Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Psalm 23 Reveals the Ground of Assurance”

“Psalm 23 Reveals the Ground of Assurance”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“The LORD is my shepherd.” David wrote Psalm 23 and declared that Yahweh, Jehovah, the LORD was his Shepherd. He harkened back to Exodus 3:14. The Great “I Am” appeared to Moses in the burning bush. Moses asked God for His name. God told Moses that He is who He is. In other words, God declared that He is the Eternal Being. There is more to God’s name. LORD is descriptive of God’s covenantal faithfulness. The Hebrews held God’s personal name in such regard that they did not speak His name. God gave His name in the Hebrew verb “to be”. All being, all existence proceeds from the only one who has being, existence in Himself. In Psalm 23, David declared the propositional truth. Yahweh IS the one who tends and cares for every believer!

I recall one Bible teacher saying that we are misnamed as human beings. We should be called human becomings. We are always changing from one thing to another. From the time we are born we age. As we age we mature. God, however, never changes. He is. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever”, Hebrews 13:8.

When David made the declaration: “The LORD is my shepherd” he stated that he was cared for and guided by the One and only Eternal Being. His declaration was made of the absolute highest and greatest being. More, king David addressed the eternal One as his Shepherd. As such, David was declaring his intimacy with God.

King David knew the LORD. He wrote that the one who led him, cared for him and provided for his needs was the Great “I Am”. As we look at this psalm, we who know the LORD profess with David the certainty of God’s care and providence.

The Gospel of John recorded the “I Am “sayings of Jesus. John 10:11 in particular recorded who this Great “I Am” was and is. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd.”

The Apostle Paul wrote these words about Jesus who is the Great “I Am”. “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him… For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”, Colossians 1:15-19. The fullness of God was revealed in Jesus who is eternally begotten (not born) from the Father.

David wrote Psalm 23 more than 3,000 years ago. Yet all who profess Jesus as Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead have the Great “I Am” as their Shepherd as David did. King David looked forward to the person and work of Christ. We who trust in Jesus look back at Him.

God’s faithfulness revealed in the Bible from Genesis through Revelation is for all who call upon the name of the LORD. We say with King David” The LORD is my Shepherd. Therefore, I trust that the LORD will meet my needs. Because He is my Shepherd, “I shall not want!”

Jesus said do not worry about the needs of life. He said the Father knows my needs and will provide what I truly need.

Confidence in God’s providence is not exclusive to me but applies to everyone who calls upon the name of Jesus! Those who call upon the name of Jesus are those who rely upon and trust in the Person and Work of Christ.

The object of saving faith is the Jesus revealed in the Bible. He is the God-Man. He is God in the flesh. He is not a created being. He is not the Jesus of another testament, book or philosophy. He is not just a prophet. He is fully God and fully Man. This is the Jesus who promised God’s love.

There are two aspects of life in Christ to which David pointed in Psalm 23:1. They are guidance and provision. The Good Shepherd, Jesus guides and provides for His people. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. Jesus said that He knows His sheep and He calls them by name, John 10:3-14.

You who hear Jesus through His word follow Him. You belong to Him. He will provide your needs. You shall not want! Your eternity is secure in Him.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Loss is Inevitable”

“Loss is Inevitable”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We all face loss of some kind. We lose treasured things as a result of tragedies like fire, extreme weather, etc. We lose the opportunity of maintaining close relationships as a result of friends moving away. We lose jobs as a result of “down-sizing” or bankruptcies. The most stinging losses are those of people. The loss of family and friends due to death are the most stinging! The loss of life of a loved one challenges everything that we hold dear. The depth of this loss can cause despair.

