Pastor’s Viewpoints, “What People Need”

“What People Need”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

How time flies when you’re having fun! Three years ago, I wrote an article entitled, “What is Truth?” Now, with all manner of information and news happenings swirling around us, I believe that there is a fundamental question that lies under the question of truth. There is a question that is timeless and applies to all mankind. The question is, “What do people need?”

My earlier article began with the question asked by Pilate of Jesus two thousand years ago. He asked, “What is truth?” Pilate’s question revealed that he thought truth was irrelevant. Pilate believed that his authority and the power his office held was what should concern Jesus. For Pilate the issue was worldly authority and power. Pilate’s fear and respect for power was not wrong in itself. Pilate’s philosophy was missing the truth of who held the most power. Jesus said not to fear men but fear the one who could destroy body and soul in hell. In other words, fear God! Matthew 10:28

There was a Christian song recorded by Steve Green several years ago entitled, “People Need the Lord.” I affirm the message conveyed in the song. Yet, I know that in order to know the Lord Jesus, one must receive the truth. Notice the requirement for knowing Jesus is the truth, not just a truth. No, to know Jesus as He is offered in the gospel, one must receive and embrace the truth which is absolute.

The definite article “the” is critical. Christians affirm that all truth is God’s truth. There is, after all, Jesus’ declaration that He is the truth, John 14:6. He is not one of many truths. Jesus is uniquely the truth.

Further, God’s word is truth, John 17:17. Truth is that which is real. Jesus said that knowing the truth sets a person free! John 8:32.

The truth is that all men are born in bondage to sin. This is true for all men for all time. There is only one who was born without sin. The Bible declares, “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Romans 5:12 All who are effectually called by God are given the gift of repentance and thereby embrace the truth of their sinfulness.

The truth is that God’s wrath was appeased by Jesus Christ on the cross. This propitiation was only possible because Jesus was sinless. In spite of spurious teaching that originated in the Middle Ages, Mary was not born without sin. Mary is not our co-redeemer. Mary was a sinner saved by grace as is every believer in Christ.

Salvation is not possible unless the truth is embraced. Heaven is only the inheritance of those who have been pierced in the heart by the truth.

Indeed people need the Lord! The truth is, only those who acknowledge their need turn to the Lord and only those who embrace the truth that can turn to the Lord.

So then, the answer to people’s need is the truth, the unadulterated, inerrant, infallible and all-sufficient truth. Jesus is the truth and His word is truth.

But there is a problem. The natural man will never acknowledge his need for the truth. The natural man’s will is inclined to evil. The natural man seeks to find a truth that fits his imagined need. The natural man is unable to embrace the truth of Jesus on his own. The Spirit of God must break into his heart. Rather, it is more accurate to say that the Spirit of God must take his heart of stone and give him a heart of flesh.

There is no one who can solve the problem of man’s refusal to embrace the truth. Yet, as Jesus told His disciples, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

In summary, permit me to be bold. People need the truth because the truth is reality. God has revealed the truth fully in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The truth is Jesus is the only Son of God, begotten not made. The truth is the only way to know Jesus is through the Bible which is God’s breathed-out word. The truth is that apart from Jesus you will experience the wrath of God. The truth is that there is salvation in no other name but Jesus, Acts 4:12.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Indispensable Word”

“The indispensable word”
The Rev. Louis B. Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Mark 1:14-15

It is easy to forget that there is no good news if the bad news is not acknowledged. Repentance is not an option. Repentance means to change one’s mind. By God’s gift of repentance, a sinner turns from sin and turns to Jesus. Just as faith is a life-long action. So too is repentance. Christians rely upon the finished work of Jesus and confess their sins to God. He has promised to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, 1John 1:9.

This change of mind brought about as we repent includes much more than thinking in a different way. It causes us to change every aspect of our lives as we hold every thought captive to obey Christ, 2Corinthians 10:5.

The penitent one changes the way he thinks and makes decisions. His motivations to serve himself are changed. This change from sin to do what is right is an essential doctrine of the Christian Faith.

Repentance that leads to salvation is always coupled in the Bible with faith. The Apostle Paul summarized the Christian Life. He said that Christians are to count themselves dead to sin (turning from) and alive to God in Christ Jesus (turning to), Romans 6:11.

