Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A True Church?”

“A True Church?”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

God’s call is that the church be as He has commanded. The Bible teaches that the church is the body of Christ, Colossians 1:18. The church is made up of many parts. These parts are individual believers for whom Christ died, Ephesians 5:25.
God commands the church to be holy because He is holy, Leviticus 11:44; 1Peter 1:15-16. God declared that His church is His holy priesthood, 1Peter 2:9ff. He is building His people up in Christ, Ephesians 4:11-16.

It seems to me that there is more interest in the church to study our political situation than there is to grow up into Christ! Now, I’m not suggesting that believers should separate themselves from the world. Jesus prayed that God would not take us out of the world but that He would keep us from the evil one and sanctify us in the truth, John 17:14-17. Jesus also made it very clear that the means of sanctification is by the power of the Holy Spirit in concert with His word.

Distractions come every day. For example, it seems that our governmental leaders and media gurus regularly come up with more lies and half-truths. If you try to keep up with the things that these folks say, your head will “swim” in a sea of confusion.

There will be a never-ending supply of incompetent actions and lies emanating from men and women in our society. We can easily lose our focus. The church is not beyond the tendency to constantly examine and seek to fix the failings of society. In so doing, the church can easily lose her focus on what God has commanded her to be and thereby be unable to make a difference in the world.

The Shema, meaning hear, given by God to the church is His timeless command. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Deuteronomy 6:4-5 Jesus said this is the Great Commandment! He further said, “a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” Matthew 22:37ff.

The word translated as “love” conveys the meaning of offering total devotion. The church’s focus is God; to know who He is; to know what He expects; to be totally devoted to Him!

Some teach that the way to love God is to love our neighbors. That is not what Jesus said. He clearly stated God’s command. It is to love Him! The Apostle John said, those who love God cannot hate their brothers, 1John 4:20. Love of our neighbor proceeds from a heart that God has changed. We love because God first loved us, 1John 4:19. So then may we not get confused about our primary focus? God is at the center of all life. He is especially at the center of what His church is and does. The church is the visible kingdom of God. As such, we are called by God to be different. The church is accountable to her head, Jesus Christ. God has uniquely gifted members in the church to build up the whole body of Christ. The church was organized by the Risen Lord so that we might all grow up into Christ who is the Head, Ephesians 4:15-16.

Having said all this, I ask a question. “Are you learning about God in your church or are you learning how to cope with the circumstances of life?” The only way that we can be equipped to deal with all the circumstances of life is to know God. We cannot love God with all our being unless we know Him. God has revealed Himself in His word and supremely in His Only Son, Jesus Christ. The first revelation we must know is that the Jesus of the Bible is unique. He was not born in the normal course. He eternally proceeds from the Father. Are you studying the Bible or are you studying what some Christian leader has learned from his or her study of the Bible? When you hear God’s word preached on the Lord’s Day do you hear about God or are you being given steps to have a better life. When you worship on the Lord’s Day are you pleasing God or being entertained? Jesus said that eternal life is to know the one true God, John 17:3 May you seek to grow in Christ in a true church!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “So, What’s New?”

“So, What’s New?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christian Church in Corinth. 2Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Therefore, I ask, “What’s new?” Our desires are new. Before regeneration, our desire was to satisfy ourselves. Now, in Christ, the Christian desires Him!

There is a way that the one who is in Christ demonstrates his new desire. In order to see that way, let us examine a basic truth. Jesus came to set His people free from the bondage of sin. Therefore, the new Creation is free to live for Him, Romans 6:11. The demonstration of this freedom in Christ is the connection between duty and devotion. 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.

Concerning our duty, God commands those who are His to hear, understand and obey Him. God requires, even expects, obedience which is our duty. However, mere obedience is not enough! 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 is a result of the Holy Spirit who indwells each Christian to motivate 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’s 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. This is what’s new!

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.

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. “The old has gone; the new has come!”

