Pastor’s Viewpoints,”The Power of God”

“The Power of God”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel…Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” Mark 1:15, 38

The Apostle Paul wrote, the gospel is the power of God for salvation for all who believe, Romans 1:16. Therefore, the gospel is every Christian’s focus. Likewise, the preaching of the gospel is foremost in every church that professes Christ as her head! The popular Christian bracelet, “What would Jesus do?” would be more edifying if, “What did Jesus do?” was printed on it. He proclaimed the good news of God!

Jesus said the reason for His public ministry was to preach. His message was clear and direct. He preached it as a command. “Repent and believe in the gospel! Notice both verbs. They are in the imperative mood and present tense. The imperative is the mood of command. The present tense describes on-going action. Therefore, both repenting and believing are on-going actions commanded by God.

Jesus gave two reasons for obeying His dual command. The first was the “time is fulfilled.” The second, “the kingdom of God is at hand”.

The first was a reference to Daniel’s prophecy, Daniel 9:25. It was confirmed by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 4:4. This time of fulfillment was in fact the time set in eternity by God for the Messiah’s arrival on earth. Jesus read Isaiah 61:1-2a in the synagogue, see Luke 4:18-21. Jesus said He was the one prophesied who would proclaim the “year of the Lord’s favor”. In other words, Jesus declared that at His coming God was commanding men and women to call upon Him and be saved. The Apostle Peter boldly told the religious leaders in Jerusalem ,” 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 4:12.

The second reason given by Jesus was not separate and distinct from the first. The Kingdom of God, namely the rule of God was at hand. Jesus the King and Lord, the one who rules all things, was physically in the midst of His hearers. The King who rules all men and has absolute authority, Matthew 28:18, commanded repentance and faith!

Repentance and faith go hand-in-hand. Repentance is a change of mind, a turning away from sin. Faith is trust in the object who is Jesus. When God converts a sinner into a saint He gives two gifts. One is repentance. The second is faith. The converted man and woman turn away from sin and turn to Jesus. Paul explained the action of a converted sinner in Romans 6:11. “So you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Both God-given gifts continue throughout every Christian’s life. We live repenting and believing, turning from our sin and relying upon the perfect righteousness of Christ.

Jesus was very specific in His command. He commanded believing in 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.

I’m sure that you’ve heard that the word “gospel” means good news. So what’s the good news? It is, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” 1Corinthians 15:3-4. This is truly good news because we all deserve to go to hell. But, God who is “rich in mercy”, Ephesians 2:4, chose some for heaven. The only way to heaven is through Jesus as He is offered in the gospel! Rely upon the only begotten one, Jesus, not born but eternally proceeding from the Father. Those destined for heaven rely upon Jesus’ perfect life and His perfect sacrifice for sins. This reliance is not by our strength and power. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. The gospel is good news because God applies it to those whom He has chosen.

Therefore, he who has ears to hear the Savior’s command, repent and believe in the gospel! “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8

Pastor’s Viewpoints,”No One Cares…when truth doesn’t matter”

“No One Cares…when truth doesn’t matter”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
When a society is engulfed by lies, distortions, or half-truths the people begin to believe that truth doesn’t matter. We are close to this being the case in our society. Facts are considered those things that are to be spun to benefit someone or something. Every day a news story breaks and those reporting it give perspectives on the facts rather than simply stating them.

There is something even more troubling to me. Truth in the eye of the beholder is in the church. Basic understandings relating to God’s self-revelation are taught as “perspectives.” The real importance, we’re told, is “How does the Bible impact you?”

I am a Christian Pastor of an evangelical church. I often meet people, as I’m sure you do, who believe truth is a matter of perspective.

This low view of reality is not new. It’s as old as mankind. It’s been around since the “Garden.” Satan’s lie was a denial of absolute truth. “You will not surely die.” Genesis 3:4

Likewise, Jesus faced this phenomenon as He was being questioned by Pilate. Pilate asked Jesus a rhetorical question. He asked, “What is truth?”, John 18:38. For Pilate as for many truth was irrelevant. What really mattered was, who has the power? But unknowingly Pilate’s question expressed the result of absolute truth! God has absolute power. Pilate was standing in the presence of the one who would say, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” Matthew 28:18. Jesus, the God-Man, rules all things. He has absolute power. This is the truth and it matters to all!

A philosophy popularized by Joseph Fletcher in the 60’s called situational ethics, bases ethical decisions on circumstances. Fletcher claimed that this philosophy emphasized the primacy of love. This may sound good and reasonable. You may even think that because it is based on “love” it is gracious and promotes compassion. Yet, as you might expect, one’s definition of “love” is critical in situational ethics. Fletcher defined love in utilitarian terms; that which is loving promotes usefulness.

A further deterioration of culture came about by a philosophy that mirrors situational ethics. It is moral relativism. Moral relativism has no absolutes. The only absolute is that there are no absolutes. Within this philosophy the governing dogma is that everything is relative except the absence of absolutes. This confused thinking is common today. It is the reason many think that truth doesn’t matter.

In moral relativism, truth has no role. One of the horrible results of such a philosophy is the secular view of human life which is the value of human life is derived from its usefulness. The truth is all human life which begins at conception is sacred because God set it apart. Human life has dignity and value because God is the Author.

Opposed to moral relativism is Amos 7:8, “… The LORD said, “Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass by them; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

The plumb line is the word of God. Amos’ vision foretold the coming Messiah. Jesus is the absolute standard. He said that He is the truth, John 14:6.

Men and women will always seek to hide the truth so as to keep their evil deeds from the light of day, John 3:19.

