If we are calling ourselves Christians – nothing should be more central to our faith than Christ. Yes..I know…novel thought. Specifically, the person and work of Jesus Christ – who he was and what he came to do – his cross, the gospel. We must keep this the center, the core – always in focus. If you know me or my wife — you may have heard us say that a time or two.
CJ Mahaney is one of our favorite authors, and one of the bestest (yes, bestest is a word) is “Living the Cross Centered Life” I LOVE this book. Recently, during our yearly chronological Bible reading, we were in Isaiah…and when we got to Isaiah 53 it drove me right back to Mahaney’s wonderful book. That chapter of Isaiah paints such an amazing picture of our Savior – a prophecy of Jesus – who would bear not only our sin, but our shame and our sorrows on the cross.
Now, in real life we have disappointments, setbacks, we have condemnation and guilt that creep up on us and try overwhelm us and keep us ineffective…as a Christian, God is always using these for his glory and our good – conforming us to the image of his Son. (Rom 8:29) Again, realize that “our good” doesn’t necessarily mean that we will be rich, happy, skinny, and free of pimples – it’s not a self-centered “good” it is a CHRIST-centered “good”. Don’t believe the lies of the false gospel of prosperity. Silly rabbit, it’s always about God’s glory, not our own.
OK, so back on track. Sorry about that.
In his book, Mahaney gives 5 great practical suggestions for keeping the cross the focus in the day to day:
1. Memorize the gospel.
- This means memorizing where the gospel is recorded for us…the BIBLE. Dwell in gospel-saturated verses like:
- 2 Cor 5:21
- Rom 8:31-31
- Isaiah 53:3-6
- Rom 3:23-26
- Rom 5:6-11
- 1 Cor 15:3-4
- Gal 2:21
- Even if you know these passages already, memorize them…write them down, say them out loud, pray that the Spirit will give you more understanding…you will be amazed at what you see.
2. Pray the gospel
- Mahaney writes “Thank him that you’ll never be separated from God’s love because Jesus bore God’s wrath for sin. Thank Him that because of the cross you are reconciled to God and have been given the Holy Spirit to dwell in you, lead you, guide you, and empower you to resist sin and serve God. Then as God to bless you graciously with everything you need to obey and glorify Him”
3. Sing the gospel
- As a worship leader, this is HUGE. And I totally agree with CJ that there is a lot of junk “worship music” out there is that is focused more on US than the gospel. Be discerning! Remember Christian music is a multi-billion dollar industry. Seek out music that is Biblically accurate, cross-focused, and gospel centered. Check out Chris Tomlin, Keith/Kristin Getty, Fee, Matt Redman…and my favorites – Sovereign Grace Music. And remember, just because it’s on “Christian radio” doesn’t mean anything – we are called to protect our lives and doctrine closely.
4. Review how the gospel has changed you
- This is key for me. I need to remember what God has saved me from, but not get stuck there. I need to remember who I used to be and then let it cause me to rejoice in what God has done thru Christ to make me a completely NEW person – and not get stuck in the guilt and condemnation of the past. We cannot stay there, it will cripple us. Trust me. Some great passages here are:
- Gal 2:20-21
- Col 3:1-3
- Phil 3:13-15
- Isaiah 43:18-19
- Eph 4:20-24
5. Study the gospel
- Mahaney writes – “Camp out in the books of Romans and Galatians”; “don’t be afraid of technical theological terms like atonement, substitution, propitiation, justification, reconciliation, sanctification…if you are looking for a guide The Gospel for Real Life by Jerry Bridges explains each of these words in detail
- Read your WHOLE Bible with your eyes peeled for the gospel- it’s in the whole Bible…really.