God knows the significance of loss. He inspired the Apostle Paul to declare the necessity of good theology as the remedy to deal with the most significant loss, life, in this world. As we continue to live in this world, death, still has power over us. Paul wrote two significant texts concerning physical death. “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1Corinthians 15:56-57. We know that Christ was victorious over death. He is Risen! Matthew 28:6 He has ascended to the right hand of God. Revelation 5 Jesus rules all things in heaven and on earth. Matthew 28:18 We know that those who are in Christ will share in His victory. When He returns, we will see Him as He is and we will be like Him.1John 3:2

But, what about now? Paul addressed our life now in 1Thessalonians 4:13. “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as other do who have no hope.” Paul desired to inform the church. This pre-supposes that the church was ill-informed, at least to the degree that physical death was challenging the faith of believers. They didn’t know everything. It was a disturbing thought that when God made me a Christian, I didn’t immediately become an expert in doctrine! I’m sure that you’ve experienced the same realization. When I have the privilege of sitting under someone who has “walked” with the Lord for a long time I discover how much I don’t know. I continue to study the word and listen to those who teach sound doctrine. My life in Christ will continue on this track until I go to be with the Lord. The Christian Life is one of growing in the knowledge of, dare I say, sound doctrine! We learn that God grows us up in Christ not in ourselves. The Apostle knew that the only remedy for despair over loss was sound, good theology.

Notice the first phrase in 1Thessalonians 4:13. Paul wanted, he desired, that the church be informed! How sad it is that in our day, many leaders of churches desire members to “feel” as though their desires and interests are being met! Being led by our desires will only lead to despair. We are no match for the world. We are certainly no match for the issue of loss, especially the loss of life.

Our family is in the midst of this inevitable loss. My mother, who has been granted 99 years of life is in the process of dying. The words of Paul have pierced my heart as never before, “… you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” Because of the sovereign grace of God in choosing to make me His, I know that He has given me a hope that can never be taken away, even by death. I know that my mom is in the hands of the sovereign God.

I can’t fathom the depth of despair that those who do not know God experience. Even for those who profess Christ, I can’t imagine the damage that the lack of sound doctrine does to their faith. The Christian Life, as ordained by God, is a life of learning from and following Jesus as He is offered in the gospel. When the world’s challenges come, where do you go? Are you being taught the truth? Growing in the knowledge and love of Christ is essential for our life.

May the Lord use this challenge in my life to cause you to seek out a church that teaches sound doctrine. May you grow in Christ. May He deepen your trust in Him and confirm the hope that He gives to His own.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “What’s the Bottom Line?”

“What’s the Bottom Line?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
You may hear folks say, “What’s the bottom line?” in discussing concerns of life. The term is used to describe that which is the primary or the most important aspect of whatever topic is under consideration. Another way of saying the same thing is, “How does this affect me?”

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. This is the ultimate bottom line applicable for everyone!

Jesus was a master teacher. He used parables to teach about the Kingdom of God. He used parables to confuse those destined to perish, Matthew 13:10-17 and Isaiah 6:9-10. 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 evil.

We would do well to examine the final parable referred to as the “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, not specifying the exact date, but, clearly declaring the day of judgment. It is what the prophet Joel and the Old Testament Prophets 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 their behavior that was simply part of being 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.” The horror of hell is to receive the outpouring of God’s wrath for eternity. 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 it is the bottom line!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “It is Good!”

“It is Good!”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Have you ever noticed that people will determine what is good in relationship to themselves? Things, we say, are good if we receive a benefit or have our needs met. I think pastors deal with this understanding of good expressed by Church-goers. For example, we hear that a good church is one that “feels” right for me; meets my “felt needs or my family’s.

In contrast, the truth is that the “good” transcends our feelings and thoughts.

“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.” Psalm 92:1-2

The Psalmist posed a radical thought! It is good thing to thank God. This is one of the understatements in the Scriptures. Yet, even though it is generally affirmed, it seems to be rarely understood and applied. 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 it was the day of His resurrection. The Lord’s Day continues to be a corporate act of worship of the God who has promised to work all things together for the good of those who love Him, those who have been called according to His purpose, Romans 8:28.

