There was a time when atonement could only be secured through animal sacrifices. Back then, whatever was placed on the altar gets burnt by the fire on the altar. This is why fire was a prominent feature of every altar. No fire, no altar.
No refund, no return
In essence, sacrifices were irretrievable and irreversible even though the redemption temporary. As imperfect as that atonement regime was, sacrifices had no refund policy.
You can't take back what you have placed on the altar. You can't even change your mind once you have vowed to put something on the altar. This is what happened to Jephthah according to the story in Judges Chapter 11.
But now, God desires living sacrifices:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (Romans 12:1, ESV).
This is far more serious than offering livestock of any kind.
The altar had moved. It's no longer physical. The sacrifice also had to change. A spiritual altar will demand a non-material sacrifice.
A living moving altar also require a living and moving sacrifice. We are to present our lives to God, in sanctification, and this is true worship - far deeper than religion.
Low entry barrier
You cannot truly worship God or worship God in truth without a sacrifice - a living sacrifice. David attested to the fact that this is the type of sacrifice that God cannot ignore.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God (Psalms 51:17, NLT).
God really has a low entry barrier. The sacrifice that is acceptable as true worship is a humble and repentant heart. A heart that is not lifted against its maker or fellow men.
No wonder many wise men and women of our time are hitting their bloated egos against the barrier.
God's entry barrier (which is humility and repentant heart) is too low and most people struggle to bow their heads and knees in submission and surrender.
Leave it at the altar
Here is another problem. Some people have no problem going to the altar. But because the sacrifice is living and active, it is so easy to roll it away from the altar from time to time.
This is a problem. You break fellowship each time you take the sacrifice away from the altar. If you want to enjoy unbroken fellowship and peace with God, you must leave the sacrifice on the altar. That's where it belongs!
It may hurt but leave it there. The fire and heat may be uncomfortable, still, submit to the process. The sacrifice must be burnt. That's why it's a sacrifice, and that's only when the smoke rises to the heavens as a sweet-smelling savour, acceptable to God.
If you are struggling to surrender your life to God or constantly jumping on and off the altar, ask God to give you fresh grace - a fresh fire to consume your sacrifice.
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