Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A Genuine Christian”

“A Genuine Christian“
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Recent events have caused me to reflect once again on being a genuine Christian. That is, what beliefs constitute genuine Christianity? In order to answer this question, we must understand that the Christian Faith is the biblical faith.

Biblical faith has three parts. They are: knowledge, assent and trust. Biblical faith embraces a revealed body of information. The Christian Faith is not some self-contained “force” like the Star Wars expression, “May the force be with you.” Biblical, Christian faith has an object.

I am a Presbyterian by conviction. Yet, all Protestant Christians affirm certain revealed truths about the object of faith, namely 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. The angel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…” Luke 1:35

Genesis 3:15 foreshadows Jesus’ birth. It was the “seed” of the woman who would 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.

The fact is Christians don’t make up the faith. We believe in the faith that has been revealed by God and given in His word written, the Bible. A Christian is not one because of title, role, or election! A Christian is one solely by the grace of God.

One who has received God’s gift of faith receives these fundamentals because they are revealed truth.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Remember the Past!”

“Remember the Past!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“There is nothing new under the sun” Solomon, Ecclesiastes 1:9c
“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein

These men reflected on the course of history and the need to know it. History is His, God’s, story. That is history belongs to God. God ordains the steps of men, Proverbs 16:9. He has progressively revealed Himself throughout history. Therefore, it seems reasonable that there is great benefit in studying history.

On September 11th, we took time to remember those who were murdered by radical Islamists. It is hard to believe that it has been fourteen years since our Nation was attacked. We grieve with those who lost loved ones. I recently had an opportunity to visit the reflecting pools at ground zero that were built on the spot where the twin towers stood. The experience brought back memories.

I didn’t have any friends or associates among the slain. But years ago, I worked in the number two tower, on the 82nd floor. Even though I no longer have direct connection with the World Trade Center, I am still deeply saddened by our loss.

It is critical that we continue to remember what happened on September 11, 2001. Our Country was attacked. From that day we have been at war with the radical adherents to the Islamic faith.

What has saddened me as much as remembering the slain is the denial that has overtaken our leaders. We now seek to negotiate with evil. We live denying history. We forget that only a few decades before, our nation stood against the evil of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. We seem to have forgotten or ignored past attempts at negotiating with those who are evil.

The church in our time is no different. We forget or ignore the past.

I recently asked our Adult Class, “Why should we study Church History?” I received an immediate response from a man in the class, “So that we don’t make the same mistakes.” We all had a great laugh, but the fact is some Christians think that the church only has a history that dates back about 150 years. But, the history of the church can be dated to the time of Abraham. The word “church” means those called out by God. This is what God did: He called a man, then a family, then a nation, then members of all nations of those who are in Christ through the gospel. Much can be gained by studying the church’s history.

For thousands of years, God has called men and women to Himself. The accumulated wisdom of those “saints” is important to study so as not to repeat their mistakes and to learn how the church dealt with error.

For example, it can be said that there are no new heresies. There are only old ones dressed up in new clothes. Essential doctrines like the Trinity, the divinity of Christ and the bodily resurrection have been under attack since the early days of the Christian Church. False teachers persist in re-dressing these heresies in new clothes and succeed in deceiving many.

Dr. James Montgomery Boice, one of the greatest Christian Pastors and Theologians, shared his reflections on the Church Growth Movement. He said, “Using Man’s methods yield Man’s results.” No matter how often we use Man’s methods with the best of intentions we still get Man’s results. We can fill churches by meeting needs or offering programs, and fail at teaching what it means to repent and believe in the gospel. Churches rarely spend time teaching members how the God who owns the gospel has revealed Himself. We refuse to teach that God will exercise wrath on all ungodliness. This revealed truth may actually drive people away!

Too often, Church Leaders take the approach of our naïve leaders in seeking to negotiate with evil. Some churches are organized and designed for non-believers to grow in numbers. God is missing in many churches. Non-believers have no time for God, nor do they have a desire to bow before Him. I’m not suggesting that I have all the answers nor am I suggesting that there is a perfect church somewhere. I am simply seeking to call Christians to wake up! Christian, invest in a church that teaches the revealed truth of the character of God.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “May the Church be the Church ?”

May the Church be the Church?”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

God’s call is that the church be as He has commanded. The Bible teaches that the church is the body of Christ, Colossians 1:18. The church is made up of many parts. These parts are individual believers for whom Christ died, Ephesians 5:25.
God has commanded the members of Christ’s body, the church to be holy because He is holy, Leviticus 11:44; 1Peter 1:15-16. God declared that His church is His holy priesthood, 1Peter 2:9ff. He is building His people up in Christ, Ephesians 4:11-16.

It seems to me that there is more interest in the church to study our political situation than there is to grow up into Christ! Now, I’m not suggesting that believers should separate themselves from the world. Jesus prayed that God would not take us out of the world but that He would keep us from the evil one and sanctify us in the truth, John 17:14-17. Jesus also made it very clear that the means of sanctification is by the power of the Holy Spirit in concert with the word of God.

