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A Place for His Name

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
May 29, 2016 6:00 am

A Place for His Name

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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Well, happy Memorial Day weekend Summit Church at our nine campuses around the Triangle and to our brothers in the Wake Correctional Facility, soon to be, Lord, we're on our 10th campus of the Summit Church.

Welcome to all of you this Memorial Day weekend. If you've got a Bible, I'd love for you to take it out if you have one. If not, maybe somebody around you has one they'll let you look on with and begin to find your way to 1 Kings Chapter 8, 1 Kings Chapter 8. That might be a book that's a little difficult to get to if you've never found, so there's no shame at all in opening up your Bible to the table of contents and just figuring out where that is. It's, I don't know, about halfway down the first column, I think, and if the person next to you makes fun of you for doing that, we'll have them thrown out.

We have that kind of power here at the Summit Church, so you find it. And as you're turning there, I'll tell you that after a national championship, you've probably seen this in just about every sport, you'll see the winning team immediately put on t-shirts and hats with their team's name and national champs and whatever year that they won it in. And literally, the moment the buzzer goes off, they're wearing those hats and t-shirts. And when I first saw that as a kid, I always thought, like, how do they make those things that quickly? And then, of course, I had the genius realization that they had a stash of shirts with either team's celebration victory on hand, just ready for whichever team won the championship.

Then I had the second thought. I'm like, ah, but what happens to the losing team shirts, I wonder? Nobody wants to wear that if your team didn't win. Well, for a long time, the NFL and the NBA and all the other leagues sent all those wasted shirts announcing the wrong winner straight to the incinerator.

But about 15 years ago, humanitarian aid groups lobbied those organizations to have them sent to kids in poorer countries who wouldn't know that they were inaccurate or really even care. I think at one point when I lived over in Southeast Asia, I remember 1998 seeing a Utah Jazz 1998 championship hat back, of course, when Michael Jordan was dominating everything in basketball with the Bulls. And I saw that shirt and I thought, was there ever even a chance that the Utah Jazz was going to win that? Why would they even print that shirt? So bottom line for all of you Carolina fans out there, there is hope.

If you travel to enough places in the world, you might be able to find that coveted 2016 UNC national championship hat in Haiti or the 2016 Carolina Panthers Super Bowl t-shirt in Tajikistan. That's why we do mission trips, ladies and gentlemen, to give you a chance to get those. These items were created to remember, to celebrate a great victory with joy. But nobody wants to see them anymore because the sight of them only reminds losers now of the shame they feel about what they lost. In many ways, that's what the temple became for Israel. The temple was supposed to be the greatest expression of Israel's victory. It was supposed to be their glory.

That it's going to become the great symbol of their failure. First Kings eight, we're going to look at basically the whole chapter. And as we journey through our story here and the whole story, we're going to come now to this story of King Solomon, David's son, dedicating the temple that he's just built for God.

First Kings chapter eight. It is hard for us to appreciate what a magnificent structure this temple was. God had made Solomon really, really, really wealthy. And the temple on that Solomon builds reflects his wealth.

I mean, it was huge. The book of first Chronicles tells us that it took 150,000, more than 150,000 laborers, more than eight years to construct it. Everything was layered in gold. According to first Chronicles, Solomon used more than 4,000 tons of gold and more than 40,000 tons of silver. The price of what he used in today's value would be more than $160 trillion. That is trillion with a T. One scholar said that the amount of gold that Solomon used in the temple was about four to 5% of all the gold that had been mined on earth up to that point.

As in, of all the gold that we'd ever mined on earth, one 20th of it was in one building. And then there were the precious stones, marble and onyx and rubies and emeralds that were were all over the walls and the pillars. This thing had some serious bling power as you were coming up to Jerusalem, you could see it for a long ways off. The most awesome thing about this temple, however, was when the glory of God and this thick luminescent cloud descended upon it, and that's the story you see in first Kings chapter eight, it tells us that the cloud was so thick and the glory was so bright that the priest had to leave the temple.

They couldn't stand to be there. Verse 10, you'll see this, when the priest withdrew from the holy place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord and the priest could not perform their service because of the cloud for the glory of the Lord filled his temple. Verse 22, then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the whole assembly of Israel, spread out his hands toward heaven and he prayed, and then it records the prayer for us. There's a lot of great things that we could focus on in this prayer. I'm only going to have time to choose just a few of them, but go to verse 29. He says, may your eyes God be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, my name shall be there so that you will hear the prayer that your servant prays toward this place. Verse 33, when your people of Israel have been defeated by an enemy because they sinned against you and when they turn back to you and give praise to your name, making requests to you in this temple, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people.

