Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The First Fruits”

“The First Fruits”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“He has risen; The Lord has risen indeed!” Luke 24:6, 34 we read these words so easily. We even might hear them used to gather God’s people for worship on Easter Sunday. The angel told the women that Jesus wasn’t there. The tomb was empty. The angel told the women Jesus was not among the dead, but the living.

After Jesus opened the eyes of His disciples, they declared to each other, “The Lord has risen, indeed!” May you all celebrate the great festival of the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ with your church families. This historic event, the bodily resurrection of Jesus is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.

But what actually happened? There were many eye witnesses of His empty tomb. There were over 500 witnesses of Jesus after His resurrection.

There is so much importance placed upon the event of Jesus’ resurrection that the Apostle Paul said that if it was not true, the entirety of the Christian faith was useless, mere hot air.

According to the words of Jesus Himself, if He did not get out of the grave, if His bodily resurrection was not an historic fact, He would be just another liar! C.S. Lewis gave three options. He said Jesus was either a mad man, a liar or He was who He said He was!

Christians must be clear on this fact, a dead man got out of his grave. The body buried was the body raised up. But there were some reported differences between Jesus’ earthly body and His resurrected body. He traveled long distances instantaneously. He was able to pass through locked doors. But, He also ate food and was recognized by those to whom He spoke.

The Bible describes the resurrection body as an imperishable one. One that is glorious and perfect. One that is immortal. The Bible says that Jesus is the “first fruits” of those who have died.

The Christian Faith affirms that there is a man in heaven! His name is Lord Jesus. He has a physical, yet immortal and glorious body. He is declared to be the God-Man, the only begotten One of the Father, not made but eternally proceeding from the Father.

The truth of Jesus’ bodily resurrection gets even better. It gets better for all who belong to Him. The Apostle Paul said that Christians don’t grieve over death as others do who have no hope because we know that death is the entrance to paradise. When Jesus comes again, and He will, we will receive resurrection bodies like His.

As a minister of the gospel and a Christian, I would be remiss if I did not tell you the “down side”, and there is a terrifying “down side”. The Bible says that all the dead will be raised on the last day, which is when Jesus returns. Those whom God chose have their names written in the “Lamb’s book of life”. By His grace alone they will live in glory with Him forever. Alleluia! But (and this is a big one) those not covered by the perfect righteousness of Christ and His perfect sacrifice for sin will live forever in a physical state in the “Lake of Fire” which is Eternal Hell.

I urge you to take this event and the truth it affirms seriously. It is a matter of life and death. Jesus declared that this time between His first and second coming is the “year of the Lord’s favor” Is. 61:1-2a, Lk. 4:19. This is the time that God has provided for men to receive His salvation through Jesus as He is offered in the gospel. This is the time to be spared the wrath of God.

My prayer for this Easter Sunday is that the Sovereign Spirit of God would give eyes to see and ears to hear the saving truth of Jesus Christ to all who would worship Jesus this Lord’s Day. May the sovereign Lord bless you and your family. May the Spirit of God work in concert with His word wherever it is faithfully preached and change lives for eternity. Have a happy Easter!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Christ completed everything!”

“Christ completed everything!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The last word spoken by the Lord Jesus from the cross was “Tetelestai”. This Greek verb was recorded by the Apostle John in the perfect tense. The literal translation is “It is finished.” John 19:30 Jesus made a declaration of something accomplished that would have on-going implications. He said that redemption was accomplished!

Redemption implies that a price or ransom was paid. The price required by God to redeem His people from the bondage to sin was paid more than 2,000 years ago. This is the reason the Friday before Easter Sunday is called “Good Friday.” Jesus lived a perfect life and He offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice.

Those chosen before the foundation of the world to be in Christ have Christ’s finished work applied to them. It is applied by the Holy Spirit when God effectually calls those whom He predestined and regenerates them. God then converts the sinner into a saint and gives the sinner the gifts of faith and repentance. Through God’s gift, expressed by the sinner now a saint, God sovereignly declares him justified. God adopts those whom He justifies. He sanctifies them and assures them that He will bring them to glory.

