As I mentioned at the end of last week, I'm going to be giving away a few books. I'll actually give them away at AblazeUK, so, alas, you can only win them if you'l be there. But, I don't just want to give away the books, I want to tell you why I'm giving them away as well. In other words I want to tell you why these books are good. So even if you're not going to Ablaze (or even if you don't win the competition), hopefully these posts about the books will point you in the direction of some good reading.
The first book I'm going to tell you about is The Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney. Some of the books in this giveaway are books that I give to people quite often, and this is one of them. One summer in Belgium, we as a presbytery decided to give everyone in the church a book as a gift to read over the summer holidays. The other elders asked me to recommend a book for the gift, and without hesitation this was the book I recommended. And without hesitation this was the book we gave to everyone in the church. (Fortunately it had just been translated into French.) And the people in the church both loved it and benefited from it. After the holidays were over, the house group I led asked if we could work through it together as a group. So we did, and people grew in their confidence and joy in Christ. It's a good book.
It's good, yet it's also short and easy to read. In fact that's a good part of why this book is so good. It's a small hardback of only 85 pages that can easily be read in an evening. The first time I read it was after church one Sunday afternoon while waiting for dinner to cook. Short it may be, yet within its pages there is gold. The subtitle of the book sums up its message: 'Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing'. So Mahaney writes about what Christ has accomplished for us on the Cross And he also writes about 'three main tendencies that can draw our hearts away' (p.22) from the centrality of the gospel. These three dangers are:
Manhaney clearly explains the difference between justification and sanctification and shows why we shouldn't confuse the two. And that's been a huge eye opener for several people when reading this book. In fact that was probably the main effect of this book when the whole assembly read it - people coming away from it with a fresh appreciation and understanding of what it really means to have been justified. And yet it's in no way a complicated theological book - it really is simple, easy and enjoyable to read.
- Legalism, which means basing our relationship with God on our own performance.
- Condemnation, which means being more focused on our sin than on God's grace.
- Subjectivism, which means basing our view of God on our changing feelings and emotions. (p.23)
I think Wayne Grudem's recommendation of The Cross Centered Life sums it up well:
'This biblical, practical book written by a wise and godly man helped me, as it will help others, in overcoming harmful patterns of thinking about our daily lives as Christians and in focusing on the finished work of Christ on the cross.'
I'll be giving this one away on the Saturday night of Ablaze. All you have to do is find me after the service and ask me for it. The first person who asks will get the book.
And if you don't win, go and get yourself a copy of this book anyway. It will certainly be worth the time it takes to read. So, just in case the point of this review isn't clear enough - please read The Cross Centered Life!
On the Sunday we gave it to everyone in the church in Brussels, the pastor told everyone that it was 'the best book Jonathan's ever read other than the Bible.' He wasn't exaggerating. But since then I've read another which is now tied with The Cross Centered Life as my favourite book, and that new joint-favourite will be the next book in the giveaway (so stay tuned).