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Living the Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing
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Living the Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing

4.7 14
by C. J. Mahaney

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What Really Matters
Have the extremities taken over and left the core of your faith forgotten? Do you get confused by what you feel versus what is real? Let dynamic pastor C. J. Mahaney strip away the nonessentials and bring you back to the simplest, most fundamental reason for your faith: Jesus Christ. This book is packed with powerful truth that will grip


What Really Matters
Have the extremities taken over and left the core of your faith forgotten? Do you get confused by what you feel versus what is real? Let dynamic pastor C. J. Mahaney strip away the nonessentials and bring you back to the simplest, most fundamental reason for your faith: Jesus Christ. This book is packed with powerful truth that will grip your heart, clear your mind, and invigorate your soul. Chapters include “Breaking the Rules of Legalism,” “The Cross Centered Day,” and “Assurance and Joy.” Get ready to behold a breathtaking view of what God intends to accomplish in and through you every day. You’ll discover how embracing this cross centered life is both our highest privilege and greatest responsibility.

His Gift, Your Hope
Do you desire more passion for Jesus Christ? Return to the very essence of your faith—the cross of Christ. Here, the deepest truths of Calvary will stir your passion for Him into an unquenchable fire.

“Never lay it aside. Never move on,” says C. J. Mahaney, who shows you how to center every day around the life-giving reality of the gospel and how to escape the pitfalls of legalism, condemnation, and feelings-driven faith.

C. J. Mahaney’s The Cross Centered Life and Christ Our Mediator are life-changing books whose unique messages are even more powerful when combined. Living the Cross Centered Life is a careful melding of these two books with new content as well. For readers who have not yet discovered the stand-alone books, or for Mahaney fans ready to cherish their favorites in a new package, this book is sure to become a treasured classic.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for C.J. Mahaney

“Every Timothy needs a Paul. C. J. is mine…and this book contains his life-message. It is my handbook for pursuing a cross centered life. Read it yourself, and let God realign your life.”
-JOSHUA HARRIS, Pastor and bestsellign author

“C. J. Mahaney is the most spiritually infectious Christian I know! His passionate pursuit of Christ is so enviable to me because it flows out of both his own daily contemplation of the Savior as well as his intimate knowledge of the Word of God. Would to God that all true believers be infected with a huge dose of the same kind of enthusiasm for living the cross centered life. If you read and seek to apply what C. J. skillfully writes in this wonderful book, you just might find yourself contracting the same glorious disease he has, with the joyful hope of spreading it all around!”
-LANCE QUINN, Pastor-teacher at The Bible Church of Little Rock, Little Rock, Arkansas

“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. There’s no other place to begin living the Christian life than at the cross. There’s no other place to keep living the Christian life than at the cross. C. J. Mahaney’s Living the Cross Centered Life will help you do that.”
-MARK DEVER, Senior pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, D.C. and author of Nine Marks of a Healthy Church

“My friend C. J. Mahaney gives us a fresh look at our Lord and His cross. He lives the cross centered life, and is  therefore qualified to talk about it. C. J. has a passion for Jesus and His people, and I was drawn closer to Jesus through this book. What higher complement could I offer?”
-RANDY ALCORN, Bestselling author of The Grace and Truth Paradox and The Tresure Principle

“C. J. Mahaney is one of our generation’s most genuine and heartfelt proclaimers of the cross of Jesus Christ. In this unexaggerated book, readers will encounter the winsome zeal of a man who has found in Christ the greatest of treasures and a joy that must be shared.”
-DONALDS WHITNEY, Author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life and How Can I Be Sure I'm a Christian?

“The great nineteenth century Scottish pastor, Horatius Bonar once wrote, ‘If we would be holy, we must get to the cross and dwell there.’ C. J. Mahaney takes us to the cross in such a way that we can indeed dwell there. This is a book to be read and reread many times. Its message will never grow old or out of date.”
-JERRY BRIDGES, Author of The Pursuit of Holiness

“With tenderness and power, C. J. illustrates the critical difference between snacking on the benefits of the cross, versus surveying the wonders of the cross. It’s the difference between living as consumers, versus loving as the consumed…the difference between having a theology of grace, versus running boldly to the throne of grace. This is a must and magisterial read!”
-SCOTTY SMITH, Senior pastor at Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee

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Read an Excerpt

Living the Cross Centered Life

By C.J. Mahaney

Multnomah Publishers

Copyright © 2006 Sovereign Grace Ministries
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-59052-578-7

Chapter One

The Climax and the Key

Why the Cross Should Define Our Lives

The gospel cannot be preached and heard enough, for it cannot be grasped well enough.... Moreover, our greatest task is to keep you faithful to this article and to bequeath this treasure to you when we die. Martin Luther

Imagine yourself at Timothy's side as he receives a letter from the apostle Paul-the letter that will be Paul's last.

