Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A Basic Question”

“A Basic Question”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
If you are a regular attender of a Christian Worship Service on each Lord’s Day, I pose the following basic question: Why do you attend Corporate Worship on Sunday? I’ve asked this question to professing Christians over the years. I’ve received several typical answers. One of the most representative answers is, “I go to church to be fed.” Other more obscure answers are: “I go to “feel” good. I go to be encouraged. I go because of my children.” These answers are obscure because the answer given is actually hiding the “real” answer. Each of these obscure answers are centered on “self.”

As opposed to these self-centered answers, God commands His people to “keep holy the Sabbath Day.” The Christian Sabbath is Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the Day of His resurrection. Jesus said that He is Lord of the Sabbath. He said that the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath. Mark 2:27-28

God made us to worship Him. It is deeply imbedded in each of us. We will worship. The question is, “Who will we worship?” Jesus’ final response to Satan’s temptation in the wilderness was, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” Matthew 4:10

There is only one biblical reason to worship God on the Lord’s Day. We, His creatures owe worship to Him. We gather with God’s people to worship Him!

May we all be honest with ourselves. Those of us who think that worship is for us, may we repent of this self-centered idolatry! Jesus said that the Father is seeking true worshipers to worship Him in spirit and truth, John 4:23.

If you have been raised from death to life, you will desire to worship the One who extended such grace to you. You were once dead in your sin, but God made you alive with Jesus Christ. Therefore, worship Him! This desire is not a feeling. It does not depend upon whether you feel loved by the people in the church or that the music is what you’re used to hearing in concerts or Christian radio. The desire to worship is part of being a new creation in Christ. That is, if your truly are!

Being a new creation in Christ does not depend upon saying the “sinners’ prayer” or doing some special ministry in the church. It is not about settling things with God and getting on with your life. No. Being a new creation is a change in our very being wrought only by the sovereign grace of God. It is being different and knowing that God has set you apart in Christ to be like Him! It is knowing that you are a sinner saved by God’s grace alone through the Person and Work of Christ alone. Being a new creation is to be a genuine Christian. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,” 2Corinthians 5:17

Christians, new creations have been saved by God from God. The only response to being God’s adopted child in Christ is to bow down and worship Him! The idea that corporate worship is one thing in a list of things, is simply not biblical. Our entire life is worship. That is, Christians live in submission to the sovereign God. Christians have received God’s grace to live for Him, Romans 6:11.

I am dismayed when I hear a professing Christian give excuses for not joining God’s people to worship Him on the Lord’s Day. All of the excuses, save physical illness that is debilitating, are grounded in a love for self over a love for God.

To all those who fail to gather on the Lord’s Day for worship and profess to be Christians, I can only say what God has said. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus… let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some…” Hebrews 10:19,24-25 And, Therefore, brothers., be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election…” 2Peter 1:10

Psalm 122:1 expresses the depth of a new creation’s desire. “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”’ It is an oxymoron to claim to be a child of God and not desire to worship Him with His people.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Who is Truth? (The Real Jesus)”

“Who is Truth? (the Real Jesus)”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

The Roman Governor of Jerusalem, the civil authority “ordained by God” to order the crucifixion of Jesus, asked the question, “What is truth?” Pilate asked Jesus the question already having determined an answer. In Pilate’s mind, truth was secondary. He believed that the most important thing was power. Ironically, Pilate was right. However, he did not acknowledge the truly sovereign power, God Himself. He was standing in front of the truth and was blind to Him! A more accurate question not only for Pilate but for all men is, “Who is Truth?” Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” John 14:6. Truth is reality. All men must face reality. Therefore, all men must face the one who is Truth! And, we all will.

Our current age is referred to as the Post Modern Era. Post modernism subverts the importance of truth. The Post Modern mind has no absolutes. A symptom of Post Modernism is reflected by what is called spirituality. We see it in movies and television. There are popular dramas centered in the world beyond this one. Talk shows on T.V. have segments to discuss the importance of having some kind of spiritual connectedness. People seem to be on never-ending quests to experience the latest spiritual guru’s method for attaining a deep spiritual fulfillment. You may have heard someone say, “It’s all about the journey.” The evangelical church is not immune. Books, like “The Shack” describing a different god, or those that record experiences of near death are received as certain truth.

