Read: Romans 14:19-23
Have you ever asked a child to summarize the main content of their favorite movie? It’s actually so humorous. I’ve recently watched a few YouTube videos where kids were asked to give a synopsis of famous films. As I sat through several of these videos, I noticed that oftentimes, these children bogged themselves down in minuscule details rather than focusing their attention on the main content of the movie. In a six-year-old’s mind, the color of the princess’s dress usually took a higher place of importance than the relationship between the protagonist and antagonist in the film’s climax. Then I got to thinking, how often do we do the same thing with the gospel?
Too often, we, like the Pharisees, weigh ourselves down with extra stipulations. Although we are clean and free from the law in Christ, we put ourselves back into Old Testament times, attempting to make ourselves pure instead of focusing on the triumph Christ has had on the cross. Our “synopsis” of the gospel should center itself around Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Instead, we sometimes focus our attention on regimentally obeying our own personal convictions.
Friends, please hear me out. I’m not saying convictions are bad. The opposite is true actually. Our convictions are a gifting and prompting from the Holy Spirit. But we must be careful not to equate our own personal convictions with Scripture. Striving towards holy living, while honorable and right, was never meant to replace the gospel. Righteous living should instead flow out of an appreciation for the gospel message. We cannot be pure without the gospel.
When we give into legalism, with its unattainable obedience to and preoccupation with the law, we “destroy the work of God” in our lives (14:20). This “work of God” is the blood of Christ shed on the cross. His victory over death frees us from the impossible expectations of the law. Why do we try to undo what Christ has done by placing such high convictions and standards on ourselves that we must somehow conjure up in our own strength to obey? The gospel story should take first place in our hearts, and our convictions should flow secondarily from our preoccupation with Jesus.
As fellow believers, we must “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding,” as seen in Romans 14:19. In order to do this, we must have our priorities in place. In all things, the gospel should be first. We must, primarily, encourage one another, reminding each other of Christ’s work on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. Then, after we have preached this truth to ourselves and others, we should encourage the body, in light of the gospel, to follow through on convictions. And we know that in this, Christ is pleased.
Which is more important in your mind: following your convictions or resting in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross? How often do you strip back everything you’ve been dwelling on in order to return to the core of the gospel? Today, I encourage you to delight in the simplicity of the gospel and to find your strength in Christ’s victory.