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 end 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 was to happen in A.D. 70. The great siege of Jerusalem by the Roman army was led by Titus. The ancient Jewish historian Josephus recorded the destruction of the temple and the barbaric actions of the Romans toward the Jews. This historic event marked the end of the biblical nation of Israel which Jesus predicted and Daniel prophesied as recorded in Daniel 9:27.
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’ 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 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Paul was describing what would happen to the believers who are alive when Christ returns. 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, “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” (v. 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). However, 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 when He does?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Why then the law? (The Law)”

Why then the law? (The Law)
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
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). Paul was referring to the Ten Commandments. He said the law was added because of sin.
The Apostle John wrote that “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines sin as “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God” (question and answer 14).
The Ten Commandments are recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. The first part concerns man’s relationship to God. The second provides the basis for men to coexist.
Even in society, the importance of law is reflected. All cultures depend upon what is called the rule of law. Removing law condemns a society to destruction. Therefore, leaders are expected to submit to the rule of law to guard freedom. For example, in our country, the Constitution provides the basis for our rule of law. It specifies that no one is above the law.
In addition, 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. God’s Ten Commandments specify the details of right and wrong because they reflect the character of God. At its root, the Law of God expresses His grace and is part of what is called, the Covenant of Grace.
Why do we need the grace of God in the Law? As Paul said, it was given by God because of sin (Galatians 3:19). The sinfulness of man leads to law breaking. Since the Garden, no man could keep the Law perfectly. The fundamental reason God gave the Law was to demonstrate man’s need for a Savior, who would keep the Law perfectly. The Bible reveals God’s grace through the Law. “But 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 4:4-5).
Further, law, in general, provides additional benefits for all mankind. God’s common grace toward all is experienced by the rule of law in providing for relationships, contracts, economic prosperity, and in summary the security of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
As an emphasis of the usefulness of the Law, the Christian Church has taught three uses of the Law. They are, first, to bound sin, second, to point to Christ, and third, to provide the guide for Christian living.
The Old Testament also reveals two principles regarding the Law. God said blessing results from obedience and curse is the result of disobedience (Deuteronomy 11:26-28; 28). God declared that His way is the better way.
The importance of the Law will also 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” (2 Thessalonians 2:3a). 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.
History also records man’s awareness of his need for law. One example is the Code of Hammurabi, the ancient law code of the first Babylonian Dynasty ruled by Hammurabi, circa 1728-1686 B.C. Much of his code parallels that of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilizations likewise depended on the rule of law. As law broke down, those civilizations ceased to exist. They became unable to fight against invaders. Western civilization and especially our United States will also stand or fall as a result of adherence to the rule of law.
In conclusion, the title of this article, “why the law?” has an ultimate answer. Without law we will perish. Because of the Law men are shown their 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, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8). God’s Law is His standard. It is absolute, eternal, and with no “sliding scale” of obedience!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, Psalm 23, “I shall not want!”

Psalm 23, “I shall not want!
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, “I am who I am.” God is eternal and self-sufficient. In other words, God declared that He is 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.
I recall one Bible teacher saying that we are misnamed as human beings. We should be called human becomings since we are always changing from one thing to another. From the time we are born we age. As we age, we are maturing. God, however, never changes. He is. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
So, when David made the declaration that “The LORD is my shepherd” he was stating that He was cared for and guided by the One who alone has eternal being. His declaration was made to the absolute highest and greatest being. More, King David addressed the eternal One as his Shepherd. As such he was declaring intimacy with the Father.
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 is also declaring with David the care and providence of God for us. The Gospel of John recorded the “I Am” sayings of Jesus. John 10:11 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 those 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 to 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 providence.
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. No one can harm you. You belong to Him. He will provide your needs. You shall not want!

