Pastor’s Viewpoints, “It is Good!”

“It is Good!”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Have you ever noticed that people will determine what is good in relationship to themselves? Things, we say, are good if we receive a benefit or have our needs met. I think pastors deal with this understanding of good expressed by Church-goers. For example, we hear that a good church is one that “feels” right for me; meets my “felt needs or my family’s.

In contrast, the truth is that the “good” transcends our feelings and thoughts.

“It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning and your faithfulness by night.” Psalm 92:1-2

The Psalmist posed a radical thought! It is good thing to thank God. This is one of the understatements in the Scriptures. Yet, even though it is generally affirmed, it seems to be rarely understood and applied. Oh, we say prayers of thanksgiving for various things, but to look to God and know that He is the giver of everything is rare. James wrote, “Every good and every perfect gift is from above…” James 1:17a

The superscription for Psalm 92 declares it to be a “Song for the Sabbath”. The Sabbath was the day set apart to God. The New Testament believers set the first day of the week apart to the Lord Jesus because it was the day of His resurrection. The Lord’s Day continues to be a corporate act of worship of the God who has promised to work all things together for the good of those who love Him, those who have been called according to His purpose, Romans 8:28.

Psalm 92 stands as a reminder that everything is from and for God. I am not the center of life! Life is not about us. All life, all that God created is about Him. “All things were created through Him and for Him”, Colossians 1:16b. Jesus is the subject of Colossians 1:16. Jesus is the focus of everything.

Therefore, the psalmist said, “It is good to give thanks to the LORD.” He affirmed that there is no other One to whom thanks should be given both individually and corporately. We rightly thank others but often forget that God is the ultimate source of everything good. By His providence, He has chosen to work through secondary causes. Yet, God is the ultimate source of every good and every perfect gift.

We know this. But at the first sign of difficulty we focus attention on ourselves. We become introspective and sometimes spiral into a sense of despair. As long as the Lord tarries in coming back, there will be tribulation. Adversity will tend to challenge our security and hope in Christ. Our sinfulness will lead us to change our focus from God to us. Even during times of great prosperity, we will be tempted to look inward rather than outward toward God. The battle is constant. Our hope of victory is solely resting upon the sovereign Lord Jesus.

The Apostle Paul reminded the church in Ephesus that every Christian will be engaged in a spiritual battle. We will be regularly challenged to lose hope and doubt God’s word. Paul’s exhortation is for the believer to “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the might of His power.” Ephesians 6:10

Believers beware! You are not immune from worldliness and self-centeredness. There is a biblical remedy. It is God’s gift of repentance. God’s remedy is the only lasting one. God said, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” 2Corinthians 7:10

Thanking God begins with acknowledging that we are self-centered. In other words, we are sinners in His sight. May your acknowledgment lead to a deep sorrow for your sin. May that deep sorrow, a godly sorrow, lead you to turn from your sin of self and exercise the other gift that God gives to His people at conversion, namely faith.

Just as saving faith is a continuing reliance upon the person and work of Christ, repentance is an ongoing turning from sin. Christians live penitently. We confess our sins and turn to Jesus with the assurance that God will forgive our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness. Therefore, for all those who possess genuine repentance and faith follow the psalmist’s exhortation. “… Give thanks to the LORD.” Life is about Him. When faced with decisions, ask yourself, “What’s in it for God?”

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Trinity”

The Trinity
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

The most fundamental teaching of the Christian Church concerning the nature of God is that He is three persons in one God. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are God, one in substance yet, distinct in persons. The Westminster Confession of Faith states, “There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute… In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity…” (Chapter 2, par. 1,3)

This has been the teaching of the Church for Centuries. It is the revealed truth of God. The doctrine of the Trinity was not merely discovered in the last 150 years. All of the Ancient Creeds and Confessions of the Church declare the Trinity as the revealed truth of God.

But, there is a problem or the appearance of a problem. The word “Trinity” is not in the Bible. One would think that such a fundamental doctrine would at least be explicitly described in the word of God written. In fact, even though the word “Trinity” does not appear in Scripture, it is explicitly taught.

