“We know Jesus should matter more than he does [in our lives]; we just don’t know how to make it happen.” This is the audience for which Elyse Fitzpatrick has written her book, Counsel from the Cross: Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ.
She has written the book for both those who provide Christian counsel to others and those who seek it. “We don’t need six steps to our best life now,” she states. “We need the God-Man’s death and resurrection.”
Co-authored with Dennis E. Johnson, the book is written not as a self-help book or a manual of therapeutic tactics to employ, but as an exposition and reminder of the gospel. Along the way, she shares various anecdotes that show just how the gospel works in people’s lives – demonstrating the way that she implores people to realize how the gospel connects to their everyday lives and, even more so, in their most broken situations.
Her steady theme of the book is this: The gospel is not for good people who have got it all together (which is good because then it would be for nobody). Instead, it is most meaningful for us when we recognize and surrender our own empty attempts, as highlighted in the following three areas.
When we miss the point of the gospel of Jesus Christ in bringing wholeness to our lives, we fall into the trap of believing the Christian life is all about duty and obligation: our responsibility to measure up to the righteousness of Christ. We become more conscientious about obedience – about acquiring the attributes of God – than about mindfulness of the accomplishments of Jesus Christ and their impact on us. Instead of possessing Christ, we are left only with self – a helpless and sinful self at that.
Secondly, when our love for God, and our relationship with God, is weak, sin is generated. Fitzpatrick points out that Jesus gave two commandments: to love God and to love others. Breaking those two commands leaves us hopelessly in sin. When we don’t know God or don’t think of Him as we ought, our love fails. All we have then is self-love.
Our love is responsive – to His love. And so it looks like His love for us. It is steadfast and not sentimental. We must never think we have matured past needing to know His love.
Finally, we must “lay down our deadly doing.” Once again, keeping the focus on self and our obligation or duty to accomplish what we call the Christian life keeps us from receiving what He alone can do. “We think we can live happy, perfected lives if we just ferret out the right key to get God to unlock all his treasure and make us healthy, wealthy, and wise,” Fitzpatrick cautions. Instead, we can look at the Lord’s Supper in Luke 22:14-20 and remember, as He asked us to, that He is the meal – He is the only means of redemption and resurrection for our lives.