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” (Psalm 92:1-2).
“It is good to give thanks to the LORD.” What a radical thought! It is indeed good 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 gift 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 strength of his might” (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” (2 Corinthians 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-centeredness 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, “The Gospel of the Kingdom”

“The Gospel of the Kingdom”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
(Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version of the Bible)
“Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day” (Psalm 96:1-2).
Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel…Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out”
(Mark 1:15, 38).
The gospel is every Christian’s focus and it should be at the center of every church. Likewise, the urgency to preach the gospel ought to be foremost in every church. The once popular Christian bracelet, “What would Jesus do?” would be more edifying if, “What did Jesus do?” was printed on it.
The reason for Jesus’ public ministry as He said was to preach. His message was clear and direct. He preached it as a command. “Repent and believe in the gospel.” Notice both verbs. They are in the imperative mood and present tense. The imperative is the mood of command. The present tense describes current and on-going action. Therefore, both repenting and believing are current and on-going actions commanded by God.
Jesus gave two reasons for obeying His dual command. The first was the “time is fulfilled.” The second, “the kingdom of God is at hand”.
The first referenced Daniel’s prophecy (Daniel 9:25). It was confirmed by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 4:4. This time of fulfillment was in fact the time set in eternity by God for the Messiah’s arrival on earth. After Jesus read Isaiah 61:1-2a in the synagogue, He said He was the one prophesied who would proclaim the “year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-21). In other words, Jesus declared that at His coming God was commanding men and women to call upon Him and be saved. The Apostle Peter boldly told the religious leaders in Jerusalem,” there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
The second reason given by Jesus was not separate and distinct from the first. The Kingdom of God, namely the rule of God, was at hand. Jesus the King and Lord, the one who rules all things, was physically in the midst of His hearers. The King who rules all men and has absolute authority (Matthew 28:18) commands repentance and faith in Him!
Repentance is a change of mind, a turning away from sin. Faith is trust in the object who is Jesus. When God converts a sinner into a saint, He gives these two gifts of repentance and faith. The converted man and woman turns away from sin and turns to Jesus. Paul explained the action of a converted sinner in Romans 6:11, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Both God-given gifts continue throughout every Christian’s life. We live repenting and believing, turning from our sin and relying upon the perfect righteousness of Christ.
Jesus was very specific in His command. He is the King who commands believing in the gospel. Christians believe in the gospel. Why? The answer is simple and clear. The gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16b).
I’m sure that you’ve heard that the word “gospel” means good news. So what’s the good news? It is, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This is truly good news because we all deserve to go to hell. But God who is “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4), chose some for heaven. The only way to heaven is through Jesus as He is offered in the gospel! That is relying upon the only begotten one, Jesus, not born but eternally proceeding from the Father. Those destined for heaven rely upon Jesus’ perfect life and His perfect sacrifice for sins. This reliance is not by our strength and power. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. The gospel is good news because God applies it to those whom He has chosen.
He who has ears to hear the Savior’s command, repent and believe in the gospel! The King has commanded it. There are no options.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Speaking Truth”

