“…yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor” (Galatians 2:16-18 ESV).
The concept of justification by faith is not naturally grasped. We want to earn our salvation; we strongly desire to feel as though we have done “what is required” to get to heaven; when we sin we want to earn our forgiveness with some sort of penance. It is easy for us to understand the religion of the Jews; there are clear boundaries that are not to be crossed, the law. And when the law is broken, there are sacrifices and offerings to get back in right relationship with God.
The problem with this system, from our perspective, is that it was designed to be impossible! No one could keep the whole law. Paul taught us that the law was put in place to reveal sin. “Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.’ But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead” (Romans 7:7-8 ESV).
We realized our need for a Savior because the weight of our sin was too great to bear. And by one way or another we found our way to Jesus and the salvation and justification by grace through faith. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8 ESV). When we received salvation by faith we tore down the impossible mountain of law. By faith the playing field was leveled, the crooked paths were made straight. The yoke of sin was removed from our shoulders was replaced with Jesus’ easy yoke (Matthew 11:29).
But it is not so easy to let go of the old way of thinking. We know intellectually that our salvation is the free gift of God, but in our hearts we find it difficult to accept. And so we find ourselves overly occupied with rules and commandments, despite having been set free from their grasp. This is called legalism, and it is deadly.
“If I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor”. It’s as if, having been set free from the law of sin and death and our prison destroyed, we return to that place and rebuild the walls around ourselves. This brings pain and suffering to us and calls God a liar.
Recognizing this in ourselves is the starting point on our way to healing. It takes living mindfully, and incorporating relevant scriptures into our daily routine, filling our minds and hearts with God’s truths about who we are in Him, to brick by brick tear down the walls that we have been rebuilding since we found salvation.
Pick two or three scriptures and memorize them. Recall them several times daily until those walls are once again razed. Here are a few to get you started:
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36 ESV).
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV).
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10 ESV).