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The Altar and True Worship
By David A. DePra
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your spiritual worship. And be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Rom 12:1-2)
The altar always represents the Cross of Jesus Christ. This is a representation that runs all through the Old Testament, and finds its fulfillment in the NT. The altar is the place of surrender, dedication, and worship.
A Living Sacrifice
It might seem strange to some of us that offering ourselves to God in such a way be called WORSHIP. But it is worship – indeed, perhaps it can be said that it is the highest form of worship. Why?
Well, the key is found in exactly what we are doing if we obey Romans 12. But first, let’s note a few things that this verse does NOT mean. Up front, this verse does NOT mean that we are to surrender to God because, "He is bigger than us," and if we don’t surrender, we are going to be punished. That is not the tone nor motive of the verse – indeed, if that is why I am presenting myself on the altar as a living sacrifice, I am really not surrendering at all. I am simply doing what I think I must do to avoid punishment – and there is very little worship in it. Closely related to this kind of wrong motive would be to surrender to God because of what I think I will get out of it – sort of like I am working a deal with God – my end of the deal being that I give Him the surrender He wants, and His end of the deal being that He gives me what I want in return. No. Again – this is not of faith or worship. It is really not surrender at all.
What is being described in Romans 12:1 is a total relinquishment of myself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the sovereignty of God. But it is a voluntary surrender – based in my knowing that God is faithful. It is the outcome of my seeing the Truth about God.
Now we must note that last statement: Surrender is the outcome of my seeing the Truth about God. The fact is, if I see Jesus Christ – if I begin to truly KNOW GOD – the only outcome will be Romans 12:1. I WILL surrender myself to Him. I will surrender, not because I’m afraid to NOT surrender, and not to get something from God. Rather, I will surrender because I love God, trust Him, and want Him to fully have His way in me, with me, and through me.
Faith always leads to unconditional surrender. If I believe God is trustworthy and faithful, and has a will for me, then I will surrender to Him. I will take my hands off of my self, and my life, and relinquish myself to Him. Likewise, worship always leads to unconditional surrender. To worship God really means, in the final analysis, to give all of myself to God. This is precisely what is being described in Romans 12:1.
But what if I don’t think I have the faith to obey Romans 12:1? What if I feel as if I am not spiritual enough? Well, welcome to the club. The point is, Romans 12:1-2 is not for an exclusive group of people. If you see in yourself a lack of faith and worship, such that you are conscious of having come short of this kind of surrender – then there is good news. You can still, right now, get on the altar – and ask God to make you into a person who will surrender unconditionally to Him. God already knows that surrender to Him doesn’t come natural, or easy. But we can get on the altar as a living sacrifice and right as we are today open our whole selves to Him, that He might do a work in us to cause us to become one who is surrendered to Jesus as Lord, and God as sovereign in our lives.
We need to get this Truth: We get on the altar and ask God to cause us to BECOME what He wants us to be. God doesn’t expect us to become what He wants us to be first. No. The altar is the place of this work of the Spirit. We come AS WE ARE – we give God all the bad stuff, if that is all we have to give. And really, it IS pretty much all we have to give!
God doesn’t tell us to whip ourselves into shape and get ourselves to the place where we can generate enough faith and worship and THEN come to the altar. No. In fact, much of what God must do with us is to bring us to the place where we see we CANNOT make ourselves fit. The altar is, in fact, the place for unfit people. That is WHY it is there. That is why the Cross was necessary. So the good news is that we can present ourselves to God a living sacrifice – just as we are, with all of our lack of faith and worship – and this will be pleasing to Him. It is the only thing He asks.
God never requires that we be good enough – not even good enough for surrender. From beginning to end, all that God ever says we MUST do is bring the BAD to Him. 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.
Now again – presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice is WORSHIP. It is the outcome of seeing who God is, what He has done through Christ, and of seeing our great need. Once the Holy Spirit begins to reveal to me Jesus Christ – not just facts and doctrines about Christ, but Christ Himself – I will WANT to offer myself to Him. It will be something that I will hunger and thirst after. It just works that way – it is the result of knowing God.
Working Out Salvation
You will notice if you read Romans 12:1-2 that Paul is talking to saved people. Sure. He is not telling them how to get saved. Rather, He is telling them how their salvation is to be worked out – they are to present themselves to God a LIVING sacrifice.
