Pastor’s Viewpoints, “He is Risen…”

“He is Risen…”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The bodily resurrection of Christ is an historic fact. Jesus completed everything necessary for redemption. He completed God’s plan of redemption established in eternity. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the proof that everything Jesus said is absolutely true. He is fully God and fully Man. He was the Passover Lamb which has been sacrificed, 1Cor. 5:7. The Risen Lord Jesus is our hope!

Those who stand firmly in the Person and Work of Christ have been made His followers by the Holy Spirit. Disciples, followers and learners of Jesus Christ, are made not born. Only God makes Christians. No one is born a Christian. No one is righteous, no one even seeks God. The Bible describes all mankind as naturally children of God’s wrath. But, God is rich in mercy. He chooses to pour out His mercy on His people whom He chose before the foundation of the world, Eph. 1, 2.

The Bible defines salvation to be deliverance by God from God for God. The Apostle Paul wrote that believers have been crucified with Christ. Christians no longer live for themselves but for Him. Christians live for God. We have God-centered lives. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth to hold every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 2Cor. 10:5.

The believer’s life in Christ is made possible by the perfect life of Christ and His perfect sacrifice. His bodily resurrection is the proof of this absolute truth.

So now we who are in Christ must live in Him. We are called to work out our salvation because God is at work in us, Phil. 2:12-13. The Evangelist, Luke wrote of the practical application for living in Christ by the power of His resurrection. Christians are disciples, Acts 11:26. A disciple is a learner and a follower of a master. Therefore, a Christian is a learner and follower of Jesus Christ our Master. Proceeding further, living the Christian Life is namely the life of a learner and follower of Jesus.

A friend of mine calls a Christian, “A work in progress.” Jesus taught a parable that concerns this work in progress. This progressive work according to the Bible is called living “in Christ.”

In the parable of the Talents, Mt. 25:14-30, Jesus gave a comprehensive view of the Kingdom Life. We who submit to the King Jesus live the Kingdom Life. Christians are called to live each day before the King expecting His return at any time. Further, the King calls His servants to invest what He has given each one in His Kingdom. This again is the Christian’s life “in Christ.”

The Parable of the Talents Immediately precedes Jesus’ teaching on the final judgment. The Parable of the Talents not only teaches God’s expectation for His people to invest what He has given them in His Kingdom. It further emphasizes the absolute sovereign rule of God.

I’m sure you all know the story. In summary, Jesus compared the Kingdom of heaven to an owner who went on a journey and gave his property to three of his servants. They were given a specified sum of money, “according to his ability”, Mt. 25:15. The master then left on his journey, returned after a time and sought to settle accounts.

Two servants invested the master’s money and presented him with a return on investment. They hear the master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. … Enter into the joy of your master.” Unfortunately, the third servant hid the master’s money and had no increase to give to the master. This servant did not hear comforting words. He heard words of judgment.

The two faithful servants invested what their master gave them. They represent those who live the Christian Life. Jesus is the Lord of lords and King of kings. He has entrusted His people with gifts and talents and yes, money. God’s call to Christians is: invest what you have been given for God’s glory.

This description of the Christian Life is the believer’s response to “He is Risen.”

I pray that we’ve all enjoyed a beautiful Celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord. Now the question is: “Has the bodily resurrection of Jesus changed your life?” May you live for God. May you seek to glorify Him in all that you do. May your life be an investment in the Kingdom as the Master has commanded!

“Pastor’s Viewpoints, “It Is Finished!”

“It Is Finished!”
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 in me. Good Friday is personal for everyone who professes Jesus as Lord and Savior.

It is indeed personal. Thirty-one 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!” Even worse, 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 my salvation. That is not to suggest that 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 exhort all who profess Christ to take this “Good Friday” to reflect upon the finished work of Christ!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Bible”

“The Bible”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding in the evangelical church. We evangelicals declare that the Bible is the word of God written. It is inerrant, infallible, perspicuous and sufficient. Yet, we fundamentally don’t practice what the Bible is about or rather who the Bible is about. In the practice and preaching in most churches, a passerby might learn that the Bible is about us. With all the focus on how to live and what to do, he might think that God is simply a dictator, issuing commands to men, women and children. The truth is much different. The truth is that the Bible is fundamentally about God. It is His self-revelation.

