All posts by LouTiscione

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The God-Man”

“The God-Man”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Years ago, I remember sitting in our family room watching a so-called Christian Television Program. The star of the show announced one of his future crusades by calling people to come “expecting a miracle”. The dictionary defines a miracle as a supernatural event.

Naturally, my interest was heightened by such an announcement. Contrary to this showman’s prideful claim, there is a miracle that surpasses all miracles revealed in the Bible. Our lives rest upon the genuineness of this miracle. The miracle to which I refer is the Incarnation. The meaning of Incarnation is God in the flesh. The Second Person of the Trinity is fully God and fully Man.

The Prophet Isaiah predicted this miracle. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 God’s promise was fulfilled in 4 B.C. with the birth of Jesus. Matthew wrote, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).” Matthew 1:23

The Incarnation was so important that God spoke through His prophets throughout the Old Testament declaring the absolute necessity of the God – Man. It is a miracle that we simply cannot adequately understand, but we receive it as the absolute truth because God said it. Our hope of eternal life is real because the miracle of Jesus’ conception was real. Jesus was conceived out of the natural course, without sin.

The Apostle Paul took the opportunity of rivalry and disunity in the church to declare both the explicit and implicit meaning of the Incarnation. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)

The first explicit revelation is that the Incarnation is the ultimate definition of humility. God, the Creator of all, condescended to lower Himself and take upon Himself human nature. God came to earth as a man. All the while, He remained divine. He voluntarily set aside His glory. No analogy is adequate to describe Jesus’ humiliation in the Incarnation and His crucifixion.

Further, Paul wrote that Jesus was born of woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law, Galatians 4:4. Jesus was fully man, but a man without sin! Jesus was born without sin because He was born out of the natural course. He was miraculously born of Mary who conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Because of Jesus’ humility in fully submitting to the Law in obedience to God the Father even unto death upon a cross those who are in Christ are accepted by God because of His blood and righteousness. Apart from Jesus’ Incarnation we would never be able to have a relationship with God. The Incarnation led to the satisfaction of the Law’s demands! Because of His perfect sacrifice payment for our sins has been made.

Second, Paul also wrote of Jesus’ exaltation. Because of His perfect obedience to His Father, even to death on a cross, God gave Him the name that is above every name. That name is Lord. The Father gave Jesus to be the Master of all that exists. Jesus said, “all authority in heaven and on earth” was given to Him, Matthew 28:18.

In summation, Paul wrote of God’s purpose in the Incarnation. Everything about the Incarnation is for the glory of God, the Father! The entirety of God’s plan of redemption is for His glory!

The Incarnation also has an implicit affect. The implication of the Incarnation, God with us is that those who are in Christ are joint heirs of heaven with Him. The God-Man, the sinless One, offered in the gospel, is man’s only hope.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Do I have free will?”

Do I have free will?
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
If I was asked to make a list of the ten worst questions to ask in church this would be on that list. It might even be near the top! I really want you all to read my entire article, so I’ll refrain from giving the short answer to the question.

When seeking to answer a question, especially one that concerns the issue of man’s free will, you ought to be clear on the meaning and use of the words. The will of man is the faculty of the mind by which choices or decisions concerning a course of action are made. The word free means unencumbered, not enslaved, or controlled by obligation.

Substituting the meanings of the words, the question can be rephrased. “Do I have an unencumbered mental faculty by which I am able to make choices?” Every person answering this question will respond in accordance with his own personal opinion.

Therefore, since there are likely as many opinions as there are people asked, we ought to seek the one opinion that matters. In other words, what has God said, if anything, concerning the issue of man’s will?

You might try to find the instances of the words “free” and “will” in the concordance of your Bible. My starting place is the Garden of Eden. After God made Adam, He told him that he was free to eat of every tree of the Garden except of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Genesis 2:16-17.

We know what happened. Adam and the woman, later named Eve, ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. At the end of Chapter three of Genesis, we read that God “placed the cherubim (mighty angels) and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” God insured that no man would be able to eat of the tree of life and live forever, Genesis 3:22-24.

We next look at God’s destruction of the earth by the universal flood, He surveyed all mankind and declared “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,” Genesis 6:5. Further, the prophet Jeremiah spoke for God and said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” The New Testament is consistent with the Old Testament. Men have not changed. The Apostle Paul wrote, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” Romans 3:10

God declared that man’s will is in bondage; it is not unencumbered! Yes , I do what I desire. One of the greatest, possibly the greatest American Theologian, Jonathan Edwards wrote a book entitled, “The Freedom of the Will.” The basic premise of his book is that men do whatever they want to do. The problem is that before God regenerates a man or woman, the only thing that they desire is sin!

