Pastor’s Viewpoints, “What You Need to Know”

“What you need to know”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

If there is anything you need to know it is this: you absolutely need to know the truth! “Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”’ Jesus also said that He is the truth, John 14:6. As He prayed on the night of His passion, Jesus said that God’s word is truth, John 17:17.

So then, if you want to be free and have an intimate relationship with God, it is imperative that you know the truth.

It is comforting to know that there really is objective truth. Every time that I open my Bible, I know that I am reading the truth. The Psalmist wrote, “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” Psalm 119:160 The Bible is inerrant and infallible. God never lies and He is always reliable.

Knowing that there is objective truth, it is often frustrating to turn on the TV and watch the latest news. Instead of news, we often get the latest spin on the news. Newspapers are no different, this one being the exception that proves the rule. Our culture appears to value commentary on events rather than the facts surrounding events. Even politicians speak around the truth. The truth is used rather than told.

Yet, ultimate truth can be known. God has revealed Himself by what He has made, His creation and He has condescended to reveal Himself in His word written and supremely in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The terms general and special revelation refer to this knowledge respectively. General revelation is God’s revelation of Himself in Creation, Psalm 19:1 and Romans 1:20. Special revelation is the Bible, 2Timothy 3:16; 2Peter 3:16. Finally, the full revelation of God is His only begotten Son, Jesus, Hebrews 1:1-2. Apart from God’s special revelation leading to Jesus as He is offered in the gospel no one can know God in an intimate and saving relationship, John 17:3.

God radically changes a sinner’s life and gives him or her eyes to see the truth. There is no other way to live that is free. God speaks truth. God is truth. No matter what men try to tell you, know that God is always telling you the truth.

All who know Jesus as He is offered in the gospel readily affirm what I’ve just written. When Jesus asked His disciples if they were considering deserting Him, Peter responded by saying, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68.

There is no reason to sugar coat the truth. The fact is, unless a man or woman comes to acknowledge the truth, there is only eternal judgment in store for him or her.

I’ve read that old time gospel preachers used to say, “God said it; I believe it; that settles it.” Here’s a more accurate statement, “God said it that settles it.” There is something very imposing about the truth. It is what it is. No one can change it. In fact, it doesn’t matter if the truth is not received on the one hand. But, on the other hand, it matters for eternity. Man’s only reasonable response to the truth is to submit to it. Seeking to mitigate or spin the truth does dishonor to God and damage to the hearers.

Luke recorded Peter and John’s appearance before the ruling council in Jerusalem because of what they were teaching concerning Jesus Christ. Peter stood before that council of very powerful men and spoke without any mitigation or spin. Peter said, “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

With the courage of his convictions and the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter spoke the truth that must be known for all time. Here’s the unveiled truth in the words of Jesus, “Repent and believe in the gospel, “Mark 1:15. Knowing this truth is a gift from God. Knowing this truth leads to acting upon it. Knowing this truth is eternal life.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Holiness”

“Holiness”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We all use the word “perfect” in ways that are not part of its meaning. We say something is perfectly normal. We look at the weather and say, “It’s a perfect day”. Sometimes we get excited by a new purchase and describe it as the perfect house, or perfect car, or perfect (you fill in this blank).

There’s always something wrong with what we describe as perfect. The response of some to these “perfect” items might be “Nothing is perfect”. The truth is: God alone is perfect. Jesus said that God alone is good. But both perfect and good are part of God’s self-revelation. God is perfect because He has no faults. God is good because His character is the definition of good. Both perfection and goodness are attributes of God. But when God described Himself more comprehensively, He used a different word. God used the word “holy”. Moreover, God commanded His people to “be holy (He said) because I am holy” Leviticus 11:44 and 1Peter 1:16. Since God both said that He is holy and that His people are to be holy, we would do well to understand the meaning of holy. For everything that the church is and does must be holy, that is, if we profess to be obedient to the word of God.

I’ve found it helpful to picture an umbrella in understanding the holiness of God. If you were to list all of God’s attributes, His faithfulness, sovereignty, goodness, love, etc. and place them under an umbrella, the umbrella would be God’s holiness. The holiness of God more fully describes each of His attributes. For example, because God is holy, there is no one as faithful as God, nor is there anyone as good as God. God is uniquely perfect because He is holy.

God’s holiness sets Him apart from all. He is totally other, as some theologians put it. The Westminster Shorter Catechism’s first question and answer deals with man’s purpose. “What is the chief end of Man?” The answer is, “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” To glorify God is to attribute all the honor, respect, majesty, etc. to Him. In other words, man is to live knowing that God is holy, and everything is due Him.

