Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Truth Will Set You Free!”

“The Truth Will Set You Free!”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

“Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”’

Free from what?” I can hear the rugged individualist’s response. “I am free! I can do whatever I want.” Indeed everyone can do whatever he or she wants to do. The problem is what he wants. God said that every inclination of man’s heart is only evil continually, Genesis 6:5. To understand our bondage, we must submit ourselves to the revealed truth of God. In so doing, Jesus said we will be set free. In order to submit to the truth, God must give eyes to see and ears to hear which He alone does by regenerating those whom He chooses.

Every time I open my Bible, I know that I am reading the truth only because God breathed life into me! The Psalmist wrote, “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” Psalm 119:160

Knowing objective truth, it is frustrating to hear the so-called news reports. Instead of news, we often get the latest spin on the news. We value commentary on events rather than the facts. We are more impressed by form and presentation than content. Politicians speak around the truth. The truth is used rather than told. Sadly, the evangelical church is often no better than the world in speaking the truth.

Yet, the fact remains, there is ultimate truth. God has revealed the truth. His creation reveals His divine attributes, power and majesty, Romans 1:19. He has revealed Himself in His word written and supremely in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life…” John 14:6. Apart from God’s special revelation leading to Jesus as He is offered in the gospel no one can: know God in an intimate and saving relationship, John 17:3, know ultimate truth or be set free.

God radically changes a sinner’s life and gives him or her eyes to see the truth. There is no other way to live that is free. God speaks truth. God is truth. No matter what men try to tell you, know that God is always telling you the truth. The freedom of which Jesus spoke is freedom from the bondage of sin.

All who know Jesus as He is offered in the gospel readily affirm what I’ve just written. When Jesus asked His disciples if they were considering deserting Him, Peter responded by saying, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68.

There is no reason to sugar coat the truth. The fact is, unless a man or woman comes to acknowledge the truth, there is only eternal judgment in store for him or her. The natural man is in bondage to sin and deserves hell.

I’ve read that old time gospel preachers used to say, “God said it; I believe it; that settles it.” Here’s a more accurate statement, “God said it that settles it.”

There is something very imposing about the truth. It is what it is. No one can change it. In fact, it doesn’t matter if the truth is received and believed on the one hand. But, on the other hand, it matters for eternity. Man’s only reasonable response to the truth is to submit to it. Seeking to mitigate or spin the truth does dishonor to God and damage to the hearers. Likewise, we who are Christians should demand that our leaders speak the truth and live the truth.

Look at the Apostle Peter’s testimony. He stood before very powerful men and spoke without any mitigation or spin. Peter said, “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

Peter spoke the truth that must be known for all time. This is the truth that will set men free!

Here’s the unveiled truth in the words of Jesus, “Repent and believe in the gospel, “Mark 1:15. Knowing this truth is a gift from God. Knowing this truth leads to acting upon it. Knowing this truth ought to cause us to rejoice and be compelled to learn more of God’s truth in order to live in accordance with it.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Church and State Both Under God”

“Church and State Both Under God”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
The giving of the Law and God’s ordination of civil authority are two blessings of God that intersect each other. Both the church and state are under God’s sovereign authority.

The blessing of the Law is stated in Deuteronomy 11:26-28. It was given to the Church of the Old Testament. “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and the curse if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known.”

The Apostle Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia, “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions…” Galatians 3:19. He called believers to “walk by the Spirit, Galatians 5:16. Believers live by the Spirit by applying the word of God in their lives.

He later wrote to the church in Rome, “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad…” Romans 13:3 He reminded the members of the church that God is the one who ordains all authority. Those who are in authority are His ministers for the good and welfare of all people.

In Deuteronomy 11:26-28 and Galatians 3:19 the focus is on the Law of God which is the word of God and more precisely the Ten Commandments.

In Romans, Paul was referring to civil authority and by implication civil laws. God is the one who ordains all civil authority. God’s purpose is to provide for an ordered society. Those who are governmental officers are God’s ministers for the good of all. They are charged with keeping order so as to promote good. As God is the source of all that is good, civil authorities and civil laws are subordinate to God’s law.