The Bible is about God. Therefore, who is He? Or, more accurately, what is God?

The Westminster Shorter Catechism provides us with the biblical answer. “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” The Scriptural bases for this answer are: John 4:24; Job 11:7; Psalm 90:2; Exodus 3:14; Rev. 4:8 and 15:4.

God has revealed to man the truth of who and what He is. Yet, it appears that some Christians and others are more apt to form the answer to the question of God from books or movies. Lately, a movie currently showing based on the book of the same name, “The Shack,” has a very different and blasphemous answer to the God question. The truth is: God is NOT a friendly black woman, nor is He a mild mannered Jewish carpenter, nor is He a young Asian woman! The message of universal salvation conveyed in the book is a lie. If the visible church taught the truth of God to her members, I doubt that any who are in Christ would search out His identity in such a meaningless and damaging fiction as “The Shack.”

Creation is God’s testimony of His existence. The Bible is God’s revelation to man of His way to have a “saving” relationship with Him. In other words, the Bible is God’s revelation of redemptive history.

Jesus is the word of God Incarnate. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” John 1:1. Paul wrote, “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, for by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.” Colossians 1:15-16

Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, commanded His disciples to, “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28:19. Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah in His home town synagogue, “The Spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me,” Luke 4:18a (Isaiah 61:1a). The Bible declares that God is one, Deuteronomy 6:4. The Bible also declares that there is one God in three persons. The doctrine of the Trinity is revealed throughout Scripture. Each person of the Trinity is fully God. Yet each person of the Trinity is a distinct person. This doctrine is fundamental to the Christian Faith!

As the Triune God created everything out of nothing. The Trinity is essential to our understanding of redemption. The Father initiated redemption. The Son accomplished redemption and the Holy Spirit applies redemption. As I referred to the Westminster Shorter Catechism for the definition of God, likewise I refer to it for the biblical definition of the Trinity. “There are three persons in the Godhead: The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.” (WSC Q/A #6)

Believing in God necessitates believing in the doctrine of the Trinity!

The fact that there is a God is undeniable. Those who think that there is no God are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness, Romans 1:18. Man’s view of God is irrelevant. The only right view of God is revealed by God. First, Creation declares that He is. Second, the Bible reveals what He is and the only way we can relate to Him.

Here’s “the bottom line”, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through me” The only way to know God is to know His Son, Jesus as He is offered in the gospel!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Pure Gospel”

“The Pure Gospel”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel…Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” Mark 1:15, 38

The gospel is pure. The pure gospel preached is one of the three marks of a true Church. Not only is the gospel’s content pure for it is the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, but it embodies a sense of urgency. Jesus completed everything necessary for redemption, John 19:30. In His public ministry, He obeyed the Father perfectly and preached the gospel with urgency.

Jesus said the reason for His public ministry was to preach. His message was clear and direct. He preached it as a command. “Repent and believe in the gospel! Notice both verbs. They are in the imperative and present tense. The imperative is the mood of command. The present tense describes current and on-going action. Therefore, both repenting and believing are current on-going actions commanded by God.

Jesus gave two reasons for obeying His dual command. The first was the “time is fulfilled.” The second, “the kingdom of God is at hand”. Both statements are indicatives, stated facts.

The first was a reference to Daniel’s prophecy, Daniel 9:25. It was confirmed by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 4:4. This time of fulfillment was in fact the time set in eternity by God for the Messiah’s arrival on earth. Jesus read Isaiah 61:1-2a in the synagogue, see Luke 4:18-21. Jesus said He was the one prophesied who would proclaim the “year of the Lord’s favor”. In other words, Jesus declared that at His Coming God was commanding men and women to call upon Him and be saved. The Apostle Peter boldly told the religious leaders in Jerusalem,” there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” Acts 4:12.

