Profaning the Altar

by Mike Ratliff

25 If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it. Exodus 20:25 (NASB) 

The focus of our ministries, whether it is all on God, His purposes, and His ways or whether it is on men or self, is also what marks whether what we are doing is God glorifying or merely another profane work of the flesh. The daily walk of the regenerate believer is a ministry. How we deal with all those with whom we interact each day is part of our ministries. Therefore, all who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour have a ministry. What we must do is examine our walks to see if we are profaning the altar of God with the ways of the flesh or whether we are obediently ministering as led by the Spirit.

When we see churches use entertainment to attract people to them, even to the point of substituting secular music for praise and worship, we are witnessing the human touch, the encroachment of what is of the flesh into what should be treated as sacred.

I used to be a Deacon in a church  that went Purpose Driven in the early 1990’s. The last Easter I was a member there before God moved my wife and I to another city, we rented the local High School auditorium because ours was not big enough for the expected “crowd” that our pastors anticipated after their big marketing push. They advertised on TV. They ran full page ads in the local newspapers. They ran ads on the radio, including secular radio stations.

Many of our Deacons were given the duty of parking cars. It was a big deal. I’m not sure what I was expecting to happen that Sunday. The band on the stage played very modern music with a light show. Then the pastor preached a very short message that was more of an invitation to visit our church than the gospel. When he was done preaching, the bad played the closing song. I usually worked down front at our church services to assist those who came forward at the invitation. However, we were told to not come forward that Sunday. The service closed with the band playing the song “Desperado” by the Eagles as people filed out. I felt as if I was in the Twilight Zone.

Some have told me that they do not like expository preaching. They get bored. Their minds wander. If the “music” is too traditional then that just compounds the problem for them. Now, what are they really saying through this? Aren’t they demanding that they be entertained? Television, movies, video games, et cetera have all overloaded the part of our brains that deals with pleasure. We have become overloaded with sensory inputs. Now those things that used to hold our interest seem drab and boring and we find ourselves wanting to get away from whatever is causing this so we can get back to feeding our brains what they want. The problem is that once this cycle starts it is very hard to break away from the sensational in order to hear the profound.

25 If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it. Exodus 20:25 (NASB)

In the Exodus God gave the command that the altars constructed by the Israelites must be built of un-cut stones. Why? It was to be left untouched by human skill or labor. There must be no trace of the works of the flesh in the worship of God. Our problem is that we consider ourselves to be wise, but human wisdom delights  in trimming and arranging the doctrines of the cross into some form of “human system.” Of course, this introduces artificiality into our ministries. We perceive that this makes them more friendly with the depraved tastes of the fallen nature.

However, instead of improving the gospel, the wielding of the tools of man pollutes it. This changes it into “another gospel” void of the truth of God. This editing of the gospel actually defiles it and this brings forth polluted results. Pride is the culprit here. I once wrote a very popular article on evangelism. It was one of the highest hit posts I have ever written. However, there was one comment I received that day that still seems to come to mind at least once a week. The article was replete with the truth that it is God who saves people, not us, nor our efforts. However, the comment that struck a nerve with me that day went something like this, “Isn’t it wonderful that we can ask God to participate in our work of evangelism?” The tone of the comment struck me hard because no one else even went close to that “topic.” It was mostly praise and worship of our wonderful God and Saviour and Lord. That comment brought me up cold.

My brethren, we are God’s servants. We don’t give Him access or rights to our ministries like we are the ones in control. No, we are servants who obey our master and Lord. The alternative is the product of a proud heart. Those ministering like that one who made that comment must have their hand in the justification of the soul before God. The more I study the Word of God the more I see clearly what a fallacy that is. We simply live the Word, preach the Word, and pray for all who hear. God does the rest. He may use us to share the truth and pray with new believers, but He is the one who saves, not us. It is the Holy Spirit who prepares the heart to receive Christ, not us.

In our own walks we often trust in our own works and abilities rather than falling upon the rock of Christ as the spiritually helpless ones we are. Unless we do see the utter spiritual bankruptcy of the flesh and seek the only recourse, to be Spirit-filled, then we are doing no better than profaning the divine altar with a graving tool.

In my own case, I have learned the hard way that I am of no use to God unless I am a helpless wretch before Him. If I try to serve Him with my own “wisdom” and “learning” and “abilities” I soon find myself bitter and angry and frustrated and in a huge dry spell creatively. However, when I give up my rights to this ministry and seek only to be obedient while remaining in the background through it all does God send the joy and direction. I pray that God will continue to use this ministry and that I will keep my meddling hands off of it.

The Lord alone must be exalted in the work of atonement. There must not be one mark of man’s graving tool upon it. When men do edit the gospel they are messing with blasphemy. They seek to add to it or improve upon it. Of course, this editing is intended to please more people. The gospel is the call to the narrow, hard to find gate which opens to a narrow, difficult path. It is not a resort or wide highway traveled upon in a limousine. No, we must cast down these false versions of the gospel and preach the truth. We must call all to fall upon their knees in humble supplication before the altar of the Lord Jesus Christ, to rest in Him alone.

Instead of trying to fix and align God’s truth and doctrine according to our own likes and preferences, which is irreverence and unbelief, let us repent of doing so. Let us determine to intentionally receive truth as we find it, rejoice that the true doctrines of our Lord Jesus Christ are un-cut stones, which are the only ones fit to build an altar for our Lord.

Soli Deo Gloria

8 thoughts on “Profaning the Altar

  1. Semi-pelagianism. Its everywhere. Arminanism, synergism is the norm. If you are monergistic they think your crazy. And some people just down right hate Calvinists. I like what someone posted over on CRN reguarding Luthers comment about ‘faith’. We need to use that for wallpaper in our churches today 🙂 Good post Mike. We may be the underdogs in this world we live in, but the Lord sees it differently.


  2. Hold on…. Let me try to pronounce it.

    PUH- LAY-GEE–…….uhh.

    I give up. How do I say that word? Is that some kind of sickness or a mythological city from the Odyssey?

    tee hee hee 🙂


  3. Pingback: Profaning the Altar - Reformata

  4. Interestingly this spurred me to reread about the altars. Once the tabernacle was built and later the temple, designs were more elaborate, but in all cases what was constructed was not man’s design, but specifically only as directed by God.

    Exodus 25:9  According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.


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