Words For the American Church From the Front Lines of Post-Christian Europe
Pietro Ciavarella is a pastor, author and professor in Florence, Italy. Italy is, for the most part, largely secular. I had the privilege of spending time with my brother this past summer. Florentines, like most Italians, are largely indifferent to the gospel and care little to discuss God and the things of God.
This is the direction we are going in America. We have lessons we can learn from brothers and sisters in Post-Christian Europe who are standing firm and shining light into the darkness. This is why Pietro is our guest blogger today. He has words of encouragement for us.
Pietro's faith in the Lord is inspirational to me. His joy is contagious. His love for the Word...well, I've met few like him.
Here are Pietro's words of encouragement to the church in America. I ask in return, that you pray for him and his precious wife Silvia, and for the church he pastors.
Grace to You,
Dear English-speaking brothers and sisters, I want to write you a brief word of encouragement about living in a secular context.
1. The gospel is true. The gospel tells us that we are condemned. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23; 6:23). This is bad news, but it enables us to understand our need for the good news.
2. The gospel is offensive. Who of us wants to be told be we are inadequate, wrong or condemned? I sure don’t. In John 6 Jesus asked people who were following him if what he said offended them (v. 61). It did offend some of them. In fact the text continues saying that some “turned back and no longer followed him” (v. 66). In a an increasingly secularized society, Jesus is more offensive than ever. He doesn't follow the rules of political correctness and (let’s be honest) that’s a problem for many of our friends, relatives and others we want to know Him.
3. The gospel is beautiful. The same gospel that condemns saves. The same gospel that offends uplifts. “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). The way we treat unbelievers can't save them. Only God working through the Holy Spirit can do that. But it can help them consider these "positive" aspects of the gospel
4. The people of the gospel are forgiven sinners. “There but for the grace of God go I” (Titus 3:3-7; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). The condemnation and the offense of the gospel are great levelers. They condemn and offend us all. Thus, an important part of our missional posture in a secularized society should be humility. Paul implored people to be reconciled with God (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20). Notice the verb: implored, begged. This doesn’t mean we compromise the truth. It does mean that we show understanding to those who are blinded by the god of this world and thus are unable to see the beauty of Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4-6).
5. Someone once said that Christians are like beggars who, having found bread, want to tell other beggars where to find it. Let’s stay strong in Jesus (the Way, the Truth and the Life, John 14:6) and ask God to use us to lead others to Him, the Bread of Life (John 6:35).
“15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.”
(2 Corinthians 2:15-17).
Un abbraccio, Pietro
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