Psalm 92 stands as a reminder that everything is from and for God. I am not the center of life! 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 One to whom thanks should be given both individually and corporately. We rightly thank others but often forget that God is the ultimate source of everything good. By His providence, He has chosen to work through secondary causes. Yet, God is the ultimate source of every good and every perfect gift.

We know this. But 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

Believers beware! 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 exercise the other gift that God gives to His people at conversion, 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 about Him. When faced with decisions, ask yourself, “What’s in it for God?”

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Trinity”

The Trinity
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

The most fundamental teaching of the Christian Church concerning the nature of God is that He is three persons in one God. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are God, one in substance yet, distinct in persons. The Westminster Confession of Faith states, “There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute… In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity…” (Chapter 2, par. 1,3)

This has been the teaching of the Church for Centuries. It is the revealed truth of God. The doctrine of the Trinity was not merely discovered in the last 150 years. All of the Ancient Creeds and Confessions of the Church declare the Trinity as the revealed truth of God.

But, there is a problem or the appearance of a problem. The word “Trinity” is not in the Bible. One would think that such a fundamental doctrine would at least be explicitly described in the word of God written. In fact, even though the word “Trinity” does not appear in Scripture, it is explicitly taught.

Let’s look at the beginning. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the deep. And God said…” Genesis 1:1-3a. The one true God created everything out of nothing. God was the initiator. The word translated “Father” in the Bible means initiator, provider and protector. From this understanding, we are told that God the Father initiated creation. Secondly, the Spirit of God is revealed “hovering” over what is declared to be chaos, nevertheless under the sovereign rule of God. Thirdly, the spoken word of God is declared to bring order out of chaos. John wrote that the word of God was with God and was God. He was speaking of the second person of the Trinity who took upon Himself human nature and was Incarnate, John 1:1-2. Likewise, Paul wrote that everything was made by Him and for Him and He holds all things together, Colossians 1:16-17.

Moving to the Psalms, King David wrote, “The LORD says to my Lord; sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” Psalm 110:1 David wrote of the “conversation” between Yahweh or, if you prefer, Jehovah, and Adoni which means Master. Jesus quoted this Scripture to confuse the Pharisees as a result of their inability to identify the Messiah namely Him. He further used this passage to declare that God’s word written cannot be broken! David under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote of the relationship between Father and Son in the God-head.

The passages in Isaiah named after the “Suffering Servant” include God’s revelation of the Trinity. Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me…” The Servant of God (Jesus) spoke through Isaiah and said God the Father had anointed Him with the Holy Spirit. Jesus read this passage in His home town Synagogue. He declared that what the prophet Isaiah wrote was fulfilled in Him, Luke 4:16-21.

Now for the most expressive passage of Scripture which reveals the doctrine of the Trinity, I turn to the New Testament, Matthew 28:19. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus commanded all of His followers to make disciples. I’m sure that you’ve been taught that the direct and emphatic command of Jesus in the Great Commission is to disciple! Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, the Only Son of God as He is offered in the gospel are to make followers of Jesus. The specific nature of discipleship is Trinitarian. That is, we are to identify followers with God who has identified Himself as the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, true followers of Jesus are identified with the Trinitarian God. We worship and serve the God who has revealed Himself as three persons yet one God. Any religious expression that does not confess the historic, biblical doctrine of the Trinity is at its heart False!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Are You a Christian?”

“Are you a Christian?”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Luke, the evangelist, wrote in Acts 11:26 that in the pagan city of Antioch, disciples were first called Christians. Disciples are followers and learners. Disciples of Jesus follow and learn from Him. He is their Master, their Lord and Savior. Therefore, a Christian is likewise a learner and follower of the Risen Lord Jesus.

Reasonable men and women would agree that Christians are followers of Jesus Christ. It is a fact that cults use the name Jesus. But, simply using His name does not mean that they are Christians. No, Christians follow and learn from Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, who is offered in the gospel.

