Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The One who merited God’s Favor”

“The One who merited God’s Favor”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Grace is unmerited favor. God’s favor, grace is received by those who did not merit it. Grace is poured out on God’s people because it was merited by Christ. The Bible declares that we are saved by God’s grace! Ephesians 2:8 Those who are in Christ are beneficiaries of Christ’s merit.

The Bible says, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17 John referred to the law given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai and to the truth which is reality revealed in the person of Jesus.

We teach our children the meaning of God’s grace and the importance of God’s law. Grace is to receive what is not deserved of which mercy is another expression.

The opposite of grace and mercy is justice. The law of God given through Moses is a revelation of the absolute perfection of God. God’s law is the absolute standard of perfection. The Jews sought to make the law fool-proof. The leaders of the Jews came up with more than 600 nuances of the basic commandments of God as a means of addressing every aspect of life and how men should behave in order to keep the law. Yet, Jesus repeatedly said that they had missed the spirit of the law. The truth is that no one can keep the law. The Apostle Paul wrote that the purpose of the law was to bound sin, lead men to their need for a Savior and be the Christian’s guide for living. Galatians 3:19-29, 5:16-25

The Law of God leads us to our dependence upon the grace of God because He requires absolute perfection. Jesus said perfect righteousness is required to enter the kingdom of heaven, Matthew 5:20. God does not grade righteousness on a scale!

We must all be honest with ourselves before God. We cannot keep God’s perfect law of righteousness. No one is able to be perfect. Yet God requires perfection. Therefore, all we can do is appeal to God’s mercy that He would pour out His grace upon us, Psalm 51.

God’s grace is the only means by which men may stand before a holy God. But God does not simply winking at our failure to be perfect. God’s sovereignly extends grace to those whom He chooses only by the perfect merit of Jesus Christ. What Adam failed to do, Jesus did. We all inherit the sin of Adam. We are all dead in sin. We are unable to keep God’s law. No one is righteous no not one, Romans 3:10.

In summary, the grace of God is His favor extended to His people as a result of the merit of Jesus on their behalf. This grace is called saving grace. It is given by God to those whom He chose before the foundation of the world. His choice is not based on anything we will do or have done. His choice is unconditional, Ephesians 1, 2.

You may be thinking that this choice of God to extend saving grace as He wills is unfair and God is not unfair. I agree. God is not unfair. But grace is not about fairness. God is perfectly fair. We call His fairness divine justice. He has said that at the end of this world there will be a final judgment. Two books will be opened by God. One book is the record of everyone’s deeds. The other is called the book of life. The judgment of God is that anyone’s name that does not appear in the book of life is thrown into the “lake of fire.” Those two books represent the difference between justice and grace. Those who live thinking that God winks at their sin and will somehow extend grace to them at the end are those who will experience perfect justice. On the other hand those who live their lives relying upon the perfect life of Jesus and His perfect sacrifice will experience the fullness of God’s grace in eternal bliss.

So then, Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Grace is God’s unmerited favor based upon the merit of His only Son, Jesus. There are two alternatives. Rely upon your own merit or rely upon the merit of Christ. The standard is perfection. Jesus is the only One who was perfect. As He said, “Repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “God turned my world upside down!”

“God turned my world upside down!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“In the beginning God…” are the four words that turned my world upside down. My hope is that they will do the same to you! These words are reality. Reality is that uncomfortable truth that hits you in the face like a brick wall. Some may think that reality is what you make of it or believe it to be. Try standing in front of a brick wall and imagining that its not there. Then try running as fast as you can in the belief (even strongly held) that you’ll just pass through that wall. The result is obvious. So too is the absolute and ultimate reality declared throughout the Bible.

Like that figurative wall, God’s words knocked me off of my throne. The truth that God is the only eternal Being is central to the Christian Faith. In addition, the words of Genesis 1:1 declare reality to all mankind.

God’s words given to Moses declare there was a time when nothing existed; therefore, it follows that God made everything out of nothing! Nothing existed in the beginning except God Himself. By the sovereign command of God all Creation was made. The Creator changed me. He made me a new creation. His words told me that I had no right to claim the throne of my life, to think that I was “in charge.”

In making me a new creation, He gave me new desires, specifically a new desire, a profound and deep desire for Him. The Great “I Am” is the only self-existent being. All things that exist proceed from Him. I am because He is. We know Him in Jesus who said, “Let Me tell you how to say Yahweh in Greek (I’m paraphrasing). It is Jesus.” (Read the “I Am” sayings in John’s Gospel).

The confrontation came when I realized that He alone had the right to claim ownership of me and sovereign control of my life. There was no other reasonable response that a creature (me) could make to the Creator. Since all existence proceeds from Him, “In Him we live and move and have our being”, Acts 17:28 ESV, the claim of an absolute self-determination is unachievable.

