Review: The Cross-Centered Life

{By Taylor Turner}

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

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This quote, attributed to the internationally successful American author and educator Stephen Covey, is understood as a reminder to focus on the important things in life. However, after thinking about this for a moment, several questions will follow.

What is the most important thing, and how do we discover it?

Why the struggle to keep the main thing the main thing?

How does this change the way we live?

None of these questions are foreign to our culture. In fact, now more than ever people are seeking answers to these questions from our many celebrities, scientists, and pastors. The answers given are diverse and often contradictory and as such are the foundation of the discussion.

In his book “The Cross-Centered Life,” C. J. Mahaney tackles these big questions with Biblical, Christ-centered answers.

So what is the main thing?

While we often think of this as the traditional Sunday School answer, Mahaney says the main thing is Jesus. Most everybody knows this. You may have grown up in church learning about Jesus, doing family devotions, and maybe a missions trip with the youth group. However, it is still worth mentioning. Here is why: Mahaney says there is a “universal danger of forgetting what is most important” and even becoming numb to the call of what is most important. Mahaney doesn’t just call us to acknowledge Christ as central, but also to live it. This is what belief looks like. However, there is constant to struggle to live centered on Christ.

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What is this daily challenge we face to keep Jesus the main thing?

C. J. Mahaney provides three main tendencies that can draw our hearts from Him; they are legalism, condemnation, and subjectivism.

Some big, weird words. Let’s take a quick moment to understand what Mahaney is saying here. C.J. defines legalism as “seeking to achieve forgiveness from God and acceptance by God through obedience to God.” He explains that “a legalist is anyone who behaves as if they can earn God’s approval and forgiveness through personal performance.” Condemnation on the other hand is living with the luggage and weight of our sins. Exactly opposite of Romans 8:1 which say that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The third, tendency that will draw our hearts from Him is subjectivism. Mahaney boils this point down to “what you feel vs. what is real.” It gets down to “basing your faith in Christ’s finished work at the Cross” not how we feel or don’t feel. 

We have looked at what the main thing is, what we are living for, and some of the struggles we face in living with Christ as central. After all, Mahaney’s book is entitled “The Cross-Centered Life”; so how do we have one? To begin with, we have to understand that “we make time for what we truly value.” Cross centeredness doesn’t come by osmosis; it takes intentionality. Mahaney gives five practical ways to build a cross-centered life: memorize the gospel, pray the gospel, sing the gospel, review how the gospel has changed you, and study the gospel. Christ is central and it takes intentionality to build a life around Him.

Mahaney has a beautiful summary to wrap up his book. He says:

“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. . . . Jesus died for your sins. May your every day be saved by His grace alone. May you know the joy and peace of the cross centered life.”

If you are looking for a book that gives practical, biblical answers to what the main thing is, The Cross-Centered Life is a great choice.

It is only 80 pages and you can totally finish it in an afternoon. So even if you are not a crazy book nerd you can get through it and probably enjoy it at the same time. Also everybody can learn something from this book. We all struggle with living lives that are totally centered on Christ.

The book exposes some not so great in our lives, and provides great practical ways to live sold out for Christ.

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Taylor Turner is a 20 year old Texan, although he has lived most of his life in central Virginia. He was homeschooled and is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree from Thomas Edison State College. He loves browsing old book stores for volumes to add to his personal library of over 500 books. He also enjoys competitive swimming, road biking, hunting, and hanging out with friends.