge.

John saw more. He saw that Jesus’ return would not be a secret! Every eye would see Him in His glory. There is no “secret rapture” recorded in the Bible. I am aware that there are some who have built an entire theology on one word that is derived from the Latin translation from which our word rapture is derived. The word in the original language is translated “caught up”. It is found in 1Thessalonians 4:17. Paul was describing what would happen to the believers who were alive when Christ returned. He said that the dead in Christ would rise first and those who were alive would be caught up in the air to meet Christ as He descended.

Likewise, Jesus spoke in a figure of speech when He said that “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.” Matthew 24:40-41 He followed that statement by calling the disciples to “Stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” Matthew 24:42 In other words, Jesus was exhorting disciples to remain prepared for His coming because no man knows when He will return. In fact, Jesus declared that in His human nature, He didn’t know when He would return. “No one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” Matthew 24:36 But, Jesus said that He would return when all the elect are gathered in. That is, when all those whom God chose from eternity have professed faith in Jesus’ person and work, the end will come.

Therefore, the vital question is not when is Jesus coming back; but are you ready to meet Him?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Man’s Responsibility”

“Man’s Responsibility”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
A famous comedian years ago made an extremely humorous but realistic statement. “The devil made me do it”, has come to be known as, “The Flip Wilson theology”. I have no reason to believe that this statement reflected Flip Wilson’s philosophy of life. When he said it, genuine laughter ensued. It remains funny for the same reason as before. It is how many live their lives.

Even the stages of construction projects reflect man’s tendency to shift the blame. I remembered that one of the stages was called the “reward of the non-participants”. Another was referred to as the “persecution of the innocent”. But each stage had an activity called “fixing the blame”. When a problem would cause construction to stop, there was an ongoing effort to fix the blame rather than solve the problem. It didn’t matter whether the blame was deserved. The important thing was to hold someone else responsible for the problem.

“Fixing the blame” is not only reserved for construction projects. It is as old as Adam and Eve. Adam sought to blame God for his failure. After all, it was God who gave him the woman, Genesis 3:12. Adam’s argument didn’t impress God. Adam bore the penalty for his sin and the entire human race fell with Adam and inherited his sin nature.

The Bible declares more about man’s sinful tendency to fix the blame to either eliminate his responsibility or mitigate it. God said, “What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live, declares the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine; the soul who sins shall die.” Ezekiel 18:2-4

God said to fix the blame, or deny responsibility was like a father eating sour grapes and his child experiencing the sour taste. God said that would not be so. Rather each one is responsible for his sin. Denying our responsibility will not make it go away. We will all stand before a holy God and give Him an account.

The way Lord and GOD are typed in your Bible is very important. Lord means Adoni, Master and the Sovereign One. GOD, with all capital letters signifies the personal and covenant name of God, Yahweh, and The Great I Am. Yahweh is a form of the Hebrew verb “to be”. Exodus 3:14, God declared that He is Yahweh, “I am who I am”. There is no debate on this issue that will amount to anything. The only true God, the Sovereign Creator, the Triune God fully revealed in Jesus who referred to Himself as “I Am”, will hold each one accountable for his actions.

This fact of Man’s responsibility was written by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Rome. “There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek (Gentile), but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek (Gentile). For God shows no partiality.” Romans 2:9-11

God’s holiness requires that He act with perfect justice. God, as the Apostle declared, does not favor any nationality, position, or individual person. All are judged based upon His perfect standard. His judgment is final. God never “winks” at sin.

The end of the Bible has these terrifying words of judgment. “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.” Revelation 20:12

Every human being deserves punishment for sin. The only way to be spared from the wrath of God is through Jesus’ perfect life and sacrifice. He is the only appeasement of God’s wrath. Man’s hope is Jesus. He alone paid the price for sins. We all deserve hell. But God is rich in mercy. Jesus took the blame for His people. “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 No one will be able to stand before God who requires perfection and blame someone else for one’s sin!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Reformed Theology”

“Reformed Theology”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“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?”’ Daniel 4:34-35

These are the words of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of ancient Babylon. He thought that he was a god and everyone and everything was subservient to him. God drove him insane but restored him after Daniel’s prophesied period of time. This great king was brought to his knees by the only sovereign God!

As a pastor of a Church, a member congregation in a Reformed Denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, I am often asked by visitors what is Reformed Theology? Why are we so adamant in describing ourselves as Reformed? My response is that Reformed Theology is Biblical Theology recovered by the Protestant Reformers. Primarily, Reformed Theology is grounded in the absolute sovereignty of God. We are adamant about our name because we are adamant in teaching, preaching and living the truth revealed by the Sovereign God who humbled the great king Nebuchadnezzar.

