Cross and Christian Ministry

Having completed C.J. Maheney’s very popular book The Cross Centered Life, and now having completed half of D.A. Carson’s book, Cross and Christian Ministry, The: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians, I would strongly recommend the latter over the former. Much of Maheney’s book finds its basis in Carson’s.  I find Carson’s  writing much more in depth and much more Biblically supported. Here are a few excerpts:

  • Crucifixion was reserved for slaves, aliens, barbarians.  Many thought it was not something to be talked about in polite company.
  • Our self-centeredness is deep. It is so brutally idolatrous that  it tries to domesticate God himself. In our desperate folly we act  as if we can outsmart God, as if he owes us explanations, as if we  are wise and self-determining while he exists only to meet our  needs.

  • The gospel is not simply good  advice, nor is it good news about God’s power. The gospel is  God’s power to those who believe. The place where God has  supremely destroyed all human arrogance and pretension is the  cross.

  • For many Jews, the long-expected Messiah   had to come in  splendor and glory; he had to begin his reign with uncontested  power. “Crucified Messiah”: this juxtaposition of words is only a  whisker away from blasphemy,

  • of the world’s  rebellious self-centeredness is precisely what ensures that it cannot   understand the cross, while God’s wise plan of redemption  hinges on God himself taking self-denying action to bring about  the consummation of his authority.

  • I fear that the  cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of  being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively  peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far  removed from idolatry.

  • the  Countess of Huntingdon used to say that she was saved by an m:  God’s word declares “not many noble,” not “not any noble.”

  • the better we  know God, the more we will want all of our existence to revolve  around him, and we will see that the only goals and plans that  really matter are those that are somehow tied to God himself, and  to our eternity with him.

  • When the pressure to “contextualize”  the gospel jeopardizes the message of the cross by inflating  human egos, the cultural pressures must be ignored.

  • the good news is  announced, it is proclaimed. God is not negotiating; he is both  announcing and confronting.

  • preaching mediates  God himself.

  • If  he really holds that God has supremely disclosed himself in the  cross and that to follow the crucified and risen Savior means  dying daily, then it is preposterous to adopt a style of ministry  that is triumphalistic, designed to impress, calculated to win  applause.

  • Have  professional competence and smooth showmanship become more valuable than sober reckoning over what it means to focus  on Christ crucified?

  • when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor.  12:10). That is the testimony of a man who has learned to minister   under the cross.

  • It is the truth and power of the  gospel that must change people’s lives, not the glamour of our  oratory or the emotional power of our stories.

  • That is what we need: unction, the anointing of the Spirit, the  demonstration of the Spirit’s power. Where that power is  present, people cannot help but know it, and the faith of those  who turn to Christ is safely anchored in God himself. Where  that power is absent, nothing can repair the loss, and the faith  of new converts is likely to be attached, in part, to the wrong  things.

  • The message of the cross smashes the great idolatries of the  ecclesiastical world: our endless self-promotion, our love of  mere professionalism, our addiction to well-defined methods.

  • the cross is not  only our creed, it is the standard of our ministry.

  • If biblical interpretation is held hostage  to some sort of mystical experience of the Spirit, they say, and  taken out of the realm of words, history, grammar, and exegesis,  then there is no logical stopping place.

  • The message of Christ  crucified is the only fundamental dividing line in the human  race.

  • There is no deep and stable spirituality that does not acknowledge   what an utterly profound privilege it is to know God and be  reconciled to him by the crucified Messiah.

  • If we should express unqualified  gratitude to God for the gift of his Son, we should express no less  gratitude to God for the gift of the Spirit who enables us to grasp  the gospel of his Son.

  • if we are to  understand God, to think his thoughts after him, truly to “know”  him, we are going to have to receive the Spirit of God. We simply  cannot find him by ourselves.

  • The heart of our  lostness is our profound self-focus. We do not want to know him,  if knowing him is on his terms.

  • What it means to be “spiritual” is profoundly tied to the cross,  and to nothing else. More precisely, to be spiritual, in this passage,   is to enjoy the gift of the Holy Spirit-and this means  understanding and appropriating the message of the cross,

  • those who  are most mature are most grateful for the cross and keep coming  back to it as the measure of God’s love for them and the supreme  standard of personal self-denial.

  • We must come back to the cross, and to God’s plan of redemption   that centers on the cross, and make that the point of our self-identification.

