Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Mission of the Church”

“The Mission of the church”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The purpose of the church is holiness. The church has been set apart by God for God. He said because “I am holy you are to be holy.” A purpose is a reason for being or existence. On the other hand, when we speak of mission in the church, we are looking to do something. The difference between purpose and mission is the difference between being and doing.

The church’s mission was prophesied by Isaiah. The Suffering Servant, Jesus, would come and be a “light for the nations”, Isaiah 42:6. God also said it is “too small a thing” to only save “Jacob” but that He would call all peoples to Himself through the gospel, Isaiah 49:6. The Church of God was on mission, His. God set the mission and He does it, Isaiah 55:10-11!

One of the most familiar passages in the Bible declares God’s global mission for the church, Matthew 28:18-20. All Christian Churches know this passage to be our marching orders given directly by the Risen Lord Jesus. We refer to this as the Great Commission! The weight of this mission is supreme because of the weight of the one who gave it. Jesus said “All authority in heaven and on earth” was given to Him. This is an inclusive statement. That is, regardless of whether or not men submit to Him, Jesus is the one who has all authority. We all would do well to think of Jesus’ ultimate authority when faced with other authorities in life that make clams upon us. Men have a granted authority. For example, we are called to submit to governmental authority because God has ordained their limited authority for the good and welfare of all men, Romans 13. The same Apostle wrote that a sign of the culture in the “last days” is that there will be a lack of submission to authority, 2Timothy 3. He was writing of the culture in the church. The church stands under the word of God and therefore, we receive His commands concerning purpose and mission and submit to Him.

Therefore, the Risen Lord Jesus directs the church on her mission. The church has been given a granted authority by the one who has supreme authority to do what He commands. So, we ought to be clear on the Savior’s command. Concerning mission, His command is to disciple. Those who are following Him are to go and make disciples. The word “disciple” is the main verb of Matthew 28:19-20. In order to translate Jesus’ command in English, the word make has been inserted. Further, the command is in the Aorist tense. It is an emphatic command to be obeyed by the church until Jesus returns. Since this is so critical, the means of making disciples was further described by two participles, baptizing and teaching.

The first means of making disciples is baptizing which concerns identity. Discipling requires that the one discipled be identified by the One he is following, the Triune God. Followers of Jesus are identified with Him. This text is also the source of the church’s receiving of the sacrament of Baptism, the sign and seal of the New Covenant.

The second means of discipling is teaching. In the process of discipling, the disciple is taught “everything that Jesus commanded,” namely, the whole of Scripture. A disciple is a learner and follower of Jesus throughout his entire life. Christians are disciples of Jesus. “And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” Acts 11:26

Discipleship requires teaching the whole truth. Paul spoke to the elders in Ephesus, Acts 20:26, and told them that he was innocent of their blood because he did not “shrink from declaring… the whole counsel of God.” The content of discipleship is the Bible, the word of God written.

There is a revealed priority in what is taught. The first thing taught is the gospel. When Jesus began His public ministry, He preached that the Kingdom was near, therefore, He said, “repent and believe in the gospel”, that is the good news of the Kingdom, Mark 1:15. Paul wrote that the gospel was “of first importance” 1Corinthians 15:3. The Apostle referred to the Person and Work of Christ, prophesied in the Old Testament and fulfilled in Jesus.

Finally, as God’s purpose for the church is clear; be holy because He is holy; the mission is likewise clear. The Mission of the church is to make disciples “of all nations.”

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Devotion and Duty”

Devotion and Duty
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Duty proceeds from obligation and devotion from desire. They are separately defined but connected. Both duty and devotion are considered to be virtues. I suggest that their connection is critical for those who profess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. I believe that the relationship between the two is God’s design for His people. Jesus didn’t come to save His people and place them in another form of bondage. He came to set His people free. God sets His people free from the bondage of sin to be free to live for Him, Romans 6:11. I believe that the connection between duty and devotion is made clear by the Bible’s description of one who belongs to God. The psalmist wrote, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you,” Psalm 73:25. And the Apostle Paul wrote these words to the Philippian Church, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…” Philippians 3:8.

God’s command to those who are His to hear, understand and obey Him cannot be ignored. God requires obedience, which is our duty, but mere obedience is not enough. Therefore, God changes the heart of a sinner to make him a saint. He gives the sinner a desire for Him.

Growth in the Christian Life is manifested by moving from the duty to obey God to a profound desire for Him which motivates our obedience.

Jesus was asked to define the “great commandment in the Law,” Matthew 22:37. He referred to Deuteronomy 6:5. The command is to “love” God! In His command, we come face to face with the connection between duty and devotion. We are obligated to love God. However, Love is a choice. Before the Christian’s obligation can be met, there must be a desire to carry out that duty.

