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Showing posts with label A Living Sacrifice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label A Living Sacrifice. Show all posts

Monday, July 31, 2023

Altar Your Life

Review and Introduction
Last Sunday, I shared about the Sermon on the Amount—about the amount we are supposed to offer to the church.  We talked about the tithe—the biblical standard of offering 10% of your income God through the church.  But we also learned that God doesn’t want your money; He wants your heart—all of you.  And the like the widow who gave all she had, we are called to give all we are and all we have to the Lord.  If you missed that sermon, I encourage you to go back and read the post from blog from last week after your read this one.  

Today, I want to talk about the altar, because the altar is the place we bring the gifts we offer to the Lord and how we approach the altar can alter your life (and even your eternity).  Have you ever stopped to consider what the altar really is?  Have you ever considered how placing our gifts upon the altar effects your life?

An altar is a raised area or table in a house of worship where people can honor God with offerings.  It is prominent in the Bible as "God's table," a sacred place for sacrifices and gifts offered up to God.[i]  Some times altars were very simple structures—a pile of rocks stacked to make a raised platform upon which a sacrifice could be burned.  Other times, altars were elaborate and ornate carves works of masonry art.  Whether crude or elaborate, the most important thing is these altars were specifically dedicated to the worship of God.  They were places of sacrifice, where gifts were offered to God.  These altars were a place to commune with God.

If you’ve ever been to a cook out and smelled the mouth-watering aroma of meat cooking over a fiery grill, you can imagine how it might smell to make a sacrifice to God on an altar.  The altar was a place where food was cooked and God came to enjoy a meal with His people.  

Eating with others is an intimate experience.  it seems so simple we take it for granted, but then you ask yourself, "Can trust this person to feed me?  Will their food be clean and safe?  Will the meat be cooed properly." Maybe you like you meet well done or very rare.  Will the person you eat with cook it right?  Will they be sanitary?  SO there is a great deal of trust involved with eating with others and the altar is the table where humanity and the Divine sit down to a meal together.

The very first time an altar is mentioned in the Bible is Genesis 8:20. God saved Noah and his family and 2 of every kind of animal during a flood that destroyed every living thing on earth.  And they also took some extra sacrificial animals on the Ark.  After the flood waters receded, Noah and his family and all the animals with him came out of the ark. Noah built an altar and thanked God for saving them by sacrificing the special animals on the altar.  Can you imagine how precious was that sacrifice?  All the other animals in the world were killed in the flood.  These handful of animals were the only ones left and Noah sacrificed some of them in faith and to thank God.

Later in Genesis, Abraham built several altars to honor and worship God throughout the Promised Land God was giving him.  One very disturbing story involving Abraham and an altar has God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac on top of Mount Moriah.  "Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you." (Genesis 22:2) Abraham travels to the mountain and builds an altar.  He ties up his son and lays him on top of the altar.  Just as Abraham’s knife is poised to sacrifice his son, God stops him and provides a ram to take Isaac’s place.  Abraham sacrifices the ram and Isaac lives.  It’s a strange story and we could say much about it, but for today it drives home the nature of sacrifice in a powerful way.  A sacrifice is something we feel deeply.  A true sacrifice is when we give God something that is precious to us—not our left overs that we no longer want or need.  A sacrifice costs us something important.  

Christians today are called to a special kind of sacrificial living.  Listen to Romans 12:1-2.

Romans 12:1-2
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

A New Sacrifice: Once and For All Time
In the New Testament, we are called to a new form of sacrifice.  Christians no longer practice animal sacrifice.  The blood of lambs and goats and bulls cannot sufficiently cleanse our sin.  These religious sacrifices from the Old Testament were only a temporary means to allow people to commune with God.  However, God had a better plan.  God would atone for the whole world’s sins with one perfectly holy sacrifice.

John 3:16 – "For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."

And so Jesus came down from heaven and took the form of a human being.  He lived a sinless, perfect life.  Jesus is the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.  And though Jesus was innocent, He willingly gave His life on the cross of calvary. 

Romans 5:6-8 says, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

Christ’s sacrifice washes away our sin forever—all our past sins and all our future sins too.  And now we have the incredible privilege of communing with God at all times.  Sin no longer separates us from God if we follow Christ as our Lord.

Our Altar
We have an altar in my church.  It’s right down in the center of our worship space, because the altar is the center of our identity.  It’s who we are as Christians—God’s people.  We only have a few important symbols we usually keep on our altar.  First there is the cross.  Isn't that interesting, because the altar was traditionally the place where people sacrificed something to God.  Yet on our Christian altar, we have a cross that shows how God sacrificed His Son for us.  Christ gave His life on the cross to atone for our sin.  Now there is nothing to separate us from God.  We can come and commune with God in perfect peace and harmony.

Then there are the candles on our alar to remind us that Jesus is the light of the world.  His Holy Spirit is with us as we worship--illuminating our lives so we can see clearly.  And when we follow Christ, we shine brightly like a city on a hill that shows everyone the way to go--follow Christ!

And there is a Bible on our altar--the Word of God--the teaches us the specifics about who God is and what Jesus has done and what we are to do.  Our faith is not just a feeling; it is also something we can know and understand intellectually and it is something that does not change according to the shifting sands of a fickly society.  We stand upon the Holy Word of God that thousands of people sacrifice--some even loosing their lives--so that God's Truth could be preserved and passed down through the ages to us today.  Never take for granted the sacrifices made so we can read the Holy Bible today.

Finally, there are offering plates on our altar.  These are where we place out tithes and gifts--the financial contributions to honor God and obey His Word and support the work of His Church.  The 10% we place in the offering is just a token, a symbolic gesture of a much greater gift--our heart.  Christ gave Himself for us. He didn’t just give part of Himself. He gave Himself completely. He died and was buried. And He rose that we might have new and eternal life.  We are called to give ourselves completely. Not our left overs. Not just 10%. We are called to give ourselves completely. We are to be a “living sacrifice” laid upon the altar of God.

The altar is a place of sacrifice. Where we give our very best.  Where we give until it hurts—the definition of sacrifice.  The altar is where Abraham laid his son.  It's where God gave us His Son.  The altar is where we define our faith and identity.  As we offer our gifts to God upon this altar, we proclaim:  “This is whom I am.  It's how I put my money where my mouth is.”  The altar is where we dedicate our time saying:  “This is what I live for and what I’m willing to die for!”

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you.  Let them be a living and holy  sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship him.

I invite you to find a church with an altar.  Go up and lay your hand on the corner of the altar and rededicate your life to be a living and holy sacrifice to God—the kind He will find acceptable.  Then spend some time in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to be the living sacrifice God wants you to be.