Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Greatest Sermon… an Introduction”

The Greatest Sermon… an introduction
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Matthew chapters 5-7 record the greatest sermon ever preached. Most people are familiar with the beginning verses which contain the Beatitudes. There have been several views suggested for Jesus’ sermon. Dr. James Montgomery Boice in his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount described past understandings of Jesus’ purpose in this sermon.
For example, the social gospel movement used the Sermon as the basis to focus the church on social justice. The leaders of the movement saw the Sermon as the impetus to bring an end to oppression and injustice in the culture. Over the years, politicians have adopted this view in promoting their agendas by appealing to Jesus’ words of the Sermon on the Mount.
In addition to the social gospel view there are three other misunderstandings of Jesus’ purpose in delivering the Sermon on the Mount. First, the sermon is seen as another delivery of commands from on high. As Moses received the 10 Commandments, so Jesus gave an expanded version of the commands of God.
Second, the Sermon on the Mount is seen as impossible commands. Since Jesus’ commands are impossible to keep, this view understood Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon to be not applicable to Christians.
Third, early Dispensationalism understood the sermon to be the foundation upon which the Messianic Kingdom would be established. They suggest that the teachings of Jesus given in the Sermon are for a future age.
In contrast to the views above, I believe that there are four direct applications for the church. First, the Sermon on the Mount reveals the absolute necessity of the “new birth” otherwise known as being born again or more accurately regeneration. Second, as is the case for all Scripture, the Sermon on the Mount points us to Jesus. Third, the Sermon reveals the way of blessing. Fourth and finally, the teachings given by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount tell Christians how they might please the Father.
In summary, the Sermon on the Mount is Christ’s ethic. It details how He lived. As you read the sermon know that Jesus fulfilled every aspect of His teaching in it. Therefore, the main purpose of Jesus’ teaching is to drive every Christian to his knees in dependence upon the Holy Spirit.
“Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:” (Matthew 5:1-2).
The beginning of Matthew 5 records the setting. The setting reveals the source, significance, and intended recipients of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus saw the crowds gathering and went up on the mountain. The crowds were gathering because of Jesus’ teaching and healing, as stated at the end of chapter 4. The press of the crowds led Jesus to go up on a mountainside. Matthew didn’t identify the specific mountain. The main point was to show Jesus’ sovereign authority. He was sent from and by the Father, therefore, He taught as one who had authority!
The following five observations help us to understand Jesus’ teaching in its revealed context:
1. Jesus saw the crowds.
2. He went up on the mountain.
3. He sat down.
4. His disciples came to Him.
5. Jesus taught His disciples.
The mountain may have been in the region of Chorazin. Matthew didn’t specify which mountain. The significance is not in the exact mountain, but that Jesus went up on it. The idea of a mountain was significant to the Jews. God delivered the Ten Commandments from Mt. Sinai. So, this description gives the distinct impression that God was delivering His word from on high. This word from God was directed to the followers of Jesus.
As I think of mountains, I immediately think of majesty. The Lord of Majesty, Jesus, sat down in a setting appropriate to His sovereign Lordship. Sitting down was the posture of a master teacher in the ancient world. Therefore, the Master of all sat down to teach from on high.
The first three observations concern where Jesus spoke and the significance of His posture. The final two observations concern Jesus’ intended recipients of His teaching.
His disciples came to Him and He taught them. In another place, Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice, and they listen (John 10:1-18). The Sermon on the Mount had as its primary audience Jesus’ disciples. By implication, all that is contained is for followers of Jesus. Jesus taught disciples how to live in the Kingdom of God.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “God is Love.”

God is Love.
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Apostle John wrote, “God is love” late in the 1st Century (1 John 4:8). He wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He was declaring God’s self-revelation. 1 John 4:19 served to confirm the basis for Christian love. It’s not that Christians are especially lovable people or people with loving hearts. The reason that Christians love one another is that God loved them first.
In declaring this truth, John revealed one of God’s attributes. God is faithful. God is sovereign. God is good. God is truth. God is love, etc. Each of God’s attributes fall under a very significant one. God is holy (Isaiah 6:3; Rev. 4:8). The holiness of God is significant in that His attribute of holiness informs every other attribute.
