Christians are people of the cross and that befuddles many, especially that “of the cross” part. Most non-Christians have their ways of dealing with believers in Jesus; dealing with the cross of Jesus is another matter entirely. How and why does this historical event, the death of Jesus in the particular fashion in which he was killed, have so many implications for humanity two thousand years after its occurrence? If the cross of Jesus Christ was merely an inconsequential anecdote, a blip on the radar not so different than the death of any other semi-famous man, what is the big deal and why is it relevant?
The cross of Jesus Christ is a big deal and relevant because it is key to understanding not only who God is but who you are. So important is the cross that “when you fail to make the cross the central focus of your life–your identity in Christ–you run the risk of experiencing extreme disconnection in the various areas of what you do.” It affects absolutely everything; there is nothing it does not touch.
Such is the argument of pastor and author Tony Evans, who with straightforward, plainspoken prose takes readers through the basics of this cornerstone of the Christian faith. Accessible and easily digestible, Evans explains the power of what Jesus accomplished at Calvary and why it matters. Divided into three parts, The Power of the Cross outlines the person, purposes, and power of the cross, and within each section he explores the themes and questions that invariably arise when these subjects are discussed.
These days much appreciation is expressed for people who “tell it like it is.” But unlike a certain presidential candidate (who shall remain nameless), Tony Evans tells it like it is graciously and truthfully. With a firm command of the Scriptures, the author does not shy away from supplying definitions for terms should anyone unfamiliar with Chrsitian-speak be reading. His examples illustrating the concepts he articulates are almost always from the stories of the Bible but occasionally one will hear a bit of information and or a brief note from his personal journey in order draw analogies. Evans speaks with a sage wisdom that can only come from experience and he exhorts us to think with eternity in mind, accepting the unity we have with Jesus at the cross as an invitation to forsake temporal things for that which will last forever, even when the process entails pain–and it almost always does. For God must “[b]y means of the cross…disconnect you from that which is inconsistent with [his new] covenant and the relationship that you are having with Him.”
The subtitle of The Power of the Cross is “Putting It To Work In Your Life” and while I am as grateful as anyone for a solid explanation of the importance of the cross of Jesus Christ, I was expecting more of an action-oriented plan to do what that subtitle says. Good pastor-theologians know how to take theological claims and marry them with practical, everyday living. Equipping disciples of Jesus must be at the forefront of any ministry worth its salt and Tony Evans clearly has that gift, but if there is anything lacking in this book it would be the dearth of practical steps one might take to implement and apply the power of what Jesus has done to daily life. Having said that, when one spends any time internalizing Calvary some practicals are all but certain to emerge.
Paul the apostle wrote to the church in Corinth that “the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” but that for those being saved it is God’s power (1 Cor. 1:18). Beholding that transforming power operating in the life of an individual who has encountered Jesus is without a doubt the greatest mystery and witness for the Christian faith. No one can argue with a life they see remarkably changing in front of their eyes. The life-changing force has a message behind it called the gospel and although it may sound like ridiculous buffoonery to those who have not yet met the Lord, there is no event in history that has so profoundly changed the lives of people and altered the course human events more than the cross of Jesus. Evans is to be commended for offering this explainer of that event to which all of us who bear the name of Christ point to as the only hope for the world.
Photo credit: Freeimages.com