I had athoughts recently about Christian altars in the Sanctuary. As a pastor, I wonder if anything of supernatural value actually takes place at them as part of worship service. I also wonder if they are a fad that has been passed by, after all, they don’t seem to make same impact that the mourner’s bench did.
Many fight coming to the altar today. Christians and church-goers alike do not want to go because of fear. Yet, it is not a right fear; if there is one. It seems that people do not go because they are afraid of what they will look like in front of others in the church. They are afraid that people will know that they have work to do in their spiritual lives. Hey, we all do.
Some have a healthy fear of the altar. The altar should represent death to us. It should be a place where people come to die to selves. In other words, this is where we come to put our inner-man to death. Yet, some might be afraid that the pastor is going to find out something or ask them to do something that is too personal. Well, that is what God does.
A problem I see with is that real work is may not be happening there anymore. When people finally respond, some might be there to “help” the pastor because they do not want him to become discouraged. When they arrive, some may think the pastor is taking too long in prayer. Some may be there because someone shamed them. Some may go down there because their friends are there. They do not want to be left out.
Here is the challenge of the altar we Christians need to consider again. As I mentioned earlier, the altar should be a place where someone goes to die. This is a harsh act. We do not want to put our egos to death. We should not see Christians who were moved to come down, simply get up from the altar because the pastor said Amen. Instead, people should be distraught and broken while at the altar. I find it amazing that God works on people just before lunch and accomplishes what He wants to just in time to go to lunch.
At the altar, people should be praying through; not simply going to say sorry without having the intention to change. Praying through means that we need to stay at the altar earnestly pleading that God change us from who we want to be into who He wants us to be. This is why the altar is a place of great work that can only be performed by the Holy Spirit. It should be an emotional moment in our lives. It is at the altar that we go to be transformed; not to clear our consciences, but to cleanse them.
Spurgeon saidonce that the altar was a place where you and I can feel the sting of sin which helps us to get away from sin. Many today simply want to stand up or raise their hand when the sermon is over so that the pastor will dismiss them in a timely manner. Yet, I believe that God has more that He wants to accomplish with them and bids them to come and die in front of the church so that they can be transformed.
I realize that God can work on us anywhere, but the altar still seems to be a place, when rightly used, to accomplish His tasks. Laying broken at the altar is when the Spirit begins to recreate that which is distorted in us. Where else are we going to have the best chance to die with our brothers and sisters in Christ?