Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A Hope that will not fade”

“A Hope that will not fade”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Apostle Paul wrote to believers in Rome and said that suffering is not the last word for those who belong to Jesus. God has given us hope that “does not put us to shame… because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5

The psalmist asked himself a question that many have asked. He received God’s answer. His question was, “Why am I depressed?” God’s answer was because he had no hope! Psalm 42:11, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

Whenever there is persecution and suffering in the Christian Church, God has the last word! Those who are in Christ have been given the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who guarantees our inheritance, which is heaven. Believers have been given an eternal perspective. We know that this life is not all that there is. Our eternal perspective is God’s means by which we will have the courage to stand against evil with whatever resources He has provided.

Hope is an eager expectation of fulfillment of a future blessing. When people hope they are expressing trust in or reliance upon the one whom they believe will bring fulfillment. Without hope, we wander aimlessly in life and are tossed around by every one of its circumstances. Possessing genuine hope is God’s means to “count it all joy” in the face of trials and tribulations.

We intuitively know that there must be more to life than what we see. This world is not all that there is. There is more to life than this world. There is a greater hope than our political, economic, or personal relationships can offer. God’s promise of hope is more than this world’s offers and is far above and apart from it. The Christian’s hope transcends the evil we see and experience. The Christian’s hope is transcendent because of the One from whom it proceeds, namely the Triune God.

Only God who has revealed Himself as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit can give ultimate hope. God said that ultimate hope is eternal glory. The Apostle Paul writing God’s words said “the mystery hidden for ages but now revealed to His saints” is ultimate hope. Ultimate hope is “Christ in you the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27

Christians possess ultimate hope. God gives hope to all those whom He chose “before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him. In love God predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will.” Ephesians 1:4-5

Those whom God chose to be in Christ are children of God. Believers have been set apart by God for His glory. In Christ, we have been given everything that we need. One of those needs is a hope that cannot be shaken.

It seems clear that we are facing evil more and more every day. We need God’s protection. We need to have the courage to stand against the evil of radical Islam. In so doing, the church universal must be assured of the hope that cannot be shaken. The church must teach her members that God has given a hope that will never fade.

Now, perhaps more than ever in our nation, Christians must think biblically about the world around us. We are a people who are sure that God will have the final word. He will stamp out evil. Christ defeated Satan 2,000 yrs. ago. The Devil and his fallen angels are on a short leash. “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1Corinthans 15:57

To think biblically, we must know what the Bible says. We are to meditate upon God’s word. We are to fill our minds with what God has said. There is no short cut to “holding every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2Corinthians 10:5

Christian, ground yourself in the word of God so that you might hold fast to the hope that will not fade. Read and study the Bible privately. Find a church that teaches the Bible accurately and faithfully. May we all stand against the current evil we face in the power of God’s Holy Spirit.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, Faith Alone, Sola Fides

Faith Alone, Sola Fides
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Two Latin words describe the material cause of the Protestant Reformation. They are Sola Fides. They represent the biblical doctrine of Justification. The words literally mean Faith Alone. The Reformers recovered the Bible’s teaching on God’s means of declaring a sinner in right relationship with Him. The exact meaning of the phrase, Sola Fides is: Justification is by Faith Alone. Apart from God’s act of free grace in justifying a sinner there is no peace with God’s. No one will find true peace unless God pardons him. True peace is being in a right relationship with God. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1

The doctrine of justification is the cornerstone of Christianity. A more precise definition of justification is included in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question #33. “Justification is an act of God’s free grace wherein He pardons all our sins and accepts us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us and received by faith alone.”

When God justifies a man or woman He pardons their sins. Every human being stands guilty before God. God is the supreme judge and sin is an offence against Him. Sin is lawlessness, 1John 3:4. The Apostle John wrote, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1John 1:8. John wrote these words to believers in the church!

King David, a great sinner, was described as a “man after God’s own heart.” 1Samuel 13:14 David committed adultery and murder. He fully expected to receive God’s justice which was death. But, by God’s grace, David was given God’s mercy. David recorded his prayer in Psalm 51 in which he appealed to God’s mercy.

You may not be a murderer or an adulterer, but you are a sinner. You and I have no basis upon which to cry to God for fairness. Not only are we guilty before God, but we’re all born dead in sin. Like David, our lives rest solely upon the grace of God even to be able to see our sin. God who is rich in mercy must act for us.

In Justification God declares a sinner right with Him. That does not mean that the sinner is now righteous! The meaning of righteous is to do what is right; to do what God requires. The Apostle Paul quoted the Old Testament in his letter to the Christians in Rome and said that no one is righteous, Romans 3:10. No one does what is right 100% of the time. No one does what God requires. God has said that no man is motivated to do what He requires. To understand this inclusive statement, we must see what God has said concerning the heart of “natural” man.

We don’t need to move too far past the Garden of Eden to read God’s view of mankind. Genesis 6:5, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” In other words, the natural man is incapable of being righteous before God. But, justification is God’s act of free grace by which He pardons our sins and accepts us as righteous in His sight only on account of the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.

In Justification, God takes the perfect righteousness of Christ and places it upon a sinner. Simultaneously God takes the sin of the sinner and places it upon Christ, 2Corinthians 5:21. The Christian Church refers to this simultaneous act of God as double imputation. The one justified is covered with the perfect righteousness of Christ. Yet, the sinner is still in need of cleansing on the inside. This cleansing is called Sanctification. God progressively makes a sinner more and more like Christ. The Bible describes Sanctification as a work of God’s free grace, Philippians 2:12-13. The Apostle Paul described his state after justification as a spiritual battle. He found himself still sinning, Romans 7. His only hope and ours is Jesus Christ, Romans 7:24-25.