It’s common to hear that when someone dies they have gone to a better place! We fail to remember that there is such a thing as absolute truth. There is a person who is truth. There will be an accounting for all men. Revelation 20:11-13 Judgment is real.

Men and women live in denial. People have bought the lie that everything is relative. What’s true for you may or may not be true for me. Those who see reality are referred to as simple-minded or bigots. Their charge against those of us who recognize absolute truth is: “Who made you the purveyor of truth?” The political world is filled with such charges. Decisions are made according to poll numbers. We know and have experienced that polls are designed to support an agenda rather than report on the truth.

Too often the evangelical church is not different than the world. Some who claim to speak for the church would have us believe that it’s all about relationships and that truth is contrary to love. Doctrine is outdated. The central focus of many churches is fellowship with each other and sincerity towards God. They suggest that God honors sincerity regardless of submission to the truth. Fellowship is the “warm feeling” one gets by being with like-minded people rather than being in union with Christ knowing that you are a member of His body, the Church.

Nevertheless, having a relationship with the real Jesus is what matters. There is only one true Savior. He said that He is the truth. He is the revealed Jesus of the Bible. Dare I say that He is not simply known in the eye of the beholder? One might be sincerely wrong if his devotion does not proceed out of Christ. He is reality! He commands that men and women repent and believe in the gospel! Mark 1:15

The church does not exist to meet “felt needs”; to offer courses on how to have a better marriage or how to live as a single or divorced person, etc. The church is commanded to teach what is in accordance with sound doctrine. In doing so believers will be equipped to make a difference in the world for the glory of God.

The answer to the question asked in the title is: Jesus is the Truth. Truth is that which is real and truth is a Person! Truth matters. Absolute truth matters absolutely. By God’s grace, He has revealed truth. His name is Jesus. He is the only begotten one of God, not born, but eternally proceeding from the Father. He is the one revealed in the Bible. He is the one offered in the gospel. All life is lived in response to Him. Every relationship is designed by God to find meaning as a result of knowing Him.

Abide in the word and you will know the truth!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Apathy”

“Apathy”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God,” Psalm 14:1a “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Romans 1:18

On one hand, king David defined the ultimate lie that “fools” tell themselves. On the other hand, the Apostle Paul declared that men suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Both texts are given to us under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Both texts declare, in part, man’s apathy.

Apathy as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary means to have a lack of feeling or interest or to be indifferent to reality. The origin of the word is found in Greek. Apathy is a compound word. Pathos means feeling, sometimes lustful passion. The prefix “a” is a negation. We may literally understand the word apathy to mean no interest or feeling.

I find it very difficult that one knows the truth and yet doesn’t care about it. Truth, remember, is that which is real. In our physical world, no one can survive very long by being indifferent to reality. I’ve used the analogy of a wall to describe the impossibility of being indifferent to reality. Think for a moment. We all live in houses or apartments. Our homes have walls that both mark boundaries and provide privacy and protection. In order to enter our home, we normally enter through a doorway. We wouldn’t consider walking through a wall. We know that that wall is real. It is a physical barrier. Even if we were somehow indifferent to the wall, we still know that it prevents us from walking through it. We can deny the reality of the wall. But, our denial of it does not make it possible for us to ignore it

Yet, some Christians live as though truth doesn’t matter. They live in a state of denial. They even express indifference to ultimate truth.

Christians are citizens of heaven, Philippians 3:20. Jesus said that He is “the way and the truth and the life,” John 14:6. Jesus also said that He is the Good Shepherd. He is the door into His pasture. John 10.

Jesus taught the ethic of life in the Kingdom, Matthew 5-7. In reading and understanding Matthew 5-7, we are faced with the impossibility of meeting those standards. The reality revealed in the Sermon on the Mount is that no man can do it, save the God-Man, Jesus. We who profess Christ must fall on our knees in dependence upon the power of the Holy Spirit to live in Christ as God intends.

Every day, we see our need for Christ, our Savior and Lord. We read that the gospel is the power of God, Romans 1:16. All who are in Christ have confessed that Jesus is Lord and believe in their heart that God raised Him from the dead, Romans 10:9. The ultimate truth is that Jesus, as He is offered in the gospel, is the only Savior and Lord. He is God, the second Person of the Trinity. He is fully God and fully Man.