The Jesus who is offered in the gospel is the eternally begotten Son of God. He is the One who took upon Himself human nature, Philippians 2:6ff. He is the God – Man. He is not a created being as the cults contend. Jesus is God. He is not a god. He is the God. He is the only way to the Father. He is the way, the truth and the life. John 14:6

The Apostle Paul wrote, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9 Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, what he wrote is authoritative, as is the whole of Scripture, 2Peter 3:15-16.

Salvation is only through confessing Christ to be Savior and Lord. Salvation is by grace, through faith in Christ alone! Ephesians 2:8

Many claim to be Christians. But not all are. Jesus addressed this condition in His famous sermon. Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

We must be clear on this fact. A genuine Christian is one who confesses to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We know that all lords issue commands. Jesus has issued absolute commands. His commands are His words written. Christians live under the plain and revealed word of God preserved by His providence in the Bible. The sixty six books that make up the Bible are the commands of our Lord Jesus.

We continue to hear of those who call themselves Christians affirming sinful behavior, behavior that God has expressly condemned. At the risk of offending some, let me say that those who affirm evil behavior of any kind and lead others to do the same are in no way Christians regardless of what they may say.

My entire ministry is centered on the word of God. I know that I am not sinless. God’s word says that anyone who says that he’s sinless is deceiving himself and does not have the truth. No, I sin and I seek God’s grace of forgiveness through confessing my sins to Him, 1John 1:8-9. Yet I seek to obey God’s call of me as a pastor. As do all Christian Pastors who seek to do their best to present themselves to God as those approved. I work like all Christian Pastors to righty handle God’s word. I am accountable to Him to preach and teach the truth, God’s word is truth, John 17:17

I am reminded of God’s warning given through the Prophet Ezekiel. God said that if the watchman sees destruction coming and does not warn the people their blood is on his head. If pastors fail to warn their members of the certainty of eternal judgment for living in a sinful lifestyle without conviction, they will pay a heavy price when they meet the Lord! This is exactly what is happening. Main line churches and other apostate groups are not only failing to warn their members of certain judgment but are actually affirming evil behavior, calling evil good.

I’m not only referring to homosexual behavior, but also other expressions of immoral behavior. This is a time of opportunity. Jesus told us that in this world we would have tribulation, but He has overcome the world. I exhort professing Christians to deepen their knowledge of what God has said. Peter wrote always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” 1Peter 3:15

We have the great mystery uncovered, “Christ in you the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27

Are you a Christian?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “True Religion Explained”

“True Religion Explained”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

One’s religion defines a set of beliefs that connect the cause of nature and the purpose of life. Religion is relevant for all whether one is an evolutionist or a creationist. Even those who hold to a man-centered world-view practice a religion called secular humanism.

Those who believe in the Creator, as I do, affirm that man was made for worship. Therefore, we are compelled to pursue a means by which we can relate to the Creator!

The word “religion” is a compound word. It is derived from two Latin words. “Re” means to return and “ligare” means to bind. According to its derivation, religion is descriptive of the means by which men seek to “bind” themselves to their Creator. Another way of stating the same thing is to define religion as the means by which we express reconciliation with our Creator.

Since religion involves reconciliation and all men have some form of religion, it is reasonable, even necessary, to pursue true religion. True religion is the real or factual expression of reconciliation to God. That is, true religion reflects a right understanding of man’s relationship to God. He is the Creator and we are His creatures. The Westminster Confession of Faith used the term true religion in defining the visible church. The visible church is made up of all throughout the world who profess the true religion and their children.

Philosophers say that there are many religions. You may have had a course in college that studied world religions. The late philosopher and professor, Dr. Joseph Campbell said that all religions were simply reaching for the truth. He taught that, no religion could make the claim that it was the true one. Joseph Campbell taught, wrote, and was an alumnus of Columbia University. You may remember the interviews conducted by Bill Moyers with Professor Campbell. They are still periodically aired on Public Television and are available in book form, “The Power of Myth”.