We are given glimpses of God’s holiness in the Bible. Isaiah 6: 1-5 is probably the most familiar. The occurrence is God’s commission of the Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah is allowed to see the throne room of God in heaven. The vision that he received included great winged creatures crying out to each other “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts…” “Holy” is the only word repeated three times in describing God. Twice would be emphasis in the Hebrew Language similar to the English use of an exclamation point. But three times is supreme emphasis.

The basic meaning of “holy” is unique but there is also a range of meaning. The range is from unique to absolute perfection. Holy and variations of it are used to describe things and people whom God sets apart. For example, the Apostle Paul referred to the children of one believing partner in marriage as “holy”. Things and people that God sets apart for Him are called holy.

We understand consecration and sanctification in light of the word holy. Both words are descriptive of God’s action in setting people apart for Himself and changing those whom He sets apart to be like Christ.

So what? What does God’s holiness have to do with our lives? The simple answer is everything! Everything in the Christian’s life is to reflect God’s holiness. All else is sin. The Apostle Paul wrote that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, Romans 3: 23. Yet, God requires perfection. God requires that those who will see Him face to face must be holy as He is holy. In this life: our lives, our worship, and all that we are and do must reflect the holiness of God. The gospel is the only means given by God for our holiness. Those whom God justified, He glorified, Romans 8:30. God glorifies His people by sanctifying us. He makes us holy. By God’s work of grace, He continues to sanctify us so that when we see Jesus face to face, we will be holy. Jesus as He is offered in the gospel is our only hope.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “World Views”

“World Views”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Haven’t you ever asked yourself the question? “Why don’t they see what I see?” Sometimes we’re dealing with perspectives. But other times we are dealing with reality. Everyone has a perspective of an issue based upon their past or current experiences. Theologians call those kinds of perspectives “presuppositions”. Yet, when the issue of reality is involved, perspectives are usually irrelevant. What is… is.

I believe that confusing our perspective of an issue with reality is an all too common occurrence. You may have heard the term “World View”. This is the term that concerns reality. Simply stated, a world view is one’s view of reality. 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 not absolutes except that there are no absolutes.

The concern is truth. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life”, John 14:6. The word “truth” means that which is real. Jesus is reality. For us to fully understand reality and live in the real world, Jesus must be at the center of our life.

Truth is not dependent upon our embracing it. The Roman Governor, Pilate, uttered an understanding of truth which many today still hold. He said, “What is truth?” in response to Jesus who said, “I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth.” John 18:37,38 For Pilate, truth was irrelevant. From is perspective, what really mattered was who had the most power. Without knowing it, he pointed to the One who has supreme power, God.

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.

For example, the reason many in our society may not see what I see is because of the failure to acknowledge reality. Man’s refusal to see the truth or accept reality is at the heart of the problem!

I propose that the world view on 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, 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 is 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. Theologians refer to these absolutes that apply to all men as Natural Law. 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.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “God’s Means of Grace”

“God’s Means of Grace”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“… “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”’ Hebrews 13:5 “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” Joshua 1:5

So many church attendees have heard that the gospel is something to “settle” with God. An invitation is given to “accept” Jesus and be saved. After accepting Jesus, one then pulls himself up by his own boot straps and gets on with life, or worse, now that your saved you can just go about life as usual!

This type of proclamation is reflective of man-centered religion, referred to as the theology of glory, where suffering is not considered to be part of life in Christ. The real question is not whether one accepts Jesus, but that one is accepted by Him!

The promise God made to Joshua and repeated in the letter to the Hebrews is critical as those whom He chooses live by faith and not by sight, 2Corinthians 5:7. Nothing happens in life, especially salvation, unless God does it. To this end, God has provided the means by which Christians live. They are referred to as God’s means of grace. There are three prominent ones: the Word, Sacraments and Prayer.

There is an initial statement that I must make. The means of grace are for those who have been saved, are being saved and will be saved. In other words God’s means of grace are for Christians.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism Q/A #88, calls them “outward means whereby Christ communicates (to believers) the benefits of redemption.”

The first is the Word. As a believer reads the Bible he is strengthened by God to live for Him. This does not only refer to our private reading of Scripture, but also to its public reading. A distinctive of Reformed Worship is the reading of Scripture in the worship service. In agreement with the Bible, the Ancient Church and the Protestant Reformers, the public reading of Scripture is an element of biblical worship. As such, it is separate and distinct from the text used by the preacher for exposition. Certainly, the preaching of the word is an integral part of this means of grace. As the preacher expounds a text of Scripture, making clear its meaning, grace is received by those who have placed their trust in God. God may also choose to raise a spiritually dead person to life through the preaching of the word in concert with His Holy Spirit during corporate worship. However, the salvation of the lost is not the primary purpose of corporate worship.

