Thousands of people of many denominations gathered across the length and breadth of the country this morning to watch a live stream of the rousing National Celebration of the Bible, held at Hillsong Church’s Convention Centre in Baulkham Hills, northwest Sydney.
In addition to Hillsong’s 51 services in 28 locations across Australia, Uniting, Baptist and Anglican churches from Darwin to Hobart took part in the exciting celebration of 200 years of sharing the Bible in Australia. The services reached thousands more viewers via a telecast on ACCTV (Foxtel Channel 182).
“We’re honoured to be the custodians and the champions of the Bible in Australia” – Bible Society CEO Greg Clarke
After a lively worship and praise session led by the Hillsong team, Bible Society’s CEO Greg Clarke was warmly welcomed by the congregation. He told the combined audiences that because the organisation had been set up one month before the first bank in Australia, the joke was that God was here before “Mammon”.
“That’s not true,” he pointed out. “God was always here, preparing his people to receive his word and we are just his servants in that.
“We’re honoured to be the custodians and the champions of the Bible in Australia on behalf of all the churches and organisations and we celebrate together today our ownership of the word of God, under the Holy Spirit, under God’s leading, to get it out across this country.
“We thank the translators, the printers… the ones who carried the Bible around by horseback and van…” – Greg Clarke
Clarke paid tribute to the “many shoulders that we stand on” since about 50 of the leading citizens of the new colony of New South Wales began Bible Society’s mission on March 7, 1817.
“We thank the translators, the printers… the ones who carried the Bible around by horseback and van, or plane or just by foot and how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Thanks to apps and online resources, the word of God was racing around the globe faster than ever, Clarke said. These technological advances are “taking us closer and closer to fulfilling the Great Commission that every tribe and every nation would be saved in the knowledge of God.”
… during its birthday week, the Society will be giving away a free Bible to every Australian who wants one.
Emphasising that Bible Society continues to have work to do, Clarke said 500 million people around the world still have no Scriptures in their language. There are 7000 languages in the world but only 500 complete Bibles. He said translators were working on hundreds of projects.
The Bible Society desires for every person on the planet to have access to the Bible in a format they can understand and a price they can afford. Upholding that desire, Clarke announced that during its birthday week, the Society would be giving away a free Bible to every Australian who wants one. To claim your free Bible, go to bible.com.au. Children’s Bibles are also available.
A moving video was then shown at the Hillsong service, in which a member of the Stolen Generation, Donna Meeham, told her story of being taken away from her mother at the age of five. Donna shared how her deep hurt was healed by reading the Bible. After the video, the congregation turned to Aunty Donna – who was seated in the audience – and gave her warm applause.
Then it was time to open the word of God in back-to-back sermons by the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies, and Hillsong’s Global Senior, Pastor Brian Houston. Stepping out of the traditional confines of the Anglican Church, the Archbishop took to the podium first, to be received by a loud round of applause from the Hillsong regulars.
“And what’s brought us together? The Bible.” – Sydney Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies
“I think it’s the first time you’ve had an Archbishop here, is that right?” he began, to enthusiastic acclaim. “What a wonderful occasion for me to be here with Brian Houston. And what’s brought us together? The Bible.”
Davies said God’s word is powerful because God is powerful. Preaching from 2 Timothy 3:16, Davies said the purpose of the Bible was “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the servant of God might be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
“It teaches because it transforms our mind. It enables us to think like God,” he said.
“Those who think the Bible is just human words – how wrong they are!” – Glenn Davies
“Because we have so many stray thoughts, sometimes our own sinfulness distorts things.
“Those who think the Bible is just human words – how wrong they are!
“We’re to come as learners to God’s word; we’re there to understand the riches of his grace and all he’s given to us in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
As well as rebuking us for our folly and unbelief, God “wants us to bring that rebuke to the nation in which we live which has gone astray from God’s word. And we need to bring that word into the marketplace as Bible Society has been doing for 200 years in this country,” Davies told the Hillsong congregation.
“Sometimes you’ll have to delve deep into God’s word.” – Glenn Davies
Being trained in righteousness sometimes takes hard work, he said. “Sometimes you’ll have to delve deep into God’s word … Dig deep into God’s word, so the riches of his word might fill your lives and bring you the comfort and the joy that belongs to him.”
Brian Houston said it was the first time he had followed an Archbishop onto a stage. He began his sermon by showing the dog-eared Bible that he had been given for his 17th birthday on February 17, 1971.
“I’m blessed to be able to say that, by God’s grace, I’ve had the opportunity to frame my life through the word of God that was put in me from an early age by my parents,” said Houston.
“When I was 17 years of age I made a full commitment … to live my life for Jesus Christ.” – Brian Houston
“I was born into a family of Salvation Army officers, and it was when I was 17 years of age that I made a full commitment, a strong commitment, to live my life for Jesus Christ, the same year as I received this Bible.
“It was that year that I walked into a Youth for Christ cafe in Wellington, New Zealand, where I grew up, and on the wall was just one big mural. Ecclesiastes Chapter 12, verse 1: Remember your Creator while you are young. Somehow the Holy Spirit used that to speak into my spirit. That was the time I decided I would step up and really live my life for Jesus, and really live my life in the service of him. So thank God for the power of the word! Thank God for the impact of God’s word in our lives!”
“I thank God that the Bible is restorative, it’s not destructive.” – Brian Houston
Houston said he loves the Bible “very, very much.”
“This book changes everything.” – Brian Houston
“You see, the word of God is still powerful today. I thank God that the Bible is restorative, it’s not destructive. It’s life giving. It exhorts, it edifies, it comforts. I believe it does comfort the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable. It does point us to the greatness of God. It does point us to the beauty of Jesus. It does point us to the power of the Holy Spirit who through his power brings the Bible to life in our lives.
“That is why the Bible Society had been consistent through good times and tough times in our country for 200 years because this Bible has power.”
He said he loves the fact that through God’s word, we can know the wisdom and counsel of God and live our lives according to its power. Houston wrapped up by saying he had been “changed forever” by God’s word and is “changing still.”
“This book changes everything,” he said.
After an altar call, Houston asked Davies to “bring a bit more liturgy” to the service by doing the final Benediction.
Go forth into the world in peace;
be of good courage;
hold fast that which is good;
render to no one evil for evil;
strengthen the fainthearted;
support the weak;
help the afflicted;
love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit;
and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,
be amongst you and remain with you always. Amen.