Gospel. What a word that is so filled with hope it’s essentially profound. How often do you stop and think about it? What does the word “gospel” mean to you? It wasn’t that long ago when I thought of the word as something you gave to a sinner. They hear the gospel, act on it, become saved, and voila! Christianity sets in. I thought of it simply as a beginning, the very first stepping stone in this journey of faith.
How very little of the depths of the immense wonder of this word did I understand. The gospel is so much more. The gospel: it’s the main thing. It is the profound reality of God’s great love for you and me summarized in a 6-letter word.
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.
I opened C.J. Mahaney’s, Living the Cross Centered Life at a time when my faith wasn’t feeling very resolute. I had been looking at modern Christianity around me and found it stuck in a box. People were complying to rules and regulations and clinging to their leaders as sovereign masters. The church had ceased from being a sanctuary and had become a mold. Everyone was coming out looking, acting and thinking the same.
I wondered where or how I fit in. In the confusion this created in my mind, my passionate love for God became numb.
But then I began to read this book. The very first thing Mahaney did was challenge the core of my life. He asked what it was; he wondered what it was that defines me. What was the passion of my life? What consumed me? What did I love to talk and think about? What was of first importance? Now he had me thinking.
In the pages and chapters that followed, Mahaney took my hand and led me to Calvary. He picked up the cross of my bleeding Savior and raised it before my eyes, slamming it into the ground on Golgatha. This, he emphasized, was the only essential thing.
I realized I was conforming to a mold other than the cross. I had known the cross was necessary, the initial starting point. I had left my burdens at Calvary, and experienced salvation. But then I had moved forward. I descended the hill that Christ suffered on. Unbeknownst to me, I was moving away from it, and leaving it behind me.
In a poignant manner, C.J. Mahaney took me on a journey. He escorted me to the agony of Gethsamane. He strikingly portrayed the suffering of my Savior and there I stood in horrific awe of the agony He endured. The utter evil, hate and anger of the mob that surged around Him as He was unjustly condemned filled me with indignation. But then Mahaney pointed to somebody in the crowd, and I saw myself.
Unless you see yourself standing there with the shrieking crowd, full of hostility and hatred for the holy and innocent Lamb of God, you don’t really understand the nature and depth of your sin or the necessity of the cross.
I was the guilty one, but He was the one who stood condemned. He went to Calvary and bore my guilt because He loved me.
This book points you to the cross, and makes you never leave its shadow. It renews your perspective and helps you understand that the true Christian life is not centered on our good, but on His cross.
And there, at the foot of the cross, is hope, joy and holiness that can be found no where else. It’s His blood, His righteousness, and apart from His cross we are absolutely nothing. That is the main thing, and must be the very core of our lives.
If there were a book I would recommend to any Christian, it would be this one. Once I started reading it I found it difficult to put down. C.J. Mahaney is not only an eloquent author, but he has a powerful message that we all need to hear over and over and over again.
We all face disappointments and difficult circumstances; we all experience trials and suffering. But understanding the gospel lets us marvel at God’s love regardless of our circumstances.
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 only to move deeper into the wonderful mystery of God’s love for me.