Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Fundamentals of the Christian Faith… Knowing the Basics”

The Fundamentals of the Christian Faith… Knowing the Basics
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Biblical Faith includes three parts. They are: knowledge, assent and trust. My focus in this article is the first, knowledge. Simply stated, having faith assumes a certain body of information about the object. The Christian Faith is not some self-contained “force” like the Star Wars expression, “May the force be with you.”

I am a Presbyterian by conviction. I have brothers and sisters in Christ who belong to many different Christian Denominations. When we push aside our denominational differences, we all affirm several basic truths revealed by God concerning our common faith in Jesus Christ.

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;
2. Jesus was born of a virgin;
3. The atonement of Christ was full, penal and substitutionary;
4. Jesus’ resurrection was a bodily resurrection;
5. The miracles recorded in Scripture were authentic.
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.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Upsetting Your World”

“Upsetting Your World”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“In the beginning God…” are the four words that upset my world. My hope is that they will upset yours as well! These words are revealed truth which can also be called reality. You know reality is that sticky truth that hits you in the face like a brick wall. Some may think that reality is what you make of it or believe it to be. Try standing in front of a brick wall and imagining that it’s not there. Then try running as fast as you can in the belief (even strongly held) that you’ll just pass through that wall. The result is obvious; so too, the confrontation of these four words.

Just like that wall, God’s words knocked me off of my throne. I was a Christian when it happened, but clearly, reality and truth are true for all or not true at all.

Genesis 1:1 declared clearly that there was a time nothing existed; therefore, God made everything out of nothing! Nothing existed in the beginning except God Himself. He spoke and all things leapt into existence. This God changed me. He made me a new creation. His words told me that I had no right to claim the throne of my life, to think that I was “in charge.”

In making me a new creation, He gave me new desires, specifically a new desire, a profound and deep desire for Him. The Great “I Am” is the only self-existent being. All things that exist proceed from Him. I am because He is. We know Him in Jesus who said, “Let Me tell you how to say Yahweh in Greek (I’m paraphrasing), It is Jesus.” (read the “I Am” sayings in John’s Gospel.)

The confrontation came when I realized that He alone had the right to claim ownership of me and sovereign control of my life. There was no other reasonable response that a creature (me) could make to the Creator. Since all existence proceeds from Him, “In Him we live and move and have our being”, Acts 17:28 ESV, the claim of an absolute self-determination is unachievable.

At the risk of repeating myself, let me re-phrase. Before there was anything there was God. By His sovereign will alone He chose to make everything out of nothing. Opposed to this is the view of eternal matter. A once great secular philosopher of the 21st Century said, “The cosmos is all there ever was or ever will be.” Acceptance of this view, in my opinion, requires a blind leap of faith into the dark rather than a step into the light.

King David said it best, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.” Psalm 19:1, ESV

In light of God’s confrontation of Man’s idea of an autonomous, self-directed control over life, the question must be asked. How do you or have you responded to the reality that you’re not in control?

The critic might say that this view of reality is demeaning and renders men and women to be pawns. But just the opposite is true. Understanding that you’re not God and He is brings you to the profound realization that He has condescended to reach down and bless man above all creatures. David wrote in Psalm 8:5 about man, “You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” In light of the whole of Scripture, this supremely points to Jesus Christ but declares the significance of the entire human race.

You are free to ignore this reality. But, for the sake of repetition, it would be like ignoring the wall I mentioned in my introduction. So then, “How do you respond to the truth that you’re a creature made by the Sovereign Creator? The simple, not easy, response is one word, “Submit.” Men continue to suppress this truth in unrighteousness. Nevertheless, I call you to submit your life to the truth.

This is not a matter of perspective or experience. Your submission to the Creator is a matter of reality!

Let me emphasize a propositional truth. Whether you believe God’s revelation of His sovereignty or not is irrelevant. That is, God is not anxiously awaiting your acceptance. Your belief or unbelief will not impact Him in the least. But, concerning your life, knowing that you are a creature in the hands of the Creator will frame your existence.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Salvation”

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

As we prepare to worship God on each Lord’s Day, the issue of salvation is critical. I suggest to you that salvation is always and fundamentally the critical issue not only of worship on the Lord’s Day but also for all of life! Take for example Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. The people cried “Hosanna” as Jesus rode into the city. The meaning of their cry was “Save us now we pray!” Matthew 21:15

Of course, salvation can be applied to any dire circumstance. In Jesus’ day the people sought to be delivered from Roman rule. Every adverse circumstance of life drives us all to seek deliverance, another word for salvation.