The second reason given by Jesus was not separate and distinct from the first. The Kingdom of God, namely the rule of God was at hand. Jesus the King and Lord, the one who rules all things, was physically in the midst of His hearers. The King who rules all men and has absolute authority, Matthew 28:18, commanded repentance and faith!

Repentance and faith go hand-in-hand. Repentance is a change of mind, a turning away from sin. Faith is trust in the object who is Jesus. When God converts a sinner into a saint He gives two gifts. One is repentance. The second is faith. The converted man and woman turn away from sin and turn to Jesus. Paul explained the action of a converted sinner in Romans 6:11. “So you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Both God-given gifts continue throughout every Christian’s life. We live repenting and believing, turning from our sin and relying upon the perfect righteousness of Christ.

Jesus was very specific in His command. He commanded believing in the gospel. Christians believe in the gospel. Why? The answer is simple and clear. “The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16b.

I’m sure that you’ve heard that the word “gospel” means good news. So what’s the good news? It is, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” 1Corinthians 15:3-4. This is truly good news because we all deserve to go to hell. But, God who is “rich in mercy”, Ephesians 2:4, chose some for heaven. The only way to heaven is through Jesus as He is offered in the gospel! That is relying upon the only begotten one, Jesus, not born but eternally proceeding from the Father. Those destined for heaven rely upon Jesus’ perfect life and His perfect sacrifice for sins. This reliance is not by our strength and power. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. The gospel is good news because God applies it to those whom He has chosen.

Therefore, he who has ears to hear the Savior’s command, repent and believe in the gospel! “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8 S.D.G.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “How Does God Save?”

“How Does God Save?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The Bible teaches that God saves those whom He chooses. Salvation is a past event, an ongoing action, and a guaranteed future in heaven. The one whom God “saves” has been saved, is being saved and will be saved. Volumes could be written concerning God’s sovereign will in salvation and the meaning of salvation. There is still another question. Don’t be misled by the title. The immediate answer, the simple answer to “How does God save?” is Jesus! This is propositionally true. God the Son, Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity gave His physical life as a ransom for many, Matthew 20:26.

My point in asking the question, however, is to go deeper. Those who have been saved desire to know more about what God has done for them in Christ. I want to explore what is known as God’s logical order of salvation. The simple answer, Jesus, is so deep that turning our thoughts to Him fills our lives. I encourage you to study the Person and Work of Christ regularly. He is the deep meaning of God’s grace.

God’s logical order of salvation is rooted in the “simple” answer, Jesus! The Bible declares that God is a God of order not chaos. The Bible begins with this affirmation of God bringing order out of chaos. “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” Genesis 1:2-3 The Apostle Paul rebuked the Church in Corinth for their chaotic behavior. He said, “But all things should be done decently and in order.” He was simply reflecting on the fact that God is a God of order, therefore, His people must be likewise.

In terms of the question, “How does God save?” order is foremost. It is not as if seeing this is to put God in a box. No. It is necessary because God is perfectly rational and supremely logical. Men bear the attributes of reason and logic, albeit broken by the Fall. Throughout the history of the Church, the answer to the “How” question has been called the “Ordo Salutis”, that is, the order of salvation. It does not imply any chronological listing of events. This doctrine of salvation is grounded in the revealed logical order of God’s saving acts.

So then, what is God’s logical order of salvation? The Bible reveals seven main actions of God in salvation. They are God’s: effectual call, regeneration, conversion, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification. In each case the sinner is acted upon. God alone saves. No man can save himself. No man can believe unless God has regenerated him. No man sanctifies himself. God is at work in the believer such that the believer responds to the action of the Holy Spirit. No man can bring himself to glory. If at any step, God removed Himself, all would be lost! All of God’s logical order of salvation is monergistic, meaning one work/God’s work.
1. God’s effectual call is the word of Christ speaking to the dead heart of a man, like Jesus spoke to dead Lazarus. Romans 10:17, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
2. Regeneration and the effectual call of God are intimately linked. John 3:3, Jesus said, “… unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
3. Conversion, “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation…” God converts a sinner into a saint in an instant, gives the sinner two gifts, faith and repentance, and begins a process of change. Ephesians 2:8; 2Corinthians 5:17; 7:10
4. Justification, God sovereignly declares a man right with Him through faith alone, a gift received at conversion. God imputes the perfect righteousness of Christ to the man and takes the man’s sin and places it on Christ. Romans 4:4-5; 2Corinthians 5:21
5. Adoption, God adopts those whom He justifies. He adopts them into His family by an act of His free grace, Romans 8:15.
6. Sanctification is an act of God’s free grace whereby He changes those who are in Christ to be more and more like Him, Philippians 2:12-13
7. Glorification, God by His grace has promised to bring those whom He has chosen in Christ to glory with Him, John 14:2-3; Romans 8:30.

