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Making the Most of the Cross

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  1. The Power of the Cross and how to make the most of it Review / Tip by Ros Barrett

    “The message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

    “Making the Most of the Cross” (2011, Matthias media) is a book which gets right to the heart of Christianity, the Cross of Jesus Christ. It takes us on a tour of the riches God offers us at the Cross, and how to make the most of them, to grow our confidence in God. In less than 100 pages of fairly large print, author John Chapman examines two main topics: the death of Jesus and His resurrection. Chapman writes in a simple yet engaging manner, with the clever wit of a seasoned preacher and evangelist. He explains fully, yet clearly and in short chapters, who Jesus was and why he had to die. It is an excellent book for Christians to read, to revisit the basics of the Gospel and be challenged again by the grace of God. But it is also especially good for newcomers to the faith. It would make a great companion for home reading in conjunction with a course like ‘Christianity Explained’, ‘Christianity Explored’ or ‘Introducing God’ – or simply for extra reading for someone new to Jesus and the message of the Cross. Each chapter contains plenty of discussion from the big story of the bible to help people grasp God’s redemptive plan and how it is fulfilled in Jesus. There is a suggested short prayer at the end of each chapter, to pull together and apply what has been discussed.

    For Chapman, Jesus’ death is “unique, unrepeatable and sufficient for all who turn to him” (p24). Chapman impresses on his readers that salvation is at the heart of what Jesus was about. Along the way he is not afraid to discuss God’s wrath (the reason we need salvation!) and to answer common objections, such as the belief that God is a vindictive child abuser (p26): “The Father did not force any punishment upon the Son; the Son himself chose to bear it on our behalf because of His love for us. That is anything but child abuse.” Jesus’ death turns away God’s anger, brings the defeat of Satan and justifies sinners. God is just, He punishes sin and love sinners. These are the clear concepts Chapman wants to reinforce.

    I particularly enjoyed chapter 7 which explored the way ‘Jesus’ death is the unifying force in the Christian community’. He says we are “made acceptable to one another because of Christ. . . Understanding this truth is wonderfully liberating. We are free to be ourselves. There is no need to pretend. It doesn’t matter what you find out about my past, or what I might discover about yours. It is all deal with in the death of Jesus. That is the basis of acceptability. We are all sinners saved by grace.”
    He then challenges us to apply this to how we treat others, to conduct radical surgery on our thinking, to accept and love others even (especially?) when it’s incovenient.

    The second half of the book looks at the Resurrection across seven chapters. Of particular interest was his discussion of our ‘resurrection bodies’ This is a pretty difficult concept for people to grasp, but using texts from 1 Corinthians 15 and Revelation 21, Chapman makes it clear that we won’t be disembodied spirits floating around forever on clouds. He says Christ will take up our bodies “and transform them so they will be breathtaking! They will be immortal, imperishable, powerful, glorious and spiritual. They will be perfectly suited to the new creation. . . When I see the apostles relating to the risen Lord Jesus, I can see how it will be. I can see that the resurrection of the Lord Jesus means that there really is eternal life; there really is a new world in which we will live and relate to each other and to the Lord Jesus Christ” (p83-84).

    One great thing about reading “Making the most of the Cross” is knowing that the author, John Chapman, can now see the reality of the things he has written about, the things he has long hoped for. Last year, after 82 years, John Chapman went to be with the Lord. We can take great encouragement from his faithful ministry – and his many books – of which this is most worthy of a read! Buy two and pass one on today. (Posted on 17/06/2013)

  2. Makes Christians pause and reflect deeper on the significance of the cross Review / Tip by Sarah

    It's tempting to see the cross as the 'basic stuff' of Christianity. In order to become a Christian we need to hear the message of the cross, but once we've heard and trusted it, we often feel like we need to move on to practical living applications. That's true (we need to be growing, learning and maturing in our faith), but we must never lose sight of the cross.

    This little book does a great job in reminding Christians of the significance of Jesus' death and resurrection. In just 99 pages, it explores Jesus' death as:

    bringing salvation
    a substitute
    a ransom
    turning away God's anger
    defeating Satan
    the way God justifies sinners
    the unifying force in the Christian community
    bringing forgiveness and cleansing

    Often the resurrection gets pushed into the background as the focus seems to be on Jesus' death. John Chapman doesn't neglect the importance of what Jesus achieved in triumphing over sin, death, and the devil when He rose from the dead. The resurrection means:

    Jesus is God's King forever
    Jesus is the judge of all people
    Jesus' sacrifice was full, perfect and sufficient
    Our fear of death is removed
    We too will have resurrection bodies
    Jesus alone can take us through death to life eternal

    I could hardly believe all of this is covered in such a thin book! It is highly readable and has prayers at the end of each chapter to encourage readers to thank God for all He has accomplished for us.

