In his letter to the believers in Galatia, Paul makes a very strong case against the persistent illusion that righteousness is possible by our works, by keeping the law. For even Paul, zealous though he was in pursuit of perfection by the law, found that the law only condemned him for his shortcomings. And so, when he found Christ, he gave up seeking perfection by the law, and began living for Christ.
“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 NLT
I believe that the key to everything is found in the last part of this verse–“The Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Certainly, my whole life changed when my idea of God changed– when I realized that He was not demanding an impossible perfection from me, but rather that He loved me, and had given Himself for me. I had tried for years to earn God’s favor, only to find that He already loved me enough to give His only Son for me, and that now Jesus and all who are in Him are forever in God’s favor.
The old struggle for righteousness by the law ended at the cross. The new life, Christ in me, began at the resurrection, and it begins in our individual experience when we believe in Him. There comes a moment when we are arrested by His love, when we see Jesus on the cross taking our place, paying in full the penalty for our sin, bringing to an end our tainted struggle to earn the favor of God. We accept His offer of a completely new life, directed by His Spirit, forever in God’s favor. From that moment on, our lives are never the same again.