There are RESULTS doing so. Closely related to getting on the altar is that I will, "be NOT conformed to this world," Instead, Paul says, I will, "be transformed by the renewing of your mind." And the extended result of that will be that I will, "prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
I don’t know if we catch the significance of what Paul is telling us – he is telling us how to KNOW and move into the will of God. Do you see that? He is saying that it all starts with the altar – with surrender to the Cross. We relinquish our control over our lives to Christ. If this surrender is by faith and is real, then by definition, we are not going to continue thinking and operating as the world operates. Why? Because the very definition of being conformed to this world is for you to be boss of your own life – to take it in hand and live for your benefit rather than God’s glory. Obviously, surrender to God will cut across everything that means. You cannot be on the throne if you have put yourself on the altar. But this is not a negative thing, but a positive thing. For Paul says that, no, you won’t be conformed to this world, but you WILL be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
What does that mean? Well, it means that you will begin to see God – and you will begin to be set free by a revelation of the Truth. And again – this goes right back to the altar.
Many of us think that revelation, and knowing God, is the product of study. It is NOT. It is the product of surrender – of getting on the altar. Why? Because if you surrender to God YOU GET GOD. It is that simple. Then all of our study will be done in the proper LIGHT – HIM.
The principle here is that OUR DEATH – our surrender of SELF to God – will set us free from SELF. It will progressively put to death all that blinds us from seeing the Truth – namely our SELF or flesh. Again – our problem is NOT a lack of brains or study. Our problem is a lack of surrender to God. Surrender SELF to God – I said SELF, not just SIN – and you are surrendering to the Cross of Jesus Christ. This will result is a very real death to the power of sin and unbelief and self in your life.
But not as an end unto itself. What will arise out of that death to SELF is a greater release of LIFE in Christ. As I said earlier, if you surrender to Christ, YOU GET CHRIST – you are enlarged in Him. And yet life in Christ carries with it LIGHT – if you are enlarged in LIFE you will be enlarged in LIGHT. It has to work that way, for we are talking about a PERSON in you, and not merely theological concepts. If you are enlarged in Christ, you are enlarged in ALL of Him.
Unless our knowledge of Jesus Christ is the outcome of His LIFE in us – or to say it another way – unless our knowledge of Jesus Christ is the result of, well, ummm, of KNOWING Him, and seeing Him, we are actually operating in the futility of our own minds. The best we will come up with is only that which is the product of our minds – we will use the resources of our minds and come to a conclusion about Christ. This is the best case – we might happen to get our doctrine straight and many of our facts straight – but this usually isn’t the case. There are many sincere Christian people who have not come to the place where they see Jesus and know Him, and as a result, just don’t know the Truth on even Christian essentials. They read Bible verses, reason them out, and come to a conclusion that makes sense to them. They then call it an insight from the Holy Spirit. They can even be certain about their conclusion enough to condemn others, or even to, "pray for them." Lots of people like this out there. But they simply do not know what they don’t know. You cannot know the Truth unless you know Jesus. The BEST you will come up with are theological concepts that happen to agree with scripture, but which have no life in them.
The solution here is to oneself to the altar. That will deal with the pride, or the fear, that keeps us insisting that we know what we don’t know. But this is an individual issue. No one can do it for another.
Actually, it is NOT possible for you to be enlarged in Christ and not have your mind renewed according to the Truth. That is good news. And if you have your mind renewed according to the Truth, then you are going to have PROVED IN YOU, and certainly TO YOU, "what is that perfect, good, and acceptable will of God." You will know the will of God because you will know God Himself. Any, "leadings," God gives will simply be on top of that as icing on the cake.
The Will of God
So often Christians seek a THING called, "the will of God." But here we see that the, "will of God," is not a THING – not a THING separate from Christ in us. Paul is here describing the fact that God wants us to realize His will – but that His will in wrapped up in us seeing and knowing Jesus Christ. In other words, as we come to know Christ, we come to know His will, indeed, we come to REALIZE and experience His will.
