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.One thing that intrigues me about these words of Paul is that they're the testimony of a man who had previously lived his entire life as a Jew - as a "strict and devout adherent to God's law" (see Phil 3:5, MESSAGE) - and was now making a great big deal about how he had come to know Jesus through dying to the law. It was a completely different life that he was now living. In his former life he had been a "law man," but he had discovered that in order to truly be "God's man" he had to put an end to that! He put a huge spotlight on this in his letter to the Philippians, highlighting his rather impressive credentials as that former law man, and then turned around and said that the only way for him to be found in Christ and Christ alone was for him to count all of it as rubbish and dung! (see Phil 3:4-10)
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. (Gal 2:19-21, The Message)
And yet in a very bewitching way, even with Paul's extensive explanations of the gospel of life in Christ apart from the law, all of the above is largely ignored in a good portion of the church today. I can see how the whole idea of life apart from the law might be resisted by Jewish believers who have lived under the law all their lives, as was the case of many in Paul's day. It's all they've known when it comes to relating to God, and it may take time and some "convincing" from the Holy Spirit before they embrace the pure gospel of grace and realize they need to count their "rule-keeping, peer-pleasing" ways as dung.
But what's the deal with this mentality also being prevalent among Gentile believers? The law was never "theirs" in the first place, but now after believing in Christ it suddenly becomes theirs? Again, have they been oblivious to what Paul said? If Paul, a Jew who had formerly been under the law all his life, had to count his law-keeping as dung - and not only that but to go so far as to die to the law - in order to be found in Christ, then why would Gentile believers put themselves under the law now that they've believed in Christ?
This is a major problem in the church today. Gentile believers, who had never previously been under the law, are leading other Gentile believers in the way of the law! It's one thing when Jewish Judaizers try to put Christians under the law, but aren't Gentile Judaizers even more bewitching?