Joseph Campbell has been considered to be one of the greatest minds of the 20th Century. In the TV interview, Dr. Campbell said that the purpose of life was to “follow your bliss”.

All men can choose to believe anything. It is a sad commentary on our culture that so-called institutions of higher learning would choose to subject their students to such an erroneous, shallow and illogical teaching. Bill Moyers probed Dr. Campbell on his stated purpose of life. Moyers questioned the validity of calling Adolph Hitler an evil man. According to Campbell’s philosophy it could be said that Hitler was simply “following his bliss.”

Opposed to the relativism of Joseph Campbell there is a timeless principle that serves to guide us in recognizing that which is true. The test is general and is stated, “That which is true is true for all or not true at all.” One doesn’t need to be a Christian to apply this logic to Campbell’s hedonistic philosophy. His statement is destroyed because one person’s bliss may result in another’s terror. Evil is not relative. Evil is the depravation of good.

Returning to “True Religion”, I propose that true religion can only be described by a right understanding of who God is and who we are. True religion begins with God’s revealed truth of His character. First and foremost, He is the one who spoke and all creation came into being. He is the eternal being. He has provided the only means by which men might be reconciled to Him. We know Him in Jesus Christ, the only Son of God.

As we look at our religious practice. We must ask ourselves some fundamental questions. Is our religion centered on God? That is, do we worship God as He has commanded man to worship Him? Being centered on God demands us to think about our hopelessness apart from Him. God has revealed that all men are born spiritually dead. God must raise an individual from death to life so that he is able to see this truth. God has said that the only means of reconciliation is in Christ alone.

The most evident expression of true religion is worship. As you gather to worship with God’s people are you gathering for fellowship or to declare your praises to God, to hear from Him and to confess your trust in Him? True religion is not about community or relationships with others. True religion is about worshiping God as He has revealed Himself.

Pastor’s Viewpoint, “Fearing God”

“Fearing God”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Whether you profess to be a Christian or not, fearing God is the only reasonable response of a creature to his Creator. All too often, I’ve met professing Christians who rail against the thought of fearing God. After all, aren’t we believers in Jesus and therefore need not fear God anymore? Such a statement reveals a dangerous lack of the knowledge of God. Christians above all others should know the holiness, sovereignty and transcendence of the God who saved them.

Fearing God is the subject of much of Scripture. God’s self-revelation declares that He made all things for Himself! For example, the Apostle Paul declared to the “Epicurean and Stoic philosophers” in Athens that, “In him we live and move and have our being,” Acts 17:28. That same Apostle wrote to the Colossian Church that the Jesus who is the Savior and Lord is the One by whom and through whom all things were created. Jesus, the only Son of God holds all things together. Colossians 1:16, 17

Three additional texts of Scripture come to mind concerning man’s response to his Creator. Ecclesiastes 12:13, Matthew 10:28 and 1Peter 2:17 all provide clear motivations for fearing God.

Solomon who was declared by God to be the wisest man who ever lived expressed his deepest thoughts concerning life. He had every opportunity for greatness. He had great wealth. He had absolute worldly power over his kingdom. He pursued every passion and desire of his flesh. After evaluating all of his pursuits, he declared them all to be like hot air, “vanity of vanities”, Ecclesiastes 1:2; 12:8. Solomon repeated the vanity of man’s pursuits in the beginning of Ecclesiastes and at the end.