Let’s look at the beginning. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the deep. And God said…” Genesis 1:1-3a. The one true God created everything out of nothing. God was the initiator. The word translated “Father” in the Bible means initiator, provider and protector. From this understanding, we are told that God the Father initiated creation. Secondly, the Spirit of God is revealed “hovering” over what is declared to be chaos, nevertheless under the sovereign rule of God. Thirdly, the spoken word of God is declared to bring order out of chaos. John wrote that the word of God was with God and was God. He was speaking of the second person of the Trinity who took upon Himself human nature and was Incarnate, John 1:1-2. Likewise, Paul wrote that everything was made by Him and for Him and He holds all things together, Colossians 1:16-17.

Moving to the Psalms, King David wrote, “The LORD says to my Lord; sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” Psalm 110:1 David wrote of the “conversation” between Yahweh or, if you prefer, Jehovah, and Adoni which means Master. Jesus quoted this Scripture to confuse the Pharisees as a result of their inability to identify the Messiah namely Him. He further used this passage to declare that God’s word written cannot be broken! David under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote of the relationship between Father and Son in the God-head.

The passages in Isaiah named after the “Suffering Servant” include God’s revelation of the Trinity. Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me…” The Servant of God (Jesus) spoke through Isaiah and said God the Father had anointed Him with the Holy Spirit. Jesus read this passage in His home town Synagogue. He declared that what the prophet Isaiah wrote was fulfilled in Him, Luke 4:16-21.

Now for the most expressive passage of Scripture which reveals the doctrine of the Trinity, I turn to the New Testament, Matthew 28:19. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus commanded all of His followers to make disciples. I’m sure that you’ve been taught that the direct and emphatic command of Jesus in the Great Commission is to disciple! Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, the Only Son of God as He is offered in the gospel are to make followers of Jesus. The specific nature of discipleship is Trinitarian. That is, we are to identify followers with God who has identified Himself as the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, true followers of Jesus are identified with the Trinitarian God. We worship and serve the God who has revealed Himself as three persons yet one God. Any religious expression that does not confess the historic, biblical doctrine of the Trinity is at its heart False!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Are You a Christian?”

“Are you a Christian?”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Luke, the evangelist, wrote in Acts 11:26 that in the pagan city of Antioch, disciples were first called Christians. Disciples are followers and learners. Disciples of Jesus follow and learn from Him. He is their Master, their Lord and Savior. Therefore, a Christian is likewise a learner and follower of the Risen Lord Jesus.

Reasonable men and women would agree that Christians are followers of Jesus Christ. It is a fact that cults use the name Jesus. But, simply using His name does not mean that they are Christians. No, Christians follow and learn from Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, who is offered in the gospel.

The Jesus who is offered in the gospel is the eternally begotten Son of God. He is the One who took upon Himself human nature, Philippians 2:6ff. He is the God – Man. He is not a created being as the cults contend. Jesus is God. He is not a god. He is the God. He is the only way to the Father. He is the way, the truth and the life. John 14:6

The Apostle Paul wrote, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9 Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, what he wrote is authoritative, as is the whole of Scripture, 2Peter 3:15-16.

Salvation is only through confessing Christ to be Savior and Lord. Salvation is by grace, through faith in Christ alone! Ephesians 2:8

Many claim to be Christians. But not all are. Jesus addressed this condition in His famous sermon. Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

We must be clear on this fact. A genuine Christian is one who confesses to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We know that all lords issue commands. Jesus has issued absolute commands. His commands are His words written. Christians live under the plain and revealed word of God preserved by His providence in the Bible. The sixty six books that make up the Bible are the commands of our Lord Jesus.

We continue to hear of those who call themselves Christians affirming sinful behavior, behavior that God has expressly condemned. At the risk of offending some, let me say that those who affirm evil behavior of any kind and lead others to do the same are in no way Christians regardless of what they may say.

