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.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Finding a Church”

Finding a Church
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

God commands His people to “keep holy the Sabbath Day.” The “Sabbath Day” was changed by the Apostolic Church to the First Day, Sunday. The Church refers to every Sunday as the Lord’s Day. Each Lord’s Day is a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore, a professing Christian will seek to find a local church in which to invest in the Kingdom and worship the King!

God’s command is addressed to believers in the Risen Lord Jesus. A genuine believer is one who has been born again by the Spirit of God working in concert with the Word of God. When God raises the spiritually dead, He makes him a new creation. As a new creation, He gives new desires. Believers have a desire to worship God. Therefore, a believer will desire to find a body of believers with whom he can worship God.

A believer is one who has been saved, is being saved and will be saved. The Bible details God’s order of salvation, Romans 8:28-30. First, God Effectually Calls a dead person to come to life. Second, the effect of His call is Regeneration. All men are born dead in sin. God must raise a sinner from death to life. This is what Jesus said is being born again, John 3. Third, God converts a sinner to a saint. In conversion God gives two gifts. One is the gift of faith and the second it the gift of repentance. Those gifts are exercised by those who receive them. Fourth, the result of turning from sin and turning to Jesus is Justification. Justification is a legal term. God declares a sinner to be in right standing before Him only by the merit of Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God covers the sinner with the perfect life of Jesus Christ and transfers the sinner’s sin to Jesus. This is called double imputation. Fifth and following justification, God Adopts the sinner into His family. Those changed by God become heirs of His promise in Christ, namely heaven. Sixthly, after justification God begins His work of Sanctification. As Justification covers the sinner with perfect righteousness, Sanctification is God’s progressive work to make the sinner righteous from the inside out. In Sanctification, the sinner responds to God’s work in him. God promised to make us more and more like Christ. Seventh and finally, the end result of Sanctification is what is called Glorification. God promised to take us to glory. Every believer will be in glory in heaven. The comforting fact of glorification is that God sees us as already glorified. Notice Paul’s use of the past tense for all the verbs in Romans 8:30.

A genuine Christian, one who has been saved, is being saved and will be saved by God’s grace alone in Christ alone through faith alone, desires to worship God with fellow Christians. This desire is an expression of God’s adoption. Christians demonstrate their desire for God within the visible church.

Christians gather to: praise God, pray to Him, and hear Him speak both in the reading and proclamation of Scripture. As a result, believers are edified or if you choose to use this word, fed.

Believers grow spiritually by participating in corporate worship. Finding a church is critical for living in Christ. Finding a church in which one can grow up into Christ requires knowing what constitutes a “true church.”

The Bible reveals three marks of a true church. They are necessarily present in every local congregation that calls itself “Christian.” The first mark is that the pure word of God is preached. The second is that the two sacraments, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, are administered in accordance with Christ’s institution. The third is that Church Discipline is exercised in accordance with God’s word.

Christians are often deceived by pragmatists and others who base supreme value on “what works” to grow in numbers. Christians too often seek churches with the right programs, or an age group of those of similar life circumstances. It sometimes seems that God-centered worship and ministry has fallen on “hard times”, especially in the American Evangelical Church.

But, against man-centeredness stand the marks of a true church. May you intentionally seek a local church that is God-centered rather than man-centered. God has ordained that Christians will grow spiritually through the ministry of the local church centered on Him.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Signs and Seals”

“Signs and Seals
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

God gave the church signs and seals. These are called sacraments or holy ordinances. They are both holy and commanded. There are two sacraments instituted by Jesus Christ. They are Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These sacraments are often referred to as “secondary doctrine.” They are secondary not because they are unimportant. They are secondary because they are not necessary for salvation.

Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. The sacraments are means of grace. In other words they have been given by God for our spiritual growth.

The first, Baptism, is the subject of this article. When discussing the sacraments, it is critical to define terms. The church has provided a biblical definition of baptism. I refer to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q.#94, “What is Baptism? Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.”

There are two words in the definition that need further explanation. Signing and sealing mean that the sacrament of Baptism points to and validates what only God the Holy Spirit does. He regenerates, washes, and in grafts those whom God chooses to be His! Notice that the sacrament of Baptism is a sign. That is Baptism points to what we pray God will do! It is a seal. That is, it is the only valid sign given to the church by God. The seal is reminiscent of a king’s ring’s impression in wax that authenticated a document.

These definitions and explanations have been developed over the centuries in the Protestant Church. They reach across denominational boundaries. They represent the teaching of the Bible.

The Risen Lord Jesus instituted the sacrament of Baptism, Matthew 28:19, in continuity with God’s Covenantal Promise, Genesis 17:10. “This is my covenant which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.”

God established a covenant with Abraham. His covenant promise was “… to be God to you and to your offspring after you.” Genesis 17:7 Abraham was ninety nine years old when he received the command to be circumcised. He submitted to circumcision. He also circumcised all the males in his household. Abraham is called the father of the faithful. In Genesis 15, Moses recorded that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. All the males in Abraham’s household were circumcised but there is no biblical record that they all believed before they were given the sign of circumcision.

God’s command to give the sign of covenant membership was never removed. The sign itself was superseded. Circumcision was superseded by Baptism. In Colossians 2:11-12, the Apostle Paul wrote that Baptism is now the sign of membership in the Covenant Community.

Since Baptism is the sign of Covenant membership, those who receive the sign are believers and their children. Another Question and Answer from the Westminster Shorter Catechism makes this clear. Q. #95, “To whom is Baptism to be administered? Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptized.”

Why would children be included? As noted above, Abraham circumcised all the males in his household whether or not they were believers or even if they were old enough to profess faith. The Apostle Peter in his sermon on the first Christian Pentecost declared, “…the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Acts 2:39

Therefore, the “secondary doctrine” of Baptism is that it is the sign of Covenant Membership. The theological name for Baptism is Covenant Baptism. All those who profess faith in Jesus Christ and demonstrate obedience to Him are to receive the sign of covenant membership. Likewise, the children of those who profess faith in Jesus as He is revealed in the gospel are to receive this sign of membership. All who are members of the visible church, believers and their children, are beneficiaries of the Covenant of Grace.