Pastor’s Viewpoint, “Fearing God”

“Fearing God”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Whether you profess to be a Christian or not, fearing God is the only reasonable response of a creature to his Creator. All too often, I’ve met professing Christians who rail against the thought of fearing God. After all, aren’t we believers in Jesus and therefore need not fear God anymore? Such a statement reveals a dangerous lack of the knowledge of God. Christians above all others should know the holiness, sovereignty and transcendence of the God who saved them.

Fearing God is the subject of much of Scripture. God’s self-revelation declares that He made all things for Himself! For example, the Apostle Paul declared to the “Epicurean and Stoic philosophers” in Athens that, “In him we live and move and have our being,” Acts 17:28. That same Apostle wrote to the Colossian Church that the Jesus who is the Savior and Lord is the One by whom and through whom all things were created. Jesus, the only Son of God holds all things together. Colossians 1:16, 17

Three additional texts of Scripture come to mind concerning man’s response to his Creator. Ecclesiastes 12:13, Matthew 10:28 and 1Peter 2:17 all provide clear motivations for fearing God.

Solomon who was declared by God to be the wisest man who ever lived expressed his deepest thoughts concerning life. He had every opportunity for greatness. He had great wealth. He had absolute worldly power over his kingdom. He pursued every passion and desire of his flesh. After evaluating all of his pursuits, he declared them all to be like hot air, “vanity of vanities”, Ecclesiastes 1:2; 12:8. Solomon repeated the vanity of man’s pursuits in the beginning of Ecclesiastes and at the end.

Solomon came to a conclusion concerning the purpose of life and all of man’s pursuits. “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandment, for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13

From Solomon, king of Israel to the Apostle Peter the fear of God was known and declared to be central. Peter wrote, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” 1Peter 2:17

Peter wrote to the church and exhorted her members to be holy people, set apart to God. He encouraged them to behave as those who have been changed by God. He called Christians to honor everyone; to sacrificially love those within the household of God and to fear God. Their fear of God was demonstrated in their worship. Fear includes a sense of awe, trembling and reverence. When the Church gathers for worship we enter a Sanctuary not an auditorium! We are gathering with other believers to meet God. Hebrews 12 reminds believers that we are being lifted up into the presence of “the assembly of the first born who are enrolled in heaven and to God the judge of all…” Hebrews 12:23.

The basis of man’s relationship to the Creator was given by Jesus. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Men fear God because of who He is and what He can do. We are His creatures! Even those who are in Christ are still Creatures made by the Creator.

Jesus said only God has absolute sovereign rule over His creatures. Therefore, we approach Him with great humility, reverence and awe. We are finite. He is infinite. We have limited power. He has absolute power. The Risen Lord Jesus said He was given all authority in heaven and on earth, Matthew 28:18.

Only fools live in denial of the absolute power and authority of God, Psalm 14:1. Only a fool would risk an eternity in hell! Only fools live without fearing God!

Do you think that your life is hidden from God? Are you blind to the reality that you are a Creature created by God? Do you think that there are numerable explanations for Creation. Do you think that somehow the “big bang” did it or that you are the product of millions of years of evolution? Do you think that there is no God to fear?

Everything you see is there because of our Creator God. He made us to worship Him. He is to be feared because He is God. He is the one who sent Jesus, His one and only Son. He is the One who saves men from and for Himself.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Finding a True Church”

Finding a True Church
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

God commands His people to “keep holy the Sabbath Day.” The “Sabbath Day” was changed by the Apostolic Church to the First Day, Sunday. The Church refers to every Sunday as the Lord’s Day. Each Lord’s Day is a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore, a professing Christian will seek to find a local church in which to invest in the Kingdom and worship the King!

God’s command is addressed to believers in the Risen Lord Jesus. A genuine believer is one who has been born again by the Spirit of God working in concert with the Word of God. When God raises the spiritually dead, He makes him a new creation. As a new creation, He gives new desires. Believers have a desire to worship God. Therefore, a believer will desire to find a body of believers with whom he can worship God.