    John Chapman was a gifted evangelist (who passed away when I was in the middle of reading this book), but I feel this is a book I would give to Christians to strengthen and reaffirm them in their faith.

    It's not mind-blowing, but it will remind you of the core truths of the Christian faith. Read it slowly and reflect. My prayer is that you and I will never lose sight of the cross. (Posted on 23/12/2012)

  3. An excellent intro to Christ's work on the cross Review / Tip by Dave McDonald

    The second sermon I ever gave was a cracker. People told me! It was logical, engaging and humorous. I succeeded in explaining, illustrating and applying the Bible in a way that captivated the listeners. My girlfriend (now wife) even started to believe that I might have some hope of becoming a preacher! But, it’s time for public confession. I basically pinched the whole talk, idea for idea, point for point, from John Chapman.

    I don’t think I was the first to do this, and I’m certain that I wasn’t the last. You see, I’d looked over the Bible passage again and again, and I couldn’t see any way to make it clearer than Chappo. So why not simply copy his talk?

    Chappo’s passionate desire for people to understand the truth, and his confidence in the Bible to reveal it, came through so clearly in his preaching. He still has this same passion and confidence, and it comes across in his recent book, Making the most of the Cross. How many people are still writing books after their 80th birthdays, and dedicating them to their friends in the retirement home? Well, at least one! And I thank him for it!

    This book takes us to the very core of the Christian message – the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Everything stands or falls on these events. Without them, there is no Christianity. If Jesus didn’t die, or if he died and remains dead, then there is no real hope for humanity, either in life or in death. This is no take it or leave it topic. It’s worth investigating seriously, whether we’re a child or an octogenarian. But don’t leave it until you’re 80 if you’re not already there!

    There are two main sections in Making the most of the Cross. The first explores the significance of the death of the Lord Jesus. The second considers the facts and meaning of the resurrection. You could tackle the book in two parts, but the real benefits will come from going even more slowly and considering the many different aspects and implications of these events.

    The death of Jesus has been described as a jewel with many facets. Each facet gives us a different window into the significance of the cross and its profound implications for us. All facets need to be seen so that we don’t underestimate or skew the meaning of the cross. For example, Chappo helps us to see that…

    Jesus’ death brings salvation
    Jesus’ death is a substitute
    Jesus’ death is a ransom
    Jesus’ death turns away God’s anger
    Jesus’ death brings the defeat of Satan
    In Jesus’ death, the just God justifies sinners freely
    Jesus’ death is the unifying force in the Christian community
    Jesus’ death brings forgiveness and cleansing
    John Chapman grounds every chapter of his book in the text of the Bible. The Gospel accounts are the primary evidence for what happened to Jesus, and how Jesus understood what was happening. The rest of the New Testament supports this, giving additional insight into their meaning. Sometimes the Old Testament is quoted to assist us in understanding a particular background to Jesus’ death or resurrection. In fact, reading this book helps us to see more of how the whole Bible is focused on Jesus and only makes sense in the light of what he has done.

    Given the brevity of this book, there is much more that could be said about the significance of the cross. But, this book provides a very good primer. If you are keen to take things deeper then let me recommend The Cross of Christ by John Stott, The Atonement by Leon Morris, and Where Wrath and Mercy Meet edited by David Peterson, among others.

    To claim that Jesus was raised from the dead and is alive today, 2000 years later, is nothing short of extraordinary. What is more, Christianity stands or falls on the truth of this claim. It’s not an optional accessory. It’s the heart and soul of it all! Chappo outlines briefly the evidence for the resurrection, including the empty tomb, the eyewitnesses, the amazing transformation of the disciples, and their lasting impact on others (even to this day). But he doesn’t stop here. He goes on to highlight the significance of Jesus being raised, how the resurrection vindicates Jesus in his death, reveals him to be God’s appointed eternal ruler, the judge of all people, the pioneer of life beyond the grave, the pattern of resurrection to come, and the very real hope for you and me that death is not the end.

