Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Pure Gospel”

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

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 pure. The pure gospel preached is one of the three marks of a true Church. Not only is the gospel’s content pure for it is the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, but it embodies a sense of urgency. Jesus completed everything necessary for redemption, John 19:30. In His public ministry, He obeyed the Father perfectly and preached the gospel with urgency.

Jesus said the reason for His public ministry 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 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 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”. Both statements are indicatives, stated facts.

The first was a reference to 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. Jesus read Isaiah 61:1-2a in the synagogue, see Luke 4:18-21. Jesus said He was the one prophesied who would proclaim the “year of the Lord’s favor”. 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, commanded repentance and faith!

Repentance and faith go hand-in-hand. 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 two gifts. One is repentance. The second is faith. The converted man and woman turn away from sin and turn to Jesus. Paul explained the action of a converted sinner in Romans 6:11. “So you 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 commanded 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” 1Corinthians 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.

Therefore, he who has ears to hear the Savior’s command, repent and believe in the gospel! “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8 S.D.G.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “How Does God Save?”

“How Does God Save?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Bible teaches that God saves those whom He chooses. Salvation is a past event, an ongoing action, and a guaranteed future in heaven. The one whom God “saves” has been saved, is being saved and will be saved. Volumes could be written concerning God’s sovereign will in salvation and the meaning of salvation. There is still another question. Don’t be misled by the title. The immediate answer, the simple answer to “How does God save?” is Jesus! This is propositionally true. God the Son, Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity gave His physical life as a ransom for many, Matthew 20:26.

My point in asking the question, however, is to go deeper. Those who have been saved desire to know more about what God has done for them in Christ. I want to explore what is known as God’s logical order of salvation. The simple answer, Jesus, is so deep that turning our thoughts to Him fills our lives. I encourage you to study the Person and Work of Christ regularly. He is the deep meaning of God’s grace.

God’s logical order of salvation is rooted in the “simple” answer, Jesus! The Bible declares that God is a God of order not chaos. The Bible begins with this affirmation of God bringing order out of chaos. “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 waters. And God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” Genesis 1:2-3 The Apostle Paul rebuked the Church in Corinth for their chaotic behavior. He said, “But all things should be done decently and in order.” He was simply reflecting on the fact that God is a God of order, therefore, His people must be likewise.

In terms of the question, “How does God save?” order is foremost. It is not as if seeing this is to put God in a box. No. It is necessary because God is perfectly rational and supremely logical. Men bear the attributes of reason and logic, albeit broken by the Fall. Throughout the history of the Church, the answer to the “How” question has been called the “Ordo Salutis”, that is, the order of salvation. It does not imply any chronological listing of events. This doctrine of salvation is grounded in the revealed logical order of God’s saving acts.

So then, what is God’s logical order of salvation? The Bible reveals seven main actions of God in salvation. They are God’s: effectual call, regeneration, conversion, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification. In each case the sinner is acted upon. God alone saves. No man can save himself. No man can believe unless God has regenerated him. No man sanctifies himself. God is at work in the believer such that the believer responds to the action of the Holy Spirit. No man can bring himself to glory. If at any step, God removed Himself, all would be lost! All of God’s logical order of salvation is monergistic, meaning one work/God’s work.
1. God’s effectual call is the word of Christ speaking to the dead heart of a man, like Jesus spoke to dead Lazarus. Romans 10:17, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
2. Regeneration and the effectual call of God are intimately linked. John 3:3, Jesus said, “… unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
3. Conversion, “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation…” God converts a sinner into a saint in an instant, gives the sinner two gifts, faith and repentance, and begins a process of change. Ephesians 2:8; 2Corinthians 5:17; 7:10
4. Justification, God sovereignly declares a man right with Him through faith alone, a gift received at conversion. God imputes the perfect righteousness of Christ to the man and takes the man’s sin and places it on Christ. Romans 4:4-5; 2Corinthians 5:21
5. Adoption, God adopts those whom He justifies. He adopts them into His family by an act of His free grace, Romans 8:15.
6. Sanctification is an act of God’s free grace whereby He changes those who are in Christ to be more and more like Him, Philippians 2:12-13
7. Glorification, God by His grace has promised to bring those whom He has chosen in Christ to glory with Him, John 14:2-3; Romans 8:30.

