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by Bubba Jennings
Building an Altar
A good image for seeking the fullness of the Spirit is the concept of “building a life altar."
In the Old Testament, an altar was built and a sacrifice placed on it, and then God sent his fire to burn up the sacrifice (e.g., 1 Kings 18). This is a great illustration of the dynamics of personal revival and spiritual renewal. Paul uses it when he tells us to make ourselves a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1–2). We cannot create spiritual renewal—we can only prepare the altar and the sacrifice. Only God can send the fire.
If we look at Acts 1, we see Jesus helping the disciples build an altar. There are at least four parts to this process.
A Renewed Church Is Vision-Driven
In Acts 1:6–8, Jesus repairs their faulty vision of what he is going to do in the world. They were looking for a political campaign, and he tells them about the nature of the kingdom, which will spread through his disciples as they become his witnesses and ambassadors. The vision is that through our words we will bring people under the kingship of Christ, which will heal and repair all things.
A Renewed Church Is Gospel-Driven
In Acts 1:9–11, Jesus ascends to heaven, and the angels tell the disciples that now the knowledge of his ascension should empower them. As in the incident with Stephen, it is only as we “preach the gospel to ourselves” about our standing in Christ that the Holy Spirit takes that truth and catches it on fire in our hearts, creating times of amazing assurance that equip us for service.
A Renewed Church Is Prayer-Driven
In Acts 1:14, we see the disciples uniting in corporate, prevailing prayer. It is only in prayer and through prayer that the Holy Spirit takes up the vision and the gospel and makes them fiery realities in the centers of our being.
A Renewed Church Is Leader-Driven
In Acts 1:15–26, we see the disciples asking for God to raise up leaders. Personal and corporate revivals occur through leaders whom God identifies and equips.
How, then, can we as leaders “build an altar,” seeking our renewal as a church and a people by the power of the Holy Spirit? Let’s begin now.
- Pray that your church grasps its own vision in a new way. Take time to thank God for your church, for what it has done in your life, and for what you see it doing in the lives of others and in your community. Ask God to help you better understand and grasp what he is calling you to do to reach your city. Pray that your small group and outreach ministries will give people a deeper appreciation of your church’s vision and an experience of real community.
- Pray that your worship services this season will be particularly anointed, that the truth of the gospel will be unusually vivid and spiritually real to all hearers—believers and non-believers—and that God’s presence would be evident.
- Pray that your seasons and services of prayer would not be just a passing program but would signal a greater emphasis on and practice of corporate prayer within your church.
- Accept your leadership role in the church. Even if you are not an officer—even if you think of yourself as a “volunteer”—you, as an active worker and servant, are a model to those less committed. Take time to pray for yourselves, that you could enter a season of self-examination. Ask that you may be, with full gospel assurance, nonetheless hard on yourself. Ask that God would show you ways in which you don’t represent Christ as you should, in your relationships, in your work life, in your family life, in your habits and attitudes, and in your relationships within the church. Take time to pray for yourselves, that God will make things you know about the gospel in your head real to your heart, and changing the way you live where you need to change.
This post is excerpted from Dr. Keller’s article “Kingdom-Centered Prayer.”
This post appears with permission from Redeemer City to City where you'll find more resources from Dr. Tim Keller.
Copyright © 2001 by Timothy Keller, © 2009 by Redeemer City to City.
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