The reality revealed by the word of God is, “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us … while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son…” Romans 5:8, 10. Man’s will is in bondage to sin! Jesus said that “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32.

All this may strike you as just some philosophical rambling, but this truth is much more. Understanding our human nature is essential if we are ever to know the depth of God’s grace.

So what are we to make of the question? Do I or you have free will? Even in a purely physical sense, we are limited. No one can honestly claim that he can do whatever he wants. All of us have certain restrictions placed upon us. Next time, may God forbid, that you’re pulled over for driving above the speed limit, try telling the officer that you are free to do whatever you want, because the speed limit doesn’t apply to you.

Apply that same logic to life in Christ. Tell God that you’re free to choose Him or not. Tell Him that you did not inherit Adam’s sin. Tell him that your will is not in bondage to sin that you are able to take and eat of the tree of life and thereby you can choose to live forever!

How have you answered the question?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Facing the Truth”

“Facing the Truth”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

The Roman Governor of Jerusalem asked Jesus the most profound question of all time and didn’t realize it! Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?”, John 18:38. In Pilate’s mind, truth was secondary. He believed that the most important thing was power, revealed by his further conversation with Jesus. Pilate declared his authority over Jesus, so he thought, and Jesus responded with the truth. “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above…” John 19:11. Ironically, Pilate’s question foreshadowed our age.

Observers of Culture have called our time in the west the Post Modern Era. Simply stated, this era subverts the importance of truth as Pilate did. In the Post Modern’s mind, there is no such thing as absolute truth. One of the symptoms is reflected in our culture 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 obvious problem with this philosophy is that the “journey” may indeed end in destruction.

Opposed to this is what is called truth. The simple definition is: truth is reality. The Bible teaches that men naturally suppress the truth. We like to press reality down so as to seek to live above it or ignore it. A friend of mine once said that denial is not only a river in Egypt. We can deny or suppress the truth all we want. But we must live in and face reality.

Every time we look around, we see men and women telling us that truth 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. There are those whose sole effort it seems is to “make numbers” say whatever is expedient. We have poll numbers, jobless numbers, etc. that are designed to support one position over and against another.

The reality of truth has also fallen on hard times in the church. Some church leaders in the United States have downplayed the truth and conformed to culture. They claim to teach that Christianity is all about relationships. Truth, sound doctrine, is contrary to what they call love. They claim that doctrine is of little value. They teach that the church’s mission is to meet “felt needs”, to offer courses on how to have a better marriage or how to live as a single or divorced person, and to attract people through entertainment.

Meeting “felt needs”, offering programs, or entertaining worship do not represent the mission of the church. The truth is one’s relationship with the Jesus of the Bible is the fundamental reality of life. Having a relationship with the biblical Jesus is what matters. There is only one true Savior. He said that He is the way, and the truth, and the life, John 14:6. He is the Jesus of the Bible. Dare I say that He is not simply known in the eye of the beholder? He is the reality of life!

The church is to teach what is in accordance with sound doctrine, that is, the truth. Teaching the truth enables believers to apply God’s word facing reality in every circumstance of life. In so doing, believers will be equipped to make a difference in the world for the glory of God.

Let me be bold and say very simply and clearly that truth is reality. Truth matters since it is what is real. God has revealed the truth in His word and fully in the Person and Work of Jesus. He is the only Son of God, not born, but eternally proceeding from the Father. He is the Jesus offered in the gospel. He is the Second Person of the Trinity. All life is by Him, in Him and, for Him. Every relationship is designed by God to find meaning as a result of knowing the Truth, Jesus. He alone enables us to face the truth!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Upside Down World”

“The Upside Down World”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The world is upside down when right is called wrong or good is seen as evil. I believe that our Western Culture has reached the stage of being upside down! In our day, an unnatural lifestyle is called gay. It was said that “love won” when God’s institution of marriage was redefined as a union of a man and a man or a woman and a woman. Those who support the killing of unborn babies are said to be “pro-choice” rather than “pro-death.”

For such conditions, God issued a warning to the Church. God said, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.” Isaiah 5:20a This reality may offend our sense of rugged individualism. There are things that are right, good and loving and they are not defined by me or anyone else! Woe is used in Scripture to convey a dire warning. It usually precedes God’s judgment. Isaiah 5:20 continues with more clarity for our upside down world. “Woe (to those)… 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 for their abusive and oppressive behavior towards others. More specifically, God directed His “woe” against the leaders of His people. God’s people had become man-centered idolaters and thereby lived in an “upside down world.”

