Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Theology”

“Theology”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
As a pastor of a Church, a member congregation in a Reformed Denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, I am often asked by visitors what is Reformed Theology? My response is that Reformed Theology is Biblical Theology. It was recovered by the Protestant Reformers of the 16th Century. Perhaps, a better question is “What is theology?” Reformed is simply an adjective describing the noun, theology.

Theology is the study of God, His attributes and mighty works. Reformed Theology is precisely the same thing. The Reformers understood what the fathers of the Ancient Church understood. All theology finds its roots in one very clear attribute of God that He revealed throughout Scripture. That one attribute is His sovereignty.

The words of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of ancient Babylon recorded by the Prophet Daniel is the most definitive declaration of God’s sovereignty in all of Scripture. “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and He does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”’ Daniel 4:34-35

God humbled the pagan king, Nebuchadnezzar, who was full of pride. God caused him to live like a wild animal. Even his appearance was changed. Daniel wrote this description of the king, “He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.” Daniel 4:33

We can choose to believe whatever we want to believe. But we are not free to define God in our own image or comfort. God has revealed Himself to be the Holy Sovereign One.

You may be thinking, “Doesn’t every church believe that God is sovereign?” You’re right. Every church that professes belief in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ also believes in the sovereignty of God. So then, what’s this “Reformed Theology” all about and why does it represent the truth of Scripture? The reason is simple. Reformed Theology looks at every aspect of life through the lens of a sovereign God. He does as He pleases and He always accomplishes His will!

For example, salvation depends upon a sovereign God. God said that men are incapable of turning to Him. He said that all men are born spiritually dead. Only a God who is absolutely sovereign can save us. God breaks into the life of a man causing him to see the truth of life in Jesus. We do not have the ability in us to believe in God’s only begotten Son, Jesus. God must raise us from death to life.

I can’t think of anything in life that doesn’t depend upon the sovereign God. The Prophet Jeremiah was in mourning over the destruction of Jerusalem. He wrote, “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” Lamentations 3:37-38 Jeremiah declared that God ordains everything that happens!

I can hear the skeptics, “If the sovereign God ordains everything then what’s the point of doing anything?” God did not create robots. God’s sovereignty does not contradict our wills. Every single human being will do whatever he desires. God holds us accountable for what we do. But, God’s will stands above man’s will. He acts without any encumbrances. Whatever He wills is done.

God’s rule is absolute and inclusive because He is sovereign. The fact that all men do not submit to God’s rule does not nullify it. There will come a time when God’s sovereign rule will be seen. When Jesus, the sovereign King, returns, every creature will submit to Him. Until then the visible rule of God is seen in the church. Reformed theology affirms that the church is the visible kingdom of God.

So whatever your perspective happens to be, I propose to you that it is only relevant if God’s sovereignty is your absolute guiding principle. If you are in a church that teaches, “God is sovereign but you must choose to believe” invest in one that teaches the truth, the whole truth revealed by the sovereign God for your spiritual growth and health are at stake!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “My Story – God’s Work”

“My Story – God’s Work”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor
Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
I’m closing in on the anniversary of my spiritual birth. This year, I will celebrate and thank God for 31 yrs. of new life in Christ. By His grace alone, I was made His in Christ.

On January 29, 1986 God snatched me from the pit of hell. I was broad-sided by a large truck which was carrying home- insulation products. The driver later claimed that he realized his truck’s brakes were not working and as he approached a traffic light, he thought that he could speed up and get through the intersection before the light changed. He was wrong. The light changed and I was the second car proceeding through the light to turn left. I was told that the paramedics had to cut me out of my car.

I woke up four days later. I was transported to a city with a major hospital approximately 70 miles from where I lived. When I awoke, I knew that I was different. Physically I was a mess. But, spiritually I was alive. God gave me an unquenchable desire for Him.

I awoke a different person, with different desires because God raised me from death to life. Jesus said that one must be born again to see the Kingdom, John 3:3. God caused me to see the kingdom.

God broke me physically and through it showed me my total helplessness. Even after when I was discharged from the hospital, my wife fed me, bathed me and did all those other things that I used to take for granted. God used my physical recovery to hammer into me my need for Him every moment of every day.

Now as a pastor – teacher, a minister of the gospel, I have had the privilege of telling my conversion story to many groups and leaders. As I listen to men seeking to be ordained to the gospel ministry, I am reminded of those times when I gave my testimony before the church and am blessed by God’s grace “all over again.”

Yet, as a minister of the word of God, I know that testimonies don’t in and of themselves save anyone. I know that God alone saves and He does so by His Spirit in concert with His word. He gave me an incident and a specific time to remember His sovereign work. Other believers don’t have such a traumatic conversion story, yet, every conversion is an act of God’s grace wherein He begins a process of transformation.

The fundamental reason for sharing one’s conversion story is to praise God. Praise is to tell of God’s mighty works and His attributes, Psalms 117; 149; 150.

God’s conversion of me and every one whom He calls is the personal bit of experience of His mighty work and His sovereign faithfulness to redeem those whom He chooses. Conversion is the believer’s opportunity to praise the sovereign God.

My story has different details as does every believer’s story. But there is one commonality. God acts and men respond in praise and thanksgiving. My life’s details began before God’s effectual call, His exact timing for giving me eyes to see.

I was born in Trenton, N.J. on January 1, 1952 to devout Roman Catholic parents. Growing up I remember attending mass every Sunday and every special holy day. I was blessed to be sent to Roman Catholic Grammar School and Catholic High School. By God’s grace, the woman who would become my wife also attended the same High School. We began dating after attending a High School Graduation Party.

After High School, I attended Villanova University and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering. Villanova was also a Roman Catholic institution.

I was living a normal and even successful life. Yet, I didn’t know Jesus or my desperate need for Him. The Lord blessed me with a godly wife whom He saved before me. We have three children and soon will have six grandchildren. My thoughts before God broke in were centered on me. Everything, every decision I made was evaluated by how it would benefit me and my career.

But my “normal” life was a lost one. I was heading to hell and didn’t know it. God broke in not because I was a good person but by His sovereign choice. “Praise the Lord… Extol Him… the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.” Psalm 117

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “More Than a Title”

“More Than a Title!”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Luke, the evangelist, wrote in Acts 11:26 that the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. A disciple is a follower and a learner. Disciples follow and learn from their Master who is the Risen Lord Jesus. Therefore, a Christian is likewise a learner and follower of the Risen Lord Jesus. Being a Christian is more than having the title.

I don’t think that there are any reasonable people who would not agree that Christians are followers of Jesus Christ. We also know that cults use the name Jesus. Simply using His name does not indicate that they are Christians. Calling someone a Christian does not make it so.

The Jesus who is offered in the gospel is the eternally begotten Son of God. He is the One who took upon Himself human nature, Philippians 2:6ff. He is the God – Man. He is not a created being as the cults contend. Jesus is God. He is not a god. He is the God. He is the only way to the Father. He is the way, the truth and the life. John 14:6

The Apostle Paul wrote, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9 Paul was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, what was written is authoritative, as is the whole of Scripture.

Salvation is only through confessing Christ to be Savior and Lord. Salvation is by grace, through faith in Christ alone! Ephesians 2:8

Many claim to be Christians. But not all are. Jesus addressed this condition in His famous sermon. Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

A genuine Christian is one who has declared that he commits to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We know that all lords issue commands. Jesus has issued absolute commands. His commands are His words written. Christians live under the plain and revealed word of God preserved by His grace in the Bible. The sixty-six books that make up the Bible are the commands of our Lord Jesus. And, living under the word is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We hear of those who call themselves Christians affirming sinful behavior, behavior that God has expressly condemned. At the risk of offending some, let me say that those who affirm evil behavior of any kind and lead others to do the same are in no way Christians regardless of what they may say.

