This is the message I brought to the 14th Annual Conference of the Churches of Christ in Croatia this past Friday. I was asked to speak on the topic of “God’s Word for Croatia,” addressing our dependence on the Bible and the benefits that come from being centered in scripture. Click here to listen.
The text below is the script that I preached from, but there are all kinds of ad libs and illustrations on the audio track.
This is a time of anxiety for Croats. The exodus of Croats to Western Europe continues. We see economic growth, but excessive taxes and corruption destroys the small, healthy economy that has remained.
Who will teach us? Who will direct us?
The Bible clearly states that the Word of God is the solution. Bringing biblical principles into everyday life is equally important for ‘small’ and ‘big’ people. These principles preserve us from error and guide us to live lives of true blessing.
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”Heb. 4: 12-13
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim 3.16-17
Tonight, I want to talk about the place of God’s Word, the Bible, in the churches and in Croatia. First a bit of history.
We are churches of the Reformation. As such, our foundation is scripture. The original „war cry“ of the Reformers was the three „solas“:
Notice that „sola scriptura“ is the first, and the foundation for the rest of the program.
Whatever else we are, we are people of the Bible.
Likewise the Restoration Movement in the USA, out of which the Churches of Christ. Some of our values are expressed by these slogans:
- “Bible things by Bible names“.
- “Where the Bible speaks, we speak. Where the Bible is silent, we are silent.
The Bible is & has always been the foundation of our churches.
And if our churches in Croatia are to thrive, to be healthy and have influence in our world and culture, today and in the future, it will be through our dependence on the Bible.
Tonight, I want you to consider three specific ways the Bible functions for us, three ways it benefits the churches as we move into the next decade:
(The slide above is a preliminary version of the Powerpoint. I changed the order, so that it went 1. Means of engagement, 2. Spirit’s food & chisel, 3. Source of wisdom.)
Croats respect the Bible; even those who don’t KNOW the Bible, even those who don’t belong to any church, STILL respect the Bible and regard it as truth.
The most powerful thing we can do to move Croats, Catholic or otherwise, toward a personal relationship w- Jesus is to get them reading the Bible. Notice the statistics on the slide.
2 Tim 3.15; the scriptures “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith.”
There is power in God’s word, power in the story. That power reaches into hearts that are open, pulls them to a response.
“Living and active, sharper, separates joint & marrow, reveals all secrets, shows us what is really true.” People are hungry for that.
Your spirit was designed by God to feed on God’s word, God’s presence.
Why are we sometimes unhealthy spiritually? Why are our churches? Often, it’s the absence of scripture in our lives, individually and collectively. We will never grow, become.
No habit you can develop will do more to shape you. What is a chisel used for? The Spirit and the word work together.
The Rabbis used to say that the word of God is a mirror; James uses that image in chapter 2. The Spirit and the Word together are how God changes us.
“Ecclesia semper reformanda” = “the church is always reforming.” Never perfect, never completely wh- God wants. Why? Two reasons.
- Human nature: we church leaders are just like our people; fallible, sinful, selfish. Satan attacks pride, insecurity. Wh- checks and corrects? God’s Word can be like the autopilot on airplane, constantly checking and correcting our course.
- World keeps changing: greatest period of growth for Croatian church was after war in 1990’s. Why don’t we just do what we did we did then? Bec- world is different, the needs th- people feel are diff.
Bible doesn’t contain magic formulas: US churches of Christ sometimes say, “Just do what they did in Acts!” But that doesn’t work, the methods aren’t transferrable.
But the wisdom, the principles, the theological truths: THOSE transfer. Those are eternal. IF we study, pray through, digest and absorb them.
Will you be healthy if you eat nothing but grass? Why is that not a good idea? It works for horses, cows; why won’t it work for you?
Because that’s not the food your system was designed for.
Same way with scripture: God designed you to feed on his word, be nourished by his word. Don’t eat grass; accept no substitutes. Humbly receive the word planted in you, and so be saved.