Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Christian and the Culture”

“The Christian and the Culture”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The ongoing challenge to our free society provides, I might add compels Christians to think through living in an increasingly adverse culture. Over the centuries of Church History many have considered this issue, E.G. Tertullian, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin and others. This thought process is especially relevant for the Visible Church which sometimes encourages innovation motivated by new cultural norms. I am reminded of Jude’s admonition, “Contend for the faith that was once or all delivered to the saints,” Jude 3.

There have been five views embraced at various times in the history of the Church. For brevity I summarize them as follows:
1. Live against Culture
2. Blend in with Culture
3. Live somehow above the Culture
4. Live in a paradox with the Culture
5. Live seeking to transform the Culture.

To summarize, the question before all who profess Christ, which is to say the visible church which includes those who profess the true religion, and their children is: “What action should I/we take in accordance with my/our profession?”

To answer the question, believers appeal to Scripture. By definition, Christians live in accordance with a biblical/God-centered World View therefore, we see reality (truth) through the lens of Holy Scripture.

Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it hated me first… If you were of the world, the world would love you; but because you are not of the world… therefore the world hates you, John 15:18, 19. Jesus also told His disciples that they were His witnesses, Luke 24:48. Jesus gave the church a command. He commanded the church to make disciples of all nations, Matthew 28:19.

The reality that every Christian must face is that living the Christian Life will offend the world. Yet, we are not to live in fear of the world. Jesus said that He is the only one to fear, Matthew 10:28. He said in the same narrative, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:32-33

God’s revealed proposition is that the world is opposed to Christ and by implication it is opposed to those who live Christ. The Bible is clear in declaring that Christians are in the world but not of the world, John 17:14ff.

We who profess Christ are aware that following Jesus is opposed to our Culture. We are also aware that Jesus called His followers to be salt and light in the world, Matthew 5:13-16. We dare not hide what we know to be true or live in opposition to the truth of God’s word. Rather we are called to let our light shine… so that the world may see our good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven, Matthew 5:16.

Peter’s first epistle provides a clear application for living the Christian Life. “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” 1Peter 3:15

The Apostle Paul’s declaration to the Pastor Titus gives the church direction in standing for the truth of God. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” Titus 2:11ff.

God has chosen to reach the lost through His people. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit’s work is to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment, John 16:8.

The way for Christians to live in this culture is to be holy people. God has commanded His people to be holy, Leviticus 11 and 1 Peter 1. Holy people live under the word of God. Holy people live openly before a sinful world. Holy people declare the truth of a holy God. Holy people are ambassadors for Christ.

It is unreasonable even to consider being silent when confronted by godless cultural norms. For the sake of the “lost” the church must declare the truth concerning lifestyles that God has declared to be unholy, sinful and an abomination to Him. Further, the Church is to stand for that which is good, right, and true and confront those who would call evil good and good evil, all for the glory of God!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Miracle of Miracles (The Incarnation)”

The Miracle of Miracles (The incarnation)
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Years ago, I remember sitting in our family room watching a Christian Television Program. The star of the show announced one of his future crusades by calling people to come “expecting a miracle”. The dictionary defines a miracle as a supernatural event.

Naturally, my interest was heightened by such an announcement. Contrary to this showman’s claim, there is a miracle that makes the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ a reality. Our hope rests upon the genuineness of this miracle. The miracle to which I refer is the Incarnation. The meaning of the Incarnation is God in the flesh.

The Prophet Isaiah predicted this miracle. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 God’s promise was fulfilled in 4 B.C. with the birth of Jesus. Matthew wrote, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:23

The Incarnation was so important that God spoke through His prophets throughout the Old Testament declaring the absolute necessity of the God – Man. It is a miracle that we simply cannot adequately understand, but we receive it as the absolute truth because God said it. Our hope of eternal life is real because the miracle of Jesus’ birth was real.

The Apostle Paul took the opportunity of rivalry and disunity in the church to declare both the explicit and implicit meaning of the Incarnation. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)

The first explicit revelation is that the Incarnation is the ultimate definition of humility. God, the Creator of all, condescended to lower Himself and take upon Himself human nature. God came to earth as a man. All the while, He remained divine. He voluntarily set aside His glory. No analogy is adequate to describe Jesus’ humiliation in the Incarnation and His crucifixion.

Further, Paul wrote that Jesus was born of woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law, Galatians 4:4. Jesus was fully man, but a man without sin! Jesus was born without sin because He was born out of the natural course. He was miraculously born of Mary who conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Because of Jesus’ humility in fully submitting to the Law in obedience to God the Father even unto death upon a cross those who are in Christ are accepted by God because of His blood and righteousness. Apart from Jesus’ Incarnation we would never be able to have a relationship with God. The Incarnation led to the satisfaction of the Law’s demands! Because of His perfect sacrifice our sins have been paid for.

Second, Paul also wrote of Jesus’ exaltation. Because of His perfect obedience to His Father, even to death on a cross, God gave Him the name that is above every name. That name is Lord. The Father gave Jesus to be the Master of all that exists. Jesus said, “all authority in heaven and on earth” was given to Him, Matthew 28:18.

In summation, Paul wrote of God’s purpose in the Incarnation. Everything about the Incarnation is for the glory of God, the Father! The entirety of God’s plan of redemption is for His glory!

The Incarnation leading to Jesus’ resurrection has an implicit affect. The implication is that those who are in Christ have died with Him and are raised with Him. They are joint heirs of heaven with Him.

