Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A Hope that will not fade”

“A Hope that will not fade”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Apostle Paul wrote to believers in Rome and said that suffering is not the last word for those who belong to Jesus. God has given us hope that “does not put us to shame… because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5

The psalmist asked himself a question that many have asked. He received God’s answer. His question was, “Why am I depressed?” God’s answer was because he had no hope! Psalm 42:11, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

Whenever there is persecution and suffering in the Christian Church, God has the last word! Those who are in Christ have been given the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who guarantees our inheritance, which is heaven. Believers have been given an eternal perspective. We know that this life is not all that there is. Our eternal perspective is God’s means by which we will have the courage to stand against evil with whatever resources He has provided.

Hope is an eager expectation of fulfillment of a future blessing. When people hope they are expressing trust in or reliance upon the one whom they believe will bring fulfillment. Without hope, we wander aimlessly in life and are tossed around by every one of its circumstances. Possessing genuine hope is God’s means to “count it all joy” in the face of trials and tribulations.

We intuitively know that there must be more to life than what we see. This world is not all that there is. There is more to life than this world. There is a greater hope than our political, economic, or personal relationships can offer. God’s promise of hope is more than this world’s offers and is far above and apart from it. The Christian’s hope transcends the evil we see and experience. The Christian’s hope is transcendent because of the One from whom it proceeds, namely the Triune God.

Only God who has revealed Himself as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit can give ultimate hope. God said that ultimate hope is eternal glory. The Apostle Paul writing God’s words said “the mystery hidden for ages but now revealed to His saints” is ultimate hope. Ultimate hope is “Christ in you the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27

Christians possess ultimate hope. God gives hope to all those whom He chose “before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him. In love God predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will.” Ephesians 1:4-5

Those whom God chose to be in Christ are children of God. Believers have been set apart by God for His glory. In Christ, we have been given everything that we need. One of those needs is a hope that cannot be shaken.

It seems clear that we are facing evil more and more every day. We need God’s protection. We need to have the courage to stand against the evil of radical Islam. In so doing, the church universal must be assured of the hope that cannot be shaken. The church must teach her members that God has given a hope that will never fade.

Now, perhaps more than ever in our nation, Christians must think biblically about the world around us. We are a people who are sure that God will have the final word. He will stamp out evil. Christ defeated Satan 2,000 yrs. ago. The Devil and his fallen angels are on a short leash. “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1Corinthans 15:57

To think biblically, we must know what the Bible says. We are to meditate upon God’s word. We are to fill our minds with what God has said. There is no short cut to “holding every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2Corinthians 10:5

Christian, ground yourself in the word of God so that you might hold fast to the hope that will not fade. Read and study the Bible privately. Find a church that teaches the Bible accurately and faithfully. May we all stand against the current evil we face in the power of God’s Holy Spirit.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, Faith Alone, Sola Fides

Faith Alone, Sola Fides
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Two Latin words describe the material cause of the Protestant Reformation. They are Sola Fides. They represent the biblical doctrine of Justification. The words literally mean Faith Alone. The Reformers recovered the Bible’s teaching on God’s means of declaring a sinner in right relationship with Him. The exact meaning of the phrase, Sola Fides is: Justification is by Faith Alone. Apart from God’s act of free grace in justifying a sinner there is no peace with God’s. No one will find true peace unless God pardons him. True peace is being in a right relationship with God. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1

The doctrine of justification is the cornerstone of Christianity. A more precise definition of justification is included in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question #33. “Justification is an act of God’s free grace wherein He pardons all our sins and accepts us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us and received by faith alone.”

When God justifies a man or woman He pardons their sins. Every human being stands guilty before God. God is the supreme judge and sin is an offence against Him. Sin is lawlessness, 1John 3:4. The Apostle John wrote, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1John 1:8. John wrote these words to believers in the church!

King David, a great sinner, was described as a “man after God’s own heart.” 1Samuel 13:14 David committed adultery and murder. He fully expected to receive God’s justice which was death. But, by God’s grace, David was given God’s mercy. David recorded his prayer in Psalm 51 in which he appealed to God’s mercy.