This, beloved, is the gospel! S.D.G.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Brother, are you saved?”

“Brother, are you saved?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

My previous article attempted to give an honest answer to an honest question. The question, “Does God desire all men to be saved?” was answered from Scripture in the negative, based on the context of 1Timothy 2.

Perhaps, this article should’ve preceded the consideration of the salvation of “all” men. Logically, salvation can be addressed both in general terms and intimate ones. The above question is both. It is meant to cause thought re: the meaning of salvation and one’s personal state.

In general, salvation is applied to any dire circumstance. For example, in Jesus’ day the people sought to be delivered from Roman rule. Every adverse circumstance of life drives us all to think of deliverance, which is another word for salvation.

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

Now as I bring this question to a personal level, I remember my life before Christ. Before God made me a Christian, my response to the question of salvation would certainly have been, “I don’t need to be saved! I’m doing fine.” If someone would have asked me, “Brother, are you saved?” I would have probably laughed and/or been offended. When God regenerated me, raised me from death to life, I was confronted with the truth about myself. I was far from fine. I needed to be saved; to be continually delivered and to have the certain hope of heaven. Before Christ, I was spiritually blind and dead in sin.

By God’s grace, I was able to see the profound nature of the question. The following statement may offend some but it is the heart of the matter. It is the truth revealed by God in His word. Ultimate salvation is being saved by God from God. John 3:16, because God the Father chose to demonstrate His love, He gave Jesus so that whoever would believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life. God must cause an individual to see his need. When confronted with his sinfulness, a jailer cried out to the Apostle Paul and his companion, “what must I do to be saved?” The answer given to him is the timeless answer for all. “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your whole household” Acts 16:30-31.

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

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

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

Jesus, the full revelation of God, the second person of the Trinity, will come again to judge all mankind.

So then, “Brother, are you saved?” You will either experience the wrath of the Holy God or His steadfast love forever! S.D.G.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “An honest question deserves an honest answer”

“An honest question deserves an honest answer.”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Difficult texts in Scripture present questions. One such text is 1Timothy 2:3-4. “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

“Does God desire all people to be saved?” I’ve heard a response given that suggests the answer is one of the “secret things” of God and there is no answer nor does it matter! 1Timothy 2 is set in the context of corporate worship. Most biblical commentators would agree on this point. This fact does not adequately answer the question.

Indeed, the context is about God’s expectation for His church. He expects the church to be a people of prayer. Corporate worship is to include prayer for men to be saved.

Yet, the answer to the question of God’s will in salvation rests on the meaning of the word “all”. All in 1Timothy 2:4 means all the varied levels of society, specifically, all the ranks of government. The elect of God come from every economic and civil rank. The all does not refer to every single human being, but to groups, ranks of people.

The context is necessary to arrive at an answer. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions…” 1Timothy 2:1-2 Following this, Paul then declares the desire of God our Savior.

Paul declared what pleases God. God is pleased when the church prays for the salvation of all people, especially those who are civil leaders. This is clear. The application is clear at this point. Allow me to phrase the application by way of a question. “Does your church pray for the salvation of all those in authority, regardless of how you feel about specific individuals?” Church, do you want to please God? Then pray for the salvation of all men, especially all those who are in authority, especially when you gather for worship.

Whether “all” is used as an adjective, adverb, pronoun or noun, the context in which it occurs is necessary to define its meaning. Some texts that demonstrate the range of the meaning of “all, everyone, any, whole, and even world” are: John 3:16; Romans 10:13; 2Peter 3:9; 1John 2:2; 1Timothy 2:6. We can, therefore conclude that Paul was not suggesting that it is God’s will to save every person but was qualifying the meaning of “all” by the context.

