In his book, Living the Cross Centered Life, C.J. Mahaney reminds us the words of Paul that the cross is the only essential tenet of our faith (1 Corinthians 15.1,3). And he suggests that we face constant temptation to move away from that essential in three common areas: subjectivism, legalism, and condemnation. (p. 16). Mahaney writes:
“The message Paul had for Timothy is the same message God has for you. You need to rediscover the truth. They key to joy, to growth, to passion isn’t hiding from you. It’s right before your eyes.
It’s the gospel.” (p. 30)
Through the rest of this little book Mahaney does his best to help us come face-to-face with the purity of the Gospel and to fall in love with the reality of the grace of the Gospel.
“For when you’re deeply aware of your sin, and of what an affront it is to God’s holiness, and of how impossible it is for him to respond to this sin with anything other that furious wrath – you can only be overwhelmed with how amazing grace is.
Only those who are truly aware of their sin can truly cherish grace.” (p. 88).
In those two sentences Mahaney seems to identify the great challenge of our age: the absence of sin. As a concept, sin has been identified as a leftover from the dark ages that no longer applies to contemporary life. Perhaps a few quaint religious types still believe in sin but not the more intelligent masses. Mahaney is correct then that one will not love the gospel (or “cherish grace”) apart from an awareness of their sin.
The intellectually honest seeker of God will consider the entire gospel narrative that begins with creation, then the fall, followed by God’s relentless pursuit of mankind to reconcile and restore them to himself in that relationship that existed in creation! In that context the harsh reality of the cross where “Jesus does’t just feel forsaken; he is forsaken” (p. 94) challenges the assertion that sin is just a quaint, outdated concept. Jesus didn’t go to the cross because of a concept.
I appreciate Mahaney’s challenge on p. 109: “Let the cross always be the treasure of your heart, your best and highest thought…and your passionate preoccupation.”
Living the Cross Centered Life is a volume that should be part of your library and should be re-read annually.