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Bible Ballistics: Vol. 17 No. 01  Why We NEED The Altar???

 

I recently read a social media post longing for the days when we practiced the “altar call” in more of our churches.  I so identified with the writer, for I know that same longing; yet there was a response disclaiming, of sorts, this longing with the thought that we didn’t need the altar for “everyone” is worshipping, and that the “body of worship” is the new altar.  Well, I would beg to differ, and I’d like to address the reasons I differ.  The altar was the center, the heart of most churches—it wasn’t just the more charismatic churches, but Baptist churches, and Methodist churches and Presbyterian churches, and others who all called congregants to the altar at the conclusion of the services.  Why?  That is the issue, and what I long for; a return to a time when we are called to decide if we will truly hear and heed the Word of The Lord, to respond in obedient to submission to the call of The Lord to each heart.

Today we seem to just glory in the volume of the music, and the activity of raised hands or shouts of glory, but I’ve often watched the faces of the congregation turn to stone after all of this “praise” when The Word of God is opened.  Where is the longing to please God by hearing His Word and responding to the conviction of The Holy Spirit calling us to face our sin, to repent or to yield to God’s direction in our everyday living?  What is worship after all?  It’s not the genre of our music, or the cut of our clothing, or even which translation of the Bible you may use; worship is a life lived in obedience and devotion to God. Even as Jesus said:

Jesus saith unto her,

Woman, believe me,

the hour cometh,

when ye shall neither in this mountain,

nor yet at Jerusalem,

worship the Father.

22 Ye worship ye know not what:

we know what we worship:

for salvation is of the Jews.

23 But the hour cometh,

and now is,

when the true worshippers

shall worship the Father

in spirit

and in truth:

for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

24 God is a Spirit:

and they that worship him

must worship him in spirit

and in truth.”  John 4:21-24

And what is this Spirit by which we are to come to God?  It is the indwelling Holy Spirit, the New Covenant, of Jesus who will lead us into all truth.

Howbeit when he,

the Spirit of truth,

is come,

he will guide you into all truth:

for he shall not speak of himself;

but whatsoever he shall hear,

that shall he speak:

and he will shew you

things to come.

14 He shall glorify me:

for he shall receive of mine, and

shall shew it unto you.”   John 16:13-14

And what is this truth—it is all The Word of God (the written word and The Living Word)—that which touches the hearts of HIS own and enables us to live holy lives that display God and His Word before a lost and dying world.  Conviction, restoration and truth can be found at an altar—for we who belong to Jesus or want to—by bringing our burdens to lay them at HIS feet!  We are to bring our faults and our failures for His forgiveness and cleansing, as well as our burdens.

This then is the message

which we have heard of him,

and declare unto you,

that God is light,

and in him is no darkness at all.

6 If we say that we have fellowship with him,

and walk in darkness,

we lie,

and do not the truth:

7 But if we walk in the light,

as he is in the light,

we have fellowship one with another,

and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son

cleanseth us from all sin.

8 If we say that we have no sin,

we deceive ourselves,

and the truth is not in us.

9 If we confess our sins,

he is faithful and just

to forgive us

our sins,

and to cleanse us from

all unrighteousness.

10 If we say that we have not sinned,

we make him a liar,

and his word

is not in us.”   1 John 1:5-10

God is ever at work conforming us into the image of HIS Son Jesus (See Ro. 8:28-29), yet so many today seem to be content with a praise that omits a life of holiness.  Much like the crowd that greeted Jesus with “Hosanna” on Sunday yet cried “Crucify HIM” four days later.  We want a ‘worship’ that makes us feel good but requires nothing of us: no repentance, no recognition of sin, no willingness to align our lives with The Word of God.  What do I mean, well, let’s be blunt:  we live the way we want, singing “Praise the Lord” on Sunday and curse like the world on Monday; we lift our hands on Sunday and join hands in living with one to whom we’re not married with no compunction or shame and we could go on, but Jeremiah describes much of the Christian culture today, much better than I—yet it grieves my heart.

For from the least of them

even unto the greatest of them

every one is given to covetousness;

and from the prophet

even unto the priest

every one dealeth falsely.

14 They have healed also

the hurt of the daughter of my people

slightly, saying,

Peace, peace;

when there is no peace.

15 Were they ashamed

when they had committed abomination?

nay, they were not at all ashamed,

neither could they blush:

therefore they shall fall among them that fall:

at the time that I visit them

they shall be cast down,

saith the LORD.

16 Thus saith the LORD,

Stand ye in the ways,

and see,

and ask for the old paths,

where is the good way,

and walk therein,

and ye shall find rest for your souls.

But they said,

We will not walk therein.

17 Also I set watchmen over you, saying,

Hearken to the sound of the trumpet.

But they said,

We will not hearken.”  Jeremiah 6:13-17

For they have healed

the hurt of the daughter of my people

slightly, saying,

Peace, peace;

when there is no peace.

12 Were they ashamed

when they had committed abomination?

nay, they were not at all ashamed,

neither could they blush:

therefore shall they fall among them that fall:

in the time of their visitation

they shall be cast down,

saith the LORD.”  Jeremiah 8:11-12

Much like our culture, Israel had chosen to be “religious” but not faithful to God.  They renamed sin, just like we do, but it remains sin—then and now, and there is a price to pay!

Woe unto them that call evil good,

and good evil;

that put darkness for light,

and light for darkness;

that put bitter for sweet,

and sweet for bitter!

21 Woe unto them that are wise

in their own eyes,

and prudent

in their own sight!

