The Altar

We recently held a women’s workshop at our church titled ‘Altars That Alter Us’. It was a wonderful time of sharing and learning and growing together. As the Lenten season continues, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts from that weekend on Christ and on the sacrifices we can make in response to His, sacrifices of our heart.

Christ, the Altar

An altar of earth, of stone, of wood covered in brass.

In the Old Testament, an altar had to be physically erected and a sacrifice had to be literally placed upon it, a sacrifice that met the requirements of a holy God, a righteous God.

Today, the altar we come to is not man-made. It is simply a place, a place where we meet with God; when we are in His presence, we are at the altar.

And the sacrifice? Well, the ultimate sacrifice has already been made by God’s one and only son,

Jesus Christ, the only One capable of meeting the requirements of holiness and of righteousness.

So today, our times at the altar include quite a bit of liberty. Sometimes we come to the altar empty-handed, with nothing at all to offer, justworship needing to be with Him. And God welcomes us, because as a child of His, we are received just as we are. There is no judgment for us. It’s a safe place, a place of healing. The payment has been made and we can come freely, with empty-hands lifted high.

Other times when we meet with God at the altar, we do bring a sacrifice. It may be a sacrifice of praise or worship. It may be a sacrifice of thanks. Or it may be a heart sacrifice- the kind that some of you hear God asking you to make even now. A sacrifice of the heart. Heart sacrifices vary. But whatever that heart sacrifice is, it is something that you lay down and release at great personal cost.

Some of our heart sacrifices are losses, wounds, defeats that have been thrust upon us:

  • Being diagnosed with a terminal illness
  • Struggling with infertility
  • The death of a loved one
  • The loss of a job or a ministry position
  • Giving birth to a child with a disability
  • An accident that results in a major life-change
  • A financial reversal
  • A child who has turned his or her back on what we have taught him or her
  • An unwanted move to another home or to a different city
  • A desire to marry, with no life partner insight

A second category of heart sacrifices involves a personal choice, such as:

  • Letting go of personal expectations of myself or someone else
  • Giving up a cherished dream for a greater good
  • Recovering from an addictionYoung stressed woman sitting on the bed and hold her hand on her own head
  • Relinquishing our control over a child who is becoming an adult
  • Giving up my ‘right’ to be in charge of my own life
  • Surrendering my ideal life for the reality of what I actually have
  • Forgiving a person who betrayed my trust
  • Embracing God’s love when He doesn’t rescue my hurting child
  • Longing for a more ideal spouse, but staying in a difficult marriage
  • Believing that God’s promises are true when I am in a personal hell

At some time or another on our spiritual journey, each of us faces the challenge of laying down some monumental heart sacrifice at the feet of Jesus, at the altar. But truth be told, the Christian life inherently involves “losing our lives” as Jesus did. 1 John 1:5 says “whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.”

So if God isn’t asking you to sacrifice anything major today, take time to prepare your heart, because someday He will. It’s His nature to make us more and more like Himself.

Remember that He loves you just the way you are, but He loves you too much to leave you that way.

He wants to cleanse us, from the inside out, of all that is holding us back from perfect communion with Him.

Dear sisters, bear in mind too, that when you sacrifice something to the altar, to Jesus, you have to let go of it. Let –it – go. Because a holy purifying fire still comes to the altar. And if you don’t let go of it?

The fire will still come…

Relinquishing your ‘right’ to hold tightly to it… (whatever it is that God is asking you to let go of) is the most painful thing you will ever do. It’s an act of trusting God even if we cannot envision a positive outcome from it. But in the end, it’s the only way to show Him that He is our first Love. Jesus himself told us “If you love Me, you will obey what I have commanded.”  If God is asking you to lay a sacrifice on the altar, walk in obedience and prove your love for Him.

Stepping forward to be with God, stepping up to the altar, is the way we say “I need you, I want more of you, I love you and because of that, I need to give you (THIS). “

The altar is no longer an altar of earth, or of stone, or of wood, but it is an altar of flesh. It is found in a relationship with a Holy God. Wherever you find God’s presence is where you have found an altar.

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Lent – making time and space in our lives

to meet with God;

being in His presence

to prepare for what’s to come.

cross

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The two categories of heart sacrifices are taken from Carol Kent’s book When I Lay My Isaac Down, Unshakeable Faith in Unthinkable Circumstances.

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