Justification is not all of salvation. It is the beginning of life in Christ. The Bible teaches that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Trustworthy”

Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
One of the most important words that guide life is the word trustworthy. Trustworthy means worthy of trust or reliable. Whether you are a Christian or a non-Christian, I suggest that you rely upon this word more than you may even be aware.

We all desire to be people that can be trusted, that is, trustworthy. We look for trustworthy people to lead us whether it is in the church or in government and business. We certainly don’t want to follow or submit to someone who can’t be trusted.

“God said, “Let us make man in our image…” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:26, 27 Human beings bear the image of God. Those attributes of God that He communicated to all men through Adam are called communicable attributes. Question 10 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “How did God create man?” The answer is, “God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.”

The attributes that God gave to us: knowledge, righteousness and holiness set us apart from all the other creatures that God made. The fall of Adam marred these attributes. Yet, they are innate to every single human being. We are able to think and reason. We have a moral code in our nature. We know what is right. We have a desire to be holy as God is holy. Yet we lack the ability to accomplish it.

Nevertheless, these attributes possessed by all mankind are the reasons why trustworthiness is so important to us. We value it in ourselves. We look for it in others. We give respect and honor to those who demonstrate trustworthiness.

We intuitively know that trustworthiness, trust, is the “glue” that holds relationships together. When trust is broken, it is extremely difficult to restore. Relationships are often shattered as a result of a breakdown of trust.

The issue that concerns me is that it seems that our culture has been convinced that trustworthiness is not important. We are obsessed with appearance. We’ve been led to think that how a person looks and the way he speaks is far and above the character trait of trustworthiness.

We find ourselves being disappointed by those whom we’ve selected because of their appearance or style. We learn a painful lesson that character does matter. Appearances are helpful and an aide if a person is trustworthy.

Since trustworthiness proceeds from the character of the God who created man, the perfect standard of trustworthiness is God Himself. The Bible declares that, “The sum of God’s word is Truth.” Psalm 119:160 The Psalmist wrote a clear explanation of genuine trustworthiness. “The works of God hands are faithful and just; all His precepts are trustworthy; they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.”

We know what is trustworthy because God who is trustworthy said it. The Bible is absolutely trustworthy because God is Truth. Jesus, the only Son of God said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” John 14:6 We believe that the Bible is inerrant and infallible because “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” 2Timothy 3:16

The question that immediately comes to mind is, “How can we determine if a person is trustworthy?” First, I must state that no one is perfectly trustworthy except God. All men are sinners. Even those who are genuine Christians sin. The Apostle Paul wrote of his personal struggle with sin, Romans 7. He concluded his introspection with these words, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:24, 25

But there must be a means by which we can determine a person’s character, his trustworthiness which will be less than perfect but which will demonstrate practical reliability. I suggest that there is a means to determine a man’s level of trustworthiness. The Psalm quoted above holds the key. Psalm 111:6a, “God has shown His people the power of His works.” The key is past behavior. The means by which we can determine a man or woman’s trustworthiness is by their past behavior.

We can develop confidence in someone and place a degree of trust in him if his past behavior is faithful to his words.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Absolute Sovereignty… the King and His Kingdom”

“Absolute Sovereignty… the King and His Kingdom”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
On September 11, 2001 our nation came face to face with evil. What those radical Islamists did on 911 was evil. There is no other reasonable explanation for their actions. There is no other reasonable description of the recent beheadings done by the terrorists of ISIS. In the midst of our ongoing struggle with these evil religious zealots it is essential for Christians to be reminded that Jesus Christ is King. He has absolute sovereign authority. The fact of God’s sovereignty is the basis of real hope.

Jesus’ first recorded sermon was very brief and clear. He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15

When the Son of God took upon Himself human nature and lived among us the Kingdom of God came to earth because the King came to earth.

Jesus declared that He is the King and God’s rule was now visibly in the midst of those listening to Him. The only saving response is to repent and believe in the gospel! These were Jesus’ words not mine. In response to God’s rule, Jesus commanded repentance. He told His listeners and all people for all time to have a change of mind. He was literally declaring that now is the time to turn away from sin and turn to Him as He is offered in the gospel.

The gospel is the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,” Romans 1:16 Salvation is the most significant application of God’s sovereignty. There is no other name but Jesus by which men must be saved, Acts 4:12. The gospel is power because it is God’s power and He is sovereign.

Jesus the only Son of God who is God declared to His disciples that “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” Matthew 28:18

The point is that God has absolute authority and rules all things and because He is sovereign those who trust in Him as He is revealed in the gospel have hope in the midst of evil. We trust in the promises in the Bible because God declared them and He is sovereign!

The Apostle Paul wrote concerning Jesus Christ’s absolute sovereignty. The Son of God set aside His glory and, “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

The name that God gave Jesus is Lord. He is Lord of all. There will come a time when all will recognize Him as the sovereign Lord. However, His lordship and sovereignty do not depend on man’s obedience. Whether or not He is recognized to be Lord is irrelevant. He is Lord, absolutely and thoroughly.

If we fail to remember that God is absolutely sovereign over every human act we may fall into despair. The fact is that God’s sovereignty extends over evil. He ordains all things but is not the author of sin. Through what are called secondary causes, God ordains everything that comes to pass and does so for His glory.

The Prophet Jeremiah said, “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” Lamentations 3:37-38

The Ancient Pagan king of Babylon declared the truth of God’s sovereignty after God gave him eyes to see. “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, “What have you done?’” Daniel 4:34-35

Remember that evil day of 9/11/2001 and look to the sovereign One who has promised to be with His people even in the midst of such evil. May God give us the courage to stand against evil in His power!