22 Woe unto them that are mighty

to drink wine,

and men of strength

to mingle strong drink:

23 Which justify the wicked

for reward,

and take away the righteousness

of the righteous from him!”  Isaiah 5:20-23

Paul warned Timothy of the peril of sin and its toll on mankind and the world; and it would worsen with time.

This know also,

that in the last days

perilous times shall come.

2 For men shall be

lovers of their own selves,

covetous,

boasters,

proud,

blasphemers,

disobedient to parents,

unthankful,

unholy,

3 Without natural affection,

trucebreakers,

false accusers,

incontinent,

fierce,

despisers of those that are good,

4 Traitors,

heady,

highminded,

lovers of pleasures

more than lovers of God;

5 Having a form of godliness,

but denying the power thereof:

from such turn away.  2 Timothy 3:1-5

Paul also made a most profound statement to the Philippian church, that I think we ought to take to heart today.

Beware of dogs,

beware of evil workers,

beware of the concision.

3 For we are the circumcision,

which worship God in the spirit,

and rejoice in Christ Jesus,

and have no confidence

in the flesh.”  Philippians 3:2-3

It’s all about being faithful to “worship God in the spirit”, to “rejoice in Christ Jesus”, and most of all to “have no confidence in the flesh”!  We must return to the altars of days gone by and seek God’s face in repentance, mourning and hope.  Our God hears and answers prayers, and as John said above (in 1 John 1:5-10) we can find forgiveness, and restoration in God, and HE will “cleanse us from all unrighteousness”!  And confess means to agree with God that our sin IS SIN!  We must stop this attitude of self-satisfaction, and seek God’s face, and as the woman at the well, hear Jesus’ assessment of our sin, repent and receive His forgiveness, restoration and cleansing.

What is the altar all about?  Good question.  It is the place of sacrifice—the place of recognizing our sin, and the offering of a sacrifice for it.  The Old Testament believer would take the required animal, slay it before the priest in confession of sin; then he would take the blood and burn it upon the altar, to cover the sin.  Jesus came to be the sin offering for all sin—the ultimate sacrifice.  So, when we come to the altar, we come recognizing our sin and failure to be what God has called us to be, seeking HIS forgiveness and the application of HIS redeeming blood and grace!

the blood of Jesus Christ his Son

cleanseth us from all sin”!

Oh, that we could be willing to humble ourselves before our God and seek HIS face in all we do, even bowing at an altar!

But he giveth more grace.

Wherefore he saith,

God resisteth the proud,

but giveth grace unto the humble.

7 Submit yourselves therefore

to God.

Resist the devil,

and he will flee from you.

8 Draw nigh to God,

and he will draw nigh to you.

Cleanse your hands,

ye sinners;

and purify your hearts,

ye double minded.

9 Be afflicted, and mourn,

and weep:

let your laughter be turned to mourning,

and your joy to heaviness.

10 Humble yourselves

in the sight of the Lord,

and he shall lift you up.”  James 4:6-10

The altar is to be a place to bow and draw nearer to God, to seek His face, to discern HIS will for our lives.  The old-timers sometimes referred to the altar (or a portion of it) as the “mourner’s bench”—a place where we intercede over the sins, needs and wickedness of our world.  Oh, that we could have a heart as Daniel had to pray for his people, not in arrogance and self-righteousness, but in identifying with his people, and calling on God to move and call HIS people to HIMSELF in repentance!  Oh, that we would hold ourselves to God’s standard, and humble ourselves in all our ways.

As we see in scripture, over and over again.

Likewise, ye younger,

submit yourselves unto the elder.

Yea, all of you be subject

one to another,

and be clothed

with humility:

for God resisteth the proud,

and giveth grace to the humble.

6 Humble yourselves therefore

under the mighty hand of God,

that he may exalt you

in due time:

7 Casting all your care

upon him;

for he careth for you.”  1 Peter 5:5-7

And as Peter goes on to say, we are to trust to God’s care in humble dependence upon HIM, resisting the devil in faith!

Be sober,

be vigilant;

because your adversary the devil,

as a roaring lion,

walketh about,

seeking whom he may devour:

9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith,

knowing that the same afflictions

are accomplished in your brethren

that are in the world.

10 But the God of all grace,

who hath called us unto his eternal glory

by Christ Jesus,

after that ye have suffered a while,

make you perfect,

stablish,

strengthen,

settle you.”  1 Peter 5:8-10

I simply pray that God will take this message and touch my heart and yours, and that we will flock to that altar to find renewed love, holiness, peace, and power to change the world!  So, let’s come to HIM in confidence, seeking HIS face and ways, and not our own, as the church at Laodicea did.  May we take heed to the very words of our Lord and Savior and “see” truth!

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write;

These things saith the Amen,

the faithful

and true witness,

the beginning of the creation of God;

15 I know thy works,

that thou art neither cold nor hot:

I would thou wert cold or hot.

16 So then because thou art lukewarm,

and neither cold nor hot,

I will spue thee

out of my mouth.

17 Because thou sayest,

I am rich,

and increased with goods,

and have need of nothing;

and knowest not

that thou art wretched,

and miserable,

and poor,

and blind,

and naked:

18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold

tried in the fire,

that thou mayest be rich;

and white raiment,

that thou mayest be clothed,

and that the shame of thy nakedness

do not appear;

and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve,

that thou mayest see.”  Revelation 3:14-18

May HE open our eyes “that thou mayest see”!!!

Amen and Amen!!!