“Speaking Truth”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
All Christians would likely affirm that we are called by God to always speak the truth. One would think that there is no question that this must be the case. Yet we are told that speaking the truth is unloving. It is especially unloving when a major figure lies, and we are told that exposing the lie and the liar is unloving and a failure to take “the high moral road.” From my perspective, this fits into the new definition of tolerance. The new definition of tolerance is that one who is tolerant accepts every point of view as equally valid. The old definition of tolerance was simply to receive all views with respect.
We face this both inside the church and in society. It used to be called “bad form” or even worse to expose a false teacher in the church. Now we have a new word used to describe those who are “with it” as far as our decaying culture is concerned. The new word is “woke”. Woke is an adjective that describes one who is alert to current societal issues, specifically, the idea of racism as defined by the social justice warriors.
False teachers and members of cults are more easily recognized by genuine Christians as are those who teach the health/wealth gospel. But woke leaders are now part of the mainstream of the evangelical church in the United States. Main Line denominations have welcomed these false teachers under the guise of being culturally sensitive. Even so-called conservative Christian denominations are entertaining this woke teaching. Things like systemic racism, white privilege, racial reconciliation have become Christianized. Liberation Theology, which promotes salvation as relief from oppression in this world, is looked at in some churches as a valid view of God’s Plan of Redemption. Liberation Theology, being a woke social justice warrior, is not the gospel. Leaders in the Church should boldly call this cultural drift anathema! All of these “new” terms are smoke used to cover the truth that there is only one gospel. God has revealed the gospel. The Person and Work of Christ is God’s Good News. Jesus Christ, as He is offered in the gospel, is man’s only hope, “for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
As always, these false teachers claim to be “healers.” They have set themselves up as new prophets bringing the message of creating a utopia in the here and now. In so doing, they have redefined the gospel and sin.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus and gave a principle that is timeless. “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). So as to acknowledge the context of this passage, note that it is preceded by the following. “Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them“ (Ephesians 5b:8-11).
Jesus called His disciples to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16). The means He expects His people to be people of truth. Those who know the truth are accountable to live and proclaim it, as Paul wrote, “Take no part in unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”
Christians are accountable for what they hear. God has given the church the tools to discern truth from error. We are responsible to expose error in the church. Therefore, the church must be “people of the book”, the Bible. The Psalmist declared that the word of God is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). The word of God, the Bible, is “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16).
As a Christian Pastor, I believe that what we know to be true concerning the Christian Faith must be lived in the Church and carried into the public sphere. It is not unloving to speak the truth. It is not a low road morally to expose lies. Indeed, not speaking the truth in love would be unloving. Christians are to be people of integrity. People of integrity don’t live one way on Sunday and differently during the rest of the week.
May you be in a church that equips you to be salt and light, teaching you the truth of God’s word so that you may be able to stand against error for God’s glory.

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

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

The Bible is the breathed-out word of God. God has revealed what He wants us to know about Him and His plan of redemption. God has told us that all men are creatures. He is the Creator. The Bible reveals His only Son, Jesus, through whom we know God personally. This unique and precious book is a collection of 66 books. Men whom the Spirit of God carried along wrote it. “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2Peter 1:21) The Bible contains everything necessary for life and salvation.

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

Be of good courage! The entire Bible does not fall into the category of “difficult”. The vast majority of biblical doctrine is clear. For example, the doctrine of salvation is one such doctrine. It is clear that God has revealed that men are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone.

How do we know what God has said?

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

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

Further, to interpret literally means to understand that which is plainly meant. It is how we read and understand any literature. Therefore, in interpreting the Bible: grammar, figures of speech, 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! Rather, Jesus is the only way for His people to have safety and security.

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

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “It is Finished: Why the Friday Before Easter is Called Good Friday”

