On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.
A week or so ago, I finished reading a really great book: “Living the Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing” by C.J. Mahaney. Some of my favorite bloggers – I’m A Teacup, NOT a Sledgehammer, Hope Road, and A Heart Set On Pilgrimage, all recently attended the New Attitude conference where C.J. preached. Although I haven’t been fortunate enough to hear him speak yet, I do enjoy his writings and his blog. This book was no exception.
Early on, Mahaney cautions us that there are three main things that can draw us away from the gospel (p. 16):
1) subjectivism – our view of God is based on our feelings and emotions
2) legalism – our relationship with God is based on our own performance
3) condemnation – our sin is the focus more than on God’s grace
As I was reading through these, I was trying to think of which one is the biggest problem in my life. Then I realized that ALL of them can be. Mahaney discusses why subjectivism is such a problem today (p. 33):
“We’re conditioned to this approach not only by our sin but also by our culture, which incessantly entices us to ‘follow your heart’ and do whatever makes us feel good – along with the flattering assurance that nonstop feeling good is something we absolutely deserve !”
I still feel most troubled by # 3 – condemnation. I had an episode earlier in the week, where I absolutely felt that I knew the right thing to do and still didn’t do it. That initial feeling of “wallowing” in sin, as C.J. calls it, really beat me down. But again, all three of these are things that I struggle with daily.
So what’s the remedy ? Mahaney says we must preach the gospel to ourselves, and do it daily.
He provides five ways we can do this each day:
1) Memorize the gospel – he suggests starting with certain passages, such Romans 8:31-34, Galatians 2:21, and 2 Corinthians 5:21, among others.
2) Pray the gospel
3) Sing the gospel
4) Review the gospel – how it’s changed your life and write up your own testimony
5) Study the gospel – he asks that we start reading the Bible with “eyes peeled for the gospel”. That suggestion has changed my own reading, especially now as I go through Isaiah again. He also gives some titles of books on the cross such as “The Cross of Christ” by John Stott and “The Discipline of Grace” by Jerry Bridges.
Speaking of Isaiah, Mahaney suggests that we really review and reflect deeply on Isaiah 53, especially in our times of doubt and trouble. I’ll be reading Isaiah 53 in the next few days and will take my time doing so (p.56):
“When you’re tempted to doubt God’s love for you, stand before the cross and look at the wounded, dying, disfigured Savior, and realize why He is there.”
If I had to sum up the message of this book, I would do it this way. You know how most TV channels these days have their logos in the bottom corner all throughout a program ? No matter when you turn the channel on, you see that ESPN or Fox News logo in the corner ? I think that’s what C.J. Mahaney is trying to get us to do…to look at our lives with the cross fixed firmly in the corner of our view, so that it’s always visible.
If you haven’t already, pick up this book, read it, and meditate on it.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.