1 Kings 8:22-53 (Part 3) – The Challenge To Be What We Are Supposed To Be Already!

Posted: December 7, 2018 in 11-1 Kings

1 Kings 8:22-53 (Part 3 of 3)
Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication

Today, I begin the challenge of writing my final research paper of my third semester in my pursuit of my D.Min. degree. It will mark the half way point in the process. There are 4 semesters of classroom work. Because I had to take last spring off from school because of the move to Illinois and assimilating into full-time ministry, I got out of sequence on the usual back-to-back progression of these courses in the program. I will most likely have to wait until the 2019-2020 academic year (Fall Semester 2019 or Spring Semester 2020) to take my 4th course, church revitalization, because of the timing of when this course is offered at the doctorate level.

But back to the current situation. I will be writing a paper this weekend on what’s called the Acts 1:8 Challenge. Church culture many times focuses on what goes on inside its four walls rather than what goes on outside, nearby, and beyond. Just as individuals can benefit from having a purpose-driven life, so can the church focus on having a purpose-driven ministry that reaches outside the church into its community, its region, continent, and world. As Jesus illustrated in Acts 1:8, the mission of the church is unique, purposeful, and urgent. Perhaps never before in history has the church been in such a position to boldly embrace Jesus’ challenge to take the gospel to everyone, everywhere. The Acts 1:8 Challenge is designed to transform any church into a worldwide missions center.

By accepting the Challenge, churches commit to eight “kingdom-growing” responses as they work to intentionally engage in Acts 1:8. They commit to prepare for their involvement, to learn how to become strategically involved, to pray for God’s leadership in their plans, to give of their financial resources to support the mission, to go by offering mobilization opportunities, to tell the gospel message, to send by encouraging members to invest their lives in missions, and to multiply by assisting in church starting efforts. This should be interesting for me to set this process into the context of my own church and develop a proposed strategy for implementation.

It struck me that we have to have such things in our American churches. The Acts 1:8 Challenge is a Baptist thing but it can be implemented by any church of any denomination. But why do we have to have an Acts 1:8 Challenge? Should not this be our natural DNA? Jesus told us that DNA in Acts 1:8. We should be doing this naturally. It should not be a project that we have to implement. It should have already been there! It is apparent that this Acts 1:8 Challenge, though a Baptist initiative, is clarion call to all churches that we have forgotten what we are here for.

That’s the thing that struck me this morning as I read this passage once again this morning. Let’s read the passage, 1 Kings 8:22-53, and concentrate on vv. 41-43. Let’s see what God has to say through Solomon about what the purpose of God’s people should be and how we have missed the mark.

22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the entire community of Israel. He lifted his hands toward heaven, 23 and he prayed,

“O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in all of heaven above or on the earth below. You keep your covenant and show unfailing love to all who walk before you in wholehearted devotion. 24 You have kept your promise to your servant David, my father. You made that promise with your own mouth, and with your own hands you have fulfilled it today.

25 “And now, O Lord, God of Israel, carry out the additional promise you made to your servant David, my father. For you said to him, ‘If your descendants guard their behavior and faithfully follow me as you have done, one of them will always sit on the throne of Israel.’ 26 Now, O God of Israel, fulfill this promise to your servant David, my father.

27 “But will God really live on earth? Why, even the highest heavens cannot contain you. How much less this Temple I have built! 28 Nevertheless, listen to my prayer and my plea, O Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you today. 29 May you watch over this Temple night and day, this place where you have said, ‘My name will be there.’ May you always hear the prayers I make toward this place. 30 May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive.

31 “If someone wrongs another person and is required to take an oath of innocence in front of your altar in this Temple, 32 then hear from heaven and judge between your servants—the accuser and the accused. Punish the guilty as they deserve. Acquit the innocent because of their innocence.

33 “If your people Israel are defeated by their enemies because they have sinned against you, and if they turn to you and acknowledge your name and pray to you here in this Temple, 34 then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and return them to this land you gave their ancestors.

35 “If the skies are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and if they pray toward this Temple and acknowledge your name and turn from their sins because you have punished them, 36 then hear from heaven and forgive the sins of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them to follow the right path, and send rain on your land that you have given to your people as their special possession.

37 “If there is a famine in the land or a plague or crop disease or attacks of locusts or caterpillars, or if your people’s enemies are in the land besieging their towns—whatever disaster or disease there is— 38 and if your people Israel pray about their troubles, raising their hands toward this Temple, 39 then hear from heaven where you live, and forgive. Give your people what their actions deserve, for you alone know each human heart. 40 Then they will fear you as long as they live in the land you gave to our ancestors.

41 “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands because of your name, 42 for they will hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 43 then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. They, too, will know that this Temple I have built honors your name.

44 “If your people go out where you send them to fight their enemies, and if they pray to the Lord by turning toward this city you have chosen and toward this Temple I have built to honor your name, 45 then hear their prayers from heaven and uphold their cause.