Secondly the difficulty presented to honest students of the Bible concerns the will of God. God’s will is always done. It is apparent as you study the Bible that God’s will is sovereign over all. That is, by definition of the word “God”, His will must be sovereign over all or He is not God!

We receive God’s revelation of His sovereign will throughout the Scriptures. Genesis 1:1, God created everything out of nothing simply by His command. God is sovereign even over “nothing.” The definition of the absolute sovereignty of God is expressed by the two Latin words, ex nihilo which mean out of nothing.

In addition, Jeremiah declared God’s sovereign will by saying, “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? “Lamentations 3:37 Likewise, Jesus declared God’s sovereign will. “All that the Father gives me will come to me… No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…” John 6:37, 44

One of my favorite texts revealing the absolute sovereign will of God was recorded by Daniel. The pagan king, Nebuchadnezzar said, “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will…” Daniel 4:35

Stepping back a bit, we know that because God ‘s will is sovereign, we will always be with Him. Because the sovereign God has saved us from Himself, we are assured of eternal glory with Him. After all, salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone and this is God’s gift. Our hope rests in the sovereign will of God. He said through the Prophet Isaiah, “But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

Soli Deo Gloria.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A Basic Question”

“A Basic Question”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
If you are a regular attender of a Christian Worship Service on each Lord’s Day, I pose the following basic question: Why do you attend Corporate Worship on Sunday? I’ve asked this question to professing Christians over the years. I’ve received several typical answers. One of the most representative answers is, “I go to church to be fed.” Other more obscure answers are: “I go to “feel” good. I go to be encouraged. I go because of my children.” These answers are obscure because the answer given is actually hiding the “real” answer. Each of these obscure answers are centered on “self.”

As opposed to these self-centered answers, God commands His people to “keep holy the Sabbath Day.” The Christian Sabbath is Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the Day of His resurrection. Jesus said that He is Lord of the Sabbath. He said that the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath. Mark 2:27-28

God made us to worship Him. It is deeply imbedded in each of us. We will worship. The question is, “Who will we worship?” Jesus’ final response to Satan’s temptation in the wilderness was, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” Matthew 4:10

There is only one biblical reason to worship God on the Lord’s Day. We, His creatures owe worship to Him. We gather with God’s people to worship Him!

May we all be honest with ourselves. Those of us who think that worship is for us, may we repent of this self-centered idolatry! Jesus said that the Father is seeking true worshipers to worship Him in spirit and truth, John 4:23.

If you have been raised from death to life, you will desire to worship the One who extended such grace to you. You were once dead in your sin, but God made you alive with Jesus Christ. Therefore, worship Him! This desire is not a feeling. It does not depend upon whether you feel loved by the people in the church or that the music is what you’re used to hearing in concerts or Christian radio. The desire to worship is part of being a new creation in Christ. That is, if your truly are!

Being a new creation in Christ does not depend upon saying the “sinners’ prayer” or doing some special ministry in the church. It is not about settling things with God and getting on with your life. No. Being a new creation is a change in our very being wrought only by the sovereign grace of God. It is being different and knowing that God has set you apart in Christ to be like Him! It is knowing that you are a sinner saved by God’s grace alone through the Person and Work of Christ alone. Being a new creation is to be a genuine Christian. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,” 2Corinthians 5:17

Christians, new creations have been saved by God from God. The only response to being God’s adopted child in Christ is to bow down and worship Him! The idea that corporate worship is one thing in a list of things, is simply not biblical. Our entire life is worship. That is, Christians live in submission to the sovereign God. Christians have received God’s grace to live for Him, Romans 6:11.