At the risk of repeating myself, let me re-phrase. Before there was anything there was God. He chose a time to make everything out of nothing. Opposed to this is the view of eternal matter. A once great philosopher of the 20th Century, Carl Sagan said, “The cosmos is all there ever was or ever will be.” Acceptance of this view, in my opinion, requires a blind leap of faith into the dark rather than a step into the light.

King David said it best, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.” Psalm 19:1, ESV

In light of God’s confrontation of Man’s idea of an autonomous, self-directed control over life, the question must be asked. How do you respond to the reality that you’re not in control?

Critics say that this view of reality is demeaning and renders men and women to be pawns. But just the opposite is true. Understanding that you’re not God and He is brings you to the profound realization that He has condescended to reach down and bless man above all creatures. David wrote in Psalm 8:5 about man, “You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” This supremely points to Jesus Christ, but is significant for the entire human race.

You are free to ignore this reality. But, for the sake of repetition, it would be like ignoring the wall I mentioned in my introduction. So then, “How do you respond to the truth that you’re a creature made by the Sovereign Creator?

If you’ve gotten this far, I believe that another question has arisen in your mind. And, this is a necessary question: “If God has sovereign, supreme authority and control, why am I responsible for my actions?” An honest question deserves an honest answer. Let me suggest a beginning in answering this question. A biblical principle, one grounded in logic is that God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are not contradictory. All men are responsible for what they do, there is no exception. Yet, God is sovereign over every action. Each statement is independent of the other.

You are responsible to examine your life in light of God’s sovereignty!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Celebrate October 31st!”

Celebrate October 31st!
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
If you profess Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, October 31st is a day to celebrate. Christians celebrate this day called “All Hallows Eve” because on it Martin Luther nailed 95 indictments, called theses, on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. He was protesting the Church’s practice of selling indulgences. The practice was used to raise money both to build churches and fund the Crusades. It was based in the false doctrine of Purgatory. Purgatory was taught to be the place where people would go after death to fill up their punishment for their sinful lives. It was a kind of intermediate state between heaven and hell. Yet Purgatory was a temporary place. Those living could contribute to the Church so that their deceased loved ones’ time in Purgatory could be shortened.

While Luther’s 95 Theses did not discuss the doctrine of Purgatory, they did point to the major error of the church at that time. The major error demonstrated by the false doctrine of Purgatory was that the Church had set herself over and above the Bible. This unlawful authority became the Formal Cause of the Reformation. In opposition to the Church’s unlawful authority, the Reformers coined the phrase Sola Scriptura. Sola Scripture or Scripture Alone states that the word of God has ultimate authority.

Spurious doctrines like the doctrine of Purgatory were established by the magisterium of the Church whose leaders believed that they had authority over the Scriptures and used false doctrine to manipulate people.

The Protestant Reformers were not inventing new or novel ideas. The name Protestant was derived from the German Princes who protested along with Luther against the Church. Further, the Reformers believed that the church should always seek to reform herself in accordance with the written word of God. They were not offering an alternate perspective on salvation but were declaring and teaching the plain truth of God’s word. The Reformation was a providential blessing from God through which the church recovered the revealed truth.

The main issue that concerned the 16th Century Reformers was authority. The Latin phrase Sola Scriptura, which means Scripture Alone, identifies the rightful source of authority. The Reformers asked the Scriptures, “Who has supreme authority the Church or God?”

The Bible reveals that God is absolutely sovereign. It also reveals that Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven and on earth, Matthew 28:18. The Reformers saw the Church usurping the authority that belonged to God. The Church only has a granted authority. The Church’s authority only exists under the word of God.

To state the issue of authority clearly, Christ is the King and Head of His Church. He exercises His Kingship and Lordship through His word, the Bible. The Bible has ultimate authority over all including leaders in the Church.

God established the church (Dt. 7:6-8; Eph. 4:11), civil government (Rom. 13:1-7) and the family (Gen. 1:28; 17:7; Mt. 19:4-6; Eph. 6:1-4). All derive their authority and rightly exercise it under God’s word. His word written, the Bible is the ultimate authority and Christ is the Supreme King and Ruler over all the spheres of life. Men possess a granted authority. When men stand outside of or on the word they are usurping God’s authority.

The Reformers defined the sovereign authority of God with five Latin phrases. They are: Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Solus Christus (Christ Alone), Sola Fides (Faith Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone) and Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone be Glory).

Here is the reason for celebrating what the Reformers recovered: salvation was merited by Christ alone. God declares a sinner to be in right relationship with Him through faith alone. Salvation is by Grace Alone. All redemption is for God’s glory Alone!