Christmas is a celebration of this miracle of miracles. Believers celebrate the one who set aside His glory, died for our sins, was raised and now rules all things!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord”

“Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Advent is a season in the Church Year that was instituted so that Christians would heed the warning of the Prophet Isaiah. “A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3. Several hundred years later, John the Baptist came as God’s spokesman to call God’s people to prepare to meet the Messiah by repenting of their sins. He came in the spirit and power of Elijah, Luke 1:17. We are in this season of preparation. We are preparing to celebrate the historical and miraculous event of the Incarnation. God ordained in eternity that His Son would take upon Himself human nature and give Himself as a ransom for many. Jesus, the Messiah prophesied by Isaiah is the God-Man who came in the fullness of time.” He was born under the law to redeem those who were under the law, so that (God’s people) might receive adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:5

John’s message is timeless. Repentance is one of the two gifts God gives to His people at their conversion. The other is faith. Those who have received these gifts from God live them throughout their lives. That is, professing Christians are penitent people. We repent of our sins and confess them knowing that God has promised to forgive our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness, 1John 1:9. Likewise professing Christians live in reliance on the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is the object of our faith. He is the holy one of God before whom we see the truth of our sinfulness and know that He is life.

The Church is in the midst of the Advent season. Have you been diligent in preparing to celebrate the Incarnation?

Jesus told us how we should prepare in light of John the Baptist’s declaration. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15

In our country, perhaps in the western world as a whole, preparing to celebrate the Incarnation has been overshadowed by making sure that we’ve managed to buy gifts for family and friends.

I am not suggesting that Christians refrain from buying gifts for others. In fact, giving is an expression of those who have received. But I am suggesting that we remember what we have received and give in response to God’s saving grace.

As a child I remember that Christmas wasn’t fully realized until our whole family went to church on Christmas Eve. It has been our Church Family’s practice to celebrate Christmas Eve with a traditional worship service called, “Lessons and Carols”. It is a worship opportunity to remember God’s Plan to save those whom He chose. The service of Lessons and Carols was first used in 1918 at the Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge.

This 20th Century worship service’s purpose is to worship God by rehearsing God’s plan of Redemptive History. We read nine Scripture Lessons beginning in Genesis and ending with John’s gospel. As we hear from God, we respond in song with familiar Christmas Carols. Our aim is to turn our minds to God’s grace in saving His people. As God’s word is read, we are reminded that God established His plan of redemption in eternity. The Father and the Son made a covenant. The Son agreed to give His life to redeem those whom the Father chose before the world began.

If you have not thought of preparing to celebrate Christmas in this way, I would encourage you to begin. Celebrate the Incarnation by attending corporate worship on each Lord’s Day and especially if your church is gathering on Christmas Eve. All are welcome to join us on December the 24th at 5:30 PM in this worship celebration.

Jesus called all to “repent and believe in the gospel.” God has ordained that outside of the church there is no ordinary means of salvation. As you come to worship, come expecting to hear the good news that Jesus came and died for the sins of His people and that His work of redemption has been confirmed by His bodily resurrection. This is the gospel by which you are being saved, if you receive it in faith and live by it. 1Corinthians 15:1-4

May this season of Advent be one of holy preparation as you remember God’s incomparable gift of His only Son, Jesus.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Be not anxious”

“Be not anxious”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Philippi and said, “Do not be anxious for anything…” Philippians 4:6 He echoed the words of Jesus. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” Matthew 6:25

King David also wrote of the same principle of life for a believer. He said, “Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!” Psalm 37:1

The Bible doesn’t only give prohibitions like this. The word of God also reveals positive action that is emblematic of one who knows the Lord. Worry has a positive action in contrast to it.

“Trust in the LORD… Delight yourself in the LORD… Commit your way to the LORD.” Psalm 37:3, 4 and 5. Trusting in, delighting in and committing to the Lord is the stark contrast to worry and anxiety.

The more I read and study the Bible, the more I am confronted by the majesty of God and His grace of giving His words such that they can be understood. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” 2Timothy 3:16-17

The clarity and efficacy of the word is essential in combatting worry and anxiety. God has said that the one who trusts in Him is not to worry or be anxious about anything. I find myself being anxious about many things. I worry about many things and God convicts me as His Spirit works in concert with His word to change me.

God is faithful even when believers are faithless, 2Timothy 2:13. Faithfulness is an attribute of God and God cannot deny Himself! Therefore, He will convict you when you worry and are anxious.

I admit that I often worry about the kind of world in which my children and grandchildren will live. I worry about the condition of the evangelical church that seems to be more in love with the world than her Head, Jesus. I’m anxious concerning chronic illness experienced by the ones I love.

The Spirit of God convicts me of my sins of worry and anxiety reminding me that the God who saved me is sovereign over all. He reminds me that Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth. He tells me that the church does not belong to any man, but to Christ alone. He said that even the gates of hell would not prevail against His church!

The sins of worry and anxiety must be confessed. They are sins for which Christ died. He already paid the penalty for these sins and every sin that everyone who belongs to Him has, or will commit.

It is pure joy to know that God has promised to forgive me of my sins if I confess them. He has promised to forgive my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness, 1John 1:9.

There is no other way to combat the sins of worry and anxiety but to know the one true God. There is only one way. His name is Jesus. He is the God-Man. He has risen from the grave. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father ruling all things.

Please don’t misunderstand me. We Christians are commanded to contend for the faith. Those who know the Lord have a passion that the lost will come to know Him too. If we truly know the sovereignty of God, we will obey His command to disciple the nations. We will seek to equip ourselves to be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks us for a reason for the hope that we have, 1Peter 3:15

Likewise, we are accountable before God to be salt and light in the world. We are to be concerned about our witness. We should seek to make a difference in society for the glory of the God who promised to provide all our needs. We are expected to expose evil and seek to do good.

May the Holy Spirit convict you to trust in, delight in and commit your way to the Lord as you cast all your cares upon Him and then live it out!