THE FIRST ALTAR • After Abraham had arrived at Moreh and after God had reappeared to him, he built an altar (12:7). This was the first altar that Abraham built. In order to live by faith, we must first of all build an altar. In the Bible an altar means that we have all for God and serve God. Building an altar means that we offer everything we are and have to God. We need to place all that we are and all that we have on the altar. Before we do anything for God, God would say to us, “Child, don’t do anything for Me. I want you. I want you to put all that you are and all that you have on the altar for Me.” This is real fellowship, real worship. The real worship of the called ones is to put all that we are and have on the altar.
According to the human viewpoint, people will say that we are foolish for doing this. They will accuse us of wasting our time, of wasting our lives. If they had been with Abraham, they would have said, “Abraham, what are you doing? Are you crazy? Why do you build such a low thing as an altar, and put everything on it and burn it? Isn’t that foolish?” As called ones, whatever we do will be foolish in the eyes of the worldly people. Many of our relatives will say that it is foolish for us to attend meetings so often, wondering why we do not stay at home and watch television with our family. The worldly people cannot understand why we attend meetings several times a week. They think that we are crazy. They would say, “What are you doing there in that little building? Why do you go there on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, twice on Sunday, and even sometimes on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday? Are you people crazy?” Yes, according to the worldly people, we are crazy. God’s appearing makes us crazy.
An altar means that we do not keep anything for ourselves. An altar means that we realize that we are here on earth for God. An altar means that our life is for God, that God is our life, and that the meaning of our life is God. So we put everything on the altar. We are not here making a name for ourselves; we are putting everything on the altar for the sake of His name.
If you check with your experience, you will see that immediately after you were called, God appeared to you again, and you said, “Lord, from now on everything is Yours. All that I am, all that I have, all that I can do and am going to do is for You.” I can still recall what happened on the afternoon that I was saved. As I went out of that church building and walked along the street, I lifted up my eyes to heaven and said, “God, from today on everything is for You.” That was a real consecration. In a spiritual sense, it was the building of an altar. I believe that many of you reading this message have had such an experience. When we received God’s calling, we were crazy, not caring about what would happen. Although we did not realize what it meant at the time, we promised the Lord that everything we had was for Him. When I said this to the Lord that day on the street, I did not realize what it involved. When after a few years I found myself in some difficulties, the Lord within me said, “Don’t you remember what you said that afternoon as you walked along the street? Didn’t you say, ‘O God, from today on everything is for You’?” When I signed the contract, I did not know what was involved. But it was too late to repent; the contract had already been signed. To tell the Lord that everything is for Him is the real building of an altar. We all can testify how sweet is the sensation and how intimate is the fellowship whenever we tell the Lord that everything is for Him. At that time, we come deeply into the Lord Himself.
Although we may tell the Lord that everything we are and have is for Him, we may forget it a few days later. But the One who called us will never forget. He has an excellent memory. Often He will come to us and remind us of what we have said to Him. He may say, “Don’t you remember what you said to Me that day?” This is not a doctrine; it is a real experience. Unless you have not been called, you are not an exception. As long as you are a called one, I have the complete assurance that you have had this kind of experience. The Lord did reappear to you, and at that reappearing you were crazy, promising to give the Lord everything, without considering the meaning of the involvement. You simply consecrated yourself to Him. You did not realize the meaning of what you promised. I thank God that we were not clear about this when we did it. We did not realize how much we became involved with God as a result of speaking one short sentence. We were bound by it. He is God. He is the calling One, and we are the called ones. It is all of Him. Even if we want to be crazy for Him, in ourselves we do not have the incentive to do it. But once He appears to us, we are crazy and say, “O Lord, everything is Yours. Take it. Lord, do what You want. I offer everything to You.” Such a time of offering ourselves to the Lord is like a dream. Later we wake up and begin to realize what it involves.
In the early days of my ministry I was burdened to help people to consecrate themselves. Although I gave a lot of teaching about consecration, I did not see much result. My teaching did not work very well. Eventually, I learned that you cannot help people to consecrate themselves by teaching them. It is not teaching that causes people to consecrate themselves to the Lord; it is the Lord’s appearing that motivates them to do this. If we can help people to meet the Lord and come into His presence, that will be sufficient. We do not need to tell them to consecrate themselves to God or to offer everything to the Lord on the altar. Once God appears to people, nothing can stop them from consecrating themselves. Spontaneously and automatically, they will say, “Lord, everything is Yours. From now on everything is for You.” Have you not had this kind of experience? Have you not laid everything you are and have upon the altar for God and His purpose?
(Abraham—Called by God, Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)