You may not be a murderer or an adulterer, but you are a sinner. You and I have no basis upon which to cry to God for fairness. Not only are we guilty before God, but we’re all born dead in sin. Like David, our lives rest solely upon the grace of God even to be able to see our sin. God who is rich in mercy must act for us.

In Justification God declares a sinner right with Him. That does not mean that the sinner is now righteous! The meaning of righteous is to do what is right; to do what God requires. The Apostle Paul quoted the Old Testament in his letter to the Christians in Rome and said that no one is righteous, Romans 3:10. No one does what is right 100% of the time. No one does what God requires. God has said that no man is motivated to do what He requires. To understand this inclusive statement, we must see what God has said concerning the heart of “natural” man.

We don’t need to move too far past the Garden of Eden to read God’s view of mankind. Genesis 6:5, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” In other words, the natural man is incapable of being righteous before God. But, justification is God’s act of free grace by which He pardons our sins and accepts us as righteous in His sight only on account of the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.

In Justification, God takes the perfect righteousness of Christ and places it upon a sinner. Simultaneously God takes the sin of the sinner and places it upon Christ, 2Corinthians 5:21. The Christian Church refers to this simultaneous act of God as double imputation. The one justified is covered with the perfect righteousness of Christ. Yet, the sinner is still in need of cleansing on the inside. This cleansing is called Sanctification. God progressively makes a sinner more and more like Christ. The Bible describes Sanctification as a work of God’s free grace, Philippians 2:12-13. The Apostle Paul described his state after justification as a spiritual battle. He found himself still sinning, Romans 7. His only hope and ours is Jesus Christ, Romans 7:24-25.

Justification is not all of salvation. It is the beginning of life in Christ. The Bible teaches that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Trustworthy”

“Trustworthy”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
One of the most important words that guide life is the word trustworthy. Trustworthy means worthy of trust or reliable. Whether you are a Christian or a non-Christian, I suggest that you rely upon this word more than you may even be aware.

We all desire to be people that can be trusted, that is, trustworthy. We look for trustworthy people to lead us whether it is in the church or in government and business. We certainly don’t want to follow or submit to someone who can’t be trusted.

“God said, “Let us make man in our image…” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:26, 27 Human beings bear the image of God. Those attributes of God that He communicated to all men through Adam are called communicable attributes. Question 10 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “How did God create man?” The answer is, “God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.”

The attributes that God gave to us: knowledge, righteousness and holiness set us apart from all the other creatures that God made. The fall of Adam marred these attributes. Yet, they are innate to every single human being. We are able to think and reason. We have a moral code in our nature. We know what is right. We have a desire to be holy as God is holy. Yet we lack the ability to accomplish it.

Nevertheless, these attributes possessed by all mankind are the reasons why trustworthiness is so important to us. We value it in ourselves. We look for it in others. We give respect and honor to those who demonstrate trustworthiness.

We intuitively know that trustworthiness, trust, is the “glue” that holds relationships together. When trust is broken, it is extremely difficult to restore. Relationships are often shattered as a result of a breakdown of trust.

The issue that concerns me is that it seems that our culture has been convinced that trustworthiness is not important. We are obsessed with appearance. We’ve been led to think that how a person looks and the way he speaks is far and above the character trait of trustworthiness.

We find ourselves being disappointed by those whom we’ve selected because of their appearance or style. We learn a painful lesson that character does matter. Appearances are helpful and an aide if a person is trustworthy.

Since trustworthiness proceeds from the character of the God who created man, the perfect standard of trustworthiness is God Himself. The Bible declares that, “The sum of God’s word is Truth.” Psalm 119:160 The Psalmist wrote a clear explanation of genuine trustworthiness. “The works of God hands are faithful and just; all His precepts are trustworthy; they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.”

We know what is trustworthy because God who is trustworthy said it. The Bible is absolutely trustworthy because God is Truth. Jesus, the only Son of God said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” John 14:6 We believe that the Bible is inerrant and infallible because “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” 2Timothy 3:16

The question that immediately comes to mind is, “How can we determine if a person is trustworthy?” First, I must state that no one is perfectly trustworthy except God. All men are sinners. Even those who are genuine Christians sin. The Apostle Paul wrote of his personal struggle with sin, Romans 7. He concluded his introspection with these words, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:24, 25

But there must be a means by which we can determine a person’s character, his trustworthiness which will be less than perfect but which will demonstrate practical reliability. I suggest that there is a means to determine a man’s level of trustworthiness. The Psalm quoted above holds the key. Psalm 111:6a, “God has shown His people the power of His works.” The key is past behavior. The means by which we can determine a man or woman’s trustworthiness is by their past behavior.

We can develop confidence in someone and place a degree of trust in him if his past behavior is faithful to his words.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Absolute Sovereignty… the King and His Kingdom”

“Absolute Sovereignty… the King and His Kingdom”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
On September 11, 2001 our nation came face to face with evil. What those radical Islamists did on 911 was evil. There is no other reasonable explanation for their actions. There is no other reasonable description of the recent beheadings done by the terrorists of ISIS. In the midst of our ongoing struggle with these evil religious zealots it is essential for Christians to be reminded that Jesus Christ is King. He has absolute sovereign authority. The fact of God’s sovereignty is the basis of real hope.

Jesus’ first recorded sermon was very brief and clear. He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15

When the Son of God took upon Himself human nature and lived among us the Kingdom of God came to earth because the King came to earth.

Jesus declared that He is the King and God’s rule was now visibly in the midst of those listening to Him. The only saving response is to repent and believe in the gospel! These were Jesus’ words not mine. In response to God’s rule, Jesus commanded repentance. He told His listeners and all people for all time to have a change of mind. He was literally declaring that now is the time to turn away from sin and turn to Him as He is offered in the gospel.

The gospel is the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,” Romans 1:16 Salvation is the most significant application of God’s sovereignty. There is no other name but Jesus by which men must be saved, Acts 4:12. The gospel is power because it is God’s power and He is sovereign.

Jesus the only Son of God who is God declared to His disciples that “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” Matthew 28:18

The point is that God has absolute authority and rules all things and because He is sovereign those who trust in Him as He is revealed in the gospel have hope in the midst of evil. We trust in the promises in the Bible because God declared them and He is sovereign!

The Apostle Paul wrote concerning Jesus Christ’s absolute sovereignty. The Son of God set aside His glory and, “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

The name that God gave Jesus is Lord. He is Lord of all. There will come a time when all will recognize Him as the sovereign Lord. However, His lordship and sovereignty do not depend on man’s obedience. Whether or not He is recognized to be Lord is irrelevant. He is Lord, absolutely and thoroughly.

If we fail to remember that God is absolutely sovereign over every human act we may fall into despair. The fact is that God’s sovereignty extends over evil. He ordains all things but is not the author of sin. Through what are called secondary causes, God ordains everything that comes to pass and does so for His glory.

The Prophet Jeremiah said, “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” Lamentations 3:37-38

The Ancient Pagan king of Babylon declared the truth of God’s sovereignty after God gave him eyes to see. “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, “What have you done?’” Daniel 4:34-35

Remember that evil day of 9/11/2001 and look to the sovereign One who has promised to be with His people even in the midst of such evil. May God give us the courage to stand against evil in His power!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The First Importance”

“The First Importance”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The church is the body of Christ. She is referred to as the Bride of Christ and the Holy City, the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven. The Revelation of Jesus Christ given to John reveals to us the perfect church, glorified prepared as a bride adorned for her husband, Revelation 21:2

Revelation gives us the picture of the people of God in glory. Yet, there is the church on earth. We have not yet reached glory but the church is still all those who profess the true religion. There is a visible church and an invisible church. The visible church is made up of all who have professed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The invisible church “consists of the whole number of the elect that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.” The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 25, Par. 1 Also, read Matthew 7:21-23 and Romans 9:6-13

God has called out a people for Himself. The first priority of the church is to worship Him alone. The Westminster Shorter Catechism’s answer to its first question clearly defines God’s revealed purpose for mankind, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” And, the church under her head, Jesus Christ is commanded by God to worship God in the way He has revealed in His word. True worship of God is only possible through His Son, Jesus Christ. God seeks worshipers to worship Him in spirit and truth, John 4:23-24.