This, beloved, is the gospel! S.D.G.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Brother, are you saved?”

“Brother, are you saved?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

My previous article attempted to give an honest answer to an honest question. The question, “Does God desire all men to be saved?” was answered from Scripture in the negative, based on the context of 1Timothy 2.

Perhaps, this article should’ve preceded the consideration of the salvation of “all” men. Logically, salvation can be addressed both in general terms and intimate ones. The above question is both. It is meant to cause thought re: the meaning of salvation and one’s personal state.

In general, salvation is applied to any dire circumstance. For example, in Jesus’ day the people sought to be delivered from Roman rule. Every adverse circumstance of life drives us all to think of deliverance, which is another word for salvation.

Eternal salvation, the focus of the above question, is to be delivered from the wrath of God. The Bible refers to this salvation in three ways. Salvation is a past event, an ongoing condition and a future hope. “For by grace you have been saved…” Ephesians 2:8, “… (the gospel) by which you are being saved…” 1Corinthians 15:2, and, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” Romans 10:13.

Now as I bring this question to a personal level, I remember my life before Christ. Before God made me a Christian, my response to the question of salvation would certainly have been, “I don’t need to be saved! I’m doing fine.” If someone would have asked me, “Brother, are you saved?” I would have probably laughed and/or been offended. When God regenerated me, raised me from death to life, I was confronted with the truth about myself. I was far from fine. I needed to be saved; to be continually delivered and to have the certain hope of heaven. Before Christ, I was spiritually blind and dead in sin.

By God’s grace, I was able to see the profound nature of the question. The following statement may offend some but it is the heart of the matter. It is the truth revealed by God in His word. Ultimate salvation is being saved by God from God. John 3:16, because God the Father chose to demonstrate His love, He gave Jesus so that whoever would believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life. God must cause an individual to see his need. When confronted with his sinfulness, a jailer cried out to the Apostle Paul and his companion, “what must I do to be saved?” The answer given to him is the timeless answer for all. “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your whole household” Acts 16:30-31.

When the Apostles Peter and John were confronted by the religious authorities in Jerusalem for proclaiming the bodily resurrection of Jesus, they told them God commanded salvation! They said, “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven (Jesus) given among men by which we must be saved” Acts 4:12.

Now the hard truth, salvation is by God from God. All men are born dead in sin. There are no natural children of God. The children of God are adopted. God alone must save men and women from His wrath. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church of Ephesus that all men are naturally children of God’s wrath. He said that God is “rich in mercy”. He extends grace to those whom He chooses. Therefore, salvation is by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. God has given the only means to be spared His wrath which is God’s expression of His holiness against sin.

Years ago I was teaching a Bible study concerning salvation and a young woman got visibly upset with the term “the wrath of God.” She said to me and to the entire class that her god was a god of love. I responded saying that truly God is love. And, God is holy. The holy God and sin cannot co-exist. Nothing imperfect can enter heaven. This isn’t my opinion. This is simply the clear teaching of the Bible. The depth of God’s love cannot be understood apart from knowing His holiness.

Jesus, the full revelation of God, the second person of the Trinity, will come again to judge all mankind.

So then, “Brother, are you saved?” You will either experience the wrath of the Holy God or His steadfast love forever! S.D.G.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “An honest question deserves an honest answer”

“An honest question deserves an honest answer.”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Difficult texts in Scripture present questions. One such text is 1Timothy 2:3-4. “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

“Does God desire all people to be saved?” I’ve heard a response given that suggests the answer is one of the “secret things” of God and there is no answer nor does it matter! 1Timothy 2 is set in the context of corporate worship. Most biblical commentators would agree on this point. This fact does not adequately answer the question.