The completed work of Christ, redemption, extends from the individual to the corporate body. It extends even to Creation itself. The Apostle Paul declared that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself,” 2Corinthians 5:19.

Redemption which is God’s saving act is for His glory and by His sovereign grace. He extends grace to a spiritually dead person which causes him to see the beauty of Christ!

Good Friday reminds me of what God did for me. Good Friday is personal for everyone who professes Jesus as Lord and Savior.

It is indeed personal. Thirty-two years ago, God snatched me from the pit of hell! He used a devastating auto accident. He broke me physically and caused me to see the Kingdom as Jesus said to Nicodemus, John 3:3.

Before God’s action on that day, I had no desire for Jesus. I believed that I was a good person. I believed that as long as my “good” outweighed my “bad” God would accept me. I didn’t realize that God is holy and requires perfection!

My thoughts of God were proceeding from a heart of stone. I was spiritually dead and didn’t know it. I used to think that all that “born again” stuff was for the weak-minded.

God caused me to see my helplessness. For a time, I was confined to a hospital bed. Through my accident, God gave me a word picture of my sinfulness that stays with me to this day. God caused me to dig into His word to learn more about His character. Jesus’ words, “It is finished” have been burned into my mind and heart. Good Friday is a day in which I reflect upon the steadfast love of the Lord poured out on me.

There is a foolish teaching that pervades the evangelical church. People are told that if they believe they will be born again. This is analogous to speaking to a dead person, lying in a casket and saying, “Get up!” More, it is the height of manipulation to tell people that we are made new creations by our own wisdom and ability. How can a dead person believe? The truth is “Ye must be born again” in order to believe! The Bible says: “… while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” Romans 5:8. Every person is born spiritually dead. We are unable to reach out to God and live, Genesis 3:22-24. God confirmed the truth of His word through a tragedy which continues to point me to Him. God alone saves those whom He chooses. No one can stay His hand! He chose to save a sinner, namely me! This is the on-going effect of Jesus’ words, “It is finished.”

God used a traumatic event to cause me to see His sovereignty in salvation. I am not suggesting a person must undergo some tragedy to be born again. Some raised in covenant families don’t have a time of which to point for when they first saw the truth. Yet, God did regenerate them and because of His grace, they profess faith in Jesus as He is offered in the gospel.

I pray that you will worship this coming Lord’s Day with a Church that teaches, believes, and lives this truth!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Unfailing Hope”

“Unfailing Hope”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?… Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.” Psalm 22:1, 3

King David wrote these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He felt all alone, forsaken, abandoned by God. It has been said that desperate people do desperate things. But David’s desperation showed itself in constant prayer. He persisted in seeking God’s answer to his desperation.

Jesus told a parable, Luke 18:1ff, of a persistent widow to teach His disciples to persist in prayer. A demonstration of trust in the Lord is persistence in prayer in our times of need.

Psalm 22 is a prophecy of the humiliation and exaltation of Christ. Jesus quoted from Psalm 22 as He hung on the cross. The fulfillment of David’s words in the first part of Psalm 22 were in Jesus’ taking upon Himself the full wrath of God for the sins of His people.

Yet, there is ongoing meaning for all who are in Christ. Desperation comes upon all of us. At some time we will all face being alone or feeling that we are alone. Therefore, there is something that must be known and lived concerning God. David knew that he lived before a holy God. He wrote, “Yet you are holy,” Psalm 22:3a. As David was, I also am aware that I live before God who is holy.

David wrote that the holy God is “enthroned on the praises of Israel.” That is, He is the God who has revealed Himself to His people who respond in praise. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Deuteronomy 6:4. Jesus said this to the Samaritan woman, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” John 4:22. The point is, there is only one God and He has revealed Himself as holy. Unless we know Him, we are lost and hopeless in our desperation.

