Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Sound Doctrine”

“Sound Doctrine”
The Rev. Louis B. Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Apostle Paul commanded Titus, a Pastor, to “teach what accords with sound doctrine” Titus 2:1. Likewise, Paul gave the same command to another Pastor, Timothy, “… preach the word; be ready in season and out of season…” 2Timothy 4:2. Sound doctrine is biblical teaching. The preaching of the word of God written, the Bible was not only for Timothy in the 1st Century, but it extends to the Church until Jesus returns. Sound doctrine, biblical teaching is also the focus of the church until the return of Christ.

Every Christian Pastor would affirm his call to preach the Bible. Yet, surveys of the evangelical church in America reveal that doctrinal teaching is not the norm. Every Christian Pastor would likewise affirm the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. But, practices in the Church do not support the reality of the sufficiency of Scripture. There are “things” that should be added, some say, in order to be successful. Programs must be cleverly devised that address “life-styles.” Preferences in worship music should be considered if the church is to “reach” the modern culture. The “word” relevant comes up in almost every conversation concerning one’s church of preference. Relevant is defined as hearing a “message” that addresses feelings or circumstances. Of course, worship must strike a chord to which one’s emotions will be affirmed. Still further, one’s stage in life must be considered in developing a relevant message or even applying spiritual oversight.

Obviously, not all evangelical churches fall into these worldly traps. There are many that consider sound doctrine and biblical preaching important. There are many who understand that there is only one seeker, God and that He has commanded the way in which He is to be worshiped. There are even many churches that understand that worship on the Lord’s Day is not for evangelism. Not all evangelical churches have replaced expositional preaching with skits complete with “stage props.”

Still, one might think that sound doctrine, biblical preaching and worship are discoveries of the modern church. Maybe it’s legalistic to suggest that the entirety of God’s word is not only relevant, but also necessary and sufficient to live in Christ. All these issues were dealt with by God in the Old Testament. God said that closing the doors of the church was preferable to vain worship, Malachi 1:10. If the church in the Old Testament was held accountable for her worship and teaching, we should certainly take heed.

Concerning sound doctrine, I was recently studying one of the Psalms of David, Psalm 12. I observed that the first three words of verse 1, “Save, O LORD” declare sound doctrine. First, David cried out to God for salvation. He knew that man could not save himself. David knew that man’s only hope was for God to act. David didn’t suggest that he chose God and therefore was the instrument to save himself. No, David cried to God. Only God saves. All men are born dead in sin. The Fall of Adam is inherited by all men born of a man and a woman. In another Psalm, 51, David declared that he was conceived in sin. David didn’t mean that he was born outside of wedlock. He was simply stating what God declared in Genesis 6:5, “… that every intention of the thoughts of men’s hearts was only evil continually.”

David also knew God was his only hope. Why did David know that and not, say, Saul? They both were anointed to be king. They were both members of the Covenant Community, the visible church. Yet David knew of his dependence upon God and Saul did not. Surely Saul knew there was a God as did David. Yet, knowing of the existence of God did not lead Saul to depend upon Him as David did.

The reason David knew to cry out to God was because God gave him eyes to see. God did not look down the corridor of time and see that David would choose Him. For there were many times when David chose himself over God.

The first three words of Psalm 12 reveal two essential truths, called sound doctrine. First, God alone saves. Second, God extends saving grace to those whom He chooses. God calls, regenerates, converts, justifies, adopts, sanctifies and glorifies, Romans 8:29-30. Salvation is by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone. Ephesians 2:1-9.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Look Ahead”

“Look Ahead”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The end of one year and the beginning of the next is a time to “take stock.” We want to remember the past, especially our mistakes, so that we won’t repeat them. Over the years, God has taught me more from my mistakes than from those things we see as successes. You may perhaps agree with me. So then, what about the year ahead. After remembering our mistakes, we move on; we look forward. We live with anticipation as we look ahead to opportunities and events that the Lord has already planned for us.

