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Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Holiness”

“Holiness”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We all use the word “perfect” in ways that are not part of its meaning. We say something is perfectly normal. We look at the weather and say, “It’s a perfect day”. Sometimes we get excited by a new purchase and describe it as the perfect house, or perfect car, or perfect (you fill in this blank).

There’s always something wrong with what we describe as perfect. The response of some to these “perfect” items might be “Nothing is perfect”. The truth is: God alone is perfect. Jesus said that God alone is good. But both perfect and good are part of God’s self-revelation. God is perfect because He has no faults. God is good because His character is the definition of good. Both perfection and goodness are attributes of God. But when God described Himself more comprehensively, He used a different word. God used the word “holy”. Moreover, God commanded His people to “be holy (He said) because I am holy” Leviticus 11:44 and 1Peter 1:16. Since God both said that He is holy and that His people are to be holy, we would do well to understand the meaning of holy. For everything that the church is and does must be holy, that is, if we profess to be obedient to the word of God.

I’ve found it helpful to picture an umbrella in understanding the holiness of God. If you were to list all of God’s attributes, His faithfulness, sovereignty, goodness, love, etc. and place them under an umbrella, the umbrella would be God’s holiness. The holiness of God more fully describes each of His attributes. For example, because God is holy, there is no one as faithful as God, nor is there anyone as good as God. God is uniquely perfect because He is holy.

God’s holiness sets Him apart from all. He is totally other, as some theologians put it. The Westminster Shorter Catechism’s first question and answer deals with man’s purpose. “What is the chief end of Man?” The answer is, “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” To glorify God is to attribute all the honor, respect, majesty, etc. to Him. In other words, man is to live knowing that God is holy, and everything is due Him.

We are given glimpses of God’s holiness in the Bible. Isaiah 6: 1-5 is probably the most familiar. The occurrence is God’s commission of the Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah is allowed to see the throne room of God in heaven. The vision that he received included great winged creatures crying out to each other “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts…” “Holy” is the only word repeated three times in describing God. Twice would be emphasis in the Hebrew Language similar to the English use of an exclamation point. But three times is supreme emphasis.

The basic meaning of “holy” is unique but there is also a range of meaning. The range is from unique to absolute perfection. Holy and variations of it are used to describe things and people whom God sets apart. For example, the Apostle Paul referred to the children of one believing partner in marriage as “holy”. Things and people that God sets apart for Him are called holy.

We understand consecration and sanctification in light of the word holy. Both words are descriptive of God’s action in setting people apart for Himself and changing those whom He sets apart to be like Christ.

So what? What does God’s holiness have to do with our lives? The simple answer is everything! Everything in the Christian’s life is to reflect God’s holiness. All else is sin. The Apostle Paul wrote that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, Romans 3: 23. Yet, God requires perfection. God requires that those who will see Him face to face must be holy as He is holy. In this life: our lives, our worship, and all that we are and do must reflect the holiness of God. The gospel is the only means given by God for our holiness. Those whom God justified, He glorified, Romans 8:30. God glorifies His people by sanctifying us. He makes us holy. By God’s work of grace, He continues to sanctify us so that when we see Jesus face to face, we will be holy. Jesus as He is offered in the gospel is our only hope.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “World Views”

“World Views”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Haven’t you ever asked yourself the question? “Why don’t they see what I see?” Sometimes we’re dealing with perspectives. But other times we are dealing with reality. Everyone has a perspective of an issue based upon their past or current experiences. Theologians call those kinds of perspectives “presuppositions”. Yet, when the issue of reality is involved, perspectives are usually irrelevant. What is… is.

I believe that confusing our perspective of an issue with reality is an all too common occurrence. You may have heard the term “World View”. This is the term that concerns reality. Simply stated, a world view is one’s view of reality. There are basically two kinds of world views. One is biblical and the other is man-centered. A biblical world view looks at reality knowing God is at the center of the Universe. The man-centered world view sees everything revolving around man. A God-centered world view is based on absolute truth. A man-centered world view has not absolutes except that there are no absolutes.

The concern is truth. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life”, John 14:6. The word “truth” means that which is real. Jesus is reality. For us to fully understand reality and live in the real world, Jesus must be at the center of our life.