You notice Timothy's hands slightly trembling as he breaks the seal and opens the parchment to read. He almost cradles the letter, as though his gentleness with it will somehow be conveyed to its author, now chained in a cold Roman dungeon.

These are written words that Timothy knows he'll return to often in order to carefully obey the apostle's guidance, but for now he reads quickly, hungering especially for personal news from his father in the faith.

A Final Affirmation

Near the end of the letter, Timothy slows his pace. He can almost hear the encouraging voice of Paul: "As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."

Then his eyes take in this line: "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure hascome."

For years Timothy has pushed aside the thought of losing Paul-this man who has been like a father, this friend and mentor who has guided and instructed the young leader. How could Timothy go on ministering without Paul's reassuring words, his confidence, his prayers?

Timothy stops reading to brush away his tears. How can he wallow in grief when his old friend faces death so boldly? "I have fought the good fight," Paul writes; "I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

After staring up from the page for several moments, Timothy sits down to begin reading again from the beginning, slowly and deliberately. His eyes bore into each word, each sentence.

With Paul's life drawing to a close, what special insight has God given him to pass on? Timothy's heart pounds as the truth hits him with piercing clarity: There's no new secret revealed here, no previously hidden knowledge, but simply a stirring affirmation of the one truth Paul has lived for daily these past three decades, and soon will die for. It's the same truth for which Timothy, too, must spend himself: the gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

The words seem to shout from the letter:

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel ...

Timothy can almost see Paul's fiery eyes blazing into his own, can almost feel his gnarled fingers gripping his arm:

Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

"You don't need a new truth," he hears his old friend saying. "But you do need to guard the one truth. Keep the one message."

Held Captive

Paul simply refused to be pulled away from the gospel. The cross wasn't merely one of Paul's messages; it was the message. He taught about other things as well, but whatever he taught was always derived from, and related to, the foundational reality that Jesus Christ died so that sinners would be reconciled to God.

D. A. Carson writes of Paul, "He cannot long talk about Christian joy, or Christian ethics, or Christian fellowship, or the Christian doctrine of God, or anything else, without finally tying it to the cross. Paul is gospel-centered; he is cross centered."

John Piper agrees: "Paul was utterly mastered, held captive, by one great scene in history: a cross on Golgotha and on it the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us."

In every epistle, Paul kept the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus at the center-just as he did in his personal preaching and teaching: "I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified."

Even Christ's resurrection was, for Paul, perpetually linked to the cross. Teacher and theologian Knox Chamblin explains:

His gospel is "the word of the cross" (1 Cor. 1:17-18); nowhere is there a comparable reference to "the word of the resurrection." In 1 Corinthians 1:23-24 it is "Christ crucified" who is identified as "the power of God and the wisdom of God," not, as might have [been] expected (especially in the case of "power"), Christ resurrected.... Both the cross and the resurrection of Christ are "of first importance" in Paul's gospel (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Unless Christ has risen from the dead, the preaching of the cross (and of the resurrection) is a waste of time (15:14); but once the resurrection has occurred, the cross remains central.

For Paul, the gospel-this "word of the cross"-was no cold theological formula. Paul lived a cross centered life because the cross had saved and transformed his own life. Paul never forgot what he once had been, or the mercy and grace God showed him. This remained at the forefront of his mind. As he wrote on another occasion to Timothy, "Though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.... I received mercy ... and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus."

Mercy That Can't Be Forgotten

I can relate to Paul's amazement at being shown mercy and overflowing grace. I've lived in the same part of Maryland since I was a boy. Hardly a month goes by that I'm not reminded of who I once was.

Before God saved me from His righteous wrath in 1972, I, too, was a blasphemer. I lived for myself and my own pleasure. I lived in rebellion against God and mocked those who followed Him. I spent my high school and college years deeply immersed in the drug culture.

Sometimes, late at night, my friends and I would seek out quiet, isolated places where we could come down safely from drug highs. On more than a few occasions it was a D.C. monument. Other times a peaceful street under thick, deep trees. Or even the terminal at what was then a little-used airport called Dulles, where the doors stayed open long after the day's flights had ceased and we could move through the nearly deserted canyon of a building.

Someday soon I'll be near one of those places again, and the memories will flood back in. I'll remember what I once was ... and be reminded of all I've received and experienced since then.

