Summary: Once prominent in churches. Now seldom seen in our buildings. Have they also disappeared from our life? We have been called to live an "Altared" life. Why?
Altared - Pt. 1 - Unaltered!
Prominent not only in the architectural design of the past but also in most of our memories. For some it was padded. For others it folded down. For some a simple rail. For others it was built in and for others it was a separate piece of furniture that often became a display location for offering plates, plastic flowers, and croquette covered tissue boxes. It is the altar. Regardless of your memory or lack of memory of an altar the concept of the altar is rooted in the heart of God.
God never deviates from His original revelation to man. He may enlarge it, expand it, but never deviates from it. And very early on in the account of man altars are referenced and mentioned. Although, in Genesis 4 an altar is not specifically mentioned we do know that Able made an acceptable sacrifice of the first fruits of his flocks. God clearly meets man at the altar. The altar surfaces again in the life of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob although very minimal information is given about the altar. God eventually expands on the revelation of an altar when dealing with Moses. In Exodus 20 exact instructions are given on how an altar should be constructed and it is placed at the forefront of the corporate worship experience. The original revelation continues throughout Scripture, altars are mentioned 370 different times! The message is abundantly clear . . . God meets man at the altar.
None of this is new to us. However, I am concerned that it is foreign to us. So over the course of the coming weeks we are going to talk about the altar. We are going to find out why the altar is so important and what God wants to accomplish in an "altared" life. Let me lay some groundwork today!
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
A. We are called to live an altared life!
Paul beseeches, urges, pleads, and begs us to live an altared life. It would have been much easier if he had simply called us to visit an altar, in a building, occasionally. However, he was not talking about just a physical altar in a building that you only have access to on Sundays (although we should use it at church). He was talking about an altared lifestyle. A way of living in which while we are in the car, in the house, at work we constantly lay our life at His feet. A daily, minute by minute, second by second dying to our will, our way, our self. Perhaps The Message interpretation of this passage better helps us grasp the concept Paul was trying to drive into us.
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
And yet, in spite of Paul's desperate plea for us to make the covenant to live an altared lifestyle I see that we avoid the altar. I would submit to you this morning that the fact that it is so hard to get people to come to a physical altar on Sundays (and I have asked other pastors and they see this too) is a reflection/indication that we are also avoiding the daily altar!
Why do we avoid the altar? We even know that in our efforts to avoid death we avoid life!
Does anyone here remember medicine before they made it taste good? I can remember literally avoiding taking medicine even though I knew it was beneficial and would bring relief and yet I would hold health at arms length because I didn't like the taste. (Sounds like an altar to me!) So we have learned to hide the taste in bubble gum or grape flavor and so then we are willing to take what we used to avoid.