The Apostle Paul had agonized his entire life to keep every facet of the law so that ultimately he might win God's favor and God would invite him to spend eternity in heaven. His fears were that perhaps, when he came to the end of life, he had not totally satisfied God. His point of view was that a relationship with God is completely dependant on keeping the law (being good). That perspective is not different from the current phrase, "I hope I make it; I have been pretty good." "I'm sure the good will outweigh the bad."
When Paul came into direct contact with the risen Christ on the Damascus Road, he had a complete change in the way he viewed both the Cross and the Christ who was hanged on the cross. He realized that observance of the Law (doing good things) is futile when seen as a means of attaining God's favor. Bottom line - a life time of attempting to gain merit with God by doing good works had been wasted!
When confronted with the Resurrected Christ, he had no choice but to confess himself a sinner (just like any Gentile.) What a death blow to his pride as a prominent Pharisee.
Believing in Jesus as the Messiah of God, we acknowledge that the judgment of God against sin is just and we deserve the wrath of God for all that we are and do. We deserve to be on the cross accepting all of God's wrath on sin. However, to be crucified with Christ means that Jesus takes our place when He receives the wrath of God; we are living an exchanged life.
That belief, while it devastates our pride, brings new freedom and joy. A brand new life that is focused on the grace and mercy of Christ replaces the life that was consumed with trying to please God as a means of attaining heaven.
This new exchanged life is lived not mystically but personally - Paul says, "I live." How do I live? "I live by faith in the Son of God."
Do I live by my "faith" or by the "faithfulness of the Son of God?" While the Greek with its context can be translated both ways - "faith" and "faithfulness."
I wonder: do you live your life now by striving to be good? by your faith in God? by your faith in the faithfulness of God? or by the faithfulness of God?
- Is it my faith in God that keeps me devoted to Christ on a daily basis?
- Is it my faith in God's faithfulness that sustains my life in Christ? Faith in His faithfulness to His promises and in His intercession for me?
- Is it His faithfulness alone that keeps me in harmonious relationship with Him daily? His faithfulness to advocate for me before the Father? His faithfulness to send the Holy Spirit? His faithfulness in forgiving me as I confess my sins daily?
Paul says that the "life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God." How are you living your life? By your faith? By your faith in His faithfulness, or by His faithfulness?
Whichever way you see it, the life of faith sure beats the life of striving to be good, hoping all the time that my goodness is sufficient for a heavenly eternity and then discovering in the end that the life of aspiration is simply futility.
Walking by faith daily, along with you ~ Bob