My entire ministry is centered on the word of God. I know that I am not sinless. God’s word says that anyone who says that he’s sinless is deceiving himself and does not have the truth. No, I sin and I seek God’s grace of forgiveness through confessing my sins to Him, 1John 1:8-9. Yet I seek to obey God’s call of me as a pastor. As do all Christian Pastors who seek to do their best to present themselves to God as those approved. I work like all Christian Pastors to righty handle God’s word. I am accountable to Him to preach and teach the truth, God’s word is truth, John 17:17

I am reminded of God’s warning given through the Prophet Ezekiel. God said that if the watchman sees destruction coming and does not warn the people their blood is on his head. If pastors fail to warn their members of the certainty of eternal judgment for living in a sinful lifestyle without conviction, they will pay a heavy price when they meet the Lord! Main line churches and other apostate groups are not only failing to warn their members of certain judgment but are actually affirming evil behavior, calling evil good.

I’m not only referring to homosexual behavior, but also other expressions of immoral behavior. This is a time of opportunity. Jesus told us that in this world we would have tribulation, but He has overcome the world. I exhort professing Christians to deepen their knowledge of what God has said. Peter wrote always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” 1Peter 3:15

We have the great mystery uncovered by God, “Christ in you the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Actions and Words”

“Words and Actions”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
God created man in His image, Genesis 1:26. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 All men bear God’s image. We have been created with reason, a sense of holiness and righteousness.

As a result of the Fall of Adam, the attributes which we received from our Creator have been corrupted. I have been thinking recently of our ability to reason. Surely, our reasoning is not perfect. I think all would readily admit to the limitations of human reason.

For example, men and women are not able to think their way to a saving faith. All men, since the Fall are born dead in sin. We are all born with a sin nature. Yet, we are still able to reason and think, albeit imperfectly. Reason is the most obvious attribute that separates mankind from every other creature.

However, I have observed that many have been convinced that they are unable to think for themselves. Further, we are told that we don’t have the ability to recognize reality. It seems that we have lost the ability to connect words with actions. As a result, we can’t discern the veracity of what we hear. We have to rely upon those who are the “experts” to interpret the speaker’s intentions.

Actions that don’t fit the words have little to do with what was said, we are told. The problem has worked its way into the church. Leaders profess commitment to the Bible, yet those same leaders use cleverly devised methods to build their churches, methods designed to attract “seekers.” The people in the pews simply assume that those special methods are necessary regardless of what the Bible teaches. The Apostle Paul warned the church to not be taken in by man-centered philosophies or worldly principles, Colossians 2:8.

Romans 12:2 stands opposed to this so-called wisdom. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The Bible teaches that God enters the mind and changes the heart. Repentance is a change of mind that leads to reliance upon the Person and Work of Christ.

Christians have fallen prey to the “church building experts “and the “health – wealth” preachers as a result of “checking their minds at the door.” These false teachers have manipulated people to think that this world is the focus of life. In their minds’, Jesus becomes the one who can make your life better. He wants to heal you physically. He really wants you to be rich in this world. And, the church needs to be “relevant” in order to attract those seeking God!

Christian, think! Is this what Jesus said? Emphatically no! Jesus said eternal life is knowing the one true God and Jesus Christ whom the Father sent. Life that never ends, the “abundant life” is KNOWING GOD. This life is but a nanosecond in relation to the whole of life in eternity. Jesus also said that the Father seeks true worshipers to worship Him, John 4:23-24.

Jesus didn’t come to make your life better. He came to change your life, if you belong to Him. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…” 2Corinthians 5:17a.

As a pastor my foremost concern is the church. But, I am obliged to declare the gospel to all people. The pure gospel is that Christ died for our, that He was buried and that He rose on the third day, all in accordance with the Old Testament Scriptures, 1Corinthians 15:3-4. The gospel is ordained by God to enter your mind and pierce your heart. When God breaks in, we see our hopelessness. When God calls and regenerates a man or woman they come face to face with their sin. They learn that God requires perfection for He is holy. They are moved to acknowledge their sinfulness and to turn to Christ. They then live in reliance upon His perfect righteousness, having a desire to please Him. This will not attract all people. But it will be used by God to pierce the hearts of those whom He has chosen.

My exhortation to those who profess Christ is to train yourself to think critically, having a conscience formed by the word of God.