Pastor’s Viewpoints, “It is Finished: Why the Friday Before Easter is Called Good Friday”

It is Finished: Why the Friday Before Easter is Called Good Friday
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The last word spoken by the Lord Jesus from the cross was “Tetelestai”. This Greek verb was recorded by the Apostle John in the perfect tense. The literal translation is “It is finished” (John 19:30). Jesus made a declaration of something accomplished that would have on-going implications. He said that redemption was accomplished!
Redemption implies that a price or ransom was paid. The price required by God to redeem His people from the bondage to sin was paid more than 2,000 years ago. This is the reason the Friday before Easter Sunday is called Good Friday. Jesus lived a perfect life and He offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice.
Those chosen before the foundation of the world to be in Christ have Christ’s finished work applied to them. It is applied by the Holy Spirit when God effectually calls those whom He predestined and regenerates them. God then converts the sinner into a saint and gives the sinner the gifts of faith and repentance. Through God’s gift, expressed by the sinner now a saint, God sovereignly declares him justified. God adopts those whom He justifies. He sanctifies them and assures them that He will bring them to glory.
The completed work of Christ, redemption, extends from the individual to the corporate body. It extends even to Creation itself. The Apostle Paul declared that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
Redemption, which is God’s saving act, is for His glory and by His sovereign grace. He extends grace to a spiritually dead person which causes him to see the beauty of Christ!
Good Friday reminds me of what God did in me. Good Friday is personal for everyone who professes Jesus as Lord and Savior.
It is indeed personal. Thirty-five years ago, God snatched me from the pit of hell. He used a devastating auto accident. He broke me physically and caused me to see the Kingdom as Jesus said to Nicodemus (John 3:3).
Before God’s action on that day, I had no desire for Jesus. I believed that I was a good person. I believed that as long as my “good” outweighed my “bad” God would accept me. I didn’t realize that God is holy and requires perfection!
My thoughts of God were proceeding from a heart of stone. I was spiritually dead and didn’t know it. I used to think that all that “born again” stuff was for the weak-minded.
God caused me to see my helplessness. For a time, I was confined to a hospital bed. Through my accident, God gave me a word picture of my sinfulness that stays with me to this day. God caused me to dig into His word to learn more about His character. Jesus’ words, “It is finished,” have been burned into my mind and heart. Good Friday is a day in which I reflect upon the steadfast love of the Lord poured out on me.
There is a foolish teaching that pervades the evangelical church. People are told that if they believe they will be born again. This is analogous to speaking to a dead person, lying in a casket and saying, “Get up!” Even worse, it is the height of manipulation to tell people that we are made new creations by our own wisdom and ability. How can a dead person believe? The truth is “Ye must be born again” in order to believe! The Bible says, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Every person is born spiritually dead. We are unable to reach out to God and live (Genesis 3:22-24). God confirmed in me the truth of His word through a tragedy which continues to point me to Him. God alone saves those whom He chooses. No one can stay His hand! He chose to save a sinner, namely me! This is the on-going effect of Jesus’ words, “It is finished.”
God used a traumatic event to cause me to see His sovereignty in my salvation. That is not to suggest that a person must undergo some tragedy to be born again. Some people who were raised in covenant families are unable to recall the moment when they first saw the truth. Yet, God did regenerate them, and because of His grace, they profess faith in Jesus as He is offered in the gospel.
I exhort all who profess Christ to take this Good Friday to reflect upon the finished work of Christ!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Beatitudes… Life in the Kingdom – Now, Part 2 of 2”

“The Beatitudes… Life in the Kingdom – Now, Part 2 of 2”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
This essay, on the fifth through the eighth Beatitudes follows the essay on the first four Beatitudes having the same title. The final four Beatitudes are found in Matthew 5:7-12. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (ESV)

The meaning of the word “blessed” refers to those who are fortunate, happy, and have a deep and profound spiritual well-being. The Beatitudes are declarative statements. Matthew recorded them in the present tense. The present tense is descriptive of ongoing behavior.

The grammar emphasizes that Jesus was describing someone who possessed all of the characteristics listed. He was describing Himself and those pursuing godliness in Him. The purpose of the Beatitudes, in fact, the entirety of the Sermon on the Mount is to cause those who have been born again to live relying on the power of the Holy Spirit.