Yet, ultimate, that is, eternal salvation 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, “for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” Romans 10:13.

All too often pastors, even I, sometimes ask the wrong questions. That is, we sometimes ask questions that others aren’t asking. Before Christ broke into my life, I must admit that the question of salvation, that is, ultimate salvation, was not in the forefront of my thoughts.

Before I became a Christian, my response to the question of salvation would certainly have been, “I don’t need to be saved! I’m doing fine; saved from what?” If someone would have asked me, “Brother, are you saved?” I would have probably laughed and/or been offended. The problem now is that I know 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. I was blinded by sin. I was dead in sin and unable to see my need to be delivered.

By God’s grace alone, I now know the profound nature of the question. The following statement may offend some. Yet, it must be stated because it is the truth revealed by God. 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’s command for 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 saves 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 from His wrath. The wrath of God is the necessary response of the Holy God against sin.

Years ago, while 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. How will you meet Him?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Discernment”

“Discernment”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard a leader say, “I commit to do what I think is right.” Such a declaration is often followed by accolades. It really sounds good to hear someone say that he or she will be faithful to what they think. Each time I hear it, my amazement increases. Many believe that whatever one thinks is right. This is seen to represent goodness and virtue. Yet a good and virtuous person would commit to do that which is right. Whether or not one thinks an action is right is, in this sense, irrelevant. The key is to do what is right.

How can one know what is right? Romans 12:2 exhorts Christians not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewal of the mind. The result is: “That by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Ephesians 5:11 points out that Christians were once in darkness but are now “light in the Lord.” Therefore, believers are to live as children of light, that is, to follow Jesus. Disciples of Jesus Christ are told that the “fruit” of living as children of light is “found in all that is good and right and true.” Knowing what is good, right and true is called discernment; doing it is wise living.

The Ancient Hebrews knew that “the fear of the LORD was the beginning of wisdom”, Proverbs 9:10a. In order to live wisely it is necessary for the creature to know the Creator. God has revealed what He wants us to know of Him through His word written. Just as the church in the Old Testament knew to apply God’s word for wise living, every believer ought to do likewise.

The application of God’s word is wisdom. Therefore discernment, knowing the right action, requires knowledge of what God has said.

The Bible reveals that God is good, righteous and true. All three are attributes of the One True God. To know God, one must know His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. As the Father is the source, discernment only grows through a personal and intimate knowledge of Him through His Son, Jesus. Discernment is a learned ability rather than a spiritual gift and is available to everyone who professes Christ.

Discernment leads to wise living. Wise living follows the way of blessing. God said the way of blessing was to obey Him. Conversely, He warned that a cursed life would follow the one who disobeyed Him. I have yet to meet someone who wanted to live a cursed life. Yet, by ignorance or avoidance of God’s word, we head towards destruction. Don’t be fooled by following someone who commits to do what he thinks is right. First, know yourself what is right. Then do it.

The key to discernment is to know what is right, good and true. The method for knowing is not easy but is a blessing. The method is the systematic, intense study of the Bible and the theology which proceeds from it. This is not only a personal endeavor. God has ordained that we grow in discernment and wisdom corporately. I am speaking of the necessity of growing in a church that teaches “sound doctrine”, Titus 2:1.

The Apostle Paul addressed the barrier to growth in discernment and it is recorded in 2Timothy 3. He wrote of the “last days”, those days between Jesus’ first and second coming. Paul said that people would be “lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.”

