Renewing the Altars

The Sonshine by  Walter Olsen,    January 1, 2019

Renewing the Altars

Introduction

For many, Christianity is a light thing. It is an addition to their lives but with little reality or consequence. Life is lived pretty much as it was before they became Christians. Where that is the case, the witness and joy of being a Christian is mostly lacking. Further, their witness to the world about them is of little consequence.

When Asa became king of Judah it is noted, “And Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God” (II Chron. 14:2). We further read, “And the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded: And he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; The Lord is with you, while ye be with Him; and if ye seek Him, He will be found of you; but if ye forsake  Him, he will forsake you” (II Chron. 15:1-2).

I know this is Old Testament truth, but the principles of the truth apply to us as well. We cannot claim to be Christians and know His blessings if we do not yield ourselves to Him.

Do we not need to be like Asa in his dedication to God when he heard the above words. “And when Asa heard these words, and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and put away the abominable idols out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he had taken from Mount Ephraim, and renewed the altar of the Lord...” (II Chron. 15:8). Emphasis mine.

Perhaps we as believers need to renew the altars of our lives. In some cases, maybe there are some things we have never considered before as significant altars. By altar, I am not referring to anything physical. Rather, I am referring to thoughts and acts of dedication. It is first of all, an offering of the heart. Let me suggest a few altars we may need to renew or establish.

The altar of the knowledge of God. By this I mean spending the time and effort to get to know who God really is. Many have a very shallow view of God because they have never studied who God is in the Bible. The fact is, God cannot be known apart from a careful study of the word of God. Because many, even believers sometimes, do not study the Bible, they have a very wrong view of who God is. Of course, unbelievers have no knowledge of who the God of the Bible is or they have may have a very warped view of God. They end up worshiping a multitude of lesser gods who are devoid of any kind of life.

Consider with me just a few facts of what the Bible, the word of God, teaches about who God is. This is not a complete study of who God is, just a few reminders.

He is eternal, having neither beginning nor ending. As such, we read of God, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Obviously, if He were not eternal, He could not have created all things! The Apostle John says, “...This is the true God, and eternal life” (I Jn.  5:20).

He is the Creator of all things, including man. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing upon the earth. So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them” (Gen. 1:26-27).

Man without God imagines all kinds of scenarios for the origin of the world, all of which will be proven wrong because they come from a heart of unbelief.

He is holy and righteous in all His doings. With God there is no shade of unrighteousness or wrong doing. “As for God, His way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: He is a buckler to all those who trust in Him” (Psa. 18:30).David said, “For Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with Thee” (Psa. 5:4).

He is sovereign in all things. That is, He is in control of all things. It may seem to some that God has lost control of the world because of the anarchy we see on every hand. However, God knows all of the present from eternity past. He knows the future and is directing the circumstances of the world to finally establish and reveal His perfect plan. “John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come...I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:1,8). His eternity, power, knowledge, and love guarantee the accomplishment of His perfect plan for the world.

Perhaps we would do well to make an in-depth study of who God really is. It could correct many of our false assumptions and give us great encouragement for the future.

The altar of prayer. Prayer is so essential to the function and maintenance of our Christian lives. The Bible stresses the need of prayer and gives many examples of men and women who were given to prayer. Jesus Himself spent much time in prayer. King David said, “Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King,, and my God: for unto Thee will I pray. My voice shalt Thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee, and will look up” (Psa. 5:22-3).

If we fail in our prayer life, we will fail in the many other pursuits of our lives. Prayer establishes our fellowship with Him and brings His presence and blessing to all we do. The problem is, we can proceed without prayer and think we are being pretty successful without His provision and direction. Such is not the case, however. Paul, in speaking to the Colossians, said, “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness” (Col. 29-11). Now, Paul’s desire for the Colossians could not be fulfilled without much prayer.

Paul’s desire for the Colossians is the same for us today! Those verses express the essence of God’s will for every believer. The Christian life is about meaningless if we do not have the same desires. The Christian life is more than just adding a few different ideas or practices to our lives. It is indeed a new life! It is a life that looks to Him for all of our needs. Our prayer becomes, as the Lord taught the disciples, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:9-11).

Thinking about the need of prayer, a good friend sent me the following note. “When we pray, God gradually transforms headwinds into tailwinds. He turns curses into blessings. When peace seems illusive, we have the power of prayer to assure us God is in control on His throne. I have held many things in my hands, but when I give them into God’s hands, it means that I give up my rights to myself and trust Him for my possessions. At that point, it couldn’t be safer or more secure for His glory.”

The altar of holy living. To be holy means to be separated from the world and unto God. When we come to Christ in faith for salvation, we are baptized into the body of Christ and are identified with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection. We are made righteous because of His righteousness. “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:17).

Holy living is not just a decision we make because it is the right thing to do. Granted, we do need to decide to do what is right. However, we cannot live righteously in a way that pleases God apart from yielding to the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit within leading us to be obedient to His word and will that makes the difference. Paul said to the Romans and to all believers today, “...yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Rom. 6:13).

So, holy living is a heart response to God. It is a response that turns one from sin and unto God. It is a life that honors God because of one’s relationship and obedience to the word of God.

A further note seems in order here. Sometimes we assume one is living a holy life because their life is not characterized by some kind of obvious sinful disobedience. Their life seems to be Biblically and spiritually in order. However, we can make ourselves to be outwardly righteous while within we are anything but righteous. This was the hall mark of the Pharisees. Jesus said of them, “But all their works they do for to be seen of men” (Matt. 23:5). Jesus said further unto them, “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye appear outwardly righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Mat. 23:27-28).

They much needed the counsel the Lord gave them, “Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also” (Matt. 23:26).

The point of this is that we may be taking too much for granted, especially regarding ourselves and our children. Holiness is not just appearing to be righteous! True holiness is a work of God within our hearts! Personally, I wonder if we do not need as individuals and churches to, in a sense, reestablish the altar of holy living. To fail to do so is to live our lives on the basis of our own thinking and reaping the corresponding harvest!

The altar of sacrifice. To sacrifice means to give liberally of one’s rightful possessions. It is to give with little or no thought of the consequences. It is to realize that all we are and claim as our own really belongs to God!

Sacrificial giving is the expression of a heart and life filled with the reality and presence of God. God Himself is the ultimate definition of sacrifice. The greatest sacrifice ever given is the sacrifice of His Son to die for our sins. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16).

There are many things we can and should sacrifice to God, such as the following:

The sacrifice of what we “own.” We talk about owning things and, in  a sense we do, but only temporarily. What we have is given to us by the grace of God and should be given back to Him. That is, we should recognize God’s prior claim on all things we “own.”

Consider two things. We should live in the light of His ownership of all things. It is an attitude of the heart and mind. Secondly, should we not be willing to give to God physically all He asks of us - and beyond? It might be our giving to the Lord’s work such as the local church or to missions around the world. It might be giving to the specific needs of others.

The sacrifice of our time. It seems most people are very jealous of their time. We pretty much end up doing what we want to do with our time regardless of the needs of others. We make time for our individual pursuits, the things that will bring us the most pleasure. If we are believers, should we not acknowledge accountability  for how we use our time? Jesus Himself said, “I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day: for the night cometh, when n o man can work” (Jn. 9:4).

The sacrifice of our talents. All believers have been given some special talent with which to serve God. The proper use of our talents is part of our worship of God. To misuse our talents for things that do not honor God is a waste of the talent He has given and really dishonors Him.

Do we not need to lay all things God has so graciously given us back on the altar, so to speak, that He may be glorified in them?

The altar of our Christian witness. By this I mean being willing to let God reveal Himself through us to the needs of others. The greatest need so many have is the need for  salvation. All believers have those about them who have never come to Christ for salvation. As believers, it is so easy to hold back our witness for Christ when the need is evident. The problem is, we want to protect ourselves. We don’t want to offend others who may not appreciate our witness to them.

Conclusion

This article is not meant as a rebuke of others unless the Lord so directs. We all have many areas that need improvement and correction. It is meant as a challenge to help us see the need to give God the first place in our lives. To fail to do that is to fail Him in so many different ways. May we all examine our lives in light of what is truly pleasing to Him. “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it…” (Psa. 127:1).

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We trust everyone who reads The Sonshine has had a wonderful Christmas and will have a new year filled with the blessing and joy of the Lord. 2018 has brought many things, some good and some not as good. What will the New Year bring? As we love and trust Him, we can rest in His love, provision, and care.

Many will remember Ginny Lindus. She passed away on December 6th and the funeral was at First Baptist on Monday, December10th.

Also, a good friend of mine, Carol Isaacs of Hudson, passed away. The funeral was at Bible Baptist Church of Hudson on December 13th. Her husband, Jerry, was the principal of Chetek High School when I taught there many years ago.

BJ had her knee replacement surgery on December 10th. It has gone well except that she has some trouble with her right foot. The doctors recommended that she go to Park View Nursing Home in Woodville for further recovery and physical therapy. We thank the many who have prayed, visited, and sent special gifts of food during this time. The therapy is not easy and the recovery time is rather lengthy,  but we know it will be worth it.

As I write this, Christmas it is but a few days away. Christmas is many things to many people. To Christians, it is the cause for true rejoicing, for their sins are forgiven in the One who came to earth to die for our sins so many years ago. To unbelievers, it is still the cause for their hope in an otherwise dark and hopeless world. All He requires is that they trust Him for their salvation. Their darkness can become light and their hopelessness true hope!

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