I really dislike having to exchange things at a store. I mean, in theory, it’s great. But practically speaking, I usually spend days being too lazy to actually go back to the store, which eventually leads to me forgetting about it completely. And where does that leave me? With a pair of jeans two sizes too small or a blouse that fits weird. I’d much rather make the right buy the first time.
I generally have the same attitude towards life. I’d much rather prefer to make the right decisions the first time around so that I don’t have to do the whole “learning from your mistakes” thing. But life is messy, isn’t it? Things don’t always go as planned. We screw up, we fall, we fail, we get jaded, we change.
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. | Romans 1:21-25
These verses always make my heart sad. They remind me of an older version of myself – the old me who knew God and yet didn’t honor Him or give thanks to Him; the old me whose heart was darkened and whose mind was given over to foolish, worthless thinking; the old me who exchanged the glory of the immortal, eternal, God, who has no beginning or end, for the lackluster appearances and desires of man – which in reality, only left me wanting.
Last weekend, I was reminded of the condition of that cold, dark heart which beat within that other version of myself… Barred within my ribs and flesh beat a weighty heart of stone. To say that it was actually beating is a stretch in and of itself. It merely existed, hanging in that space amidst bone and muscle.
Last weekend, I was reminded of the new heart freely, generously, graciously given to me… A heart of flesh. I was reminded of The Beautiful Exchange that took place within that once hollow space within my chest. A heart transplant of magnificent proportions, performed by the most skilled, most steady, most gentle Hands. Not once did those Hands slip. Not once did those Hands falter.
The old me had exchanged this glorious God for mere man, for this subpar world. The old me had exchanged Truth for a lie. Praise be to God that He didn’t give up on the old me. Praise be to God that He held to His promise and continued His work in my life so that I would know Him!
The verses above have long saddened my heart. But today, I rejoice at the Truth woven into these words! I rejoice knowing that THIS is the condition He saved me from. When I was in the depths of sin and anguish, when I was the furthest from Him, He came to me. He came for me.
Though I had exchanged His beauty for this world and all its worthless, rusted, rotting treasures, He graciously exchanged my heart of stone for a heart of flesh. He exchanged my sin and sorrow and ugliness of heart for purity and joy and beauty of divine proportions. He exchanged my filthy rags for His princely garb and clothed me in His splendor and love.
How can it be that this God would love me? How can it be that this God would go to such great lengths to save my wretched soul? How can it be that He would take such an interest in exchanging my heart for His glory?
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! | Romans 7:24-25a
Beloved, a Beautiful Exchange has been made in our name. The question is, will we claim it?
Heavenly Father, how good you are to us! How wonderful and lovingly You are! Even the most eloquent of words, the most beautiful of tongues could not begin to describe Your beauty, Your majesty, Your worth. You are far more precious than all that this world can offer us… and yet, we are so easily led astray by the glitz and glamour of it all. Forgive us, Lord.
Thank You for the Beautiful Exchange You have made on each of our behalf through Your Son, and our soon-coming Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Replace our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh, that we might live for Your glory and renown! May we exchange the futility of this world, of man, and all earthly desires for the glory and splendor of our God! May we exchange the lies of this world for the Truth of our mighty King, who is blessed forever! Indeed, You are blessed forever, Lord!