Paul was not describing the world in general. He was describing the visible church corrupted by leaders who only looked godly. He gave a timeless answer to the problem. Paul’s answer then was for Timothy to continue in what he learned and firmly believed. Paul reminded Timothy that all Scripture was breathed out by God and it’s the Scriptures which are able to make the believer “competent and equipped for every good work.” God’s answer remains the same. The visible church is the place for growth in discernment through personal and corporate study of all that is good, right and true. Learn to do what is right!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The State of Affairs”

“The State of Affairs”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
In the words of the “Bard”, “There is something rotten in the state of Denmark.” These are the lines spoken by the character Marcellus, an officer of the palace guard in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. Another “rotten” incident has occurred; this time not in a play but in the State of New York. I’m sure that you have heard of the newly revised law in New York euphemistically called “The Reproductive Health Act”. This law legalizes abortion up to the time of birth. Effectively, the State of New York legalized infanticide! No matter your view, understand that this is not a political issue. This is a moral issue. Why would anyone call such an evil action good as did the legislators in New York? The reason is God has been removed. Therefore, there is no basis for good. Secular humanists make their decisions on personal preference as the truth is suppressed in unrighteousness, Romans 1:18.

What is God’s revealed view? Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” God issued a warning to His people. God directed His “woe” against the leaders of His people.

God expects His people to know good from evil. He expects His people to follow “the good”. “The good” is that which is morally and ethically right. The ultimate source of “the good” is God. He has revealed “the good” in His word. “He has told you, O man, what is good.” Micah 6:8a

We also have God’s promise to work all things together for the good of those who love Him, those whom He has called according to His purpose, Romans 8:28.

The Bible, God’s word written, is binding on all people. God does not have a sliding scale. He doesn’t grade on a curve. “All must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” 2Corinthans 5:10

As a result of our sinfulness both believers and unbelievers often have a difficult time in discerning “the good”. Believers always appeal to the word of God and pray for the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit to guide our discernment, Psalm 119:105

Issues of human life do not fall in the category of moral confusion. We need not wonder what the “good” course is. God is for life! Those who would call death good fall under God’s “woes” that Isaiah declared. We must all be wise to understand titles godless people give to evil actions. In this case, Pro Choice is really Pro Death. Reading of the celebrations and commendations of the law makers who passed this evil legislation, the words of king David and the Apostle Paul echoed in my mind. “There is no fear of God before their eyes,” Psalm 36:1; Romans 3:18.

Technically, New York State Law does not affect us… yet. But this latest action is another step in our culture’s spiral downward. Those who still believe in God must be diligent; especially all who profess the Name of Christ! This latest evil action should exhort all to understand the cultural issues before us; abortion being the primary one.

I am called to be a minister of the gospel. I am an ordained pastor. Yet, in this I am simply writing as a man who believes the Risen Lord Jesus. I have been made a new creation by the sovereign grace of God. He has caused me to see the truth and the beauty of Christ. As a member of His family, I am obligated to declare the truth and live under His word. I dare not bless what God curses! I dare not remain silent when evil is called good. Jesus said, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:32-33

The Risen Lord Jesus cannot be separated from His word. Therefore, to acknowledge Him before men, we must live under His word. His word written, the Bible, reveals that which is good. We live in a Country in which we have the right to free speech. May we use our liberty for the glory of God and call evil evil and good good!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Purpose of the Church”

“The Purpose of the Church”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
There are fundamental truths that all Christians affirm. All who profess Christ would affirm that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. All would believe that Jesus was born of a virgin. Professing Christians have received the truth that Jesus was the full, penal and substitutionary atonement for sin. Clearly, Christian assurance is grounded in the bodily resurrection of Christ. Finally, since the Bible is true, all the miracles recorded in it are a matter of historic veracity. All of these doctrines are believed by every individual Christian. They are also held and taught by every true Christian Church.

I want to briefly examine the purpose of the gathering of those who hold those truths. That is, the church has been given a purpose. There is a God-given reason for the church to exist. Since everything is for the glory of God, the church must therefore exist for His glory.

The visible church is defined as all those who profess Jesus Christ as He is offered in the gospel, and their children. Every local church that teaches the fundamental truths listed above is part of the universal visible church, gathered to worship the Triune God! The Protestant Reformers described the true visible church as one that preaches the pure gospel, administers the two Sacraments as ordained by Christ and exercises biblical discipline.

God has chosen to reach the lost through the visible church. Romans 10:17 is the clear affirmation of God’s plan. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (ESV) But God has also organized the visible church. “He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherd-teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry…” Ephesians 4:11-12, ESV. Every local church that bears the marks of a true church is part of the world-wide visible church of Jesus Christ.

God organized the church, revealed her marks and chose to use her to reach the lost, it is reasonable to expect that He also gave her a purpose.