The Bible declared a situation in which there was a conflict between God’s law and man’s law. When the leaders of Israel commanded the Apostles to cease preaching the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Peter and John responded, “We must obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29

To help understand the importance of the Law and law in general, there are, what the Protestant Reformers called three uses of the Law as they are revealed in Scripture. The first use of the Law is to point to man’s hopelessness and his desperate need for a Savior. The second use of the Law is to restrain men who are untouched by any care for what is just and right unless compelled by hearing the dire threats in the law. The third use of the Law is to guide the life of a believer in pleasing God. These descriptions of the three uses of the law have been paraphrased from Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 2, chapter 7, sections 9 and 10. John Calvin articulated what the Bible teaches concerning the Law, Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 11:26-28; Galatians 3; 5 and Romans 13.

The intersection of the blessing of the Law and Civil authority is the second use of the Law. It is the means given by God to put bounds around sinful mankind. It is this use of the Law that is the foundation of every society.

“All truth is God’s truth.” The necessity of the rule of law is absolute since truth is absolute. No society can exist for very long if law is relative or applied on sliding scales.

In light of the recent riots in Baltimore, we apparently have laws that don’t apply to all. Those who have been charged by the people to execute and enforce our laws only do so selectively. This is a dangerous time.

Keep in mind that we are blessed in that our country was founded upon a principle that our government is by the people and for the people. Our founders understood God’s blessing of Law. I pray that all would recognize the danger of our current lawlessness. Devote yourself to vote for men and women who understand the necessity of the universal application of the rule of law. Understand that it is because of God’s blessing of law that we are able to guard those rights that He has given all men: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Hold dear the truth that freedom is only possible under the rule of law.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Suited to Lead… The Issue of Character”

“Suited to Lead… The Issue of Character”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

What ever happened to our understanding of character? How is it that our culture doesn’t seem to care about character? We are often asked to trust in the unknown. We have been manipulated into thinking that character doesn’t matter. Somehow, past behavior doesn’t matter either. We are told it’s not appropriate to look into someone’s past to determine how he or she might act in the future.

For Christians, God’s gift of faith should be a guide in evaluating character. For example, Christian Faith is a step into the light not a leap into the darkness. We who are Christians don’t possess a blind faith. We trust in what we have “learned, firmly believed and been convinced of” 2Timothy 3:14, namely the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.

Likewise, our evaluation of a person’s character ought to be based on certain observable facts. A person’s past can aid in determining his/her character. In fact, past actions provide a guide to future ones. Of course, there are no guarantees. We are not omniscient, yet, we can make reasonable assessments of a person’s character.

Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” was taught by Jesus not as another Law but to describe His ethic or practice. In other words, Jesus laid out the standard of life in His Kingdom. He lived what He preached in His sermon. The purpose of His sermon is to drive those who have been born again to their knees. We who profess the name of Christ do so by the sovereign grace of God who has raised us from death to life. We read the sermon and realize that it presents an impossible life-style. We are compelled to rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit of God in order to live the Christian Life. Jesus was the only one who actually lived in accordance with His sermon.

In this teaching, Jesus referred to a person’s “fruits.” Matthew 7:20, “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” He declared that there will be false prophets. He said that these false prophets will look and dress like sheep but will actually be wolves. These wolves will seek to devour the sheep. The sheep represent the people of God. The wolves naturally, are those who are opposed to God seek to destroy God’s people. The “fruits” of these false prophets are their deeds.

The Bible is God’s word to His children. But, it is absolutely and universally true for all men. What the Bible says, God says. What God has said is binding on all people whether or not they believe it. Jesus declared a universal truth which provides a means to discern another’s character. He said what’s in a person is recognizable no matter what the circumstance or context. The character of an individual is not found in eloquence or erudition, real or imagined. It is not found in appearance or popularity. Character can be assessed by looking at past behavior. Just as recognizing false prophets is possible by examining actions. In order to recognize a man or woman of character it is necessary to study his or her past behavior. A man or woman’s past actions are his/her “fruits.”

False people have “rotten fruit” evidenced by their past actions. Sometimes these false people actually say things that might be true. They may be lifted up by those who have ulterior motives. Jesus said look at what they have produced before determining their genuineness.

More now perhaps than ever, we need leaders who are genuine. We need to look back on a man or woman’s life before we pledge our support. This principle of looking at a person’s fruits applies not only to our civil government but to all areas of life in which we must select leaders. This is so simple yet it seems absent from some of the most important decisions we make.