With so much emphasis in the Bible on the church, one would think that God would have given a clear purpose for her. In fact, He did! The purpose of the church is, in a word, holiness. God has called His people to be holy. He has set us apart for His glory. He commanded His Church to be holy, Leviticus 11:44 and repeated in 1 Peter 1:15-16.

The Apostle Peter emphasized God command to be holy by exhorting the church to “be holy in all your conduct,” 1Peter 1:15. Paul likewise declared God’s purpose and will for His people. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification (holiness)” 1Thessalonians 4:3

Take special note of the verb “to be” used in the declaration of the purpose of the church. The church is to be holy because God is holy! The purpose that God has revealed for His people is a statement of being. In other words, holy is the essence of the church.

I like to think of this as “being” rather than “doing.” Of course, being holy requires the pursuit of godliness. It is a term that describes our sanctification. Sanctification is a work of God’s free grace wherein He continues to make believers more and more like Christ. As we are sanctified we die more and more to sin and live more and more for God.

The church that understands her purpose pursues God’s mission.

Those who profess Christ first understand God’s will and purpose while embarking on His mission.
In my view, a church that seeks to look like the world dare not try to fulfill God’s mission. That is, a church that looks like the world is by its witness preaching a different gospel.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about this very issue. The Corinthian Church was tolerating unholy behavior and Paul’s first charge to her was to purge the evil from her midst, 1Corinthians 5. Jesus taught His disciples to first remove the beam in their eye before seeking to remove the speck in a brother’s eye, Matthew 7:5

The church is to guard her peace and purity for the sake of her witness. The first importance is the gospel. God confirms His purpose to those who receive His gospel and sends them on His mission.

It was after rebuke and correction that Paul reminded the church of the gospel. He declared to the believers that his delivering of the gospel was “as of first importance.” 1Corinthians 15:3 The church that understands her purpose to be holy and teaches her members the same is empowered by God’s Holy Spirit to proclaim the pure gospel which is the power of God to save all who believe!

Pastor’s Viewposts, “Authority… The Fundamental Building Block of Society”

“Authority…
The Fundamental Building Block of Society”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
A year ago, I wrote an article about the Rule of Law. Reflecting on recent events both in our nation, state and the world, I wanted to test a proposition that the Rule of Law is the fundamental building block of any society.

As a Christian, I am called to hold every thought captive to obey Christ, 2Corinthians 10:5. Therefore, my starting point in evaluating the proposition regarding the fundamental significance of the Rule of Law must be the word of God.

God has established Civil Governments for the good and welfare of all people, Christian and non-Christian, Romans 13:1. The one who resists the governing authority is resisting God. Of course, Christians are to obey the Governing Authorities with one exception. When governments command us to do what is contrary to God’s word, we must obey God rather than man, Acts 5:29. Notice the word “command.” For example, if our government was to require women to have an abortion, Christians are to obey God rather than man and uphold the sanctity of human life. Yet, we must understand that in so doing we will bear the wrath of the authority imposing such an evil command. Christians are to be willing to stand for the truth and bear the consequences of doing so.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 5:10.

Thanks be to God that we live in a nation that does not coerce us to obey evil laws! Pray for those in other parts of the world where our liberty and freedom are not allowed. Christians in those nations are paying the price for living in Christ. In some cases, they are paying with their lives! As we pray for them, pray also that we would have the courage to stand against such evil abuses in lawful ways that are at our disposal.

Having said this, we are faced with an ever increasing disregard for the Rule of Law and submission to the authority which obeying the law assumes. I recently heard an elected official qualify her submission to the law on whether or not she voted for a certain individual. Evidently, her basis for submission to authority and obeying the law was her preference for a certain elected official.

We all have the natural desire to be our own authority rather than to submit to any authority. From a theological perspective, that official’s statement should not have shocked me yet hearing it expressed did.

Social philosophers discuss how the rejection of authority leading to ignoring the Rule of Law has happened in our culture. Their discussions and evaluations are good and necessary so that we might not repeat mistakes of the past. But, I think a more important discussion should take place and I haven’t read or heard of any recently.

I believe a more important discussion that should be held within our churches, schools, and families concerns where rejecting authority and ignoring the Rule of Law will end.