Solomon came to a conclusion concerning the purpose of life and all of man’s pursuits. “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandment, for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13

From Solomon, king of Israel to the Apostle Peter the fear of God was known and declared to be central. Peter wrote, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” 1Peter 2:17

Peter wrote to the church and exhorted her members to be holy people, set apart to God. He encouraged them to behave as those who have been changed by God. He called Christians to honor everyone; to sacrificially love those within the household of God and to fear God. Their fear of God was demonstrated in their worship. Fear includes a sense of awe, trembling and reverence. When the Church gathers for worship we enter a Sanctuary not an auditorium! We are gathering with other believers to meet God. Hebrews 12 reminds believers that we are being lifted up into the presence of “the assembly of the first born who are enrolled in heaven and to God the judge of all…” Hebrews 12:23.

The basis of man’s relationship to the Creator was given by Jesus. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Men fear God because of who He is and what He can do. We are His creatures! Even those who are in Christ are still Creatures made by the Creator.

Jesus said only God has absolute sovereign rule over His creatures. Therefore, we approach Him with great humility, reverence and awe. We are finite. He is infinite. We have limited power. He has absolute power. The Risen Lord Jesus said He was given all authority in heaven and on earth, Matthew 28:18.

Only fools live in denial of the absolute power and authority of God, Psalm 14:1. Only a fool would risk an eternity in hell! Only fools live without fearing God!

Do you think that your life is hidden from God? Are you blind to the reality that you are a Creature created by God? Do you think that there are numerable explanations for Creation. Do you think that somehow the “big bang” did it or that you are the product of millions of years of evolution? Do you think that there is no God to fear?

Everything you see is there because of our Creator God. He made us to worship Him. He is to be feared because He is God. He is the one who sent Jesus, His one and only Son. He is the One who saves men from and for Himself.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Finding a True Church”

Finding a True Church
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

God commands His people to “keep holy the Sabbath Day.” The “Sabbath Day” was changed by the Apostolic Church to the First Day, Sunday. The Church refers to every Sunday as the Lord’s Day. Each Lord’s Day is a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore, a professing Christian will seek to find a local church in which to invest in the Kingdom and worship the King!

God’s command is addressed to believers in the Risen Lord Jesus. A genuine believer is one who has been born again by the Spirit of God working in concert with the Word of God. When God raises the spiritually dead, He makes him a new creation. As a new creation, He gives new desires. Believers have a desire to worship God. Therefore, a believer will desire to find a body of believers with whom he can worship God.

A believer is one who has been saved, is being saved and will be saved. The Bible details God’s order of salvation, Romans 8:28-30. First, God Effectually Calls a dead person to come to life. Second, the effect of His call is Regeneration. All men are born dead in sin. God must raise a sinner from death to life. This is what Jesus meant by being born again, John 3. Third, God converts a sinner to a saint. In conversion God gives two gifts. One is the gift of faith and the second is the gift of repentance. Those gifts are exercised by those who receive them. Fourth, the result of turning from sin and turning to Jesus is Justification. Justification is a legal term. God declares a sinner to be in right standing before Him only by the merit of Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God covers the sinner with the perfect life of Jesus Christ and transfers the sinner’s sin to Jesus. This is called double imputation. Fifth and following justification, God Adopts the sinner into His family. Those changed by God become heirs of His promise in Christ, namely heaven. Sixthly, after justification God begins His work of Sanctification. As Justification covers the sinner with perfect righteousness, Sanctification is God’s progressive work to make the sinner righteous from the inside out. In Sanctification, the sinner responds to God’s work in him. God promised to make us more and more like Christ. Seventh and finally, the end result of Sanctification is what is called Glorification. God promised to take us to glory. Every believer will be in glory in heaven. The comforting fact of glorification is that God sees us as already glorified. Notice Paul’s use of the past tense for all the verbs in Romans 8:30.

A Christian, one who is in Christ has been saved; is being saved and will be saved by God’s grace alone in Christ alone through faith alone. He desires to worship God with fellow Christians. This desire is an expression of God’s adoption. Christians demonstrate their desire for God within the visible church. Likewise, Christian fathers and mothers desire to teach their children the blessing of worshiping God.