My entire ministry is centered on the word of God. I know that I am not sinless. God’s word says that anyone who says that he’s sinless is deceiving himself and does not have the truth. No, I sin and I seek God’s grace of forgiveness through confessing my sins to Him, 1John 1:8-9. Yet I seek to obey God’s call of me as a pastor. As do all Christian Pastors who seek to do their best to present themselves to God as those approved. I work like all Christian Pastors to righty handle God’s word. I am accountable to Him to preach and teach the truth, God’s word is truth, John 17:17

I am reminded of God’s warning given through the Prophet Ezekiel. God said that if the watchman sees destruction coming and does not warn the people their blood is on his head. If pastors fail to warn their members of the certainty of eternal judgment for living in a sinful lifestyle without conviction, they will pay a heavy price when they meet the Lord! This is exactly what is happening. Main line churches and other apostate groups are not only failing to warn their members of certain judgment but are actually affirming evil behavior, calling evil good.

I’m not only referring to homosexual behavior, but also other expressions of immoral behavior. This is a time of opportunity. Jesus told us that in this world we would have tribulation, but He has overcome the world. I exhort professing Christians to deepen their knowledge of what God has said. Peter wrote always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” 1Peter 3:15

We have the great mystery uncovered, “Christ in you the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27

Are you a Christian?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “True Religion Explained”

“True Religion Explained”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

One’s religion defines a set of beliefs that connect the cause of nature and the purpose of life. Religion is relevant for all whether one is an evolutionist or a creationist. Even those who hold to a man-centered world-view practice a religion called secular humanism.

Those who believe in the Creator, as I do, affirm that man was made for worship. Therefore, we are compelled to pursue a means by which we can relate to the Creator!

The word “religion” is a compound word. It is derived from two Latin words. “Re” means to return and “ligare” means to bind. According to its derivation, religion is descriptive of the means by which men seek to “bind” themselves to their Creator. Another way of stating the same thing is to define religion as the means by which we express reconciliation with our Creator.

Since religion involves reconciliation and all men have some form of religion, it is reasonable, even necessary, to pursue true religion. True religion is the real or factual expression of reconciliation to God. That is, true religion reflects a right understanding of man’s relationship to God. He is the Creator and we are His creatures. The Westminster Confession of Faith used the term true religion in defining the visible church. The visible church is made up of all throughout the world who profess the true religion and their children.

Philosophers say that there are many religions. You may have had a course in college that studied world religions. The late philosopher and professor, Dr. Joseph Campbell said that all religions were simply reaching for the truth. He taught that, no religion could make the claim that it was the true one. Joseph Campbell taught, wrote, and was an alumnus of Columbia University. You may remember the interviews conducted by Bill Moyers with Professor Campbell. They are still periodically aired on Public Television and are available in book form, “The Power of Myth”.

Joseph Campbell has been considered to be one of the greatest minds of the 20th Century. In the TV interview, Dr. Campbell said that the purpose of life was to “follow your bliss”.

All men can choose to believe anything. It is a sad commentary on our culture that so-called institutions of higher learning would choose to subject their students to such an erroneous, shallow and illogical teaching. Bill Moyers probed Dr. Campbell on his stated purpose of life. Moyers questioned the validity of calling Adolph Hitler an evil man. According to Campbell’s philosophy it could be said that Hitler was simply “following his bliss.”

Opposed to the relativism of Joseph Campbell there is a timeless principle that serves to guide us in recognizing that which is true. The test is general and is stated, “That which is true is true for all or not true at all.” One doesn’t need to be a Christian to apply this logic to Campbell’s hedonistic philosophy. His statement is destroyed because one person’s bliss may result in another’s terror. Evil is not relative. Evil is the depravation of good.

Returning to “True Religion”, I propose that true religion can only be described by a right understanding of who God is and who we are. True religion begins with God’s revealed truth of His character. First and foremost, He is the one who spoke and all creation came into being. He is the eternal being. He has provided the only means by which men might be reconciled to Him. We know Him in Jesus Christ, the only Son of God.

As we look at our religious practice. We must ask ourselves some fundamental questions. Is our religion centered on God? That is, do we worship God as He has commanded man to worship Him? Being centered on God demands us to think about our hopelessness apart from Him. God has revealed that all men are born spiritually dead. God must raise an individual from death to life so that he is able to see this truth. God has said that the only means of reconciliation is in Christ alone.

The most evident expression of true religion is worship. As you gather to worship with God’s people are you gathering for fellowship or to declare your praises to God, to hear from Him and to confess your trust in Him? True religion is not about community or relationships with others. True religion is about worshiping God as He has revealed Himself.