I believe that many in churches are like the Samaritan woman, worshiping what they don’t know. In stark contrast David persisted in prayer because he knew that the object of his prayer was the holy God. He remembered that He was the One in whom his predecessors trusted. He remembered that God answered their prayers, heard their cries and delivered them from bondage.

We have a fuller revelation than did the church of the Old Testament. Yet, like them, we seem to think that there must be more than knowing the holiness of God! We demonstrate our desires by the things we do and teach. We think or at least some, that discipleship is a program. More, discipleship programs are often about how to live while being accountable to another person or group. Rarely is discipleship about theology. Often missing in these discipleship programs is learning about the one disciples follow.

Again, notice King David’s declaration. “Yet you are holy.” David knew God! He was a man after God’s own heart. David had the revealed truth of the character of the God in whom he trusted. The Spirit of God held David accountable.

It is the same Spirit of God who holds disciples accountable to grow in the knowledge and love of God. Peter wrote, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy…” 1Peter 3:15a. The means of growing is by God’s design through the Spirit of Christ working in us to do that which is pleasing in His sight, Hebrews 13:20.

Psalm 22 was not only a prophecy of Christ’s sacrifice; it is hope for all who know Him. The means God has given His people to persevere in the midst of feelings of desperation is the knowledge of who He is.

If you are going through a time of feeling deserted by God, turn to learn more of who He is. Turn to His revealed truth, the Bible. You will discover that He has promised never to leave His people. We may all cry “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” But know that the One who was truly forsaken by God, Jesus, is the light of the world. He has promised to be with us; to intercede to the Father; to go before us and to bring us to His heavenly home.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “You are Witnesses!”

“You are Witnesses!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The title is taken from the words of Jesus recorded by Luke, Luke 24:48a. The Risen Lord Jesus told His followers that they were indeed witnesses of His Person and Work. The implication of His words is that everyone who professes Christ is a witness of the gospel. Note that, Jesus didn’t tell His disciples to witness. He stated a fact of being not doing! The question before every Christian is, “What kind of witness am I?”

In order to answer this question, a Christian should know that his actions tell the world that he is following Jesus. Now Christians know that God made all people to worship Him. Therefore, it is safe to say that the first act of a witness of the gospel is worship.

The question is addressed to Christians, those who profess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. We must be clear on what it means to be a Christian. First and foremost, the Bible teaches that God makes Christians. One’s decision to profess Christ is only possible if God has first regenerated him.

The evangelical church seems to be saturated by the teaching that one’s decision makes him a Christian. The Bible teaches that God ordains salvation. God:
1. Effectually calls a dead person to life.
2. Regenerates the one He calls.
3. Converts a sinner to a saint. In doing so, He gives two gifts. One is the gift of faith and the second is the gift of repentance. Those gifts are exercised by those who receive them. The result is the turning from sin and turning to Jesus.
4. Justifies; Justification is a legal term. God declares a sinner to be in right standing before Him only by the merit of Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God covers the sinner with the perfect life of Jesus Christ and transfers the sinner’s sin to Jesus. All this is called double imputation.
5. Adopts the sinner into His family. Those changed by God become heirs of His promise in Christ, namely heaven.
6. Sanctifies; as Justification covers the sinner with perfect righteousness, Sanctification is God’s action of making the sinner righteous from the inside out. In Sanctification, the sinner responds to God’s work in him.
7. Glorifies; God promised to see us to glory. Every believer will be in glory in heaven. The comforting fact of glorification is that God sees us as already glorified. I would encourage you to read Romans 8:30 and notice that all the verbs are in the past tense, even glorified.

If you are one who professes Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, the above is how God made you His. If you’re not hearing this preached and taught consistently from the pulpit of your church, find another church!

Christian, God has made you a “new creation”, 2Corinthians 5:17, with a compelling desire to worship God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. You are exhorted to “offer yourself as a living sacrifice to God…” Romans 12:1.