Indeed, the context is about God’s expectation for His church. He expects the church to be a people of prayer. Corporate worship is to include prayer for men to be saved.

Yet, the answer to the question of God’s will in salvation rests on the meaning of the word “all”. All in 1Timothy 2:4 means all the varied levels of society, specifically, all the ranks of government. The elect of God come from every economic and civil rank. The all does not refer to every single human being, but to groups, ranks of people.

The context is necessary to arrive at an answer. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions…” 1Timothy 2:1-2 Following this, Paul then declares the desire of God our Savior.

Paul declared what pleases God. God is pleased when the church prays for the salvation of all people, especially those who are civil leaders. This is clear. The application is clear at this point. Allow me to phrase the application by way of a question. “Does your church pray for the salvation of all those in authority, regardless of how you feel about specific individuals?” Church, do you want to please God? Then pray for the salvation of all men, especially all those who are in authority, especially when you gather for worship.

Whether “all” is used as an adjective, adverb, pronoun or noun, the context in which it occurs is necessary to define its meaning. Some texts that demonstrate the range of the meaning of “all, everyone, any, whole, and even world” are: John 3:16; Romans 10:13; 2Peter 3:9; 1John 2:2; 1Timothy 2:6. We can, therefore conclude that Paul was not suggesting that it is God’s will to save every person but was qualifying the meaning of “all” by the context.

Secondly the difficulty presented to honest students of the Bible concerns the will of God. God’s will is always done. It is apparent as you study the Bible that God’s will is sovereign over all. That is, by definition of the word “God”, His will must be sovereign over all or He is not God!

We receive God’s revelation of His sovereign will throughout the Scriptures. Genesis 1:1, God created everything out of nothing simply by His command. God is sovereign even over “nothing.” The definition of the absolute sovereignty of God is expressed by the two Latin words, ex nihilo which mean out of nothing.

In addition, Jeremiah declared God’s sovereign will by saying, “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? “Lamentations 3:37 Likewise, Jesus declared God’s sovereign will. “All that the Father gives me will come to me… No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…” John 6:37, 44

One of my favorite texts revealing the absolute sovereign will of God was recorded by Daniel. The pagan king, Nebuchadnezzar said, “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will…” Daniel 4:35

Stepping back a bit, we know that because God ‘s will is sovereign, we will always be with Him. Because the sovereign God has saved us from Himself, we are assured of eternal glory with Him. After all, salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone and this is God’s gift. Our hope rests in the sovereign will of God. He said through the Prophet Isaiah, “But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

Soli Deo Gloria.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “A Basic Question”

“A Basic Question”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
If you are a regular attender of a Christian Worship Service on each Lord’s Day, I pose the following basic question: Why do you attend Corporate Worship on Sunday? I’ve asked this question to professing Christians over the years. I’ve received several typical answers. One of the most representative answers is, “I go to church to be fed.” Other more obscure answers are: “I go to “feel” good. I go to be encouraged. I go because of my children.” These answers are obscure because the answer given is actually hiding the “real” answer. Each of these obscure answers are centered on “self.”

As opposed to these self-centered answers, God commands His people to “keep holy the Sabbath Day.” The Christian Sabbath is Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the Day of His resurrection. Jesus said that He is Lord of the Sabbath. He said that the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath. Mark 2:27-28

God made us to worship Him. It is deeply imbedded in each of us. We will worship. The question is, “Who will we worship?” Jesus’ final response to Satan’s temptation in the wilderness was, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” Matthew 4:10

There is only one biblical reason to worship God on the Lord’s Day. We, His creatures owe worship to Him. We gather with God’s people to worship Him!

May we all be honest with ourselves. Those of us who think that worship is for us, may we repent of this self-centered idolatry! Jesus said that the Father is seeking true worshipers to worship Him in spirit and truth, John 4:23.