There are other ways we could put this Truth. Paul is saying that until we see Jesus, we are not in any condition to receive His will. Sure, God could give us THINGS, and we could say those THINGS are, "God’s will." Sometimes He does. But to simply receive THINGS, or a certain lot in life – but as separate from Christ Himself – well, we would not be able to LIVE in those things, or be faithful in them, unless we know Christ. In short, God wants to cause us to first BECOME His will so that we can RECEIVE His will – so that we can have the THINGS, lot in life, and relationships He wants for us. This is the conclusion of Romans 12:1-2 – SO THAT you might prove what is that good, perfect, and acceptable will of God.
If Christians would see this Truth it would save us so much unnecessary trouble. But over the decades there have developed teachings about Divine guidance and leadings, and even gimmicks as to how to get from God what you want – and Christians by the millions have bought into these. Yet, as always, the Truth is right here in the Bible. God is telling us that despite the fact that He CAN lead us, and speak to us, and give us THINGS – God is telling us that what He really wants is US – on the altar as a living sacrifice. He wants us to relinquish ourselves to Him. And if we do, what we will GET is enlargement in CHRIST. Our death will result in the enlargement of HIS LIFE in us. And that will result in US changing – we will have our minds renewed – and a renewed mind is one that KNOWS God’s will, because a renewed mind knows God Himself.
So do we want the will of God? Then we must surrender to God Himself. God is not forever going to give us a THING called, "His will," apart from giving us HIMSELF. But in order to give us HIMSELF, God must receive our SELF – as a living sacrifice on the altar; on the Cross. It all starts with the altar. It all starts with the Cross.
Every bit of this Truth about surrender that we are seeing is about a relationship with God. It is not a religious ritual or exercise. It is not a thing unto itself that we must do in order to please God. And it certainly is not something we are to do out of fear. Paul says that if we come to see God that it will be our, "reasonable service," or spiritual worship, to get on the altar. Once we see the Truth, we will voluntarily take our place on the altar – we will see that the altar is our place IN that relationship with God.
God is not our, "buddy." He is not our, "partner." God’s purpose is not to, "service our life." There are NO DEALS to work with God, and NO agreements. There is only God’s will, God’s kingdom, and God’s glory. The idea that you can, "covenant with God," along this or that line, and that if you keep your end, God will keep His, is error. There is ONLY ONE COVENANT spoken about in the New Testament – it is the covenant sealed with the Blood of Jesus Christ. We have been bought with a price. It is really all or nothing.
God wants to give us Himself, and give us everything within that which we need for life in the here and now. But God is NOT going to give us THINGS apart from that greater purpose – for if He did, we would get off onto the THINGS and never come into the fullness of God Himself.
Much Christian teaching today suggests that we can get THINGS from God separate from a relationship with God Himself. Much teaching suggests that if we plug into, and practice, the right religious system, and confess the right words, or say the right prayer, or do the right thing, or discover the secret key – that we can get from God what we want. This is all error. God has only ONE purpose – Christ. He wants the fullness of Christ in us. And if we would seek CHRIST FIRST, the rest would come. But if we won’t seek Christ first, then we are going to be seeking first what God isn’t seeking first. We will eventually meet a dead end. Or worse, become totally deceived and out of the will of God.
God wants a relationship with us – and since He is God, and we are not, it ought to be plain that this relationship is about God’s will for us, and not our will for God. And yet despite the fact that through ignorance and unbelief we often think this is a negative things – something that will deprive us – it is actually the key to all life. Seek God first and you get God first. And then God is free to bless you with everything that belongs to His will for you.
We are all so self-centered, even in the things of God, that often we forget that God is God, and that He has RIGHTS. Often we forget that the original design of the universe, and the proper order of things, is that Jesus is Lord, and that God is sovereign. Despite the obvious benefits to us of the Redemption of Jesus Christ, the extension of the Redemption ultimately is to put everything back under God’s throne.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Cor 15:22-28)
This is certainly what Paul is getting at in Romans 12. In fact, read the passage immediately PRIOR to Romans 12:1-2, at the end of chapter 11. Put them together and you can’t miss the point:
For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. 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 service. (Rom 11:36-12:1)
You will note that the THEREFORE of verse 12:1 refers back to 11:36. It is precisely BECAUSE Jesus is Lord of all, and God is sovereign, that we ought to surrender to Him. It is precisely because of what Christ had done for us that we ought to give our whole selves to Him.