Often my eyes fill with tears at the memories of my foolishness and sin. And in the same instant, my heart will be filled with an unspeakable, holy joy. By the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, I've been forgiven of the countless sins I've committed.

"Blessed is the man," David wrote, "against whom the Lord counts no iniquity." This truth echoes through my soul, resonating in places far deeper than any drug can go.

Many people today try to run from the past. I suppose I, too, could try that by leaving the hometown that holds so many reminders of my sinfulness. But I consider living here a gift from God. The regular reminders of my past are precious to me.

Why? Because, like Paul, I never want to forget the great mercy shown me.

A Young Man's Essential Training

If you're a Christian, you don't need to live in the same place all your life to remember who you once were. And you don't need a background in drugs, or any dramatic conversion experience, for the cross to be dear to you.

Regardless of the differences in our backgrounds, we've all sinned and fallen short of God's glory. My twelve-year-old son Chad's life is very different from how mine was at his age. He's being raised in a Christian home. He has been taught God's Word. And unlike his father, he's surrounded by people in a local church who respect godliness and humility, not worldliness and pride.

But as Chad enters his teenage years and young adulthood, the most important thing I can teach him is that, even though he's being raised in a Christian family and is leading a moral life, he's a sinner who desperately needs the substitutionary death of Christ for God's forgiveness.

And so for years I've been teaching him the gospel, day by day. I tell him that he's a sinner just like his dad, and that sin is his most serious problem. I put it in words that his young mind can understand, but I don't ignore or minimize the seriousness of sin. Through his actions and attitudes he has rebelled against his Maker. And this great God is perfectly holy and must respond with fierce opposition to sin. He must punish it.

Some might find it surprising that I would teach a young boy about God's wrath toward sin. But I find it surprising that any loving person would withhold this truth from another person they love. Because only when we understand God's wrath toward sin can we realize that we need to be saved from it. Only when we hear the bad news that we're deserving of judgment can we appreciate the good news that God, through His Son, has provided salvation and full, continuing forgiveness for our sins. Only those who are aware of God's wrath are amazed at God's grace.

This is what I hold out to my young son as the hope of his life: that Jesus, God's perfect, righteous Son, died in his place for his sins. Jesus took all the punishment; Jesus received all the wrath as He hung on the cross, so people like Chad and his sinful daddy could be completely forgiven.

I hope to teach my son many other things as well, but the gospel is the one essential thing for him to know-as it is for us all.

The Climax and the Key

The cross climaxes the story line of the Bible-and it's the true climax of the story line of all our lives as well. The gospel's truth is to saturate our lives just as much as it saturates Paul's writings and all of Scripture.

The message Paul had for Timothy is the same message God has for you. You need to rediscover the truth. The key to joy, to growth, to passion isn't hiding from you. It's right before your eyes.

It's the gospel.


Excerpted from Living the Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney Copyright © 2006 by Sovereign Grace Ministries. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

C. J. Mahaney leads Sovereign Grace Ministries in its mission to establish and support local churches. He served as pastor of Covenant Life Church in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C., for twenty-seven years before handing the role to Joshua Harris. He is the author of The Cross Centered Life, Christ Our Mediator, Humility: True Greatness, and Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: What Every Christian Husband Needs to Know . C. J. and his wife, Carolyn, have three married daughters and one son. They make their home in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Living the Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Lord used this book to open my heart, mind, and soul to the depth of Christ's love revealed on thr cross and what it means for me everyday! Especially impactful to me, as I grew up in the church and easily lost appreciation for the cross. MUST READ FOR ALL BELIEVERS!!
AuthorJimHughes More than 1 year ago
Sometimes retelling the most obvious must be told. C.J. Mahaney has done that well. For the believer, it would seem obvious that we need to keep the message of the cross central to our lives, but sadly, this doesn't seem to be the case in many of our lives. It is way too easy to get so caught up in living and serving that we lose our sense of the importance of keeping the sacrificial death of Christ central to our lives. This book is a wonderful reminder to us that returning to the cross is not only important, but absolutely essential to our walk with the Lord.
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We used this book for our adult Sunday school classes last year and we're all still clamoring for a repeat of it. It's not a big book but it reads big with a powerful message all the way through it.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Written with true humility and a prophetic understanding of the power of Grace, this book is truly defined by its title. Living the Cross Centered life is about living a life that is about the gospel, and centered around the act of Grace. While an easy read technically, the truths behind the words are often so intense that you need to put it down, and take a breath to process them. Excellent read, sound doctrine, solid truth.