Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Are You a Christian?”

“Are you a Christian?”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Luke, the evangelist, wrote in Acts 11:26 that in the pagan city of Antioch, disciples were first called Christians. Disciples are followers and learners. Disciples of Jesus follow and learn from Him. He is their Master, their Lord and Savior. Therefore, a Christian is likewise a learner and follower of the Risen Lord Jesus.

Reasonable men and women would agree that Christians are followers of Jesus Christ. It is a fact that cults use the name Jesus. But, simply using His name does not mean that they are Christians. No, Christians follow and learn from Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, who is offered in the gospel.

The Jesus who is offered in the gospel is the eternally begotten Son of God. He is the One who took upon Himself human nature, Philippians 2:6ff. He is the God – Man. He is not a created being as the cults contend. Jesus is God. He is not a god. He is the God. He is the only way to the Father. He is the way, the truth and the life. John 14:6

The Apostle Paul wrote, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9 Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, what he wrote is authoritative, as is the whole of Scripture, 2Peter 3:15-16.

Salvation is only through confessing Christ to be Savior and Lord. Salvation is by grace, through faith in Christ alone! Ephesians 2:8

Many claim to be Christians. But not all are. Jesus addressed this condition in His famous sermon. Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

We must be clear on this fact. A genuine Christian is one who confesses to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We know that all lords issue commands. Jesus has issued absolute commands. His commands are His words written. Christians live under the plain and revealed word of God preserved by His providence in the Bible. The sixty six books that make up the Bible are the commands of our Lord Jesus.

We continue to hear of those who call themselves Christians affirming sinful behavior, behavior that God has expressly condemned. At the risk of offending some, let me say that those who affirm evil behavior of any kind and lead others to do the same are in no way Christians regardless of what they may say.

My entire ministry is centered on the word of God. I know that I am not sinless. God’s word says that anyone who says that he’s sinless is deceiving himself and does not have the truth. No, I sin and I seek God’s grace of forgiveness through confessing my sins to Him, 1John 1:8-9. Yet I seek to obey God’s call of me as a pastor. As do all Christian Pastors who seek to do their best to present themselves to God as those approved. I work like all Christian Pastors to righty handle God’s word. I am accountable to Him to preach and teach the truth, God’s word is truth, John 17:17

I am reminded of God’s warning given through the Prophet Ezekiel. God said that if the watchman sees destruction coming and does not warn the people their blood is on his head. If pastors fail to warn their members of the certainty of eternal judgment for living in a sinful lifestyle without conviction, they will pay a heavy price when they meet the Lord! This is exactly what is happening. Main line churches and other apostate groups are not only failing to warn their members of certain judgment but are actually affirming evil behavior, calling evil good.

I’m not only referring to homosexual behavior, but also other expressions of immoral behavior. This is a time of opportunity. Jesus told us that in this world we would have tribulation, but He has overcome the world. I exhort professing Christians to deepen their knowledge of what God has said. Peter wrote always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” 1Peter 3:15

We have the great mystery uncovered, “Christ in you the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27

Are you a Christian?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “True Religion Explained”

“True Religion Explained”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

One’s religion defines a set of beliefs that connect the cause of nature and the purpose of life. Religion is relevant for all whether one is an evolutionist or a creationist. Even those who hold to a man-centered world-view practice a religion called secular humanism.

Those who believe in the Creator, as I do, affirm that man was made for worship. Therefore, we are compelled to pursue a means by which we can relate to the Creator!

The word “religion” is a compound word. It is derived from two Latin words. “Re” means to return and “ligare” means to bind. According to its derivation, religion is descriptive of the means by which men seek to “bind” themselves to their Creator. Another way of stating the same thing is to define religion as the means by which we express reconciliation with our Creator.

Since religion involves reconciliation and all men have some form of religion, it is reasonable, even necessary, to pursue true religion. True religion is the real or factual expression of reconciliation to God. That is, true religion reflects a right understanding of man’s relationship to God. He is the Creator and we are His creatures. The Westminster Confession of Faith used the term true religion in defining the visible church. The visible church is made up of all throughout the world who profess the true religion and their children.