Nebuchadnezzar learned this truth the hard way. God humbled this man who was full of pride. God caused him to live like a wild animal. Even his appearance was changed. The Prophet Daniel described the king with these words, “He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.” Daniel 4: 33

We can choose to believe whatever we want to believe. But we are not free to define God in our own image or comfort. God has revealed Himself and one fundamental attribute of God is His sovereignty. Sovereignty means rule. When we speak of the sovereignty of God, we are referring to His absolute rule of all of His Creation.

You may be thinking, “Doesn’t every church believe that God is sovereign?” You’re right. Every church that professes belief in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ also believes in the sovereignty of God. So then, what’s this “Reformed Theology” all about? Those who claim to be reformed in faith and practice look at every aspect of life through the lens of the sovereign character of God.

For example, our salvation depends upon a sovereign God. The Bible teaches that men are incapable of turning to God. All men are born spiritually dead. Only a God who is absolutely sovereign can save us. God breaks into the life of a man causing him to see the truth of life in Jesus. We do not have the ability within us to believe in God’s only begotten Son, Jesus. God must raise us from spiritual death to spiritual life. Only a sovereign God can promise that nothing will ever separate us from His love, Romans 8:38- 39 and keep His word.

In fact, I can’t think of anything in life that doesn’t depend upon the sovereign God. The Prophet Jeremiah was in mourning over the destruction of Jerusalem. He wrote, “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 declared that God ordains everything that happens!

I can hear the skeptics, “If the sovereign God ordains everything then what’s the point of doing anything?” God did not create robots. God’s sovereignty does not contradict our wills. Every single human being will do whatever he desires. God holds us accountable for what we do. But, God’s will stands above man’s will. He acts without any encumbrances. Whatever He wills is done.

God’s rule is absolute and inclusive. The fact that all men do not submit to God’s rule does not nullify it. There will come a time when God’s sovereign rule will be seen. When Jesus, the sovereign King, returns, every creature will submit to Him. Until then the visible rule of God is seen in the church. Reformed theology affirms that the church is the visible kingdom of God.

So, “What’s in a name?” Our name represents what we believe. The one true God is absolutely sovereign in everything. Jesus Christ is the King and Head of the church.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “No Peace, No Holiness, No Heaven” (Sanctification)

“No Peace, No Holiness, No Heaven” (Sanctification)
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”
Hebrews 12:14
There are so many warnings given to Christians in the Bible! This one is perhaps the clearest and yet the most violated and misunderstood. Of course, the striving for peace is offered as the real impact of Christianity. After all Christians are supposed to be peace loving people, aren’t they? Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

The Nobel Foundation awards a Peace Prize to one who seeks to establish peace. Although in recent years, it appears to have lost a degree of objectivity by focusing on words regardless of actions. Nevertheless, the prize is still highly esteemed. Our culture values the virtue of striving for peace.

Christians are called to be people of peace, putting their words into action. Rather than simply talking about peace, they are to actually demonstrate it in their lives by striving for it. The word translated “strive” also means to pursue, run after or chase. Christians are to be known as people who live peaceably with others, as much as it is possible, or as much as peace depends upon us, Romans 12:18.

King David in Psalm 34, verse 14 wrote, “Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”
Those who have been declared right with God, justified, are at peace with Him. It is “the justified” to whom the author of Hebrews declared the command to strive for peace. I believe that it is intuitively obvious even to non-Christians that the Bible teaches God’s people to live in peace. The striving for peace is an outward sign that Christians possess the inward knowledge that we are at peace with God.

But looking at the referenced quote at the top from Hebrews, the hard part of the command is the second part – to strive for holiness! Christians are sinners who have been changed by God. We have been made new creatures, 2Corinthians 5:17. We who are Christians have been given new desires. These new desires compel us to run after Jesus, to seek to obey Him.

We know that God’s declaration that a sinner is right with Him is called justification. That is just the beginning. God’s will for His people is our sanctification, 1Thessalonians 4:3. In other words God’s will for us is to be holy. This is a work of God in the life of every sinner whom He justifies. No one can get to heaven by justification alone. Justification is not all of salvation. God continues to change us from the inside. He causes us to die more and more to sin and live more and more unto righteousness (doing what is right).

I recently heard a man say that the Christian Life is not about being changed. He went on to say it’s about Jesus. True, the Christian Life is about Jesus as He is revealed in the gospel. Jesus’ name means God saves. God saves us from His wrath. We are saved by God from God. Looking to Jesus alone is the means that God has chosen to save us for eternity. No unholy or unclean person can be in the presence of the Living God. Before we can enter the gates of heaven and be in the presence of God, we must be made holy. God has promised to make those who trust in Jesus holy.

Paul wrote to the Philippians, Chapter 2, verses 12 and 13, “… work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Revelation 22:14 makes this declaration, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” Only those who continually repent of their sins and trust in Jesus will be allowed entrance to heaven.

The writer made it clear by the exclusive statement, “… without which no one will see the Lord.” Without striving for peace and holiness it will be impossible to see Jesus in heaven!