I am dismayed when I hear a professing Christian give excuses for not joining God’s people to worship Him on the Lord’s Day. All of the excuses, save physical illness that is debilitating, are grounded in a love for self over a love for God.

To all those who fail to gather on the Lord’s Day for worship and profess to be Christians, I can only say what God has said. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus… let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some…” Hebrews 10:19,24-25 And, Therefore, brothers., be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election…” 2Peter 1:10

Psalm 122:1 expresses the depth of a new creation’s desire. “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”’ It is an oxymoron to claim to be a child of God and not desire to worship Him with His people.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Who is Truth? (The Real Jesus)”

“Who is Truth? (the Real Jesus)”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

The Roman Governor of Jerusalem, the civil authority “ordained by God” to order the crucifixion of Jesus, asked the question, “What is truth?” Pilate asked Jesus the question already having determined an answer. In Pilate’s mind, truth was secondary. He believed that the most important thing was power. Ironically, Pilate was right. However, he did not acknowledge the truly sovereign power, God Himself. He was standing in front of the truth and was blind to Him! A more accurate question not only for Pilate but for all men is, “Who is Truth?” Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” John 14:6. Truth is reality. All men must face reality. Therefore, all men must face the one who is Truth! And, we all will.

Our current age is referred to as the Post Modern Era. Post modernism subverts the importance of truth. The Post Modern mind has no absolutes. A symptom of Post Modernism is reflected by what is called spirituality. We see it in movies and television. There are popular dramas centered in the world beyond this one. Talk shows on T.V. have segments to discuss the importance of having some kind of spiritual connectedness. People seem to be on never-ending quests to experience the latest spiritual guru’s method for attaining a deep spiritual fulfillment. You may have heard someone say, “It’s all about the journey.” The evangelical church is not immune. Books, like “The Shack” describing a different god, or those that record experiences of near death are received as certain truth.

It’s common to hear that when someone dies they have gone to a better place! We fail to remember that there is such a thing as absolute truth. There is a person who is truth. There will be an accounting for all men. Revelation 20:11-13 Judgment is real.

Men and women live in denial. People have bought the lie that everything is relative. What’s true for you may or may not be true for me. Those who see reality are referred to as simple-minded or bigots. Their charge against those of us who recognize absolute truth is: “Who made you the purveyor of truth?” The political world is filled with such charges. Decisions are made according to poll numbers. We know and have experienced that polls are designed to support an agenda rather than report on the truth.

Too often the evangelical church is not different than the world. Some who claim to speak for the church would have us believe that it’s all about relationships and that truth is contrary to love. Doctrine is outdated. The central focus of many churches is fellowship with each other and sincerity towards God. They suggest that God honors sincerity regardless of submission to the truth. Fellowship is the “warm feeling” one gets by being with like-minded people rather than being in union with Christ knowing that you are a member of His body, the Church.

Nevertheless, having a relationship with the real Jesus is what matters. There is only one true Savior. He said that He is the truth. He is the revealed Jesus of the Bible. Dare I say that He is not simply known in the eye of the beholder? One might be sincerely wrong if his devotion does not proceed out of Christ. He is reality! He commands that men and women repent and believe in the gospel! Mark 1:15

The church does not exist to meet “felt needs”; to offer courses on how to have a better marriage or how to live as a single or divorced person, etc. The church is commanded to teach what is in accordance with sound doctrine. In doing so believers will be equipped to make a difference in the world for the glory of God.

The answer to the question asked in the title is: Jesus is the Truth. Truth is that which is real and truth is a Person! Truth matters. Absolute truth matters absolutely. By God’s grace, He has revealed truth. His name is Jesus. He is the only begotten one of God, not born, but eternally proceeding from the Father. He is the one revealed in the Bible. He is the one offered in the gospel. All life is lived in response to Him. Every relationship is designed by God to find meaning as a result of knowing Him.