It is Finished: Why the Friday Before Easter is Called Good Friday
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The last word spoken by the Lord Jesus from the cross was “Tetelestai”. This Greek verb was recorded by the Apostle John in the perfect tense. The literal translation is “It is finished” (John 19:30). Jesus made a declaration of something accomplished that would have on-going implications. He said that redemption was accomplished!
Redemption implies that a price or ransom was paid. The price required by God to redeem His people from the bondage to sin was paid more than 2,000 years ago. This is the reason the Friday before Easter Sunday is called Good Friday. Jesus lived a perfect life and He offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice.
Those chosen before the foundation of the world to be in Christ have Christ’s finished work applied to them. It is applied by the Holy Spirit when God effectually calls those whom He predestined and regenerates them. God then converts the sinner into a saint and gives the sinner the gifts of faith and repentance. Through God’s gift, expressed by the sinner now a saint, God sovereignly declares him justified. God adopts those whom He justifies. He sanctifies them and assures them that He will bring them to glory.
The completed work of Christ, redemption, extends from the individual to the corporate body. It extends even to Creation itself. The Apostle Paul declared that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
Redemption, which is God’s saving act, is for His glory and by His sovereign grace. He extends grace to a spiritually dead person which causes him to see the beauty of Christ!
Good Friday reminds me of what God did in me. Good Friday is personal for everyone who professes Jesus as Lord and Savior.
It is indeed personal. Thirty-five years ago, God snatched me from the pit of hell. He used a devastating auto accident. He broke me physically and caused me to see the Kingdom as Jesus said to Nicodemus (John 3:3).
Before God’s action on that day, I had no desire for Jesus. I believed that I was a good person. I believed that as long as my “good” outweighed my “bad” God would accept me. I didn’t realize that God is holy and requires perfection!
My thoughts of God were proceeding from a heart of stone. I was spiritually dead and didn’t know it. I used to think that all that “born again” stuff was for the weak-minded.
God caused me to see my helplessness. For a time, I was confined to a hospital bed. Through my accident, God gave me a word picture of my sinfulness that stays with me to this day. God caused me to dig into His word to learn more about His character. Jesus’ words, “It is finished,” have been burned into my mind and heart. Good Friday is a day in which I reflect upon the steadfast love of the Lord poured out on me.
There is a foolish teaching that pervades the evangelical church. People are told that if they believe they will be born again. This is analogous to speaking to a dead person, lying in a casket and saying, “Get up!” Even worse, it is the height of manipulation to tell people that we are made new creations by our own wisdom and ability. How can a dead person believe? The truth is “Ye must be born again” in order to believe! The Bible says, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Every person is born spiritually dead. We are unable to reach out to God and live (Genesis 3:22-24). God confirmed in me the truth of His word through a tragedy which continues to point me to Him. God alone saves those whom He chooses. No one can stay His hand! He chose to save a sinner, namely me! This is the on-going effect of Jesus’ words, “It is finished.”
God used a traumatic event to cause me to see His sovereignty in my salvation. That is not to suggest that a person must undergo some tragedy to be born again. Some people who were raised in covenant families are unable to recall the moment when they first saw the truth. Yet, God did regenerate them, and because of His grace, they profess faith in Jesus as He is offered in the gospel.
I exhort all who profess Christ to take this Good Friday to reflect upon the finished work of Christ!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Beatitudes… Life in the Kingdom – Now, Part 2 of 2”

“The Beatitudes… Life in the Kingdom – Now, Part 2 of 2”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
This essay, on the fifth through the eighth Beatitudes follows the essay on the first four Beatitudes having the same title. The final four Beatitudes are found in Matthew 5:7-12. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (ESV)

The meaning of the word “blessed” refers to those who are fortunate, happy, and have a deep and profound spiritual well-being. The Beatitudes are declarative statements. Matthew recorded them in the present tense. The present tense is descriptive of ongoing behavior.

The grammar emphasizes that Jesus was describing someone who possessed all of the characteristics listed. He was describing Himself and those pursuing godliness in Him. The purpose of the Beatitudes, in fact, the entirety of the Sermon on the Mount is to cause those who have been born again to live relying on the power of the Holy Spirit.

Mercy, the subject of the fifth Beatitude is fully revealed in Jesus Christ. King David appealed to God’s mercy for forgiveness, Psalm 51. The Apostle Paul wrote that God has mercy on those whom He chooses (Romans 9; Ephesians 2). The Apostle John wrote that Jesus came full of grace and truth (John 1). Mercy is unmerited favor. God extends mercy through Jesus Christ. Those who have received God’s mercy live as people of mercy. Those who have received mercy offer themselves as holy and living sacrifices to God (Romans 12).

To be pure in heart is to be totally free from any selfish desires. One who is pure in heart is fully motivated toward God in love and obedience. Jesus said that He only did what He saw the Father doing (John 5). Philippians 2:5-11 reveals both the humiliation of Christ and His exaltation. Jesus’ love for the Father was demonstrated by His perfect obedience. Jesus said that no one has seen the Father, except the one who was sent by the Father, namely Himself (John 6). The pure in heart are those who pursue holiness in the power of the Spirit of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Sanctification is necessarily connected to God’s plan of salvation as revealed in the Bible. The pure in heart affirm God’s work of grace in making them more and more like Christ.

