Monday, June 22, 2009

The Call of God's Altar

Where do we first see what God calls the “altar”? We see a glimpse when God slew animals to make coats for Adam and Eve and wherever that event took place that was the first altar of sacrifice. The altar was a place of sacrifice, blood, death, and worship. From the very first sin of man God began a revelation that included death and blood and that place would be named the altar. And this altar would not just be an appeasement to a vicious God who desired His revenge, no; this would be a place of redemption, reconciliation, forgiveness, and worship.

God instructs Abraham to take his son, Isaac, and go to Mount Moriah and sacrifice his son. Abraham arises early in the morning and heads to Moriah with Isaac, wood, a knife, and two servants. When they get to the place of sacrifice Abraham takes the wood, the knife, and a fire and heads to make an altar of sacrifice. The wood is placed upon the back of Isaac in a startling prophetic disclosure that one day God’s own Son would carry the wooden altar upon His back as He climbed the mount to adorn that wooden altar with Himself.

And we realize that when Abraham lifted his knife to offer his son, God stepped in to allow a ram to take Isaac’s place. But Abraham’s altar was still a place of blood and death, and a place of worship as well. There is no painless redemption and there is no bloodless sacrifice that can be the atonement. Although God pardoned Isaac He still required blood, the blood of a ram. The altar is always a place of sacrifice and blood. It is Jehovah’s butcher block anointed by the Spirit of God, and God’s attention is drawn to that holy place of worship before Him.

God prepared two Roman planks that would serve as an altar upon which He would sacrifice His Son. That would be a place of much pain and much blood and much suffering. It would be the altar upon which the Passover Lamb would die as a sacrifice for sins, and all who enter into that death by faith would be crucified with the Christ of God and in that death they will find life. In a mystery, when Christ was sacrificed on that vertical altar, all who by faith embrace that sacrifice are partakers of that sacrifice. The Passover Lamb of God becomes our sacrifice and His blood is applied to the doorposts of our hearts and souls, and death must pass over us as a defeated foe.

But even as we are made new creations in Jesus Christ, do not believe our calling and journey is complete. We, as followers of Jesus Christ, are called to present ourselves as living sacrifices, crucified, and yet risen from the dead. All of it in Him. And now we are called again to God’s altar and there to be crucified daily. The parts of us that live are blemishes to God’s sacrifice. We must die to ourselves and live unto God and that can only happen when by faith we place ourselves on the bloody altar of death and allow the Spirit to remove the dross and mold us into His image once more. God stands with a cross with our name written upon it and He beckons us come and die and come and live.

We are so filled and even consumed with our own desires and aspirations, and the altar of God looks so painful and so gory and our flesh recoils at such a thing. Who will understand us and who will mock us if we offer our entire lives on God’s altar? What will it cost us, and what plans will it shatter? Will it diminish our joy or will it release joy unspeakable and full of glory?

The word "altar" (Greek: θυσιαστήριον) appears twenty-four times in the New Testament. The word means a place of sacrificial death. This is not the butcher block where you buy your favorite steaks, no, this is the altar of the Spirit where only God can put to death the enemy God calls the flesh. It is the flesh that contaminates our entire beings with thoughts of self and sin, and it is this flesh that makes Christ a doctrine rather than the Risen Lord controlling the vessel He has purchased and now owns. This flesh seeks its own and has very little consideration for the will of Christ, and, in fact, this flesh will present a deception and call it the will of Christ. The flesh will offer God’s will in a convenient and shallow form which costs little and gains much, but that is the very nature of the flesh.

The altar will not reach out and capture you, you must be willing to lie down upon its already encrusted crimson stains and die once more. There is no resurrection without death, and there is no pleasing God without the excruciating and liberating faith that not only allows its flesh to be sacrificed, it even invites it. The pain of death translates into the abundant life that is Him. It is impossible to please yourself and Christ as well. God will not accept a partial and contaminated sacrifice upon His holy altar; it must be the entire life. All must be offered and all must be consumed.

Do you doubt God? Are you unsure as to His ability to consume every part of you? Go ahead; pour water upon the entire sacrifice and see if God can consume it. Gather all of your desires, all of your plans, all of your insecurities, all of your doubts, all of your compromises, all of your sins, all that you hold back, and gather everything that is in the slightest bit not of God and place it all on the altar. Then lay down on top of that dung and lift your hands to worship your God who will do what He promised. Feel the pain and experience the release that walks you through the freedom of service and worship without the double mindedness that has yoked you to you and not Him. And like the birth pangs of a woman in labor, a new life comes forth.

Are you not tired of being half in and half out? Isn’t the fence a poor resting place? Are you peculiar or are you predictable? Do people find you the least bit curious or do they have trouble finding you at all? Is the crowd your home or is the crowd watching you? Are sinners uncomfortably drawn to you or are they comfortably ambivalent to your life? Are you thirsty or are you quenched? Are you content with crumbs or will you press in to eat the entire Heavenly Loaf? Do you believe there is significantly more to this life of following Jesus or do you suggest we have reached the limits of His power and presence? Are you more concerned with the things of this life than the things of the Spirit?

The altar awaits you. Approach it as a privilege and with a holy expectation of a sacred sacrifice that drains your life and flings the stone wide open to a life that permeates your surroundings with the fragrance of Jesus or at the very least causes people to question your sanity.

Unremarkable lives contradict professions of faith in Jesus and are essentially false witnesses.


Adoption Mama said...

Rick, I am there right now, brother...never have I been to the place of laying EVERYTHING down, including my son, for the Lord to do a work in me, beyond all that I can fathom. Thank you for reminding me of God's graciousness in our afflictions...all for His Glory!


Adoption Mama said...

and also considering it worship...WOW!

Until later.