Book Review: Cruciform by Jimmy Davis

In the Middle Ages, Christians built grand cathedrals in which to worship. “Everything about the way a cathedral was built . . . was designed to help folks discern, delight in, and declare the great, biblical doctrines concerning God and the gospel,” explains author Jimmy Davis (p. 7). They were works of art designed to communicate the message of the cross.

We need more cruciform churches today, says Davis. “Not lavish cathedrals but living communities of disciples being shaped by the cross into the shape of the cross for the glory of God and the good of our neighbors, the nations, and the next generation” (p. 8). That’s why he’s written Cruciform: Living the Cross-Shaped Life.

Many of us, particularly if we’ve come to faith as adults, struggle to clearly and practically define the Christian life. What does it look like? Is it a list of things we do or don’t do or is there more to it than that? But the underlying question—the question behind the question as it were—is not simply what does it look like, but why do we exist in the first place? Davis offers a very insightful answer: “We exist to exalt the glory of God and to help other people and all of creation do the same” (p. 15).

This understanding is essential for all who seek to live a cross-shaped life. If we do not understand why we have been created and for what purpose we have been redeemed by faith in Christ, we will flounder rather than flourish.

So what do cruciform disciples? Davis sums it up in two key points:

Cruciform disciples (imperfectly) resemble Jesus the Son. “The more we become like Jesus, the Beloved Son, the more we will fill up by faith on the love of the Father through the gospel as his beloved sons” (p. 37).

Cruciform disciples (imperfectly) resemble Jesus the Servant. “As we fill up by faith on the love of the Father as it is offered in the good news about Jesus and poured out by the Spirit, we overflow with love back to God and out to others, using the resources he has provided in the place he has put us. Our lives will take the form of a cross-shaped servant” (ibid).

These twin realities—that when we are redeemed God has adopted all of us as His sons (cf. Gal. 3:26-29) and out of our sonship, we respond in service—are at the heart of the Christian life. In the author’s words, we are embraced as sons and empowered and employed as servants. “Our service must also flow from sonship, for unless and until we are sons we can’t serve, won’t serve, and don’t want to serve. Without divine sonship, we are like the two lost sons in Luke 15:11-32 . . . [rejecting] the fellowship freely offered to us by the Father and instead embraced either pleasure (trying to escape God’s righteousness) or performance (trying to earn it)” (p. 54). [Read more...]