“MAHANIACS” – Read at your own risk…  What follows may challenge what you’ve been taught.

What is the meaning of the word “Gospel”?  Most Christians would say “GOOD NEWS”, and they would be right.  Here’s the AWESOME NEWS according to the Apostle Paul: 

 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 (English Standard Version)

“ 3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”

C.J. Mahaney begins his masterpiece, Living the Cross Centered Life, as follows:

“Each of our lives is centered on something.  What’s at the center of yours?  Think about it for a moment.  What’s really the main thing in your life?” (p. 13)

According to Mahaney, this is how the Apostle Paul answers that question:

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you…. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins.” (p. 14)  

Mahaney continues:

“In the midst of our various responsibilities and many possible areas of service in the kingdom of God, one overarching truth should motivate all our work and affect every part of who we are: Christ died for our sins.

This, Paul says, is the main thing.  Nothing else – not even things that are biblical or honorable – are of equal or greater importance than this:  God sent His Son to the cross to bear His wrath for sinners like you and me.

If there’s anything in life we should be passionate about, it’s the gospel.” (pp. 14-15)

It becomes clear that Mahaney’s definition for the “gospel” is that “Christ died for our sins.” 

Now let’s go back and re-read 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 in the version that Mahaney and his fellow reformers prefer – the English Standard Version. 

“ 3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”

Here’s why I believe Mahaney teaches a “deficient gospel”.  Did you notice that he places a period after the phrase “that Christ died for our sins”?  Paul, who was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, places a comma after the word “sins”.  Well, maybe the translators actually inserted punctuation, but what is of vital importance is what Mahaney fails to include.

Now let’s go back to his original question:  “What’s really the main thing in your life?”  In other words, what is of “first importance”?

Here is Paul’s complete response in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 (ESV):  “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”

Dear readers, this is the GOOD NEWS, according to the Apostle Paul.  You see, a crucified “Savior”, as Mahaney so often refers to Jesus Christ, is of no use unless He is resurrected.  Many people in Jesus’ day were crucified, including Peter who was crucified upside down; yet the Son of God came back to life, and this is why we as Christians will experience ETERNAL LIFE.

We simply cannot put a period where God places a comma!  It’s a distortion of the Gospel.  Can you imagine what Paul would say to C.J. about this?

Why are we harping on this so much?  You see, C.J. Mahaney and his “Apostolic Team” have created a religious system which is based strictly on the death of Jesus Christ and “indwelling sin”.  What Sovereign Grace Ministries does is spend so much time at the foot of the cross that they never get to experience the resurrection.  I have done extensive research on SGM for about a year and a half, and so often SGM members (former and current) complain that the only time the resurrection is EVER mentioned is on “Resurrection Sunday” and sometimes not even then!  Some SGM pastors actually focus on the cross on Easter!

Mahaney absolutely LOVES the songs written and produced within SGM because they are so “cross-centered”.  There is no question that music plays an important role within Sovereign Grace churches, and I fear that their obsession with Christ’s death and not His resurrection has twisted the Gospel message.

Consider this excerpt from Living the Cross Centered Life:

“When you’re tempted to doubt God’s love for you, stand before the cross and look at the wounded, dying, disfigured Savior, and realize why He is there.  I believe His Father would whisper to us, “Isn’t that sufficient? I haven’t spared My own Son; I deformed and disfigured and crushed Him – for you.  What more could I do to persuade you that I love you?” (p. 56)

Why does Mahaney like to depict Jesus Christ as the “wounded, dying, disfigured Savior”, especially to members of Sovereign Grace churches?  I believe he does it to cause brokenness in this body of believers and to create a dependency on SGM leadership.  Based on my understanding of this "family of churches", the pastors rarely explain that “the Savior” rose from the dead, is alive, and is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven.  Christians can claim VICTORY because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Tomorrow I will share my concluding thought on Living the Cross Centered Life.

Until then, here are some questions TWW has about this “family of churches”.

Do SGM pastors ever get beyond the cross to new life in Jesus Christ? 

Do they find peace in the forgiveness of their sins and joy in their subsequent Christian walk?

Does the Holy Spirit only bring conviction or does the Spirit fill the believer with peace and love?


LIVING THE CROSS CENTERED LIFE: A “Deficient Gospel” — 21 Comments

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    You might find the following blogs of interest about C.J. Mahaney and the group he leads, Sovereign Grace Ministries:

    They tell another side.

    Hope this helps.

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    We comment frequently on those sites. They have been most helpful to us as we have observed this weirdness. Thanks for commenting.

