Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A warning to those who call evil good”

“A warning to those who call evil good”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
You don’t often see “woe” used in an article. It’s a word that is rarely used in our day. But it’s a word that ought to be understood and taken seriously, especially in light of recent events. Woe is used in Scripture to convey a dire warning. It usually precedes God’s judgment. Isaiah Chapter 5 has led me to reflect on a current issue, namely the Senate “hearings” concerning a man nominated to the Supreme Court.

Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” God issued a warning to His people for their abusive and oppressive behavior towards their brothers. More specifically, God directed His “woe” against the leaders of His people.

The book of Isaiah comprehensively covers God’s judgment and salvation. Chapter 5 was addressed to God’s “vineyard”, His chosen people. God sought justice and righteousness within His people and found none! God’s indictment of wicked people continued. They are described as oppressive, self-serving, unjust and liars. The word “woe” quoted from verse 5 is repeated five additional times in Chapter 5.

God expects His people to know good from evil. He expects His people to follow “the good”. “The good” is that which is morally and ethically right. The ultimate source of “the good” is God. He has revealed “the good” in His word. “He has told you, O man, what is good.” Micah 6:8a

We also have God’s promise to work all things together for the good of those who love Him, those whom He has called, Romans 8:28.

The Bible was written to believers, but it applies to all people. God does not have a sliding scale. He doesn’t grade on a curve. “All must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” 2Corinthans 5:10

We have recently witnessed the character assassination of a nominee to the Supreme Court. I firmly believe that the motivation of his attackers is fear. I further believe that their fear is rooted in the elimination of their unholy sacrament of progressivism, abortion.

Evil behavior often comes dressed in “good intentions.” In this case, the so-called “good” intentions are clothed in a professed desire to protect and honor women, especially those who have suffered sexual abuse. Reasonable people wonder, “Why would such an allegation with no evidence be used against this particular man at this time?” A closer examination reveals that, after all the peripheral issues are pushed aside, only one issue remains. That issue is the sanctity of human life. It is well-known that the primary objection to Judge Kavanaugh by the progressive element in our society is his view of human life. This is a critical time for our culture. I pray that people of honor will recognize what is actually happening and stand against evil and stand for that which is good, right and true!

Because of man’s total depravity, recognizing that which is good, right and true must be determined outside of ourselves. God is the standard of good. He is the author of all life and He has sanctified human life.

With the knowledge of God’s sovereignty and His sanctification of human life the ethics of abortion can be seen clearly. Abortion does not fall in the category of ethical confusion. We need not wonder what the “good” course is. God is for life! Those who would call death good are placing themselves under the “woes” that Isaiah declared.

I read somewhere that for evil to succeed all that is necessary is for good men to be silent. I am not good in the sight of God. I am a sinner. God alone is good, and He expects me to stand for that which He has sanctified, namely human life. There is no middle ground when it comes to standing for the sanctity of human life. May we who know the truth, ask God’s blessing on that which is good and speak openly for the sanctity of human life!

May all honorable people speak out against the destruction of a man’s character for the sake of protecting the evil practice of abortion. May the root cause of these attacks against Judge Kavanaugh be unveiled for all to see.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Character… where are the honorable people?”

“Character…where are the honorable people?”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Character is the word used to describe the personal qualities of an individual. The qualities in view concern a person’s morals and ethics. The issue of character was recently framed in another way. Justice Clarence Thomas in a recent lecture, asked, “Where are the honorable men?” He was reflecting on our government and our cultural decline.

God revealed the standard measure of character, what we might call “honorable.” The Bible provides the true definition of character. The Old Testament contains the history of men of character. The Bible also contains narratives concerning men of weak and deceptive character.

Joseph and Moses are good examples of men of godly character. As you read their stories, the first thing that should come to mind is that these men are not perfect. The Bible does not fail to describe their faults as well as their virtues.

Genesis 39 is a part of Joseph’s life that reveals his godly character. We are told that Joseph became a successful man. He was put in charge of the household of an officer of the Pharaoh. We read that the LORD was with Joseph. Joseph had an ongoing relationship with the LORD. As a child, Joseph thought he was of special privilege. As you may recall, his superior attitude angered his brothers to such a degree that they plotted to kill him but ended up selling him as a slave.

