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Calvin’s Institutes Affecting Sicily Today

Category Articles
Date August 9, 2002

CALVIN’S INSTITUTES AFFECTING SICILY TODAY

That night my heart was full of love for the Lord, but also a new feeling, more specific, had filled my heart; love and pain for those souls that live in sin and away from Him

by Roberto S. Torre

At the end of 1992 the Lord Jesus called Roberto S. Torre of Sicily, Italy to the Christian Ministry.

Here is his testimony.

I was born in Giarre (Sicily) on 13 May 1961, but until I was twenty I lived in Calatabiano. My family was poor but hard-working. My father came from Messina and worked on the land. He wanted a better life for his children, so he sent us to good schools and two of us went to university. Sadly, my father died in 1982, by which time I had gone to university to study and afterwards to become a policeman.

Discovering God’s Word.

When I was 15 I disputed with a Catholic priest who taught religion in the school. I had started to have doubts about the Catholic Church and he accused me of being a Protestant. That made me curious about what the Bible said. Later on the priest suggested I read the life of Jesus and I still keep the Gospels he gave me as a souvenir. As soon as I read the four Gospels I was converted and had an intense experience with the Lord. I had a deep hunger for his Word. Reading the four Gospels my heart was conquered by Jesus Christ, so much so that while I was reading I cried to him. I started praying in my own words, as I had never done before then, and I prayed that I might have a Bible, because I wanted to know more of His Word.

The devil tried to divert me from the truth and for a time he succeeded, but some-thing had changed for me since I read the Gospels. When I became angry curses or swear-words didn’t come from my mouth, but rather my thoughts turned immediately to Jesus Christ and his peace.

Less than a week after reading the Gospel some Jehovah’s Witnesses knocked on my door. I asked them to give me a Bible, a thing they did with much pleasure, but they gave me their version. Only subsequently did I understand that a lot of verses were translated wrongly, especially where the deity of Jesus Christ is mentioned.

Crisis of Conscience

Studying the Holy Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses I then became one of them. They taught me that Jesus is not the true God and therefore he must not be adored. But in my heart I always had the impulse to pray to Jesus, and I suffered in not being able to do this.

In reading the Bible I understood so many things which previously I had been concerned about. For example, that to worship images and sculptures is prohibited by God; that adoration is due only to Him; that God has a personal sacred name; that we can confess our sins directly to God and not to men in place of God, etc. I became a tireless reader of the Word of God, buying as many versions as I could find. To be able to understand it better I started to study the Greek language in which the New Testament was written and the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint. Through all my studies, however, I discovered that the Word of God testifies to the full deity of Jesus Christ.

One afternoon in 1980 I had a meeting with some evangelicals, one of them asked me if according to the Jehovah’s Witnesses it is correct to worship Jesus, and I responded ‘No’. That evangelical invited me to read and to meditate on Hebrews 1:6. I used one of the first editions of the ‘New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures’ that translated Hebrews 1:6 correctly. Immediately I read that verse I understood that the angels adore Jesus. Beside that verse is a quotation from a Psalm, referring to Jehovah. I concluded obviously that if Jesus were not really God, Jehovah would not allow this, because He does not give his glory to any creature (Isaiah 42:8). But the Jehovah’s Witnesses had taught me that Jesus is an angelic creature. I immediately entered into a crisis of conscience.

That brother asked me: ‘Is it correct that the angels adore Jesus while men do not, according to the teaching of the JWs?’ From that moment the Lord opened my mind to a healthy comprehension of His Word. I could not continue to hide my doctrinal convictions about Jesus Christ and other matters, and less than one year later I disassociated myself from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, explaining in a long letter my deep doctrinal reasons.

Baptism as a believer

After leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses I found myself alone, without friends or brothers in the faith. During my years with that sect I had neglected all my childhood friends because of my religious commitments, going to various meetings, and from door-to-door to sell the JWs literature left me little time to be able to cultivate friendships with other people. I had graduated in 1980 and while waiting for my call to military service I worked and enrolled in the Faculty of Jurisprudence of the university in Messina. In the meantime, encouraged by an old schoolmate, I started to attend an Evangelical Church.