We can complain about those in leadership who display little or no character. We can try to outdo the experts who continue to put forth “made-up” leaders designed to attract the uninformed. Or, we can demand honesty from our leaders. Look for outlets that are willing to give accurate information about a prospective leader’s past. As Jesus instructed His disciples, look to their fruits. “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”

Only men and women of character are suited to lead. Those of character produce good fruits!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Darkness for Light”

“Darkness for Light”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
We live in a culture that seeks to call darkness light and light darkness. While this is both terrible and amazing it’s not new. The fifth Chapter of Isaiah includes a listing of “Woes.” The word woe indicates a dire warning. In Isaiah, God warned His people of a coming judgment. One of the woes listed is “Woe to those … who put darkness for light and light for darkness.” Isaiah 5:20. The verse is Hebrew parallelism. Darkness is parallel with evil and light is parallel with good.

The Prophet Isaiah wrote comprehensively about God’s judgment and salvation. Chapter 5 was addressed to God’s “vineyard”, His chosen people. God sought justice and righteousness within His people and found none! God’s indictment of wicked people continued. They are described as oppressive, self-serving, unjust and liars. The “woe” quoted from verse 5 is repeated five more times in Chapter 5.

God expects His people to know light from darkness and good from evil. He expects His people to follow “the good”. “The good” is that which is morally and ethically right. God has revealed that He is the source of “the good.” The word of God reveals that which is good. Another Prophet, Micah wrote, “He has told you, O man, what is good.” Micah 6:8a Notice, we know the good because God has told us what is good.

Further, God promised His people to work all things together for the good of those who love Him, those whom He has called, Romans 8:28.

We know that the Bible was written to believers yet it applies to all people. God does not have a sliding scale. He doesn’t grade on a curve. “All must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” 2Corinthans 5:10

One of the most blatant examples of putting darkness for light is promoted by the organization called Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood claims that they operate for the interest of women’s health. The founder of Planned Parenthood believed in eugenics shaped by her belief in evolution. Eugenics is the attempt to improve the species through genetic control. In the case of Margaret Sanger improvement of the species would come by removing the less desirable members of society, such as minorities and the disabled. One of the tools that she advocated for improvement was abortion another was sterilization of minority women. The following quote of Margaret Sanger summarized her philosophy. “More children from the fit, less from the unfit — that is the chief aim of birth control.” (Birth Control Review, May 1919, p. 12)

As a result of our sinfulness both believers and unbelievers often have a difficult time in discerning light from darkness and good from evil. Yet, there is certainty. We need not be awash in a sea of moral relativism. God has given believers His word and Spirit to understand and recognize good from evil and light from darkness, Psalm 119:105.

On the other hand, the issue of human life does not fall into the category of ethical confusion. We need not wonder what the “good” course is. The sanctity of human life is not a grey issue. God is for life! Dare I say it; those who would call death good are fools. They are putting light for darkness.

God called me to be a minister of the gospel. I am an ordained pastor. Yet, in this I am simply writing as a man who believes in the Risen Lord Jesus. I have been made a new creation by the sovereign grace of God. He has caused me to see the truth and the beauty of Christ. As a member of His family, I am obligated to declare the truth and live under His word. I dare not bless what God curses! I dare not remain silent when evil is called good.

I read somewhere that for evil to succeed all that is necessary is for good men to be silent. I am not good in the sight of God. I am a sinner. God alone is good and He expects me to stand for that which He has sanctified, namely human life. There is no middle ground when it comes to standing for the sanctity of human life.

May you be courageous in your support of human life, especially the life of the unborn.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Knowing God Requires Growing by His Means”

Knowing God Requires Growing by His Means
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Jesus defined eternal life as knowing the one true God and Jesus Christ whom He sent, John 17:3. The life that God gives in Christ is meant to grow. Those who are in Christ have been given a life that will never end. The substance of the Christian’s Life is an ever increasing depth of intimacy with God, the Father though Jesus, the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit. In these uncertain times, there is no greater gift of God than knowing His abiding presence.

God said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” Hebrews 13:5. The Apostle Paul prayed that believers would, “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,” so as to be “filled with all the fullness of God, “Ephesians 3:19

The gospel is not something that we need to “settle” with God. There is no biblical warrant for invitations extended to manipulate people to accept Jesus. The Bible teaches that God who is sovereign calls His people to Himself. When God makes a sinner into a saint, life in Christ begins. And, the life begun grows by God’s design by God’s means.

God provides for spiritual growth through His “means of grace.” There are three prominent ones: the Word, Sacraments and Prayer.

