GALATIANS 2:17-21: “But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law. Would that mean Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not! Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” NLT
OBSERVATION: Do I live my life with a clear understanding of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross? This is the question Paul is asking the Galatian church in these verses from his epistle. We have a choice each day as we take our first step.
Will I live in the power of the cross or will I slip back to my old ways?
There is something in our human nature that gravitates toward legalism. We have been set free from following the law as a means to achieve a right standing with God. Yet, once free we begin to rebuild new systems for our life that become a new source of self-righteousness and bondage all over again. Why do we do this?
We live in two distinct worlds. The first is our life in the flesh. Everything in this life is geared to what we can sense and control by our own human effort. The second is our life in the spirit. This is our life in Christ. It is in opposition to our life in the flesh. It does not rely on the natural. It finds its life and purpose in those things freely given to us through the Spirit of God.
- “When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.” 1 Corinthians 2:13-14 NLT
I think we grow insecure in our life in the spirit. To walk in the spirit is to put our full trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. We must lay down our human wisdom and self-effort. In essence – we must relinquish control. There can only be one Lord in our life. It will either be Jesus or it will be us. And, this is where the enemy comes to deceive us. He tries to convince us we can have Jesus and – (fill in the blank).
As believers, we do not want to say Jesus plus sin. However, our old sinful nature wants to participate. We want to have some sense of control and input into our life of faith. So, we do not entertain sin. We begin to build religious systems that have an appearance of holiness and give us a sense of control. When we do this we are setting ourselves up for a fall. Paul writes,
- “Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God.”
Trying to live for God through rules and regulations only condemned us. The law was holy, but we were sinful. Whenever we establish rules as a measure of righteousness we set ourselves up for a fall. Our faith will be directed away from Christ and we will find ourselves in the same broken condition from which we were redeemed. We can never live a life that pleases God in the wisdom and power of our human effort!
So what is the answer?
- “So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless.”
There is only one answer that brings freedom to our lives. That answer is the Cross! Just as Jesus died for our sins, so we must die to trying to please God by living in the power of our human wisdom and self-effort. We must realize that when Jesus died – we died. The greatest day of my life was when I looked upon the cross of Jesus Christ and saw my old nature crucified with Christ!
To be crucified with Jesus Christ does not mean that we do not have to exert any human effort in our life. It simply means that we live our lives differently. We refuse to become entangled in a life of rules and regulations. We begin to live each moment, each day, by putting our trust in Jesus Christ. We depend completely upon Him, draw upon His grace, and walk after the leading of the Holy Spirit. We live out our life of faith in love. Love, the love of Christ, becomes our highest call.
To live a life that is free from all forms of legalism is not easy. We all have personal preferences that can easily become standards that we envoke as evidence of righteousness. They usually revolve around things that we do not do. This is the tale-tell sign of living under the law. Love does not focus on what we do not do. Love focuses on what we do! Grace always calls us to the cross and the cross always calls us to love. Love, Jesus’ love, working through our lives, is the evidence that we are walking in the spirit and not by rules and regulations.
Finally, we need to be reminded of what we are doing each time we begin to reconstruct those things that should remain nailed to the cross.
- “For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.”
Each rule that we judge others by, each regulation that we think makes us holy, is actually saying – “…there was no need for Christ to die.” This is a sobering thought. It centers me. It calls me to the cross. And, it brings me to my knees.
Lord, forgive me for rebuilding the things that have been torn down so that I might live in the freedom of Your love. Grant me the grace today to see myself crucified with Christ. Empower me by Your Spirit so that I can live my life by faith alone in the completed work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Let my life be a testimony of the truth that,
- “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”
In Jesus Name!