I believe that the centrality of truth is essential if our western culture is to survive. I also believe that the church is accountable to God to teach the truth to her people. All people should expect our church and civil leaders to speak the truth. The starting place is personal. Jesus said, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes” or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” Matthew 5:37

Christians are people of truth because genuine Christians are in union with Christ. Believers are purposed by God to bear the fruit of Christ-likeness.

May the church lead the way. May all who profess Christ live the truth, share the truth and by all means expect leaders to speak the truth in all aspects of life.

This is a unique and challenging time. Christian, don’t hide the light of Jesus, the way and the life and the truth, but let it shine!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Should You Fear?”

“Should You Fear?”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The short answer is “Yes.” Everyone should fear God! Both believers and non-believers should fear God. The psalmist, Asaph wrote in Psalm 76:7, “But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused?” He wrote this worship song to be used in corporate worship by those who know God. All believers know or should know the holiness and majesty of God. All believers know that God does not accommodate sin. He will exercise absolute justice. Only those who are in Christ will be able to stand before Him. Christians will stand before the holy God not in their own righteousness but only covered in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Most of mankind lives in denial of the God who is to be feared. Some Christians presume upon God’s electing grace in Christ by making their own god who is love as they define it.

The truth is: whether you are a Christian or not, fearing God is the only reasonable response of a creature to his Creator.

The Bible answers the question. Fearing God is the subject of much of Scripture. Three texts of Scripture in addition to Psalm 76 come readily to mind concerning man’s response to his Creator. Ecclesiastes 12:13, Matthew 10:28 and 1Peter 2:17 provide God’s revealed answer to whether or not He is to be feared.

Solomon who was declared by God to be the wisest man who ever lived expressed his deepest thoughts concerning life. He had every opportunity for greatness. He had great wealth. He had absolute worldly power over his kingdom. He pursued every passion and desire of his flesh. After evaluating all of his pursuits, he declared them all to be like hot air, “vanity of vanities”, Ecclesiastes 1:2; 12:8. Solomon repeated the vanity of man’s pursuits in the beginning of Ecclesiastes and at the end.

Solomon’s conclusion concerning the purpose of life and all of man’s pursuits was: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandment, for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13

From Solomon, king of Israel to the Apostle Peter the fear of God was known and declared to be central. Peter wrote, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” 1Peter 2:17

Peter wrote to the church and exhorted her members to be holy people, set apart to God. He encouraged them to behave as those who have been changed by God. He called Christians to honor everyone; to sacrificially love those within the household of God and to fear God. Their fear of God was demonstrated in their worship. Fear includes a sense of awe, trembling and reverence.

In the case of Solomon fearing God was the only reasonable alternative to life. Peter gave the members of the church God’s guidance for life. Yet, each writer based his exhortation on an underlying assumption.

The underlying assumption was given by Jesus. Matthew 10:28, Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” This is God’s answer. Men are to fear God because of who He is.

Jesus said that only God has absolute sovereignty over His creatures. Therefore, we must approach Him with great humility. We are finite and He is infinite. We have limited power. He has absolute power. Jesus said that, “all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18

Only fools live in denial of the absolute power and authority of God, Psalm 14:1. Only a fool would risk an eternity in hell! Why should I/we fear God? We fear God because He is!

How many think that their lives are hidden before God? How many are blind to the truth that they are created beings? How many give explanations for creation that fit within their limited understanding? How many think that there is no God to fear?

We fear God because, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

Everything you see around you is there because of our Creator God. We have been made to worship God. He is to be feared. He is the one who sent Jesus, His one and only Son. Jesus is the one who has the words of eternal life. Fear God!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Calling it like it is”

“Calling it like it is”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
At the risk of being “politically incorrect” I’d like to take a moment to cause some thought to be given to evil versus good. We seem unable to distinguish between the two. Oh, not on a grand scale. We readily recognize evil perpetrated by radical Islamists. But when it comes to the subtler things, we allow ourselves to be confused by various reports of statements and incidents. Woe is used in Scripture to warn those who fail to “call it like it is.” 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 for their abusive and oppressive behavior towards their brothers. God issued this warning for leaders who failed to recognize evil as evil.

The book of Isaiah comprehensively covers God’s judgment and salvation. Chapter 5 was addressed to God’s “vineyard”, His chosen people. God sought justice and righteousness within His people and found none! God’s indictment of wicked people continued. They are described as oppressive, self-serving, unjust and liars. The “woe” quoted from verse 5 is repeated five more times in Chapter 5.

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, Romans 8:28.

The Bible was written to believers but it applies to 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

There may be grey issues facing us today. Some say that not everything is black or white. In my opinion, we are too free to categorize issues as grey. Often they are grey because of our unwillingness to look at them through the lens of Scripture. But, there is one issue that is clearly evil. The issue to which I refer is the issue of human life. Some in our nation would suggest that a woman’s right to end the life of the baby in her womb falls under the heading of grey. But, any reasonable human being must admit in this day and age that life indeed begins at conception. The issue of the sanctity of human life does not fall in the category of ethical confusion. We need not wonder what the “good” course is. God is for life! Those who would call death good risk falling under the “woes” declared by Isaiah.

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 in Jesus as He is offered in the gospel. 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, nor should any person who professes Christ.

I read somewhere that for evil to succeed all that is necessary is for good men to be silent. I am not good in the sight of God. I am a sinner. God alone is good and He expects me to stand for that which He has sanctified, namely human life. There is no middle ground when it comes to standing for the sanctity of human life.

During this critical time in our nation, look for leaders who call it like it is. Look for leaders who stand for the sanctity of human life!