46 “If they sin against you—and who has never sinned?—you might become angry with them and let their enemies conquer them and take them captive to their land far away or near. 47 But in that land of exile, they might turn to you in repentance and pray, ‘We have sinned, done evil, and acted wickedly.’ 48 If they turn to you with their whole heart and soul in the land of their enemies and pray toward the land you gave to their ancestors—toward this city you have chosen, and toward this Temple I have built to honor your name— 49 then hear their prayers and their petition from heaven where you live, and uphold their cause. 50 Forgive your people who have sinned against you. Forgive all the offenses they have committed against you. Make their captors merciful to them, 51 for they are your people—your special possession—whom you brought out of the iron-smelting furnace of Egypt.

52 “May your eyes be open to my requests and to the requests of your people Israel. May you hear and answer them whenever they cry out to you. 53 For when you brought our ancestors out of Egypt, O Sovereign Lord, you told your servant Moses that you had set Israel apart from all the nations of the earth to be your own special possession.”

In this passage, we see, in vv. 41-43, that God chose Israel to be a blessing to the whole world (see Genesis 12:1-3). This blessing found its fulfillment in Jesus – a descendant, in human terms, of Abraham and David (Galatians 3:8-9) – who became the Messiah for all people, both Jews and Gentiles. When the Israelites first entered the Promised Land, they were ordered to clear out several wicked nations. Thus, the Old Testament records many wars. However, we should not conclude that war was Israel’s first duty. After subduing the evil nations, Israel was to become a light to the surrounding nations. Sadly, Israel’s own sin and spiritual blindness prevented them from being that light that would make them a holy nation that drew other nations under to God. Reaching out to the world is still the commission of God’s people today. Christians are the new Israel and our temples should not be the end game but the starting point from which we share the good news of the Messiah with the rest of the world.

The Christian church itself is and the fact that it exists separately from the Jewish faith is simple illustration that the Israelites missed the point 2,000 years ago. The Israelite nation was to be a beacon to the world that would draw people unto them as a different and holy people. It was through Israelites that the Messiah was to come and that was exactly what happened. However, the Israelites were supposed to be to recognize the Messiah and to point the rest of the world to Him. The Christian church exists separately from the Jewish faith because we recognized the Messiah and began preaching him to the rest of the world as the Israelites were supposed to do, but did not recognize. We are the new Israel. We are the proclaimers that they were supposed to be. Now, we are grafted into the family of God’s chosen people through the Jewish roots of Jesus Christ and have taken on the mantle of being His chosen people who proclaim the Messiah to the world.

However, are we in danger of becoming like the ancient Israelites in that we are not doing what we are supposed to be doing. The Israelites became enamored with themselves. They became an encamped us vs. them people. They became exclusionist instead of trying to be the light to the world to draw people unto God and to Jesus Christ, the Messiah. They became enamored with their Temple, their traditions, their club of “we are the people of God and you are not!”

Have we become that? Have we become the ancient Israelites where we love our church buildings? Have we become enamored with what our churches can do for our family? Have we become enamored with what services and programs that our church can provide us? Have we become enamored with worship services being the end game of our relationship with God rather than the starting point?

That’s the thing that I struggle with this morning as begin to write my research paper on the Acts 1:8 Challenge – the fact that it is needed at all? The fact that we have to have an Acts 1:8 Challenge is an indication that we are not, by and large as churches of all denominations, focusing on the basic DNA of the church that Jesus called us to be. That we must be called to refocus on the charge that Jesus gave us – to be the church and to spread the gospel to our Jerusalem, our Judea, our Samaria, and our ends of the earth – means that at some point we have lost focus on that basic.

Acts 1:8 is the basis of the church. It is not a special project. It should not be something we have to reboot, or reinvent. It is supposed to be the DNA of every church regardless of denomination. We ARE that we “will be my [Jesus’] witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” It should not have to be a refocus. It should not have to be a revamping of how we do church. It should not have to be a radical change in how we do business as the church. It should be who we are. Just as the ancient Israelites should have by nature of being God’s people been the light that drew other nations unto God and to the saving grace of the Messiah. That we have to have the Acts 1:8 Challenge is a call to all churches to wake up and return to their first love.

Jesus lovingly chastised the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:3-5 to return to their first love. Remember, the Ephesian church was massively into missions early on in the New Testament. They were a powerful church. They sent and financed the missions of Paul and others. They were passionate about spreading the gospel. They were the model church of the New Testament era. But by the end of the first century after Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection, Jesus was chastising them to return to their first love. That there must be an Acts 1:8 Challenge program is Jesus’ 21st century challenge to His church to return to their first love – spreading the gospel. That there must be an Acts 1:8 Challenge program reminds the entirety of Jesus’ church that we must get back to our basic DNA – to be missionaries at every step of what we do. We must measure everything we do as to whether it is assisting us in being a light to our city, our state, our region of the country, our nation, and our world that draws people unto Christ. That is the basic of God’s people. We are Acts 1:8. That’s the job! That’s the DNA! That’s the first love! That’s the thing! That’s who we are (not just something we do but rather WHO WE ARE)!

Amen and Amen.

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