Mercy, the subject of the fifth Beatitude is fully revealed in Jesus Christ. King David appealed to God’s mercy for forgiveness, Psalm 51. The Apostle Paul wrote that God has mercy on those whom He chooses (Romans 9; Ephesians 2). The Apostle John wrote that Jesus came full of grace and truth (John 1). Mercy is unmerited favor. God extends mercy through Jesus Christ. Those who have received God’s mercy live as people of mercy. Those who have received mercy offer themselves as holy and living sacrifices to God (Romans 12).

To be pure in heart is to be totally free from any selfish desires. One who is pure in heart is fully motivated toward God in love and obedience. Jesus said that He only did what He saw the Father doing (John 5). Philippians 2:5-11 reveals both the humiliation of Christ and His exaltation. Jesus’ love for the Father was demonstrated by His perfect obedience. Jesus said that no one has seen the Father, except the one who was sent by the Father, namely Himself (John 6). The pure in heart are those who pursue holiness in the power of the Spirit of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Sanctification is necessarily connected to God’s plan of salvation as revealed in the Bible. The pure in heart affirm God’s work of grace in making them more and more like Christ.

Biblical peace is right relationship with God. The one who was the supreme peacemaker was Jesus. He reconciled the world to God (2 Corinthians 5). He is the one through whom men are at peace with God (Romans 5). Jesus was not describing those who manage to establish treaties between warring factions. He was describing ultimate peace. He alone is ultimate peace. He is the reality of peace and rest (Colossians 2). Children of God are at peace with Him. There are only two kinds of people in the world. Either one is a child of God or a child of Satan (1 John 3:10). One either belongs to God or to the devil. The person and work of Jesus Christ is the only means by which God has extended His promise of sonship and heaven (Galatians 3). Believers have been given the ministry of proclaiming God’s reconciliation through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:19).

When thinking of persecution for the sake of righteousness, Jesus’ life and death comes into view. He was truly the only perfect and innocent man executed. Not only was Jesus innocent of the crimes for which He was crucified, but He never sinned in any way. He was the one who was made sin for His people so that they might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). The Christian life is shaped by perseverance. May we not be surprised by persecution for the sake of the gospel. Jesus said that the world hated Him first, therefore, disciples should not be surprised that it will hate them too (John 15).

As you read, study and apply the Beatitudes may you see the beauty, majesty and perfection of Jesus Christ, the only Savior and Lord!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Beatitudes… Life in the Kingdom – Now, Part 1 of 2”

The Beatitudes… Life in the Kingdom – Now, Part 1 of 2
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Matthew 5:3-12 records the eight beatitudes that are the introduction of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The name is taken from the word repeated nine times, “blessed”. The eighth beatitude which concerns persecution is verses 10-12.

The following is a closer look at the first four beatitudes. The first task in applying the beatitudes is to know the meaning of the repeated word, blessed. Blessed is a descriptive adjective of the one behaving as stated. The meaning includes those who are fortunate, happy, having a deep and profound spiritual well-being.

Jesus applied this word to eight categories of behavior. It is important to observe the quality of those He had in mind. As you read each description of the blessed, you see that you are not reading about those who would be stars or celebrities in the eyes of the world. Yet the blessed have the kingdom of heaven. They are comforted. They will inherit the earth. They shall be satisfied. They shall receive mercy. They shall see God. They shall be called sons of God. They have the kingdom of heaven and they have the joy of being in the company of the prophets of old who were likewise persecuted. In every case Jesus described the citizens of the kingdom as opposite of those who are elevated by the world.

The first beatitude is a key for understanding the rest. “Blessed are the poor in sprit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). “Poor” was used in connection with “spirit”. The connection makes it clear that Jesus was not referring to those who were financially poor. Spirit in this context refers to the motivations, desires, and the will of a man. To be poor in spirit is to be empty of self-will and to desire God and the things of God as necessities of life. The poor in spirit know that they are unable to do anything apart from Jesus. The poor in spirit are those who have come to know their rightful place before the Creator. The poor in spirit are truly humble people.

Jesus was declared to be “gentle and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29). When King David confessed his sins of adultery and murder, he concluded his prayer by saying, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). Only those who have been raised from spiritual death to life are able to see their desperate need for Christ every moment of every day.

Jesus continued with another opposite. He said that mourners are blessed. Those who see the world around them as it really is, broken by sin and populated by sinners are not happy about its condition, and mourn over the sin that surrounds them and the destruction that sin causes. Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). He saw the people in Jerusalem as “sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).