I believe that this phenomenon unraveled ancient cultures and it will do the same to ours. For example, one of the earliest law codes upon which a society was built was the Code of Hammurabi named for its author who lived between 1728 and 1686 B.C. Hammurabi’s law code was built upon other more ancient law codes. It formed the foundation of Ancient Babylonian civilization which ended with Hammurabi’s death. Factions developed each establishing their own authority and rejecting previously established authority and law.

In writing this, I am not suggesting that we should give carte blanche to anyone. All citizens are to obey the law, just as Civil Servants pledge to uphold the law. Even our branches of government were established to provide checks and balances. The judiciary is responsible to determine the constitutionality of laws. Our legislative branch is charged with establishing laws. The executive branch is to enforce those laws established by Congress.

Underlying this is the fundamental requirement that every individual involved in the process of governing is to submit to the Rule of Law. We often hear the phrase, “No one is above the law.” May this once again not only be said but practiced. It is the principle upon which our way of life may be preserved and we may all live peacefully in this Nation given to us by God’s Providence.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Do bad things just happen?”

“Do bad things just happen?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor
Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The question above raises at least two others. First, what constitutes a bad thing? Second, how do we know what a “bad thing” is?

The first, “What constitutes a bad thing?” The answer is often given based on man-centered criteria. That is, we look around us and see abusive acts of violence and diseases and conclude that those acts and those conditions are bad. In other words, we set ourselves up as the deciders of what is bad. To make the issue more accurate, the term evil is a better and more comprehensive description of “bad things.”

The problem with man as the determining factor in what is evil is that we tend toward arbitrariness. In order to discern what is evil, there must be a standard of that which is good. Evil is not rightly based upon one’s personal view. After all, what might be evil for one person might likewise be good for another.

I recall an interview with Joseph Campbell who was a Philosopher and Professor at Sarah Lawrence College. On the issue of good and evil, Campbell said, “I know that good and evil are simply temporal aberrations and that, in God’s view, there is no difference.” Campbell also said, “My general formula for my students is “Follow your bliss.” (Quotations are taken from “The Power of Myth”. Anchor Books, 1988)

Campbell was simply saying in sophisticated language what our relativistic culture believes. Evil like beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Yet, all men know intuitively that there is good and there is evil. We all have a moral standard imprinted upon us. We are all made in the image and likeness of God. He has imprinted on us the reality of good and evil. Jesus said that God alone is good, Luke 18:19. Therefore, the standard of good is absolute as it proceeds from God. We know evil because there is good. Evil is anything that falls short of God’s goodness. We can look at behavior and determine whether it is good or evil because we can hold that behavior up to the light of God’s revelation.

The answer to the first question, “What constitutes a bad thing?” also answers the second, “How do we know what a bad thing is?” A “bad/evil thing” is anything that falls short of God’s goodness which He revealed.

Now to the question which is the title of this article, “Do bad things just happen?” The answer follows from the two secondary questions discussed. Since God is the standard and He has revealed that which is good, we must go to His word to arrive at the reason for the existence of evil/”bad things.”

First, the proposition of the sovereignty of God must be stated. God’s sovereignty means that God rules all things absolutely. There is nothing outside of the rule of God nor is there anything that can occur outside of His rule. Either God has ordained everything that comes to pass or He is not God!

What saith the Scriptures? “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? Lamentations 3:37-38. And, “God makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust,” Matthew 5:45. And, “For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law,” Romans 2:12

What has the church confessed? “God, from all eternity, did… ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.” (The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 3, Par. 1)

Note that God is not the author of evil, for God is altogether good. Yet, He is sovereign over all things and by secondary causes He has factored into His good plan things that are evil.

Things just don’t happen! God has ordained them all. Our certain hope in the midst of evil is that God will work all things together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose, Romans 8:28.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “We will do what we want.”

We will do what we want!
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

There is no doubt that we will do what we desire. What we want is a statement of desire. The question really is, “What do we naturally desire?”

Man’s will is the faculty of the mind by which choices or decisions concerning a course of action are made. The word free means unencumbered, not enslaved, or not controlled by obligation. When we speak of Man’s will, we are speaking of man’s ability to choose that which he desires.