The book of Isaiah comprehensively covers God’s judgment and salvation. Chapter 5 was addressed to God’s “vineyard”, His chosen people. God sought justice and righteousness within His people and found none! God’s indictment of wicked people continued. They are described as oppressive, self-serving, unjust and liars. The word “woe” is repeated six times in Isaiah 5.

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

The Bible was written to believers, yet it is universally applicable. God does not have a sliding scale. He doesn’t grade on a curve. “All must appear before the judgment seat of Christ…” 2Corinthans 5:10.

A recent candidate for the Presidency once called upon God to bless Planned Parenthood. This organization claims that they operate for the interest of women’s health. The founder believed in eugenics shaped by her belief in evolution. Eugenics is the attempt to improve the species through genetic control. Margaret Sanger, the organization’s founder, believed improvement of the species comes by removing the less desirable members of society, in her view, minorities and the disabled. One of the tools that she advocated was abortion another was sterilization of minority women. Margaret Sanger summarized her philosophy. “More children from the fit, less from the unfit — that is the chief aim of birth control.” (Birth Control Review, May 1919, p. 12)

Issues of human life do not fall in the category of ethical confusion. We need not wonder what the “good” course is. God is for life! Those who call killing babies good fall under the “woes” that Isaiah declared and are living in darkness in an upside down world.

Some issues may not be as clear as the issue of the life of the unborn. An example that comes to mind concerns obeying the rule of law. Applying the law of the land is described as inhumane especially when it involves the borders of our nation. Some have even said that it is unloving to expect those seeking entrance to our country to obey our immigration laws.

I am a minister of the gospel. Yet, in this I am writing as a man who believes in the Risen Lord Jesus. God made me a new creation by His sovereign grace alone. He caused me to see the truth and 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.

It has been said, that for evil to succeed all that is necessary is for good men to be silent. I am not good in the sight of God. I am a sinner. God alone is good and He expects me to stand for that which is good, right and true not for the values of our upside down world.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “It’s Inhuman!”

“It’s Inhuman!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Inhuman is to lack pity, kindness, or mercy. The political “elites” otherwise known as Progressives or Extreme Liberals have lately been issuing the cry of “It’s inhuman!” The issue, of course is the so-called mistreatment of foreign children crossing our southern border. It’s inhuman to cruelly rip these children from there assumed parents.

All manner of personal slander against our President and his family is being levied by those who say that they are really concerned for the treatment of these illegal immigrant children. Politicians can convince people of the most amazing things simply by claiming that whatever it is will be in the interest of children; even to the point of ignoring or breaking the laws of our land.

With all the cries concerning the protection of these foreign children no mention is made of the single biggest action of ripping a child from its mother. Society has “cleaned up” this evil act by giving it a less convicting name. We call this heinous crime abortion, the killing of a baby in the womb. Since 1974, more than 52,000,000 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 seem to any reasonable person to be unbelievable.

Why do so many Christians speak strongly for the sanctity of human life? Actually, everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord Jesus should stand for life. The reason, God is for life. He is the one who 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 sanctity 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 God, our Creator 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 sanctity 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 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.

It seems to me timely to write concerning the sanctity of life. With such concern for illegal immigrants’ children, it behooves all of those who have any sense of humanity to cry out for the “silent ones”, those in the womb. Whether you are a Christian or not I urge you to speak for those who have no one to speak for them. Speak for the unborn babies. The statistics overwhelmingly demonstrate that the most dangerous place for our children is not in school or crossing our borders but in the womb.

May the God of life protect all children.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Loss is Inevitable”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of the most frequent themes of Jesus’ teaching was judgment. Jesus said that there will be a final accounting given to God, Matthew 11:20-24. He instructed His disciples to fear the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell, Matthew 10:28. This is the ultimate bottom line applicable for everyone!

Jesus was a master teacher. He used parables to teach about the Kingdom of God. He used parables to confuse those destined to perish, Matthew 13:10-17 and Isaiah 6:9-10. The parables of Jesus have a cumulative effect. That is, each one builds upon the previous. The final parable, Matthew 25:31-48 is about judgment. It is undeniable to all who read the Bible that God is holy, and He will judge the world. Judgment has been given to the Risen Lord Jesus. When He returns, He will put an end to all evil.

We would do well to examine the final parable referred to as the “The Sheep and the Goats”. For the sake of brevity, I want to draw attention to the beginning and the end of the parable.

Jesus gave the time of judgment. He said, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory”, Matthew 25:31, not specifying the exact date, but, clearly declaring the day of judgment. It is what the prophet Joel and the Old Testament Prophets referred to as “the Day of the LORD”. The Apostle John was given a vision of that day, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it. From His presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.” Revelation 20:11

Jesus used the title “Son of Man” when speaking of Himself. This was a familiar Old Testament description of the Messiah, the King of Righteousness. Jesus said that He would come in His glory. That is, when He returns, He will not come as the Savior, but as the King who has all glory and honor and power. He will come sitting on His glorious throne. This is figurative language describing the absolute power and authority that Jesus possesses and will exercise.

