"One of the most sinned-against biblical principles is that of the grace of God in the gospel as the pattern, motive and power for Christian living. Let us take the example of Jesus. The Christian church has always acknowledged the role of the imitation of Christ as a valid principle in Christian living. After all, if we cannot see Jesus as an example of the godly life, who can we see in this role? Yet the church has recognized, when it has sought to understand things in the light of the Bible, that Jesus did not come primarily to set an example. Following Jesus was not, for the disciples, solely a matter of trying to be like him in his perfect humanity. It was first of all a matter of believing in him as the unique fulfiller of the Old Testament prophecies of the Christ, the Savior who was to come to do for them what they were powerless to do for themselves. To keep the biblical perspective we need to see that imitation of Jesus is secondary to and the derivative of the acceptance of his unique role in doing things that can never be merely imitated. The Christian disciple imitates elements of Jesus' life and ministry such as serving one another and eve laying down one's life for others. But such serving can never achieve what Jesus' serving achieved in the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of all who believe.
"At root, the task of Christian living stems from the grace of God's actions for us in Christ. The tragedy of the church in the medieval period was that this relationship between God's grace and our works was radically altered through a redefinition of grace. How people lived the Christian life was seen as the grounds of their acceptance with God. In theological language, sanctification (personal holiness) became the grounds for justification (right standing with God); how holy we are was regarded as the basis of our acceptance by God. The sixteenth century Reformers saw the problem in this and proceeded to put the gospel right side up by stressing the centrality of the substitutionary work of Christ for us. The work that Christ did for us is primary, and it is the only basis or grounds for the work that Christ does in us by his Spirit."
- from Prayer and the Knowledge of God by Graeme Goldsworthy