That may sound a bit self-evident – there is really nothing new about it. But the point is this: Christianity is not merely about us getting what we need from God – it is about God getting what He wants from US. But if we really understood what this means, and really knew God, we would see that when God gets what He wants from us that WE are the biggest beneficiaries. We become recipients of His will and His grace.
The fact is, when Jesus is made Lord of us – I don’t mean just the words, but REALLY made Lord of us – then not only does God receive the glory, but we receive all the benefits of Jesus as Lord of us. For how could it be possible for God to truly have His way with us and for us to be deprived? No. How could it be possible for Jesus to be Lord of us personally, and for anything but life, light, freedom, and redemption to result? No.
In the end, Redemption is about God giving HIMSELF to us. But in order for God to give HIMSELF to us, we must surrender ourselves to HIM – for a kingdom cannot stand if divided against itself. We MUST give ourselves to God – and give Him full freedom for His will and His glory. We must give God His rights and His sovereignty over us – God won’t take it against our will. If we do, we will get all of God – and in the package, all of His will.
Once again – it is not necessary to wait. We can get on the altar NOW – just as we are. Really, that is the only way we can get on! Give God freedom to BE GOD. Give God His rights AS God – in us. Allow God to do whatever He needs to do to get His way and get His glory. The result will be that God shall absolutely get His will and His glory. But we will be the recipients as part of that. Seek first the kingdom of God and what you get is God. And God gets His glory.
Now on to Abraham. In reading the Genesis story of Abram, we find that in chapter 12 that he was given a tremendous promise by God. The promise was for exactly what Abram had desired – a son.
Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: (Gen 12:1-2)
You will notice that the promise was conditional – Abram had to first, "get thee out of his country…and from thy father’s house." This required a relinquishment by Abram of all that he could otherwise look to as inheritance. Abram had wanted an heir, and the first thing God did was require him to leave his own inheritance.
Why did God require such a thing? Well, God isn’t playing games. God had given Abram a great promise. But now God would begin to do a work in Abram to make it possible for the promise to be fulfilled, not only TO him, but IN him. As I mentioned before, God is not satisfied to simply give us a THING called, "His will." Rather, He wants us to BECOME His will. Thus, much of getting on the altar us unto that end – that we open to God that He might make us into His will, and thus be able to glorify Himself through us.
Of course, God had more of a purpose for this son of Abram than to simply give Abram an heir. God not only wanted Abram to become the father of many nations by birthing heirs, but He wanted Abraham to actually BECOME in character the father of those with faith – God wanted to do something through Abram, but needed Abram to BECOME someone through whom He could do it – in whom God could invest an eternal purpose.
In order to accomplish this, God called Abram OUT of his former life. He did give him a promise. And to represent Abram’s surrender to God, and his faith in God’s promise, we find Abram building an altar.
And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him. And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD. (Gen 12:7-8)
By this altar Abram was dedicating himself to God. He was saying, "Have thine own way, Lord." Sure, Abram had a vested interest in this promise – he wanted a son. But this altar stood as a testimony of God’s promise, and of Abram’s commitment to God.
And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land. And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee. (Gen 12:10-13)
Abram’s actions in Egypt were more than the result of being afraid, and of doing what was needed to protect himself. He had already been promised a son by God. He obviously would have to be alive to birth one. Thus, Abram was actually protecting God’s promise FOR God. And if you read the account, consequences came upon him for it.
The problem here was real. Abram was in danger. But the greater problem was one of FAITH. The Bible never says Abram disbelieved God. But Abram did misinterpret God. And the living out of Abram’s faith proved much harder than the saying of the words.
You will note that God did not come down and tell Abram not to go into Egypt. In fact, God allowed Abram to make all kinds of mistakes through the years of waiting for the promise – including birthing Ishmael. Why did God allow these mistakes?
God often allows us to make mistakes – to misinterpret His will – because He knows that this is the only way we are going to get free of ourselves. The mistakes and errors and natural strength are IN OUR HEARTS, and often must be allowed to play out. Only if we are allowed to take our best shot in bringing to pass God’s will for Him, and failing, will we see the Truth about ourselves, and about God.