It’s common to think that the purpose of the church is the ministry that she does. We can look to biblical preaching, teaching sound doctrine, liturgy, programs, etc. But the God-given purpose underlies all of the things that the church does. Purpose is concerned with being rather than doing.

The dictionary’s definition of purpose is the reason for existence or being. Applying this definition, what is the reason for the church’s existence? Everything is for God’s glory. The church glorifies God because she is to be holy, Leviticus 11:44; 1Peter 1:15-16. Peter wrote, “Since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy”’ A holy church glorifies God.

Therefore, the purpose of the church is holiness. The church exists to be holy. The basic meaning of holy is unique. Biblical holiness, uniqueness has a range of meaning which spans from uniqueness to purity and perfection. God declared that the church was set apart. By God’s definition, the church is to be different from the world.

In the book “Against the Night”, Chuck Colson observed that the church had become or was at least striving to become just like the world. D.L. Moody once compared the visible church to a ship in the sea. He said, “The place for the ship is in the sea, but God help the ship if the sea gets in it. Just as the place for the church is in the world, but God help the church if the world gets in it.” The Bible uses the metaphor of a bride to describe the church. She is the bride of Christ. She is the new Jerusalem, the holy city, that the Apostle John was allowed to see coming down from heaven. Jesus Christ died for the church to make her holy, Ephesians 5:25-26.

It is essential for Christians to know their purpose. For the church to be holy, her members are likewise to be holy. Believers who are also members of the visible church were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy, Ephesians 1:4 God doesn’t leave this to the will of men. God sanctifies each and every believer. That is, He makes every member of His church more and more like Christ. He does so by the power of His Spirit who takes His word written and applies it to our hearts so that we might live holy lives for His glory.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Stand for Life!”

Stand for Life!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

We continue to hear some of the most astounding things from politicians. Great concern, rightly so, is expressed over the plight of children being used as pawns to cross our Southern border. It is right that there is concern and compassion for the health and safety of the most vulnerable members of the world. But there is a great hypocrisy! Many of our civil leaders’ express concern for the children of people seeking to enter our country illegally. Yet, there is a segment of not only our country but of the world that is forgotten, not defended and for whom there is no expressed compassion. I’m referring to unborn babies, those human beings still in their mother’s womb.

The World Health Organization recently reported that the greatest cause of human death in the world was abortion. They reported that more than 40 million babies were killed world-wide in 2018 by abortion. Further, the staggering fact in our country is that since 1974, 60+ million babies have been killed through abortion.

In this day of so-called scientific enlightenment, denying that the life of a human being begins at conception would be to any reasonable person that which is unbelievable.

In the interest of our children, I stand with those who say, “Stand for Life”! Christians are accountable to the God of life to speak out against the evil of abortion and take a stand for life.

Why should the Christian Church stand for the sanctity of human life? The answer is clear and simple. God is for life. He set apart human life and sanctified it.

Since, the mid Seventies, the “Progressives” have given government the authority to remove the right to life given by our Creator. As Francis Schaeffer wrote in 1981, “The dignity of human life is not some peripheral issue,” The Christian Manifesto.

The protection of human life is not something upon which we can agree to disagree. The dignity of human life is an absolute! The right to live is given by God who is the source of life. He breathed into Man the breath of life, Genesis 2:7. Human life is sacred because the Creator God made it so.

Secular Humanism has clouded the mind of our culture. In a culture where there are no absolutes, men make decisions based upon personal preference. Our culture is governed by moral relativism. Everything is considered relative. There are no absolutes except that there are no absolutes. Yet, the dignity of human life is an absolute.
Our very own Declaration of Independence stated clearly both the source of life and its inherent value. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Founders of our country declared that the source of life was God and that life is an undeniable right given by Him, therefore an absolute.
Further, when God gave the Law through Moses to His people, He included a commandment against murder, Exodus 20:13. The word translated kill or murder in the 6th Commandment is understood to mean the unlawful taking of life. Only God can authorize the taking of life. God’s highest consequence for the taking of life is the life of the one who took it.

The 6th Commandment is not only a prohibition for Man, but it reveals the character of God, as do all the Commandments. That is, God is for life not death. Jesus said that God is the God of the living, Matthew 22:32. Jesus also said that He is the life, John 14:6. God has authority over life.

