"The Three Altars"
Three spiritual altars must be built within the hearts of human beings if we are to live as God defines life. We must be born again, we must decisively consecrate ourselves to God for His glory, and we must daily acknowledge His presence, power, and possession of our being.
"Ye must be born again" (John 3:7).
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable services" (Romans 12:1).
"He said to them all, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me" (Luke 9:23).
A physical altar is a place erected for the offering of sacrifices. In the Old Testament, this often involved building a mound of rocks upon which sacrifices were offered, or more formal versions as existed in the tabernacle and temple of Israel. Altars and their sacrifices served to foreshadow of Christ, and to symbolize the devotion of the supplicant who made offerings in obedience to God and repentance from anything unworthy of His glory. Such places are no longer applicable during the dispensation of God's grace and truth in Christ, the physical, ritualistic versions having given way to the Reality they foreshadowed. "We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle" (Hebrews 13:10). Thus, we build spiritual altars of the heart.
First, we must be born again through faith in the Lord Jesus. This involves the sacrifice of trusting in ourselves for redemption and righteousness. We naturally seek to make our own way in life rather than looking unto the way as given by God. "I am the way" declared the Lord Jesus" (John 14:6). Salvation involves the complete renunciation of self effort and our own works as our hope and our life. "We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3). Saving faith involves our response to the Holy Spirit's working in our hearts to direct us to the Lord Jesus and His redeeming work on our behalf. As the old hymn proclaims, "Nothing in my hand I bring, only to Thy cross I cling."
The second altar involves our recognition that salvation births a "new man, created in righteousness and true holiness" (Ephesians 4:24). We must realize and respond to God's complete possession of every aspect of our life and being. This usually happens at a point subsequent to our new birth because we know so very little of spiritual reality as we enter into newness of life in Christ. Surprisingly to some, the altar of this consecration involves a one time dedication of our being to God. The passage in Romans 12 referenced above was written in the aorist verb tense of the Greek language. This denotes a point in time consecration to our Lord, or in terms of our present consideration, the building of an altar in our hearts where we decisively sacrifice any notion of personal autonomy or ownership. Thereafter, we rather view ourselves as "the purchased possession" of God through the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 1:14). We may not always live accordingly, and we will need refreshing and growth in the reality of our sacrifice. But once we make the transaction in response to Truth, God receives our offering and seals it forever.
Finally, we daily visit the heart altar whereupon we acknowledge the Lordship of Christ, and the life of Christ as our hope for walking accordingly. We "put on the new man" by recognizing His involved presence, and by affirming with the Psalmist, "This is the day which the Lord hath made" (Ephesians 4:24; Psalm 118:24). We do well to visit the altar as soon as possible upon the opening of our eyes, and by the decisive consecration of prayer and exposure to the Word of God. Again, a hymnist helps us in our devotion: "I am thine, o Lord, I have heard Thy voice, and it told Thy love to me. Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord." Or as the prophet of Scripture affirmed, "Here am I. Send me" (Isaiah 6:8). Again, this involves a day by day visit to the heart altar whereupon we turn away from any notion that the day - this day - involves anything less than devotion to the glory, will, and eternal purpose of God in Christ. "That thy trust may be in the LORD, I have made known to thee this day" (Proverbs 22:19).
Three altars, spiritual altars for the offering of spiritual sacrifices - we must build them all within our hearts in response to the leading and enabling of the Holy Spirit. Most importantly, we remember the altar of the cross that makes possible the reality of our consecration, and the Christ who died and arose to provide our life, hope, and trust. Any and all other devotions must be burned away to make a way for the Lordship and life of the Lord Jesus, and for our dedication thereunto.
"Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."
(I Peter 2:5)
Weekly Memory Verse
He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?