All of the above are true and are affirmed by every Christian Church. Yet, in my experience, the Evangelical Church is remiss in teaching the Person and Work of Christ revealed in Scripture. There is apathy in congregations for learning the revealed truth of the Person and Work of Christ which is the gospel, the power of God. Some members of churches would rather hear methods, checklists on overcoming divorce, or dealing with sin, or the “right” way to raise children.

Many churches grow in numbers by using the “right methods.” The overwhelming majority of people in our area of the country declare that they are Christians. Yet, few know much of who Jesus is and what He accomplished, save that He died for their sins. Some are told that once they settle accounts with God through Jesus, they are guaranteed of heaven and life can go on as usual. People are taught that God wants to make them better. They are not told the truth that God changes those whom He calls to Himself.

There is also another expression of apathy in the church. It is in churches that teach the truth and yet her members have little time or interest to learn.

Both expressions: settling for lies or ignoring the truth are forms of apathy. Both expressions lead to disaster!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “False Prophets”

“False Prophets”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

There is a problem. In my opinion, the Evangelical Church has a problem. Too often, those in the church debate around the central issue and ignore the problem. We debate about the effectiveness of programs. We debate worship styles and music in churches. We talk of relevance. We spend time wondering how to attract people. We even fall for the “health -wealth” teachers. We lament that so many professing Christians lack even a basic knowledge of the Person and Work of Christ. We fail to recognize the root cause, the central issue, the problem.

Let me be frank. The root cause of all issues in the church, the problem in the Evangelical Church is the existence of “False Prophets.” A prophet is one who speaks God’s words. Therefore, the prophets in the church are her pastors and false prophets are literally false pastors.

Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount,” recorded in Matthew Chapters 5-7 is Jesus’ teaching given to His disciples concerning Kingdom Life now. It was not another giving of the Law. In precise words, the Sermon on the Mount describes Jesus’ ethic or practice. In it, Jesus laid out absolute standards of life in His Kingdom. He lived what He preached. None of us is able in his own strength to do what He commanded. Jesus’ purpose was and is to drive those who have been born again to their knees. We who profess the name of Christ do so by the sovereign grace of God who has raised us from death to life. We read the sermon and realize that it presents an impossible life-style. We are compelled to rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit of God in order to live the Christian Life.

Among the many absolute standards of Kingdom Life is the verse concerning false prophets. It is near the close of sermon. Jesus declared that there will be false prophets. He said that these false prophets will look and dress like sheep but will actually be wolves. These wolves will seek to devour the sheep. The sheep represent the people of God. The wolves naturally, are those who are opposed to God and seek to destroy God’s people. The church is the visible Kingdom of God on earth. These “false prophets” are in the visible church.

The Bible is God’s word to His children. What the Bible says, God says. What God has said is binding on all people whether or not they believe it. Jesus declared a universal truth concerning false prophets. The test of a true prophet is not found in eloquence or erudition, real or imagined. It is not found in appearance or popularity. A true prophet can be assessed by looking at his fruit. That is, has this man been changed by the Word in concert with the Spirit? Does he live under the word of God?

The Evangelical Church’s problem is also her pressing need. The Church has always had this need. The need is for true prophets. Prophets in the church are the pastors. Pastors are called to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season,” 2Timothy 4:2. God has chosen to reach the lost through the foolishness of preaching, 1Corinthians 1:21. He calls men to the office of “Pastor-Teacher,” Ephesians 4:11. These men are accountable to God to “rightly handle the word,” 2Timothy 2:15.

There is a condition in the Church that rivals this pressing need. Too many members of churches love to have their ears tickled. Paul warned the Pastor Timothy of this tendency. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” 2Timothy 4:3-4

We can complain about church leadership displaying little or no character. We can try to outdo the experts who continue to put forth man-centered methods and ministers trained to attract people. We can look for pastors who are expert at contextualizing the gospel. Or, we can demand honesty and integrity. Church members should have an expectation that they will hear the truth of God’s word from their pulpits. Don’t settle for a list of “how to’s” or self-determined relevant messages, or even things that make you “feel good.” Seek to hear the pure word preached and lived for the glory of God.