Philosophers say that there are many religions. You may have had a course in college that studied world religions. The late philosopher and professor, Dr. Joseph Campbell said that all religions were simply reaching for the truth. He taught that, no religion could make the claim that it was the true one. Joseph Campbell taught, wrote, and was an alumnus of Columbia University. You may remember the interviews conducted by Bill Moyers with Professor Campbell. They are still periodically aired on Public Television and are available in book form, “The Power of Myth”.

Joseph Campbell has been considered to be one of the greatest minds of the 20th Century. In the TV interview, Dr. Campbell said that the purpose of life was to “follow your bliss”.

All men can choose to believe anything. It is a sad commentary on our culture that so-called institutions of higher learning would choose to subject their students to such an erroneous, shallow and illogical teaching. Bill Moyers probed Dr. Campbell on his stated purpose of life. Moyers questioned the validity of calling Adolph Hitler an evil man. According to Campbell’s philosophy it could be said that Hitler was simply “following his bliss.”

Opposed to the relativism of Joseph Campbell there is a timeless principle that serves to guide us in recognizing that which is true. The test is general and is stated, “That which is true is true for all or not true at all.” One doesn’t need to be a Christian to apply this logic to Campbell’s hedonistic philosophy. His statement is destroyed because one person’s bliss may result in another’s terror. Evil is not relative. Evil is the depravation of good.

Returning to “True Religion”, I propose that true religion can only be described by a right understanding of who God is and who we are. True religion begins with God’s revealed truth of His character. First and foremost, He is the one who spoke and all creation came into being. He is the eternal being. He has provided the only means by which men might be reconciled to Him. We know Him in Jesus Christ, the only Son of God.

As we look at our religious practice. We must ask ourselves some fundamental questions. Is our religion centered on God? That is, do we worship God as He has commanded man to worship Him? Being centered on God demands us to think about our hopelessness apart from Him. God has revealed that all men are born spiritually dead. God must raise an individual from death to life so that he is able to see this truth. God has said that the only means of reconciliation is in Christ alone.

The most evident expression of true religion is worship. As you gather to worship with God’s people are you gathering for fellowship or to declare your praises to God, to hear from Him and to confess your trust in Him? True religion is not about community or relationships with others. True religion is about worshiping God as He has revealed Himself.

Pastor’s Viewpoint, “Fearing God”

“Fearing God”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Whether you profess to be a Christian or not, fearing God is the only reasonable response of a creature to his Creator. All too often, I’ve met professing Christians who rail against the thought of fearing God. After all, aren’t we believers in Jesus and therefore need not fear God anymore? Such a statement reveals a dangerous lack of the knowledge of God. Christians above all others should know the holiness, sovereignty and transcendence of the God who saved them.

Fearing God is the subject of much of Scripture. God’s self-revelation declares that He made all things for Himself! For example, the Apostle Paul declared to the “Epicurean and Stoic philosophers” in Athens that, “In him we live and move and have our being,” Acts 17:28. That same Apostle wrote to the Colossian Church that the Jesus who is the Savior and Lord is the One by whom and through whom all things were created. Jesus, the only Son of God holds all things together. Colossians 1:16, 17

Three additional texts of Scripture come to mind concerning man’s response to his Creator. Ecclesiastes 12:13, Matthew 10:28 and 1Peter 2:17 all provide clear motivations for fearing God.

Solomon who was declared by God to be the wisest man who ever lived expressed his deepest thoughts concerning life. He had every opportunity for greatness. He had great wealth. He had absolute worldly power over his kingdom. He pursued every passion and desire of his flesh. After evaluating all of his pursuits, he declared them all to be like hot air, “vanity of vanities”, Ecclesiastes 1:2; 12:8. Solomon repeated the vanity of man’s pursuits in the beginning of Ecclesiastes and at the end.

