Let’s meet with Abraham again. He has a message for us. He is going to teach us about faith to rebuild and to take back. In answer to the call and promises of God, “Come out of your father’s house to a land of promise that I will show you; I will bless you and make you a blessing” (Genesis 12:1-2), Abraham does something particular and extremely significant—he builds an altar to the Lord (see Genesis 12 and 13).
The altar was a testimony, a public commitment, a vow. It was as if Abraham has said, “This is the expression of my faith. I want every person who sees this altar to know that I am not ashamed to proclaim that I belong to God. I believe in Him; my faith is in His promises.”
This concept of an “altar to the Lord” was extremely intense, serious and binding in the Abrahamic and Jewish culture of Abraham’s day. In fact, “building an altar” meant to be truthful, honest and serious with God; to be sincere and to make decisions with all one’s heart before God with truth and commitment.
I know full well that many reading this devotional walk with this kind of heart toward God. It’s not to boast or for show; you really want to please God, to obey Him and to be true to His will and His Word. You are genuine; your consecration is authentic.
You have built an altar of faith, prayer, worship, generosity, forgiveness and sanctification before your God. You are alive with the faith that “He that has begun a good work in you will have the power to complete it fully for the day we will appear before Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Beyond the accolades, career successes or promotions you may accomplish on this earth, you live each day to hear His voice welcoming you into the portals of the afterlife with these words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21).
You have built an altar before God!
Claude Houde, lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada, is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences conducted by World Challenge throughout the world. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.
Beloved, the Lord didn't save us simply so we could bask endlessly in His goodness, mercy and glory. He had an eternal purpose in choosing each one of us and that purpose goes beyond blessings, fellowship and revelation. The fact is, God still reaches out to lost humankind. And He's searching for a believing, trusting people He can shape into His greatest evangelistic tool.
Our Lord doesn't use angels to witness of His glory, He uses His people. He desires to train us as a special, "peculiar" breed (see 1 Peter 2:9). He is looking to prove His Word in our lives so that the world will believe it when we proclaim it. He wants to present to the unbelieving nations a faithful people who have been rocked by hard times, broken by deep trials, yet who continue to trust Him.
We see God searching for such a people in Gideon's day. When Gideon issued a call for volunteers to fight the Midianites, thousands of Israelites responded. But the Lord told Gideon, "The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands. . . . Proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart" (Judges 7:2-3).
God was telling Gideon, "If anybody here is afraid, tell him to go home now. I won't allow My army to be infected by fear." God was actually turning away volunteers for His army; in fact, at one point, some 22,000 doubters were sent home. Gideon eventually reduced the number of volunteers to 10,000 but God told him there were still too many. The Lord finally settled on 300 battle-tested soldiers.
This ought to tell us something. As the Lord seeks gospel messengers He can send out to the world, He is not going to recruit churches whose pews are filled with fearful, doubting, untested people. He won't look for powerful, efficient religious organizations or highly educated seminarians. God uses organizations and the educated, of course, but in themselves not one of these has the resources needed to be God's tried and tested messenger.
Of all the sins we can commit, doubt is the one most hated by God. According to both Old and New Testaments, our doubting grieves the Lord, provokes Him, causes Him much pain. We see a prime example of this in ancient Israel after God had delivered His people from the hands of Pharaoh.
The Psalmist laments, "We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly. Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt; they remembered not the multitude of thy mercies; but provoked him at the sea, even at the Red Sea" (Psalm 106:6-7).
The writer is making a confession here. What was the wicked sin that Israel had committed? It was their doubt that God would further deliver them, even after He had performed an incredible miracle for them at the Red Sea.
The psalmist is asking us to imagine God's people as they stood rejoicing on the victory side of the sea. The Lord had just performed one of the greatest miracles in the history of humankind, delivering Israel from the mighty Egyptians. Yet, how did these same people react as they faced hardship afterward? They doubted God's faithfulness.
The writer is saying, essentially, "Can you believe it? Our Lord had moved supernaturally on our behalf, delivering us from the enemy. Yet, even after this incredible miracle, we mistrusted Him. How could we ever provoke God that way?"
It was a different story altogether when Israel stood on the victory side of the sea. They sang and danced as they watched the mighty Egyptian army sink to destruction: "He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it was dried up: so he led them through the depths, as through the wilderness. And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. And the waters covered their enemies: there was not one of them left. Then believed they his words; they sang his praise" (Psalm 106:9-12).
The Israelites sang the right song—a song of praise to almighty God—but they sang it on the wrong side of the sea. Anyone can sing and rejoice after they have the victory. But Israel had failed miserably on the testing side of the Red Sea. There they hadn't trusted God at all.
Most of us equate power with something visible, flashy, earthshaking. Yet this doesn't hold true with spiritual authority. Peter says God entrusts spiritual authority to “the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit" (1 Peter 3:4).
The Greek word that Peter uses for meekness means gentleness. And the word used for quietness means assured, undisturbed. Peter is speaking of a heart that is always at peace with its position in Christ. Such a heart possesses real spiritual authority.
Of course, this flies in the face of all secular philosophies about power and authority. The world tells us, "Assert yourself! Use power through intimidation. Make eye contact, use body language, stare others down. Put your own needs first." We see this attitude reflected on the album covers of today's music groups. Band members scowl, menace, "get in your face." They equate such posture with having authority.
Our attitude as believers is completely different. We pursue power and authority for one purpose only: to put Satan to flight. We want to be able to stand up to his attacks on our lives, our churches, our families. And we must acknowledge that without a spirit of meekness and quietness in our hidden man, we have no real power.
David writes, "Thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great" (Psalm 18:35). The phrase "made me great" here means "abundantly increased my mercy for others." David is stating, "Lord, your gentleness toward me has increased my own capacity for mercy."
Think about what David is saying here. This king had doubted God's faithfulness to Israel. He had committed adultery and then even murdered a man to cover up his own sin. Yet the Lord showed David incredible mercy and forgiveness.
David was overwhelmed by how gentle and loving God was toward him during this terrible period. And now he said, "The Lord has been so tender in dealing with me. How could I ever be hard on anybody who goes through what I endured? God's grace toward me has enlarged my heart so now I want to show tenderness toward others—to my spouse, my children, everyone."
Paul speaks of our having an inward man (see Romans 7:22). To the Corinthian church Paul said, "Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4:16). Indeed, there are two such selves in all of us. There is both an outward man and an inner, hidden man. The outward man is always on display before others but the hidden man is known only by God. This inner man doesn't display himself conspicuously. He resides where nobody else can see the work being done in him. And the Holy Ghost is constantly at work in him, strengthening and preparing him to receive true spiritual authority.
Peter illustrates this duality in us by giving us the example of a certain woman. This woman is decked out in finery, wearing the latest hairstyle and all manner of jewelry, rings, bracelets, chains. She's a living, breathing example of flesh appealing to flesh.
“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Peter 3:3-4).
It's clear that Peter is speaking here of the backslidden church. This church operates in the flesh, basing everything on outward appearances. It has no inner holiness and therefore no real authority. Tragically, many Christians are attracted to this kind of church. They're impressed by flashy services that possess nothing of God's true glory.
Please don't misunderstand: Peter isn't asking any Christian woman to throw away her makeup kit. Rather, he's saying, "If you want to move in spiritual authority, then stop trying to impress others by how you look or act. Instead, focus on the hidden person. That's the only way to obtain Christ's authority."