Picture yourself at a potluck with some religious people who are all competing to be impressive Christians and you start thinking, “I better start acting like an impressive Christian too.”
By impressive Christian you mean better than normal, whatever your normal is. You say to yourself, “Okay now, careful. Watch closely here. Try not to mess up. And whatever you do, don’t just be yourself. This is what it’s all about, impressing these people with your ability to manage your sin. At least in public.”
Basically, you start acting religious, trying to be an impressive Christian on the outside. You know, like those “stellar” religious people.
Now picture the Apostle Paul walking in and taking a seat next to you. He looks you in the eye and says…what?
What would he say to you if he caught you acting religious?
You may protest, “How could you possibly know what Paul would say to me if he caught me getting all religious on him?”
I know exactly what he would say, because he said it to Peter when he caught him acting religious in the church plant at Antioch to impress some of his friends visiting from the home church in Jerusalem.
The Apostle Paul would get in your face and say, “What are you doing trying to be an impressive on the outside? That’s religious gibberish! There’s a better way.”
Paul chose that particular confrontation of Peter to introduce the theme verse of his grace-in-your-face book, Galatians:
“Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law” (Galatians 2:16).
It’s the central truth of Christianity, the gospel of Christ. We are justified by faith in Christ because Christ was faithful. But when anyone who knows the gospel starts trying to be impressive to others Christian—whether it’s you, me, or the Apostle Peter—it’s not just that we’ve got the gospel wrong, we’ve got life wrong.
Because the only way to live the Christian life is by applying the same grace we received when we believed in Jesus to our everyday life.
“I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life that I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:20-21)