The Bible says that men are not born with a desire to love God. On the contrary, the Bible teaches that the natural man is an enemy of God. God must change a sinner and give him a desire to love Him.

The words that God caused the human authors to use for love are critical for understanding. The New Testament word in Matthew 22:37 has at its heart the idea of sacrifice. It is referred to as sacrificial love. In Deuteronomy 6:5, the word for love conveys the meaning of total devotion. God’ command written by Moses called God’s people to a total devotion, to submit to Him and to demonstrate their devotion by a holy life.

Duty is not enough to satisfy God’s command. There must be a desire to fulfill this duty. God gives that desire. Jesus said that one must be born again in order to see the Kingdom of God, John 3:3. As regeneration precedes faith; so too desire precedes duty. God changes the heart and gives the desire to obey Him. This desire motivates the believer to obedience as an act of devotion to God.

All Man’s actions are dictated by desire. The same is true for Christians. The difference between Christians and non-Christians is God’s grace in changing our desires when He makes us new creations. We as Christians have a desire to love God with our whole heart, soul, and strength because He gave it to us. When we don’t desire God, the Holy Spirit convicts us to confess our sins to Him. God promised believers, “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”, 1John 1:9. God is always faithful to His promise to forgive because of the atonement of Christ.

To summarize, Jesus said knowing the truth sets one free, John 8:32. Knowing Jesus is freedom. God has set His people free from the bondage of sin through Jesus Christ. We have been freed from sin and given a desire for God.

Many Christians are in bondage by legalism or moralism. Remember God’s commands are to be obeyed. Also remember that legalism and moralism are tools of manipulation. Therefore, obedience taught as a duty alone is bondage. But the obedience that proceeds from the desire God gives is freedom. Growing in the knowledge and love of Christ moves one from duty to devotion. The greatest evidence that God has given the desire for Him is the priority one places upon worship of Him.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The King of Glory”

“The King of Glory”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” Psalm 24:1

The God who spoke and all things came into being is the King and Ruler of all Creation. He rules all things and owns all things. God ordains all things that come to pass. He provides all things for the enjoyment of His people.

David wrote Psalm 24 roughly 3,000 yrs. ago. We sometimes think that man in our time knows more than David did. We think that we’ve grown in wisdom, strength and knowledge since king David’s time. In many ways, however, we have actually regressed.

David was king in Israel by God’s anointing. He ruled Israel under the authority of God. David knew that God was the sovereign Creator of all things. David was also confronted in his sins of adultery and murder. David acknowledged his sin and appealed to God’s mercy for forgiveness. David’s sin was forgiven but his household experienced the consequences of his sin during his lifetime.

A comparison of our society with King David’s reveals that little growth has taken place. Paul predicted our current culture accurately in 2Timothy 3:1ff. We’ve become lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant and abusive, disobedient, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, etc. Even some of our leaders think that they are above God’s law. They govern to suit their own self-interest. They have a thirst for power forgetting that they are God’s ministers for the good and welfare of all people. But, there will come a day when they will have to give an account to the only King of Glory.

In light of this there is a celebration approaching. The Christian Church will celebrate Palm Sunday. This is the day on which the church remembers Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, 2,000 yrs. ago.

The people cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:9. The leaders read Psalm 24 in the Temple and were blind to the King of Glory in their midst.

At the same time the people begged God to save them and do it now the leaders read “Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors that the King of glory may come in.” Psalm 24:9 Both were blind to the meaning of their words.

Evidence of their blindness was revealed less than one week later. The cry of “Let him be crucified” was heard in the city. Matthew 27:23. In less than one week Jesus’ position before the people changed from the object of praise to the object of hatred. Had I been there I would have joined the crowd. But God broke into my man-centered life causing me to see the truth.

A celebration of the King of Glory is what we all need. We must remind ourselves that we would have been right there with the crowd crying “Crucify him”. But, by the sovereign grace of the King we see the truth.

The time-tested hymns of the church convey sound doctrine. One such hymn, “All Glory, Laud, and Honor” is traditionally sung on Palm Sunday. The first verse declares the truth of God’s plan of redemption. ”All glory, laud, and honor to thee, Redeemer, King, to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring! Thou art the King of Israel, thou David’s royal Son, who in the Lord’s name comest, the King and blessed One!”

I can picture worshipers processing around the sanctuary while waving palm branches. All who affirm the truth of the King of Glory who is Jesus have been given eyes to see Him as their Lord and Savior. At one point in your life you may have been counted with those who cried crucify Him. But, now, I pray that you have embraced the truth revealed in God’s word. May you have a joyous celebration of the coming of the King of Glory. May you with the rest of God’s people wait with eager expectation for the King to return. Place your hope in Him!

“He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20