Phrased differently the truth is: Jesus Christ is the King and Head of the Church; all authority in heaven and on earth belongs to Him; Christ completed what was necessary for redemption. God, the Holy Spirit applies the finished work of Christ to those whom the Father chooses.

There is no such place as Purgatory. Those who are in Christ have eternal life and go to be with the Lord after this life. The gospel is truly good news because God did for us in Christ that which we could never do! If we belong to Him, we are His forever. God said it that settles it. Amen!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Thinking people required!”

“Thinking people required!”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
God created man in His image, Genesis 1:26. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 All men bear God’s image. We have been created with reason, a sense of holiness and righteousness.

As a result of the Fall of Adam, the attributes which we received from our Creator have been corrupted. I have been thinking recently of our ability to reason. Surely, our reasoning is not perfect. I think all would readily admit to the limitations of human reason.

For example, we are not able to think our way to a saving faith. All men, since the Fall are born dead in sin. We are all born with a sin nature. Yet, we are still able to reason and think, albeit imperfectly. Reason is the most obvious attribute that separates mankind from every other creature.

However, I have observed that many have been convinced that they are unable to think for themselves. Further, in thinking, we are told that we don’t have the ability to recognize reality. The general population can’t discern the meaning of what they observe. We have to rely upon those who are the “experts.”

Things that may be clear or at least easily evaluated end up being confused and uncertain. Take for example our current crisis concerning a deadly virus. We are unable it seems to establish basic self-defense measures. We are told that limiting travel from countries in which the virus originated won’t protect us. Surely, I thought, isolation would help in preventing the spread of the virus here. But, the governmental experts have rejected such measures by declaring that not only would isolation not help prevent the spread but it would actually aid in the world’s inability to address the virus.

This is just one example that is on many people’s minds. The fact that such statements are uncritically accepted is symptomatic of a general problem, as I see it. The problem is the inability or unwillingness to think critically. Critical thinking has been maligned in our present day. We are a people that base decisions on our feelings.

The evangelical church in the west has been infected by the same disease. Feelings trump critical thinking!

Romans 12:2 stands opposed to the disease. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The Bible teaches that God enters the mind and changes the heart. Repentance is a change of mind that leads to reliance upon the Person and Work of Christ.

Christians have fallen prey to the “health and wealth” preachers as a result of “checking their minds at the door.”
These false teachers have manipulated people to think that this world is the focus of life. In this philosophy, Jesus becomes the one who can make your life better. He wants to heal you physically. He really wants you to be rich in this world.

Christian, think! Is this what Jesus said? Emphatically no! Jesus said eternal life is knowing the one true God and Jesus Christ whom the Father sent. Life that never ends, the “abundant life” is KNOWING GOD. This life is but a nanosecond in relation to the whole of life in eternity.

Jesus didn’t come to make your life better. He came to change your life, if you belong to Him. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…” 2Corinthians 5:17a

As a pastor my foremost concern is the church. But, I am obliged to declare the gospel to all people. The pure gospel is that Christ died for the sins of His people, that He was buried and that He rose on the third day, all in accordance with the Old Testament Scriptures, 1Corinthians 15:3-4. The gospel is ordained by God to enter your mind and pierce your heart. One must think about his utter hopelessness. A man or woman must come face to face with their sin. We must know that God requires perfection for He is holy. We must acknowledge our sinfulness and turn to Christ who is our only hope. We must rely upon His perfect righteousness in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Train yourself to be a critically thinking person who knows his helplessness!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Preacher’s gone to meddling”

The Preacher’s gone to meddling!
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
For a Christian, one of the most important activities is to find a church family in which to invest himself.
Over the years, I’ve heard many Professing Christians say, “I’m looking for a church in which I can…” Some of the criteria I’ve heard used are: I want to find a church in which I can be fed. I want to find a church where I have something in common with those attending. I want to find a church that has something to offer my children. I want to find a church that has uplifting music and the pastor preaches relevant sermons.

Rarely, if ever, have I heard a professing Christian say, “I want to find a Church where the God of the Bible is worshiped and His word is systematically preached and taught.”

This article is intended for those who have been born again by the Spirit of God. In other words, the search for a godly Church Family is a necessity for those who confess Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead.

God has revealed that it is the organized church wherein His elect grow up into Christ. He has commanded that His people invest their gifts and talents in a local church. He has ordained that there is no ordinary possibility of salvation outside of the visible church because the church is commanded to proclaim the gospel which is the power of God to save! Finally, He has commanded His people to worship Him alone, both individually and corporately.

Those who have been made “new creations” by God don’t go to church; they are the church!

