I must say, I’ve been vacillating about reading this book for pretty much a year. I own it and for me to go a year without reading a book is uncommon. But there’d been something keeping me from this book…a fear that I’d have to take action. Turns out, I was absolutely right about it!
The book does inspire you and make you want to draw nearer to the cross. C.J. Maheney in this book is a God-used vessel to make His message clear to us as readers. And if you’re hesitation about this book…don’t. The book is really worth it. I brought it on vacation with me and carried it to four different hotels but now on our last day I’ve just read it, and I wish I had done so a lot sooner!
C.J. Mahaney begins by asking us this question,
“Each of our lives is centered on something. What’s at the center of yours?
He then goes on to introduce the main subject of his book: the cross. Throughout the entire book, his theme is clear, “The cross is important! It should be the center of our lives!” As he says, “We never move on from the cross, only into a deeper and more profound understanding of the cross.” He gives the example of Paul, saying that the gospel wasn’t merely one of his messages, but that all of his messages revolved around and came back to the cross. The cross is the climax point of the entire Bible, and it is also the key to our lives. We must saturate our lives with the gospel of the cross!
The divine order is what C.J. Mahaney terms the starting point to living the cross-centered life. As humans, we usually go by our feelings in what we decide is fact. But our feelings are unreliable, Mahaney points out. Instead, he says, we must believe what the Bible says is true and then we will ‘feel it’. As he writes,
“As you read and meditate and think seriously about what’s in your Bible, and believe and accept it, then ultimately you will experience it and you’ll feel the effect of it.”
Throughout the book, C.J. Mahaney emphasizes that we must draw closer to the cross, and unhurriedly observe the cross from sacred Scripture.
The next chapter is entitled The Divine Dilemma, and summarizes C.J. Mahaney’s view on what he terms the divine dilemma. The author is quick to say that God is not indifferent to sin. He is, in fact, righteously and furiously opposed to every bit of it. Yet his desire is to save people. If God can only respond in wrath to sin, how can he save the people committing the sin? This shows us the weight of our personal offense against God. But, there is someone to arbitrate between God and humanity.
Jesus is the only one who can bridge the gap between God and man. For someone to do this, they would have to be punishable, or have all of humanity’s sin, yet them in themselves not be sinful. We as humans have no possible way to atone for our sin or a way to free ourselves from enslavement to it. Christ, by being fully human, yet not sinning, was the perfect, and only substitute available. Yet Jesus was rejected by His Father. This was not an easy thing for Jesus to do. In Gethsemane, Jesus was agonizing over being abandoned by his Father. Our sin makes his sacrifice necessary, yet he drank the cup of God’s wrath to the bottom.
It is important that we realize that only those who are truly aware of their sin can fully experience grace. We must relate to the people in the crowd, those who ridiculed Jesus, and mocked him and clamored for him to be crucified. When we realize that we are sinners just like those who crucified Jesus, and responsible for His death, then we can fully experience God’s grace.
In the next part of the book, C.J. Mahaney covers legalism, or self atonement for the purpose of self-glorification and ultimately for self-worship. Legalism assumes that we are necessary for justification, when in reality we are justified when we trust in Jesus Christ. Many legalists, the author says, do not differentiate between justification and sanctification. Justification is when we are declared righteous before God when we accept him as our Savior. Sanctification, on the other hand, is an ongoing process that begins when we are saved and become more sanctified as we continue in grace-motivated obedience.
He then covers condemnation. We should be condemned for our sins, but because of Jesus’ sacrifice we no longer need to. However, there is often still a weight of guilt. Are you often more aware of your guilt than you are of God’s grace, given to you through the cross. You can beat condemnation, the author writes, by confessing your sin to God, and then believing in Him.
The author closes the book with ways to focus daily on the cross. C.J. Mahaney gives five ways to keep the flame of the gospel burning in your day-to-day life. He first instructs us to memorize scripture, and lists specific references that are especially gospel-centered. He then lists praying the gospel and singing the gospel. Following that, he writes of reviewing how the gospel has changed you. And lastly, study the gospel! We can grow in our passion for what God has done by growing in our understanding of what he has done!
“Never move on from the gospel.”
All in all, “The Cross-Centered Life” is an amazing book. I’m sorry that I deliberated for so long to read it, but now I recommend it to all I can! I especially think that the practical applications in the last chapter are very helpful and well-written. Personally this book has taught me a lot of things about the gospel and I look forward to coming back to it to reread and studying the Bible through gospel glasses.
Published on 28 March, 2010. Last updated on