Years later, Joseph continued to walk with the LORD. He became very successful. His character was tested at this very comfortable point in his life. The beautiful wife of the officer who entrusted his household to Joseph sought to seduce him. Joseph resisted. Moses recorded what he said. “… “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge… How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”’ Genesis 39:8ff

Even this strong statement did not dissuade the officer’s wife. She persisted and the Bible records Joseph’s action as fleeing from her presence leaving his garment that she grabbed in her hand. The officer’s wife wrongly accused Joseph and her testimony was believed. Her husband put Joseph, the innocent one, in the king’s prison.

The rest of the story confirms the depth of Joseph’s character. He spent his life trusting in the Lord and pursuing godliness. Joseph’s life was a foreshadowing of Christ’s perfect life which is the standard of perfect character. Jesus said of Himself, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29

In order to express the kind of character that Joseph did, one must be humble. Humility is a virtue which enables the one who has it to rightly assess himself before God. Jesus said that He was gentle and lowly in heart. The word from which both gentle and lowly are derived can also be translated as humble.

The Apostle Paul wrote of Jesus’ humility in Philippians 2:6. “Though He was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” Jesus set aside His glory. His humility extended to obeying the Father even to death upon the cross.

The human author of the story of Joseph was himself a humble man. Moses wrote, “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” Numbers 12:3 The Spirit of God inspired Moses to write these words about himself when his leadership was challenged by two people who were the closest to him.

Like Joseph, Moses’ life demonstrated his trust in the LORD. When Moses sinned and God forbade him to enter the Promised Land, he endured the consequence of his sin and continued to obey God.

Character is the measure of a man or a woman. Behavior reveals character and it matters profoundly. Men and women of character are humble and can be trusted. Their character is seen over time. These are the honorable people!

Through viewing a person’s character whether it is good or evil, future actions can be anticipated. We are all sinners in the sight of God. Yet we must make decisions concerning those whom we choose to entrust with various roles in life. Choose wisely. Choose men and women of character. Choose honorable people.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Grace”

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

The Apostle John wrote, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17 (ESV) John referred to the law given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai and to the truth which is reality revealed in the person of Jesus. But, what is the meaning of grace? For years Sunday school teachers have taught our children that grace means unmerited favor. Grace is to receive what is not deserved. Mercy is another expression of grace. The opposite of grace and mercy is justice. The law of God given through Moses is a revelation of the absolute perfection of God. The law He gave to men is the absolute standard of perfection. The Jews sought to make the law fool-proof. The leaders of the Jews came up with more than 600 nuances of the basic commandments of God as a means of addressing every aspect of life and how men should behave in order to keep the law. Yet, Jesus repeatedly said that they had missed the spirit of the law. The truth is that no one can keep the law. The Apostle Paul wrote that the purpose of the law was to bound sin and lead men to their need for a Savior, Galatians 3:19-29.

May I offer you a fundamental principle of life from the word of God? God requires absolute perfection. Jesus said perfect righteousness is required to enter the kingdom of heaven.

God doesn’t grade righteousness on a scale. I remember taking Quantum Physics in Engineering College years ago. If the professor didn’t grade our tests on a scale no one would have gotten a passing grade in his course. He took the lowest grade and the highest grade and developed an acceptable score. God doesn’t do that. If you think that God will compare you to others at the end of your life, you won’t have a “passing grade.”

Are you willing to be honest with yourself? If you are, the undeniable conclusion is that you’re not perfect. No one is. This is the need for grace. Since no one is perfect no one will go to heaven unless God extends His grace.

God’s grace is the only means by which men may have a “passing grade.” But God’s grace is not simply winking at our failure to be perfect. God’s grace is extended as a result of merit, perfect merit. God’s grace is extended only because of the perfect merit of Jesus Christ. What all men fail to do, He did. The grace of God is His favor extended to His people as a result of the merit of Jesus on their behalf. This grace is called saving grace. It is given by God to those whom He chose before the foundation of the world. His choice is not based on anything we will do or have done. His choice is unconditional, Ephesians 1, 2.