To look ahead a target is needed. Without it, I will simply move from one crisis to the next. My target is to do what is right. It may sound simple, but I suggest that doing what is right is the most profound target anyone can have. I don’t mean that we should do what we think is right. No! What we think is right is subjective, a moving target. That which is right is an absolute. It is absolute because it proceeds from absolute truth revealed by God in His word.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, that the believer is to take every thought captive to the word of Christ, 2Corinthians 10:5. Romans 12:2 is an exhortation to Christians not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewal of the mind. The result is: “That by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Ephesians 5:11 points out that Christians were once in darkness but are now “light in the Lord.” Believers are to be children of light, that is, Christians follow Jesus by living under His word. The “fruit” of living as children of light is “found in all that is good and right and true.” Knowing what is good, right and true is only possible through God’s transformation. He has promised to change those whom He calls, regenerates and justifies. He does it by His word and Spirit. Doing what is right is the response of one who has been born again by the Holy Spirit in concert with God’s word.

Doing the right thing is wise living. Wise living follows the way of blessing. The way of blessing is to obey God. Conversely, God said that a cursed life would follow the one who was disobedient. I have yet to meet someone who wanted to live a cursed life. Yet, by ignorance or avoidance of God’s word, we head towards destruction. Don’t be fooled by following someone who commits to do what he thinks is right. First, know yourself what is right. Then do it.

Whereas God is the one working in a believer to do what is right, the believer is not an idle bystander. Christians live responding to the Spirit of God acting in them. God’s means to progressively change His people is the systematic, intense study of the Bible and the theology which proceeds from it. This is not only a personal endeavor but a corporate one. Each local church is accountable before God to “teach what is in accordance with sound doctrine”, Titus 2:1. Every believer is likewise accountable to invest in such a church.

God organized the Church so that each member would grow up into Christ, Ephesians 4:11-15. It is through the local Church that God has provided spiritual growth. Christians are not adopted by God into His family in a vacuum. He adopts us into the body of Christ. He has blessed us with the visible church, the normal means by which men are saved and grow in Christ.

The barrier to growth in knowing what is right is our sinful desires and false teachers who prey on the spiritually immature. In 2Timothy 3 and 4, Paul described the visible church corrupted by those who only looked godly; those who sought to “tickle” men’s ears. He gave a timeless answer to the problem. Paul’s answer was for Timothy to continue in what he learned and firmly believed. Paul declared that all Scripture was breathed out by God and it’s the Scriptures which are able to make the believer “competent and equipped for every good work.” God’s answer remains the same. The visible church is the place to grow in knowing what is right as she faithfully teaches the Scriptures. I urge you to invest in one.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Advent, Part 1”

“The Advent, Part 1”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The great excitement in the Church has encompassed the secular world. This excitement surrounds the annual celebration of the Incarnation. The Season of Advent is a time to prepare for the Coming One. December 25th was a date selected by the Church around the fourth Century to call Christendom to remember the miracle of the Incarnation and to be ready for Jesus’ second coming. Christmas is the celebration of Part 1 of the Advent! In Jesus’ parable of the Ten Virgins, He told His disciples, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” Matthew 25:13

The Prophet Isaiah predicted the miracle of the Advent, Part 1, otherwise known as the Incarnation. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 God’s promise was fulfilled in 4 B.C. with the birth of Jesus. Matthew wrote, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:23

The Incarnation was so important that God progressively revealed through His prophets in the Old Testament the absolute necessity of the God – Man. It is a miracle that we receive as the absolute truth. Our hope of eternal life is real because the only Son of God took upon Himself human nature.

The Apostle Paul took the opportunity of rivalry and disunity in the church to declare both the explicit and implicit meaning of the Incarnation. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he 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 (ESV)

The first explicit revelation is that the Incarnation is the ultimate definition of humility. God, the Creator of all, condescended to lower Himself and take upon Himself human nature. God came to earth as a man. All the while, He remained divine. He voluntarily set aside His glory.