A believer is one who has been saved, is being saved and will be saved. The Bible details God’s order of salvation, Romans 8:28-30. First, God Effectually Calls a dead person to come to life. Second, the effect of His call is Regeneration. All men are born dead in sin. God must raise a sinner from death to life. This is what Jesus meant by being born again, John 3. Third, God converts a sinner to a saint. In conversion God 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. Fourth, the result of turning from sin and turning to Jesus is Justification. 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. This is called double imputation. Fifth and following justification, God Adopts the sinner into His family. Those changed by God become heirs of His promise in Christ, namely heaven. Sixthly, after justification God begins His work of Sanctification. As Justification covers the sinner with perfect righteousness, Sanctification is God’s progressive work to make the sinner righteous from the inside out. In Sanctification, the sinner responds to God’s work in him. God promised to make us more and more like Christ. Seventh and finally, the end result of Sanctification is what is called Glorification. God promised to take us to glory. Every believer will be in glory in heaven. The comforting fact of glorification is that God sees us as already glorified. Notice Paul’s use of the past tense for all the verbs in Romans 8:30.

A Christian, one who is in Christ has been saved; is being saved and will be saved by God’s grace alone in Christ alone through faith alone. He desires to worship God with fellow Christians. This desire is an expression of God’s adoption. Christians demonstrate their desire for God within the visible church. Likewise, Christian fathers and mothers desire to teach their children the blessing of worshiping God.

Those in Christ gather to: praise God, pray to Him, and hear Him speak both in the reading and proclamation of Scripture. Thereby, believers are edified or if you choose to use this word, fed.

Christians grow by participating in corporate worship. Therefore, finding a church in which one can grow in Christ requires knowing what constitutes a “true church.”

The Bible reveals three marks of a true church. The first is that the pure word of God is preached. The second is that the two sacraments, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, are administered in accordance with Christ’s institution. The third is that Church Discipline is exercised in accordance with God’s word.

Christians are often deceived by pragmatists and others who base supreme value on “what works” to grow in numbers. Christians too often seek churches with the right programs, or an age group of those of similar life circumstances. It sometimes seems that God-centered worship and ministry has fallen on “hard times”, especially in the American Evangelical Church. Worship has all too often been turned into entertainment with man at the center.

But, against man-centeredness stands a true church. May you intentionally seek a local church that is God-centered rather than man-centered. For God has ordained Christian growth in Christ through the ministry of a local church centered on Him.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “God’s Blessing, The Law”

“God’s Blessing, the Law”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
If you are in Christ, know that He fulfilled the requirements of the law! You have been covered with the perfect righteousness of Christ. God did not remove the Law’s requirements. The Law reveals the character of God and points us to our need for Christ. Adam failed to keep God’s command; Jesus Christ did not. The gospel is the good news of God precisely because Christ satisfied the demands of the Law and offered the only perfect sacrifice for sin. So then, the Law is not opposed to the gospel. It points to man’s only hope in the gospel, the person and work of Christ. All men and women are born in Adam and thereby are dead in sin. We all deserve eternal damnation. But, God is merciful and chose some for salvation. By grace we are saved, through faith and this is the gift of God! (Ephesians 2:8)

So then, Paul raised the question, “Why then the Law?” God’s answer though him, the Law, “was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary,” Galatians 3:19. The law was added because of sin.

Sin is lawlessness, 1John 3:4. The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines sin as “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God. God’s Law, the Ten Commandments, is recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. The first part concerns man’s relationship to God. The second provides the basis for men to co-exist.

Both God’s Law and Civil Law carry blessings and curses, blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. As God created man and woman in His image, we all have the moral code in our hearts. All men have a general knowledge of right and wrong. The Ten Commandments declare what is right and wrong and express, the grace of God as part of the Covenant of Grace.

Following God’s work of Creation, all societies recognize the importance of law. A society falls when the rule of law is ignored. Leaders are expected to submit to the rule of law. In our nation, the Constitution provides the basis for the rule of law. No one is above the law! History records man’s awareness of his need for law. An ancient example is the Code of Hammurabi, the law code of the first Babylonian Dynasty ruled by Hammurabi circa 1728-1686 B.C. Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations likewise depended on the rule of law. As law broke down, those civilizations ceased to exist. Western civilization and especially our United States will stand or fall as a result of adherence to the rule of law.

