Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Reformation still matters!”

“The Reformation still matters!”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
If the church is serious about salvation, then the Reformation still matters. The Reformers of the 16th Century recovered the true gospel. It was not a matter of perspective. Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Knox, Cranmer, etc. stood against the arrogance of men who preached and taught a different gospel which was/is no gospel, CF: Galatians 1.

I was once told by a man who had been ordained as a Presbyter/Priest in the Episcopal Church for over 25years. He rebuked me by saying that the Protestant Reformation was a sad divisive blip in the history of the church! His incredulous, nonsensical statement was followed by and equally ridiculous charge: “We need to move on and get along.”

Sadly, this sentiment may not be stated so arrogantly, but is nonetheless practiced by so-called evangelical churches.

All true churches believe in the inerrancy, infallibility and perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture But practice in many churches denies the sufficiency of Scripture. Even in our own conservative and Christ-centered denomination, the desire to be seen as progressive and culturally relevant threatens to overshadow the gospel by “good intentions” seeking to wipe out perceived “social injustice.”

We all do well to remember and learn from the 16th Century Reformers, who themselves humbled themselves under the mighty hand of God.

October 31st marks the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. On that date in 1517, an Augustinian Monk nailed 95 theses of serious concerns re: Church practice. They were nailed on the door of the church in Wittenburg, Germany in plain view for all people to read. That Monk’s name was Martin Luther.

Luther was appalled by the moral decay in the church, specifically her clergy. Luther sought to recall the church to submit herself to the truth of Scripture. To make a long story short, believers since the 16th Century have simplified the cause of the Protestant Reformation by two Latin words, Sola Scriputra. Scripture alone was the formal cause of the Reformation. Sola Scriptura is the greatest ongoing revealed truth that should motivate ongoing reformation in the church. All the Reformers understood that reform in the church was not simply a singular event. They all, in humility, understood that the church of Jesus Christ should be continually reforming herself in accordance with the Bible.

There may be some confusion regarding the phrase, “Scripture Alone.” It does not mean that the Bible is the only authority. It does not deny the existence of many human authorities. In fact, those who hold this doctrine affirm the reality of many authorities, Romans 13. Sola Scriptura means that the Bible is the ultimate authority. The Roman Church of the 16th Century had usurped God’s authority by placing herself over the Bible. Oh, they affirmed that the Bible had authority, but it was the church who would define that authority.

You may have heard in your church, if not you should ask why the following is not proclaimed clearly, we do not stand on the word of God; we live under the word of God. Those who profess Christ submit themselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, Romans 10:9.

I’m sure we would all affirm that the only way for man to know salvation is through the Bible, called Special Revelation that reveals the Person and Work of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Creation is not sufficient to give man knowledge of the salvation wrought by Jesus Christ. It’s not that Creation is deficient. It is that all men are born dead in sin and thereby are unable to save themselves unless God condescends to act. The Bible teaches that God does act. He extends mercy to some and passes over others, Romans 9:15. He extends mercy to those whom He chose before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 1:4-5.

The Church does not have the right to preach and teach any deviation of biblical truth. The Church’s authority is a granted authority. The Church only has valid authority as she stands under God’s word. Any other exercise of authority is invalid. Further it a demonstration of hubris.

May this year, 2017, stick in your mind as a constant reminder of the truth of the gospel, revealed and received by God’s grace. May this Anniversary Year cause you to stand in the one true gospel, salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone! Soli Deo Gloria – To God Alone be Glory.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Why the Church?”

“Why the Church?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
So far, I’ve written on some very fundamental truths that Christians generally affirm. I’ve written about salvation, the God who created everything out of nothing, truth, the hope that believers in the Risen Lord Jesus possess, and why Christians have the desire to worship and praise the one true God. All of those topics are of particular concern to individuals. Now I am turning my attention to the corporate aspect of Christianity. Specifically, I want to focus on the church that we see, called the visible church.

The visible church, the one we see, is defined as all those who profess Jesus Christ as He is offered in the gospel, and 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.” (ESV) 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, ESV. Every local church that bears the marks of a true church is part of the world-wide visible church of Jesus Christ.

So, if God organized the church, revealed her marks and chose to use her to reach the lost, it is reasonable to expect that He also gave her a purpose. So then, what is His purpose for her? In other words, “Why the Church?”