Truth is not dependent upon our embracing it. The Roman Governor, Pilate, uttered an understanding of truth which many today still hold. He said, “What is truth?” in response to Jesus who said, “I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth.” John 18:37,38 For Pilate, truth was irrelevant. From is perspective, what really mattered was who had the most power. Without knowing it, he pointed to the One who has supreme power, God.

Genesis 1:1 declares, “In the beginning God…” God is eternal. God is self-sufficient. God created everything that we see. The Apostle Paul wrote that God has revealed His invisible attributes by what He has made, Romans 1:20. Jesus said if His disciples would abide in His word, they would know the truth and be set free, John 8:31-32.

For example, the reason many in our society may not see what I see is because of the failure to acknowledge reality. Man’s refusal to see the truth or accept reality is at the heart of the problem!

I propose that the world view on which one can be confident of seeing the truth is the God-centered one. Truth is objective. Reality is not in the eye of the beholder. Here is the truth; the only self-existing being, God. He is the same yesterday, today and forever, Hebrews 13:8. All truth and reality proceed from Him.

Obviously, much of society, some might even suggest that most of society doesn’t look at life through a biblical world view. The basis of a man-centered world view, namely, moral relativism is the primary means by which truth and reality are suppressed.

The man-centered world view is attractive because it suits man’s sinfulness. The Apostle Paul wrote that men suppress the truth in unrighteousness, Romans 1:18. Jesus said that men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil, John 3:19.

It must be clearly stated at this point that seeing life through a God-centered world view is necessary not only for Christians but for all men. The reason is obvious. The reason is truth/reality is not in the “eye” of the beholder. There are absolutes whether we think there are or not. There is a supreme being whether we think He exists or not. The Supreme Being who has revealed Himself as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit has established absolutes. Theologians refer to these absolutes that apply to all men as Natural Law. God established laws by which all nature is governed. God has also established moral law. All men have the moral law on their hearts. By God’s moral law, we are able to know whether something is right or wrong.

As a Pastor, I am accountable to God to ask you, “What is your world view?” “How do you decide what is right or wrong?” I close with the words of the Psalmist, Psalm 119:130, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” And the words of Jesus who said that the word of God is eternal and unbreakable, Mathew 5:17-18 and John 10:35.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “God’s Means of Grace”

“God’s Means of Grace”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“… “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”’ Hebrews 13:5 “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” Joshua 1:5

So many church attendees have heard that the gospel is something to “settle” with God. An invitation is given to “accept” Jesus and be saved. After accepting Jesus, one then pulls himself up by his own boot straps and gets on with life, or worse, now that your saved you can just go about life as usual!

This type of proclamation is reflective of man-centered religion, referred to as the theology of glory, where suffering is not considered to be part of life in Christ. The real question is not whether one accepts Jesus, but that one is accepted by Him!

The promise God made to Joshua and repeated in the letter to the Hebrews is critical as those whom He chooses live by faith and not by sight, 2Corinthians 5:7. Nothing happens in life, especially salvation, unless God does it. To this end, God has provided the means by which Christians live. They are referred to as God’s means of grace. There are three prominent ones: the Word, Sacraments and Prayer.

There is an initial statement that I must make. The means of grace are for those who have been saved, are being saved and will be saved. In other words God’s means of grace are for Christians.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism Q/A #88, calls them “outward means whereby Christ communicates (to believers) the benefits of redemption.”

The first is the Word. As a believer reads the Bible he is strengthened by God to live for Him. This does not only refer to our private reading of Scripture, but also to its public reading. A distinctive of Reformed Worship is the reading of Scripture in the worship service. In agreement with the Bible, the Ancient Church and the Protestant Reformers, the public reading of Scripture is an element of biblical worship. As such, it is separate and distinct from the text used by the preacher for exposition. Certainly, the preaching of the word is an integral part of this means of grace. As the preacher expounds a text of Scripture, making clear its meaning, grace is received by those who have placed their trust in God. God may also choose to raise a spiritually dead person to life through the preaching of the word in concert with His Holy Spirit during corporate worship. However, the salvation of the lost is not the primary purpose of corporate worship.