Every day it seems that our governmental leaders come up with more lies and half-truths. If you try to keep up with the things that our elected officials say, your head will “swim” in a sea of confusion.

There will be a never-ending supply of incompetent actions and lies emanating from men and women in government. We can easily lose our focus. The church is not beyond the tendency to constantly examine and seek to remedy the failings of our government. In so doing, the church can easily lose her focus on what God has commanded her to be and thereby be unable to make a difference in the world.

The Shema, meaning hear, given by God to the church is His ordained focus. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Deuteronomy 6:4-5 When Jesus was asked to give the greatest commandment, He added Leviticus 19:18. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” Matthew 22:37ff.

God commands the church to love Him! The word translated as “love” conveys the meaning of offering total devotion. The church’s focus is God, to know who He is, to know what He expects.

Some have taught that the way to love God is to love our neighbors. That is not what Jesus said. He clearly stated God’s command to love Him and as the Apostle John said, those who love God cannot hate their brothers, 1John 4:20. Love of our neighbor proceeds from a heart that God has changed. We love because God first loved us, 1John 4:19. So then may we not get confused about our primary focus? God is at the center of all life. He is especially at the center of what His church seeks to do. The church is the visible kingdom of God. As such, we are called by God to be different. The church is accountable to her head, Jesus Christ. God has uniquely gifted members in the church to build up the whole body of Christ. The church was organized by the Risen Lord so that we might all grow up into Christ who is the Head, Ephesians 4:15-16.

Having said all this, I ask a question. “Are you learning about God in your church or are you learning how to cope with the circumstances of life?” The only way that we can be equipped to deal with all the circumstances of life is to know God. We cannot love God with all of our being unless we know Him. God has revealed Himself in His word and supremely in His only Son, Jesus Christ. The first revelation we must know is that the Jesus of the Bible is unique. He is not a creature. He was not born. He is eternally proceeding from the Father. Are you studying the Bible or are you studying what some Christian leader has learned from his or her study of the Bible? When you hear God’s word preached on the Lord’s Day do you hear about God or are you being given steps to have a better life. When you worship on the Lord’s Day are you pleasing God or men? Jesus said that eternal life is to know the one true God, John 17:3

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Command of Salvation”

“The Command of Salvation”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Apostles Peter and John stood before the religious rulers of Israel in Jerusalem. They were called before these leaders because many people were being saved by God’s grace through the preaching of the word in concert with the Holy Spirit. The Jewish leaders wanted to know by what power or name the Apostles were speaking.

With great courage and boldness, Peter and John told the leaders that they were preaching by the name of Jesus who was crucified by the insistence of these leaders. The Apostles continued speaking and made this declaration. “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:11-12

Notice the word “must” used by Luke under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Salvation is commanded by God! There is no other name but the name of Jesus as He is offered in the gospel. Receiving the gospel is commanded. The gospel is not optional. The gospel is central not because of some idea of sentimentalism but because it is God’s command issued to all men to escape God’s wrath.

We know that the Bible teaches that salvation is to be saved by God from God. That is, we are delivered from the wrath of God by the sovereign act of God. In saving men and women God does not simply excuse sin. Sin had to be paid for. The only means of payment was the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

The weight of the Apostles’ declaration is beyond what men can bear. The weight is the full wrath of God. Those who disobey God’s command to believe in the gospel will indeed experience the horror of God’s wrath for their sin.

Another aspect of the command to believe in the gospel is that God is not wringing His hands in heaven hoping that men will believe in His gospel. No! Those for whom Jesus died will obey His command. The payment for sin was actually and really made on Calvary. Jesus’ payment for sin was not dependent upon men accepting it. Jesus died for specific people. He died for those whom God chose before the world began, Ephesians 1:4.

So central is the gospel of God that Jesus began His public ministry with these words, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15

The Apostle Paul in writing to believers declared that the gospel is the power of God for salvation, Romans 1:16. He also told the believers in Corinth that those who were being saved stood in the gospel, 1Corinthians 15:1.

Obeying God’s command to believe in the gospel is not only a guarantee of heaven. Salvation is deliverance. When God breaks into a man’s life, He frees him from the bondage of sin. Those in Christ are set free to love God! Salvation begins when God declares a sinner right with Him. It continues throughout life and is consummated in glory. All of what God has done for us is in and through the gospel.

Jesus’ command was very specific. It centered on God’s rule and the gospel. Christians believe in the gospel. Why? The answer is simple and clear. “The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16b. The gospel is the only means God has given for men and women to know Christ and have eternal life.

The good news, the gospel is: Christ died for the sins of His people, He was buried and He was raised from the dead all in accordance with the Scriptures, 1Corinthians 15:3-4. This is good news because we all deserve to go to hell. But, God who is “rich in mercy”, Ephesians 2:4, chose some for heaven. God’s power is revealed in the gospel. It causes men and women to rely upon the perfect righteousness of Christ. The Christian’s reliance upon Christ is by the power of the Holy Spirit. The gospel is good news because God applies it to those whom He has chosen. The gospel is God’s power to save! Have you obeyed God’s command?