When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain, when famine or plague comes to the land or when an enemy besieges them in any of their cities, whatever disaster or disease may come. And when a prayer or plea is made by anyone among your people of Israel, being aware if they are the afflictions of their own hearts, real quick, that word afflictions means means their sin, sinful tendencies. The word he used for no is the Hebrew word yada, which is a word that means not just a casual knowledge, it's a word that meant very intimate knowledge, as in a man knew his wife, sexual intimacy is the word yada. It means when you're really intimately familiar with the sinful tendencies of your heart, you don't hide those.

You expose those to God and it admits your weaknesses and you confess it. When they do that and spread out their hands toward this temple, then God hear from heaven your dwelling place, forgive and act. Verse 41, ask for the foreigner who doesn't belong to your people of Israel, the one who's not a Jew, the one who is from a Gentile nation, maybe one of our enemy nations. When they've come from a distant land because of your name, they heard about you for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm. They're going to hear about all these answers to prayer that we receive in this temple. And so they're going to be moved to come and pray toward this temple. And I pray God that you'll hear from heaven, your dwelling place, do whatever that foreigner asks of you when they're still a foreigner.

So that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you as do your own people Israel and they know that this house that I've built bears your name indeed. Verse 54, when Solomon had finished praying all these prayers and supplications of the Lord, he got out from before the altar of the Lord where he'd been kneeling with his hands spread out toward heaven, all the people to his back. He stood and he turned and he blessed the whole assembly with a loud voice saying, praise be to the Lord. Not one word has failed of all the good promises, but he gave through his servant Moses and then repeated through David and many of the other leaders that we've looked at through the whole story. Verse 58, may he turn our hearts toward him to walk in obedience to him and keep the commands, decrees and laws that he gave to our ancestors. Verse 62, then the king and all Israel with him offered sacrifices before the Lord.

Solomon offered 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats, which is 142,000 animals. This prayer of Solomon expresses what the temple was supposed to be. The temple was supposed to be a place of refuge for Israel and a place where the foreigner could come and find salvation. This temple was the height of Israel's glory.

It was the purpose God had said that he had chosen them for and what he wanted to use them for in the earth. I'm going to bless you. If you remember the promise given to Abraham, and I'm going to also make you a blessing to the nations, this is the blessing. Sadly, Israel did not heed Solomon's final admonition. In fact, Solomon himself did not even stay faithful to the commands, the decrees and the laws of God like he admonishes the people to. Solomon had a weakness.

You probably know this if you spend any time in Sunday school at all. Solomon had a weakness, and the weakness was women. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, which are, I guess, like half-wives. We know of him as the wisest man ever to live, but that is insane. And he liked exotic women, it seems, because he married all these princesses from around the world, and so they brought their foreign gods into his house with them, and he even began to build little temples and shrines to their gods so that they would be happy, and eventually he began to worship those gods himself.

This was a harbinger of the entire future of Israel. Israel's going to have a succession of kings after Solomon that, on the whole, not only tolerate the worship of these other gods, but give themselves entirely to them. Now, I know it's easy for you and me to remove ourselves from that and think, well, you know, we don't do that anymore. I don't have any shrines to false gods set up in my attic or my basement. I didn't bring a false god here with me to church that, while we were worshiping, I was pulling it out of my pocketbook and sneaking a little prayer to it and saying, oh, I love you too. I love you, God, but I love you too.

I don't do that. But realize that the worship of false gods in those days was about a whole lot more than just religion. For them, these gods promised survival.

These gods, they thought, were the means to something that they needed. False gods in the ancient world are called Baals, and each one, each Baal, was tied to a specific thing that people wanted. For example, there was the Baal of fertility, or there was the Baal of good health.

Each career field had its own Baal. There was the Baal of rain or the Baal of the harvest, who was called the Baal of hay. The nearby Greeks had gods and goddesses for every—you caught that.

Some of you are just now like, oh, I get it. The nearby Greeks had gods and goddesses for every sphere of life. They had Artemis or Diana was her nickname. She was the goddess of prosperity or money. You had the goddess Athena, who was the goddess of intelligence and political prowess.

In the temple there, the temple of Zeus, there's this image of Zeus's head being split open and Athena being taken out of his mind. So if you wanted to get straight A's, you worshiped her. Then there was Nike, the goddess of victory, N-I-K-E, who was worshiped by athletes and warriors and most recently Michael Jordan.

She made you run faster and jump higher and soar above the competition. Then there was the goddess Aphrodite. She was the goddess of sexuality or beauty. You worshiped her in ancient Greece there by having sex with prostitutes in the temples. It's one way to get men back in church, I guess, but that was their means. They even had Cloacina, the goddess of the sewer system. I'm not exactly sure how you made an offering to her, and I don't think I want to know.

