Thursday, April 9, 2009

Book review: Living the Cross-Centered Life

How often do you think about and really dwell upon the cross? Once a week? Perhaps monthly at the communion table? Or once a year, on Good Friday?

C. J. Mahaney, in his book Living the Cross Centered Life, shows us that the cross should remain at the very center of our lives:

In the mist 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...

This, Paul says, is the main thing. Nothing else - not even things that are biblical and honorable - are of equal or greater importance than this: God sent His Son to the cross to bear His wrath for sinners like you and me.

If there's anything in life we should be passionate about, it's the gospel...That's why our attention must continually be drawn back to what John Stott calls "the great and most glorious of all subjects - the cross of Christ." (pp. 14-15)
To use a building metaphor, the cross is not merely the foundation of our faith. It is also in the walls, the ceiling, the floor, and the furnishings. It is all-pervasive.

Do you consider the cross to be "the great and most glorious of all subjects"? Do your thoughts and affections confirm this? I must confess that too often, mine do not. Hours and days go by when the cross has become stale, unappreciated, or overshadowed by more exciting topics or more pressing concerns. And that is why Mahaney's book is so desperately needed.

After stressing the importance of the cross (Intro - ch. 2), Mahaney explains its meaning (chs. 3-5), revisits its most poignant scenes (chs. 6-8), and shows how it is incredibly practical for us today. He teaches that only the cross can give meaning and hope to our suffering (ch. 9), offer assurance and joy (ch. 10), freedom from the law (ch. 11), and a clean conscience (ch. 12). The book closes with some practical suggestions on how to cultivate a more cross-centered mindset (ch. 13) and a final plea to keep the gospel the main thing (ch. 14).

Those who have seen or heard C. J. Mahaney know this is not mere theoretical information. It is intensely practical, fiery truth that has been impressed upon his own heart. I believe the same could be said of Mahaney that was once said of the Apostle Paul: that he has "determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2). And for that reason, I believe Mahaney is uniquely qualified to write this book.

Living the Cross-Centered Life has helped me see all of Scripture, and interpret all of life, through the lens of the gospel. On this day and every day, may we never leave the foot of the cross.

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