Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Why go to that Church?”

“Why go to (that) church?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Over the years, I’ve asked professing Christians a question. “Why go to church?”

Recently I was in Brooklyn, New York. A different question was raised. The different question was, “Why go to that church?”

God commands His people to “keep holy the Sabbath Day.” The “Sabbath Day” was changed by the Apostolic Church to the First Day, Sunday. The Church refers to Sunday as the Lord’s Day. Each Lord’s Day is a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christians are the church and desire to gather for worship. People can’t make themselves Christians. Only God makes Christians. Christians should be concerned about worship. Christians have a desire to worship God on the Lord’s Day with brothers and sisters in Christ.

A Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ because he has been born again by the Spirit of God and given the gift of faith. God has said how He makes Christians. He has revealed His order of salvation. God Effectually Calls a dead person to life. He regenerates a sinner. Because all men are born dead in sin, God must raise a sinner from death to life, John 3. God converts. He gives two gifts: faith and repentance. Both gifts are exercised by those who receive them. Through faith God justifies. Justification is a forensic (legal) act of God. He declares a sinner to be in right standing before Him only by the merit of Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God covers the sinner with the perfect life of Jesus Christ and transfers the sinner’s sin to Jesus. This is called double imputation.

After justification, God adopts the sinner into His family. Those changed by God become heirs of His promise in Christ, namely heaven. Following adoption, God begins His work of Sanctification. Literally, as Justification covers the sinner with perfect righteousness, Sanctification is God’s action of making the sinner righteous from the inside out. In Sanctification, the sinner responds to God’s work in him. God promised to make us more and more like Christ. The end result of Sanctification is what is called Glorification. God promised to see us to glory. Every believer will be in glory in heaven. The comforting fact of glorification is that God sees us as already glorified. I would encourage you to read Romans 8:30 and notice that all of the verbs are in the past tense, even glorified.

So returning to my question, a Christian is one whom God has saved. God’s order of salvation revealed in Scripture is: God’s Effectual Call, Regeneration, Conversion, Justification, Adoption, Sanctification and Glorification. Each step along the way is by God’s action. In other words, a Christian is one who has been saved, is being saved and will be saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Christians are made “new creations”. As stated above, genuine Christians desire to gather with other Christians to worship God. The meaning of worship is to bow down to and serve someone or something. Christians worship God who has revealed Himself fully in Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity.

The worship manual in the Bible, the book of Psalms, reveals the desire of the Christian’s heart. Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”’ God places in each believer a desire to gather with God’s people to declare His praises and to hear Him speak both in the reading of Scripture and in the Proclamation of Scripture. As a result, believers are edified or if you choose to use this word, fed.

Recently I experienced a typical “new” Church that is starving God’s people under the guise of “planting” a congregation that will make a difference in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. There was very little of the word present. There was 45 minutes of video for raising funds with a brief time of silence for Christians being persecuted by Muslims.

I left thinking why did I go to this Church? I realized that there was no God-centered reason for me to be there. As a minister of the gospel, I am accountable to God to call Christians to seek a church that reads Scriptures, prays corporately, proclaims what God has said in a particular passage, and sings hymns that declare the truth of who God is, namely, a church that worships as God has commanded.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Certain Place of Hope”

“The Certain Place of Hope”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
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.” ESV

What is this thing called hope? And, why is it so important for men and women? Hope can be defined as 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. The definition of hope expresses our need to have it. Without hope, we wander aimlessly in life and are tossed around by every one of its circumstances. When we see no future, we get depressed.

There are many kinds of hope. One of my hopes is that people will realize that hope placed in men always leads to disappointment. The man who promised “hope and change” brought disaster and division.

Like the above, there is an endless array of temporal hopes. My hope mentioned above may not come to pass. I know that hopes such as I mentioned are temporal. By God’s grace, He has given me a hope that transcends this life. He has given me an eternal hope. Eternal hope is what erased the psalmist’s depression.

So then, what is eternal hope, or more correctly stated ultimate hope? Thinking men and women know that there is more to life than what we see. This is not all there is, answering an old ballad. There is more to life than this world. There is a hope that transcends our political, economic, or personal relationships. Eternal hope is far above anything that this world can offer.

Because ultimate hope is transcendent no man can give it or take it away. In fact, we can’t even give it to ourselves. Only the transcendent being, God can give ultimate hope. The transcendent God, the one who spoke and created everything out of nothing 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. He wrote this clear description. Ultimate hope is “Christ in you the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27

It follows that God’s revelation of hope raises at least two questions. The first is how can one get this eternal hope? The Bible’s answer is that God gives ultimate hope. The second is perhaps easy to see but strikes at the heart of man’s ability. To whom does God give ultimate hope? The former passage declares that ultimate hope is given by God to “His saints.” Now, we are led to understand what God meant by the word “saints”. Who are saints?

At this point, clarity is essential. Saints are not those who have departed this life and have been determined by some religious body to be holy people. Saints are those who have been set apart by God. The saints in the Bible are those whom God has chosen to be His.

A plain reading of Scripture allows us to see that God chose: a man, Genesis 12; a nation, Deuteronomy 7; and both Jews and Gentiles, Galatians 3. The fact of God’s choosing individuals to be His saints is declared by Apostles Paul and Peter, Romans 9-11 and 1Peter 2.

I’ve often asked myself why something so clear can be so confusing to some. The only answer that I can reasonably offer is that we don’t like to think that God must choose us. We like to think that He needs our help in selecting the “right” people. In this, though, it is only critical for us to know what God thinks and has told us.