Sometimes we light a candle in our bathrooms at my house. I'm not sure if that was considered an act of worship or not, but all these gods and all these different spheres that promised something specific, and here was the deal. When you needed something, you could, if you were an Israelite, you could ask God to provide it like Solomon tells him to do, and you could wait on him, or you could turn to one of those false gods, and a lot of times people got impatient with God.

They'd ask God. They gave him a chance, and God didn't do it on their timetable, didn't do it like they thought he should do it, and so they lost confidence in God, and they weren't quite sure that he was going to take care of them like he promised, so they turned to idols. God put them through a time of testing.

You've been in one of those, and then they turned to one of these idols and said, God, this substitute provider, I'm going to look to more than I look to you. Well, sadly, that's the course that Israel chose, and because of that, God eventually sent them into exile out of the promised land he'd given to them just like he promised that he would. The Assyrians are going to invade the northern 10 tribes of Israel in 722 B.C. and carry off the northern 10 tribes into captivity, and then another kingdom, the Babylonian kingdom, is going to come in 586 B.C., and they're going to take captive the final two, the southern tribes where Jerusalem was. Now I want to leave 1 Kings 8, and I want to go to the book of Ezekiel because right before the southern two tribes where the temple was, right before they were carried off into captivity, the prophet Ezekiel has this vision of the temple right before it's destroyed, and this vision is kind of the last thing we see of Solomon's temple in the Bible, and I want you to see how he gives you a picture of it because it's really important for understanding where the whole story is going to go from here.

If you're not super fast with your Bible, then just I'll put it on the screen here for you. 1 Kings 10 verse 4, the glory of the Lord, remember the glory that came in on the cloud and rested there and drove the priest out because it was so bright, that glory rose from above the cherubim and moved cherubim or the angels and moved to the threshold of the temple. It moves the holy place and goes out to the edge of the temple. The cloud followed the temple, the presence of God filled the temple, and the court was full there of the radiance of the glory of the Lord, but it's no longer on the holy place. Verse 18, then the glory of the Lord departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim. While I watched the cherubim, the angels, spread their wings and they rose from the ground. They stopped at the entrance of the east gate of the Lord's house, so they're going out the east gate of the temple and the glory of the Lord was above them. Then the glory of the Lord went up from within the city, so it keeps moving out toward the east and stops above the mountain east to it. So you get this image of the glory of God lifting up off the Holy of Holies and traveling out to the outer parts of the temple because the Holy of Holies was there in the center, going out the east gate, going out the east gate of Jerusalem, then going up the mountain there on the eastern side, which is the Mount of Olives, and then disappearing up into heaven and then that's the last they see it, it departed from earth. And so you read that right before this temple is destroyed and you think, is that it?

Is that the last chapter? Has the glory and the presence of God departed forever? You might remember if you were here when we went through the story of Noah, we saw that God came really close to destroying everything in the flood, but he'd stopped short. Remember, he'd chosen one family and said, I'm not going to destroy everything, I'm going to restore my presence on earth through this one family, but is God done now finally? Is he just too fed up this time? Is he, they finally tested him and is this really the end? Is the glory of God gone as he departed from the earth forever?

No. No, thankfully your Bible doesn't end in Ezekiel. God had determined to bring salvation to the human race. He'd made unconditional promises to Abraham and to Moses and to David, and even Israel's failures are not going to stop him from keeping that promise. Interestingly, when you go to the life of Jesus, the Gospel of Luke tells us that on Jesus's final ride into Jerusalem, he actually takes a very interesting route because he's as he's coming into Jerusalem, it says that he went up the Mount of Olives, he got on a donkey and he came back down, which is sort of interesting because he didn't need to go up the Mount of Olives.

He just sort of, he only went up to come back down. So he goes up the Mount of Olives, comes back down. It says that he goes to the east gate of Jerusalem, and then he goes all the way into the temple where he takes out a whip and he cleanses it, driving out the money changers who are buying and selling in the temple, and he says, you tear, you know, tear this temple down.

I'll rebuild it in three days talking about himself. Interestingly, the place that Jesus drove them out from was the court of the Gentiles. And as Jesus is driving out these money changers, he says, Luke 1946, is it not written? My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations. And not what Solomon said it was supposed to be, but you, you've turned it into a den of thieves.

This was supposed to be, he said, a place where foreigners from other nations found open me. This was the court of the Gentiles to come in here and watch you in worship. And they were supposed to seek help in God.