God has called His people to be light in this dark world. Christians are to stand for the truth, not only in the circle of believers, but also wherever God has placed them. I have written on the sanctity of human life for two reasons. The third Sunday of January is designated as “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday” and because of foreign children placed at risk during attempts of illegal border crossings.

I urge professing Christians to remember those who can’t defend themselves, the unborn. We are blessed to live in a country where we can legally speak for the unborn. The statistics overwhelmingly demonstrate that the most dangerous place for our children is in the womb. Therefore, speak up; stand for life!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Meaning of Worship”

“The meaning of worship”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
All men will worship someone or something. Our Creator made us to worship Him! There is a worship that is acceptable to God and worship that is rejected by Him. The Letter to the Hebrews exhorts believers to offer acceptable worship to God, “for our God is a consuming fire.” Heb. 12:28, 29.

One thing is clear. Biblical worship is an offering to God. God is the one to whom worship is given! He is the object of worship. He is the determiner of “acceptable” worship. Genesis 4 describes worship that God considered acceptable and worship that He rejected. God accepted Abel’s worship because he offered it by faith. Cain’s worship was rejected, Hebrews 11:4.

The secular world offers this definition of worship. It is defined in the American Heritage Dictionary, in part, as “reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.” The source of the word “worship” “is an Old English compound word, “worth-ship.” It described the loyalty 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.

In general, worship is foundationally about our primary relationship. It is about our relationship to God. He made us to worship Him. But because all men are born dead in sin, they seek to make their own gods in order to satisfy their need to worship. Even in the evangelical church, many have turned worship into a “felt need”. That is, worship is about us, entertaining us, having time with friends, or, purposed in making us “feel good.” John Calvin said this, “Every one of us is, from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols.” Acts II: 413

Therefore, within the Covenant of Grace, God declared that He alone is the one 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.

“The light of nature shows that there is a God, who has lordship and sovereignty over all… and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served… But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by Himself…” (the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 21, par. 1)

Paul quoted the Psalms and wrote that no one seeks after God, Romans 3:11. God has made His existence plain for all to see by what He has made, yet men suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Man is eager to fulfill his God-given desire to worship and often does by erecting idols. Idols are those things that control how we live.

Normally, we don’t see people bowing down to or serving carved images. Yet, we must honestly reflect upon those things that we seem to value the most and serve. In other words, what things, experiences, or people do we love, honor or obey 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 words that describe our primary relationship. In this primary relationship, God is the one who established its requirements. 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

We know that worship is not only a weekly event. Worship is what we do every moment, every day of our lives. In applying the words of Jesus quoted above, God through the Apostle Paul, made the daily reality of worship clear to those who have experienced His saving grace. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1

May you gather with others who seek to offer acceptable worship to God each Lord’s Day.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Resolutions”

“Resolutions”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
This is the time of the year when we look back and look ahead. We look back over the year that is coming to a close and remember all those blessings. There are special blessings from God that have lifted our spirits and there have been challenges and even times of grieving that caused me to examine my life in Christ.

We look ahead to the New Year and make commitments to set goals and objectives in life. We’ve been told that if we don’t set goals, we’re assured of not meeting any! We set career goals and personal goals that concern our lifestyle and financial security. Yet, rarely do Christians think in terms of ultimate goals, goals that witness their position before God in Christ. Goals that testify to an eternal perspective.

I know that through all of the challenges and blessings God continues to change me and grow me up in Christ and I give Him thanks for it. Every year, my main resolution is the same. I resolve to persevere looking to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of my faith, Hebrews 12:2. My ultimate goal, my resolution is that my entire life be used to glorify God and lift high the Name of Jesus.

This resolution is not unique to me. It is certain for everyone who is in Christ. It’s a resolution motivated by God in the heart of a believer. Using a theological term, this resolution is called sanctification. Sanctification is God’s work of free grace to make one whom He has justified more like Christ. This work of God is not optional. God will change everyone who is in Christ from the inside to make him holy. Holiness, sanctification, is God’s work to progressively make the one in Christ more and more like Him.

