Book discussion: Living the Cross Centered Life, introduction and chapter 1
Note: I offer this book discussion with respect to those who may have a different opinion than I do, either of its contents and/or of its author. My wish solely is to use this material to talk about what God is doing in my life and what He may do in yours, and I hope this discussion is edifying to you.
A while back, I bought a small book titled Living the Cross Centered Life, written by C.J. Mahaney, the head of Sovereign Grace Ministries. My reading of the book stalled out, and I laid it aside to be put in my nebulous, undefined “someday to be read” list 🙂
Recently I was asked to pick up The Cross Centered Life by Mahaney – one of the predecessors of this book. My book reading partner found out I had this book, and we agreed to pick up this book and gradually work through it, using its contents as talking points on what God was saying to us and doing in our lives.
I’d like to share a couple of those points today, one each from the introduction and chapter 1.
Before that, though, here’s an excerpt from the back cover, which tells what Mahaney aims to do here:
Do you desire more passion for Jesus Christ? Return to the very essence of your faith–the cross of Christ. Here, the deepest truths of Calvary will stir your passion for Him into an unquenchable fire.
“Never lay it aside. Never move on,” says C.J. Mahaney, who shows you how to center every day around the life-giving reality of the gospel and how to escape the pitfalls of legalism, condemnation, and feelings-driven faith.
Mahaney is pointing towards the cross – which leads me to the first thing that impressed me from this book.
In his introduction, having just referenced 1 Corinthians 15:1 and 3, Mahaney points out on page 14 what he calls the “one transcendental truth that should define our lives”: the gospel.
In the midst of our various responsibilities and many possible areas of service in the kingdom of God, one overarching truth should motivate all our work and affect every part of who we are: Christ died for our sins. (14)
Mahaney points out that nothing else is of greater significance: that God sent His Son to the cross to bear His wrath for sinners like you and me. (14-15)
Amazingly, in all my years in and around the Christian subculture I never heard that truth articulated outside of the ubiquitious altar call, or unless the sermon served as one giant leadup to the altar call.
While discussing this point, it hit me: the main point is that Christ died for my sin.
He died to bear the wrath I deserve for my sin. He died to give me new life, to make me right with God, to redeem me for His purposes.
In a world full of “gospel” music, gospel preaching, gospel tracts, gospel churches, where gospel can almost become a brand-name unto itself…it’s a good thing to remember just what the gospel represents: the good news that Jesus died to save me from my sins, to bear God’s wrath upon me, to reconcile sinners like me to Himself and to give me not just eternal life, but a new life going forward.
On page 16, Mahaney sets the agenda for the rest of the book by briefly mentioning the three tendencies he says draw us away from that good news: subjectivism, legalism, and condemnation. The latter hit home with me in a point Mahaney made in chapter 1, on pages 27 and 28.
Mahaney talked about driving by places in Washington, D.C., where he grew up and, well, did drugs. Today, he says, he goes by those places, the memories “flood in” and he’s reminded of what he did.
He says his eyes “often..fill with tears at the memories” but “in the same instant, my heart fill be filled with an unspeakable, holy joy. By the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, I’ve been forgiven of the countless sins I’ve committed.” (28)
I made the point to my book-reading partner that I don’t tear up and I don’t feel that unspeakable, holy joy of what Jesus did for me. When I see places and things that remind me of my sin, I’m not seeing Jesus. I see my sin, and feel the self-condemnation that goes along with it:
- You’re not good enough
- You screwed up
- You messed up a great opportunity
- You hurt yourself
- You hurt someone else
- You made Jesus look bad
- You hypocrite
and on and on it goes.
I said that I needed to allow those places to remind me of Jesus, by focusing in on the good news:
Yeah, I messed up, and yeah, I sinned, but Jesus died for those sins and mistakes. He died knowing I would make those mistakes, and sin intentionally, and He still loves me anyway. He still chose me even before I was born, knowing I would do what I did, and choosing to use me anyway despite my flaws.
I need to allow those things to remind me of God’s goodness and mercy.
Mahaney says he could move from D.C. and those reminders, but he considers living there a “gift from God” and those reminders are precious to him, because he never wants to forget the great mercy shown him by God. (28)
Mahaney uses 2 Timothy as his springboard for the beginning and ending of chapter 1 and for its main point.
Paul, knowing he probably will die soon, writes to Timothy and reinforces the one point that is most important: Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The one point we all need to keep before us as we live in this sometimes harsh, cruel and crazy world:
Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book myself, and my opinions are my own and not those of the author nor the publisher. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”