Biblical peace is right relationship with God. The one who was the supreme peacemaker was Jesus. He reconciled the world to God (2 Corinthians 5). He is the one through whom men are at peace with God (Romans 5). Jesus was not describing those who manage to establish treaties between warring factions. He was describing ultimate peace. He alone is ultimate peace. He is the reality of peace and rest (Colossians 2). Children of God are at peace with Him. There are only two kinds of people in the world. Either one is a child of God or a child of Satan (1 John 3:10). One either belongs to God or to the devil. The person and work of Jesus Christ is the only means by which God has extended His promise of sonship and heaven (Galatians 3). Believers have been given the ministry of proclaiming God’s reconciliation through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:19).

When thinking of persecution for the sake of righteousness, Jesus’ life and death comes into view. He was truly the only perfect and innocent man executed. Not only was Jesus innocent of the crimes for which He was crucified, but He never sinned in any way. He was the one who was made sin for His people so that they might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). The Christian life is shaped by perseverance. May we not be surprised by persecution for the sake of the gospel. Jesus said that the world hated Him first, therefore, disciples should not be surprised that it will hate them too (John 15).

As you read, study and apply the Beatitudes may you see the beauty, majesty and perfection of Jesus Christ, the only Savior and Lord!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Beatitudes… Life in the Kingdom – Now, Part 1 of 2”

The Beatitudes… Life in the Kingdom – Now, Part 1 of 2
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Matthew 5:3-12 records the eight beatitudes that are the introduction of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The name is taken from the word repeated nine times, “blessed”. The eighth beatitude which concerns persecution is verses 10-12.

The following is a closer look at the first four beatitudes. The first task in applying the beatitudes is to know the meaning of the repeated word, blessed. Blessed is a descriptive adjective of the one behaving as stated. The meaning includes those who are fortunate, happy, having a deep and profound spiritual well-being.

Jesus applied this word to eight categories of behavior. It is important to observe the quality of those He had in mind. As you read each description of the blessed, you see that you are not reading about those who would be stars or celebrities in the eyes of the world. Yet the blessed have the kingdom of heaven. They are comforted. They will inherit the earth. They shall be satisfied. They shall receive mercy. They shall see God. They shall be called sons of God. They have the kingdom of heaven and they have the joy of being in the company of the prophets of old who were likewise persecuted. In every case Jesus described the citizens of the kingdom as opposite of those who are elevated by the world.

The first beatitude is a key for understanding the rest. “Blessed are the poor in sprit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). “Poor” was used in connection with “spirit”. The connection makes it clear that Jesus was not referring to those who were financially poor. Spirit in this context refers to the motivations, desires, and the will of a man. To be poor in spirit is to be empty of self-will and to desire God and the things of God as necessities of life. The poor in spirit know that they are unable to do anything apart from Jesus. The poor in spirit are those who have come to know their rightful place before the Creator. The poor in spirit are truly humble people.

Jesus was declared to be “gentle and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29). When King David confessed his sins of adultery and murder, he concluded his prayer by saying, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). Only those who have been raised from spiritual death to life are able to see their desperate need for Christ every moment of every day.

Jesus continued with another opposite. He said that mourners are blessed. Those who see the world around them as it really is, broken by sin and populated by sinners are not happy about its condition, and mourn over the sin that surrounds them and the destruction that sin causes. Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). He saw the people in Jerusalem as “sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).

Jesus said the humble will inherit the earth. The arrogant and aggressive may receive accolades from the world, but it is the truly humble who will inherit the earth. Humility is defined by one’s relationship to God. One who is humble has a right assessment of himself before God. The humble person knows that he is a creature owing worship to the Creator. This beatitude is a parallel description to the “poor in spirit” and was likewise demonstrated in the person and work of Christ.

The fourth beatitude declares a satisfaction resulting from seeking that which is right. Despite what we may read and hear, there is a right and wrong. God has revealed that which is right in His Word. He declared a woe, a dire warning, upon those who would dare to call good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20). But those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied!

The Sermon on the Mount causes those who have been born again to live in dependence upon the Holy Spirit. It is important for Christians to understand that this is the way Christ lived. The Kingdom life described in the Sermon is the Christian life now and for eternity. All who profess Jesus as their Lord and Savior read these words of Jesus and fall upon their knees appealing to the mercy of God for forgiveness and cleansing.