Book Review - Cruciform: Living the Cross-Shaped Life
by Pastor Oliver Chia
The vision of Grace Baptist Church is to be ‘a disciplemaking church that transforms lives with the Gospel and love of Jesus Christ’. How then can we as a church both be disciples and make disciples? There have been a number of books written on this theme: most tend to be practical and focus on the methodologies; while a few look at the theology of discipleship. There are not many books that are both deeply theological and relevantly practical, connecting a studied reflection on Scripture with an intentional living out in real life.
This is where a little book by Jimmy Davis, Cruciform: Living the Cross-Shaped Life, ably bridges the gap. Davis writes at the start of the book that what we need are “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). This, he believes, is the end-goal of disciple-making – to form a community, ie a church that is shaped by the cross of Jesus Christ. Davis gives the theological foundation in Chapters 1 and 2 where he covers creation, fall and redemption, and contends that we are created to look away from ourselves to God, other people and creation with a ‘you-first’ heart. When the fall occurred, we traded that for a self-centred ‘me-first’ heart. But the good news is that we have been redeemed by Christ into the new covenant reality and given a new purity, a new passion, a new power and a new partnership (pp 29-31) (cf Jer 31:31-34, Eze 36:25-28).
We can now live the ‘you-first’ cross-shaped life empowered by the cross. Davis continues in chapters 3 to 6 that a cross-shaped disciple lives as a son and a servant. By wholly believing the message of the cross, we become beloved sons of God (Jn 1:12, Rom 8:14-17, Gal 4:4-7). This is our new identity in Christ. We are also servants of God called to love and serve God and others. In chapter 7, Davis writes how we can daily take in the cross by practicing the spiritual disciplines (or means of grace) of Bible intake, prayer, fasting and corporate worship. He writes that these spiritual disciplines do not earn the presence and power of God but rather make space in us for God to speak. Finally, he ends with a chapter giving his real-life example of living out the cross-shaped life in the midst of personal tragedy and suffering.
I heartily commend this book for the reading of church members who want to grow as disciples and learn to make disciples. This simple little book (113 pages) would be a great primer to get you started – giving you concrete applications connected to Biblical understanding. May you take, read and heed the call of being a disciple and making disciples, so that we as a church would understand that “all of God’s people are called to full-time ministry, the ministry of displaying the glory of Christ as cruciform [cross-shaped] cathedrals in the midst of a world that needs him” (p 106) and to live this out in our own lives.