The initial actions of King Jesus are clearly stated. Jesus said that He will have all nations gathered before Him. No one will escape this divine appointment. Immediately, Jesus said that He will separate the sheep and the goats. The sheep are described as those “who are blessed by My Father”, Matthew 25:34. They are said to inherit the kingdom that was prepared for them from the foundation of the world. In other words, the sheep are those whom God chose in eternity to be in Christ, Ephesians 1:4-6.

In the parable, Jesus described characteristics of sheep. The sheep discovered that as they ministered to Jesus’ brothers, they were ministering to Jesus. The sheep’s behavior was not a checklist of reasons for being “sheep”. It was a declarative statement that described their behavior that was simply part of being sheep.

The Bible teaches that those who are in Christ live differently by God’s grace in the Holy Spirit. In the context of the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, sheep live like sheep. James wrote about the genuineness of saving faith. “So also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead”, James 2:17. The Apostle Paul also wrote concerning the lives of “sheep” (believers). “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16

The Parable ends with the fact of an eternal hell. Jesus said, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” The horror of hell is to receive the outpouring of God’s wrath for eternity. The “goats” are commanded by Jesus to depart from Him. Their eternal home was prepared by God for the devil and his angels. The goats will share this residence forever. The bottom line is the reality of heaven and hell. God has chosen those who will live with Him forever. This truth may not tickle men’s ears, but it is the bottom line!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “It is Good!”

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

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

“It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning and your faithfulness by night.” Psalm 92:1-2

The Psalmist posed a radical thought! It is good thing to thank God. This is one of the understatements in the Scriptures. Yet, even though it is generally affirmed, it seems to be rarely understood and applied. Oh, we say prayers of thanksgiving for various things, but to look to God and know that He is the giver of everything is rare. James wrote, “Every good and every perfect gift is from above…” James 1:17a

The superscription for Psalm 92 declares it to be a “Song for the Sabbath”. The Sabbath was the day set apart to God. The New Testament believers set the first day of the week apart to the Lord Jesus because it was the day of His resurrection. The Lord’s Day continues to be a corporate act of worship of the God who has promised to work all things together for the good of those who love Him, those who have been called according to His purpose, Romans 8:28.

Psalm 92 stands as a reminder that everything is from and for God. I am not the center of life! Life is not about us. All life, all that God created is about Him. “All things were created through Him and for Him”, Colossians 1:16b. Jesus is the subject of Colossians 1:16. Jesus is the focus of everything.

Therefore, the psalmist said, “It is good to give thanks to the LORD.” He affirmed that there is no other One to whom thanks should be given both individually and corporately. We rightly thank others but often forget that God is the ultimate source of everything good. By His providence, He has chosen to work through secondary causes. Yet, God is the ultimate source of every good and every perfect gift.

We know this. But at the first sign of difficulty we focus attention on ourselves. We become introspective and sometimes spiral into a sense of despair. As long as the Lord tarries in coming back, there will be tribulation. Adversity will tend to challenge our security and hope in Christ. Our sinfulness will lead us to change our focus from God to us. Even during times of great prosperity, we will be tempted to look inward rather than outward toward God. The battle is constant. Our hope of victory is solely resting upon the sovereign Lord Jesus.

The Apostle Paul reminded the church in Ephesus that every Christian will be engaged in a spiritual battle. We will be regularly challenged to lose hope and doubt God’s word. Paul’s exhortation is for the believer to “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the might of His power.” Ephesians 6:10

Believers beware! You are not immune from worldliness and self-centeredness. There is a biblical remedy. It is God’s gift of repentance. God’s remedy is the only lasting one. God said, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” 2Corinthians 7:10

Thanking God begins with acknowledging that we are self-centered. In other words, we are sinners in His sight. May your acknowledgment lead to a deep sorrow for your sin. May that deep sorrow, a godly sorrow, lead you to turn from your sin of self and exercise the other gift that God gives to His people at conversion, namely faith.

Just as saving faith is a continuing reliance upon the person and work of Christ, repentance is an ongoing turning from sin. Christians live penitently. We confess our sins and turn to Jesus with the assurance that God will forgive our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness. Therefore, for all those who possess genuine repentance and faith follow the psalmist’s exhortation. “… Give thanks to the LORD.” Life is about Him. When faced with decisions, ask yourself, “What’s in it for God?”

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Trinity”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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