The Bible teaches us from Genesis that the altar is a place of sacrifice, a sacred place where the the living God is met. Therefore, my brother, my sister, when you are in a difficult situation as Jacob was when fleeing from his brother Esau (Genesis 28), we should look for the altar first! And indeed, Jacob encountered God and received a promise of deliverance, which the Lord fulfilled when the time came (Genesis 35). The Bible also presents the altar as a place of memorial to future generations: God asked His people to pile up twelve stones taken from the middle of the river at the place they had crossed the Jordan river when leaving Egypt: “And those twelve stones which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal” (Joshua 4:19-24). Now, what does the altar means to us, the believers of Christ today, knowing that Jesus has already paid in full for us on the cross?
First of all, we too can personally build memorials to encounter the living God, as long as this place is a dedicated place to seek God, ask for His mercy, and seek out deliverance from impossible situations and also a place we return to thank the Lord for what He has done and be refreshed with new faith to move into the next season of challenges with a new name and new promises. That place does not need to be a building, it has to be a special place that you know you are going to encounter your Lord and Saviour. The Bible says: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, 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. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2). This means that now that Christ has sacrificed Himself on the altar of the cross, He is calling us to deny ourselves and pick up our cross daily to follow Him (Luke 9:23).
However, many believers suffer in their walk with the Lord because they have been taught that they are transformed on the day they accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord a Saviour while the truth is that, as our sinful nature continues to manifest even after we become born again, many people are tempted to hide it and join the church-goers who would rather pretend than confess their sins or repent truly. But the Word of God is clear: sanctification is a process for we are being transformed into His image, by His Spirit, from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). In other words, from season to season, we are being changed as the flesh dies on the altar and we rise into a new life. The altar for us then, though a place of sacrifice, is actually a place of freedom. It is where we offer the portion of our old nature that God is calling to die, that we might be free to live in the new nature.
Running away from a local church is not an option because the altar of God is within us. Humanly speaking, there is nothing wrong with that since your altar does not need to be within a church building! Nevertheless, if you are hiding yourself in your own altar, the danger is to make it become a shrine of idolatry. How? Because you alone cannot see your own spiritual evolution by your self-assessment. The same, your own family and friends will not necessarily be the ones God want to use to help you move to another season! The Bible says: “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it” (Romans 7:16-20). My friend, Jesus established fellowship with the brethens so that we can be exhorted, corrected, taught, etc! And maybe your denial of that truth is what the Lord wants you to see too. One day I remember telling a brother who says he will never go to church again and he is worshipping at home with his wife and his children because all churches are the same. I said to him, then you are in control of everything because you are the boss in the family… all this to reveal that he found it hard to submit to the authority God had placed before him. We should never forget that the judgment of God will begin at the altar and there will be no escape, no place to hide (Amos 9:1).
My friend, you need to become a living sacrifice on the altar of God in that area of your life that you are struggling with, because that is also where you will be delivered and set free and then be able to serve Him with a childlike spirit, enjoying your daily life with Him, rather than striving to satisfy an insatiable remnant of the fallen nature in you, that will never say, “I’m satisfied, it is enough!” The altar allows you to go free from your sin and fallen desires to set a place of intimacy with God where will He deliver you from the old to the next season of your life. Yes, the altar is the place where you have no place and no control as you trust Jesus for the time and circumstances of your life and you acknowlege this “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). Stay blessed in Jesus’ name.