It’s common to think that the purpose of the church is the ministry that she does. We can look to biblical preaching, teaching sound doctrine, liturgy, programs, etc. But the God-given purpose underlies all of the things that the church does. Purpose is concerned with being rather than doing.
Another way to phrase this idea is to ask, “Why?” That is, why is the church here?

The dictionary’s definition of purpose is that purpose gives the reason for the existence or being of something or someone. Applying this definition, what is the reason for the church’s existence? The Bible answers the question. God’s purpose for the church was revealed in the Old Testament, Leviticus 11:44. “Be holy for I am holy.” The Apostle Peter repeated God’s purpose for the church. “You shall be holy, for I am holy,” 1Peter 1:16 ESV

Simply stated, the purpose of the church is holiness. In other words, the church exists to be holy. The basic meaning of holy is unique. The range of meaning includes purity and perfection. God gave the church’s purpose; He declared that the church was set apart. The church is by His definition, 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. 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, but 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.

It is essential for Christians to know their purpose. For the church to be holy, all its members are likewise to be holy. The individual members of the church were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy, Ephesians 1:4 God doesn’t leave this to the will of men. God sanctifies each and every believer. That is, He makes every member of His church more and more like Christ. He does so by the power of His Spirit who takes His word written and applies it to our hearts so that we might live holy lives for His glory.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Surprised by Evil”

“Surprised by Evil”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

God’s declaration through the prophet Isaiah is His promise for believers. The verse is in contrast to those who appear strong like youths and those who are powerful. Those who are strong in worldly terms will all grow tired and weary. But, those who wait for the LORD will not only survive but will run because they won’t get tired. At times it appears evil men are winning.

But, God promised to deliver His people and the prophet Isaiah began Chapter 40 with God’s word of “comfort”. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” This Chapter of Isaiah is the beginning of the “Suffering Servant” passages. The “Servant” is revealed to be Jesus! He declared that He was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of the Suffering Servant, Luke 4:18-21. The Servant of God, Jesus, is the one who brings comfort. The comfort He brings is the assurance of deliverance which leads to glory in heaven and the elimination of evil.

Isaiah often wrote in the Prophetic Past Tense. That is, he saw future events as completed. When he wrote of judgment, he saw the destruction of the wicked. He saw their end. He used expressions such as, “The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” Isaiah 9:7

The end is certain. On the one hand God will establish perfect righteousness and on the other He will judge all ungodliness. There will be no escape for the ungodly. He will lift the curse of original sin and usher in the New Heaven and the New Earth, Revelation 21.

God has promised the elect comfort, peace and glory. This is what we are waiting for! We know that God never fails to keep His word. His word declares He has claimed His people as His possessions, Isaiah 43:1. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:27-28

God’s people wait upon Him with eager expectation of the fulfillment of His promises. The promise now is comfort. We eagerly await His promise of final deliverance. These promises are for all those who belong to the LORD. Those who belong to the Lord wait upon Him. The word translated wait means trusting God now by obeying Him while waiting for His final deliverance.

Recent events in Las Vegas were horrific! There is no other word that fits the random brutality of a crazed man who opened fire on concert goers. It was shocking. It caused us to be surprised. But was it truly surprising? Or, was this evil act something that proceeds out of the darkness of man’s soul? The word of God declares that men are born dead in sin. All mankind is naturally inclined to evil. God restrains the evil of which we are capable. We are not as evil as we can be! Herein is the need of mankind. God must break into the life of a sinner, an evil person and change him.

But, make no mistake, all men are accountable to God for what they do. This man in Las Vegas stood before the holy God and received the just payment for his evil action.

Evil men will be with us until Christ returns. But, God has promised comfort. His comfort is the certainty of knowing that evil and all ungodliness will come to an end. Further, the comfort that God gives is in knowing that He walks through these evil circumstances with His people. Those who believe that Jesus is who He said He is and rely upon Him have the assurance that nothing will ever separate them from God, Romans 8:35-39.

The comfort is grounded in knowing that His word is always true. He promised never to leave us or forsake us, Hebrews 13:5. By God’s grace, the experience of Christ’s work in our lives causes us to know that He holds us in the palm of His hand.

Pray for God to comfort all those who were impacted by this evil. Pray that God will break into the lives of many to cause them to see the truth of life in Christ.