But instead you turn this into a place where you could just make money for yourselves. So Jesus took out a weapon. He cleansed the temple, restoring it to its original purpose. And then he offered himself up as a sacrifice himself, not 142,000 animals like Solomon did, but himself because animal blood could never take away sin and animal blood could never cleanse the heart.

No matter how many animals you use, only his blood could do those things. His blood could do what no temple, no matter how beautiful, no matter how much gold, how much solar, how many diamonds he did, what it could never do. It could not only cleanse our sins, it could take it away and it would change our hearts so that we would love and seek God and not give ourselves to idols. And then Jesus turns and he says, whosoever will, in other words, foreigners from any nation on earth, people at any stage of life with whatever they bring to this temple, they can come to me and pray because I'm the real temple. And they can find the forgiveness and healing that Solomon promised.

They can find it in my name. The glory of God, Ezekiel predicted would no longer be found in a beautiful place, the temple. The glory of God, he said, will be found in a beautiful person, Jesus. And anyone who comes to him from any nation by faith for forgiveness and healing for their sin will receive it the moment they ask for it. And those who come to God through his name in prayer, God says, I'll hear the things that they're asking. So we are supposed to, you see, take all the promises that Solomon gave to them about the temple.

We're supposed to take those and apply them to ourselves. And when we pray in Jesus' name, they prayed toward the temple, wherever they were, they turned toward the temple and they'd pray. When we pray in Jesus' name, that's why we, you ever wonder why we say in Jesus' name at the end of prayers?

It's not like a signal to God that we're about to be done and so, you know, God can prepare to close. What we're doing is we're saying just like they turned their face toward the temple and pray, we are praying in Jesus' name because all these promises become ours in Jesus because he's the real temple. And like Paul says in 1 Corinthians, all the promises of God are yes in Christ Jesus. So everything that's in the Old Testament applies to me through Jesus' work. So what does that look like? What does that mean? How do you apply these promises to you?

Well, I'll give you a handful of things here. This is what it looks like to take those promises and make them yours. Number one, God answers prayer. God answers prayer.

And I know, I know that just seems so obvious. I know it's like a Sunday school answer. You're like, I came to church to hear that. Of course you're going to say that, you know, Sunday school answers where the answer is always God, Jesus' prayer of the Bible. You know, the story of the kid in Sunday school that the Sunday school teacher says what has four paws is gray and a bushy tail. You know, the kid raises his hand and is like, it sounds a lot like a squirrel, but I know the answer has got to be Jesus because we're in Sunday school. I know this is like a Sunday school answer. Like, Oh, God answers prayer. Of course he does.

But here's my question for you. Do you honestly believe that he does answer prayer? Listen to these promises again.

Verse 29, 1 Kings 8, my eyes and my ears are going to be open to this temple, but day and night I'm going to hear whatever my servants pray, whatever they pray. When you've been defeated by an enemy because you sinned against me, when the heavens are shut up because there's no rain, even when it's your fault, in other words, when famine or plague comes to the land or blight or mildew locusts or grasshoppers, when an enemy besieges you in any of your cities, whatever disaster or disease may come, what disaster or disease has come into your life, into the life of one of your kids. When any prayer plea is made by anyone among your people, Israel, or for us in the church, when you spread out your hands toward this temple and pray, I will forgive, and then I will act. I won't just forgive.

I'll also begin to act on your behalf. We're talking mostly about forgiveness. Yes, that's the big thing, but he says, I'm also going to begin to act in your life. Is it not clear from these promises that he actually answers prayer? And is it not clear that our prayer changes situations? Isn't it clear from how Jesus repeated many of these same promises in his own, in his own words and in the new Testament, Matthew 7, 11, ask, ask, and it will be given to you seek and you will find not going to, it will be open to you, Matthew 21, 22, and all things that you ask in prayer, believing you will receive John 14, 13, whatever you ask in my name, that will I do so that the father may be glorified in the son, Paul Miller, who wrote a great book called a praying life said all of Jesus's teaching on prayer can be summarized in one word, ask, ask first John 5, 14, this is the confidence, which we have before him that if we ask anything, according to his will, anything he hears us, y'all, and don't we see God's willingness to answer prayer, even demonstrated in the life of Jesus himself. If you were here at our all campus prayer meeting on this past Monday night, I told this story, the gospel of Matthew records a story of a woman who has this, what the Bible calls an issue of blood. It's a chronic disease.

She's had it for 12 years. She comes up behind Jesus to touch the hem of his garment. She doesn't even make eye contact with him. She just wants to touch the hem of his garment as he goes by, because she needs him to heal her. Well, Jesus turns around as all these people are there in the crowd. He turns around and says, who touched me?