The means of grace are for those who have been saved, are being saved and will be saved. In other words God’s means of grace are for Christians.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism Q/A#88, calls them “outward means whereby Christ communicates (to believers) the benefits of redemption.”

The first is the Word. As a believer reads the Bible he is strengthened by God to live for Him. This does not only refer to our private reading of Scripture, but also to its public reading. A distinctive of Reformed Worship is the reading of Scripture in the worship service. In agreement with the Bible, the Ancient Church and the Protestant Reformers, the public reading of Scripture is an element of biblical worship. As such, it is separate and distinct from the text used by the preacher for exposition. Certainly, the preaching of the word is an integral part of this means of grace. As the preacher expounds a text of Scripture, making clear its meaning, grace is received by those who have placed their trust in God. God may also choose to raise a spiritually dead person to life through the preaching of the word in concert with His Holy Spirit during corporate worship. However, the salvation of the lost is not the primary purpose of corporate worship.

The second means of grace are the Sacraments. There are two, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Both are called holy ordinances. Both were instituted by Christ. Baptism was given to the church by Christ, Matthew 28:18-20. Baptism is a sacrament that looks forward to what God will do. It is a sign of the work of the Holy Spirit. It is a seal that authenticates God’s promise. It is properly administered to believers and their children. The Bible calls the other sacrament the Lord’s Supper. It is a sign and seal of the New Covenant in the blood of Christ. In this ordinance, the believer looks back at the finished work of Christ on his behalf. It is reserved for those who have been baptized and have made a profession of faith. As either or both of these sacraments are administered in accordance with Christ’s institution grace is received by those who have professed faith in Christ.

Thirdly and finally, Prayer is a means of grace. It is communication with God comprised of adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication. Prayer is a means by which God bends our wills to His. We hear from Him and He has promised to answer our prayers in ways that are beyond what we can think or ask.

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He began by saying, “When you pray”, Luke 11:2. Jesus has given believers access to God’s throne of grace. Christians are exhorted to approach His throne with confidence, Hebrews 4:16.

So then, there are three: the Word, Sacraments and Prayer. Each is God’s means of nourishing, strengthening and growing His people up in Christ.

Finally, the means of grace are ordained by God to provide each believer with the assurance of His abiding presence. May you grow in the knowledge and love of Christ by these means of grace!

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Where are the Christians?”

“Where are the Christians?”
The Rev. Louis B. Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Our Church like thousands of Christian Churches throughout our Country just celebrated Easter. Every Lord’s Day is a celebration of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet, Easter Sunday is one of the greatest common celebrations of the church universal or church catholic, if you prefer.

Some churches have magnificent liturgies just for Easter Sunday. Most people feel obliged to attend the corporate gathering of God’s people on Easter Sunday. Some may not have such a desire on other Sundays. Calling oneself a Christian doesn’t make one a Christian. But, there is a sense of duty even in those who call themselves Christians to worship on Christmas and Easter.

Most churches report their highest attendance on Easter Sunday. Often the lowest attendance is on the Sunday following Easter Sunday!

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth calling her members to examine and test themselves to see if they were indeed Christians, 2Corinthians 13:5.

Luke recorded in the Acts of the Apostles that the “disciples were first called Christians in Antioch, “Acts 11:26.

A genuine Christian is one every day of the week not simply on Sundays, even Easter Sunday. Those who have received the grace of God “offer themselves as living sacrifices,” Romans 12:1. Those who know the Risen Lord Jesus die to self and live for Him.

The Triune God is the object of all true worship; the One whom Christians world-wide worshiped on Easter Sunday is the Risen Lord Jesus, the only Son of God, and the second Person of the Trinity. He rules all things. He has all power in heaven and on earth.

Jesus had a great deal to say concerning genuine faith, which is God’s gift to those who are chosen by Him. He said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisee, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” Matthew 5:20. He said, “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,” Matthew 7:21. Jesus said, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven,” Matthew 10:32-33.

While thinking and meditating on the truth of genuine Christianity revealed by God in His word, I was struck by the deafening silence in the face of the homosexual lobby’s concerted agenda to dismantle God’s gift of marriage and assault Christianity. In the face of open challenge to those who profess to be Christians who indeed gave the “good” confession there was precious little offered in support of their testimony. I wondered, “Where are all the Christians? Where are the multitudes that flooded churches
on Easter Sunday? Why are we, who profess Christ silent when we see evil, being declared good and good being declared evil? God revealed His view of those who do such things. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20 It’s not necessary for me to explain the meaning of “woe.” Its meaning is intuitively obvious. Suffice it to say that “woe” is an announcement of impending doom. Webster’s Dictionary defines “woe” as an expression of grief, regret, or distress.

