Once in a great while a book is written that becomes an immediate classic. Living the Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney is one such book. For a fairly recent release, I know an enormous number of people who have read it, and many have told me of the immense impact it has had on their lives. For me, personally, it was as important a read as John Piper’s Desiring God, which – as I’ve mentioned recently – entirely ‘reformatted’ my belief system. The first time I finished reading Mahaney’s book I turned almost immediately to page one of the foreword and began it again, reading it 5 times in all the first month after I had purchased it. In my list, it is as important a book as J.I. Packer’s Knowing God, Basic Christianity by John Stott, C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, and more recently, The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard, all of which were listed among the top 50 most influential Evangelical Christian books of the last century – exactly where I hope this book will find itself soon enough. That’s just to say: Living the Cross-Centered Life is a must read.
“What are you most passionate about? What do you love to talk about? What do you think about most when your mind is free?”
In the opening chapters Mahaney helps us to be reflective: to step back and assess what we’ve built our life upon. From there, however, he directs us – and wisely so – to the Scriptures.
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you… For I deliver to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins.”
– 1 Corinthians 15:1, 3
What SHOULD be the center of our life – not just our faith, not just Jesus – but Christ’s death & resurrection.
“With Paul’s life drawing to a close, what special insight has God given him to pass on? Timothy’s heart pounds as the truth hits him with piercing clarity: There’s no new secret revealed here, no previously hidden knowledge, but simply a stirring affirmation of the one truth Paul has lived for daily these past three decades, and soon will die for. It’s the same truth for which Timothy, too, must spend himself: the gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” – C.J. Mahaney, Living the Cross-Centered Life
I can only imagine that to many of you this book may seem far from profound, but that’s the point: it’s not a new fad technique to create a ‘new you’ – it’s not the ‘next move of the Spirit’ ushering in a wave of revivals – in fact, it’s the opposite…a helpful reminder, grounding us again in the historic, and central, truth of the Gospel.
Great illustrations, such as the example from Ernest Gordon’s autobiographical book Through the Valley of the Kwai, which was later made into one of my all-time favorite movies, To End All Wars. In it Ernest shares one story where at the end of the workday the British prisoners who had been enslaved by the Japanese were ordered to pick up their tools and return to quarters. A Japanese guard, however, insisted that one shovel was missing, and demanded that the British captive who had taken it return it immediately. Since no one stepped up to volunteer the shovel, he ordered “All die!” As the rifles were aimed at the British prisoners, one man stepped forward and confidently declared, “I did it.” He was immediately beaten to death. As his body was carried away, the shovels were recounted, only to discover that they were all present – not one was missing – the Japanese guards had simply miscounted. This brave soldier had laid down his life for his friends. Mahaney, however, is quick to point out, “Unlike the situation of those prisoners staring into the cocked and loaded gun of a deranged guard, you and I do not face death from a fellow sinner. What we face is the righteous threat of furious wrath from a holy God. That is the threat faced by all who have gone astray, by each one who has turned to his own way. In our case, the shovel IS missing; there is in fact a great deal more that’s missing. We are indeed guilty of sin and deserving punishment. But the innocent One, the holy One – God the Son – stepped forward to die for the rest of us.”
The most helpful reminder to the Charismatic movement, which is often easily distracted by the ‘new thing’ is this: NEVER MOVE ON!
“The gospel isn’t one class among many that you’ll attend during your life as a Christian – the gospel is the whole building where all the classes take place!”
By grounding our faith on the secure rock of the Gospel of Christ crucified, all of our other spiritual practices have a deeper, more meaningful purpose, and a part in the larger story of what God did, and is doing. Because what God is doing isn’t anything especially new – God’s goal is to glorify Himself by reconciling undeserving sinners through the justifying death of Jesus the Messiah. That, my friends, is very good news, and worthy of being reminded of.
So, what of you that have read it? Your thoughts?