The Exchange

Jan Antonsson


The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway

June 3, 2017

Neosho, MO

“For what can (would; could; should) a person (a human) give as a price paid in exchange for and equivalent to his soul (or: his soul-life; the soul which is himself)?”   (Mark 8:27, Jonathan Mitchell’s Translation).

Why is God’s amazing grace such a difficult subject for us to understand, and if we think we understand it, why do we still resist it to the uttermost?  Most Christians praise grace and tout its veracity to any who will listen.  Preachers, teachers, and priests offer grace to the penitent, and some will even quote Paul’s statement: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV).  Though I have quoted this verse a zillion times in my writings (a slight exaggeration), nevertheless, it seems to me that needing to earn our standing with God is a prime motivation for almost every Christian, myself included at times.  

Self justification is an ugly truth, based on insecurities and neurotic stuff not yet rooted out, but God confronts me with it when I sink down into that morass of self doubt.  He’s done it so many times, that now, I usually say it before He does because I don’t want it to be a part of my Christian experience. Perhaps one day, He’ll stop me from doing it before I need to repent (change my mind) about it.

The need to earn God’s approval probably began in the Garden of Eden, after they disobeyed the command not to eat the fruit of the Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil; after they were expelled from Paradise and their constant awareness of God’s presence, and after they were plunged into the agonies and uncertainties of trying to eek out a living amongst the thorns and thistles of life.

The need to exchange our own works for God’s grace runs deep, like a muddy, neurotic river throughout human history.  Abraham is the classic example to me, because he couldn’t believe God would actually bring him an heir from Sarah’s ancient womb.  Ishmael was one of his worst mistakes and the best example of this behavior that I can think of.  And yet, did Abraham really slip the clutches of God’s will, and make an end run around God’s Word to Him? No, there are no mistakes. The need to help God out, surely must spring from a deep seated feeling, an unconscious thought, that within myself, I’m too unworthy for God to bother with, too flawed for Him to work with, and too rotten for Him to love.

That leaves one in the position described in a sappy song that made me laugh years ago.  The chorus goes something like this:  “Pain, remorse and agony on me; deep dark depression, excessive misery.  If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all:  Pain, remorse and agony on me.”  It was played and sung to a Country Western beat and accompanying twangy voice.  Very funny stuff, unless you feel that way yourself, as Adam and Eve probably did, also Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses, and many of the prophets along with many of us, at times.  

So many Christians have written about God’s grace over the years, and most people are willing to admit that without it, we’re sunk; our boat on that infamous creek has no paddles, and we’re circling the drain.  Yet, when it comes time to cast our spiritual well being onto grace alone, we’re hard pressed to do it.

Maybe the angst and hardships they encountered once they were tossed out of the Garden, actually changed the psyche of Adam and Eve’s progeny.  Carl Jung, a Swiss Psychiatrist and psychoanalyst talked about the effect of the “collective unconscious, meaning that things which affect a great many people, get embedded in the human psyche, and affect those coming after them who never experienced the trauma themselves.  The Holocaust is a perfect example of this phenomenon, revealing the effects that psychological and physical trauma can have on society as a whole for generations to come.  Jung’s statement. “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls,” is a good description of our topic in this essay. 

Neosho is in the heart of the Bible Belt, where literal interpretations of Jesus’ sayings abound. Occasionally, the intersection of Highways 59 and 60 play host to some man carrying a huge cross on his back, with others toting signs which urge the passing motorists to “Repent before it’s too late!”  I experienced visceral shock, the first time I encountered this, but now I see that these folks are merely trying to figure out what they can give or do in exchange for their souls.  

I got caught up in this kind of thinking myself this week while praying for a dear friend who has just been diagnosed with cancer.  He is a heavy smoker, and cancer, I feared, was the inevitable result.  It didn’t take long for the Lord to ask me if I thought my friend deserved cancer because of his behavior.  That brought me up short as God’s questions always do.  Do any of us really get what we deserve? Are we really rewarded in this life, never mind the afterlife, with good or evil based on our behavior?  Do we still live by the rules found in Deuteronomy, Chapter 28?  (After reading it, you will embrace grace!) If the Law of consequences does apply to us, we’re in the swamp of despair and the throes of hell here and now.

God works ALL THINGS after the council of His own will (Ephesians 1:11).  It is His will, His choices, His power, His choosing of us in Christ BEFORE the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), which governs our lives.  If that were not true, there would be no hope for any of us. Have you ever bargained with God and He gave you what you asked for? Many have, but make no mistake, it wasn’t their gift which resulted in His grace.  It was their surrender! (dying to self)!

Mind you, I’m not suggesting we can jump off a three story building with impunity, or walk across a busy street against the light; or choose a dissipated life style without incurring health problems.  What I am saying is that there is nothing we can do or give in exchange for God’s grace.  Our souls have been purchased at great expense, and are continuously cared for by the One who is able to keep us from stumbling and to present us blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy!  (Jude 24, ESV). That answers Jesus’ question of what do we have to give in exchange for our soul?Absolutely nothing!

When Jesus said we must lose our life to save it (Mark 8:34, 35, 37), was He really so careless and cavalier about human flesh?  Christ is asking us to quit counting on the life birthed from our mother’s womb,  because He has exchanged it for the life born from above (John 3:3-8).  Our old man was crucified with Christ and we no longer live, shouts Paul, but we live our lives in the flesh by the faith of Christ who lives in us (Galatians 2:20, KJV).   It isn’t our faith that counts, insists Paul, but the faith of Christ.  Grace then may be described as the exchanged life: our old pathetic life exchanged for His powerful one in us. That’s a deal we cannot refuse!

Father, in You, we live and move and have our being.  We thank You and praise You for the unmerited favor You freely and continually bestow upon us in the Beloved.  Words fail to fully express our gratitude for Your continual care, Your support, Your ever present help in time of trouble and Your AMAZING GRACE!  We love You Father, and join our voices with “the voice of a great multitude, and the voice of many waters, and the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.”  Amen.  Jan Antonsson

Jan Austin Antonsson

17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail Address)

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