Title: “Living the Cross Centered Life”
Author: C.J. Mahaney
Release Date: January 19, 2006
Rating: 5/5 (highly recommended)
Purchase: Sovereign Grace, Amazon.com, WTS Books
Sometimes, with the truth of the gospel already revealed to us, we grow numb and complacent to it. Substitutionary atonement? Already learned it. The depth of my sin? Cognitively aware. I will admit that I readily fall into this sin. I have had many people recommend this book to me, and because I trust their opinion, I read this book for the first time last year. And again, I admit that because of my familiarity with the cross and my desire to learn about newer things, I had difficulty seeing why they found this book so helpful. I thought it was just another book expositing the gospel. Even if that were all this book were, I would recommend it–and one could learn from it–on the basis of its accuracy. But this book is much more than an exposition of truth, and that is where its strength lies.
C.J. Mahaney has a profound emotional understanding of the cross. The truth of the gospel has led him to deep, humble love and gratitude for the cross. It comes through in the sermons he gives, and it comes through in this book. This is the strength of Living the Cross Centered Life. It goes beyond just explaining the gospel–which again, is still a very helpful thing to do–to focus on the role we play in the gospel, and what our response to it should be. It is inescapably personal. In talking about sin, Mahaney makes it personal. You cannot escape his point: we have committed sin, and we deserve to die. When speaking on the suffering of Christ, it is again personal: we put Him there. The way Mahaney writes gives us the relevancy of the gospel, but also the responsibility for it. To me, that is this book’s greatest strength. I cannot escape my role in the gospel as a partaker in the crucifixion–nor as a participant in its blessings.
And as Mahaney points out, keeping the gospel central in our minds will help us combat subjectivism (putting undue emphasis on our emotions), legalism, and condemnation (focusing on the heinousness of sin rather than on grace). He makes an excellent case for these points, showing how right thinking about the cross helps us fight these tendencies. Through this, he also shows just how detrimental a misunderstanding or non-personalization of the gospel can be. It can lead to subjectivism, legalism, condemnation, and pride, but he also makes the excellent point that failing to take to heart the personal nature of the gospel–Christ was crucified for my sins!–can lead to feeling like God does not love me personally. This is a sad lie, and I am grateful that Mahaney seeks to encourage believers about the overwhelming love of God as displayed on the cross.
If there is anything that is meant to cultivate assurance and joy and thanksgiving and worship in the believer’s life, it is the death and resurrection of Christ. How can we not have these things knowing that the punishment that was meant for our sins was suffered by the Son of God? C.J. Mahaney understands his responsibility for Christ’s death. He understands the cost of his salvation. Because of it, he is emotional and passionate about the exaltation of his Savior in the gospel. It is genuine; it is infectious. This book is equally humbling and encouraging to read. And ultimately, this book is God-glorifying. The gospel should create joy in and worship for our Savior. As Mahaney points out, “Joy is a command. . . . if you aren’t serving with gladness, you aren’t serving Him appropriately or representing Him accurately” (108). Every believer needs to be reminded of the gospel, that which brings him fellowship with God. This book is an excellent tool for that. I heartily recommend it to you.
(This book was provided free for review by Sovereign Grace Ministries, to whom I am very grateful. The opinions contained herein are solely my own.)