Further, Paul wrote that Jesus was born of woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law, Galatians 4:4. Jesus was fully man, but a man without sin! Jesus was born without sin because He was born out of the natural course. He was miraculously born of Mary who conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Because of Jesus’ humility in fully submitting to the Law in obedience to God the Father even unto death upon a cross those who are in Christ are accepted by God because of His blood and righteousness. Apart from Jesus’ Incarnation we would never be able to have a relationship with God. The Incarnation led to the satisfaction of the Law’s demands! Because of His perfect sacrifice our sins have been paid for.

Second, Paul also wrote of Jesus’ exaltation. Because of His perfect obedience to His Father, even to death on a cross, God gave Him the name that is above every name. That name is Lord. The Father gave Jesus to be the Master of all that exists. Jesus said, “all authority in heaven and on earth” was given to Him, Matthew 28:18.

In summation, Paul wrote of God’s purpose in the Incarnation. Everything about the Incarnation is for the glory of God, the Father! The entirety of God’s plan of redemption is for His glory!

The Incarnation also has an implicit affect. The implication of the Incarnation, God with us is that those who are in Christ are joint heirs of heaven with Him. All those who are in Christ will receive exalted and glorified bodies like Jesus. God has promised that His people will see Him face to face. The miracle of miracles is God’s provision that insures redemption for every believer.

But, the Advent, Part 2 will come at any time! “Watch therefore…!”

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Why the Church?”

“Why the Church?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Once again, I sense a need to write concerning the Church. Specifically, why does the Church of Jesus Christ exist? The clear and simple truth is that the Church exists for the same reason every believer exists. The Church exists for the glory of God. “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”, the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q/A #1. This doctrinal statement proceeds from God’s command given to the Church in the Old Testament and repeated by the Apostle Peter. 1Peter 1:15, “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.”

The visible church, the one we see, is defined as all those who profess Jesus Christ as He is offered in the gospel, and includes their children. Every local church that teaches Jesus is fully God and fully Man, the second person of the Trinity is part of the universal visible church. The Protestant Reformation described the true church, the visible church as every church that preaches the pure gospel, administers the two Sacraments as ordained by Christ and exercises biblical church discipline.

God has chosen to reach the lost through the visible church. Romans 10:17 is the clear affirmation of God’s plan. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” But God has also organized the visible church. “He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherd-teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry…” Ephesians 4:11-12. Every local church that bears the marks of a true church is part of the world-wide visible church of Jesus Christ.

God organized the church, revealed her marks and chose to use her to reach the lost. But all these things are not God’s purpose for His Church!

I use repetition for emphasis and specificity. The Church’s purpose is not to preach the gospel. The Church’s purpose is not to minister to the needy. The Church’s purpose is not to attract people. Surely, the Church’s purpose is not to entertain, offer programs, or present snappy skits or give testimonies. To summarize, the Church’s purpose is not whatever may loosely be listed under ministries.

The God-given purpose of the Church concerns being not doing. The singular purpose for the existence of the Church is to glorify God by being holy!

“Purpose” is defined as the reason for existence or being. The revealed reason for the church’s existence is to obey God’s command to be holy! Simply stated the church exists to be holy. The basic meaning of holy is unique. The range of meaning spans being set apart to being pure and perfect. God gave His church purpose; He declared that the church was set apart by Him and for Him. By God’s definition, the Church is to be different than the world.

In Chuck Colson’s “Against the Night”, he observed that the church had become or was at least striving to become just like the world. The current state of evangelicalism supports Colson’s assessment. D.L. Moody once compared the visible church to a ship in the sea. He said, “The place for the ship is in the sea, but God help the ship if the sea gets in it. Just as the place for the Church is in the world, God help the Church if the world gets in it.” The Bible uses the metaphor of a bride to describe the Church. She is the bride of Christ. She is the holy Jerusalem that the Apostle John was allowed to see coming down from heaven. Jesus Christ died for the church, Ephesians 5:25 to make her holy. God chose His people before the foundation of the world in Christ so that those chosen would be holy and blameless in His sight, Ephesians 1:4.