Jesus said the humble will inherit the earth. The arrogant and aggressive may receive accolades from the world, but it is the truly humble who will inherit the earth. Humility is defined by one’s relationship to God. One who is humble has a right assessment of himself before God. The humble person knows that he is a creature owing worship to the Creator. This beatitude is a parallel description to the “poor in spirit” and was likewise demonstrated in the person and work of Christ.

The fourth beatitude declares a satisfaction resulting from seeking that which is right. Despite what we may read and hear, there is a right and wrong. God has revealed that which is right in His Word. He declared a woe, a dire warning, upon those who would dare to call good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20). But those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied!

The Sermon on the Mount causes those who have been born again to live in dependence upon the Holy Spirit. It is important for Christians to understand that this is the way Christ lived. The Kingdom life described in the Sermon is the Christian life now and for eternity. All who profess Jesus as their Lord and Savior read these words of Jesus and fall upon their knees appealing to the mercy of God for forgiveness and cleansing.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Christian Life”

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

It was “in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26b). The word “Christian” was derisive when Luke recorded it. In some sense, it has again become a derisive term, or at least, one so generic that it has lost its true meaning. So then, what is a Christian and how does one lead a Christian life?

We look to the word of God. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount(Matthew 5-7) is the perfect Christian ethic. Jesus lived what He taught. Further, the Sermon on the Mount is a detailed description of life in the Kingdom for citizens of the Kingdom, namely Christians, those who have been born again.

But looking to Christ’s perfect ethical standard shows Christians their total dependence upon the Spirit of God. Only Christ lived the Sermon on the Mount perfectly! Genuine Christians are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and are in union with Christ. Genuine Christians have been crucified with Christ and live by faith in Him(Cf. Galatians 2:20).

Looking further for a practical understanding of living the Christian life, Luke’s record in Acts 11:26 is insightful. From the text, we see that Christians are disciples. The word “disciple” means a learner and a follower of a master. A Christian is a learner and follower of Jesus Christ our Master. Therefore, living the Christian Life is precisely a life of learning about Jesus and following Him.

There is a side road to be taken at this point. The Bible teaches that followers and learners of Jesus Christ are made, not born. In other words, God makes Christians. No one is born a Christian. The Bible declares that no one is righteous, no one even seeks God (Ps 14:2-3). The Bible describes all mankind as naturally children of God’s wrath. All men are born in Adam, and as such, wholly inclined to evil (Cf. Genesis 6:5).

If we consider the biblical definition of salvation which is to be delivered by God from God for God, this important side road, informs our understanding of the Christian life. Put simply, Christians live for God. They have God-centered lives. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth to hold every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Now returning to the main highway for understanding the Christian life, we examine the parables of Jesus. Jesus gave a comprehensive view of the Kingdom through the parables. They teach us about the sovereignty and steadfast love of the King. They teach the necessity of living each day before the King, expecting His return at any time.

Reading the parables in Matthew’s gospel, we observe that they are cumulative. Each one builds toward a climax. The climax is the King’s final judgment revealed in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46).

Immediately preceding Jesus’ teaching on the final judgment is His teaching about living in the Kingdom. That is, how Christians are to live under the Lordship of Christ (Matthew 25:14-30). The Christian Life can be summarized with a single word. The word is investment. I’m sure you know the story. In summary, Jesus compared the Kingdom of heaven to an owner who went on a journey and entrusted his property to three of his servants. They were given a specified sum of money, “according to his ability” (Matthew 25:15). The master then left on his journey, returned after a time, and sought to settle accounts.

Two servants invested the master’s money and presented him with a return on investment. They hear the master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.… Enter into the joy of your master.” Unfortunately, the third servant hid the master’s money and had no increase to give to the master. This servant did not hear comforting words. He heard words of judgment.

The two faithful servants represent the Christian life. Jesus owns everything. He is the Lord of lords and King of kings. He has entrusted His people with gifts and talents and yes, money. God’s call to Christians is invest what you have been given for God’s glory.

The parable of the talents confronts and informs Christians. It confronts by causing us to examine our lives. We are asked if we are living for God. It informs by giving a practical means by which we can live for God. We live for God by investing all that we have been given in His Kingdom for His glory, all the while living under His word!