Many Christians are in bondage by legalism and/or moralism. Remember that God’s commands are to be obeyed. Also remember that legalism and moralism are effective tools of manipulation. Therefore, obedience taught as a duty alone is bondage. But, the obedience that proceeds from the desire God gives for Him is freedom. Growth in the knowledge and love of Christ is to move from duty to devotion as you live under His word, as a new creation.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Made to Worship God”

“Made to Worship God”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Our Creator made us for worship. Of course, this statement presupposes that you recognize that there is a God who made everything out of nothing. Those who don’t, called atheists, live in a world that denies reality. When pressed, every atheist will default to some moral code. Their moral code may simply be to do good to others. Even with such a basic code of civilized behavior, atheists must borrow from Judeo-Christian ethics. But my concern is not the unstable world view of atheism. I am concerned that honest men and women understand why God made us. He created us to worship Him!

A basic definition of worship is to love, honor and obey God. Worship is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary, in part, as “reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.” Worth- ship is an Old English compound word. It described the devotion and obedience that a knight offered to his sovereign. In kneeling down before the king, the knight would bow his head, offering the back of his neck to the king’s sword. In so doing the knight was visibly displaying to the king that his life would be forfeit if he failed to serve the king.

Worship is about our primary relationship, our relationship to God. God commanded worship. But because of sin, men seek to make their own gods. The great reformer, John Calvin said, “Every one of us is, from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols.” Acts II: 413

Therefore, in view of man’s sinfulness, God by His grace declared that He alone was to be worshiped, Exodus 20:1-3. God said that His people were forbidden from bowing down to or serving any man-made image or likeness of God, Exodus 20:4-5. He declared that He is the LORD and besides Him there is no God, Isaiah 45:18. Further, any worship that is not based in God’s word is false and is idolatry, John 4:23-24.

God, who has revealed Himself in His Word written and Incarnate is the only true object of worship. To make things even more direct, Jesus said that God the Father is the one who seeks worshipers, John 4. Idolatry/false worship was the sin of the Old Testament Church, Israel which continues in the Evangelical Church today!

The Apostle quoted the Psalms and wrote that no one seeks after God, Psalm 14:2; Romans 3:11. Even though God has made His existence plain for all to see by what He has made, men suppress the truth in unrighteousness. We are eager to fulfill our God-given desire to worship and often do so by erecting idols. Our idols are the things that control our lives. The idol of many churches today is self.

Normally in Evangelical Protestant Churches, we don’t see people bowing to or serving carved images as part of their acts of worship and devotion. But, we must honestly reflect upon those things that we seem to value the most and serve. We are: loving, honoring and obeying ourselves more than God!

When God is truly worshiped, the Lordship of Christ is acknowledged by submitting to His word. The words, love, honor and obey are relational. In our primary relationship, God has established its requirements and conditions. Jesus said, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24

However, looking at contemporary worship in churches, the music, the settings, even the preaching are designed for people not for God. Churches are more interested in attracting people than pleasing God. It appears that Churches are more eager to celebrate conservative politics and politicians than adhering to biblical orthodoxy.

Much of evangelical church leadership would serve the church of Jesus Christ well by hearing and applying God’s word. For example, Malachi wrote to those who were practicing man-centered worship, “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the door, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain…”. (Malachi 1:10) And, the book of Hebrews warns, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29)

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Many Distinctions but Common Truths”

“Many Distinctions but Common Truths”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Biblical Faith includes three parts. They are: knowledge, assent and trust. The Christian Faith is not some self-contained “force” like the Star Wars expression, “May the force be with you.” Genuine Christians hold certain facts to be true.

I am a Presbyterian by conviction. I have brothers and sisters in Christ who belong to different Christian Denominations. When we push aside our denominational differences, even some significant distinctions, we all affirm several basic truths revealed by God in His word.

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; Inerrancy
2. Jesus was born of a virgin; The Virgin Birth
3. The atonement of Christ was full, penal and substitutionary; The Atonement
4. Jesus’ resurrection was a bodily resurrection; The Bodily Resurrection
5. The miracles recorded in Scripture were authentic; The Authenticity of the Miracles
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. What do you believe?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Words Have Meaning!”

“Words Have Meaning!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We all need to communicate with others. There are fundamental rules assumed in communication. There are rules of logic and the meaning of words.

