"I Am Alive!"
From verse 15 through 21, we read about Paul’s message of justification by faith. Paul is speaking to Christians who have been taught a works based salvation. The problem is the law only brought death.
I Am Alive!
A. I want to please God. I want pleased with me. Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” The obvious meaning is the better I do at keeping the commands, the more he will love me. God tells me to “be holy as he is holy” and I understand that calling for holiness is connected to how well I keep the commands.
B. So I strive every day to watch myself. I want to do all that God has called me to do. I watch what I say, I am aware of how I feel, I judge me and see how I measure up, because I know that God judges me all the time.
C. I preach, not just because it’s a job where you pay me a salary, but because I believe God called me to preach. I want to make God happy with me, but I realize that I fail often. In those failures, I know that God hurts and His joy in me is turned to sorrow. Oh wretched man that I am, who can save me from this constant failure in keeping God’s commands? Paul understood me. In fact, I feel exactly like Paul. But I struggle with his answer (Rom. 7:21-25).
A. There is no doubt that God desires for me to show my love for Him by living a life worthy of being called His child. But I am never worthy enough. Somehow, that idea of being worthy makes me feel like I have to live up to the death of Jesus on the cross. There is no way I can ever be worthy of that type of love and sacrifice. Worthy is a difficult concept in this subject. The idea is not that I am worthy of what Jesus did, but I so value what he did that I seek to live in a way that upholds that gift, that values the gift. The difficulty lies in that too often I take it upon myself to be worthy and when I sin, it is because I don’t love God and that he doesn’t love me.
B. How does a sinful human stand before a holy God and find justification for his life? READ Gal. 2:15-16.
C. Justification is a legal term meaning “to declare one as righteous.” For Paul there is only two ways to be righteous before God (1) the perfection of my works of the Law or (2) I am justified by faith in Jesus, and it is Jesus who saves me, not me who saves me. Obviously Paul believes the second.
D. Let me be clear, we are saved by throwing ourselves onto the grace given by Jesus. Therefore my faith in him calls upon me to be in submission to him. It is a willing to live my life with Jesus as my Lord as well as my Savior. There is nothing I can do to force God save me. No amount of good deeds. Being immersed is not what saves me any more than a Jewish male being circumcised saved him. We are saved by blood of Jesus and that blood connects to us when we respond to God’s calling. If I could save myself by good deeds or by religious rituals I would not need Jesus. I am justified (made right with God) by faith that what Jesus did for me on the cross was enough. My faith calls me to respond to God’s love. Stay with me as we keep reading.
II. Rebuilding the Law
A. READ Gal. 2:17-19. Paul’s opponents appear to argue that “since faith eliminated the Law, Paul encourages sinful living. A person could simply believe and Jesus and then live however they want. All grace by faith alone.” The end result of that action is to call Jesus as a minister of sin.
B. Wow! That one ought to get your attention. Just because you see sin in me, and I state that through faith I am saved by the grace of Jesus, that doesn’t make Jesus a servant of sin. What it means is you see only rules as saving you and rules as condemning you. That mindset leaves Jesus out.
C. Paul is not about to rebuild a law based mentality. The fear that people have with grace is just what these people had with the idea that salvation came through Jesus alone. The fear is that I can feel “okay” when I live a sinful life because Jesus loves me. But that misses the point of Paul’s teaching of grace. Grace compels me to live as Jesus lived, not a license to do what sin desires. Grace brings life where the Law only brought eventual death.
III. I Am Alive!
A. READ Gal. 2:20-21. We saw in verse 19 that Paul’s view is he died to the Law so that he could live for God. With the Law no longer being what brought him justification, Paul turns to Jesus for how to live.
B. We quote and sing verse 20. For Paul it is his reason for living the way he lives. Paul died to Paul. Paul died to Judaism. Paul died to the Law. But Paul is very much alive and loves the freedom that comes by knowing the grace of God. Jesus showed him how to live so for Paul, he was crucified with Christ. That life was done. Those fleshly desires would no longer be his master. The life that he now lived is a life that is lived completely in faith that Jesus saves. It was no longer important who liked him and he didn’t need to impress anyone. Christ lived in him and he lived in Christ.
C. That is what it means to live. It is complete devotion to the one who loves you more than life itself. The one who paid the price for your sin. Life is about being in relationship not under rules.
A. I understand that that grace can sound like a slippery slope for a life of sin. We spend lots of time reminding each other of how to walk this Christian life. Paul is not, and I am not, throwing away commands. But there is a greater calling about how to live when you love someone than when you simply have to be approved all the time based upon your merits.
B. So yes, I sing verse 20. It is the reason I love to live a life that walks in righteousness. I pray you will see how much more alive it is to be in relationship with God through Jesus than it is to simply see if you are good enough to merit salvation. If we can encourage you, lift you up in prayer or be of some spiritual help, then come as we stand and sing.
Because of Jesus,
Jeffrey Dillinger, minister