If you have been raised from death to life, you will desire to worship the One who extended such grace to you. You were once dead in your sin, but God made you alive with Jesus Christ. Therefore, worship Him! This desire is not a feeling. It does not depend upon whether you feel loved by the people in the church or that the music is what you’re used to hearing in concerts or Christian radio. The desire to worship is part of being a new creation in Christ. That is, if your truly are!

Being a new creation in Christ does not depend upon saying the “sinners’ prayer” or doing some special ministry in the church. It is not about settling things with God and getting on with your life. No. Being a new creation is a change in our very being wrought only by the sovereign grace of God. It is being different and knowing that God has set you apart in Christ to be like Him! It is knowing that you are a sinner saved by God’s grace alone through the Person and Work of Christ alone. Being a new creation is to be a genuine Christian. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,” 2Corinthians 5:17

Christians, new creations have been saved by God from God. The only response to being God’s adopted child in Christ is to bow down and worship Him! The idea that corporate worship is one thing in a list of things, is simply not biblical. Our entire life is worship. That is, Christians live in submission to the sovereign God. Christians have received God’s grace to live for Him, Romans 6:11.

I am dismayed when I hear a professing Christian give excuses for not joining God’s people to worship Him on the Lord’s Day. All of the excuses, save physical illness that is debilitating, are grounded in a love for self over a love for God.

To all those who fail to gather on the Lord’s Day for worship and profess to be Christians, I can only say what God has said. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus… let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some…” Hebrews 10:19,24-25 And, Therefore, brothers., be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election…” 2Peter 1:10

Psalm 122:1 expresses the depth of a new creation’s desire. “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”’ It is an oxymoron to claim to be a child of God and not desire to worship Him with His people.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Who is Truth? (The Real Jesus)”

“Who is Truth? (the Real Jesus)”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

The Roman Governor of Jerusalem, the civil authority “ordained by God” to order the crucifixion of Jesus, asked the question, “What is truth?” Pilate asked Jesus the question already having determined an answer. In Pilate’s mind, truth was secondary. He believed that the most important thing was power. Ironically, Pilate was right. However, he did not acknowledge the truly sovereign power, God Himself. He was standing in front of the truth and was blind to Him! A more accurate question not only for Pilate but for all men is, “Who is Truth?” Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” John 14:6. Truth is reality. All men must face reality. Therefore, all men must face the one who is Truth! And, we all will.

Our current age is referred to as the Post Modern Era. Post modernism subverts the importance of truth. The Post Modern mind has no absolutes. A symptom of Post Modernism is reflected by what is called spirituality. We see it in movies and television. There are popular dramas centered in the world beyond this one. Talk shows on T.V. have segments to discuss the importance of having some kind of spiritual connectedness. People seem to be on never-ending quests to experience the latest spiritual guru’s method for attaining a deep spiritual fulfillment. You may have heard someone say, “It’s all about the journey.” The evangelical church is not immune. Books, like “The Shack” describing a different god, or those that record experiences of near death are received as certain truth.

It’s common to hear that when someone dies they have gone to a better place! We fail to remember that there is such a thing as absolute truth. There is a person who is truth. There will be an accounting for all men. Revelation 20:11-13 Judgment is real.

Men and women live in denial. People have bought the lie that everything is relative. What’s true for you may or may not be true for me. Those who see reality are referred to as simple-minded or bigots. Their charge against those of us who recognize absolute truth is: “Who made you the purveyor of truth?” The political world is filled with such charges. Decisions are made according to poll numbers. We know and have experienced that polls are designed to support an agenda rather than report on the truth.

Too often the evangelical church is not different than the world. Some who claim to speak for the church would have us believe that it’s all about relationships and that truth is contrary to love. Doctrine is outdated. The central focus of many churches is fellowship with each other and sincerity towards God. They suggest that God honors sincerity regardless of submission to the truth. Fellowship is the “warm feeling” one gets by being with like-minded people rather than being in union with Christ knowing that you are a member of His body, the Church.

