Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A True Church?”

“A True 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 commands 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 His word.

Distractions come every day. For example, it seems that our governmental leaders and media gurus regularly come up with more lies and half-truths. If you try to keep up with the things that these folks 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 our society. We can easily lose our focus. The church is not beyond the tendency to constantly examine and seek to fix the failings of society. 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 timeless command. “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 Jesus said this is the Great Commandment! He further said, “a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” Matthew 22:37ff.

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; to be totally devoted to Him!

Some teach that the way to love God is to love our neighbors. That is not what Jesus said. He clearly stated God’s command. It is to love Him! 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 is and does. 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 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 was not born in the normal course. He eternally proceeds 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 being entertained? Jesus said that eternal life is to know the one true God, John 17:3 May you seek to grow in Christ in a true church!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “So, What’s New?”

“So, What’s New?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christian Church in Corinth. 2Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Therefore, I ask, “What’s new?” Our desires are new. Before regeneration, our desire was to satisfy ourselves. Now, in Christ, the Christian desires Him!

There is a way that the one who is in Christ demonstrates his new desire. In order to see that way, let us examine a basic truth. Jesus came to set His people free from the bondage of sin. Therefore, the new Creation is free to live for Him, Romans 6:11. The demonstration of this freedom in Christ is the connection between duty and devotion. The psalmist wrote, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you,” Psalm 73:25. And the Apostle Paul wrote these words to the Philippian Church, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…” Philippians 3:8.

Concerning our duty, God commands those who are His to hear, understand and obey Him. God requires, even expects, obedience which is our duty. However, mere obedience is not enough! God changes the heart of a sinner to make him a saint. He gives the sinner a desire for Him.

Growth in the Christian Life is manifested by moving from the duty to obey God to a profound desire for Him which is a result of the Holy Spirit who indwells each Christian to motivate obedience.

Jesus was asked to define the “great commandment in the Law,” Matthew 22:37. He referred to Deuteronomy 6:5. The command is to “love” God! In His command, we come face to face with the connection between duty and devotion. We are obligated to love God. However, Love is a choice. Before the Christian’s obligation can be met, there must be a desire to carry out that duty.

The Bible says that men are not born with a desire to love God. On the contrary, the Bible teaches that the natural man is an enemy of God. God must change a sinner and give him a desire to love Him.

The words that God caused the human authors to use for love are critical for understanding. The New Testament word in Matthew 22:37 has at its heart the idea of sacrifice. It is referred to as sacrificial love. In Deuteronomy 6:5, the word for love conveys the meaning of total devotion. God’s command written by Moses called God’s people to a total devotion, to submit to Him and to demonstrate their devotion by a holy life.

Duty is not enough to satisfy God’s command. There must be a desire to fulfill this duty. God gives that desire. Jesus said that one must be born again in order to see the Kingdom of God, John 3:3. As regeneration precedes faith; so too desire precedes duty. God changes the heart and gives the desire to obey Him. This desire motivates the believer to obedience. This is what’s new!

All Man’s actions are dictated by desire. The same is true for Christians. The difference between Christians and non-Christians is God’s grace in changing our desires when He makes us new creations. We as Christians have a desire to love God with our whole heart, soul, and strength because He gave it to us. When we don’t desire God, the Holy Spirit convicts us to confess our sins to Him. God promised believers, “if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”, 1John 1:9.

To summarize, Jesus said knowing the truth sets one free, John 8:32. Knowing Jesus is freedom. God has set His people free from the bondage of sin through Jesus Christ. We have been freed from sin and given a desire for God. “The old has gone; the new has come!”

Many Christians are in bondage by legalism and/or moralism. Remember that God’s commands are to be obeyed. Also remember that legalism and moralism are effective tools of manipulation. Therefore, obedience taught as a duty alone is bondage. But, the obedience that proceeds from the desire God gives for Him is freedom. Growth in the knowledge and love of Christ is to move from duty to devotion as you live under His word, as a new creation.