I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. Galatians 2:20-21 (ESV)
Much of scripture is worded bluntly, and it can sometimes be hard to swallow. Take, for instance, Paul's description of the believers' identification with Jesus and his crucifixion. Using descriptive and clear terminology, he makes the point that it is only because of Jesus' work on the cross that we can be Christlike. Paul also reminds us that Christ's death was costly and necessary because of the sin of mankind. The moment we think we can do anything to earn salvation, we are reminded that this mentality cheapens Christ's substitutionary, sacrificial death.
This level of clarity might sting a bit, but Paul knew only too well the law-driven people to whom he was speaking. It's interesting to note that 2000 years later, we still struggle with a tendency to base our salvation in good works.Thankfully, Paul's strongly-worded admonitions are good news. Because of Jesus, we don't have to strive anymore.