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

“The Gospel of the Kingdom”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
(Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version of the Bible)
“Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!
Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day” (Psalm 96:1-2).
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).
The gospel is every Christian’s focus and it should be at the center of every church. Likewise, the urgency to preach the gospel ought to be foremost in every church. The once popular Christian bracelet, “What would Jesus do?” would be more edifying if, “What did Jesus do?” was printed on it.
The reason for Jesus’ public ministry as He said 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 mood 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 and on-going actions commanded by God.
Jesus gave two reasons for obeying His dual command. The first was the “time is fulfilled.” The second, “the kingdom of God is at hand”.
The first referenced 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. After Jesus read Isaiah 61:1-2a in the synagogue, He said He was the one prophesied who would proclaim the “year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-21). 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, the one who rules all things, was physically in the midst of His hearers. The King who rules all men and has absolute authority (Matthew 28:18) commands repentance and faith in Him!
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 these two gifts of repentance and faith. The converted man and woman turns away from sin and turns to Jesus. Paul explained the action of a converted sinner in Romans 6:11, “So you also 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 is the King who commands 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” (1 Corinthians 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.
He who has ears to hear the Savior’s command, repent and believe in the gospel! The King has commanded it. There are no options.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Speaking Truth”

“Speaking Truth”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
All Christians would likely affirm that we are called by God to always speak the truth. One would think that there is no question that this must be the case. Yet we are told that speaking the truth is unloving. It is especially unloving when a major figure lies, and we are told that exposing the lie and the liar is unloving and a failure to take “the high moral road.” From my perspective, this fits into the new definition of tolerance. The new definition of tolerance is that one who is tolerant accepts every point of view as equally valid. The old definition of tolerance was simply to receive all views with respect.
We face this both inside the church and in society. It used to be called “bad form” or even worse to expose a false teacher in the church. Now we have a new word used to describe those who are “with it” as far as our decaying culture is concerned. The new word is “woke”. Woke is an adjective that describes one who is alert to current societal issues, specifically, the idea of racism as defined by the social justice warriors.
False teachers and members of cults are more easily recognized by genuine Christians as are those who teach the health/wealth gospel. But woke leaders are now part of the mainstream of the evangelical church in the United States. Main Line denominations have welcomed these false teachers under the guise of being culturally sensitive. Even so-called conservative Christian denominations are entertaining this woke teaching. Things like systemic racism, white privilege, racial reconciliation have become Christianized. Liberation Theology, which promotes salvation as relief from oppression in this world, is looked at in some churches as a valid view of God’s Plan of Redemption. Liberation Theology, being a woke social justice warrior, is not the gospel. Leaders in the Church should boldly call this cultural drift anathema! All of these “new” terms are smoke used to cover the truth that there is only one gospel. God has revealed the gospel. The Person and Work of Christ is God’s Good News. Jesus Christ, as He is offered in the gospel, is man’s only hope, “for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
As always, these false teachers claim to be “healers.” They have set themselves up as new prophets bringing the message of creating a utopia in the here and now. In so doing, they have redefined the gospel and sin.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus and gave a principle that is timeless. “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). So as to acknowledge the context of this passage, note that it is preceded by the following. “Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them“ (Ephesians 5b:8-11).
Jesus called His disciples to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16). The means He expects His people to be people of truth. Those who know the truth are accountable to live and proclaim it, as Paul wrote, “Take no part in unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”
Christians are accountable for what they hear. God has given the church the tools to discern truth from error. We are responsible to expose error in the church. Therefore, the church must be “people of the book”, the Bible. The Psalmist declared that the word of God is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). The word of God, the Bible, is “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16).
As a Christian Pastor, I believe that what we know to be true concerning the Christian Faith must be lived in the Church and carried into the public sphere. It is not unloving to speak the truth. It is not a low road morally to expose lies. Indeed, not speaking the truth in love would be unloving. Christians are to be people of integrity. People of integrity don’t live one way on Sunday and differently during the rest of the week.
May you be in a church that equips you to be salt and light, teaching you the truth of God’s word so that you may be able to stand against error for God’s glory.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “How to Interpret the Bible”

How to Interpret the Bible
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

The Bible is the breathed-out word of God. God has revealed what He wants us to know about Him and His plan of redemption. God has told us that all men are creatures. He is the Creator. The Bible reveals His only Son, Jesus, through whom we know God personally. This unique and precious book is a collection of 66 books. Men whom the Spirit of God carried along wrote it. “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2Peter 1:21) The Bible contains everything necessary for life and salvation.

We have the Bible because God is the God of revelation. He desires to be known. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the Bible is understandable. Yet, it seems that many are lost when it comes to interpreting the Bible. One would think that God’s book would have specific interpretations. Christians are faced with a myriad of interpretations. We are faced with choices. Who has the “right” interpretation? Whom should we follow? What is “right” doctrine? If we look at this issue of biblical interpretation logically, we must conclude that all interpretations cannot be right. When there are contradicting views of the Bible, one or both may be wrong. One thing for certain is they all can’t be right. There is only one right interpretation of a passage of Scripture. For difficult passages, we may never arrive at the right interpretation this side of heaven.

Be of good courage! The entire Bible does not fall into the category of “difficult”. The vast majority of biblical doctrine is clear. For example, the doctrine of salvation is one such doctrine. It is clear that God has revealed that men are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone.

How do we know what God has said?

There are two principles by which we are able to interpret Scripture. I call the first the biblical principle. I call the second the literal principle. The technical name for the first, the biblical principle is the analogy of faith. The Protestant Reformers recovered this principle of interpretation. They understood that the Bible interprets itself. This means the clear passages of Scripture shed light upon the more obscure ones. It is also understood that one place of Scripture must not be placed against another. In other words, there are no contradictions in the Bible. There may be apparent contradictions, but once studied we find that the Bible is consistent with itself, because God does not speak with a “forked” tongue.

My second principle, the literal one, is more technically called the historical/grammatical principle of interpretation. You may have heard the saying, “Text without context is pretext.” The words of Scripture find their meaning within the broader context of the passage. For example, because of the difficulty in understanding Hebrews 6:4, it would not be accurate to base a theology on the possibility of losing one’s salvation! Keeping that verse within its context makes it clear that the writer is speaking of one who may profess faith, but does not possess genuine saving faith. In other words, the writer was speaking of those who are called apostates.

Further, to interpret literally means to understand that which is plainly meant. It is how we read and understand any literature. Therefore, in interpreting the Bible: grammar, figures of speech, meaning of words, context, time in which it was written, etc. are involved in understanding the meaning. It is important to remember that the literal interpretation of the Bible is not the same as a literalistic interpretation. For example, we know that when the prophet Isaiah wrote that the “trees of the field shall clap their hands” he didn’t mean that trees have hands. God was describing the joy of all Creation when His plan of redemption is finally consummated. Or, when Jesus said that He was the “door of the sheep”, He did not mean that He looked like a door! Rather, Jesus is the only way for His people to have safety and security.

Finally, the Bible is the only rule of faith and practice that God has given to His people. He means for us to understand it. I encourage you to apply these principles of interpretation so that your life will be lived for His glory and your blessing.