Give it up for God!
But we never can prove
The delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows,
And the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.
So far in Sealed Orders, we’ve been talking about our relationship with God- our Christian walk. I’m writing with the assumption that you have some kind of relationship with God. It may be basic, it may be advanced, but it’s there.
Today, I want to talk about “laying it all on the altar.” It’s another Christianese phrase we use all the time. It sounds like being saved, but it’s a different phase of our Christian life. Let’s break it down.
Of course, in the Old Testament, we know that the Israelites sacrificed animals or crops to God. And in the Old Testament, you couldn’t just go to Walmart and buy a side of lamb to sacrifice to God. You had to raise the lamb yourself. Feed it, walk it, teach it to… actually, I have no idea how you raise a lamb. I’m pretty sure it’s not easy. And it requires a lot of resources that you could have used for something else. There were also complex rules around the sacrifice.
That all changed with the sacrifice of Jesus. We don’t put groceries on the altar. The “all” in ‘laying it all on the altar’ refers to us. We are the sacrifice! It means giving God control of our lives. When you first become a Christian, you have a salvation experience. That’s when you accept Jesus into your heart, pray the sinner’s prayer, etc. Almost all of you have done that at one point or another.
But later, generally when you’re a little older and more experienced, you have what’s called a “Holiness Experience”. Basically, it’s a time when you decide to get serious about being a Christian. It’s an event, but it’s also the start of a Holy life. When you sacrifice your all for God, lay it all out, things start to change. Our Handbook of Doctrine (2010 edition) says it like this:
There is a crisis/process dynamic in the life of holiness. Often experienced as a crisis, that is a decisive turning point and decision, sanctification becomes a lifelong process. We are in the process of becoming what we already are in Christ through justification. The Holy life, however, will always be marked by an ‘already but not yet’ reality. We are already sanctified but not yet sinlessly perfect.
Sounds good to me! It basically jump starts our journey to being more like Jesus. It’s a decision to set our life aside for God, to dedicate it to Him.
So, what does that mean for you, the WMI delegate? Lemme break it down for you.
If you’ve never really taken this “Jesus” business seriously…
Commit to taking your faith to another level. It’s like being a good cornet player. At some point you must decide “I’m going to practice for real”, not just because someone made you. You must dedicate all summer to playing scales every day. Or start playing long tones every morning.
That’s how faith is. Commit your life to God; meaning, start living out your faith in every corner of your life. Again, the Doctrine book says it better than I do:
Sanctification by the Holy Spirit can extend to the whole or entire personality with no area of life unaffected, just as the pervasive effects of sin have penetrated every area of human life.
Once you do that, you have a different outlook. Whatever your job is, you do it for Christ. Christ is in all your relationships. As a sanctified (literally set apart for God) person, you have a different, better outlook on life. You see things in the perspective of God’s truth.
If you’re somewhere in that process already, great!
You’re on the right track! For sure. But think about some things you can work on to your spiritual life grow. Three important ones for Holiness…
It’s important, even for the most seasoned (Old!) Christians, to have a personal devotion time. Set aside time for praying (both speaking and listening prayer), singing, meditating, or other things that bring you to closer to God. It’s like a little mini worship service all by yourself. It brings your mind into focus in a way that communal worship doesn’t. It’s literally just you and God. (And maybe the cat, but cats don’t care what you’re doing unless it’s feeding them.) Put in that time every day and you’ll be blessed.
This is a two-way deal. Make sure you are being discipled by someone. And make sure you are discipling others. It’s easy to go off the rails spiritually when we go it alone. When you think you know enough that you don’t need anyone is exactly when you need someone. It can be a formal thing, where you meet once a week at Shari’s for pie, or it can be informal, like someone you check in with on Facebook periodically. Build that trust, and when you need it, they will be able to speak into your life. They’ll tell you the hard stuff when you need it, and give you grace when you need it. I’m reminded of the best musicians that I know. They will often take lessons; well into their 40s or 50s! Why? Because no matter how “expert” they are, they know that a second set of ears can point out things they’ve been missing. They learn new things all the time. Our spiritual lives should be like that. We should keep learning from others. Conversely, it’s important to disciple others. Both for their benefit, and for yours. I’m sure some of you have heard in college that teaching someone else is a great way to cement your own knowledge. Discipling someone else will stretch you into new growth.
Like discipleship, you should be growing in your knowledge of God. That is, knowledge in a formal sense, too. It’s important to know God AND to know about God. Doing in depth Bible study, or learning theology is an important way to grow Spiritually. Read a book! Maybe take a class or two. Learn about what’s going on with Christians around the world. Not everyone needs to be a Bible scholar, or an ancient languages expert. But it’s important to know what you believe, and why.
Wherever you are in the process of Holiness, I’d encourage you to keep going. God will take that life that you’ve given up and will do amazing things with it. I’m certain of that! Take some time now and think of times you’ve experienced the “delights of His love”. Pray and thank God for them!