Have some of you noticed that we are not yet perfect? (No great surprise, right?) And are you ready to make the accusation that since people like me, who go through Christ in order to get things right with God, aren’t perfectly virtuous, Christ must therefore be an accessory to sin? The accusation is frivolous. If I was “trying to be good,” I would be rebuilding the same old barn that I tore down. I would be acting as a charlatan.Galatians 2:17-18, The Message
The apostle Paul was a focused, disciplined, fanatic–he wanted to live the Gospel, to spread the Good News throughout the world. That was Paul’s reason for living. And no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t keep all the rules. Want to hear how he came to terms with his inability to be God’s perfect man on his own?
What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not ‘mine,’ but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.Galatians 2:19-20, The Message
When Paul discovered that he couldn’t do it, that it was impossible for him to lead a perfect life, to obey all the rules all the time, he surrendered. “I give up, God. It’s not about me and how hard I try–it’s about You and Your grace.” He cut out his ego, and sacrificed it to God. That gave Him freedom to live in faith, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This truth that David knew, Paul also claimed for himself.
Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace.Galatians 2:21, The Message
When David was confronted with his sin, he owned it, begged for forgiveness, and then asked God for amazing things anyway. Paul also discovered the freedom of living for God in this way.
Because of God’s grace, you can do the same thing. When God looks at you, if you have claimed Jesus as your Savior and Redeemer, he sees your perfect eternal identity, the you that He created you to be. Your sins—past, present, and future—are paid for.
Your quest on earth is to live in that eternal identity, no matter what sin and the devil do to sweep you off your feet. Live by faith. Live in God’s love. Live in relationship with him. And know your eternal identity right here, right now.
How does all this apply to our lives? Let’s explore:
- Can we live any way we want to live? I mean, if God is going to forgive us anyway, what does it matter? We just need to say we’re sorry, and everything’s okay. Where’s the incentive to moral living?
- “It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?” (Galatians 5:13-15, The Message)
- The Western culture today emphasizes individual freedom. Does our passion for individual rights fit into the verses above? If not, why not? If so, why?
- Is what we in the United States call freedom defined the same way as the freedom God designed for us? What do these verses say?
- “But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” (Ephesians 4:20-24, The Message)
- If you are a Christian, is Paul’s assumption accurate in your life?
- Is it possible to plead ignorance once you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior? When do you graduate from milk, to baby food, to grown-up fare? (Read 1 Peter 2:2.) What would this look like?
- Will there be a time when we can say we’ve made it? “We are there; now we can coast until Jesus returns or we die and go to heaven.”
Lead me, guide me along the way, for if you leave me I will stray. Oh, Lord, let me walk each day with you. Lead me my whole life through. Amen.
Picture by Amy Vogelzang on Unsplash.