    One thing that impressed and encouraged me about Making the most of the Cross is the suggested prayer, usually just a sentence or two, printed at the end of each chapter. This gives the book a personal edge that encouraged me to relate to God and not simply fill my head with ideas and information. The death and resurrection of Jesus is life-transforming. It has changed my life forever. But the truth is, I need to keep being reminded of these things. Perhaps you do too! I found these words ringing true…

    Sometimes the circumstances of life may cause us to wonder if God has forgotten us. Everything seems to be going wrong. But the death of Jesus is above our circumstances. Nothing can take away the fact that Christ died for us. No matter what happens to you or to me, the death of the Lord Jesus says, “I love you”. Nothing can change that. Be in no doubt that God loves you. Jesus’ death remains as a beacon of God’s eternal love for us. (p14) (Posted on 25/11/2012)

  4. A great introduction to some core theological truths Review / Tip by Joel A Moroney

    A few years ago, a friend and I were writing a kids talk for a church service. We wanted my puppet orangutan to tell the kids why the resurrection was so important. And we paused. We both knew that the resurrection was important, but we were struggling to put into words WHY it was important. I’m sure if we had a copy of John Chapman’s book Making The Most of The Cross at hand back then, we wouldn’t have been struggling. Because this is a great resource that clearly explains some big truths.

    Making The Most of The Cross is a book that looks at both the death and resurrection of Jesus. These two events are at the heart of what Christians believe. Yet we can find them difficult to wrap our brains around. Chapman’s book is an easy to read book that pulls apart Jesus’ death and resurrection and clearly explains why you should care. Each chapter looks at a different topic, such as “Jesus’ death turns away God’s anger” or “Jesus’ resurrection removes our fear of death”. To give you an idea of how easy this is to read, each chapter is about four pages long. No matter what you reading level is, this is a very readable book.

    While this book is accessible and very readable, it means it’s not an in depth book on theology. If you’ve read a lot of theology books, you will find this book too simple a treatment. But if you’re just starting out with your theological reading, or looking for help sharing these big ideas in a simple way, this is a great book to pick up. (Posted on 25/04/2012)

  5. A Simple and Clear Explanation of the Significance of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Review / Tip by Joshua Tan

    John Chapman's book "Making the most of the Cross" explains a series of important truths which come out of the belief that Jesus did die and rise again. Chapman's argument through his book, is that if Jesus actually did die on the cross, and rise again from the dead, then His death and resurrection is the most important and most life changing event in the whole of history.

    I really enjoyed reading this book and being reminded of many truths that I hold firm to because I believe that Jesus is my Lord and Saviour. In particular, I was able to ponder and marvel at the fact that Jesus took my sins (rebellion against God the creator) away on the cross by dying in my place, and He rose again to prove that death had no hold of Him. I was also able to think through the whole concept of Jesus' substitutionary sacrifice and again praise God for His love and mercy.

    One thing that I found great about this book was that it seemed very sensitive to those who may be reading and learning about Jesus for the first time. The text in the book is written in a very simple manner, without much Christian jargon, but packed with many real life and personal illustrations, which allows it to be a good resource for those who may be new Christians or those trying to find out more about Jesus. The book is less than 100 pages long, which made it a very easy read.

    If you're looking to be reminded of the importance of the Cross of Christ, or you are trying to find out more about this history changing event, or you want to give your friends who are interested in religion something to think about, I would very much recommend this book to you! (Posted on 10/01/2012)

  6. A sound and succinct, if not fully comprehensive, guide to approaching the cross Review / Tip by Jess

    Making the Most of the Cross by John Chapman is an excellent overview of the many facets of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, with a tantalising glimpse of the consequences it has for the Christian life. Although its title suggests that it is a comprehensive exploration of each facet of the cross, the book itself acts more as a guide from which one may deeper explore each individual facet of the cross.

    The book’s greatest strength lies in the fact that it is an excellent guidebook. It is neatly compartmentalised into three parts (Jesus’ death, resurrection and implications for Christian living). It is simple in its explanations of doctrinal concepts such as “propitiation”, “justification” and Jesus’ “substitutionary” death; profound in its ability to so concisely explain how Jesus’ death and resurrection fulfils and allows each of these facets to work and be powerful.

    Perhaps this book’s most significant contribution is its emphasis upon the importance of Jesus’ death and resurrection as forming our understanding of the cross. As Chapman emphasises, the cross can only be complete with Jesus’ resurrection, for if Jesus’ death was the defeat of death, then we should expect it to end in life. In this way, Chapman successfully brings his readership to a more complete understanding of how Jesus’ resurrection works hand in hand with his death to fulfil God’s promises. As such, this book reminds us that it is the completion of this task, the crucifixion and resurrection, which lies at the centre of Christ’s relationship with his father.