The driving force of man’s will is, therefore, his desires. This discussion is necessary

So if I substitute the meanings of the words, the question can be rephrased in this way, “Do we have an unencumbered mental faculty by which we are able to make choices?” Still every person that answers this question will give a response based upon their own personal opinion.

Therefore, since there may be many opinions expressed, we ought to seek the one opinion that matters. In other words, what has God said, if anything, concerning the issue of man’s will?

You might try to find the instances of the words “free” and “will” in the concordance of your Bible. The place to start is the Garden. After God made Adam, He told him that he was free to eat of every tree of the Garden except of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Genesis 2:16-17.

We know what happened. Adam and the woman, later named Eve, ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. At the end of Chapter three of Genesis, we read that God “placed the cherubim (mighty angels) and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” God insured that no man would be able to eat of the tree of life and live forever, Genesis 3:22-24.

We next look at God’s destruction of the earth by the universal flood, He surveyed all mankind and declared “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually, “Genesis 6:5. Further, the prophet Jeremiah spoke for God and said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” The New Testament is consistent with the Old Testament. Men have not changed. The Apostle Paul wrote, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” Romans 3:10

God’s view of man’s will is that it is in bondage; it is not unencumbered. Yes we will do whatever we desire. One of the greatest, possibly the greatest American Theologian, Jonathan Edwards wrote a book entitled, “The Freedom of the Will.” The basic premise of his book is that men do whatever they want to do. The problem is that before God regenerates a man or woman, the only thing that they desire is sin!

The reality revealed by the word of God is, “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us … while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son…” Romans 5:8, 10. Man’s will is in bondage to sin! Jesus said that “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32.

All this may strike you as just some philosophical rambling, but this truth is much more. Understanding our human nature is essential if we are ever to know the depth of God’s grace.

So what are we to make of the question? Do we have free will? Even in a purely physical sense, we are limited. No one can honestly claim that he can do whatever he wants. All of us have certain restrictions placed upon us. Next time, may God forbid, that you’re pulled over for driving above the speed limit, try telling the officer that you are free to do whatever you want, because the speed limit doesn’t apply to you.

Apply that same logic to life in Christ. Tell God that you’re free to choose Him or not. Tell Him that you did not inherit Adam’s sin. Tell him that your will is not in bondage to sin that you are able to take and eat of the tree of life and thereby you can choose to live forever!

So, what’s your answer to the question?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “In the Face of Evil”

“In the Face of Evil…”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

God’s declaration through the prophet Isaiah is His promise for believers. The verse is in contrast to those who appear strong like youths and those who are powerful. Those who are strong in worldly terms will all grow tired and weary. But, those who wait for the LORD will not only survive but will run because they won’t get tired. At times it seems as though evil men are winning.

But, God promised to deliver His people and the prophet Isaiah began Chapter 40 with God’s word of “comfort”. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” This Chapter of Isaiah is the beginning of the “Suffering Servant” passages. The “Servant” is revealed to be Jesus! He declared that He was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of the Suffering Servant, Luke 4:18-21. The Servant of God, Jesus, is the one who brings comfort. The comfort He brings is the assurance of deliverance which leads to glory in heaven and the elimination of evil.

Isaiah often wrote in the Prophetic Past Tense. That is, he saw future events as completed. When he wrote of judgment, he saw the total destruction of the wicked. He saw their final end. He used expressions such as, “The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” Isaiah 9:7

The end is certain. On the one hand God will establish perfect righteousness and on the other He will judge all ungodliness. There will be no escape for the ungodly. He will lift the curse of original sin and usher in the New Heaven and the New Earth, Revelation 21.

God has promised the elect comfort, peace and glory. This is what we are waiting for! We know that God never fails to keep His word. His word declares He has claimed His people as His possessions, Isaiah 43:1. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:27-28

God’s people wait upon Him with eager expectation of the fulfillment of His promises. The promise now is comfort. We eagerly await His promise of final deliverance. These promises are for all those who belong to the LORD. Those who belong to the Lord wait upon Him. The word translated wait means trusting God now by obeying Him while waiting for His final deliverance.