Jesus gave the Great Command, “You shall Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37. A Christian’s most basic demonstration of his love toward God is to worship Him! It is what your neighbors see first. It is a fundamental means that the Holy Spirit uses to change the one “in Christ.” When you gather with God’s people on the Lord’s Day, it’s not about loving people, helping people or being made to “feel good”. It is about demonstrating your love for the God who saved you and your love for others will proceed out of your worship.

In summary, the Psalter is the word of God and it was and continues to be the worship manual of the Church. Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”’ The believer is glad, filled with joy, and is satisfied as he worships God! Each believer has this desire to gather with God’s people to declare His praises and to hear Him speak both in the reading of Scripture and in the Proclamation of Scripture. Yes, God commanded corporate worship. But, a believer grows as he understands that corporate worship is more than a duty; it is our desire! So then, may God fill your heart with a desire to worship Him with other believers.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Eye of the Beholder”

“The Eye of the Beholder”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“Why can’t they see what I see?” Does that question sound familiar? People see the same event and come away from the experience with different assessments of what happened or more importantly why it happened. Sometimes there are genuine differences of opinions. But, there are other times when the event is simply so clear that personal opinions are, frankly, irrelevant. Everyone has his own perspective of an issue based upon past experiences. Those perspectives are the motivations that form our responses to an event. Theologians call those kinds of perspectives “presuppositions”. Everyone has presuppositions. Presuppositions inform our understanding of the world around us. The basis of our presuppositions come from what is called a world view. The set of presuppositions each person holds depends upon his/her world view. A world view is how reality is viewed. That is, a world view is how we make sense of what we see and hear.

There are basically two kinds of world views. One is biblical and the other is man-centered. A biblical world view looks at reality knowing God is at the center of the Universe. The man-centered world view sees everything revolving around man. A God-centered world view is based on absolute truth. A man-centered world view has no absolutes except that there are no absolutes.

The concern is truth. Truth is also defined as that which is real, reality. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life”, John 14:6. In other words, Jesus is reality. In fact, Jesus is the ultimate reality. Therefore, in order to fully understand reality, Jesus must be at the center of our thought. Yet, truth or reality is not dependent upon our embracing it or even recognizing it.

A biblical/God-Centered world view begins at the beginning! Genesis 1:1 declares, “In the beginning God…” God is eternal. God is self-sufficient. God created everything that we see. The Apostle Paul wrote that God has revealed His invisible attributes by what He has made, Romans 1:20. Jesus said if His disciples would abide in His word they would know the truth and be set free, John 8:31-32.

The reason everyone doesn’t’ see what I see is because of the failure to see reality. Man’s refusal to see the truth or accept reality is at the heart of the problem. Men suppress the truth in unrighteousness, Romans 1:18.

I propose that the only world view through which one can be confident of seeing the truth is the God-centered one. Truth is objective. Reality is not in the eye of the beholder. Here is the truth. The only self-existing being is God. He is the same yesterday, today and forever, Hebrews 13:8. All truth and reality proceed from Him.

Obviously, much of society, some might even suggest that most of society doesn’t look at life through a biblical world view. The basis of a man-centered world view, namely, moral relativism is the primary means by which truth and reality are suppressed.

The man-centered world view is attractive because it suits man’s sinfulness. The Apostle Paul wrote that men suppress the truth in unrighteousness, Romans 1:18. Jesus said that men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil, John 3:19.

It must be clearly stated at this point that seeing life through a God-centered world view is necessary not only for Christians but for all men. The reason is obvious. The reason, truth/reality is not in the “eye” of the beholder. There are absolutes whether we think there are or not. There is a supreme being whether we think He exists or not. The Supreme Being who has revealed Himself as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit has established absolutes. Further, God established laws by which all nature is governed. God has also established moral law. All men have the moral law on their hearts. By God’s moral law, we are able to know whether something is right or wrong.

As a Pastor, I am accountable to God to ask you, “What is your world view?” “How do you decide what is right or wrong?” I close with the words of the Psalmist, Psalm 119:130, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” And the words of Jesus who said that the word of God is eternal and unbreakable, Mathew 5:17-18 and John 10:35.