The Bible’s clarity on this issue of ultimate hope and its recipients is the greatest comfort and assurance any man or woman can have. Since God gives it no man can take it from you. The Bible has much more to say concerning God’s gift of eternal hope than can be said in this article. But, my purpose is to leave you with this truth from God’s word: God gives ultimate hope, which is eternal glory, to those whom He chooses in Christ.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Truth Matters!”

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

We are living in a troubled time. Many are happy to live in denial. Many believe that truth doesn’t matter. We’re told truth is relative, after all. We are presented with news reports that defy the truth, misrepresent the truth or just straight out lie. The word “spin” is now used to describe lying. The truth is spinned in order to suit and support an agenda.

News agencies often no longer report facts. The facts are “interpreted” to support opinions. When some seek to discover the truth concerning an event, they are met with, “What does it matter now?”

It would matter if the person who responded would have actually experienced the event that was claimed not to matter now. Reality like truth can be ignored but not denied (for very long).

We’re not the first to experience people who don’t think that truth matters. Two thousand years ago Pilate, the Roman governor of Jerusalem, said to Jesus, “What is truth?” John 18:38 In Pilate’s mind, truth was secondary or irrelevant. Truth didn’t matter to Pilate because he thought that he had the power of life and death. Ironically, Pilate said that to the only one who has the power of life and death, Jesus!

The 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 it said, “It’s all about the journey.”

The problem with this philosophy is that the “journey” may end in destruction.

Truth’s simple definition is: truth is that which is real. 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. We can deny or suppress the truth all we want. But we must live in and face reality.

Modern philosophy teaches, 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. The 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. To be tolerant, one cannot possibly believe in absolute truth!

Some live their lives solely on “what works.” Truth seems to have a decreasing place in life. Numbers are manipulated to convince us that what we observe is not real. We need polls to be able to make right decisions.

This phenomenon is not exclusive to the secular world. Churches are planted and led based upon the “what works” philosophy. Pragmatism is substituted for a God-centered world view.

Some evangelical leaders say in order to grow the church must seek to meet needs. So, in order to meet these “felt needs” programs are developed. Rather than teaching sound doctrine, the church should teach on matters that “tickle” the ears. Popular topics in our culture should be addressed by the church, issues like sex, who to marry, how to raise children, etc. The assumption is that this will enable people to be better and more fulfilled. Surely, God wants everyone to be happy.

Opposed to this is God’s command. The church is to be holy because God is holy. The means by which God changes lives is through the reading, study and application of His word. God changes lives by His word working in concert with His Spirit.

Jesus said, “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

To those who seek to be free, truth matters profoundly. Jesus is the truth and the way and the life, John 14:6! He is the only way to have a relationship with God.

Jesus is the supreme reality. Truth profoundly matters. Apart from the revealed truth of God there is no hope for us.

God is the center of life.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “I’m God and you’re not!”

“I’m God and you’re not!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
My title for this article is the short summary of perhaps the oldest book in the Bible based on its historical setting… That book is Job. Job is the record of God’s dealing with man and Satan. In it God reveals His absolute sovereignty. We learn of the problem of suffering in the world. Job is afflicted under God’s authority. Satan is given permission by God to afflict Job. God set bounds around Satan’s actions.

Three of Job’s friends try to place the blame for Job’s condition on Job himself. Finally, God questions Job and asks, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” Job 38:4a.

Mankind is still trying to make a god after his own liking. I often hear people say; “My god is a god of …” You can fill in the blanks. Usually, when the issue of man’s total depravity or the suffering of the “innocent” is discussed the blank is filled in with the word love. That is “My god is a god of love.” The respondent usually has their own definition of love which includes God being surprised by suffering and His “winking” at personal sin. But the true God, the one who has revealed Himself in the Bible and fully in Jesus Christ is holy and sovereign. He has authority over all things, Isaiah 43:10ff; Matthew 28:18.

Herein is the problem. God has revealed Himself and men continue to reject the truth. God confronted His people with this radical truth. The first book of the Bible is the most confrontational revelation from God. Precisely, the first words of Scripture confront and convict our self-importance and self-centeredness.

“In the beginning God…” presents the reality by which reasonable and honest people live. We all live under the supreme authority of God who made everything out of nothing! He spoke and all Creation came into being.

Genesis 1:1 declared clearly that there was a time nothing existed. Nothing existed in the beginning except God Himself. He spoke and all things leapt into existence. This is the true God who changed me. He made me a new creation. His words declare that no man has the right to make the claim that he is “in charge.”

God confronted me with the truth of His sovereignty when He regenerated me. By God’s grace, I realized that He alone had the right to claim ownership of me and exercise sovereign control of my life. There is no other reasonable response but to submit to Him! Creation itself is a constant revelation of the absolute sovereignty of God.

King David wrote this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “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.” This supremely points to Jesus Christ, but is significant for the entire human race.

You are free to ignore this reality. But doing so is not only futile but disastrous.

So then, “How do you respond to the truth that you’re a creature made by the Sovereign Creator? As all men who have been convicted of the truth have done since the Garden, we fall on our knees before God and appeal to His mercy. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.” Psalm 51:1

Jesus’ first sermon during His public ministry was, “The Kingdom of God is at hand; Repent and believe in the gospel! Mark 1:15 There is no other way to be able to stand before the holy God. Jesus is the way and the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him, John 14:6.