Events in the Middle East and on our borders may cause you to lose hope. But God is always faithful to His word. He will execute perfect justice. Those who hide behind children while pursing the destruction of a nation will stand before the Holy and Just God. Likewise, God will judge men of lawlessness and those who encourage others to violate established laws.

Evil men will be with us until Christ returns. The evil in the world done by men is a result of the fall of Adam and Eve. We know that evil will be absent from the perfection that God has promised when Christ returns. God has declared it! But for now God has promised comfort. His comfort is the certainty of knowing that evil and all ungodliness will come to an end. Further, the comfort that God gives is in knowing that He walks through these evil circumstances with His people. Those who believe that Jesus is who He said He is and rely upon Him have the assurance that nothing will ever separate them from God, Romans 8:35-39.

The comfort is grounded in knowing that His word is always true. He promised never to leave us or forsake us, Hebrews 13:5. By God’s grace, the experience of Christ’s work in our lives causes us to know that He holds us in the palm of His hand.

We persevere knowing that glory awaits us. We are waiting for perfect justice and peace. We wait with an eager expectation and certain assurance that God will bring them all to pass. While we wait, we have the comfort of the Lord given in His promise to be with us!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Do the right thing.”

“Do the right thing!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We seem to be constantly bombarded with complicated situations that call for making an informed decision. Of course, generally, all would want to do the right thing!

Therefore, one must know what is right before he can do it. Further, to know what is right, one must know the source of all that is right. The source of what is good, right and true is God. He has revealed what is good, right and true in His word. All actions must be held up to the light of Scripture to determine right or wrong. God said that blessing is the result of obeying Him and curse is the end of disobedience, Deuteronomy 11:26-28.

But, you won’t likely find a verse of Scripture that will tell you which car to buy or where you ought to work, etc. But the Bible does give principles by which decisions can be made. The Spirit of God working in concert with the word of God informs the conscience of one who has been born again, that is, a genuine Christian. The Apostle Paul wrote to Christians to hold every thought captive to obey Christ, 2Corinthians 10:5.

In addition, Romans 12:2 calls Christians not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewal of the mind, “That by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Ephesians 5:11 points out that Christians were once in darkness but are now “light in the Lord.” Therefore, believers are to live as children of light, that is, to follow Jesus, which includes doing the right thing. Disciples of Jesus Christ are told that the “fruit” of living as children of light is “found in all that is good and right and true.”

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom”, Proverbs 9:10a. In order to live wisely; to do what is right, it is necessary for man to know the Creator. God has revealed what He wants us to know of Him through His word written. Every believer is called to apply God’s word and obey Him for His glory. Thereby, believers seek to do the right thing.

Doing what is right, wise living, is the way of blessing. By ignorance or avoidance of God’s word, we will do the wrong thing and head towards destruction. Don’t be fooled by following someone who commits to do what he thinks is right. First, know yourself what is right. Then do it.

The method for knowing the right thing is not easy. The method is the systematic, intense study of the Bible and the theology which proceeds from it. This is not only a personal endeavor. God has ordained that we grow in discernment and wisdom corporately. I am speaking of the necessity of growing in a church that teaches “sound doctrine”, Titus 2:1, so that you are equipped to know the right thing and then encouraged to do it.

All that I have said above applies to Christians. Only those who have been born again are able to see the truth and thereby know the One who has revealed it. Are we then to think that only genuine Christians can do the right thing? What of the rest of mankind?

The Bible applies to both believers and non-believers. For example, God gave the Law, Exodus 20. The Law has three uses. The first is to put bounds around sin. The second is to point to man’s need for Christ and the third is to be the guide for living the Christian Life, the means of sanctification, Galatians 3:19ff The Law reveals to all men what is good, right and true. Man’s laws stand under God’s law so as to protect the innocent and punish the wrongdoer. So for a believer and a non-believer the first step in doing the right thing is to obey the law.

In my view there are two basic questions to ask when discerning what the right action is. First “Is it lawful?” and second, “Does this agree with God’s Law?”

In conclusion, God “has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

This simple and plain truth of God is perhaps more needed today than at any other time in our history.