If God’s has made the truth so clear, what then is our dilemma? At the risk of repeating myself, I can only conclude that the church is not teaching her members the truth. Now, I know that there are many faithful pastors reading this who persevere in teaching the plain truth of Scripture. I also know that perseverance in doing so often brings frustration. We find that people don’t want the truth. They prefer what they define as relevant. Now I am a believer in the need for the church to be relevant. Relevance must extend to the development of a Christian World-View. Relevance is of little use when it simply addresses specific life-situations. God’s word is relevant. God’s word is the lamp for our feet and a light unto our path, Psalm 119:105. The relevance God desires is that which equips and empowers His people to bring what is true into the public sphere! Are you being so equipped?

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “What People Need”

“What People Need”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)

How time flies when you’re having fun! Three years ago, I wrote an article entitled, “What is Truth?” Now, with all manner of information and news happenings swirling around us, I believe that there is a fundamental question that lies under the question of truth. There is a question that is timeless and applies to all mankind. The question is, “What do people need?”

My earlier article began with the question asked by Pilate of Jesus two thousand years ago. He asked, “What is truth?” Pilate’s question revealed that he thought truth was irrelevant. Pilate believed that his authority and the power his office held was what should concern Jesus. For Pilate the issue was worldly authority and power. Pilate’s fear and respect for power was not wrong in itself. Pilate’s philosophy was missing the truth of who held the most power. Jesus said not to fear men but fear the one who could destroy body and soul in hell. In other words, fear God! Matthew 10:28

There was a Christian song recorded by Steve Green several years ago entitled, “People Need the Lord.” I affirm the message conveyed in the song. Yet, I know that in order to know the Lord Jesus, one must receive the truth. Notice the requirement for knowing Jesus is the truth, not just a truth. No, to know Jesus as He is offered in the gospel, one must receive and embrace the truth which is absolute.

The definite article “the” is critical. Christians affirm that all truth is God’s truth. There is, after all, Jesus’ declaration that He is the truth, John 14:6. He is not one of many truths. Jesus is uniquely the truth.

Further, God’s word is truth, John 17:17. Truth is that which is real. Jesus said that knowing the truth sets a person free! John 8:32.

The truth is that all men are born in bondage to sin. This is true for all men for all time. There is only one who was born without sin. The Bible declares, “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Romans 5:12 All who are effectually called by God are given the gift of repentance and thereby embrace the truth of their sinfulness.

The truth is that God’s wrath was appeased by Jesus Christ on the cross. This propitiation was only possible because Jesus was sinless. In spite of spurious teaching that originated in the Middle Ages, Mary was not born without sin. Mary is not our co-redeemer. Mary was a sinner saved by grace as is every believer in Christ.

Salvation is not possible unless the truth is embraced. Heaven is only the inheritance of those who have been pierced in the heart by the truth.

Indeed people need the Lord! The truth is, only those who acknowledge their need turn to the Lord and only those who embrace the truth that can turn to the Lord.

So then, the answer to people’s need is the truth, the unadulterated, inerrant, infallible and all-sufficient truth. Jesus is the truth and His word is truth.

But there is a problem. The natural man will never acknowledge his need for the truth. The natural man’s will is inclined to evil. The natural man seeks to find a truth that fits his imagined need. The natural man is unable to embrace the truth of Jesus on his own. The Spirit of God must break into his heart. Rather, it is more accurate to say that the Spirit of God must take his heart of stone and give him a heart of flesh.

There is no one who can solve the problem of man’s refusal to embrace the truth. Yet, as Jesus told His disciples, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

In summary, permit me to be bold. People need the truth because the truth is reality. God has revealed the truth fully in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The truth is Jesus is the only Son of God, begotten not made. The truth is the only way to know Jesus is through the Bible which is God’s breathed-out word. The truth is that apart from Jesus you will experience the wrath of God. The truth is that there is salvation in no other name but Jesus, Acts 4:12.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “The Indispensable Word”

“The indispensable word”
The Rev. Louis B. Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Mark 1:14-15

It is easy to forget that there is no good news if the bad news is not acknowledged. Repentance is not an option. Repentance means to change one’s mind. By God’s gift of repentance, a sinner turns from sin and turns to Jesus. Just as faith is a life-long action. So too is repentance. Christians rely upon the finished work of Jesus and confess their sins to God. He has promised to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, 1John 1:9.