    Sadly, Chapman does not then link how or why the cross is so central to Jesus’ relationship with the Father. While one may argue that this is not necessary to the cross, the Bible selections Chapman makes himself include passages where Jesus uses his relationship with the Father as the model for, and, indeed, the reason for our interactions with each other, most notably when he uses 1 John 4:7-12 to explain how Jesus’ death and resurrection unifies all Christians.

    It is at points such as these that the strength of Chapman’s book (its neat, compartmentalised layout) becomes its very weakness. By focusing merely on one aspect of the cross in each chapter, Chapman limits his ability to fully draw the depth of meaning within the Bible passages he draws from. In so limiting himself, Chapman is unable to do what his book title so strongly implies it will do- provide a comprehensive exploration of all the facets of the cross, how they interact, and what impact the cross will then have on our lives as Christians. In fact, it is this last point which left me most wanting: apart from tantalising glimpses of unity, and a changed life, there is little in this book that explores the empowering nature of the cross to change life, both for the individual Christian and for the corporate body of the Christian church.

    In the above criticism, however, I am aware that I am unduly harsh on what is a very sound guide to approaching the cross. After all, books and sermons do not exist to provide ‘comprehensive’ answers, but the best books propel us further into the Bible itself, to explore and wrestle with God’s word in a very intimate and personal manner.

    Ultimately Chapman’s Making the Most of the Cross is a highly accessible, encouraging and challenging reminder of the heart of Christianity. What we take from the book to our daily lives is that Jesus is the Christ, that he has so been proclaimed because of his death and resurrection, and through his act of dying on the cross and rising to new life, we who were far away have been brought near to God. That knowledge, and a deep thirst and desire to read more of the Bible and know more of the cross, in all its glorious facets, for ourselves. (Posted on 5/01/2012)

  7. A faithful explanation of the Gospel Review / Tip by John Brand

    Like all good evangelists John Chapman has a knack for making complex and profound truths sound simple and for exuding a real warmth as he communicates the message. Now aged 80, and having “lost a couple of specialists” along the way, Chapman is still going strong and still burdened to explain the centrality of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the touchstone of true faith; in his words, “The event in human history.”

    In the first part of the book, Chapman looks at the significance and benefits of the death of Christ and in the second part he considers the implications of the resurrection. Part 3 looks at the death and resurrection of Christ as a pattern for all future judgement and of the Christian experience.

    Each short chapter is only about 4-5 pages long, is based on an appropriate Scriptural text which is printed in full, and closes with a short suggested prayer. This lends itself to being a useful devotional book to be read thoughtfully, a chapter at a time, or even as an evangelistic tool to be given to a serious enquirer who is prepared to read a straightfoward explanation of the heart of the Gospel.

    As you would expect from this author, this is a faithful explanation and application of biblical truth and highly commended as such. (Posted on 31/10/2011)

  8. The Cross and Resurrection clearly explained Review / Tip by Luke Isham

    This John Chapman's second book since he retired to a nursing home! The old evangelist is still active; dedicating the book to the nursing home bible study. This makes his chapters about the Resurrection and our death all the more poignant. While the book itself is simple, short chapters and a direct writing style, I found being reminded of the theological consequences of Jesus' death and resurrection very refreshing.

    Primarily it was good to see reinforced the idea that while the Crucifixion and the Resurrection "are two aspects of the same event" (p9) there are a number of different consequences from each. The book is basically a survey of those consequences. Jesus' death saves us from the "wrath that is to come" (1 Thess 1:10). It's a substitute for our death (1 Peter 2:24). The metaphor of ransom (Mk 10:45), echoing the imagery of the kinsmen redeemer, illustrates our powerlessness and the high cost of this substitution. God is propitiated by the Crucifixion of Jesus (1 John 2:1-2). An added consequence of Jesus' death is that the Devil is defeated (Col 2:13-15), in a sense filling out the rest of redemption metaphor, "we're free" (p39). The tension between God's justice and our guilt is resolved by God's declaration of righteousness because a substitute has redeemed us from bondage.

    Although Chapman doesn't explicitly frame the next two chapters in this way, they are the relational and emotional consequences of the crucifixion. In chapter seven he writes: "If God accepts me because of the death of Christ then I expect you to accept me on the same basis. It is not that we are naturally drawn to each other, but that we are made acceptable to each other because of Christ" (p48). Then in the next chapter Chapman describes the interchangeable images of the Crucifixion resulting in our forgiveness/cleansing, our sin being cancelled or erased.

