Cruciform: Living the Cross-Shaped Life, by Jimmy Davis
Endorsed by Paul Miller, Scotty Smith, Mike Wittmer, and more.
Employing the symbols of the cruciform cathedral and the Celtic cross, the aim of this book is to cast a vision for the Cruciform Life, living as disciples of Jesus who are being shaped by the cross (gospel) into people and churches who share and show the cross (gospel) as they live the vertical life of loving God with all their head, heart, and hands and the horizontal life of loving people as Christ has loved them.
Jimmy Davis, an ordained teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, holds degrees from Bryan College and Dallas Theological Seminary, has been in ministry for more than 30 years, and served as a staff writer and associate editor of the Colson Center’s Worldview Church Website. He and his wife, Christine, have three children.
“Will open your heart up to see how the cross is the center of all of life.”
Click for all endorsements
“Jimmy Davis loves the cross. This little book will open your heart up to see how the cross is the center of all of life. Well done.”
—Paul Miller, director of seeJesus.net and author of A Praying Life and A Loving Life
“The cross is both the heart of Christianity and its least popular feature. We naturally shrink from carrying our cross, but as Jimmy Davis explains from hard-won experience, that is the only way to experience the salvation that God has planned for us. Dying with Jesus is the only path to life, and this book ably shows you how it’s done.”
—Mike Wittmer, Professor of Systematic Theology, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary
“In our day, when all kinds of words are being tossed around to describe the faith of Christ, we need some down-to-earth sanity to help us sort out what it really means to be a Christian. What better image than that which Jimmy Davis supplies in the cross of Jesus Christ? The Christian is a temple of the Lord, a cathedral devoted to demonstrating the power of the cross. Jimmy explains to us how this ancient image, first endorsed by our Savior himself, is the best way—and, really, the only way—to think about the life to which we’ve been called as Christians. With sound biblical exposition, clear and helpful illustrations, and a wealth of practical guidance, Jimmy Davis shows us how to cut through the fog of contemporary Christian thinking to recover the Savior’s plan for our lives.”
—T. M. Moore, Dean of Chuck Colson’s Centurions Program, Principal of the Fellowship of Ailbe, author of Culture
“Cruciform, Living the Cross-Shaped Life, is the account of a family that found tragedy drove them to the Cross and taught them the meaning of a Cross-shaped Life. The book is built on sound theology that has been tested in the crucible of life and found to be true. Jimmy Davis tells how serving the Lord had become more important to him than his marriage and how God used the near death of his wife to teach him he had to be a faithful steward of the first ministry God had given him, his marriage. This book will be a help to everyone struggling with ‘Why, God?” As a seminary professor, I believe every person planning for, and serving, in a place of Christian ministry should read this book.”
—Dr. Brian Richardson, Basil Manly, Jr. Professor of Christian Ministry, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Cruciform is a theologically grounded and redemptively freeing picture of a life spent boasting in the cross of Jesus. Avoiding the distortions of both repressive legalism and irresponsible antinomianism, Jimmy Davis helps us understand how the indicatives of God’s grace lead to the imperatives of obedient love. This book will help many people understand what the gospel-driven life is all about.”
—Scotty Smith, Founding Pastor, Christ Community Church, Franklin, Tennessee
“At turns thought-provoking, laugh-provoking, and tear-provoking, Jimmy Davis’s engaging new book, Cruciform: Living the Cross-Shaped Life, hands Christians the tools they need to build or remodel their lives into the one God intends for them: one of completeness in community, freedom from legalism, and living on mission with the One who calls them beloved daughters and sons. Read and be freed.”
—Sandra Byrd, best-selling author of the London Confidential Series, the Ladies in Waiting Series, and three dozen additional books for women and girls
“Have you ever wondered what Paul meant when he told the Corinthians that he was determined to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ and Him crucified? How central was the cross to Paul’s mission? Jimmy Davis has developed a simple but profound approach to the Christian life using the symbol of the Cross. The three elements in the shape of the cross — vertically, our love for and from God; horizontally, our love to and from others; and the intersection and unity of these two directions — pack a powerful punch!”
—David Arthur, Executive Vice President, Precept Ministries International
“In today’s evangelical culture, the cross of Christ is a no-show in many churches and sermons. Not in Jimmy Davis’ Cruciform: Living the Cross-Shaped Life. The Cross is not merely a message, he says, it forms the template and the substance of how we live, worship and disciple. Chock full of memorable stories, illustrations, and Scripture, this is a terrific book for those breakfast discipleship groups. It is the next one I am going to use.”
—Dr. William E. Brown, President, Cedarville University
“With compelling stories, winsome humor, and sound theology, Jimmy Davis draws us into the power and purpose of our lives revealed by our cross-shaped story. Read this book to know and grow in a life of radical discipleship. Read this book to see how your Cruciform life reveals God’s grace and glory to a broken and desperate world.”
