“I have an iron will,” said Madonna in a 1991 interview, “and all of my will has always been to conquer some horrible feeling of inadequacy…I push past one spell of it and discover myself as a special human being and then I get to another stage and think I’m mediocre and uninteresting. And I find a way to get myself out of that. Again and again. My drive-in life is from this horrible fear of being mediocre. And that’s always pushing me. Because even though I’ve become Somebody. I still have to prove that Somebody. My struggle has never ended and it probably never will.”
Madonna and many others have a deep-seated need to achieve in order to find meaning, fulfillment, and hope in this life. This need can become a means of self-salvation.
Some Christians in Galatia were giving into a self-salvation mentality. The Apostle Paul contrasted two groups: those who rely on law obedience for salvation and those who accepted the salvation secured for us by Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:10-14). Those who rely on their own performance – religious, moral, or achievement-driven – are under a curse, said Paul. In terms of the Law given to Moses, they are under a curse because no one has been found who is able to do all of them all the time. This is the theological dimension of the curse. There is also a psychological dimension. This is the dimension that Madonna confessed. This is the curse that those who place their ultimate hope in achievement, wealth, relationships, ideologies, nationalism, or any other human-manufactured means of salvation will experience at some point.
We incurred this curse upon ourselves and are unable to deliver ourselves from it. Thanks be to God that “Christ liberated us from the curse of the law, by becoming a curse for us (Galatians 3:13).” Martin Luther said our merciful Father said this of his Son: “You are now Peter, the liar; Paul, the persecutor; David, the adulterer; Adam, the disobedient; the thief on the cross. You, My Son, must pay the world’s iniquity.” All the sin and self-serving ambitions of the world were piled onto the everlasting righteous Son, so that his righteousness would conquer the curse and grant us salvation.
Faith is our response to this gift. You do not need to try to muster the resources within yourself to obtain your salvation. Rather, trust in God and his provision of Christ. Will you accept this gift? Or will you keep trying to save yourself?
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