The second means of grace are the Sacraments. There are two, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Both are called holy ordinances. Both were instituted by Christ. Baptism was given to the church by Christ, Matthew 28:18-20. Baptism is a sacrament that looks forward to what God will do. It is a sign of the work of the Holy Spirit. It is a seal that authenticates God’s promise. It is properly administered to believers and their children. The Bible calls the other sacrament the Lord’s Supper. It is a sign and seal of the New Covenant in the blood of Christ. In this ordinance, the believer looks back at the finished work of Christ on his behalf. It is reserved for those who have been baptized and have made a profession of faith. As either or both of these sacraments are administered in accordance with Christ’s institution grace is received by those who have professed faith in Christ.

Third and finally, Prayer is a means of grace. It is communication with God comprised of adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication. Prayer is a means by which God bends our wills to His. We hear from Him and He has promised to answer our prayers in ways that are beyond what we can think or ask.

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He began by saying, “When you pray”, Luke 11:2. He assumed that disciples would pray. Jesus has given believers access to God’s throne of grace. Christians are exhorted to approach His throne with confidence, Hebrews 4:16.

So then, there are three: The Word, Sacraments and Prayer. Each is God’s means of nourishing and strengthening His people. We depend upon His grace, certainly given in these means in order to grow up in Christ.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Covenant Theology”

“Covenant Theology”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
One of the main vehicles used in society that stipulate requirements for establishing relationships is a contract. A contract is a written or verbal agreement between two or more parties that establishes their mutual relationship. All the parties commit to adhere to the agreed upon requirements. The failure of one party to meet their contractual obligations is called a breach of contract. A breach may support the other parties’ desires to make the contract null and void. Men and women freely enter into contracts in order to legally bind all the parties to perform the requirements of the agreement.

We know that contracts are entered into voluntarily and that they are agreements made between equals.

The Christian Faith also includes the idea of contracts, but with significant differences. The main difference is that the Christian Faith’s contract is called a Covenant and it is not made between equals!

The distance between God and Man is so great that God initiated covenants to establish the requirements for a relationship with Him. (Taken from Chapter Seven, Paragraph 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith)

The Bible reveals two major covenants that God made with Man. Both are revealed in Genesis. The first of these is called the Covenant of Works, Genesis 2:17. God promised life to Adam if he obeyed God’s command. The consequence for disobeying God was death.

The second covenant that God made with Man is called the Covenant of Grace. It is first revealed in Genesis 3:15. In the Covenant of Grace, God promised to crush the head of Satan through the “seed” of the Woman. Not only is this the first revelation of the Covenant of Grace, but it is also the first prophecy of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. God declared that Jesus, born of a virgin, would deal a mortal blow to Satan. This was accomplished on the Cross. Jesus defeated Satan and won the victory over death, confirmed by His resurrection, Hebrews 2:14; 1Corinthians 15:54-57.

There are many other covenants in Scripture, for example, God’s Covenant with Noah, Abram, Israel in the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. Yet all of these are part of the Covenant of Grace. It is within the context of what is called Covenant Theology that the gospel is set and understood.

Charles Spurgeon once said, “The doctrine of the covenant lies at the root of all true theology. It has been said that he who well understands the distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, is a master of divinity.” God chose to reveal His faithfulness by way of covenants, supremely the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace.

The Bible also speaks of another covenant, one not made with Man. This covenant was made within the God-Head, the Trinity. It was made in eternity. It is called the Covenant of Redemption, John 3:16; Hebrews 13:20-21. This covenant was made between God the Father and God the Son. The essence of the Covenant of Redemption is that the Son agreed to lay down His life in accordance with the Father’s will to accomplish redemption for those whom the Father would give Him. Jesus is the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world, 1Peter 1:19-20; Revelation 5:6.

One of the clearest promises of God was made in Genesis 17:7. “I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.” God promised to be God to Abram and to the seed of Abram who is declared by the Apostle Paul to be Christ, Galatians 3:16. This is God’s promise and Jesus is the seed through whom God fulfilled His Promise. The consummation of God’s promise is yet to come. Revelation 21:3, “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”’

God is always faithful to His Word. God has declared that He will accomplish all that He has promised. The Apostle Paul wrote, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself, “2Timothy 2:13. Christians are secure not because of our faithfulness but only because of the faithfulness of our Covenant God. Covenant Theology emphasizes God’s faithfulness!

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.