—Elizabeth Reynolds Turnage, author, Learning God’s Story of Grace
“The cross-shaped life is a life that’s larger than life, far wider, deeper, and higher than we can possibly imagine. If the gospel has become at all routine to you or you simply wish to be freshly amazed at the transformative grace of God to you in Christ Jesus, read Jimmy Davis’ book Cruciform: Living the Cross-Shaped Life. In it, Jimmy provides stunning, gospel-saturated vistas of what a cross-shaped life looks like in real life. If you are like me, you will want to read it more than once. It’s that spiritually helpful.”
—Dan Cruver, Director of Together for Adoption and editor of Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living through the Rediscovery of Abba Father
“Cruciform is a beautiful description of the process of how we grow into the likeness of Christ. Read these pages and see how God is using the cross to reshape the life of Jimmy Davis into a man after God’s own heart. Practical, insightful, and biblical, you will relate to his story, and think of how God continues to write your own. Elvis may not have completely left the building, but he is certainly on his way out. And Jesus is filling it and making himself gloriously known.”
—Rev. Chuck DeBardeleben, Senior Pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Gainesville, GA
“Within the Evangelical world the word and concept of ‘Grace’ is pretty hot right now. And as you would expect some people have jumped on the bandwagon just because it is so hot. They want to be ‘in.’ Jimmy Davis is not one of those people. He knows and understands Grace because he has had a deep, life changing experience with Grace and the God who bestows with such delight. His illustrations and stories are riveting and his exegesis is right on the money… and both lead me to a deeper understanding of Grace. Buy this book. Enjoy it. Eat it. Live it.”
—Charlie Jones of Peculiar People, specializing in Theatrical Theology
Blog Review –
I recommend to all who call on the name of Christ to read Cruciform and be challenged in your daily walk.
The aim of Cruciform is to cast a vision for the Cruciform Life, living as disciples of Jesus who are being shaped by the cross (gospel) into people and churches who share and show the cross (gospel) as they live the vertical life of loving God with all their head, heart, and hands and the horizontal life of loving people as Christ has loved them.
Jimmy is married to Christine, and they have three children. He is the Associate Pastor of Youth and Discipleship at Metrocrest Presbyterian Church in Carrollton, TX. He served as youth pastor in various churches for 18 years and as a church planter for 2 years before arriving in Carrollton. He also serves as the Associate Editor of the “Worldview Church E-report” published by Breakpoint.org, and is a freelance writer and member of the Christian Writers Guild. You can find out more about Jimmy Davis at his website, The Cruciform Life.
Jimmy introduces Cruciform by describing the importance of historic, medieval Cathedrals that were architecturally designed to share the gospel. From there, we leap into how we were created and redeemed to be cruciform, i.e., cross-shaped. Chapter three offers the reader the elements of what constitutes a Cruciform life while four looks at this life in action.
Chapters five through six get very practical. In these four chapters the reader learns how the cross points us to God and others in service while not really being concerned with ourselves. In chapter six we are exhorted to be shaped by the cross while in seven we are to embrace the cross and all of its implications in our lives.
Jimmy concludes with a look at how we are to take up our cross each and every day. The “further reading” section offers a compendium of quality resources. If one were to purchase the books listed here, their library would be built on an extremely solid foundation.
I confess that in the introduction I was a bit disappointed that there was not a critique of the cathedrals (that we have allowed architecture to replace preaching insofar as what draws people to the local church building). I quickly realized, however, that I was missing the point being made entirely. Jimmy Davis offers us a wonderful exhortation to live a life that is identified as “other worldly” because of Christ. As believers, we want to stand out. As followers of Christ we should stand out. These eight chapters will offer much insight into what this really looks like in today’s world.
There has been much exhortation to return to a simplified faith of sheer obedience to Christ in recent years. We are seeing the fruit of these exhortations from men like Martyn Lloyd-Jones and John Piper and Al Mohler. Now we have Jimmy Davis (no, he is probably not going to be of the stature of any of the three mentioned) to add to the list. His work, _Cruciform_, makes for an excellent resource for new believers as well as those looking to “recharge” there walk with Christ. I recommend to all who call on the name of Christ to read Cruciform and be challenged in your daily walk.
Christian Book Notes
Blog Review –
“I deeply appreciate Davis’s model of spiritual life.”
Throughout history followers of Christ have utilized symbols to both remember and teach the uniqueness of the Faith. Pastor Jimmy Davis guides his audience towards a cross centered perspective on spiritual living by sharing anecdotes from his testimony and by using the pattern of the celtic cross. The heart of Davis’s message conveys a “You first” perspective towards God. He writes:
We were created to look away from ourselves toward God, other people, and all of creation and say, “You first.” A person with a you-first heart recognizes that life is about using oneself to serve God, others, and all that God has made, thus living a life that takes the form of a cross. Can you see it? We were created to be cruciform (cruci = cross, form = shaped).