When we study God’s attributes, we understand that each one describes 100% of God’s character. In other words, God is always faithful, sovereign, truthful, and loving. As we apply God’s holiness to each attribute, we see that God is uniquely faithful, sovereign, truthful, and loving.
As you are aware, the only attribute of God that is repeated three times in succession is His holiness. The Hebrews used repetition to emphasize a point. Strong emphasis was expressed by repeating a word twice. When holy was repeated three times, God was declaring with extreme emphasis that He is unique, perfect, self-sufficient, and transcendent.
This brief discussion of God’s attributes as impacted by His holiness is necessary when seeking to understand His love. God is love has become one of the central determining factors used by Christians and used against Christians. On one extreme, some suggest that everything is acceptable because God is love. These proponents say, “My God is a God of love. Therefore, He wouldn’t be angry or punish anyone.”
Yet because God is holy, we know that He indeed punishes evil-doers and He expresses His anger, even wrath against sin. A holy God would not “wink” at evil. Our holy God judges perfectly.
Therefore, John defined divine love. “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).
Jesus told the world the source and blessing of divine love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
The Father initiated love for the world. Jesus said that the “rain falls on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). The fact that anyone exists is a testimony to the Father’s love. God chose to extend common grace to mankind even though all deserve death (Genesis 2:16-17). Jesus went further in revealing God’s saving grace which proceeds out of His love. Those who believe in Jesus will not perish but have everlasting life. Jesus focused God’s intense love on those who believe in Jesus. He declared that God doesn’t love everyone the same. Some will perish. But those who believe in Jesus will have eternal life.
One of the most poignant verses of Scripture is Romans 5:8. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” When we hear and read that God is love, may we understand the depth of His love in contrast to the blackness of our hearts. May this understanding be made personal and intimate by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Apostle John called those who have been loved by God in this saving way to respond by being people of love. He called believers to love one another and obey God.
Be aware of the false teaching that states: Because He loved you so much you can then live for yourself. God’s love must be understood from our vertical relationship with Him first before we can seek to live it out horizontally with others. Those who have been loved by God are continually loved by Him. We know it because God continues to change us from the inside out. Every day He makes His people more and more like Christ. The believers’ position before God and his intimacy with Him is all because of the Father’s initiating love.
May you know the saving love of God and respond in worship this Christmas Season and beyond.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “What did Jesus do?: Asking the Right Question”

What did Jesus do?: Asking the Right Question
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We can be misled when the wrong question is asked. Over the recent years, the Church has been inundated with the question, “What would Jesus do?” It seems to be a profound, even necessary question to ask in making decisions. You can even buy WWJD bracelets. The motivation for asking the question is genuine. Those who ask it are seeking direction. After all, what better direction could there be then to ask the Lord what He would do in situations that we face in life!
However, I suggest that the question causes more confusion than clarity. There is a desire for every Christian to do what God requires. Every Christian confesses that Jesus is Lord. Our confession of the Lordship of Christ is a declaration that we will live under His commands. We affirm that Jesus’ commands are the word of God written, the Bible.
So then, what’s wrong with asking, “What would Jesus do?” The question indicates that there is some thought being given to know God’s will. Yet, I believe that there is a fundamental problem revealed by the desire to know what Jesus would do.
The problem with the question is with the use of the word, “would”. The truth is no one need wonder about what Jesus would do because the Bible reveals what He did. In fact, the most significant absence of truth in our churches is that many believers of all ages do not know what Jesus did while He walked among us. The most notable deficiency in the church is knowledge of the person and work of Christ. We don’t want to spend the time and effort to study the person and work of Christ. It is much more attractive to seek simple answers to the questions of life. Many in the church are attracted to participate in programmatic studies that promise to give biblical answers to every decision in life. For example, programs are designed to answer what Jesus would do in this (fill-in your own blank) circumstance.
Observers of the current Christian culture have noted that the church will continue to be challenged because of the general lack of teaching and application of the person and work of Christ.