I had applied for enlistment in the State Police and on 7 December 1981, rather than doing military service, I was summoned to Rome for an interview for the Police Service. The positive result of that led me to Bolzano, to do the nine-month course at the Police Academy. While I was in that cold city I attended an Evangelical Church, but my personal study of the Word of God progressively brought me to a clearer comprehension of the Truth of God. Now that I understood about the full deity of Christ I desired to be baptised, and this took place in April 1982.

The Police course in Bolzano ended and I was transferred to Bologna to attend another four-month course, specialising in the work of the Railway Police. At the end of that course I transferred to Milan. There I became a member of the Evangelical Church of Pioltello. In Milan I bought John Calvin’s "Institutes of the Christian Religion." In that literary work I discovered the true things of Christianity, the doctrines of grace.

where, O Lord…?

In 1987 I had moved to my native region, as a policeman in Sicily. This had been my desire for many years. One night in 1992, while I was reading the prophet Isaiah, chapter 58, I felt in my heart that the Lord was reproaching me for my spiritual indolence. I didn’t understand in what way I was indolent and asked the Lord to help me understand. After praying for a long time I felt in my heart a great pain for people living in sin, away from God. That night my heart was full of love for the Lord, but also a new feeling, more specific, had filled my heart; love and pain for those souls that live in sin and away from Him. As a Christian I loved my neighbour, but this was a completely new feeling that cannot be explained in words. That whole night I read my Bible, I prayed, and I cried, thinking how many people die every day without having tasted the goodness of the Lord and His eternal salvation. I said these words: ‘Lord Jesus, tonight you have spoken to my heart. I know that you are the living God and that you have restored me in your presence. By your will I am now in this place. Where, 0 Lord, can I serve you?’ Immediately after praying so, I had in my heart the certainty that God would answer me soon. Really that night I knew that the Lord had called me to proclaim His eternal truth (Isaiah 58:12), but I didn’t know where He wanted me to do this.

The Lord in His providence sent the answer. Two years earlier, while I was working in Taormina I had applied for a transfer to the Traffic Police in the city of Randazzo. I had asked to go there, but then didn’t think any more about it. Some months after the night when the Lord called me to His service, I heard from the Department of the Interior about this transfer to the Traffic Police, saying I was next in line for a transfer to Randazzo. My heart was full of joy; the Lord had confirmed that Randazzo was really the place where I was to begin to serve Him as His minister.

‘Randazzo? In the mouth of the wolf?! No, Roberto, I wouldn’t like to live so near to the mouth of Etna, and I hope you don’t get a transfer there’, said my wife when I told her about this. My wife didn’t know anything of my experiences with the Lord. I hadn’t told anybody that the Lord had called me to the ministry. I didn’t tell my wife until some months after my transfer to Randazzo, as I feared she wouldn’t understand.

Gospel Minister in Randazzo!

On 7 April 1995 I started work for the Traffic Police in Randazzo. For some time I travelled from Calatabiano, where I lived, a 70km journey each day, but soon I moved to live in Randazzo with my family. After some months God enabled us to buy a small, old building, in the historical centre of the city at a low price. Subsequently I bought the adjoining one, and with some restructuring I succeeded in having a spacious house, with a room for a little church. On 17 July 1997, with courage and strong determination, I inaugurated the place for the church, where I currently serve as pastor. Since September 1995 I have been preaching to a group of people in the living-room of my house.

Studying Christian doctrine and the history of the church I was fascinated by the Reformers, but Calvin struck me in a particular way. I had studied different books on theology, but I discovered that Calvinism clearly sets out the doctrines of grace contained in the Word of God. Therefore I called myself a Calvinist. However I thought no Calvinistic churches existed in Italy, because I had only known historical churches that had embraced liberal theology, or that new-orthodox theology of Karl Barth. However, in the month of July 2001 I came in contact with Pastor Pietro Lorefice and I went to find him in Ribera. We spoke together and agreed to cooperate in the work of God, preaching the doctrines of the grace of God.

It is my desire to serve the Body of Christ in the ministry that God has given me. It is my desire to serve the Lord by bringing other souls to his feet (2 Cor 5:18-21), as God helps me by his Holy Spirit. To God be the glory! Amen.

Roberto S. Torre

From the ‘Vision of Europe’, July-September 2002, European Missionary Fellowship, 6 Codicote Road, Welwyn, AL6 9NB

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