He genuinely doesn't seem to know. And his disciples like, what do you mean somebody touched you? You're in a crowd.

All these people are pressing in on you from every side, trying to get you to sign autographs. And he says, no, no, no, somebody touched me. Touch me. He touched me because I felt the power go out for me. Now I explained to y'all that what amazes me about this passage is that Jesus talks about his healing power as if it, as if it's a reflex that he can't control. Like it's an involuntary passive response that was generated by this woman's faith. And it happened before he even consciously knew about it. And I'll tell you, here's what bothers me as a theologian, aren't we talking about Jesus, the son of God who knows the end from the beginning, does he really mean to imply that sometimes our prayers or that she surprised him?

Well, no, of course he's not trying to say that he doesn't really know what's going to happen. There's too many other places in the Bible that says that he does. The only reason I can come up with that the story is told in this way is because Jesus is wanting to show us that his response to faith is so reliable that it might as well be an involuntary reflex. But again, this is first and foremost, like I explained, it's about salvation. God forgives and heals immediately when we reach out and we lay hold of him as our savior in faith. But it's also about how God continues to act and continues to work in our lives.

Here's something we say around here on our Summit Church pastoral team. We say where trust exists, God moves. Faith, in other words, enacts a power from God that is not available until you believe.

When you believe, God begins to work and if you don't believe, then the power is not going to be there. Peter, Peter walked on the water because he believed. And when Peter ceased to believe, he began to sink. I understand that the Bible teaches that God is not a genie in a bottle, but it also shows us that Peter's faith activated Jesus's power to hold him above the waves. And when Peter stopped believing, the power disappeared and he sank. Well, does that mean it was God's sovereign will for Peter to sink? I don't know.

It doesn't even sound like an intelligent question to me, maybe. But I also know that Peter, had he continued to believe, he would have stayed on top of the wave. Let me say this in a deliberately provocative way, it's over speak. In the gospels, Jesus does not respond to prayer. In fact, you could almost say that Jesus criticizes people for thinking that their prayers are going to make God do something.

In Matthew 6, 7, he says, you think you'll be heard because you're much speaking. You think as you pray all the time that God's going to suddenly, you know, God just likes to hear words and he's like, gets inundated and he's like, okay, no. What he responds to in the New Testament is not words and prayer. What he responds to is faith. When somebody believes and they express that in prayer, then he acts. How many times do we pray to God much speaking, but we do it without faith. I tell you one of the things I've begun the practice of in my prayer time is saying to God, after I pray, I'll pray about something and then I'll say, God, I trust you with this. And the reason I do that is because I often find myself telling God about my problems without the faith that he's going to move.

I get up from my prayers, worried about them as I was when I got down on my knees. But see, I know that when I place my trust in him, if you'll hear me, what I mean by this, he has to move. It's not that I'm manipulating him. It's that he's promised he won't ever abandon or let down those who lean on him in faith. That of course doesn't mean that he's going to do things exactly like I think they should be done. Just that I know he's moving with goodness and grace as I continue to believe. He promises that he is.

Where trust exists, he moves. Recently our pastoral team took a short spiritual retreat and one of the exercises we did as a team is individually, in our quiet times, we rewrote Psalm 136 in our own words. Psalm 136 is a psalm where the psalmist recounts all the ways that God has been good to Israel, the specific things.

You delivered us to the Red Sea and then you provided this for us. But between everything, he puts this repeated phrase, for his steadfast love endures forever. So I had the staff team, I had them write out all the ways that God has worked in their lives for the entirety of their life. And then after each major movement, just write the phrase, for his steadfast love endures forever.

So write your own psalm in a sense. When I got to the end and I looked back over what I had written and read it out loud, I had this overwhelming sudden sense of how faithfully God, God through his steadfast love had worked in my life. My parents, godly as they were, did not engineer most of the strategic moments in my life.

God did. And see, and then what I did is I began to think about my own kids because I worry a lot about being the right kind of parent to my kids and I'm like, what if I don't do something I'm supposed to do? Or what if I do something wrong? And I'm always thinking about how do I create these moments for them? But what I realized is that God had been the one who had been so faithful to me, couldn't I then trust that he would be faithful to my kids too?

Had his steadfast love ceased to endure forever? So I just said, God, I trust you to work in their lives. Yes, I'm praying about this and that in their lives, but I'm trusting you to orchestrate these moments because your steadfast love for them endures forever and I know that he's working. See, and then when I, because I'm believing and then you see as a parent, I suddenly find myself walking on water and I'm not sinking underneath the waves anymore. You see, God says when we trust in him with all our heart and we don't lean on him, excuse me, we don't lean on our own understanding or we don't lean on our own abilities, but we acknowledge him in all of our ways. He promises to direct our paths. He promises to sustain our steps. He promises to give us that power that we so desperately need. Are you trusting God with the things in your life that you need?

