What can I say about "The Cross Centered Life" except stop what you are doing now and go out and buy this book!?!? I cannot think of a better book to own on your bookshelf, to read and reread, or to give away.
As I've said before about C.J. Mahaney, he is very easy to read. Don't worry about his writing being "over your head." His style is conversational. His book is short (a mere 85 pages) and if you are disciplined, could easily be read in one sitting. (Although this is nearly impossible for me!)
The message of the book is simple: Keep your gaze on the cross. And by the cross, he implies all that the cross purchased for us. Our justification, sanctification, righteousness, and our ability to grow in gratefulness, joy, and holiness, despite our circumstances.
He focuses on breaking the bonds of legalism and condemnation, which is easy for every believer to tend towards, despite upbringing. Those two chapters alone are worth reading every week! He defines legalism as "seeking to achieve forgiveness from God and acceptance by God through obedience to God." And he defines condemnation as the guilt and shame that brings the burden of depression, guilt, regret and grief. Specifically, he asks these questions regarding condemnation: (pg. 39)
1. Do you relate to God as if you were on a kind of permanent probation, suspecting that at any moment He may haul you back into the jail cell of His disfavor?
2. When you come to worship do you maintain a "respectful distance" from God, as if He were a fascinating but ill-tempered celebrity known for lashing out at His fans?
3. When you read Scripture does it reveal the boundless love of the Savior or merely intensify your condemnation?
4. Are you more aware of your sin than you are of God's grace, given you through the cross?
These are important questions to ask, as I have been guilty on many occasions of answering "Yes" to all of these.
His point is this: if you focus on the cross, all these burdens will be easily given up, in an act of rejoicing and worshipping the God who made us perfect through His Son. Unfortunately, we don't focus on God's grace enough, and that is what this book is trying to teach us to avoid.
He ends the book with multiple, every-day tasks to keep us focused on the cross, and specific verses to memorize and meditate upon. I will share some of the verses in the coming days.
Until then, thank God for all He has done for you! Don't be tempted to move on to more "deep" doctrines, while forgetting the doctrine of what the cross has done for us. It is central to our faith and should be treated that way!