The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing

C.J. Mahaney

96 pages

Multnomah (2002)

Recommend: Yes

Genre: Christian Living

Introduction:

When it comes down the gospel, how easy is it for many of us, over time, to lose the passion or awe we once had? How easy it is for us to take the cross for granted as if it weren’t of utmost importance. This occurs when we become sidetracked by other things and we lose sight of the “main thing,” the gospel. Mahaney, who pastored Covenant Life Church for 27 years (which is now pastored by Joshua Harris since 2004), now leads Sovereign Grace Ministries (a church-planting organization with over 60 churches in 6 countries). In November of 2006, I had the privilege of meeting Mahaney, very briefly, in Washington, D.C. at the annual Evangelical Theological Society conference and was able to thank him in person for his unwavering commitment to the centrality of the gospel and his example as a man who is sold out for its bold proclamation (and for this book of which I now write). This book deals with our keeping the cross the main thing.

Book Structure:

“Sometimes the most obvious truths are the ones we need to be reminded of the most” (p.15). Mahaney begins by restating the obvious and foundational truths of the gospel that are so easy to lose sight of. He then moves to address certain things that often take the place of the gospel in our lives, mainly concentrating on three (legalism, condemnation, and subjectivism) where he then devotes a chapter to each of them. In the chapter on legalism, he defines and contrasts justification (being declared righteous) and sanctification (being made righteous) very succinctly. To conclude, he makes the point that the key to a cross centered life is to have cross centered days. To put this in practical perspective, he presents five ways in which he has stoked the passion in his life for the gospel: 1. Memorize the gospel; 2. Pray the gospel; 3. Sing the gospel; 4. Review how the gospel has changed you; and 5. Study the gospel. Mahaney then finishes it off with a final plea and passionate exhortation to never move on from the centrality and sufficiency of the gospel despite the difficulties of life, knowing what we have, we are press forward never losing sight of the cross.

Notable Quotes:

  • “We’re never ‘more saved’ or ‘more loved’ by God. Our work is motivated by the grace God has poured in our lives” (p.34).
  • “The Christian who desires to live a cross centered life will regularly face his own depravity and the seriousness of personal sin, squarely and unflinchingly. It’s a reality. But the reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of sin is even greater . . . . So admit you’re the worst sinner you know. Admit you’re unworthy and deserve to be condemned. But don’t stop there! Move on to rejoicing in the Savior who came to save the worst of sinners. Lay down the luggage of condemnation and kneel down in worship at the feet of Him who bore your sins. Cry tears of amazement” (pp.42,44)
  • “Never be content with your current grasp of the gospel. The gospel is life-permeating, world-altering, universe-changing truth. It has more facets than any diamond. Its depth man will never exhaust” (p. 67).
  • “I’m a Christian because God showed me mercy, not because I was worthy or wanting to be saved. No, I wasn’t searching for God. I was stoned” (p.72).
  • “I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I do know this: Because of the cross I’ll be doing much better than I deserve. That’s why, for the rest of my life, I want to move deeper into the wonderful mystery of God’s love for me” (p. 85).

Conclusion:

This book is an easy read for anyone. It is not meant to be a deep theological dissertation on the cross, but rather a simplistic and coming back to the basics of our faith. It is in its simplicity where this book has its greatest strength: everything flows out of the cross of Christ. Simple, yet utterly profound.

We must never lose sight of the gospel regardless of how long we have been saved. The gospel will never be too old, because it is in the cross where we received grace and where we’ll continually supply our hope.

With a heart full of gratitude, I recommend this book for both new and old believer alike. I trust that your passion for the gospel would be rekindled, as has mine, in reading this book whose author is the first to admit that he is a detestable and wretched man. We are all in the same boat. That’s why the cross shines ever brighter in light of our sin.

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