Because when you lean on him, he moves, he promises to be, he has to be. Here's your second thing that you take from it. When faced with a critical need, our choice is trusting prayer or turning to idols. That's the choice you're going to have just like Israel had that choice. You're going to face needs in your life. Are you going to trust God with them or are you going to turn to a substitute provider?

Here's what that looks like. What I'm talking about facing a need, God, I'm not sure. I'm not sure that you can really make me happy in romance or in my sexuality. So in that area, I'm not really going to obey you fully. I'm going to take matters into my own hands. My boyfriend and I, we're going to live together. I'm going to, I'm going to kind of choose who I'm going to date. I'm going to choose what I'm going to do with my sexuality because I don't really feel like like your way is going to be best and I can't trust you with it. Or maybe you say, I'm not sure God's going to supply all my needs. So I'll hoard my money. I'll refuse to be generous and I'm not going to tithe.

I'm going to overwork. I'm going to worry about it all the time. I'm not sure that God's plan is really best for me. So I'm not, I won't lay down my life before him or my career before him as a blank check and say, wherever you want me to go, I'll go, whatever you want me to do, I'll do. Or I don't really feel like God can take care of me where he sends me. So I'm not going on a mission trip where my kids aren't going on a mission trip because I just don't really trust God to take care of us when we're obeying him. You see, when you have a need, you're going to do one of two things. You're either going to trust God or you're going to turn to an idol. Turning to an idol, I hope you see from this story will drive out the glory of God from your life and will send you into a type of spiritual exile. What are you going to do?

Here's the question. What are you going to do when God doesn't answer in exactly the way and on the timetable that you think he should? Hadn't you had that experience?

I don't know why you're not doing this. When you hit that moment, the choice is trusting prayer, waiting prayer, or now I'm going to take it into my hands and I'm going to turn it into an idol. Can you trust that God is moving even when you can't see it just because he promised he would? One of my favorite promises that Jesus gave about prayer. So colorful, Luke 11, 11, what father among you, what father among you, if his son asked him for a fish, will instead of a fish, give him a serpent, a snake, or if he asked for an egg because he's hungry, we'll give him a scorpion. I mean, if you parents do that, your kid asks you for some chicken nuggets.

You're like, I don't have any chicken nuggets, but here's a cobra. You're going to play with that. Of course you don't do that.

Right? Because you love your kids and so you're going to take care of them. But let's reverse that. I think we can do this.

Let's reverse that. When your child parents ask you for a scorpion, are you going to give them a scorpion? No. As a parent, sometimes you tell your kids, no, not in spite of the fact that you love them.

You tell them no because you love them. Well, see, God is no different. One of the great ironies of our lives is that sometimes what looks to us like bread is in reality a scorpion.

And what looks to us like a scorpion is in reality bread. In fact, write this down, I've given you this before. Sometimes God answers our prayers by giving us what we would have asked for if we knew what he knew. And we trust that just like we do this with our kids, sometimes our Heavenly Father looks over our lives and says, I'm not going to give you that.

I'm going to withhold that because you don't really know what I know. No good thing does he withhold, Psalm 84-11 says, from those who walk uprightly. So when God says no, as sometimes he does, you just have to trust him.

What are you going to do when you have that kind of need? Are you going to continue to trust God who gave himself for you at the cross or are you going to turn for refuge to substitute providers and be giving yourself in obedience to idols? Here's number three, testifying to a prayer answering God is a crucial part of our witness. Testifying to a prayer answering God is a crucial part of the witness of the people of God. Israel in the Old Testament, we, the Summit Church today, the foreigner, he said, was supposed to hear about this prayer answering God and come to the temple and experience that prayer answering God, not just hear about it, but experience him. That's the reputation we're supposed to have in this community, Summit Church, in Jesus's name.

Throughout the Bible, God presents answered prayer as a critical part of our witness. But when Moses described to Israel what it was about Israel that would distinguish them from every other nation on earth, you know what he said it was going to be? He didn't say it was going to be our strong military. It's not even going to be our great business. The thing that he said, Deuteronomy 4.7, for what great nation is there that has God so near to it as the Lord our God is to us?

For whatever reason, we call upon him. What is supposed to distinguish this church from all the other things going on in our community? It's not great music.

I love great music. It's not great preaching, as important as that is. It's not even great generosity. What's supposed to distinguish us is answered prayer. When Elijah wanted to demonstrate to Israel which God was the true God, what was the test that he chose?