Solomon came to a conclusion concerning the purpose of life and all of man’s pursuits. “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandment, for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13

From Solomon, king of Israel to the Apostle Peter the fear of God was known and declared to be central. Peter wrote, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” 1Peter 2:17

Peter wrote to the church and exhorted her members to be holy people, set apart to God. He encouraged them to behave as those who have been changed by God. He called Christians to honor everyone; to sacrificially love those within the household of God and to fear God. Their fear of God was demonstrated in their worship. Fear includes a sense of awe, trembling and reverence. When the Church gathers for worship we enter a Sanctuary not an auditorium! We are gathering with other believers to meet God. Hebrews 12 reminds believers that we are being lifted up into the presence of “the assembly of the first born who are enrolled in heaven and to God the judge of all…” Hebrews 12:23.

The basis of man’s relationship to the Creator was given by Jesus. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Men fear God because of who He is and what He can do. We are His creatures! Even those who are in Christ are still Creatures made by the Creator.

Jesus said only God has absolute sovereign rule over His creatures. Therefore, we approach Him with great humility, reverence and awe. We are finite. He is infinite. We have limited power. He has absolute power. The Risen Lord Jesus said He was given all authority in heaven and on earth, Matthew 28:18.

Only fools live in denial of the absolute power and authority of God, Psalm 14:1. Only a fool would risk an eternity in hell! Only fools live without fearing God!

Do you think that your life is hidden from God? Are you blind to the reality that you are a Creature created by God? Do you think that there are numerable explanations for Creation. Do you think that somehow the “big bang” did it or that you are the product of millions of years of evolution? Do you think that there is no God to fear?

Everything you see is there because of our Creator God. He made us to worship Him. He is to be feared because He is God. He is the one who sent Jesus, His one and only Son. He is the One who saves men from and for Himself.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Finding a True Church”

Finding a True 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 meant by 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 is 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 Christian, one who is in Christ has been saved; is being saved and will be saved by God’s grace alone in Christ alone through faith alone. He 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. Likewise, Christian fathers and mothers desire to teach their children the blessing of worshiping God.

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

Christians grow by participating in corporate worship. Therefore, finding a church in which one can grow in Christ requires knowing what constitutes a “true church.”

The Bible reveals three marks of a true church. The first 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. Worship has all too often been turned into entertainment with man at the center.

But, against man-centeredness stands a true church. May you intentionally seek a local church that is God-centered rather than man-centered. For God has ordained Christian growth in Christ through the ministry of a local church centered on Him.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “God’s Blessing, The Law”

“God’s Blessing, the Law”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
If you are in Christ, know that He fulfilled the requirements of the law! You have been covered with the perfect righteousness of Christ. God did not remove the Law’s requirements. The Law reveals the character of God and points us to our need for Christ. Adam failed to keep God’s command; Jesus Christ did not. The gospel is the good news of God precisely because Christ satisfied the demands of the Law and offered the only perfect sacrifice for sin. So then, the Law is not opposed to the gospel. It points to man’s only hope in the gospel, the person and work of Christ. All men and women are born in Adam and thereby are dead in sin. We all deserve eternal damnation. But, God is merciful and chose some for salvation. By grace we are saved, through faith and this is the gift of God! (Ephesians 2:8)

So then, Paul raised the question, “Why then the Law?” God’s answer though him, the Law, “was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary,” Galatians 3:19. The law was added because of sin.

Sin is lawlessness, 1John 3:4. The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines sin as “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God. God’s Law, the Ten Commandments, is recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. The first part concerns man’s relationship to God. The second provides the basis for men to co-exist.

Both God’s Law and Civil Law carry blessings and curses, blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. As God created man and woman in His image, we all have the moral code in our hearts. All men have a general knowledge of right and wrong. The Ten Commandments declare what is right and wrong and express, the grace of God as part of the Covenant of Grace.

Following God’s work of Creation, all societies recognize the importance of law. A society falls when the rule of law is ignored. Leaders are expected to submit to the rule of law. In our nation, the Constitution provides the basis for the rule of law. No one is above the law! History records man’s awareness of his need for law. An ancient example is the Code of Hammurabi, the law code of the first Babylonian Dynasty ruled by Hammurabi circa 1728-1686 B.C. Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations likewise depended on the rule of law. As law broke down, those civilizations ceased to exist. Western civilization and especially our United States will stand or fall as a result of adherence to the rule of law.