Still there is a challenge in our Western Evangelical World. The Church has incorporated a business model to attract people. Christians are faced with a smorgasbord of “Church Offerings.” Churches seem to produce a never-ending array of programs and methods. People, even Christians are taken in by snappy worship services that employ skits and entertaining music. Christians have come to assume that the purpose of Corporate Worship is to lift them up.

Churches have segregated congregations by age groups. Worship Services are designed for Youth or children. There are even churches that offer worship services for the elderly.

Many elders in churches that have elders are young Christians. There is a sense that Church leadership must be a part of the Youth Culture in order to be attractive and relevant. The idea that the wisdom of gray haired men might actually be a blessing has fallen on hard times.

Now, please don’t think that I am speaking against the giftedness of young men. On the contrary, I believe that as Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus, the young can learn from their elders and thereby grow in their giftedness.

So how is this meddling Pastor advising the believer in his quest for a church in which to invest?

May I suggest that the believer searching for a church should look to the word of God to light his path.

Most importantly, we all must understand God’s revealed purpose for His Church. In the Old Testament, God commanded the church to be holy, Leviticus 11:44. The Apostle Peter repeated God’s command, 1Peter 1:15-16. “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”’

Let me offer a radical statement. The church is not about us; it is about God! The church is commanded to direct us to God. The church worships God. He speaks to us in His word. We are convicted by His Holy Spirit. We gather with others who have been set apart by God to worship Him.

God does not want to make you a better you. God wants to change you to be more like Christ, that is, if you have been justified (declared right with Him). God will not make you feel better about yourself, if you are living in opposition to His word. He may indeed humble you and bring you to your knees.

My meddling advice is to seek a church where God is glorified. Join a church where you can learn the truth and be convicted to “grow up” in Christ. In summary, seek a Church Family that pursues godliness and equips you to join God as He extends His Kingdom!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Know the truth; your life depends upon it!”

“Know the truth; your life depends upon it!”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” Galatians 1:6-7

Some in the church seem to live in a vacuum. Some emphatically preach and teach that the church needs to return to her pristine state. They suggest that the problem today is that the church should be more like the one in the New Testament. They surmise that a New Testament-like church is the only one in which the truth is heard.

The problem is they don’t specify to which New Testament Church we should return. Perhaps we should look to the Church in Corinth which failed to discipline herself, or perhaps the Church in Colossae which entertained gnostic teaching.

Perhaps we should look to the Church of the Old Testament for our model. Sadly, Israel’s track record was one of rebellion and idolatry. Surely, this model falls short of perfection as well.

Yet, against all the unfaithfulness recorded in the Bible of the people of God stands the truth that Jesus said He would build His church and the gates of Hell would not prevail against it, Matthew 16:18.

I suggest that the problem is that too often the church has failed to preach the truth.

Jude wrote that we are to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints,” Jude 3. Pastors and Teachers in the church are accountable to God to declare the pure gospel. There is only one gospel. Christ died for the sins of His people in accordance with the Old Testament Scriptures. He was buried and He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Old Testament, 1Corinthians 15:3-4. This is the good news of God. Very early in the New Testament false teachers crept into the church and were perverting this good news of God.

For example, Paul was amazed that the members of the church easily accepted perverted teaching. It was inconceivable to him that those whom the Holy Spirit had raised from death to life were now seeking to earn their salvation because some false teacher told them that it was necessary.

You may say, “We have grown such that we would never receive such a perverted teaching.” Yet, I’ve met many professing Christians who believe that members of a Cult are Christians because they use the name Jesus and live moral lives. We hear leaders say that Muslims are worshiping the same God as do Christians. Yet, Islam refutes the reality that Jesus is God.

We even read of Evangelical Christian Leaders who have joined forces with those who believe in a perverted gospel for the sake of some moral enterprise. When Paul wrote Galatians, approximately A.D. 48, Rome was the ruling authority. History has recorded much of the moral perversions practiced in the Roman Empire. The Jews represented those who practiced and taught strict moral behavior. Yet when it came to the church joining forces with them to stand against immorality, Paul said that the gospel was the central concern of the church. He said that those who were preaching a different gospel than the one they received and he preached were accursed, Galatians 1:9.

As there have always been elements of corruption in the Church, there has always been a faithful remnant. The Church of Jesus Christ will prevail. We have God’s word for it. Those who say that they are Christian yet do not accept that He is the only Son of God, the eternally begotten One, are not Christians. Those who refuse to accept that He is fully God and fully Man are not Christians. Those who say that Jesus was a prophet like Mohamed do not worship the God of the Bible! Those who reject the doctrine of the Trinity are not Christians.

Test what you hear. Be like the Bereans. “They received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” Acts 17:11 Abide in Jesus’ words; know the truth; be free!

I urge you to find a serious Bible Study Group where you will learn who God is and how He has ordained that we might have a relationship with Him.

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!