Remember this on top of Mount Carmel? It's which God really answers prayer. Prayer was supposed to be one of the main ministries that we had as a church. I'll tell you something, there's a passage a lot of people know in Acts, but I feel like they don't really know.

I didn't know it for the longest time the big impact of this. Acts 6, all the apostles are busy taking care of widows and the poor people in the congregation. Eventually they say, you know what? This is important, but we are being taken away from the things that God has specifically called us to, which is prayer and the word. They appointed people that would come alongside and minister to the poor.

These people became deacons. What we always do is we say, yes, so we need to free up people that are called to ministry like me to focus on prayer and the word, but we only focus on the word part. What I'm supposed to do is I'm supposed to prepare and teach you the word. Any prayer that I do is supposed to be a part of teaching you the word.

That's what you assume it means. I'm praying as a way of making sure that I preach the word rightly. The way that that's written in Greek, it's not prayer like just in support of the word. Prayer is its own ministry. Prayer is something not just that we do as a help to other things that we do. Prayer is itself the thing that we do.

Does that make sense? In other words, what if we saw this time we have at the end of every service where we have prayer counselors, pastors, prayer leaders down front, what if we saw that not as simply a relief valve to if many of you have just been overwhelmed, then you want to come talk to somebody and cry with somebody and pray with somebody. What if we saw that as maybe one of the most important things that we do when we come together on the weekend is we are people who pray for needs that are going on in our community and congregation.

What if it was one relief valve? What if it was a key part of our service because what God has given us the ministry of is preaching the word yes and being the people who pray and God moves and He answers our prayers and telling other people, you can come to God and you can find in Him a refuge you won't find in anything else. Y'all, Jesus said, my house shall be a house of prayer for all nations. He didn't say a house of preaching. As important as preaching is, He says it's going to be a house of prayer. Hey, let me ask you, Summit Church members, is that how people would describe our church?

If you said, give me three words to describe the Summit Church after being here for six weeks. Is that one of the three words that they would choose, prayer? We put a ton of energy in this church into the word, don't we? I mean, the sermons that I preach, the small groups, do we put the same energy? Nothing wrong with that, but do we put the same energy into prayer? Are we known as a praying people?

Do people hear about our answers to prayer and say, man, I want to know, I want to know this God who is your refuge this way? You see, it's a crucial part of our witness when I, I was forced to recognize this one time when I lived over in Southeast Asia. I had all these language, I've told you, you know, when I got there, I could say, hi, my name is JD.

Where's your bathroom? My house is on fire. That's all I could say in their language. So for a long time, because of how, you know, how much Islam opposed the, I didn't know what to do. So I just prayed for people. And anytime I heard about anybody sick in my community, I'd be like, hey, can I come pray for them? And I go pray for them. And some of the people that I prayed for got better.

They were healed. And I remember, I remember very clearly, I've been there about 14 months. I remember that the day that a group of 13 year old boys showed up at my doorstep, knocked on my door and I opened the door and one of them said in their language, he said, I said, hello, mister, would you come to my parents' house? Because my mom is very sick and I want you to pray for her.

I said, absolutely. And one of the other kids said, uh, whoa, this is a Christian. And the other 13 year old boys, about five of them there, one of them said, yes, he is Christian, but this is, I heard him say, this is a man that God listens to because of the reputation of praying and seeing, all right, I was forced to that because I didn't know how to preach this way in their language. What if that became the substance of our ministry again, are we out praying for people? Have you ever just told your neighbors say, Hey, can I, can I pray for that about, about, can I pray with you? Or can I pray for you about that? I do this sometimes. In fact, in preparation for this message, I thought I needed to get back to doing this more often. Um, sometimes I'll just tell the waitress, I mean, somebody I just met, I'm like, Hey, you know, uh, yeah, I'm about to pray and tell God, thanks for our food here.

Anything specific I can pray for you for. And I've had times where I got just somebody that just began to open up and say, this is going on my life and this is going on my life. And it became a great way to begin to share the hope in God. Um, I, uh, one of our campus pastors, pastor RJ over at Cary said, he goes, yeah, I asked a waitress that one time. And she said, yeah, I'm praying for a new job. And pastor RJ said, well, I'm going to pray that God doesn't answer that prayer before you bring me my food. But I will pray that God will provide for you. Um, the point all I'm trying to say is what is in your workplace, in your school, in your neighborhood, you develop a reputation as somebody that said, I'll pray for you and I'll teach you to pray.