The Law’s importance will finally be seen in the end of this world. The sign of the end will be apostasy. “Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first…” 2Thessalonians 2:3. Paul was straightening out false teaching concerning the end of this world. Rebellion against God will be the first sign of the end. The visible sign of rejecting God is rejecting His Law.

Law benefits all mankind. God’s common grace toward all is experienced by the rule of law. It is the basis for relationships, contracts, economic prosperity and in summary the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

We all need God’s grace conveyed through the Law. Men are not basically good. All men are sinners; dead in sin. God’s Law given by His grace points to man’s only hope, the gospel. “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons,” Galatians 4:4.

Throughout history the Christian Church has taught three uses of the Law. They are: to bound sin, to point to Christ and to provide the guide for living in Christ.

God’s blessing through the Law is profound. Without law we will perish. Because of The Law men are shown the desperate need for a divine Savior. May we commit to stand for the blessing of God’s Law and all law proceeding from it. May submission to the rule of law reflect the desire to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God, Micah 6:8. May the Law of God lead you to Christ!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A Need to Know”

“A Need to Know”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
What you don’t know can hurt you. There are times when ignorance will lead you to ruin. The most damaging ignorance concerns one’s soul. Jesus said, “Fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” And, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” And, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” Matthew 10:28, 39; 16:26 All these words are strong and clear!

Ignorance of God and of what He said can hurt you. Only knowing God and the one He sent, Jesus Christ will save your soul. We know that what God has said is true. God said that men are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, Ephesians 2:8-9.

Yet there was a time that men usurped God’s authority. These men were in the church rather than outside of her. They were false teachers and false leaders of God’s people. They sought to manipulate the people of God through man-centered guilt.

But God in His sovereign providence raised up godly men to call the church to submit to God’s word. One of these men was an Augustinian priest. His name was Martin Luther. History records his action of rebuking the church as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

On October 31, 1517, over 500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses (complaints) on the Wittenberg church door in protest over the sale of indulgences. His action resulted from another monk who was “fund raising” in Germany. This monk’s name was Tetzel. This unscrupulous man was put in charge of the sale of indulgences in Germany. He was “heard announcing that the indulgence that they sold made the sinner cleaner than when coming out of baptism and cleaner than Adam before the Fall and that the cross of the seller of indulgences has as much power as the cross of Christ.” One of Tetzel’s more evil pronouncements was, “as soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” (Taken from “The Story of Christianity” by Justo L. Gonzalez, Vol. 2)

Martin Luther started a movement. He and all the Reformers knew that the church needed to be in an ongoing reformation. They taught that the church had to be diligent to reform herself to be in accordance with the word of God. They declared that the root cause of Rome’s problem was her view of authority. The Pre-reformation church placed herself above God’s word. The church’s magisterium, her leaders placed themselves as the authority over God’s people.

The root cause of the Protestant Reformation, also referred to as the “Formal Cause” was Sola Scriptura. This Latin phrase, Scripture Alone means that God’s word, the Bible, has ultimate authority. Believers live under the word of God for the glory of God. Everything is for God’s glory!

The Pre-reformation church used their illegitimate authority to manipulate people with a guilt causing them to seek to “buy” merit from the church. Contrary to this, the Bible declares that only the perfect righteousness of Christ can merit salvation. Salvation is by God, from God and for God!

In addition to the formal cause of the Reformation was the material cause. The material cause was the teaching of the Scriptures that justification (God’s sovereign act of free grace) is through faith alone. Justification through faith alone or Sola Fides is the revealed truth that eliminates the idea that men can merit God’s favor.

The Reformation was one of the most significant events in history. Yet, the evangelical church seems to have forgotten it. The practices observed in many churches stand against the sufficiency and authority of Scripture. Methods and programs are substituted for truth. It often appears that attracting people is more important than glorifying God! When asked about the Protestant Reformation, most in the church respond with a blank stare. Many have been taught that the Reformation was simply an event in history. However, the church stands on the shoulders of the Reformers like Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, Ulrich Zwingli, Thomas Cranmer and others. They taught, that the church must always be reforming herself in accordance with the word of God and live in submission to the headship of Jesus Christ. Truly, we have a need to know who God is. Therefore, invest in a Church that teaches who He is!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The First Fruits”

“The First Fruits”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“He has risen; The Lord has risen indeed!” Luke 24:6, 34 we read these words so easily. We even might hear them used to gather God’s people for worship on Easter Sunday. The angel told the women that Jesus wasn’t there. The tomb was empty. The angel told the women Jesus was not among the dead, but the living.