You may be thinking that this choice of God to extend saving grace as He wills is unfair and God is not unfair. I agree. God is not unfair. But grace is not about fairness. God is perfectly fair. We call His fairness divine justice. He has said that at the end of this world there will be a final judgment. Two books will be opened by God. One book is the record of everyone’s deeds. The other is called the book of life. The judgment of God is that anyone’s name that does not appear in the book of life is thrown into the “lake of fire.” Those two books represent the difference between justice and grace. Those who live thinking that God winks at their sin and will somehow extend grace to them at the end are those who will experience perfect justice. On the other hand those who live their lives relying upon the perfect life of Jesus and His perfect sacrifice will experience the fullness of God’s grace in eternal bliss.

So then, Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Grace is God’s unmerited favor based upon the merit of His only Son, Jesus. There are only two alternatives for mankind. Rely upon your own merit or rely upon the merit of Christ. In either case the standard is perfection. The truth is Jesus is the only One who was perfect.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Gospel of the Kingdom”

“The Gospel of the Kingdom”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel…Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” Mark 1:15, 38

Jesus announced that the Kingdom of God came to earth. Entrance into the Kingdom is only through King Jesus as He is offered in the gospel.

The gospel is the Christian’s focus because Christ is the gospel! The gospel must be central in every church that professes Christ as her head! The Christian bracelet, “What would Jesus do?” would be more edifying if, “What did Jesus do?” was printed on it.

Jesus said the reason for His public ministry was to preach. His message was clear and direct. He preached it as a command. “Repent and believe in the gospel! Notice both verbs. They are in the imperative and present tense. The imperative is the mood of command. The present tense describes current and on-going action. Therefore, both repenting and believing are current on-going actions commanded by God.

Jesus’ two commands are preceded by a twofold propositional truth. The first was the “time is fulfilled.” The second, “the kingdom of God is at hand”.

The first was a reference to Daniel’s prophecy, Daniel 9:25. It was confirmed by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 4:4. This time of fulfillment was in fact the time set in eternity by God for the Messiah’s arrival on earth. Jesus read Isaiah 61:1-2a in the synagogue, see Luke 4:18-21. Jesus said He was the one prophesied who would proclaim the “year of the Lord’s favor”. In other words, Jesus declared that at His coming God was commanding men and women to call upon Him and be saved. The Apostle Peter boldly told the religious leaders in Jerusalem,” there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” Acts 4:12.

The second reason given by Jesus was not separate and distinct from the first. The Kingdom of God, namely the rule of God was at hand. Jesus the King and Lord was physically in the midst of His hearers. The King who rules all men and has absolute authority, Matthew 28:18, commanded repentance and faith!

Repentance and faith go hand-in-hand. Repentance is a change of mind, a turning away from sin. Faith is trust in the object who is Jesus. When God converts a sinner into a saint He gives two gifts. One is repentance. The second is faith. The converted man and woman turn away from sin and turn to Jesus. Paul explained the action of a converted sinner in Romans 6:11. “So you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Both God-given gifts continue throughout every Christian’s life. We live repenting and believing, turning from our sin and relying upon the perfect righteousness of Christ.

Jesus was very specific in His command. He commanded believing in the gospel. Christians believe in the gospel. Why? The answer is simple and clear. “The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16b.

I’m sure that you’ve heard that the word “gospel” means good news. So what’s the good news? It is, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” 1Corinthians 15:3-4. This is truly good news because we all deserve to go to hell. But, God who is “rich in mercy”, Ephesians 2:4, chose some for heaven. The only way to heaven is through Jesus as He is offered in the gospel! That is relying upon the only begotten one, Jesus, not born but eternally proceeding from the Father. Those destined for heaven rely upon Jesus’ perfect life and His perfect sacrifice for sins. This reliance is not by our strength and power. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. The gospel is good news because God applies it to those whom He has chosen.

Therefore, he who has ears to hear the Savior’s command, repent and believe in the gospel! “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8