This cannot be achieved by receiving teaching and information. God could not deal with these possibilities in Abram by coming down and informing him. No. This is about RELATIONSHIP with God, and about what WE ARE inside. Information cannot touch this.
The proof of this is that today even with the story of Abram before us we continue to try to do for God what only God can do for us. We just do. And we will continue in this – not necessarily because of any conscious rebellion – but because it is what natural man does. Most of the time we don’t even realize we are operating in our own strength – some of us even praise God for GIVING us this strength to do His will! But in the end, God is letting us come to the end of ourselves.
Abram built an alter at the beginning of all of this, and it is certain that he was serious about it – as far as Abram knew it, his altar was a commitment to God’s will. But it was much easier to build an altar than it was to get ON IT. It was much easier to surrender to God in a prayer meeting, or on a mountain top experience, than it was to LIVE IT OUT.
But God is faithful. Abram built an altar and surrendered himself to God. And from that point, God was at work IN Abram – even if Abram didn’t know it. God was essentially saying, "Abram, you surrendered to Me. And I am taking you at your word. I am not going to do a work in you to bring you into a relationship with Me that will enable me to keep My promise, and make it possible for you to experience the promise."
This great work in Abram required that Abram be brought to the end of himself. This is always the work of the Cross – the work of the altar. When we surrender ourselves to God, we are not just joining a club, or jumping through a religious hoop, or saying words. We are entering into the power of the Cross, and ultimately, we are entering into that which, if we continue in faith, will set us free from everything in ourselves that stands between us and the promise.
Abram believed God – God said so – but he did not realize what it all meant. Immediately natural thinking, and natural efforts came into play. When God gives a promise, it is so easy to think that it is up to US to bring it to pass. And much of what God must do is show us that we cannot bring it to pass. Ironically, this is necessary for us to be made FIT FOR THE PROMISE.
So Abram got himself into a mess in Egypt. Instead of trusting God to provide, Abram reasoned that God wanted to use Egypt. And once he got there, he figured his only course of action was to lie about Sara. All of this was not so much the result of Abram doubting God. It was more the result of Abram not knowing God – of Abram not realizing what it really MEANT to believe and trust God.
When we make our great proclamation of faith to God, we often do mean it – as far as we know. But so often, we tell God about our great faith because we want to feel good about ourselves – or because we want Him to feel good about us. Yet we haven’t a clue about the possibilities in our own heart. Furthermore, we usually don’t realize what faith really MEANS. We often think it means that we agree with God, believe His promise, and that is that. We think all is done. But what faith REALLY means is Romans 12:1-2. It means getting on the altar and staying on it. We have surrendered to God that He might cause us to BECOME His will – so that He can do His will for us – and this is the part we often don’t realize.
Do you think you believe and trust God? Well, expect this to be tested to the limit. Why? Not because God is playing games. And not because you don’t trust God – where you are right now, as you are right now. Expect it to be tested because when you got on the altar – IF you got on the altar – you were asking God to make your faith real, strong, and living. You were asking God to make you a faithful person – you did that when you surrendered to Him.
You see, a living sacrifice unto God is taken by God and used for His pleasure and glory. And up front, this means that God wants us to BECOME His will. To put it another way, God will seek to make Jesus Lord in you and over you. That’s where the altar and Cross bring us. And it is all good. It is the very definition of holiness and freedom.
Well, Abram didn’t know what his faith and altar really meant any more than we do. He probably thought that God had promised him a son, and so it was up to him to see to it that nothing prevented that possibility. But Abram was his own worst enemy – it was his own efforts that stood in the way of God’s purpose. And so God had to allow him to run his course and come to the place of utter impossibility.
Back to the Altar
After the excursion to Egypt, Abram came limping home, fully aware of his failure.
And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south. And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold. And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai; Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD. (Gen 13:1-4)
Here we see Abram coming BACK to the beginning. We see him, as it were, starting all over in faith – coming back to, "the altar, which he had made there at the first."
This is a revelation for US. It does not matter what kind of mistake we have made – whether we have sinned, or slipped into confusion, or moved in our own will – we can always COME BACK TO THE BEGINNING with God. In Christ there are always new beginnings. Always.
This is so because of the finished work of Christ – because of the finality of the Cross – which is exactly what the altar represents. It is at the Cross that the OLD is relinquished and ENDED. And it is the Cross that provides the death which is necessary for the NEW – for new life and a new beginning. Therefore, when we fail we cannot fix it by undoing our failure, or by doing better. No. We have to come back to the place where all things are made new.
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.
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 gotten off the altar to begin with. And so we get back on.
You will notice that Paul said, "I beseech you by the MERCIES of God." This gives us another key. We don’t come to the altar because of the wrath of God, or because of our self-interest. We come because it is where we will find the MERCY of God – the altar is the place of forgiveness. Paul says, "It is because of the mercy of God that you present yourself a living sacrifice." Ironically, this surrender, which many of us are afraid of, is the very key and doorway to the MERCY of God. In other words, the problem is our failure to come – not what is going to happen once we do. We try to spare ourselves and end up depriving ourselves of God’s mercy.
Jesus said, "Lose your life to Me if you want to save it." Well, the altar is where we do that. We give ourselves to God and let Him be God of us. It always results, yes, in the death of our agenda. But always in real LIFE – in every way.
A New Start
There are always new beginnings in Christ Jesus. But don’t think of this just in terms of circumstances or the history of your life. Often, God isn’t going to change your circumstances, although He might. And He won’t change history. But He will change YOU. And if He changes you, in a very real sense it will be like your history was changed – because any damage to YOU will have been healed.
It does not matter what has happened, or what failure I have committed, it is always possible to start over with God. This is not because every time we sin Jesus has to get up on the Cross all over again and die for it. No. Rather, it is because He died ONCE FOR ALL SIN, and the redemption won by that death stands available always and forever – and so we can always return to HIM.
What this means is that God’s forgiveness in Christ is finished and final and continues to be so for ME. It means that God still has a will for me. I may have strayed off the path – Abram did – but I can always come back to the altar. I can bring myself, and any mess I have created, and God will take me, right where I am, and start over.
The problem, therefore, is not that God won’t start over with us. Rather, the problem is that we won’t start over with HIM. We don’t believe. We don’t see the finality of the Cross. We come up with every kind of reason why God simply cannot forgive. We develop our doctrines and teachings – and usually point them towards others – all in denial of the finished work of the Cross. But no. God’s hand is NOT shortened that it cannot save. Rather, we have shortened OUR hand and failed to reach out and take HIS by faith. THIS is the sin of unbelief that has separated us from God. God always has an open door. We have shut our door to HIM – through ignorance and unbelief. We just don’t see the finished work of Christ.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Cor 5:17)
The God of Abraham
Abram made some big mistakes in his walk in the will of God – and yet God brought him to the place of complete inability. God allowed him to try every means possible to try to accomplish what only God could do. God allowed both Abram and Sara to get long past the age when birthing a child was possible. THEN God fulfilled His promise. Only then was Abram able to see that God was God – in a way that he would never have seen otherwise.
Often when God makes a promise, He will bring us to the point where it is impossible for us to do anything to bring it to pass – or for there to be ANY means by which it can happen short of a sovereign act of God. This isn’t a game. We must be reduced to that point or the promise God brings will be our undoing – we will use it for ourselves. Only if we are reduced to the place of spiritual helplessness have we become those whom God can trust with a fulfilled promise.
But so many Christians just don’t see this. We pray and ask God for promises, to the disregard of giving ourselves to Him. Or, to put it another way, perhaps we put THINGS on the altar, but we don’t get on the altar. God isn’t going to let us get far along that line. It runs counter to His overall purpose.
Paul said, "Present YOURSELVES….." Not just THINGS. God wants us. He wanted Abram. And when God got Abram to the point He desired, Abram was ready for the promise. He was then Abraham.
One of the amazing things about the story of Abraham is that even after the promise was fulfilled, Abraham had to offer the fulfilled promise back to God. God will simply not relinquish His ownership and sovereignty over us. He loves us too much to do that.
Abraham ended up on getting on and off the altar, but living from it. That is God’s will for us. He wants us to present ourselves to Him for whatever it takes to bring Christ to fullness IN US, and then He can use us. And He wants us to stay on the altar. The end will be God’s glory being seen in and through us. And we benefit the most from that.
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