After Jesus opened the eyes of His disciples, they declared to each other, “The Lord has risen, indeed!” May you all celebrate the great festival of the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ with your church families. This historic event, the bodily resurrection of Jesus is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.

But what actually happened? There were many eye witnesses of His empty tomb. There were over 500 witnesses of Jesus after His resurrection.

There is so much importance placed upon the event of Jesus’ resurrection that the Apostle Paul said that if it was not true, the entirety of the Christian faith was useless, mere hot air.

According to the words of Jesus Himself, if He did not get out of the grave, if His bodily resurrection was not an historic fact, He would be just another liar! C.S. Lewis gave three options. He said Jesus was either a mad man, a liar or He was who He said He was!

Christians must be clear on this fact, a dead man got out of his grave. The body buried was the body raised up. But there were some reported differences between Jesus’ earthly body and His resurrected body. He traveled long distances instantaneously. He was able to pass through locked doors. But, He also ate food and was recognized by those to whom He spoke.

The Bible describes the resurrection body as an imperishable one. One that is glorious and perfect. One that is immortal. The Bible says that Jesus is the “first fruits” of those who have died.

The Christian Faith affirms that there is a man in heaven! His name is Lord Jesus. He has a physical, yet immortal and glorious body. He is declared to be the God-Man, the only begotten One of the Father, not made but eternally proceeding from the Father.

The truth of Jesus’ bodily resurrection gets even better. It gets better for all who belong to Him. The Apostle Paul said that Christians don’t grieve over death as others do who have no hope because we know that death is the entrance to paradise. When Jesus comes again, and He will, we will receive resurrection bodies like His.

As a minister of the gospel and a Christian, I would be remiss if I did not tell you the “down side”, and there is a terrifying “down side”. The Bible says that all the dead will be raised on the last day, which is when Jesus returns. Those whom God chose have their names written in the “Lamb’s book of life”. By His grace alone they will live in glory with Him forever. Alleluia! But (and this is a big one) those not covered by the perfect righteousness of Christ and His perfect sacrifice for sin will live forever in a physical state in the “Lake of Fire” which is Eternal Hell.

I urge you to take this event and the truth it affirms seriously. It is a matter of life and death. Jesus declared that this time between His first and second coming is the “year of the Lord’s favor” Is. 61:1-2a, Lk. 4:19. This is the time that God has provided for men to receive His salvation through Jesus as He is offered in the gospel. This is the time to be spared the wrath of God.

My prayer for this Easter Sunday is that the Sovereign Spirit of God would give eyes to see and ears to hear the saving truth of Jesus Christ to all who would worship Jesus this Lord’s Day. May the sovereign Lord bless you and your family. May the Spirit of God work in concert with His word wherever it is faithfully preached and change lives for eternity. Have a happy Easter!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Christ completed everything!”

“Christ completed everything!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The last word spoken by the Lord Jesus from the cross was “Tetelestai”. This Greek verb was recorded by the Apostle John in the perfect tense. The literal translation is “It is finished.” John 19:30 Jesus made a declaration of something accomplished that would have on-going implications. He said that redemption was accomplished!

Redemption implies that a price or ransom was paid. The price required by God to redeem His people from the bondage to sin was paid more than 2,000 years ago. This is the reason the Friday before Easter Sunday is called “Good Friday.” Jesus lived a perfect life and He offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice.

Those chosen before the foundation of the world to be in Christ have Christ’s finished work applied to them. It is applied by the Holy Spirit when God effectually calls those whom He predestined and regenerates them. God then converts the sinner into a saint and gives the sinner the gifts of faith and repentance. Through God’s gift, expressed by the sinner now a saint, God sovereignly declares him justified. God adopts those whom He justifies. He sanctifies them and assures them that He will bring them to glory.

The completed work of Christ, redemption, extends from the individual to the corporate body. It extends even to Creation itself. The Apostle Paul declared that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself,” 2Corinthians 5:19.

