When I was first becoming a Christian, I was taught by mature Christians about the altar. The word means a place of sacrifice where consecration was made to the Lord. Altars were built to commemorate an encounter with the Lord. In the Old Testament, there were special places where altars were built to honor God. Sometimes, God had the people build altars as a memorial. As Christians built their places of worship, many churches had altars at the front of their churches. So, altars have always represented a special place of sacrifice, consecration, and reminders of what God has done.
In keeping with that thought of sacrifice, consecration, and remembrance, Christ has become our altar once and for all. In Him the sacrifice was made, the consecration of that sacrifice satisfied the sin debt that was owed to God, and the Cross will always be a reminder of what God has done. In Christ, our altar is secured forever … nothing can change it. The altar never leaves us … it is always present.
In my own pursuit of knowing God, I have made an altar where I go to consecrate myself to pursuing God. It is an altar where I face my desire for God, and how much I will be willing to sacrifice to know Him. It becomes an altar of decision and challenge.
In this quest of mine to pursue God, I want to find Him in my heart, in my thinking, and in my actions. The Prophet Jeremiah tells us that when we search for God with all our hearts, we will find Him:
Jeremiah 29:13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
· Finding God is found in the pursuit of God
· Finding God’s will is found in the pursuit of God
· Finding forgiveness is found in the pursuit of God
· Finding truth is found in the pursuit of God
· Finding love is found in the pursuit of God
It is in the search and in the desire to know God that we find Him. It is the altar that we create in our hearts that assists our pursuit. It is when we consecrate ourselves for our pursuit that we will find God. That consecration will be successful to the degree we decide to sacrifice for our pursuit. If Christ has become our altar, it is a place where we deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him. As the Apostle Paul said, it is no longer I who live, but Christ in me:
Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
At the altar, we are reminded of the sacrifice of the Cross; it is the power of God for salvation and the key to pursuing God. You cannot come to God unless you come to the Cross, as it is the first stage of any pursuit of knowing and finding God. You can know about God or have a knowledge of God in knowing Scriptures, or following a religious ritual, but you will never find God outside of the Cross.
The Pharisees were accused of searching the Scriptures to find eternal life. What was found there was the Christ, however, these religious leaders were searching for a benefit only … not to know the Christ. Our pursuing God takes us to an internal altar that brings us face to face with the Cross. It requires us to know He finished the sacrifice for our sins and paved the way for us to live with God forever. Nothing is more important … nothing has greater benefit than the Cross.
The altar then challenges us to consecrate our lives to the fulfillment of His teachings in us and to bring those teachings to the world. God's Word must have first place in my life, not just a part of my life … but first place. God’s Word cannot be mingled with other ideas, concepts, or philosophies … God’s Word stands alone as the premier source for learning about life.
The altar will ask some hard questions about sacrifice. Consecration is only a word without the sacrifice to carry it out. Sacrifice will ask things such as:
· Do you want to give up your life for Christ?
· Will the Word of God be allowed to direct and guide you?
· Are you ready to submit your dreams to God?
· Are your possessions, purposes, and promises willing to bow a knee to Christ?
· Are you willing to pursue God without reservation?
God does not use manipulation for those who pursue Him. Pursing Him has to be the desire of each person to make up their mind and heart in what they want to pursue in life. We all know that is a difficult decision because it will require a fully devoted person to pursue God and find Him. Remember, the pursuit in searching for God is not salvation … salvation is in finding Him. Finding God is an altar exercise … coming before God and making the changes in your life that have hindered you in serving Him, being devoted to Him, and keeping Him first in your life. It takes discipline, desire, and dedication to pursue God … to find Him, to find His will, and to find His purpose for your life. Finding God is in the pursuit … the altar you create in your heart will help you in that pursuit.
Discipleship is a pursuit of God. It is the dedication to follow God not by rote, but by desire. You desire to be a follower of Christ, to be a consecrated follower, to be a follower who sacrifices to find and serve God with all your heart, mind, and soul.
It won't be easy, it will not come naturally, and there will be pushback. However, it is worth finding God. The pursuit will teach you about the value of an altar where you meet with God and cry out to Him, and you will become the kind of person God will use to make Him known.
Altars are not easy places, but they are places where you discover truth about yourself, and the God you are pursuing.
Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler