My friend Michael Perkins wrote a Facebook post about a week ago that touched my heart because the Lord had been speaking to me about the same issue. I have been concerned that people need to go beyond an encounter into a transformed lifestyle. Michael’s post spoke to the issue that encounters with God are actually invitations for Him to exchange what’s in our lives with what’s in His (see 2 Cor. 5:21). When we allow that to occur, there is little doubt our lifestyle will become transformed. I asked him to write the blog this week.
I love having encounters with God. I love seeing others have encounters with God. Even though I love encounters, I believe that they are not enough. I have been learning that we need more than just an encounter, we actually need an exchange. I believe that encounters are actually an invitation to have an exchange with God.
My wife and I first met at college in January of 2002. I knew that our initial encounter wasn’t going to be enough for me. I was not going to be content with just meeting her; I had to know this girl. There had to be an exchange. So, in March of 2003, we stood before a room full of friends and loved ones and made a covenant with one another that we were no longer going to live our lives as two separate individuals. Instead, we were going live our lives as two individuals who have come together as one (Mark 10:7-9), living in covenant with one another. There was an exchange.
At one of the churches that I pastored, there was a person who would come to our weekly prayer meeting and ask to be anointed for healing for depression and pain. Every week we’d gather around this person, anoint them, pray, and they’d tear up, testifying that God had touched them. After a while, I finally asked them if they really thought God had touched them or not. The response was eye opening, “God did touch me because I felt His presence.” In other words, there were multiple encounters, but no exchange. I believe God was inviting this person to walk in healing and deliverance, but they were choosing not to go beyond the encounter, despite multiple invitations.
Unfortunately, this is far too common in the body of Christ. Week after week many come into the presence of God and the goosebumps come, the hot tears begin to fall, the hands lift in surrender, but we fail to realize that the encounter is an invitation for something more; the encounter is an invitation for an exchange.
So what is God inviting us to exchange? There are many things to list, but I’ve decided to identify a few of the most common exchanges that I believe God desires to impart. First, God is inviting us to exchange our sin and shame for sonship. In Luke 15, Jesus tells the story of a young man who asks for his inheritance, leaves home, loses everything, and in a moment of desperation he comes home hoping he can possibly be a servant to his father. But the father does something amazing upon the arrival of his son. He embraces him, puts his robe on him, puts sandals on him, puts a ring on him, and restores him as if nothing had ever happened in the first place. They threw a party to celebrate. Many struggle with past mistakes without realizing that God is inviting them to exchange their sin and shame for sonship and to treat them as if nothing had ever happened in the first place.
Second, God is inviting us to exchange our bondage for freedom. For years, I struggled with a nicotine addiction. It did not matter how many times I tried to quit, I’d always go back to it. It wasn’t until I had an encounter with Jesus that I realized He was inviting me to exchange my bondage for freedom (John 8:36). I’m grateful that I found freedom from my addiction. You truly can receive freedom from any bondage. Jesus can make that kind of exchange in your life.
Third, God is inviting us to exchange our nature for His nature. I know a person who loved Jesus, but had a bad habit of being extremely rude to everyone. One day I asked them why they acted the way they did and they said, “I’ve been this way my entire life. I’ve learned that it’s okay to be me.” I read 1 John 4:17 which says, “As He is, so also are we in this world,” and asked them to name off a few of God’s characteristics. They mentioned His goodness, His mercifulness, and that He is love. Within a few moments this person was praying that God would exchange their nature for His nature.
I want to encourage you to continue to pursue encounters with God. But when you encounter Him ask Him what it is that He is inviting you into. Please realize that deep is always calling out to deep and that there is always more of Him to receive.
Jesus, I desire to encounter you with greater frequency and intensity, but I ask that you help me to see the encounter as an invitation to an exchange with you, amen.