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    Rest assured, I have been following these two sites VERY CLOSELY for a year and a half, and the many testimonies former SGMers have shared are the primary reason we are focusing on Sovereign Grace Ministries and C.J. Mahaney.

    My heart breaks for what some of the “survivors” have been through, and I’m praying that their relationship with Jesus Christ will be restored.


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    The resurrected and ascended Jesus is what makes the birth, life and crucifixion of Jesus of any significance. Without the resurrection and ascension, we would not think of him as the Christ, nor would we believe his teachings. Without the resurrection, there would be no Pentecost, no Damascus Road conversion and no Paul as an Apostle, no church, no Christian theology, etc., etc., etc., The Resurrection is the central event in history that gives meaning to everything else. It is the powerful display of God’s love for Jesus and for us.

    The crucifixion is the powerful display of Jesus’ obedience as the Messiah (both as man and God) to the Trinity. Our sins are forgiven by his act on the cross, validated by the resurrection.

    Grace is not merely the forgiveness of sin, it is also the outpouring of God’s love for us that resulted in the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus to be an intercessor for us, so that God ignores our sin and sees Jesus’ perfection instead.

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    Well said!

    May I quote what you have written in today’s post? It will be part two of my book review of Living the Cross Centered Life.

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    I know this will anger many but this is exactly what Catholics focus on.

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    Do you know how many times DEb has said that to me???!!!!We all must meet one day!

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    I wanna be at that meeting! 🙂

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    1 Corinthians 15 focuses far more on the resurrection and its significance for us in living victoriously as Christians than it does on Christ’s death for our sins. True, Jesus completely paid for our sins on the cross, and our redemption was completely accomplished there. But God did not merely save us from the penalty of sin (the focus of the cross), but He also saved us from the power of sin (the focus of the resurrection). And, one day, we will be saved from the presence of sin, as we enter into His presence, where no sin can dwell. Meanwhile, we have His Spirit in us to guide, teach, correct, and purify us. Wow!

    As important as what took place on the cross was, if we maintain all our focus there, we never recognize the significance of Christ’s burial, resurrection, appearances, ascension, and sending of the Spirit in His place. Perhaps the reason some preachers want to keep the focus at the cross is that they fear they will lose their position of power over other believers if they ever realize that God’s Spirit indwells them as well as their “exalted leaders”.

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    Think “Stations of the Cross”

    1.Jesus is condemned to death
    2.Jesus is given his cross
    3.Jesus falls the first time
    4.Jesus meets His Mother
    5.Simon of Cyrene carries the cross
    6.Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
    7.Jesus falls the second time
    8.Jesus meets the daughters of Jerusalem
    9.Jesus falls the third time
    10.Jesus is stripped of His garments
    11.Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross
    12.Jesus dies on the cross
    13.Jesus’ body is removed from the cross (Deposition or Lamentation)
    14.Jesus is laid in the tomb and covered in incense.

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    We would always include you. What fun!

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    Of course. As an attorney and as one who has studied how we “know” what we know (epistemology), and who has also had to understand what we mean by “truth”, I find that the concept of sovereignty is terribly misunderstood. Sovereignty is the having of the power to reign by nature of who the sovereign is and who the subject is. It is a relationship between two parties or entities or persons that gives one authority or power over another. However, sovereignty is not necessarily the exercise of that authority or power. That is, the sovereignty exists whether used or not.

    In human relationships, unused power tends to erode over time, as the subject and third parties will come to reject or doubt the legitimacy of power. However, in the case of the human and Almighty God, there is no question as to the Creator’s legitimacy possession of sovereignty.

    God’s use of his sovereignty is mitigated by his love. Hence, the offer of salvation, which is the replacement of sovereign power of justice with the power of love. Thus, the frequent biblical implication that it is by his love that we are saved, not by his sovereignty, but both preserve us once we have said that Jesus is Lord.

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    I hope you don’t mind but I’m quoting you on my Twitter! You can’t imagine how encouraging it is finding this amazing writing about the importance of neglecting the resurrection!

    Having spent 2 years in SGM in England, I grew so concerned at the truncating of the gospel. Even on Easter Sunday misty-eyed songs were sung about the old rugged Cross!

    So the quote I loved, loved, loved was;

    “You see, a crucified “Savior’ … is of no use unless He is resurrected”.

    So true! Thank you and keep up your amazing work!

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    You have truly blessed my heart with your comment. The Holy Spirit was pressing me to write about SGM’s “deficient” gospel, and now I understand why.