The entirety of the Bible is the revelation from God concerning His plan of redemption centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, in short, what DID Jesus do? First, He knew that He accomplished something. The very last words He spoke from the cross were, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Jesus proclaimed from the cross that He had completed the work that the Father sent Him to do. He had completed God’s plan of redemption!
Secondly, the Apostle Paul wrote that Jesus obeyed the Father “to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). So then, the mystery is solved. What did Jesus do? He obeyed the Father by completing God’s plan of redemption which He set in eternity.
Thirdly, Jesus’ work bears upon the life of every Christian. Jesus became our sin offering so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Notice that Christians are called upon to become the righteousness of God in Christ. When we are seeking to understand a direction to take in life or when we are considering options before us, we are to seek the direction or the option that is holy. The Bible teaches that God’s will for every Christian is to be holy. We have committed to live under the Lordship of Christ. We live our lives under the word of God.
The Apostle Paul said that since he was crucified with Christ, as all true Christians are, he no longer lived but Christ lived in him and his life was lived by faith in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20). When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, he phrased the Christian Life with different words. He said, “We walk by faith, not by sight.… if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:7, 17).
To live in Christ is to live in response to what Jesus did. It is to walk by faith understanding what God the Holy Spirit has done in making us new creations. We must know what we believe and why. Simply put, believers desire to learn and the church is accountable to teach who Jesus is and what He did!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Why Celebrate? The Reason for the Season”

Why Celebrate? The Reason for the Season
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
December 25th fast approaches. Each year it seems that we reach Christmas Day faster and faster. But my perception of the ever-increasing speed at which time passes is another story. I’m not sure, but I think that the speed at which time passes might have something to do with growing older.
Regardless of your view of the passing of time, Christians throughout the Western world will be celebrating the birth of the Savior on December 25th once again. It is Christmas Day. It’s not just any holiday. I suppose that it would be more politically correct to wish everyone a Happy Holiday. But denying the reality of the Incarnation does not make it so. December 25th is a day for celebrating the birth of the Christ!
The popular story is that the church borrowed December 25th from pagan practices. Yet a more accurate study of history reveals that the early church celebrated Jesus’ birth on December 25th at least as far back as the 2nd Century A.D. And by the 4th Century, the entire Western church had set December 25th as the date upon which Jesus’ birth took place and was to be celebrated annually.
In the early church, the significance of Jesus’ birth was not the highest priority. More was written about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Church Fathers were more concerned to keep the historic and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ before believers. The Apostle Paul wrote, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). At the same time, Jesus’ birth narratives were never questioned. It was assumed that every believer accepted the reality of Jesus’ birth as well as His bodily resurrection.
As important as the date for Christmas is, there is a more important question that faces all of us. The more important question is not when to celebrate Jesus’ birth, but why do we celebrate His birth?
But when we look at the basis of our faith resting upon the historic fact of Jesus’ bodily resurrection, it becomes obvious that without His physical birth, His bodily resurrection would not have occurred. The earliest prophecy of the Incarnation was revealed in Genesis 3:15. God declared that the “seed of the woman” would crush Satan’s head. God made it clear that a man would be born out of the natural course and defeat Satan. Isaiah prophesied the birth of Immanuel, God with us. “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). Matthew recorded that Jesus’ conception in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit was to “fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet [Isaiah]” (Matthew 1:22).
We celebrate Christmas because God’s only Son, Jesus was born as He promised. The gospel of Matthew states, “Mary… will bear a son, and you [Joseph] shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The Apostle Paul wrote this, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” (Galatians 4:4).
The incarnation was necessary for God to reconcile the world to Himself through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. There was a time in the history of the world during which God walked the earth. His name is Jesus, and He is the second person of the Trinity, very God and very Man. This Jesus born of a virgin is the only appeasement of the wrath of God against sin (1 John 2:2). He is the one who has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). He is the only Savior of mankind. He is Lord of lords and King of kings!
Jesus is the reason for the season! Amid giving gifts, decorating Christmas trees, and enjoying family gatherings, remember that God demonstrated His love by giving His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Celebrate this Christmas Season knowing Jesus, the reason for this season! Remember it was Jesus who said that eternal life was knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He sent (John 17:3).
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14).