This change of mind brought about as we repent includes much more than thinking in a different way. It causes us to change every aspect of our lives as we hold every thought captive to obey Christ, 2Corinthians 10:5.

The penitent one changes the way he thinks and makes decisions. His motivations to serve himself are changed. This change from sin to do what is right is an essential doctrine of the Christian Faith.

Repentance that leads to salvation is always coupled in the Bible with faith. The Apostle Paul summarized the Christian Life. He said that Christians are to count themselves dead to sin (turning from) and alive to God in Christ Jesus (turning to), Romans 6:11.

Jesus’ words were issued in the command mode. Seeing the good news of the gospel is preceded by acknowledging the bad news of our sinfulness. Martin Luther called this preaching law and gospel.

The only way a sinner is able to acknowledge his own “bad news” is if God causes him to see it. Jesus said that one must be born again to see the kingdom, John 3:3, 5, and 7. When Peter preached his great sermon on the feast of Pentecost, the Spirit of God in concert with the word of God pierced the hearts of some who heard and they “were cut to the heart, and said… , “Brothers, what shall we do?”

I have gone to this depth at the risk of repetition in order to emphasize the necessity of repentance. The Bible teaches that both repentance and faith (believing) are gifts from God. They are given to those whom God converts from a sinner to a saint. They are given and received at conversion. Both gifts are exercised by one who has been saved, is being saved, and will be saved.

As God’s gift of faith has three parts: knowledge, agreement and trust. His gift of repentance also has three parts: acknowledgment of sin, sorrow over sin and finally turning from sin. Genuine faith’s three parts are: knowledge of the truth; agreement with the truth and reliance upon the truth.

The three parts of genuine repentance are: acknowledgement of sin; godly sorrow for sin and turning away from sin.

God has appointed a moment in time when He effectually calls a sinner to Himself. He regenerates the sinner in an instant. He converts the sinner into a saint and gives both the gift of faith and repentance. From that moment the Christian strives to live penitently and faithfully.

God’s promise of heaven is for everyone who repents of his sin and believes in Jesus as He is offered in the gospel! Further, on the believer’s way home to heaven, the Spirit of God continues to sanctify him. The Holy Spirit works in the believer prompting a life of faith and repentance. Drawing from a line in an Indiana Jones movie… only the penitent may pass (survive).

By God’s grace and mercy alone, He gives the gifts of repentance and faith without which there is no good news. As we come face to face with our own sinfulness, being grieved by it and committing to turn from it, God causes a light to shine in our hearts to see the beauty of Christ and run to Him. I can’t emphasize this truth enough. The gifts of repentance and faith are received in a moment in time and they continue to be expressed throughout life. They truly are the gifts that keep on giving and it’s all by God’s grace!

Don’t be deceived, faith without repentance is no faith at all! Repentance is truly the indispensable word.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Ordained in the Garden”

“Ordained in the Garden”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“What therefore God has joined together let not man separate.” These are the words of Jesus recorded by Matthew, Matthew 19:6.

How did marriage come under the authority of government? How is it that a few men in black robes think that they have the authority to re-define what God ordained in the Garden? “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24

The fact that God defined marriage is the fundamental problem faced by any society that seeks to alter His definition. God defined marriage as the covenantal union of a man and a woman. The word “marriage” has been understood precisely as God intended. No matter if one is an officer of the court or a legislator he does not have the authority to change the meaning of what God has ordained, namely marriage.

Words have meaning and if we can change the meaning of words, we will cease to be able to communicate. But the issue of marriage is even more significant than changing the meaning of the word. The most fundamental pillar of every society is the family. As society’s view of God’s gift of Marriage wanes, that society will continue to unravel.

The bond ordained by God is one man committing to be joined to one woman as long as they both shall live. Marriage is the fundamental building block of the most intimate of relationships with which God has blessed Mankind.

Some church leaders have suggested that the church needs to prepare to accept a re-defined understanding of marriage. Yet, it is the church which is called by her Lord, Jesus to stand for the truth. He is the truth. He has revealed the truth in words. We have God’s word written, inerrant and infallible to live under.

