I have some of my best and worst experiences of church at the altar. I will tell you a story; you decide which it is. I was probably seven or eight when I went to church one night. I remember little but I know people packed the altar. The praise team seem just about to jump off the pulpit, musicians were wet, members danced off their shoes. This older lady was tarrying with me, Sis. Stewart. She bent her frail back to speak into my ears. This wasn’t my first encounter with the altar, but you will see why it’s one of the most memorable.
As usual, I was doing what most church babies do to get the holy ghost, I was absent-minded repeating, ‘Hallelujah’. My feet ached, my throat grew dry, so as audacious as I am, in the middle of her encouraging me to reach out, (whatever that meant) I tapped her hand. I saw my words threw her off balance when she heard, ‘Sis. Stewart mi tyad.’ I could tell it was her first-time hearing that. Partly stunned, she sent me to my seat. I honestly don’t know how my family found out, but I haven’t had space to forget since. Apparently, ‘I have come a far way.’ The best thing about that story is that it never deterred her though. Best believe she was there with me next Sunday and many times after.
I got creative over time though; I would say I needed to go to the bathroom and didn’t return until I heard the closing prayer or feigned sicknesses. She was a lovely lady though and didn’t smell bad or anything. I was just not interested. It is really an act of divine grace how I developed a desire for God or more appropriately understanding that led to appreciation. However, the altar and I got more acquainted when I got the Holy Ghost but then this submission thing was only the beginning.
I found out soon enough that altar was almost synonymous to sacrifice and that it wasn’t just the space that separated the pulpit from the pew, it was a state. I have over time tied down a part of me to offer to him, but entirely? I didn’t want to then; I don’t want to but I want to now. It’s kind of what Paul said, you know the right thing but the doing part is wayward. I still have excuses too, I don’t have the time, things can’t really be this serious, my flesh is too weak, I have to balance things, I really can’t be expected to walk perfect on earth etc. I realize, however, that everyone is offering themselves to something. There is never a neutral ground, we either serve ourselves or God. We are submitted to the Spirit or to the flesh.
In my younger years I thought God was selfish, wanting me to do everything to please him. What about me? Plus, I didn’t even ask to be alive. I felt He wanted me to be a puppet. I don’t enjoy being a puppet. There is a brazenness in humans that somehow believe God should serve man. I have realized too Adam or Eve never complained about these things. They were happy and grateful to commune with God. Cursing the days we were born and dissatisfaction with existence only happened after the fall. It’s sin and incorrect doctrine that has skewed our idea of freedom, of pleasure and of God.
Best of Me
I found out too that the parts I gave to him are the best parts of me. I was afraid I would never get what I want, afraid my life would turn into some colorless and unfulfilling vapour. But oh my God, that was a lie! I have never felt more alive, more me. What I wanted was happiness, love, peace and rest, even if I didn’t realize it. God is for me. He has my very best interest at heart. He loves me out of this world. The self-denial that seemed like bondage now became my freedom. We cannot really be ourselves until we live like what our creator desired. I am still striving to not let the meagre promises of sin distract me from lasting fulfillment in Christ. Fam, it’s a battle! But a battle worth fighting.
My assurance is salvation is His work, and He started it, so He will finish it. Again, my only requirement is to lay still at the altar while He drains away all the corrupt blood and refines me in His fire. That I might die to sin and raise to life. But exactly how do I do that?
The Call of Christ
Hebrews 13 (NLT)
10 We have an altar from which the priests in the Tabernacle[d] have no right to eat. 11 Under the old system, the high priest brought the blood of animals into the Holy Place as a sacrifice for sin, and the bodies of the animals were burned outside the camp. 12 So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood. 13 So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore. 14 For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.15 Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. 16 And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.
God calls us to life, but we must pass through death first. Death to our vain desires, death to our will, death to the nature that’s against us. Let’s ask ourselves, how do we die? There is usually an injury but the odd thing is, we are willingly facing the stabbing of the two-edged sword. Have you taken off your shoes, lay aside your robe and chosen to lie before His word, willing to obey whatever he whispers? If not, we are not living sacrifices. We are skipping lambs headed towards destruction, disillusioned that there is a better way to live.
What comes after is to praise God, do good, help those in need. That’s sounds like reasonable service to me, after all, Christ did deliver us from the worst damnation in the future of the universe, without even a request from us. Is submission a price too high for us to pay?
In all my ups and downs spiritually and emotionally, the word has been the wheel to steer me in the right direction. One of the spoken ones I have linked below. You know that moment when the Word feels like a weight and it calls something out of you? That was my experience and it still is. The preacher recited a song at the end, it never left me. I hope this helps in your walk. Remember, you are precious.
Now I Know
He left his father’s land, and boyhood dreams were in the past
He held his son, God’s promise, what more would his Friend ask?
“To yonder’s mountain, Abram, take the fire and take the wood”
So, trusting still, they climbed the hill, knowing that what came would
come for good.
And when the altar was all finished and the wood was all in place
He looked with love and sadness into his young son’s face
“God has asked this of me, there’s no less that I can do,
I have withheld nothing – I never dreamed He’d ask for you.”
And then the wind blew softly, God leaned close and whispered low
“If I ever wondered how you loved Me, now I know.”
I had left this world behind me and my dreams were in the past
But I held a few choice treasures – what more would my Friend ask?
“Go to yonder’s mountain, take the fire and take the wood”
So, trusting still, I climbed the hill, knowing that what came would come
When my altar was all finished and the wood was all in place
I looked with fear and trembling into my own face!
“God, what are You asking? There’s no less that I will do.
I’m yours for whatever – all I have belongs to You.”
And then the wind blew softly, and my Best Friend whispered low
“If I ever wondered how you loved Me, now I know.”
The mansions were all finished and the gold was all in place
I looked in awe and wonder into the Lamb’s dear face
And then I cast my crown before Him and I bowed myself down low
If I had ever wondered how He loved me now I know