Those in Christ gather to: praise God, pray to Him, and hear Him speak both in the reading and proclamation of Scripture. Thereby, believers are edified or if you choose to use this word, fed.

Christians grow by participating in corporate worship. Therefore, finding a church in which one can grow in Christ requires knowing what constitutes a “true church.”

The Bible reveals three marks of a true church. The first is that the pure word of God is preached. The second is that the two sacraments, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, are administered in accordance with Christ’s institution. The third is that Church Discipline is exercised in accordance with God’s word.

Christians are often deceived by pragmatists and others who base supreme value on “what works” to grow in numbers. Christians too often seek churches with the right programs, or an age group of those of similar life circumstances. It sometimes seems that God-centered worship and ministry has fallen on “hard times”, especially in the American Evangelical Church. Worship has all too often been turned into entertainment with man at the center.

But, against man-centeredness stands a true church. May you intentionally seek a local church that is God-centered rather than man-centered. For God has ordained Christian growth in Christ through the ministry of a local church centered on Him.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “God’s Blessing, The Law”

“God’s Blessing, the Law”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
If you are in Christ, know that He fulfilled the requirements of the law! You have been covered with the perfect righteousness of Christ. God did not remove the Law’s requirements. The Law reveals the character of God and points us to our need for Christ. Adam failed to keep God’s command; Jesus Christ did not. The gospel is the good news of God precisely because Christ satisfied the demands of the Law and offered the only perfect sacrifice for sin. So then, the Law is not opposed to the gospel. It points to man’s only hope in the gospel, the person and work of Christ. All men and women are born in Adam and thereby are dead in sin. We all deserve eternal damnation. But, God is merciful and chose some for salvation. By grace we are saved, through faith and this is the gift of God! (Ephesians 2:8)

So then, Paul raised the question, “Why then the Law?” God’s answer though him, the Law, “was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary,” Galatians 3:19. The law was added because of sin.

Sin is lawlessness, 1John 3:4. The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines sin as “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God. God’s Law, the Ten Commandments, is recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. The first part concerns man’s relationship to God. The second provides the basis for men to co-exist.

Both God’s Law and Civil Law carry blessings and curses, blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. As God created man and woman in His image, we all have the moral code in our hearts. All men have a general knowledge of right and wrong. The Ten Commandments declare what is right and wrong and express, the grace of God as part of the Covenant of Grace.

Following God’s work of Creation, all societies recognize the importance of law. A society falls when the rule of law is ignored. Leaders are expected to submit to the rule of law. In our nation, the Constitution provides the basis for the rule of law. No one is above the law! History records man’s awareness of his need for law. An ancient example is the Code of Hammurabi, the law code of the first Babylonian Dynasty ruled by Hammurabi circa 1728-1686 B.C. Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations likewise depended on the rule of law. As law broke down, those civilizations ceased to exist. Western civilization and especially our United States will stand or fall as a result of adherence to the rule of law.

The Law’s importance will finally be seen in the end of this world. The sign of the end will be apostasy. “Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first…” 2Thessalonians 2:3. Paul was straightening out false teaching concerning the end of this world. Rebellion against God will be the first sign of the end. The visible sign of rejecting God is rejecting His Law.

Law benefits all mankind. God’s common grace toward all is experienced by the rule of law. It is the basis for relationships, contracts, economic prosperity and in summary the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

We all need God’s grace conveyed through the Law. Men are not basically good. All men are sinners; dead in sin. God’s Law given by His grace points to man’s only hope, the gospel. “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons,” Galatians 4:4.

Throughout history the Christian Church has taught three uses of the Law. They are: to bound sin, to point to Christ and to provide the guide for living in Christ.

God’s blessing through the Law is profound. Without law we will perish. Because of The Law men are shown the desperate need for a divine Savior. May we commit to stand for the blessing of God’s Law and all law proceeding from it. May submission to the rule of law reflect the desire to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God, Micah 6:8. May the Law of God lead you to Christ!