My brother Andy has been telling me about C. J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries for a while now. So, digging into a Mahaney book was really only a matter of time. Andy and I like to talk about books and ministry and theology because, well, we’re both pastors. But the actual reason that I picked up this book was to review it. I wanted to see if it might be a useful tool in a discipleship program that I’ve been working on for my church. Nathan Loxley (our worship pastor) and I were looking for a book that would be pretty accessible for the average person, but also really foundational. It needed to be a book that would teach doctrinal truth, but stay applicable. And I think we found the book with Living the Cross Centered Life.
Living the Cross Centered Life is a relatively small book (166 pages to be exact) about the theology and practical application of the cross of Jesus. It should be explained that this book is really a combination of two other Mahaney books: The Cross Centered Life and Christ Our Mediator; the new version of the book combines these two books and includes additional material. The focus of the book is this: the truth of the cross is not just for new believers, but for all believers in all parts of their lives. As Mahaney says in the first chapter, “Too many of us have moved on from that glorious plan [the plan of responding with our whole lives to the gospel]. In our never-ending desire to move forward and make sure that everything we think, say, and do is relevant to modern living, too many of us have stopped concentrating on the wonders of Jesus crucified” (18). This is glorious truth and often overlooked. Many times Christians think they are saved by God’s grace, but then after that it’s all about what they do. Wrong! It’s all about what Jesus did from beginning to end.
Mahaney takes his readers through a brief, but thorough understanding of the cross in the first half of the book. He then moves on to explain how the cross helps us when we suffer, how it brings us joy, and how it defeats legalism and self-condemnation. He ends by giving practical advice for keeping the cross central on a daily basis. I love this nod towards the practical. As Mark Dever says in praise of the book “You’re holding the book you want to read to begin living the Christian life. You’re also holding the book you want to read to help you continue living the Christian life” (1).
Why I love it
Living the Cross Centered Life is a great book! It’s doctrinal, accessible, and practical. C. J. carefully examines the cross, teaching theology as he goes, but keeping the picture of Jesus vivid the entire time. Mahaney is honost and practical as he writes; he seems to me to be the type of guy that anyone would love to hang with.
The part of this book that will probably stick with me the most is the concept of “preaching to yourself” rather than “listening to yourself.” Mahaney talks about how prone we are to let our emotions control us. We begin thinking all kinds of negative and prideful thoughts in our heads rather than preaching the truth of the cross to ourselves. He encourages readers to make decisions in life based on the truth that they know is right (the cross and it’s accomplishment) rather than making decisions based on how they feel emotionally at any given moment. This is a really good insight that has already begun to effect my life. I’m grateful for this little book, and even more grateful for Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection! I highly recommend Living the Cross Centered Life and am already making plans to implement its use in the life of 24church.