LET’S GO TO THE ALTAR
By: Ernest J. Moen
Itinerant ministry sometimes evokes unexpected responses. In one church an elderly saint said to me, “Brother Moen, where have the altar services gone?” At another church I invited the unsaved to come forward. One person responded. After service a deacon mentioned to me, “We haven’t seen anyone come forward in 5 years.”
The altar is a great treasure. I do not own an exotic, foreign car such as a Lamborghini or a Ferrari. I do not possess a villa in the French Alps. Most of God’s people are not independently wealthy, but we have a treasured possession. We have an altar.
The altar has a distinctive, spiritual meaning. It has appeal. We are invited to come boldly.
In the Scriptures, there are various altars to which we are invited. The altar of personal devotion, worship, and adoration, and the altar for the cleansing of our sin.
The Altar of Personal Devotion
In Leviticus 6:12,13, there is an incredible picture. It speaks of flames of fire on the altar in the wilderness wanderings. It says, “It shall ever be burning; it shall never go out.” Matthew Henry wrote, “Let prayer be the key in the morning, and the bolt in the evening.”
As a child I was awakened every morning by the strains of a song by Mary Kidder which served as the theme song for the old Cadle Tabernacle out of Indianapolis, Indiana:
Ere you left your room this morning,
Did you think to pray?
In the name of Christ, our Savior,
Did you sue for loving favor,
As a shield today?
Oh, how praying rests the weary!
Prayer will change the night to day;
So when life seems dark and dreary,
Don’t forget to pray.
Bishop Taylor said his first act was to look to heaven. Then he threw the sheets off his bed, knelt, and said, “Precious Lord, the bed is my altar. My life is a sacrifice. I reaffirm I am Your living sacrifice today.” Wherever he went, he would ask, “What did you have in your quiet time this morning?”
Dr. Graham Scroggie said, “The greatest mistake a preacher can make is to imagine that increased spiritual activity compensates for secret communion.” I can see the Levitical priest each morning and evening quoting, “Because thy loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Thus I will bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name” (Psalm 63:3).
The hurried, busy, computerized life we lead has broken down many family altars. They must be rebuilt. Let us kneel and pray together again. The altar of personal and family devotions will bring obedience to the Word.
Here are three little words that will help us at the family altar.
Wait. Hurry is the death of prayer. Meditation is the start of Pentecost. Scripture is filled with injunctions to wait before the Lord.
Read. Read the Bible through. Read the great chapters of the Bible. Memorize portions of Scripture. Read the Bible book by book. Think of these six simple questions. Is there a promise to claim? Is there a lesson to learn? Is there a blessing to enjoy? Is there a command to obey? Is there a sin to avoid? Is there a revelation of the Oneness of God?
Pray. Pray for Christians. Pray for the unsaved. Pray for the church, for revival, your pastor, and for leadership in the local church and in our Fellowship. Pray for the President and others in authority.
The altar of personal devotion is a delight rather than a duty.
The Altar of Worship
“I and the lad will go yonder and worship” (Genesis 22:5). You can feel the pathetic plight of the patriarch in the haunting, windswept desert. His only son was to be made a sacrifice. What did he mean when he said, “I am going to worship”? Was he referring to tambourines and drums and a certain register of decibels? No.
A.W. Tozer said, “We have lost the sense of the holy. God is not a pal or a grandpa.”
Our attitude toward worship must involve feeling it in our heart and expressing it in some appropriate manner. We ought to say with the Psalmist, “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord” (Psalm 84:1,2).
There is no substitute for anointed, corporate worship, when the Body offers the sacrifice of praises to God. Saint and sinner alike can sense the presence of God. There is excitement and attraction. People need the therapeutic rest of God.
Let us guard the freedom of Pentecostal worship. We can either blow up in fanaticism or freeze up in formalism. Neither wildfire nor flesh is to be condoned, but let us never be so painfully nice we perish from propriety.
The Psalmist said, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee” (Psalm 42:1). When we worship in a corporate setting with fellow believers, four things will happen to our spiritual maturation.
1. It will quicken our conscience with the holiness of God.
2. It will fill our mind with the majesty of God.
3. It will open our heart to the love of God.
4. It will direct our will to the purposes of God.
Neither the place nor time of worship is significant. It isn’t the where or the when, it is the who – our Lord Jesus Christ. And according to Hebrews 10:19,20 we have “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh.”
The Altar for the Cleansing of Sin
What a marvelous promise we have at this altar. It is not a material altar, it is a spiritual one. The Christian church has an altar – Christ. He is both our altar and sacrifice.
Something happens when an unsaved person comes forward at an altar call. It’s not fancy. It’s not ceremonial. It is an experience at an altar not made of stone and mortar. It no longer involves bringing a turtledove or a paschal lamb.
The altar is a place of decision. It is a place where we meet Christ. It is a place of cleansing from sin.
May the altar be a vital and meaningful portion of church life in our Fellowship. Public confession is powerful. The altar has a place in our churches. Let us rejoice in that marvelous promise, “We have an altar” (Hebrews 13:10).
(The above material appeared in the July 26, 1992 issue of Pentecostal Evangel.)
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