We who are Jews by birth and not “Gentile sinners” know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ. And we have believed in Christ Jesus so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no human being will be justified. For through the law I have died to the law, so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. Galatians 2:15-20
“Do you know for certain that if you died tonight you’d go to Heaven?” This is the question Evangelism Explosion uses to open a presentation of the gospel. It’s pretty hard hitting, but sometimes, when the time is right and the conversation fertile, I use it. Most often, I get a response similar to this:
“Well… I hope so. I mean, I want to. I’ve tried really hard to be good.”
Salvation by works. It’s not just Americans who fall prey to this deception. The types of works may vary by culture. Americans volunteer at soup kitchens and try not to speed. Some West Africans try to do the right animal sacrifices. Ancient Jewish people? They measured the number of steps they took on the Sabbath. But the sentiment is the same: Maybe God will accept me if I’ve done enough good deeds.
Paul tells us here that we’ve got to nail that mindset to the cross. It’s humbling to realize I can never please God. But when I admit that my best efforts fall short, when I accept that the only hope I have is His sacrifice for me, then I’ve crucified myself and my pride.
Crucifixion is execution. I’m dead, but Christ lives in me. What does that mean?
Christ in [me]—the hope of glory. Words penned by the same man—a man who understood what it was like to forever be working, trying to establish a wisp of a hope for God’s acceptance. To the Philippians, Paul listed his ‘good works’ resume. A Hebrew of the Hebrews, a coveted Pharisee, marked by his zeal, flawless in his version of the law . . .
And after his encounter with Christ, Paul considered it worthless. Because he’d been crucified with Christ. No longer was he Paul, the man working for the approving smile of God. He’d been raised with Jesus, a new creation. Holy, accepted and pure.
In Philippians, Paul bursts into this statement of purpose: I want to know Christ—yes to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him . . .
Christ lives in me. Sitting here, pondering life—feeling like mine is forever on pause—I’m soaking in these words. As I continue reading, I’m realizing that once again my gaze has fallen from God to myself. From heaven to the ground. From hope to frustration.
Christ in me, the hope of glory. Lift your eyes and see. Open your ears and hear. Truth shines in Him, and He is in me. Life eternal—life right now. I am crucified with Christ, and now I truly live.
 Colossians 1:27
 Philippians 3:5
 Philippians 3:10