Redemption which is God’s saving act is for His glory and by His sovereign grace. He extends grace to a spiritually dead person which causes him to see the beauty of Christ!

Good Friday reminds me of what God did for me. Good Friday is personal for everyone who professes Jesus as Lord and Savior.

It is indeed personal. Thirty-two years ago, God snatched me from the pit of hell! He used a devastating auto accident. He broke me physically and caused me to see the Kingdom as Jesus said to Nicodemus, John 3:3.

Before God’s action on that day, I had no desire for Jesus. I believed that I was a good person. I believed that as long as my “good” outweighed my “bad” God would accept me. I didn’t realize that God is holy and requires perfection!

My thoughts of God were proceeding from a heart of stone. I was spiritually dead and didn’t know it. I used to think that all that “born again” stuff was for the weak-minded.

God caused me to see my helplessness. For a time, I was confined to a hospital bed. Through my accident, God gave me a word picture of my sinfulness that stays with me to this day. God caused me to dig into His word to learn more about His character. Jesus’ words, “It is finished” have been burned into my mind and heart. Good Friday is a day in which I reflect upon the steadfast love of the Lord poured out on me.

There is a foolish teaching that pervades the evangelical church. People are told that if they believe they will be born again. This is analogous to speaking to a dead person, lying in a casket and saying, “Get up!” More, it is the height of manipulation to tell people that we are made new creations by our own wisdom and ability. How can a dead person believe? The truth is “Ye must be born again” in order to believe! The Bible says: “… while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” Romans 5:8. Every person is born spiritually dead. We are unable to reach out to God and live, Genesis 3:22-24. God confirmed the truth of His word through a tragedy which continues to point me to Him. God alone saves those whom He chooses. No one can stay His hand! He chose to save a sinner, namely me! This is the on-going effect of Jesus’ words, “It is finished.”

God used a traumatic event to cause me to see His sovereignty in salvation. I am not suggesting a person must undergo some tragedy to be born again. Some raised in covenant families don’t have a time of which to point for when they first saw the truth. Yet, God did regenerate them and because of His grace, they profess faith in Jesus as He is offered in the gospel.

I pray that you will worship this coming Lord’s Day with a Church that teaches, believes, and lives this truth!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Unfailing Hope”

“Unfailing Hope”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?… Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.” Psalm 22:1, 3

King David wrote these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He felt all alone, forsaken, abandoned by God. It has been said that desperate people do desperate things. But David’s desperation showed itself in constant prayer. He persisted in seeking God’s answer to his desperation.

Jesus told a parable, Luke 18:1ff, of a persistent widow to teach His disciples to persist in prayer. A demonstration of trust in the Lord is persistence in prayer in our times of need.

Psalm 22 is a prophecy of the humiliation and exaltation of Christ. Jesus quoted from Psalm 22 as He hung on the cross. The fulfillment of David’s words in the first part of Psalm 22 were in Jesus’ taking upon Himself the full wrath of God for the sins of His people.

Yet, there is ongoing meaning for all who are in Christ. Desperation comes upon all of us. At some time we will all face being alone or feeling that we are alone. Therefore, there is something that must be known and lived concerning God. David knew that he lived before a holy God. He wrote, “Yet you are holy,” Psalm 22:3a. As David was, I also am aware that I live before God who is holy.

David wrote that the holy God is “enthroned on the praises of Israel.” That is, He is the God who has revealed Himself to His people who respond in praise. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Deuteronomy 6:4. Jesus said this to the Samaritan woman, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” John 4:22. The point is, there is only one God and He has revealed Himself as holy. Unless we know Him, we are lost and hopeless in our desperation.

I believe that many in churches are like the Samaritan woman, worshiping what they don’t know. In stark contrast David persisted in prayer because he knew that the object of his prayer was the holy God. He remembered that He was the One in whom his predecessors trusted. He remembered that God answered their prayers, heard their cries and delivered them from bondage.

We have a fuller revelation than did the church of the Old Testament. Yet, like them, we seem to think that there must be more than knowing the holiness of God! We demonstrate our desires by the things we do and teach. We think or at least some, that discipleship is a program. More, discipleship programs are often about how to live while being accountable to another person or group. Rarely is discipleship about theology. Often missing in these discipleship programs is learning about the one disciples follow.

Again, notice King David’s declaration. “Yet you are holy.” David knew God! He was a man after God’s own heart. David had the revealed truth of the character of the God in whom he trusted. The Spirit of God held David accountable.

It is the same Spirit of God who holds disciples accountable to grow in the knowledge and love of God. Peter wrote, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy…” 1Peter 3:15a. The means of growing is by God’s design through the Spirit of Christ working in us to do that which is pleasing in His sight, Hebrews 13:20.

Psalm 22 was not only a prophecy of Christ’s sacrifice; it is hope for all who know Him. The means God has given His people to persevere in the midst of feelings of desperation is the knowledge of who He is.

If you are going through a time of feeling deserted by God, turn to learn more of who He is. Turn to His revealed truth, the Bible. You will discover that He has promised never to leave His people. We may all cry “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” But know that the One who was truly forsaken by God, Jesus, is the light of the world. He has promised to be with us; to intercede to the Father; to go before us and to bring us to His heavenly home.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “You are Witnesses!”

“You are Witnesses!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The title is taken from the words of Jesus recorded by Luke, Luke 24:48a. The Risen Lord Jesus told His followers that they were indeed witnesses of His Person and Work. The implication of His words is that everyone who professes Christ is a witness of the gospel. Note that, Jesus didn’t tell His disciples to witness. He stated a fact of being not doing! The question before every Christian is, “What kind of witness am I?”

In order to answer this question, a Christian should know that his actions tell the world that he is following Jesus. Now Christians know that God made all people to worship Him. Therefore, it is safe to say that the first act of a witness of the gospel is worship.

The question is addressed to Christians, those who profess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. We must be clear on what it means to be a Christian. First and foremost, the Bible teaches that God makes Christians. One’s decision to profess Christ is only possible if God has first regenerated him.

The evangelical church seems to be saturated by the teaching that one’s decision makes him a Christian. The Bible teaches that God ordains salvation. God:
1. Effectually calls a dead person to life.
2. Regenerates the one He calls.
3. Converts a sinner to a saint. In doing so, He gives two gifts. One is the gift of faith and the second is the gift of repentance. Those gifts are exercised by those who receive them. The result is the turning from sin and turning to Jesus.
4. Justifies; 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. All this is called double imputation.
5. Adopts the sinner into His family. Those changed by God become heirs of His promise in Christ, namely heaven.
6. Sanctifies; as Justification covers the sinner with perfect righteousness, Sanctification is God’s action of making the sinner righteous from the inside out. In Sanctification, the sinner responds to God’s work in him.
7. Glorifies; God promised to see us to glory. Every believer will be in glory in heaven. The comforting fact of glorification is that God sees us as already glorified. I would encourage you to read Romans 8:30 and notice that all the verbs are in the past tense, even glorified.

If you are one who professes Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, the above is how God made you His. If you’re not hearing this preached and taught consistently from the pulpit of your church, find another church!

Christian, God has made you a “new creation”, 2Corinthians 5:17, with a compelling desire to worship God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. You are exhorted to “offer yourself as a living sacrifice to God…” Romans 12:1.

Jesus gave the Great Command, “You shall Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37. A Christian’s most basic demonstration of his love toward God is to worship Him! It is what your neighbors see first. It is a fundamental means that the Holy Spirit uses to change the one “in Christ.” When you gather with God’s people on the Lord’s Day, it’s not about loving people, helping people or being made to “feel good”. It is about demonstrating your love for the God who saved you and your love for others will proceed out of your worship.

In summary, the Psalter is the word of God and it was and continues to be the worship manual of the Church. Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”’ The believer is glad, filled with joy, and is satisfied as he worships God! Each believer has this desire to gather with God’s people to declare His praises and to hear Him speak both in the reading of Scripture and in the Proclamation of Scripture. Yes, God commanded corporate worship. But, a believer grows as he understands that corporate worship is more than a duty; it is our desire! So then, may God fill your heart with a desire to worship Him with other believers.