My neighbor is getting ready to move. He has been busy cleaning out his garage and backyard shed - places where we know things 'gather', sometimes without us even noticing! He is getting it ready to be purchased - knowing the new 'owners' won't want all his excess stuff just hanging around when they take ownership. When we are bought with a price, there is an exchange of ownership. This exchange of ownership is to have an effect on us. The first thing we should notice is that there is a desire for cleansing. We want to have things in our life that are not honoring to God dealt with and removed so that we can move on.
God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it's now—this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness. (Romans 3:25-26)
The place of cleansing is often referred to as the altar in the scripture. The altar had various purposes in scripture, but there is a lesson to us in each purpose.
· It was a place that required something to be placed on it – an empty altar is nothing more than ornamentation. The only way something can be affected by the altar is to be placed there - for the purpose of sanctification - cleansing. There is an action of submission that must occur if something is to be 'placed' upon the altar.
· It was a place that consumed what was placed upon it – we yield or submit to the work of the altar; Christ does the work of consuming the sacrifice that is placed there. In the Old Testament, the altar sacrifices were consumed – either by the fire, or by the one tending the fire (the priest). In the case of the “spiritual altar” we are called to embrace, there is a yielding our hurts, sins, fears, failures, etc. to God, so that the fire and the one tending the fire are both able to do their work in our lives. What is touched by the fire of the altar is never the same again – even a sacrifice not fully “touched” by the fire has noticeable evidence of having been in the fire!
The altar is a place where we can yield all to God and he will take our “all”, in turn, he cleanses it. The blood of Christ has both the power to cleanse and the ability to keep us clean. When a vessel is cleansed at the end of one use it is so the vessel can be of use to transport something new. We are cleansed at the altar in order that we might be of use for another purpose – instead of responding to our sin nature, we begin responding to the Spirit of the Lord. At the altar, we find that we are changed – filled up with something that takes the place of that which was once so evident in our lives. We are filled up with the Spirit of God in the place of that sin, failure, fear, etc. To be filled implies that we receive a full compliment of what is needed. To be filled also implies that as much as can be put into our spirit is put into us until our spirit is not able to contain any more. We walk away from the altar satisfied.
A life invited to the altar is one that is tenderly transformed – we are received there in order to be transformed there. Once we are cleansed by the Spirit of God, we are also filled. In that filling comes the ability to be open to his leading and direction. Direction implies that we are willing to have the way pointed out to us – having our activities regulated in such a manner that we are energized by another. The fire has done its work. We are transformed. We have been invited to come to the altar. There we will find transformation awaits the yielded soul. The purpose is sanctification – the be in the place of cleansing. What is God asking you to lay on the altar today? What needs to be affected by his fire? What is in need of his consuming touch in your life today? Surrender it on the altar of his grace and mercy – be affected deeply by the fire of his love – never to be the same again. Just sayin!