  • does anyone   truly understand the message of the cross apart from brokenness,   contrition, repentance, and faith? To repeat rather  mechanically the nature of the transaction that Christians think  took place at Golgotha is one thing; to look at God and his holiness,   and people and their sin, from the perspective of the cross, is  life-changing.

I hope to complete this book shortly and to post another followup on the second portion.

Crucifixion was reserved for slaves, aliens, barbarians.  Many thought it was not something to be talked about in polite company.

Our self-centeredness is deep. It is so brutally idolatrous that  it tries to domesticate God himself. In our desperate folly we act  as if we can outsmart God, as if he owes us explanations, as if we  are wise and self-determining while he exists only to meet our  needs.

The gospel is not simply good  advice, nor is it good news about God’s power. The gospel is  God’s power to those who believe. The place where God has  supremely destroyed all human arrogance and pretension is the  cross.

For many Jews, the long-expected Messiah   had to come in  splendor and glory; he had to begin his reign with uncontested  power. “Crucified Messiah”: this juxtaposition of words is only a  whisker away from blasphemy,

of the world’s  rebellious self-centeredness is precisely what ensures that it cannot   understand the cross, while God’s wise plan of redemption  hinges on God himself taking self-denying action to bring about  the consummation of his authority.

I fear that the  cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of  being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively  peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far  removed from idolatry.

the  Countess of Huntingdon used to say that she was saved by an m:  God’s word declares “not many noble,” not “not any noble.”

the better we  know God, the more we will want all of our existence to revolve  around him, and we will see that the only goals and plans that  really matter are those that are somehow tied to God himself, and  to our eternity with him.

When the pressure to “contextualize”  the gospel jeopardizes the message of the cross by inflating  human egos, the cultural pressures must be ignored.

the good news is  announced, it is proclaimed. God is not negotiating; he is both  announcing and confronting.

preaching mediates  God himself.

If  he really holds that God has supremely disclosed himself in the  cross and that to follow the crucified and risen Savior means  dying daily, then it is preposterous to adopt a style of ministry  that is triumphalistic, designed to impress, calculated to win  applause.

Have  professional competence and smooth showmanship become more valuable than sober reckoning over what it means to focus  on Christ crucified?

when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor.  12:10). That is the testimony of a man who has learned to minister   under the cross.

It is the truth and power of the  gospel that must change people’s lives, not the glamour of our  oratory or the emotional power of our stories.

That is what we need: unction, the anointing of the Spirit, the  demonstration of the Spirit’s power. Where that power is  present, people cannot help but know it, and the faith of those  who turn to Christ is safely anchored in God himself. Where  that power is absent, nothing can repair the loss, and the faith  of new converts is likely to be attached, in part, to the wrong  things.

The message of the cross smashes the great idolatries of the  ecclesiastical world: our endless self-promotion, our love of  mere professionalism, our addiction to well-defined methods.

the cross is not  only our creed, it is the standard of our ministry.

If biblical interpretation is held hostage  to some sort of mystical experience of the Spirit, they say, and  taken out of the realm of words, history, grammar, and exegesis,  then there is no logical stopping place.

The message of Christ  crucified is the only fundamental dividing line in the human  race.

There is no deep and stable spirituality that does not acknowledge   what an utterly profound privilege it is to know God and be  reconciled to him by the crucified Messiah.

If we should express unqualified  gratitude to God for the gift of his Son, we should express no less  gratitude to God for the gift of the Spirit who enables us to grasp  the gospel of his Son.

if we are to  understand God, to think his thoughts after him, truly to “know”  him, we are going to have to receive the Spirit of God. We simply  cannot find him by ourselves.

The heart of our  lostness is our profound self-focus. We do not want to know him,  if knowing him is on his terms.

What it means to be “spiritual” is profoundly tied to the cross,  and to nothing else. More precisely, to be spiritual, in this passage,   is to enjoy the gift of the Holy Spirit-and this means  understanding and appropriating the message of the cross,

those who  are most mature are most grateful for the cross and keep coming  back to it as the measure of God’s love for them and the supreme  standard of personal self-denial.

We must come back to the cross, and to God’s plan of redemption   that centers on the cross, and make that the point of our self-identification.

does anyone   truly understand the message of the cross apart from brokenness,   contrition, repentance, and faith? To repeat rather  mechanically the nature of the transaction that Christians think  took place at Golgotha is one thing; to look at God and his holiness,   and people and their sin, from the perspective of the cross, is  life-changing.

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This entry was posted in Books.

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