For the Church to be holy, all its members are likewise to be holy. God doesn’t leave His command to be holy to the will of men. God sanctifies each and every believer; and the normal means through which He does so is within the visible Church.

Let me be frank. If you find yourself in a Church that demonstrates a different purpose, believes that non-believers should be entertained leave and search for one that pursues holiness by the grace of God. If you are in a Church that affirms God’s purpose of holiness, pray for, support and encourage your pastor and elders.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Don’t stop at knowing!”

“Don’t stop at knowing!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Applying the science of biblical interpretation, will enable us to know what God has said. Once we arrive at what He said, there is a tendency to stay there. I would exhort you to move forward to apply what God has said. One area of applying what God has said concerns joining a local church. There are some in the evangelical world which place a very low priority on church membership. There is one clear observation that we can make concerning the New Testament. The human authors, especially the Apostle Paul did not write much on church membership because he assumed that those whom Christ made His own would naturally seek to invest themselves in a local body of believers. Church membership was assumed.

A genuine believer is one who has been born again by the Spirit of God working in concert with the Word of God. When God raises the spiritually dead, He makes him a new creation. As a new creation, He gives new desires. Believers have a desire to worship God, or you may be used to saying, “Go to Church.” Therefore, believers desire to find a body of believers with whom they can worship God.

The biblical doctrine of adoption necessitates Church Membership. God Adopts the sinner into His family by an act of His free grace. The adopted are heirs of His promise in Christ, namely heaven. We know that the Bible teaches that God sanctifies those whom He adopts into His family. Sanctification is God’s process of change in every believer. He works in each one causing him to respond by the ongoing mortification of sin. Believers work out their own salvation because God, the Holy Spirit works in them to make them more and more like Christ.

Likewise, the Bible teaches that salvation is God past act, His ongoing work and His future promise. Christians have been saved, are being saved and will be saved! The Christian’s desire to worship God with brothers and sisters in Christ is the motivation to invest in a local church. Church membership is the God-ordained normal means by which Christians live out their adoption.

Christians gather to: praise God, pray to Him, and hear Him speak both in the reading and proclamation of Scripture. As a result, believers are edified or if you choose to use this word, fed.

Believers grow spiritually by participating in corporate worship. Therefore, finding a church is critical for living in Christ, applying God’s adoption. A believer desires a church in which he can grow up into Christ. As a result, it is necessary to know what constitutes a “true church”, that is, one that preaches the pure word, administers the two sacraments as Christ ordained them and exercises biblical Church Discipline. These three marks of a true church were re-discovered by the Protestant Reformers of the 16th Century.

These three marks are revealed in the Bible. They are necessarily present in every local congregation that calls itself “Christian.” For emphasis I repeat them. The first mark is that the pure word of God is preached. The second is that the two sacraments, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, are administered in accordance with Christ’s institution. The third is that Church Discipline is exercised in accordance with God’s word.

Christians are often deceived by pragmatists and others who base supreme value on “what works” to grow in numbers. Christians too often seek churches with the right programs, or an age group of those of similar life circumstances. It sometimes seems that God-centered worship and ministry has fallen on “hard times”, especially in the American Evangelical Church.

But, against man-centeredness stand the marks of a true church. I encourage all who profess Christ to seek out such a local church. Be intentional about seeking a local church that is God-centered rather than man-centered. God has ordained that Christians will grow spiritually through the ministry of a local church centered on Him. Don’t settle for fancy or entertaining skits, programs or social circles. If you are the father of a family, you not only need the spiritual growth possible in a faithful church, but your wife and, if the Lord has blessed you, your children need to be in a church that is God-honoring, Christ-exalting and Bible-centered. Once you find one, invest your God-given gifts and talents for the glory of God.