The Law’s importance will finally be seen in the end of this world. The sign of the end will be apostasy. “Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first…” 2Thessalonians 2:3. Paul was straightening out false teaching concerning the end of this world. Rebellion against God will be the first sign of the end. The visible sign of rejecting God is rejecting His Law.

Law benefits all mankind. God’s common grace toward all is experienced by the rule of law. It is the basis for relationships, contracts, economic prosperity and in summary the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

We all need God’s grace conveyed through the Law. Men are not basically good. All men are sinners; dead in sin. God’s Law given by His grace points to man’s only hope, the gospel. “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons,” Galatians 4:4.

Throughout history the Christian Church has taught three uses of the Law. They are: to bound sin, to point to Christ and to provide the guide for living in Christ.

God’s blessing through the Law is profound. Without law we will perish. Because of The Law men are shown the desperate need for a divine Savior. May we commit to stand for the blessing of God’s Law and all law proceeding from it. May submission to the rule of law reflect the desire to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God, Micah 6:8. May the Law of God lead you to Christ!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A Need to Know”

“A Need to Know”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
What you don’t know can hurt you. There are times when ignorance will lead you to ruin. The most damaging ignorance concerns one’s soul. Jesus said, “Fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” And, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” And, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” Matthew 10:28, 39; 16:26 All these words are strong and clear!

Ignorance of God and of what He said can hurt you. Only knowing God and the one He sent, Jesus Christ will save your soul. We know that what God has said is true. God said that men are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, Ephesians 2:8-9.

Yet there was a time that men usurped God’s authority. These men were in the church rather than outside of her. They were false teachers and false leaders of God’s people. They sought to manipulate the people of God through man-centered guilt.

But God in His sovereign providence raised up godly men to call the church to submit to God’s word. One of these men was an Augustinian priest. His name was Martin Luther. History records his action of rebuking the church as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

On October 31, 1517, over 500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses (complaints) on the Wittenberg church door in protest over the sale of indulgences. His action resulted from another monk who was “fund raising” in Germany. This monk’s name was Tetzel. This unscrupulous man was put in charge of the sale of indulgences in Germany. He was “heard announcing that the indulgence that they sold made the sinner cleaner than when coming out of baptism and cleaner than Adam before the Fall and that the cross of the seller of indulgences has as much power as the cross of Christ.” One of Tetzel’s more evil pronouncements was, “as soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” (Taken from “The Story of Christianity” by Justo L. Gonzalez, Vol. 2)

Martin Luther started a movement. He and all the Reformers knew that the church needed to be in an ongoing reformation. They taught that the church had to be diligent to reform herself to be in accordance with the word of God. They declared that the root cause of Rome’s problem was her view of authority. The Pre-reformation church placed herself above God’s word. The church’s magisterium, her leaders placed themselves as the authority over God’s people.

The root cause of the Protestant Reformation, also referred to as the “Formal Cause” was Sola Scriptura. This Latin phrase, Scripture Alone means that God’s word, the Bible, has ultimate authority. Believers live under the word of God for the glory of God. Everything is for God’s glory!

The Pre-reformation church used their illegitimate authority to manipulate people with a guilt causing them to seek to “buy” merit from the church. Contrary to this, the Bible declares that only the perfect righteousness of Christ can merit salvation. Salvation is by God, from God and for God!

In addition to the formal cause of the Reformation was the material cause. The material cause was the teaching of the Scriptures that justification (God’s sovereign act of free grace) is through faith alone. Justification through faith alone or Sola Fides is the revealed truth that eliminates the idea that men can merit God’s favor.

The Reformation was one of the most significant events in history. Yet, the evangelical church seems to have forgotten it. The practices observed in many churches stand against the sufficiency and authority of Scripture. Methods and programs are substituted for truth. It often appears that attracting people is more important than glorifying God! When asked about the Protestant Reformation, most in the church respond with a blank stare. Many have been taught that the Reformation was simply an event in history. However, the church stands on the shoulders of the Reformers like Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, Ulrich Zwingli, Thomas Cranmer and others. They taught, that the church must always be reforming herself in accordance with the word of God and live in submission to the headship of Jesus Christ. Truly, we have a need to know who God is. Therefore, invest in a Church that teaches who He is!