Those in Christ are chosen by God! “… He (God the Father) chose us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” Ephesians 1:4 Notice that God the Father acted by choosing men and women before He laid the foundation of the world. He chose them to be in Christ. This is all by the sovereign will and action of God. This truth revealed by God is called Unconditional Election.

So then, those who are in Christ are there solely by the grace of God, Ephesians 2:8-9. God makes Christians! It is necessary to be clear on what it means to be a Christian. A genuine Christian is a sinner chosen by God to be holy in Christ. God does this through the gospel. The gospel is God’s power to save, Romans 1:16. God raises a dead sinner to life and through God’s gift of faith the sinner places his trust in Jesus as He is offered in the gospel.

Salvation doesn’t end there. The ultimate resolution that will be kept is that Christians will be made holy. The Bible makes this statement, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful – for He cannot deny Himself.” 2Timothy 2:13 Further, God has said, “… He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

God’s will for those who are in Christ is holiness, 1Thessalonians 4:3. God will complete what He starts but those who are in Christ are not robots. Christians are exhorted to work out their salvation because God is at work in them, Philippians 2:12-13. I have been made a Christian by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. He causes me to pursue holiness. I have assurance that I am in Christ by my desire to obey Him. God confirms that I belong to Him by His Spirit speaking to my spirit, Romans 8:16.

It is a tremendous joy to know that you belong to God. He accepts us as we are and loves us so much that He will not let us stay that way. He causes His children to both make the resolution to pursue holiness and keep it. The Bible teaches that we will not be perfect this side of heaven. But, when we leave this life and enter the next, we will be absolutely pure, perfect and our holiness will be brought to completion.

May you by God’s grace make the resolution to pursue holiness this year and all that follows knowing that God is working in you!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Christian and the Culture”

“The Christian and the Culture”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The time for Christians to think deeply about how they are to live in a culture that seems to be decaying before their eyes is more important now than in more recent times. This is not a new phenomenon. Over the centuries, recorded in Church History, many have considered this important issue, E.G. Tertullian, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin and others.

Books have been written outlining various Christian Lifestyles. There are generally five views that have been put forth by Christendom. There is the view that Christians are to live against the Culture. Secondly, some say that Christians should blend in with the Culture. Thirdly, others maintain that Christians are above the Culture. Fourthly, there is a view that Christians and the Culture are in paradox, contradicting realities. And, fifthly, Christians are to seek to transform the Culture.

To summarize, the question before those who profess Christ is: “Should Christians express what they know to be true or simply co-exist?”

In order to answer the question, believers appeal to Scripture.

Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it hated me first… If you were of the world, the world would love you; but because you are not of the world… therefore the world hates you, John 15:8, 9. Jesus also told His disciples that they were His witnesses, Luke 24:48. Jesus gave the church a command. He commanded the church to make disciples of all nations, Matthew 28:19.

The reality that every Christian must face is that living the Christian Life will offend the world. Yet, we are not to live in fear of the world. Jesus said that He is the only one to fear, Matthew 10:28. He said in the same narrative, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:32-33

God’s revealed proposition is that the world’s system is opposed to Christ and by implication it is opposed to those who follow Christ. The Bible is clear in declaring that Christians are in the world but not of the world, John 17:14ff. God has said to His people, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:20

Believers are aware (or should be) that following Jesus is counter- cultural. Also, Jesus called His followers to be salt and light in the world, Matthew 5:13-16. We dare not hide what we know to be true or live in opposition to the truth of God’s word. Rather we are called to let our light shine… so that the world may see our good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven, Matthew 5:16.

Peter’s first epistle provides a clear application for living the Christian Life. “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” 1Peter 3:15

The Apostle Paul’s declaration to the Pastor Titus gives the church direction in standing for the truth of God. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” Titus 2:11ff.

God has chosen to reach the lost through His people. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit’s work is to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment, John 16:8.

The biblical way for Christians to live in this culture is to pursue holiness. God commands His people to be holy, Leviticus 11 and 1 Peter 1. Holy people live under the word of God. Holy people declare the truth of a holy God. Thereby, holy people are ambassadors for Christ.

Believers ought not be silent in a culture that calls good evil and evil good. For the sake of the “lost”, and more importantly the glory of God, the church must always declare the truth. God’s word is truth, John 17:17. I pray that all of God’s people would be so willing to speak the truth in love.

“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16