    For the Resurrection to make any sense, Jesus needed to be really dead. An obvious point it seems but the one on which Christianity turns. Returning from the dead is highly unusual says Chapman and it'd be odd to concoct such a story, "what would you gain?" (p60) Many people die for various causes, but why would that original cohort die for a known falsehood? The first consequence of Jesus' return to life is that reveals him to be the eternal King (Acts 2:36 & 1 Chron 17:4-14). A King brings justice and judgement, and a living Jesus makes that a certainty. Resurrection is also proof Jesus paid the price of sin, death. In a very sharp observation from a man not far from death Chapman then writes in chapter thirteen: "The fear of death can lead us to do all sorts of wrong and evil thing. But Jesus tells us not to fear ... He has walked the path of death that we too must walk" (p79). He concludes with an expression I hadn't considered, we live in the twilight between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, upset by the Cross and not yet astonished by the Resurrection (p90). (Posted on 15/10/2011)

  9. Book review; What it does, doesn't, and what to expect. Review / Tip by Alex Macdonald

    The cross is the crux (I know, bad pun, but I mean it) of Christianity. It's the whole mechanism by which we can be saved. It's the definitive point in history when the battle was won, where sin was dealt with, where humanity was broken out of out imprisonment to death. For any Christian, understanding the importance and mechanism of the cross is essential. And John Chapman's “Making the Most of the Cross” is a great place to start.

    I really enjoyed this book; it isn't long, it isn't wordy. It's easy to read, and every time I was starting to feel like “It would be really good if he had just explained this one thing”, or “if I was unsure about this, and was considering Christ, there's an ambiguity”, I would turn the page, and the next short chapter would not disappoint.

    This was particularly noticeable between Part I (The death of the Lord Jesus) and Part II (The Resurrection of the Lord Jesus). Chapman talks about “The Cross” as 2 events which are tightly bound together, to the point of it being one event, the event of Jesus dealing with death and sin. Chapman explains in part I the concepts of substitution, of ransom, of propitiation, and the whole reason behind the death, what the deal with Jesus dying was. Just as it reached the end, however, I was thinking along these lines; “Yes, but one of the main audiences of this book [which I pick to be most for the inquiring/interested non Christian, or new Christian] is going to want the story, the facts, the history, the basic explanation, laid out clearly.” I only had to wait until the next page to get it. It may just be that he thinks in a way very similar to my own thought process, but John Chapman had me at the same stage as he was the whole way.

    This was a reasonably easy read; it was casual and not filled with jargon or “Christian” language. It explained everything simply, and managed to delve into complicated or deep theological principles whilst still maintaining an easy readability. The reason this worked is because of the progression he took; every chapter was a short bite, in small steps. One of the things I loved was that if you lined up all the chapter titles, you would get a pretty solid framework of the gospel; the problem, the need for a solution, God's love and grace, the mechanism of substitutionary atonement and so on, in simple statements. The chapter text itself was rich with biblical reference; each chapter started with an extract from the scripture, and every chapter ended with a short prayer along the lines of the content. Anecdotally and in the tone of writing, I found Chapman very helpful. He explained (as said earlier) in a way that made complex things seem simple, used examples and logic that just fit. For someone with a historical and analytical mindset and approach (I am often unsatisfied with resources that do not engage with solid fact around Jesus, or historicity, or a logical understanding of faith as centred on Christ), this book was good because it managed to deal with some issues of credibility and historicity without getting off topic. Chapman speaks in a personal manner, and I found this meant he was easy to engage with, and allowed him both authority and humility; the fact that he even says, at one stage, that he cannot answer questions around how specific events will lead to the glorification of God, actually added to the book by modelling what it means to have faith beyond our comprehension.

    As you may have picked up, I have pretty much only positive things to say about this book. It's informative and challenging; even for someone who has looked into the facts around the resurrection in reasonable historical depth and who has been a Christian for a reasonable amount of time this was highly informative. It was clear that Chapman's extensive experience alerted him to areas where people sometimes struggle with belief, assurance, or just uncomfortable thoughts, and worked to allay such doubts. For myself, there were a few little gems pulled out, particularly about how the pattern of the cross shapes our lives, which I will take away as great pieces of wisdom for service and teaching.

    Negatives? I imagine some people would find his tone (casual, personal) slightly frustrating, and that those who read it as Christians who have a reasonably sound theology of the cross would find it not to be practical enough early on. In that sense, “Making the Most of the Cross” put my expectation (something more aimed at a Christian audience, and full of practical ways to maintain passion for Christ) at odds with the reality. I was not disappointed, however, and would recommend this as a fantastic book for those who are seriously investigating Jesus, or who are struggling to understand the true significance of the Cross. (Posted on 24/08/2011)

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