Abide in the word and you will know the truth!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Apathy”

“Apathy”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God,” Psalm 14:1a “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Romans 1:18

On one hand, king David defined the ultimate lie that “fools” tell themselves. On the other hand, the Apostle Paul declared that men suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Both texts are given to us under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Both texts declare, in part, man’s apathy.

Apathy as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary means to have a lack of feeling or interest or to be indifferent to reality. The origin of the word is found in Greek. Apathy is a compound word. Pathos means feeling, sometimes lustful passion. The prefix “a” is a negation. We may literally understand the word apathy to mean no interest or feeling.

I find it very difficult that one knows the truth and yet doesn’t care about it. Truth, remember, is that which is real. In our physical world, no one can survive very long by being indifferent to reality. I’ve used the analogy of a wall to describe the impossibility of being indifferent to reality. Think for a moment. We all live in houses or apartments. Our homes have walls that both mark boundaries and provide privacy and protection. In order to enter our home, we normally enter through a doorway. We wouldn’t consider walking through a wall. We know that that wall is real. It is a physical barrier. Even if we were somehow indifferent to the wall, we still know that it prevents us from walking through it. We can deny the reality of the wall. But, our denial of it does not make it possible for us to ignore it

Yet, some Christians live as though truth doesn’t matter. They live in a state of denial. They even express indifference to ultimate truth.

Christians are citizens of heaven, Philippians 3:20. Jesus said that He is “the way and the truth and the life,” John 14:6. Jesus also said that He is the Good Shepherd. He is the door into His pasture. John 10.

Jesus taught the ethic of life in the Kingdom, Matthew 5-7. In reading and understanding Matthew 5-7, we are faced with the impossibility of meeting those standards. The reality revealed in the Sermon on the Mount is that no man can do it, save the God-Man, Jesus. We who profess Christ must fall on our knees in dependence upon the power of the Holy Spirit to live in Christ as God intends.

Every day, we see our need for Christ, our Savior and Lord. We read that the gospel is the power of God, Romans 1:16. All who are in Christ have confessed that Jesus is Lord and believe in their heart that God raised Him from the dead, Romans 10:9. The ultimate truth is that Jesus, as He is offered in the gospel, is the only Savior and Lord. He is God, the second Person of the Trinity. He is fully God and fully Man.

All of the above are true and are affirmed by every Christian Church. Yet, in my experience, the Evangelical Church is remiss in teaching the Person and Work of Christ revealed in Scripture. There is apathy in congregations for learning the revealed truth of the Person and Work of Christ which is the gospel, the power of God. Some members of churches would rather hear methods, checklists on overcoming divorce, or dealing with sin, or the “right” way to raise children.

Many churches grow in numbers by using the “right methods.” The overwhelming majority of people in our area of the country declare that they are Christians. Yet, few know much of who Jesus is and what He accomplished, save that He died for their sins. Some are told that once they settle accounts with God through Jesus, they are guaranteed of heaven and life can go on as usual. People are taught that God wants to make them better. They are not told the truth that God changes those whom He calls to Himself.

There is also another expression of apathy in the church. It is in churches that teach the truth and yet her members have little time or interest to learn.

Both expressions: settling for lies or ignoring the truth are forms of apathy. Both expressions lead to disaster!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “False Prophets”

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

There is a problem. In my opinion, the Evangelical Church has a problem. Too often, those in the church debate around the central issue and ignore the problem. We debate about the effectiveness of programs. We debate worship styles and music in churches. We talk of relevance. We spend time wondering how to attract people. We even fall for the “health -wealth” teachers. We lament that so many professing Christians lack even a basic knowledge of the Person and Work of Christ. We fail to recognize the root cause, the central issue, the problem.

Let me be frank. The root cause of all issues in the church, the problem in the Evangelical Church is the existence of “False Prophets.” A prophet is one who speaks God’s words. Therefore, the prophets in the church are her pastors and false prophets are literally false pastors.

Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount,” recorded in Matthew Chapters 5-7 is Jesus’ teaching given to His disciples concerning Kingdom Life now. It was not another giving of the Law. In precise words, the Sermon on the Mount describes Jesus’ ethic or practice. In it, Jesus laid out absolute standards of life in His Kingdom. He lived what He preached. None of us is able in his own strength to do what He commanded. Jesus’ purpose was and is to drive those who have been born again to their knees. We who profess the name of Christ do so by the sovereign grace of God who has raised us from death to life. We read the sermon and realize that it presents an impossible life-style. We are compelled to rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit of God in order to live the Christian Life.

Among the many absolute standards of Kingdom Life is the verse concerning false prophets. It is near the close of sermon. Jesus declared that there will be false prophets. He said that these false prophets will look and dress like sheep but will actually be wolves. These wolves will seek to devour the sheep. The sheep represent the people of God. The wolves naturally, are those who are opposed to God and seek to destroy God’s people. The church is the visible Kingdom of God on earth. These “false prophets” are in the visible church.

The Bible is God’s word to His children. What the Bible says, God says. What God has said is binding on all people whether or not they believe it. Jesus declared a universal truth concerning false prophets. The test of a true prophet is not found in eloquence or erudition, real or imagined. It is not found in appearance or popularity. A true prophet can be assessed by looking at his fruit. That is, has this man been changed by the Word in concert with the Spirit? Does he live under the word of God?

The Evangelical Church’s problem is also her pressing need. The Church has always had this need. The need is for true prophets. Prophets in the church are the pastors. Pastors are called to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season,” 2Timothy 4:2. God has chosen to reach the lost through the foolishness of preaching, 1Corinthians 1:21. He calls men to the office of “Pastor-Teacher,” Ephesians 4:11. These men are accountable to God to “rightly handle the word,” 2Timothy 2:15.

There is a condition in the Church that rivals this pressing need. Too many members of churches love to have their ears tickled. Paul warned the Pastor Timothy of this tendency. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” 2Timothy 4:3-4

We can complain about church leadership displaying little or no character. We can try to outdo the experts who continue to put forth man-centered methods and ministers trained to attract people. We can look for pastors who are expert at contextualizing the gospel. Or, we can demand honesty and integrity. Church members should have an expectation that they will hear the truth of God’s word from their pulpits. Don’t settle for a list of “how to’s” or self-determined relevant messages, or even things that make you “feel good.” Seek to hear the pure word preached and lived for the glory of God.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Theology”

“Theology”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
As a pastor of a Church, a member congregation in a Reformed Denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, I am often asked by visitors what is Reformed Theology? My response is that Reformed Theology is Biblical Theology. It was recovered by the Protestant Reformers of the 16th Century. Perhaps, a better question is “What is theology?” Reformed is simply an adjective describing the noun, theology.

Theology is the study of God, His attributes and mighty works. Reformed Theology is precisely the same thing. The Reformers understood what the fathers of the Ancient Church understood. All theology finds its roots in one very clear attribute of God that He revealed throughout Scripture. That one attribute is His sovereignty.

The words of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of ancient Babylon recorded by the Prophet Daniel is the most definitive declaration of God’s sovereignty in all of Scripture. “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and He does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”’ Daniel 4:34-35

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

We can choose to believe whatever we want to believe. But we are not free to define God in our own image or comfort. God has revealed Himself to be the Holy Sovereign One.

You may be thinking, “Doesn’t every church believe that God is sovereign?” You’re right. Every church that professes belief in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ also believes in the sovereignty of God. So then, what’s this “Reformed Theology” all about and why does it represent the truth of Scripture? The reason is simple. Reformed Theology looks at every aspect of life through the lens of a sovereign God. He does as He pleases and He always accomplishes His will!

For example, salvation depends upon a sovereign God. God said that men are incapable of turning to Him. He said that all men are born spiritually dead. Only a God who is absolutely sovereign can save us. God breaks into the life of a man causing him to see the truth of life in Jesus. We do not have the ability in us to believe in God’s only begotten Son, Jesus. God must raise us from death to life.