Nevertheless, having a relationship with the real Jesus is what matters. There is only one true Savior. He said that He is the truth. He is the revealed Jesus of the Bible. Dare I say that He is not simply known in the eye of the beholder? One might be sincerely wrong if his devotion does not proceed out of Christ. He is reality! He commands that men and women repent and believe in the gospel! Mark 1:15

The church does not exist to meet “felt needs”; to offer courses on how to have a better marriage or how to live as a single or divorced person, etc. The church is commanded to teach what is in accordance with sound doctrine. In doing so believers will be equipped to make a difference in the world for the glory of God.

The answer to the question asked in the title is: Jesus is the Truth. Truth is that which is real and truth is a Person! Truth matters. Absolute truth matters absolutely. By God’s grace, He has revealed truth. His name is Jesus. He is the only begotten one of God, not born, but eternally proceeding from the Father. He is the one revealed in the Bible. He is the one offered in the gospel. All life is lived in response to Him. Every relationship is designed by God to find meaning as a result of knowing Him.

Abide in the word and you will know the truth!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Apathy”

The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God,” Psalm 14:1a “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Romans 1:18

On one hand, king David defined the ultimate lie that “fools” tell themselves. On the other hand, the Apostle Paul declared that men suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Both texts are given to us under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Both texts declare, in part, man’s apathy.

Apathy as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary means to have a lack of feeling or interest or to be indifferent to reality. The origin of the word is found in Greek. Apathy is a compound word. Pathos means feeling, sometimes lustful passion. The prefix “a” is a negation. We may literally understand the word apathy to mean no interest or feeling.

I find it very difficult that one knows the truth and yet doesn’t care about it. Truth, remember, is that which is real. In our physical world, no one can survive very long by being indifferent to reality. I’ve used the analogy of a wall to describe the impossibility of being indifferent to reality. Think for a moment. We all live in houses or apartments. Our homes have walls that both mark boundaries and provide privacy and protection. In order to enter our home, we normally enter through a doorway. We wouldn’t consider walking through a wall. We know that that wall is real. It is a physical barrier. Even if we were somehow indifferent to the wall, we still know that it prevents us from walking through it. We can deny the reality of the wall. But, our denial of it does not make it possible for us to ignore it

Yet, some Christians live as though truth doesn’t matter. They live in a state of denial. They even express indifference to ultimate truth.

Christians are citizens of heaven, Philippians 3:20. Jesus said that He is “the way and the truth and the life,” John 14:6. Jesus also said that He is the Good Shepherd. He is the door into His pasture. John 10.

Jesus taught the ethic of life in the Kingdom, Matthew 5-7. In reading and understanding Matthew 5-7, we are faced with the impossibility of meeting those standards. The reality revealed in the Sermon on the Mount is that no man can do it, save the God-Man, Jesus. We who profess Christ must fall on our knees in dependence upon the power of the Holy Spirit to live in Christ as God intends.

Every day, we see our need for Christ, our Savior and Lord. We read that the gospel is the power of God, Romans 1:16. All who are in Christ have confessed that Jesus is Lord and believe in their heart that God raised Him from the dead, Romans 10:9. The ultimate truth is that Jesus, as He is offered in the gospel, is the only Savior and Lord. He is God, the second Person of the Trinity. He is fully God and fully Man.

All of the above are true and are affirmed by every Christian Church. Yet, in my experience, the Evangelical Church is remiss in teaching the Person and Work of Christ revealed in Scripture. There is apathy in congregations for learning the revealed truth of the Person and Work of Christ which is the gospel, the power of God. Some members of churches would rather hear methods, checklists on overcoming divorce, or dealing with sin, or the “right” way to raise children.

Many churches grow in numbers by using the “right methods.” The overwhelming majority of people in our area of the country declare that they are Christians. Yet, few know much of who Jesus is and what He accomplished, save that He died for their sins. Some are told that once they settle accounts with God through Jesus, they are guaranteed of heaven and life can go on as usual. People are taught that God wants to make them better. They are not told the truth that God changes those whom He calls to Himself.

There is also another expression of apathy in the church. It is in churches that teach the truth and yet her members have little time or interest to learn.

Both expressions: settling for lies or ignoring the truth are forms of apathy. Both expressions lead to disaster!