Galatians 2: 19-21 (MSG) “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. 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.”
Do you believe you can buy your way into heaven by being good enough, being upright and moral, performing random acts of kindness, or by obeying the law perfectly? Paul clearly indicates this way of thinking would make Christ’s death on the cross unnecessary.
Christ’s death is so much more than that. Since the fall of man in the garden of Eden, man has had to “pay” a penalty for his disobedience (his sin.) Adam and Eve had to give up the Garden of Eden and the tree of life. Today, if someone commits a crime, justice requires a payment for that crime (a fine, jail time, loss of privilege, etc.) The same was true with the Israelites. Before they could approach God, they had to pay for or “atone” for their sin. Their penalty (sacrifice) cost them something, something they had worked for or something they had grown on their own farm.
Once a year on the Day of Atonement, the Israelites would go to the Tent of Meeting and offer sacrifices (bulls, goats, doves, grain) for their sin. Blood of a perfect animal had to be shed so the person presenting their sacrifice could be cleanses from sin and have fellowship with God. Have you ever thought about this? How can the sacrifice of an animal make things right with God? Is the blood of an animal enough to pay for everything we’ve done?
Romans 6:23 (MSG) says that sin brings death. “Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.” The other part of that verse says that God has given us the gift of eternal life, through His son Jesus Christ. God loves us so much, that He sent his son to pay the penalty for us once and for all (John 3:16). After Christ’s death on Calvary it was no longer necessary to go to the Temple and offer sacrifices for sin. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice and its only through his shed blood that we can be free from sin’s death grip so we can live with Him eternally. No longer do we have to keep each rule perfectly. There is no way we could do that anyway. God poured out his grace through Christ’s death on the cross and it is sufficient for all of us. When we accept him as our savior, Christ takes up residence and lives in each one of us. It is only by His grace that the sins of our lives are forgiven and erased… not how many people we’ve helped or how moral a life we’ve lived.
But wait just a minute…its important to consider a question. After giving our lives to Christ, did we surrender EVERYTHING to him? Think about that question for just a minute.
What does that really mean? A quick look at my thesaurus tells me other words for EVERYTHING include: every part of; the entire; the complete; the whole.
If there are things in our lives that we are trying to control, we need to LET GO and surrender them to Christ. When we become Christ followers, we can no longer call the shots in our own life. We belong to Christ.
By giving control of my life to the God of the universe – I have to realize that He knows what’s best. After all, He is God. He spoke the entire universe into existence. I think I should be able to trust Him with the details of my life… don’t you? His word assures me He has a plan for my life and it’s perfect (Jeremiah 29:11).
So, what about you? Are you just following rules trying to get into God’s perfect heaven, or are you allowing the ever cleansing stream of God’s grace and mercy to prepare you for entry?
Related scripture: Romans 3:19-24; Ephesians 1:3-14