The second means of grace are the Sacraments. There are two, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Both are called holy ordinances. Both were instituted by Christ. Baptism was given to the church by Christ, Matthew 28:18-20. Baptism is a sacrament that looks forward to what God will do. It is a sign of the work of the Holy Spirit. It is a seal that authenticates God’s promise. It is properly administered to believers and their children. The Bible calls the other sacrament the Lord’s Supper. It is a sign and seal of the New Covenant in the blood of Christ. In this ordinance, the believer looks back at the finished work of Christ on his behalf. It is reserved for those who have been baptized and have made a profession of faith. As either or both of these sacraments are administered in accordance with Christ’s institution grace is received by those who have professed faith in Christ.

Third and finally, Prayer is a means of grace. It is communication with God comprised of adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication. Prayer is a means by which God bends our wills to His. We hear from Him and He has promised to answer our prayers in ways that are beyond what we can think or ask.

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He began by saying, “When you pray”, Luke 11:2. He assumed that disciples would pray. Jesus has given believers access to God’s throne of grace. Christians are exhorted to approach His throne with confidence, Hebrews 4:16.

So then, there are three: The Word, Sacraments and Prayer. Each is God’s means of nourishing and strengthening His people. We depend upon His grace, certainly given in these means in order to grow up in Christ.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Covenant Theology”

“Covenant Theology”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
One of the main vehicles used in society that stipulate requirements for establishing relationships is a contract. A contract is a written or verbal agreement between two or more parties that establishes their mutual relationship. All the parties commit to adhere to the agreed upon requirements. The failure of one party to meet their contractual obligations is called a breach of contract. A breach may support the other parties’ desires to make the contract null and void. Men and women freely enter into contracts in order to legally bind all the parties to perform the requirements of the agreement.

We know that contracts are entered into voluntarily and that they are agreements made between equals.

The Christian Faith also includes the idea of contracts, but with significant differences. The main difference is that the Christian Faith’s contract is called a Covenant and it is not made between equals!

The distance between God and Man is so great that God initiated covenants to establish the requirements for a relationship with Him. (Taken from Chapter Seven, Paragraph 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith)

The Bible reveals two major covenants that God made with Man. Both are revealed in Genesis. The first of these is called the Covenant of Works, Genesis 2:17. God promised life to Adam if he obeyed God’s command. The consequence for disobeying God was death.

The second covenant that God made with Man is called the Covenant of Grace. It is first revealed in Genesis 3:15. In the Covenant of Grace, God promised to crush the head of Satan through the “seed” of the Woman. Not only is this the first revelation of the Covenant of Grace, but it is also the first prophecy of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. God declared that Jesus, born of a virgin, would deal a mortal blow to Satan. This was accomplished on the Cross. Jesus defeated Satan and won the victory over death, confirmed by His resurrection, Hebrews 2:14; 1Corinthians 15:54-57.

There are many other covenants in Scripture, for example, God’s Covenant with Noah, Abram, Israel in the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. Yet all of these are part of the Covenant of Grace. It is within the context of what is called Covenant Theology that the gospel is set and understood.

Charles Spurgeon once said, “The doctrine of the covenant lies at the root of all true theology. It has been said that he who well understands the distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, is a master of divinity.” God chose to reveal His faithfulness by way of covenants, supremely the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace.

The Bible also speaks of another covenant, one not made with Man. This covenant was made within the God-Head, the Trinity. It was made in eternity. It is called the Covenant of Redemption, John 3:16; Hebrews 13:20-21. This covenant was made between God the Father and God the Son. The essence of the Covenant of Redemption is that the Son agreed to lay down His life in accordance with the Father’s will to accomplish redemption for those whom the Father would give Him. Jesus is the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world, 1Peter 1:19-20; Revelation 5:6.

One of the clearest promises of God was made in Genesis 17:7. “I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.” God promised to be God to Abram and to the seed of Abram who is declared by the Apostle Paul to be Christ, Galatians 3:16. This is God’s promise and Jesus is the seed through whom God fulfilled His Promise. The consummation of God’s promise is yet to come. Revelation 21:3, “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”’

God is always faithful to His Word. God has declared that He will accomplish all that He has promised. The Apostle Paul wrote, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself, “2Timothy 2:13. Christians are secure not because of our faithfulness but only because of the faithfulness of our Covenant God. Covenant Theology emphasizes God’s faithfulness!