Stop Crawling Off the Altar

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (Romans 12:1).

Do you claim the name of Christ? Do you call yourself a follower of Jesus? Listen to what Jesus said in Luke 9:23-26 “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?  For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” The cross is not pretty, it is not a decoration for our necklaces. It was the symbol of defeat and loss, of being cursed by God (Gal. 3:13). Jesus was not asking his followers to take up some glorious object and follow him. No, he was asking his followers to take up obedience, whatever the cost, whatever the consequences, be they pleasant or painful. When we obey, the results are glorious.

The cross is glorious because on that object of defeat and death, God gives victory and life. Jesus is calling us to live a life of sacrifice to him. A life of sacrifice? Do you know that in the Old Testament a sacrifice never lived, its purpose was to die. We must die to our own desires so that God can give us His desires, His plans, His hopes, His purposes, His future, His life, His death, His love, His answers, His joys, His victory, His cross, His resurrection, His peace, His fellowship, His glory, His His His His His, not ours. All that is ours is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). We can do nothing apart from Christ in us. Nothing we do has eternal relevance unless God does it in and through us.

The question is simple. If we need God to truly have life, if we need God in our life to have real meaning and purpose, not some cheap imitation rip-off of the original, then what are we willing to do to have God in our life. Don’t get me wrong, we can’t earn our salvation. Salvation is a free gift of God, but once you have accepted the gift, you must live the gift, you must allow God through the power of the Spirit to transform your life. We are not to be conformed to this world any longer, but are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2).

We must be a living sacrifice. Stop crawling off the altar when it gets hot. You know what I mean, like when God calls you to change your behavior, to stop doing those things the old you likes to do so much, those actions that break His heart. The fire of the sacrificial altar heats up and we start to crawl off. Don’t crawl, stay there and let God’s fire purify you. Or how about when God calls you to dig into His Word and discover who He is, but that gets in the way of TV, music, Facebook, Twitter, wasting time, killing time, it gets in the way of everything that we want to do and so we start to crawl again. The fire is too hot, the cost is too great, the cross is too heavy, but then we gaze at the cross of Christ and see the debt he paid.  I hear of believers around the world who die for their savior, whose cross is truly death, and then I pause and realize that God is asking so little from me and I wonder if He asks so little because he knows that is all that I can handle. Am I ready to lay down everything for Him, to die, not just physically, but every day to die to my desires to gain His desires? Or does the glitter of this world’s false gold catch my eye yet again and I run off on another pointless quest for that which will not last and has no value. As I run off on my latest adventure after my own life, I leave the altar of sacrifice, I leave my worship behind. Maybe the time has come to count the cost, make a decision for Christ, and then say, like Jesus in Gethsemane, not my will, but Yours be done.

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