This weekend, I will have the privilege of officiating at a Marriage Ceremony. A young man and woman will be pledging their love for one another under God and before witnesses.

The marriage ceremony states: “Marriage was instituted by God Himself in the time of man’s innocency and uprightness. The Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him,” Genesis 2:18. Thereupon God created woman of man’s own substance and brought her to the man…”

This is one of the greatest understatements recorded in Scripture. Adam said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;” Genesis 2:23 God declared everything to be “very good” after this great creative act. Adam was overwhelmed by the wisdom of God in providing a “helpmeet” for him who was the perfect complement, the perfect partner.

The Apostle Paul wrote that the marriage of a man to a woman models the relationship of the church to Christ, Ephesians 5:32. Christian Marriage reflects the intimate relationship that every believer has with the Lord Jesus.

In summary, we humbly receive God’s definition of marriage. Marriage is the covenantal union of one man to one woman. God’s great wisdom gave mankind the covenant of marriage as the most fundamental human relationship. It forms the basis of every culture. It has formed the basis of our society. The challenges against traditional marriage are nothing more (or less) than rebellion against God. Recent attempts to re-define marriage testify to this rebellion which has been going on since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, Genesis 3.

Our Lawmakers may indeed decide to change the legal definition of marriage. Legal is not necessarily Godly and moral. Psalm 2:4 declares God’s view of man’s attempts to usurp His authority. “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.” The God- instituted covenant of marriage will remain the union of one man with one woman. Our society will bear the consequences of perverting the biblical meaning of marriage. In some ways we are already experiencing the consequences of the systematic breakdown of traditional marriage and the family unit.

The issue of marriage is not an issue of equal rights but an issue of revealed truth! I urge you who call upon the name of the Lord to speak up for the sanctity of marriage as defined by God. Pray for God’s protection for our marriages. Celebrate marriage as the profound mystery through which God demonstrates the intimacy between Christ and His bride, the church, Ephesians 5:32.

Pastor’s Viewpoints, “Who merited God’s favor?”

“Who merited God’s favor?”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
King David wrote, “O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?” Psalm 15:1 The answer is one who is: blameless, speaks the truth, does what is right, doesn’t slander anyone, despises evil doers. You get the point! Perfection is required to be in God’s presence! There was only one perfect man. His name is Jesus Christ, the only Son of God. Jesus lived a perfect life and offered to God a perfect sacrifice, Himself.

If you desire to be in the presence of God, you must be perfect or be in the one who was and is perfect. Only those who are in Christ may approach God’s throne of grace. Only those who are in Christ can expect God to hear and answer their prayers. Only those who are in Christ will be allowed to enter heaven and be with the Lord for eternity.

Jesus Christ did what Adam failed to do. It is only through faith in Christ that God declares a man or woman to be in “right” relationship with Him. The Bible teaches that salvation is by Grace Alone through Faith alone in Christ alone, Rom. 4:4-5; Ephesians 2:8-9.

The Apostle John wrote, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17 John referred to the law given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai and to the truth which is reality revealed in the person of Jesus. The law of God is the absolute standard of perfection. The Jews sought to make the law fool-proof. The leaders enforced more than 600 nuances of the basic commandments of God to address every aspect of life. Jesus said that they had missed the spirit of the law.

The truth is no one can keep the law. The Apostle Paul wrote that the purpose of the law was to bound sin and lead men to their need for a Savior, Galatians 3:19-29.

God doesn’t grade righteousness on a scale. Passing grades are not given by comparing men. We must be honest with ourselves before God. We are all sinners. No man will be able to justify himself before the holy God. We must receive the grace of God which was merited by Jesus Christ.

God’s grace is the only means by which men may have a “passing grade.” God’s grace is extended only because of the perfect merit of Jesus Christ. And, God extends His grace to those whom He wills, Romans 9:16.

The grace of God is His favor extended to His people as a result of the merit of Jesus on their behalf. This is called saving grace. It is given by God to those whom He chose before the foundation of the world. His choice is not based on anything we will do or have done. His choice is unconditional, Romans 9:11; Ephesians 1; 2.

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

So then, Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Grace is God’s unmerited favor toward man merited by His only Son, Jesus. There are only two alternatives for mankind. Rely upon your own merit or rely upon the merit of Christ. In either case the standard is perfection. The truth is Jesus is the only One who was perfect.

The God-Man, Jesus merited God’s favor. May you bow before Jesus, Lord of lords and King of kings.