In view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God Romans 12:1 NIV
Growing up in the holiness movement shaped my spiritual journey from an early age.
I understood that approaching the altar at the end of a service represented a transparent, authentic, genuine response to God. I also learned that people went to the altar after the sermon for a variety of reasons. Some went forward for repentance. Others walked down the aisles to pray for healing, to seek more of God, to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit, or to ask God to intervene in anything from a common problem to a desperate situation. Some even got married at the altar. So many of our personal encounters with Jesus and the power of the Spirit occurred at the altar.
The altar was a place of personal encounter. Growing up around the altar taught me that God wanted me to desire more of Him and that I could draw closer to heaven from a posture of prayer. The altar call invites individuals to make decisions, accept God’s terms and experience His life-changing power.
We are instructed by Paul in Romans to be living sacrifices. But… I struggle with the idea of a living sacrifice. As D.L. Moody once observed, “The problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar.” We do this all the time. We offer ourselves to God, and then we take ourselves back. This is not a once-for-all offer.
We all keep falling off, or crawling off, or jumping off the altar! That’s our problem! Learning to submit as Jesus did to the authority of God, to be humble, to love, to serve, to put our “why’s” away and just say yes to Jesus taking getting back up on the altar every single day.
I can identify with that, can’t you? Despite our best intentions we still sin and make mistakes. We promise our love and devotion to God and yet, still at times our hearts are drawn to the things of this world. We try to read our Bibles and spend time alone with God in prayer and yet we are often distracted by lesser things. We promise God we will try harder and do better, and yet we still fail over and over again.
But listen carefully! “Living sacrifices are not perfect sacrifices.” Only Jesus Christ, the spotless Lamb of God was a perfect sacrifice. Becoming a “living sacrifice” is not a one-time event! It is a life-long process of daily worshiping and serving and obeying God by dying to self and to be consumed by the flames of undying love for God.
For us as believers there is absolutely no conditions attached to coming back to the altar – once we attach conditions we really aren’t coming back, because we are basing things on something other than the altar. No. We come, not with merits, but because we see we have none. That is faith.
Crawling back doesn’t happen on our own; the Holy Spirit reminds you of this abundant life and guides you back to the Father’s arms. That is all we have to bring and that is all we can bring and that is all God tells us to bring. But we must bring ourselves and take our place upon the Cross of Jesus Christ. Then what emerges will be of God.
The God who makes His altar in our hearts compels us to pursue Him and glorify Him, so we can change the world in Jesus’ name. God wants to help you come back to Him. On my selfish, frustrating days when I forget about my incredible God and His incredible gifts and purposes, God pursues me.
Furthermore, we don’t come back to the altar simply to get God to fix our mess. No. We come back to let God be God – of us and our mess. We come repentant of having crawled off the altar to begin with. And so we get back on.
God wants to help you come back to Him.
Paul says true worshippers of God are to present and devote their bodies wholly and irrevocably to God as a living sacrifice. It is not just our bodies but devoting our entire selves to God.
Don’t be discouraged by your momentary lapse in judgment in choosing to crawl off.
Trust Him and let Him guide you back.
Just crawl back on.
When I am on the altar, I am humble.
That’s why it’s a living sacrifice – it’s a sacrifice that leads to life.