There are three “Laws” of Thought and Communication/ Logic and Reasoning:
1. The first is the Law of Identity. The following formula is helpful in explaining it:
o If A is A it cannot also be Non-A
2. The second law is the Law of Non-contradiction. The explanatory formula for this law is:
o If A = B, then A does not equal B is excluded.
3. The third law is the Law of the Excluded Middle. It concerns true or false statements:
o True or false is absolute. There can be no Middle (something between true or false for the same thing)
Regardless of whether we know these laws that guide thought, communication and reasoning, they are applied in everything we say, write, read or hear. For example, we know that a car is not a non-car or even a bicycle. Likewise, it is also clear that if a car is the same as a vehicle; it cannot be said that a car is not a vehicle. If it is said that a car is a vehicle and this is a true statement. It cannot also be said of that statement that it is neither true nor false, but something else!

This crude example of logic proceeds from the first rule of communication. The second rule is that words have meaning. We rely upon dictionaries to define the meaning of words and we also take those universal meanings and use the word in a certain context. You may be familiar with the saying, “Text without context is pretext.” Generally, words have a range of meaning. The exact meaning of a word in any given instance depends upon the context in which it is used.

Currently in our culture, there is a disturbing thing that often occurs in communication. For example, we are subjected to words being used to describe men based upon their office. The word “honorable” is often used to describe a man based upon his appearance, office or profession. Now, one’s dress may reflect an effort to show honor. An office may also be described as being honorable. Even one’s profession may be described as honorable. But, appearance, office or profession do not also describe the person who may hold the office or profession.

Wicked or despicable persons may dress honorably; hold an honorable office, or work in an honorable profession. But before defining them as honorable, their behavior, past and present, should be considered.

The example, “honorable” is defined in Webster’s Dictionary. “It is characterized by [a person of] integrity, [who is] guided by a high sense of honor and duty… having or showing honesty and good moral character.” Another source, the American Heritage Dictionary, defines “honorable” as [a person] “deserving or winning honor and respect.” Both definitions are reflective of an individual’s behavior, both past and present.

With the application of these two rules of communication consistently applied, we are able to discern truth from error; facts from innuendo. Just so my communication is clear, innuendos are inferences that a person’s actions are either immoral or improper. As such, innuendos are inferences that lack specific evidence. They are usually based upon feelings about a person or gross assumptions surrounding a person’s life style, wealth or abilities without any empirical evidence.

Recent actions taken by certain governmental officials, as they have been reported, bear reflection. “Honorable” men are reportedly using their positions and professions to advance personal agendas to remove our duly elected President from office. Or, they seek to remove any possibility of his effectiveness because of their personal dislike of him.

I am a Pastor by God’s internal call and the Church’s external affirmation of His call. Yet, I am also a citizen of the United States of America and very proud of my citizenship. I thank God every day that I am able to live in a country that freely allows me to worship God and preach and teach His word. I have listened intently over the past several weeks of the reported actions of our governmental leaders in Washington, D.C.

So-called honorable men, have chosen to ignore the illegal activities of some officials while searching for some perceived crime committed by others. Words do matter. May we all develop our listening skills so as to discern truth from error.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Trustworthiness is Demonstrated!”

“Trustworthiness is Demonstrated!”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
One of the most important words that guide life is the word trustworthy. Trustworthy means worthy of trust or reliable. Trustworthiness is a character trait that is demonstrated not fabricated or assumed as a result of holding a certain respectable office.

We all desire to be people that can be trusted, that is, trustworthy. We look for trustworthy people to lead us whether it is in the church or in government and business. We certainly don’t want to follow or submit to someone who can’t be trusted.

“God said, “Let us make man in our image…” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:26, 27 Human beings bear the image of God. Those attributes of God that He communicated to all men through Adam are called communicable attributes. Question 10 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “How did God create man?” The answer is, “God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.”

The attributes that God gave to us: knowledge, righteousness and holiness set us apart from all the other creatures that God made. The fall of Adam marred these attributes. Yet, they are innate to every single human being. We are able to think and reason. We have a moral code in our nature. We know what is right. We have a desire to be holy as God is holy. Yet we lack the ability to accomplish it.

Nevertheless, these attributes possessed by all mankind are the reasons why trustworthiness is so important to us. We value it in ourselves. We look for it in others. We give respect and honor to those who demonstrate trustworthiness.

We intuitively know that trustworthiness, trust, is the “glue” that holds relationships together. When trust is broken, it is extremely difficult to restore. Relationships are often shattered as a result of a breakdown of trust.

The issue that concerns me is that it seems that our culture has been convinced that trustworthiness is assumed by virtue of holding an important office. We’ve been led to think that if a person holds a certain office he is assumed to be trustworthy.

We find ourselves being disappointed by those whom we’ve selected because of their appearance or style. We learn a painful lesson that character does matter. Appearances are helpful and an aide if a person is trustworthy.

Since trustworthiness proceeds from the character of the God who created man, the perfect standard of trustworthiness is God Himself. The Bible declares that, “The sum of God’s word is Truth.” Psalm 119:160 The Psalmist wrote a clear explanation of genuine trustworthiness. “The works of God’s hands are faithful and just; all His precepts are trustworthy; they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.” Psalm 111:7-8

We know what is trustworthy because God who is trustworthy said it. The Bible is absolutely trustworthy because God is Truth. Jesus, the only Son of God said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” John 14:6 We believe that the Bible is inerrant and infallible because “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” 2Timothy 3:16

The question that immediately comes to mind is, “How can we determine if a person is trustworthy?” First, I must state that no one is perfectly trustworthy except God. All men are sinners. Even those who are genuine Christians sin. The Apostle Paul wrote of his personal struggle with sin, Romans 7. He concluded his introspection with these words, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:24, 25

But there must be a means by which we can determine a person’s character, his trustworthiness which will be less than perfect but which will demonstrate practical reliability. I suggest that there is a means to determine a man’s level of trustworthiness. The Psalm quoted above holds the key. Psalm 111:6a, “God has shown His people the power of His works.” The key is past behavior and words spoken. The means by which we can determine a man or woman’s trustworthiness is by what they do and what they say.

Don’t be misled. A man or woman of character who is trustworthy consistently acts and speaks truthfully.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Fate of Our Planet”

“The Fate of our Planet”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Christians have a God-centered World View. Those who profess Jesus Christ as He is offered in the gospel to be their Lord and Savior look at reality through the lens of Scripture. This view of reality is what is meant as a God-centered World View.

Over the recent decades, there has been much written concerning the fate of our planet. Specifically, most of what has been written and said has been toward the view that man, civilized man, will destroy our planet. I was in college during the first “Earth Day.” I remember that the majority of us thought little about the motivation for such a movement. In fact, the environmentalist movement started off very small. Yet, in our day it has grown to such a degree that I recently heard a statistic that 60% of our citizenry believe that our way of living will destroy our planet. What began as a concern for global cooling and a modern ice age has changed from global warming to man-made climate change.

The fear of a modern ice age has lost its punch since the predictions were that we would be in such a time right now. Therefore, the movement had to change terms. Now it simply looks at cyclical changes in our climate and attributes change to man’s use of things like fossil fuels.

An entire industry has sprung up. There will always be clever men who find a way to take advantage of situations, sometimes not for the good. The “Green” industry has been promoted by manufacturers and our Federal and State Governments by way of tax incentives for using “Green” materials and penalties for not using them.

You are likely aware of all this background concerning the fate of our Planet. I’m not a scientist. I do not intend to give any scientific explanations or to review computer models indicating disaster. My question is what, if anything, does God have to say about our Planet?

The truth is, He has a lot to say. After all, He made everything out of nothing. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” Genesis 1:1. At the end of the first Chapter of the Bible, God surveyed all that He had made and declared everything “very good,” Genesis 1:31. Since He is the Creator, it is obvious to Bible believing people throughout the world that He owns His Creation. I’m reminded of an old hymn written in 1901 by Malbie D. Babcock, “This Is My Father’s World.” The first part of the 3rd verse is telling concerning our topic. “This is my Father’s world, O let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet.”