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    I just posted a comment over at SGM Survivors ( that ties in with this post, and I thought I’d share it with our readers here at TWW. It’s comment #173 under the heading “SHOW ME THE MONEY”.

    Here it is:

    February 19th, 2010 at 8:15 am

    Claireon said:
    “In his youth, Mahaney was a drug pusher. People bought a substance from him that altered their reality, provided an escape, and kept them coming back for more. In order to sell drugs, he had to have an awareness of the effect drugs had on people, and knew how to keep them interested so that they would purchase more – from him.”


    I knew about this, but I have just had an epiphany!

    The way you have described C.J. has suddenly allowed me to see what’s truly going on in SGM. Instead of pushing drugs, C.J. is now pushing a deficient gospel, which isn’t the “REAL” gospel. He has created a dependency in SGMers by pushing “indwelling sin” – his current “drug” of choice. And it’s truly mind-altering!

    Emphasizing ONLY Jesus’ death and not His resurrection is a HALF-TRUTH, and I believe a half-truth is always a LIE!

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    CJ agrees that without the resurrection Christ death isn’t that helpful for us. I’m not so sure that the fact that he put a period after Christ dying for our sins is a denial of the resurrection. I think it could be a statement that the cross was the moment that our sin was actually dealt with. The resurrection was an affirmation of the accomplishment of redemption, not the actual accomplishment itself. I think CJ emphasizes the cross because it was on the cross that the redemption was actually accomplished, thus the pivotal moment in our salvation, without which the resurrection would be insignificant.

    Having said that, I agree that we need to be careful not to so emphasize the cross that we neglect the resurrection. The resurrection shouldn’t be something limited to Easter Sunday, but something we celebrate year round.

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    We know that CJ believes in the resurrection. But, we believe there is a deeper reason for his insistence on only emphasizing the Cross prior to the resurrection. Please don’t take this personally, but your first statement says it all. CJ agrees….that without the resurrection, Christ’s death “isn’t that helpful” (your words).

    The resurrection is everything as is the cross as is His birth as is the Second Coming. They need to be viewed as a whole. How sad and limited to emphasize only one aspect of this Miraculous Coming. Isn’t it cool that the Sinless One loved us enough to spend 33 years with us? How about the Omnipotent One becoming a Vulnerable Baby? Stop at the Cross and continue on.

    We, at TWW, believe that CJ uses the Cross to emphasize our sins in order to control his ministry. CJ has a history of involvement in controlling ministries such as the shepherding movement. There has been so much pain and sadness as indicated by the number of survivor sites. We want to emphasize the Good News to the sad and beaten down. Christ overcame death on the Cross and we are FREE!!!!! And, it is important to emphasize the Great Joy.There is much to be merry about.

    My question for our readers is this? Are you merry and joyful? Do you look forward to your church services and Bible studies or have you become burdened trying to live up to a perfect standard and trying to deal with chronic guilt imposed by your leaders? Don’t! Join the Fellowship of Merry Christians!!!!

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    I think it’s possible to have joy and still recognize the pivotal moment that the cross was. Regardless of what CJ may or may not have done, emphasizing the cross as the seminal moment when our sin was paid for has provided me much joy over the years.

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    That is the point. You experience much joy in the Cross. CJ and others take away the joy. I am with you. Until I realized how others misuse this Good News, the Cross was, and is, a source of joy. But for those who are oppressed, the Cross is used to bring chronic shame and sadness.

    You mentioned what CJ believes about the resurrection and that the Cross is not that helpful to us without the resurrection. Could you please expand about what he believes in this regard?

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    Why start out your post by calling me a Mahaniac just because I’ve been blessed by CJ’s book?

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    This is not directed at you. Just because you like a book, doesn’t mean that you are a Mahaniac.We are trying to get our archives transferred, you will see what we mean by this. Mahania is a syndrome marked by excessive devotion to Mahaney et al, while ignoring the problems of his thinking and how it is lived out in his denomination or “family of churches” if you like.

    He utilizes the cross as a means of control of his followers. He stops them at the foot of the cross, lets them know what wretched sinners they are and how they have very little to contribute to the polity of his church. He, and his guys, somehow get a pass on the effects of sin and therefore need no input from the sinful little guy.

    Please refer to SGM Survivors or SGM Refuge for a complete understanding of this ministry which we believe has serious issues.YOu may find it interesting how he uses some of the concepts in his book to cause pain in his people.

    Thank you for your question.