This week I have been reflecting on Galatians 2:20. In the ESV it reads “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
The author of Galatians is Paul and a narrative of his conversion to Christianity is found in Acts 9. Paul, prior to encountering Jesus, helped to kill Christians. Paul persecuted Christians in the name of religion. He was a Pharisee, a religious leader whose job was to strictly observe and enforce religious law. Paul wanted to do his “job” well. Devastatingly, in his effort to follow the law he had a hand in the murder and persecution of some of the first Christ-followers. He had made a name for himself. Sadly, that was his purpose. Paul was driven to impress others, including God.
After his encounter with Jesus on the road to a town called Damascus, Paul’s purpose in life completely changed. He would now spend his life preaching the gospel and helping others come to know Jesus. His life before Christ was full of selfish ambition and pride, attempting to impress God and others. Prior to his conversion he had been motivated by his love of the law, rather than his love of God. After he met Jesus he strived to be like Christ and share the good news of His love. Paul’s life no longer served a selfish purpose that would bring glory to his own name, but it served a purpose to bring glory to Jesus’ name.
As we grow in our faith we are being asked by God to put our desires aside. Sometimes in our life we desire to do good things, but deep down they serve the wrong purpose. For example, we may bake a loaf of bread for a family in need, but if our motivation is to make them like us more or think of us highly, we have it all wrong. Or, I might even be trying to be a “good person” always saying the right thing, volunteering in the right places, and listening to the right music. But, if I am doing all those things in order to “look good” to the world and be known for being “good,” then I have it all wrong. The point of living should not be to bring glory to ourselves, but to God.
This is hard. It’s is why I am encouraged by the part of this verse that reminds me that Christ lives within me. I can give up on my own self-driven goals and motivations, and turn to Christ to empower me to complete His goals and purposes through me. God does not expect me to please Him; he wants to use me for his purpose. He desires to fulfill His plan by using my gifts and life circumstances to bring glory to His name.
“The Message”, a paraphrase of Scripture, gave a powerful wake up call to me. If you can, read it aloud to yourself.
“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.”
Have you ever sat still and thought about what is really motivating you? Leave a comment and let us know!