When I was first saved, I was so excited because I was going to heaven when I died. I was 29 and was so relieved!
For a while I believed that my main trouble was that I was hell bound before being saved. And, in a way, that is true. I was on my way to hell when Jesus came into my life! But that wasn’t my real problem. My real problem was that I was dead before Jesus was in my life.
"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others." (Ephesians 2:1-3)
Because I was dead outside of Christ, I did things to get life from other people. Everyone does this. We all do it. It’s called “flesh” in the Bible. We look for life in other people in terms of love, value, acceptance, purpose and security.
Some of the things I did were bad and some of them were good things to do. Some people even read the Bible in a fleshly way, trying to give themselves security or value in being able to say, “I am righteous. I read the Bible!”. This is why in John 5:39, Jesus said this:
“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.”
I’ve given this matter a lot of thought and it occurs to me that living after the flesh is really like doing business with the barter system. Under the barter system we trade things for things that we need, that other people have. It is one of the oldest forms of trade there is and it is alive and well today in the business world….and in our daily interactions with people. It is a time-honored way to get what we need but there are some problems with the barter system that I would like to share.
The way the system works is that we know we have an emptiness….a need. Then we see something in someone else that will satisfy that need. We fixate on what the other person has and we want it. This is a problem because it will be all we think about and lusting for what someone else has is the essence of coveting and coveting leads to mutual destruction.
“You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask (God).” (James 4:2 – italics mine)
In a way, what we have becomes not enough. We begin to inventory what we have with one thought in mind: “I can use this to get that!” It reveals that we are not satisfied with what we have. This is a problem because what we do have has come from God.
“….although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:21)
The way flesh practices the barter system is that we use our strengths to get what we lack from other people. I may possess a strong ability to perform well and will use that to get admiration from people who want my attention as they lavish me with praises on my performance or appearance. This may provide both people with a sense of value. So, “what is wrong with that?”, you might ask. Several things, as we will see.
One problem with it is that it promotes a quality that is caustic to the human soul: pride. A person who is bartering always believes that he is coming out of the trade with more than he gave. We never barter down…..always up.
Even if I am willing to degrade myself in a human interaction to get, say, acceptance….I do it because I believe that the acceptance is more valuable than the dignity I have spent to get it. I count myself to be a slick trader. Whenever the barter system is used, pride is in operation. This is a problem because pride is a set up.
“Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverb 16:18)
We fixate on what the other person has and we want it. If we think another person can provide us security or a sense of purpose it will make that person take on a greater importance to us than he or she should. Since God is the only Person who is supposed to meet our needs (Philippians 4:19), if another human becomes our source….we are using that person as a God replacement – an idol.
On the other side of the equation, if we consider our cunning ability to get others to produce love, value, etc. on demand to be our source of life, we become idols, little gods, in our own lives. Either way, this is a problem because idols insulate us from God.
"Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them?” (Ezekiel 14:3)
God is telling Ezekiel here, “They like their idols and they cause themselves to stumble over their own sin. Why should I even listen to them?”
When we barter with other people for life, we literally take their life and use it to sustain ours. It is like cannibalism in the unseen realm. It is based on the idea that if we could gather together a pile of what we need: purpose, security, acceptance, etc. we would have life. The trouble with this is that it means we have to keep these things and every other human is trying to get them from us…..so he or she can live too. They are hungry too!
So, we are constantly fighting to live, constantly living under the sensation of impending death – the sensation of lack in our souls. This causes desperation and desperation causes us to do desperate things….to kill that we might live. This is a problem.
“But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:15-16)
Back in John 5:30 we saw how Jesus said that the people were busy being “human doings”because they thought that “doing” would give them gobs of life. In verse 40 He contrasts this idea with what seems to Him to be the better way to get life: “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”
According to Jesus, coming to Him was how we would get life. We have been freed from having to depend upon the barter system for life, from having to depend upon others and on ourselves to get from others the life we need.
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” ( 1 Corinthians 2:12)
What Jesus has done, basically, has been to flood the market with the one product that the entire barter system for getting life was based on. You see, in this barter system both the product and the medium of exchange are the same: life. This is why it will always fail. How can we ever really get enough of anything if we have to give some of it away to get enough of it? To get life in the barter system, we waste our lives.
Jesus has flooded the market with His life. He tells us how the barter system is really inspired by the devil and how He has dealt with that system:
"The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
How can you have this life? Simply trust Him. Next time you find yourself striving to get some thing, recognition, credit, etc. ask yourself if you are providing life to yourself or are you depending upon God to grace it to you. If you sense you are bartering for your life, repent. Stop doing that and cry out to Him. Ask God to show you where He has deposited the exact quantity of value or love that you need right now!
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10)
Pastor Mike McInerney
Mike McInerney Ministries, Inc.
© April 2000
(For use with permission)