April 16, 2014

Passion: How Christ’s Final Day Changes Your Every Day

by Jesse Johnson

All true Christians understand how the cross has an effect in the past—because of it, we have our sins forgiven; and in the future—because of the cross we will go to heaven when we die. In other words, the cross directly affects our justification and our glorification. But what about the present? How does the cross affect our sanctification?

Time out. Stop. When you read that question (“how does the cross affect our sanctification?”), did you think I meant “how does the gospel affect our sanctification?” I didn’t. I meant the cross. The wooden cross on which Jesus was crucified. The actual death of Jesus. How does the death of Jesus affect our sanctification? 

That is the question that Mike McKinley tackles in his new book, Passion: How Christ’s Final Day Changes Your Every Day. He takes 10 events from the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life and shows practically how they should affect our present life. Here’s how he puts it:

“We can treat the cross like a ticket to an evening football game that we’re carrying around in our pocket. We’re really excited about it, we’re grateful for it, but we won’t need it until we get to the stadium. We can think the cross is great, and we’ll definitely need it when we die…and that’s about it. But what about those seventy (or so) years that we live before we enter into eternity? Does it give us anything more than the future hope of heaven?”

I read Passion as my devotional book for two weeks (ten days), and enjoyed it tremendously. Each chapter takes one part of Jesus’ death and shows you how it should impact you today. Every chapter ends with three devotional questions and a hymn. You can tell that thought went into both the questions and the hymn selection. The questions were reflective and based directly on what you just read, while the hymns were doctrinally rich and on topic. Some of them I’d never heard of before, and it made me track them down on-line.

Passion would be an appropriate book to use evangelistically. In fact, there are parts where McKinley is obviously writing with non-believers in mind. He doesn’t assume things about Jesus, but explains the terms he uses, and gives background on everything he says. If a person knows nothing at all about Jesus, this book would be helpful for them.

But it is also clear that McKinley is more concerned about believers who fail to live in daily recognition of Jesus. For example, he takes Jesus’ inquisition before Pilate, and shows how that should affect our understanding of governments. “We mustn’t be surprised when societies which are generally in rebellion against God’s word have governments that pass laws opposed to the will of God.” He then writes about why we should oppose laws that allow abortion and same-sex marriage, but also about how Christians should remember that, “there is a sense of ambivalence in Scripture about human governments” (61; by the way,  McKinley pastors a church in the Washington DC area).

Chapter 5 (“Away with this man”) is perhaps the most powerful section of the book. He explains how his readers should see themselves in the role of Pilate, in the role of the crowd, and in the role of Barabbas. He then shows how this exercise should help us break the power of cowardice in our lives, as well as how it connects to the substitution of Jesus.

This book is largely taken from sermons McKinley preached at his church. This is a particularly interesting fact for those who have read McKinley’s first book, Church Planting is for Wimps, which is one of my favorite books on pastoral ministry. In that light, I read Passion almost as a sequel to that first book; sort of like the “where are they now” in a movie’s credits.

I got saved when I was 18-years-old, at an Easter service a friend invited me to. There the pastor preached on the resurrection, and said this line: “The grave is empty, and that one fact should change the way you live every day of your life.” This is the attitude that McKinley writes with. He might just has well have said, “Jesus died, and that one fact should change the way you live every day of your life.

Passion will help you do just that.

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA.