Altar Vision Devotional - Week 5

How does surrender connect to loss and lead to freedom?

Scripture

"Therefore, I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1

Reflection

The word “altar” has always triggered discomfort because of its association with loss in my mind. Now it’s starting to stir a sense of freedom and sharper vision that I hope to explore at Missions Fest Vancouver 2020. This year’s conference theme is: Altar Vision.

One of the purposes of the sacrificial system in the Old Testament was to help humans understand that a relationship with God was a serious and costly matter. Somebody said that the meticulous rules of the sacrificial system in the Book of Leviticus are like those used to handle highly powerful materials, like hydrogen or nuclear power. The rules had to be followed closely so that people approaching the materials wouldn’t be killed in the process.

Despite God being the all-powerful God who lacks nothing, he wanted humans to come near to him. That wasn’t possible without an offering for sin. The sacrificed animal was killed as a substitute for our sin and helped us to come near to God. A slain animal also helped humans see the cost and value of their actions when they came into God’s presence. The call to bring something to the altar reminds me that I am going to lose it. So, what does it mean to “offer my body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God (Romans 12:1)?

It is in the “burning” part of the offering that I have recently discovered freedom and passion. Those hearts that are burning with love for God are ultimately free. Their love for the God of Love consumes selfish desires and any tormenting craving. As an offering we become free from lusting after wealth, power, pleasure, or honour. Their hearts find rest and freedom in God. (Matthew 13: 45-4). 

It is at the altar of God that our stoicism turns into joy, and the sacrifice doesn’t really feel like one after all. Rather, it feels more like an investment. David Livingstone, the British missionary who endured great trials in Africa, said: “I never made a sacrifice.” All the things he gave up and the harsh challenges he endured made sense because what he was getting in return was of greater value. Jesus himself saw his sacrifice in the light of joy, “who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

In the Old Testament God wanted us to understand that a relationship with Him is to be desired and possible, but not without cost. In the New Testament Jesus showed us that approaching God is a costly business, so he came to pay the price. The altar can turn loss into freedom. 


Prayer

Dear Jesus, thank you for going to the altar as a sacrifice in my place, for seeing in each human face a pearl of great price, regardless of the cost. Help us to trust you God when we come to the altar, knowing that you love us and want the best for us. Holy Spirit make my life a fragrant offering to you and may it release a sweet fragrance wherever you send me.  

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