I can’t think of anything in life that doesn’t depend upon the sovereign God. The Prophet Jeremiah was in mourning over the destruction of Jerusalem. He wrote, “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” Lamentations 3:37-38 Jeremiah declared that God ordains everything that happens!

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

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

So whatever your perspective happens to be, I propose to you that it is only relevant if God’s sovereignty is your absolute guiding principle. If you are in a church that teaches, “God is sovereign but you must choose to believe” invest in one that teaches the truth, the whole truth revealed by the sovereign God for your spiritual growth and health are at stake!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “My Story – God’s Work”

“My Story – God’s Work”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor
Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
I’m closing in on the anniversary of my spiritual birth. This year, I will celebrate and thank God for 31 yrs. of new life in Christ. By His grace alone, I was made His in Christ.

On January 29, 1986 God snatched me from the pit of hell. I was broad-sided by a large truck which was carrying home- insulation products. The driver later claimed that he realized his truck’s brakes were not working and as he approached a traffic light, he thought that he could speed up and get through the intersection before the light changed. He was wrong. The light changed and I was the second car proceeding through the light to turn left. I was told that the paramedics had to cut me out of my car.

I woke up four days later. I was transported to a city with a major hospital approximately 70 miles from where I lived. When I awoke, I knew that I was different. Physically I was a mess. But, spiritually I was alive. God gave me an unquenchable desire for Him.

I awoke a different person, with different desires because God raised me from death to life. Jesus said that one must be born again to see the Kingdom, John 3:3. God caused me to see the kingdom.

God broke me physically and through it showed me my total helplessness. Even after when I was discharged from the hospital, my wife fed me, bathed me and did all those other things that I used to take for granted. God used my physical recovery to hammer into me my need for Him every moment of every day.

Now as a pastor – teacher, a minister of the gospel, I have had the privilege of telling my conversion story to many groups and leaders. As I listen to men seeking to be ordained to the gospel ministry, I am reminded of those times when I gave my testimony before the church and am blessed by God’s grace “all over again.”

Yet, as a minister of the word of God, I know that testimonies don’t in and of themselves save anyone. I know that God alone saves and He does so by His Spirit in concert with His word. He gave me an incident and a specific time to remember His sovereign work. Other believers don’t have such a traumatic conversion story, yet, every conversion is an act of God’s grace wherein He begins a process of transformation.

The fundamental reason for sharing one’s conversion story is to praise God. Praise is to tell of God’s mighty works and His attributes, Psalms 117; 149; 150.

God’s conversion of me and every one whom He calls is the personal bit of experience of His mighty work and His sovereign faithfulness to redeem those whom He chooses. Conversion is the believer’s opportunity to praise the sovereign God.

My story has different details as does every believer’s story. But there is one commonality. God acts and men respond in praise and thanksgiving. My life’s details began before God’s effectual call, His exact timing for giving me eyes to see.

I was born in Trenton, N.J. on January 1, 1952 to devout Roman Catholic parents. Growing up I remember attending mass every Sunday and every special holy day. I was blessed to be sent to Roman Catholic Grammar School and Catholic High School. By God’s grace, the woman who would become my wife also attended the same High School. We began dating after attending a High School Graduation Party.

After High School, I attended Villanova University and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering. Villanova was also a Roman Catholic institution.

I was living a normal and even successful life. Yet, I didn’t know Jesus or my desperate need for Him. The Lord blessed me with a godly wife whom He saved before me. We have three children and soon will have six grandchildren. My thoughts before God broke in were centered on me. Everything, every decision I made was evaluated by how it would benefit me and my career.

But my “normal” life was a lost one. I was heading to hell and didn’t know it. God broke in not because I was a good person but by His sovereign choice. “Praise the Lord… Extol Him… the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.” Psalm 117