Jesus’ words were issued in the command mode. Seeing the good news of the gospel is preceded by acknowledging the bad news of our sinfulness. Martin Luther called this preaching law and gospel.

The only way a sinner is able to acknowledge his own “bad news” is if God causes him to see it. Jesus said that one must be born again to see the kingdom, John 3:3, 5, and 7. When Peter preached his great sermon on the feast of Pentecost, the Spirit of God in concert with the word of God pierced the hearts of some who heard and they “were cut to the heart, and said… , “Brothers, what shall we do?”

I have gone to this depth at the risk of repetition in order to emphasize the necessity of repentance. The Bible teaches that both repentance and faith (believing) are gifts from God. They are given to those whom God converts from a sinner to a saint. They are given and received at conversion. Both gifts are exercised by one who has been saved, is being saved, and will be saved.

As God’s gift of faith has three parts: knowledge, agreement and trust. His gift of repentance also has three parts: acknowledgment of sin, sorrow over sin and finally turning from sin. Genuine faith’s three parts are: knowledge of the truth; agreement with the truth and reliance upon the truth.

The three parts of genuine repentance are: acknowledgement of sin; godly sorrow for sin and turning away from sin.

God has appointed a moment in time when He effectually calls a sinner to Himself. He regenerates the sinner in an instant. He converts the sinner into a saint and gives both the gift of faith and repentance. From that moment the Christian strives to live penitently and faithfully.

God’s promise of heaven is for everyone who repents of his sin and believes in Jesus as He is offered in the gospel! Further, on the believer’s way home to heaven, the Spirit of God continues to sanctify him. The Holy Spirit works in the believer prompting a life of faith and repentance. Drawing from a line in an Indiana Jones movie… only the penitent may pass (survive).

By God’s grace and mercy alone, He gives the gifts of repentance and faith without which there is no good news. As we come face to face with our own sinfulness, being grieved by it and committing to turn from it, God causes a light to shine in our hearts to see the beauty of Christ and run to Him. I can’t emphasize this truth enough. The gifts of repentance and faith are received in a moment in time and they continue to be expressed throughout life. They truly are the gifts that keep on giving and it’s all by God’s grace!

Don’t be deceived, faith without repentance is no faith at all! Repentance is truly the indispensable word.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Ordained in the Garden”

“Ordained in the Garden”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“What therefore God has joined together let not man separate.” These are the words of Jesus recorded by Matthew, Matthew 19:6.

How did marriage come under the authority of government? How is it that a few men in black robes think that they have the authority to re-define what God ordained in the Garden? “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24

The fact that God defined marriage is the fundamental problem faced by any society that seeks to alter His definition. God defined marriage as the covenantal union of a man and a woman. The word “marriage” has been understood precisely as God intended. No matter if one is an officer of the court or a legislator he does not have the authority to change the meaning of what God has ordained, namely marriage.

Words have meaning and if we can change the meaning of words, we will cease to be able to communicate. But the issue of marriage is even more significant than changing the meaning of the word. The most fundamental pillar of every society is the family. As society’s view of God’s gift of Marriage wanes, that society will continue to unravel.

The bond ordained by God is one man committing to be joined to one woman as long as they both shall live. Marriage is the fundamental building block of the most intimate of relationships with which God has blessed Mankind.

Some church leaders have suggested that the church needs to prepare to accept a re-defined understanding of marriage. Yet, it is the church which is called by her Lord, Jesus to stand for the truth. He is the truth. He has revealed the truth in words. We have God’s word written, inerrant and infallible to live under.

This weekend, I will have the privilege of officiating at a Marriage Ceremony. A young man and woman will be pledging their love for one another under God and before witnesses.

The marriage ceremony states: “Marriage was instituted by God Himself in the time of man’s innocency and uprightness. The Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him,” Genesis 2:18. Thereupon God created woman of man’s own substance and brought her to the man…”

This is one of the greatest understatements recorded in Scripture. Adam said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;” Genesis 2:23 God declared everything to be “very good” after this great creative act. Adam was overwhelmed by the wisdom of God in providing a “helpmeet” for him who was the perfect complement, the perfect partner.

The Apostle Paul wrote that the marriage of a man to a woman models the relationship of the church to Christ, Ephesians 5:32. Christian Marriage reflects the intimate relationship that every believer has with the Lord Jesus.