And I'll, I'll put God's reputation on the line as a God who answers prayer. And I'll point you to hope in him, y'all, like I pointed out, Jesus got the angriest when Israel obscured, obscured this dimension of the ministry to foreigners. And they just covered it up with other things, by the way, they needed money changers.

They needed people to be, they needed to be able to buy and sell. What was most angry about is that they had obscured all these little things had obscured the one central thing they were supposed to do. And that is the people of prayer.

Here's number four. We see sin finally drives out the presence of God. Sin drives out the presence of God all through this prayer, Solomon makes God's activity in our lives condition on when we repent, when you get really familiar with your sin, when you, when you were aware of it, you don't cover and you expose it to God.

That's when he begins to move. King David said it this way, Psalm 66, 18. If I regard sin in my heart, regard means I know it's there and I'm not going to do anything about it. I like the sin and I'm not going to turn away from it. If I regard sin in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. If I, it doesn't matter how bad the sin is. If you confess it, God forgives it.

But it's when you say, I'm not going to deal with this. Even if it's a small sin, it's like, I've told you, you're never farther from God than when you're close to him and say, no, I mean, if you regard that sin in your heart, he won't hear. Paul tells us in Ephesians, we can grieve the Holy Spirit by how we treat each other, gossiping, failing to forgive, slandering through cutting corners, telling lies, immoral compromises. A few weeks ago, we looked at a man named Achan in Israel who did something God told him not to do.

And he hid the thing that he stole in his tent. And because of that, a bunch of Israelites went out to battle and the power of God departed from him and they died. What it's showing us is that unconfessed, regarded, harbored sin extinguishes the power and the presence of God like water does to a flame. You come this weekend and you're like, I want God's help.

Okay. Is there unconfessed sin in your life? Now, I don't mean is there sin in your life, because of course there is. Is there unconfessed sin in your life that you're regarding, you're holding onto and saying, I won't deal with that. He'll forgive you, whatever it is.

But you got to confess it humbly and turn away from it. Are there areas of your life that are not under his control? He wants to help you, but you got to surrender to him and give him control first.

Listen, he can heal. He can forgive whatever you bring to him, but you got to bring it to him. Whatever you expose before him, no matter how bad it is, he can cover it and heal it. Sin is not more powerful than God's presence.

Yes, it is true. Sin drives out the presence of God, but see, it's also true. The presence of God in your life will drive out sin. And when you expose your sin to him and say, God, I need you, then he will heal it. He will cover it. He will forgive it, and he'll begin to fill you with his spirit so that you lose your desire for that sin.

He'll change your heart. Whatever you expose to God, he can cover and heal when you keep it covered. When you keep it covered, that's when his presence departs.

Whatever you expose, he can heal. Whatever you got unconfessed sin in your life, that is cutting you off from the presence of God. Do we as a church have things that we harbor and hide that keep us from seeing the power of God flow through us to the community and to the nations? Some in church, are we a praying people? Do you think we're a praying people? Are we known as a people of prayer for all nations? Do we glorify God in this church by our answer, his answers to prayer? Do we lead other people to hope in God and pray to him?

This is the best thing we can do for world missions. We always quote Andrew Murray, the one who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history. Is your small group praying for things that are going on in the mission field in our church plans? Have you said, hey, who's somebody we can partner with and pray for? It's the greatest thing we can do in evangelism.

I think of that statement that Ian Bounds, the guy who's written a lot on prayer said, he said, we should never talk to men about God more than we talk to God about those men. It's the most important thing that we can do in the preaching moment. Every time I preach, what we have, we have a handful of people that are in what we call the boiler room. It's a room where people just get together and pray for me while I preach because we know it's the secret of power. Our goal is to have teams at every service at every campus. This is the most important part of our ministries.

What if we again, what if we saw what we do at the end of the service? What if we saw our prayer times is not just something we do to give us power and the real things, but we saw it as its own ministry in itself? Some of you have some things that God needs to do in your heart, in your prayer time. Some of you need to get involved in some of the prayer ministries we have available at this church.

You can access them on our website. We need to become a people who, if you were going to describe us, we're a people of prayer for all nations and we point other people to hope in God. Why don't you bow your heads, if you would, all of our campuses, bow your heads and let me just commit this to God, our worship teams, our campus pastors will come and they'll lead us from here. I pray, I pray in Jesus' name that you would make us a people of prayer, as I've heard said before, some of the greatest answer to prayer is a spirit that desires to pray more. The answer to prayer is more prayer and so I pray that you would answer the prayers that I have prayed about this message and you would move us significantly along the path to becoming a people of prayer. I pray and ask that in Jesus' name, amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-05 11:30:39 / 2023-09-05 11:51:19 / 21

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