Christ is establishing a new order of royal priests. We have been called to offer holy and sweet sacrifices unto GOD (See 1 Peter 2:4-5). Before we can offer sacrifices unto GOD, we must first make right the altar. People often think that the sacrifice sanctifies the altar, but it is the altar that sanctifies the sacrifice.
16 Woe to you, blind guides, who say, … ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.’ 19 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift?
(I added part of verse 16 to give more context, read all of it here Matthew 23:16-19 )
The altar represents the conditions set forth by GOD necessary for Him to accept the sacrifice. If you are trying to offer something to GOD and your heart and mind are against His will, then your offering will be rejected. Just because you are on your knees doesn’t mean your heart is also bowed to GOD. In fact, just because you are praying doesn’t mean you are trying to communicate with the true and living GOD. People offer sacrifices to false gods all the time. How do you know if you are at the right altar or how do you know you are at the place prescribed by the true and living GOD, whereby He will accept your offering and answer your prayer? If you examine your heart by looking at how you live every day and you see that you are living willfully against His commandments, then you are at the wrong place and your altar is not fit for sacrifice to GOD. GOD gives grace to the humble, but He resists the proud. Understand, your life reflects where your heart is. The scripture says, where a man’s treasure is, there his heart will be also. It is only when you treasure GOD and His ways above all else that your heart will surrender to Him and become a sanctified altar. If you have not repented of what you know is wrong, then you are exalting your will above GOD and you are in a place of rebellious pride. How can you be reconciled to GOD if you refuse to align yourself with Him? GOD is certainly not going to acquiesce to your deathful ways because He is Life.
23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24 NKJV)
The Lord cares deeply for everyone, so He is mindful of our actions to others. If you are harboring unforgiveness for someone or know that you owe someone a debt of repentance, then this unresolved blemish of the heart becomes a barrier between you and reconciliation with GOD. You really should love your neighbors as you love yourself because our Lord will deal with you according to how you deal with others. Remember the warning Christ gave in Matthew 25:31-40. In order to be reconciled to GOD we need grace, mercy, and forgiveness. If we are too prideful to extend those benefits to others, why should we expect GOD to extend them to us? The blood of Christ is the great equalizer because it is His blood alone which grants all people the opportunity for reconciliation with GOD. Let us make sure we don’t squander this opportunity by disqualifying ourselves through having prideful hearts contaminated with pride, contention, unforgiveness, and unrepented sin. Repentance is the only path to true reconciliation. You can’t repent unless you regard what GOD requires, and you won’t regard what He requires unless you treasure Him in your heart. Examine your life to see where your heart is and do not be deceived.
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NKJV)