17-18Have 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.
(Galations 2:17-18 The Message)
There is a Christian dilemma (let me call it a mis-belief) that we often hear people speak about whenever they are struggling with sin in their lives - it is that they "think" they are supposed to be perfect just because they gave their lives to Jesus! If I am about to burst anyone's bubble here, let me apologize in advance, but we are NOT perfect! We are NOT perfectly virtuous - we STILL sin!
Paul knew that this would be a huge "bug-a-boo" in the church, so he addresses it in his letter to the Galation church. His concern was that the recently formed church in Galatia was being "duped" into believing that they had to keep the rules of the Old Testament Mosaic Law in order to be "truly saved". He had just left there with the church growing and free in their new belief in Christ as their Lord and Savior. Those that opposed Paul, mostly Jewish leaders of the day, were coming behind him to dispute his teaching that the Law was fulfilled in Christ and therefore, no longer needed.
The fact is that the Jewish leaders pointed out that Christians still sin - so, they used that as a basis for accusing the believers of needing "something more" than Christ alone. Paul makes it very clear to us that when we return to a system of works - trying to make ourselves righteous in our living instead of allowing Christ's Spirit to do that work within us - we are simply trying to "build old barns" again. We tore down the old, rickety barn of "trying to make ourselves righteous" when we said "yes" to Christ's offer for freedom in him. Why on earth would we go back to the rubble of "works" and try to erect that "structure" again?
Here's what he says to that idea:
19-21What 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. 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. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.
The secret is found in those four words: Christ lives in me! Nothing more - nothing less.
We struggle with our concept of being "righteous" - that is what Paul is referring to here. We have a "mindset" about what "righteousness" looks like - how a righteous man speaks, what he engages in, and who he relates to. Yes, scripture is pretty clear that these things matter, but they are not something we can be successful in without the presence of Christ in our lives.
So, the crux of the matter is this: Don't go back into bondage to rule-keeping when you have entered into the freedom of God's grace! We don't build new barns by using the old, musty and splintered materials! New barns really require new materials - that is what the Holy Spirit provides - the new materials that will help us to live out our new life in Christ.