Paul writes to the churches in Galatia.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.
Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.
You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. – Galatians 5: 1-6 (NIV)
I hope that the reading of these words comes as a load off the shoulders of any of you works-based brothers and sisters out there. And for those believers that hold fast to grace, may your hearts erupt with praise for the truth that you already stand on. Here’s the good news, brothers and sisters, the incredibly good news – Christ has set you free! Free from trying to be justified before God based on your own goodness. Free from trying to meet a standard you will never, ever be able to live up to. And free to live the rest of your life, not focused on trying to justify yourself before God, but instead live out your faith, expressing itself through love (more on this later).
Don’t miss the truth here, we’re not talking about a hall pass to dive deep into a life of sin and “live it up!!” because you think what you do doesn’t matter to God — not at all. As Paul walks us through in Romans 7:7-26 this is an acknowledgement that the law could not save us, it could only expose our need for a Savior.
The law is not bad, but we were unable to meet its righteous standards. Jesus stepped in and made the great exchange:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)
So what does life look like when we know this – that we are free from trying to be good enough to save ourselves? As a former works-based Christian, this can sort of be dizzying to come into the light of this truth. When the reason why you have been trying so hard, is revealed to be far off the mark, it’s a bit disorientating at first. So…if i’m not trying to be good so that I can be justified before God…what am I doing?
Paul answers that so clearly for us: the only thing that matters is faith expressing itself through love. Our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior saves us, that’s it – that’s the justifying mechanism, we believe (Romans 10:10). Period. And now, out of the abundance of the love in our hearts for the Rescuer of our souls…this Redeemer who has poured out His life for us (Isaiah 53:12), brought us into a rich and glorious inheritance (Ephesians 1:18-23), and promised us life now and forever more (John 10:10, John 17:2)…we turn back our lives, in love, toward Him.
My faith in the finished work of the cross and the glorious majesty of my King overflows out of me in love toward Him. Love that motivates me to live for Him. Love that changes me.
All of a sudden religion becomes relationship, and rules and rigid structure gives way to the life-giving flow of knowing and being known by your Maker. It is an extraordinary and intimate thing to truly be in relationship with God. Life lived for God not achieved by the pursuit of self-justification but just by radically loving Him. Our faith in who He is, expressed in our great love for Him – it changes us. No scorecards or perfect people, but deep and abounding relationship with the one that knows us deeper than we ever dared dream that we could be known (Psalm 139).