In summary, we humbly receive God’s definition of marriage. Marriage is the covenantal union of one man to one woman. God’s great wisdom gave mankind the covenant of marriage as the most fundamental human relationship. It forms the basis of every culture. It has formed the basis of our society. The challenges against traditional marriage are nothing more (or less) than rebellion against God. Recent attempts to re-define marriage testify to this rebellion which has been going on since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, Genesis 3.

Our Lawmakers may indeed decide to change the legal definition of marriage. Legal is not necessarily Godly and moral. Psalm 2:4 declares God’s view of man’s attempts to usurp His authority. “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.” The God- instituted covenant of marriage will remain the union of one man with one woman. Our society will bear the consequences of perverting the biblical meaning of marriage. In some ways we are already experiencing the consequences of the systematic breakdown of traditional marriage and the family unit.

The issue of marriage is not an issue of equal rights but an issue of revealed truth! I urge you who call upon the name of the Lord to speak up for the sanctity of marriage as defined by God. Pray for God’s protection for our marriages. Celebrate marriage as the profound mystery through which God demonstrates the intimacy between Christ and His bride, the church, Ephesians 5:32.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Who merited God’s favor?”

“Who merited God’s favor?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
King David wrote, “O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?” Psalm 15:1 The answer is one who is: blameless, speaks the truth, does what is right, doesn’t slander anyone, despises evil doers. You get the point! Perfection is required to be in God’s presence! There was only one perfect man. His name is Jesus Christ, the only Son of God. Jesus lived a perfect life and offered to God a perfect sacrifice, Himself.

If you desire to be in the presence of God, you must be perfect or be in the one who was and is perfect. Only those who are in Christ may approach God’s throne of grace. Only those who are in Christ can expect God to hear and answer their prayers. Only those who are in Christ will be allowed to enter heaven and be with the Lord for eternity.

Jesus Christ did what Adam failed to do. It is only through faith in Christ that God declares a man or woman to be in “right” relationship with Him. The Bible teaches that salvation is by Grace Alone through Faith alone in Christ alone, Rom. 4:4-5; Ephesians 2:8-9.

The Apostle John wrote, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17 John referred to the law given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai and to the truth which is reality revealed in the person of Jesus. The law of God is the absolute standard of perfection. The Jews sought to make the law fool-proof. The leaders enforced more than 600 nuances of the basic commandments of God to address every aspect of life. Jesus said that they had missed the spirit of the law.

The truth is no one can keep the law. The Apostle Paul wrote that the purpose of the law was to bound sin and lead men to their need for a Savior, Galatians 3:19-29.

God doesn’t grade righteousness on a scale. Passing grades are not given by comparing men. We must be honest with ourselves before God. We are all sinners. No man will be able to justify himself before the holy God. We must receive the grace of God which was merited by Jesus Christ.

God’s grace is the only means by which men may have a “passing grade.” God’s grace is extended only because of the perfect merit of Jesus Christ. And, God extends His grace to those whom He wills, Romans 9:16.

The grace of God is His favor extended to His people as a result of the merit of Jesus on their behalf. This is called saving grace. It is given by God to those whom He chose before the foundation of the world. His choice is not based on anything we will do or have done. His choice is unconditional, Romans 9:11; Ephesians 1; 2.

You may be thinking that this choice of God to extend saving grace as He wills is unfair and God is not unfair. I agree. God is not unfair. But grace is not about fairness. God is perfectly fair. We call His fairness divine justice. He has said that at the end of this world there will be a final judgment. Two books will be opened by God. One book is the record of everyone’s deeds. The other is called the book of life. The judgment of God is that anyone’s name that does not appear in the book of life is thrown into the “lake of fire.” Those two books represent the difference between justice and grace. Those who live thinking that God winks at their sin and will somehow extend grace to them at the end are those who will experience perfect justice. On the other hand those who live their lives relying upon the perfect life of Jesus and His perfect sacrifice will experience the fullness of God’s grace in eternal bliss.

So then, Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Grace is God’s unmerited favor toward man merited by His only Son, Jesus. There are only two alternatives for mankind. Rely upon your own merit or rely upon the merit of Christ. In either case the standard is perfection. The truth is Jesus is the only One who was perfect.

The God-Man, Jesus merited God’s favor. May you bow before Jesus, Lord of lords and King of kings.