As I thought about our world biblically, I found myself writing a sample of what we know about Creation.
1. God created everything out of nothing (ex nihilo).
2. Man is a Creature.
3. Man’s power and ability is from the Creator.
4. Man is part of Creation whereas God transcends His Creation.
5. God’s absolute rule (sovereignty) of the world does not depend upon man believing in Him.
6. All men are accountable to God and will be judged by Him, the perfect judge.
7. God created man from the dust of the earth and all men die and return to it.
8. God gave man dominion over the earth and all that is in it.
9. God expects man to be a “good steward” of Creation.
10. All men inherit Adam’s sin nature, are born dead in sin, unable to save themselves.
11. There is only one hope for mankind, it is Jesus Christ, His perfect life and perfect sacrifice of Himself.
12. God cursed all Creation as a result of the Fall of Adam and He has promised to lift it when Christ returns.
If you have a concern about our planet’s fate and you know the truth of God in Christ, I encourage you to make your own list of truths revealed by our Sovereign God. I offer Psalm 93: 1-2 for your study before accepting popular views that man has the ability to determine our Planet’s fate. “The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting.” (ESV)

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. Two differences are the name, covenant, and the parties involved who are not equals as God is the one who establishes covenants.

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) Note that the covenant is not the relationship but God’s requirements to have a relationship.

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, Abraham, Israel in the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. All of these are part of the Covenant of Grace. They are revealed within the context of what is called Covenant Theology. The gospel is revealed within this context.

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. Jesus is the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world, 1Peter 1:19-20; Revelation 5:6.

One of the clearest covenantal promises of God was declared 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 Abraham and to his seed who is Christ (and those who are in Christ), Galatians 3:16. This is God’s promise and Jesus is the seed through whom God fulfilled His Promise. The final fulfillment 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. He is the Covenant Faithful One. He will accomplish all that He has promised. “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.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Justice or Mercy, Know the Difference!”

“Justice or Mercy, Know the Difference!”
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, “What Saith the Scriptures?”

“What Saith the Scriptures?”
Romans 4:3a
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

In declaring the truth of how a man is made right with God, the Apostle Paul asked, “What saith the Scriptures?” The foundational truth of justification is that God declares a sinner to be right with Him through faith alone! This act of God’s free grace is the foundation of the Good News of God in Jesus Christ revealed throughout the Bible.

The ancient Hebrews, the Apostle Paul, the Church Fathers and the Protestant Reformers all searched the Scriptures to arrive at the truth. Yet this question is rarely asked in the Church today. Now, we often hear “It’s a matter of interpretation.”

God gave us the Bible because He is a God of revelation. He expects that we understand what He has said, Deuteronomy 29:29. Therefore, the Bible is understandable. There is a right interpretation of every passage of Scripture. Too frequently, Christians are told by leaders in the Church that there are many interpretations of one passage of the Bible. Church members are confronted with choices. Many accept that no one interpretation is right. We’re told, doctrine is unimportant because no one can claim to know the truth!

If we look at this issue of biblical interpretation logically, we must conclude that all interpretations cannot be right. When there are contradicting views of the Bible, one, both or all may be wrong. One thing for certain is they all can’t be right. There is only one right interpretation of a passage of Scripture. For difficult passages, we may never arrive at the right interpretation this side of heaven. Sound doctrine is what the Bible teaches. God has revealed the truth and we can know it.

Now we’ve come to the way in which we can answer the question, “What saith the Scriptures?” It is called the science of biblical interpretation. The technical term is hermeneutics.

Hermeneutics rests upon two main principles. The first is the biblical principle, also called the analogy of faith. The second is the literal principle. The biblical principle, the analogy of faith was recovered by the Protestant Reformers. They understood that the Bible interprets itself. This means the clear passages of Scripture shed light upon the more obscure ones. It is also understood that one place of Scripture must not be placed against another. Further, Christians interpret the Old Testament in light of the New Testament. There are no contradictions in the Bible. There may be apparent contradictions, but once studied we find that the Bible is consistent with itself, because God does not speak with a “forked” tongue.

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

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

Finally, the Bible is the only rule of faith and practice that God has given to His people. He means for us to understand it. I encourage you to apply these principles of biblical interpretation. God expects His people to know, “What saith the Scriptures?” Expect your Church to teach the plain truth!