I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace.
You were running superbly! Who cut in on you, deflecting you from the true course of obedience?
This detour doesn't come from the One who called you into the race in the first place.
And please don't toss this off as insignificant. It only takes a minute amount of yeast, you know, to permeate an entire loaf of bread.
Galatians 5: 4, 7-9 The Message
By now, many of you have probably seen some of the skiers and snowboarders racing down the courses at the Beijing Winter Olympic Games. Since the athletes are always going full bore, as fast as possible, the smallest mistake can cost them. One slight turn in the wrong direction, and the whole run doesn’t count. Sometimes, this small mistake may be the end of an athlete’s competition in the event.
In this passage, Paul compares the Christian life to running a race. We must stay focused on the event and not get sidetracked or drawn away from our goal. We all have the potential to take an unintentional detour, rather than ending up at the finish line.
What causes more detours than anything else? When we attempt to live by our own plans, our own “rules”, and our own merits (good works). The moment we buy into that belief, is the moment we “fall out of grace,” in Eugene Petersen’s terminology (Galatians 5:4).
The specific disagreement in the Galatian church which Paul addressed had to do with circumcision, and whether it was necessary in order to be saved. Paul correctly pointed out that if the good work of circumcision was necessary for our salvation, then logically through the act itself, we would be saving ourselves. Christ’s life, death, and resurrection would not be necessary! When we trust ourselves more than Christ, we begin heading off course. Eventually, we will find ourselves on a detour to pride, sin and self-righteousness.
There are those who believe that their salvation can be achieved based upon their own good behavior. They believe that they have guaranteed themselves a place in heaven based upon their earthly “works''. The truth is that only Christ can lead us to the finish line. Everything else just gets us off track. Our goal is to follow Christ, and His saving grace, forgiveness, and love.
Lord of all,
Be with me, each moment of every day, as I walk with You on the path you have chosen for me. Help me to stay focused, so that I am not drawn off course by those who want me to lead a more worldly life. Remind me that no one comes to You except through Your son. Forgive me when I stray. Keep me on the narrow path, following Your son, my Savior Jesus Christ, who is the pioneer and perfecter of my faith. I pray this prayer in His holy name. Amen.