The Bare Soul - August 7, 2011
Prisoner Exchange

James 4:8 - Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Many of us have probably seen movies where one prisoner has been exchanged for another. I can remember a couple of East/West German exchanges in some old black and white movies from the 50s or 60s. The respective powers were swapping one high-profile prisoner on one side for another on the opposing side. On a trip to the German capitol several years ago, I saw this first-hand in photographs and video clips at the Check Point Charlie Museum in what was previously communist-controlled East Berlin. Somber, focused individuals that were extremely business-like made the handoffs with calculated coolness. The tension mounted as the prisoners walked toward their respective borders until finally reaching the safety of their comrades. Finally, there was noticeable relief on both sides as the prisoner swaps were completed. Both sides felt they now had their prize in hand. Bottom line, the stakeholder countries possessed something the other side wanted. Therefore, there were terms drawn up long before they ever "toed the line" on the actual day of the exchange.

Similarly, there is a type of prisoner exchange that occurs when we decide that we are done playing games with God and when we finally wish to get on with dying to self and living for the Almighty. The terms for this spiritual "prisoner swap" were determined millennia before the current conflicts we may have seen in museums or in film. Jesus Christ, Son of the Almighty God, determined to give Himself ages ago for the sin of humankind. Our treasonous betrayal of God was the catalyst that set Him on a course of sacrifice for the human race. So, when James, the brother of our Lord tells us to ... draw near to God and He will draw near to you ... this is describing a legal, spiritual-political contract that has been secured against the powers of darkness by the resurrection power of Jehovah on behalf of His beloved Son. When this agreement was being worked out in the heavenlies nearly 2,000 years ago, the enemy of our soul undoubtedly misunderstood the terms of the contract. Otherwise, those hell-bent on destroying the Savior would have thought otherwise. (I Corinthians 2:8) That is why Satan works tirelessly to cause the redeemed to forget their legal position in Christ Jesus. His strategy has always been to first keep human beings from drawing close to God in humility, accepting their Creator's forgiveness. Of paramount importance to the devil regarding those whom have already come to the Lord and accepted His salvation is to cause a proverbial wall to exist between God and man. This comes through the lies and deception of the enemy, telling us that we are unworthy of Christ's salvation and that we need to earn His favor somehow to be accepted in the Beloved. That spiritual separation that once existed before we knew the Lord is Satan's plan to keep us away from the Father's love. A contemporary example would be if Germans decided to once again erect a wall separating East and West Berlin. To do this, there would have to be some ludicrous understanding that communism is still in effect, and that German solidarity is some type of a myth. When we consider this, it seems silly to those of us with rational thinking. However, many make the decision to re-erect the wall separating themselves from the love of God. Then, we have to be reminded, once again, of the prisoner exchange provided on our behalf -- how Jesus loved the human race with an eternal love and walked that lonely distance to exchange His life for ours.

Whether it concerns our initial salvation, when we come to the Lord to accept His gift of redemption, or once we relinquish the deception that might keep us from His presence, then we are in the position to change our condition. Drawing close to our Lord is our responsibility -- God's promise of His closeness is then His promise to those who would do such. Only when we have given ourselves to Him in humble submission can He regenerate us according to His Son's image. THEN, we begin to see the promise of salvation manifested in our respective lives. Once we draw close to our Maker and He draws close to us, this catalyst causes the other elements of this verse to begin to emerge. We are then given the grace to set ourselves apart for God's purposes. The action verbs in this scripture are largely dependent upon the other. A chain of events begin to occur once we accept that we are no longer prisoners of an evil regime. We begin LEARNING to sanitize (or consecrate) our actions by TURNING our minds toward the things of God, while we inevitably YEARN for Him from our hearts. This exchanged life therefore allows us not BURN in our affections for the things of this world but for the things of the Lord.

This, beloved, is simply the normal Christian life -- a life that is sanctified and set apart for the Lord. And, it all starts by believing that He has provided this new life if we will but only accept it. We can continue to live behind the walls of doubt or selfishness. If we do, we will never experience the closeness that He desires for His children. The exchanged life is a fact, a reality that will not be changed regardless what lies the enemy tries to throw our way. Christ Jesus walked that lonely path to provide us His life in place of our sinful existence. None of us could have taken that walk between the Kingdom of Light and the Kingdom of Darkness. Only One, the Perfect Man, Christ Jesus, was able to die for a race of people that He valued more than His own earthly existence. He has given us the power to become the sons and daughters of God by His magnificent gift. (John 1:12) It is therefore our responsibility to reconcile this fact and draw near to our Savior without doubt. While Satan would have us believe that we need to continue to try to exchange ourselves for our own salvation, Christ has forever smashed that lie by the truth of the Gospel. May we all seek only to walk together with our Lord and to never try to walk out our salvation through our own efforts.

Gracious Father, thank You for sending Your Son as the greatest example of a prisoner exchange ever known to mankind. We accept Your gracious substitution that will forever secure us a place of reconciliation to You. May we never doubt that the Man, Christ Jesus, gave His own life that we might be set free from the prison that held us in its eternal grip. We praise You! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

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