“At the cross, the love of God and the wrath of God shake hands; the mercy of God and the justice of God embrace; and the holiness of God and the sinfulness of humanity appear in stark contrast.”
(William P. Farley, from Outrageous Mercy)
One of my concerns as I view Christianity in America today is that many Christians and churches seem to be more concerned with being culturally relevant than being cross-centered. We must never compromise the message of the cross on the altar of cultural relevance.
Over the next few weeks, I want to share with you a few thoughts on living a “Gospel-centered” (or cross-centered) life. Satan loves nothing more than to get Christians and churches to focus their primary attention on anything other than the “main thing.”
I hope these Scriptures, quotes and thoughts will uplift and encourage your heart.
The Apostle Paul, in writing to the Galatian believers, said…
“As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 6:14)
C. J. Mahaney, in his excellent book entitled The Cross-Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing, writes, “The Apostle Paul recognized the universal danger of forgetting what is most important. He refused to be pulled away from the gospel. The cross was the centerpiece of Paul’s theology. It 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 and forgiven by God.”
Theologian 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.”
In writing to the church in Corinth, Paul said, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)
Jerry Bridges, in his excellent book entitled The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness, writes, “The Gospel is not only the most important message in all of history; it is the only essential message in all of history. Yet we allow thousands of professing Christians to live their entire lives without clearly understanding it and experiencing the joy of living by it.”
Most Christians, when they think of the Gospel, they think of John 3:16 and say to themselves, “been there, done that – now let’s move on to ‘other’ spiritual truths.” Because of this, we forget and lose sight of the life-changing, heart-transforming, mind-renewing power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
George Orwell once noted that, “sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.”
I have found in my own life that it is very easy to begin to lose sight of and appreciation for “the Gospel.” The Gospel is our anchor. It is our center-point.
So what does a “cross-centered” or “Gospel-centered” life look like? Mahaney mentions these…
The symptoms that arise from not being cross-centered are easy to spot. Do any of these describe you?
- You often lack joy.
- You’re not consistently growing in spiritual maturity.
- Your love for God lacks passion.
- You’re always looking for some new technique, some “new truth” or new experience that will pull all the pieces of your faith together.
A cross-centered life helps us to…
- Break free from joy-robbing, legalistic thinking and living.
- Leave behind the crippling effects of guilt and condemnation.
- Stop basing your faith on your emotions and circumstances.
- Grow in gratefulness, joy and holiness.
Next week, I’ll share some more thoughts that, I pray, will help all of us to live and experience true “cross-centered, God-glorifying, joy-filled” lives.
Until then, remember the profound words found in Romans 5:8…
“…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
We are not only saved by grace, but we also live the Christian life by grace!