This insightful observation gives me pause to elaborate the beauty of his “You first” language. You see, I’ve not heard spiritual life put this way before. Many years ago I was given an “I’m third” award. A few years ago I got excited about the “I’m second” campaign. Yet, in both of these models, “I’m” still in the picture. The “You first” model is fresh to me and it is a perspective marked by true humility. With the cruciformed life, self is forgotten altogether and Christ takes center stage. Simply put, I deeply appreciate Davis’s model of spiritual life.
Davis shares a number of endearing anecdotes from his own life, but none quite demonstrates the humility, patience, and enduring nature of living the cross-shaped life quite as clearly as the final story of how his wife suffered burns from a grease fire and endured a month of hospitalization and surgeries. This touching story is so impactful that the reader will assuredly glean the full value of purchasing Cruciform simply by reading this capstone final chapter.
Valuable is Davis’s use of the celtic cross to convey components of the cruciformed life. I would explain in detail how Davis utilizes this ancient symbol but then it would rob potential readers the joy of seeing how this symbol fits within the framework of the writers system for sanctification. In addition to the use of the celtic cross, I enjoyed Jimmy Davis’s exposition on the value of the spiritual disciplines. He writes, “Practicing the spiritual disciplines enables me to enter God’s presence and engage his power by embracing the good news that Jesus has already said and done the right things for me.” What a freeing perspective! It is not that we do, do, and do for Jesus so that he might approve our work, but that His work has already proven are worthiness to enter into fellowship with Him through the spiritual disciplines.
This splendid 107 page book on spiritual life is an excellent addition to any pastor or layperson’s library. This book demonstrates yet again the quality of Cruciform Press’s offerings and the worthwhile of purchasing an affordable subscription to Cruciform’s bi-monthly book releases.
Joey Cochran, jtcochran.com
Blog Review –
A great encouragement and a bold challenge.
In the Middle Ages, Christians built grand cathedrals in which to worship. “Everything about the way a cathedral was built . . . was designed to help folks discern, delight in, and declare the great, biblical doctrines concerning God and the gospel,” explains author Jimmy Davis (p. 7). They were works of art designed to communicate the message of the cross.
We need more cruciform churches today, says Davis. “Not lavish cathedrals but 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). That’s why he’s written Cruciform: Living the Cross-Shaped Life.
Many of us, particularly if we’ve come to faith as adults, struggle to clearly and practically define the Christian life. What does it look like? Is it a list of things we do or don’t do or is there more to it than that? But the underlying question–the question behind the question as it were–is not simply what does it look like, but why do we exist in the first place? Davis offers a very insightful answer: “We exist to exalt the glory of God and to help other people and all of creation do the same” (p. 15).
This understanding is essential for all who seek to live a cross-shaped life. If we do not understand why we have been created and for what purpose we have been redeemed by faith in Christ, we will flounder rather than flourish.
So what do cruciform disciples? Davis sums it up in two key points:
Cruciform disciples (imperfectly) resemble Jesus the Son. “The more we become like Jesus, the Beloved Son, the more we will fill up by faith on the love of the Father through the gospel as his beloved sons” (p. 37).
Cruciform disciples (imperfectly) resemble Jesus the Servant. “As we fill up by faith on the love of the Father as it is offered in the good news about Jesus and poured out by the Spirit, we overflow with love back to God and out to others, using the resources he has provided in the place he has put us. Our lives will take the form of a cross-shaped servant” (ibid).
These twin realities—that when we are redeemed God has adopted all of us as His sons (cf. Gal. 3:26-29) and out of our sonship, we respond in service—are at the heart of the Christian life. In the author’s words, we are embraced as sons and empowered and employed as servants. “Our service must also flow from sonship, for unless and until we are sons we can’t serve, won’t serve, and don’t want to serve. Without divine sonship, we are like the two lost sons in Luke 15:11-32 . . . [rejecting] the fellowship freely offered to us by the Father and instead embraced either pleasure (trying to escape God’s righteousness) or performance (trying to earn it)” (p. 54).
This understanding of service and sonship is incredibly liberating; it frees us from performance-based religiosity, moving our motivations from the “have to” to the “get to.” It’s funny, I wonder if many of the problems that churches face today in terms of lack of volunteers and even giving might be at least partly resolved by helping church members come to this kind of understanding? I know that the times when I’ve been least interested in serving or giving have been in seasons when I’ve been driven by performance, trying to “earn” my salvation rather than embracing the redefinition of my relationship with the Father as one of His sons. But whenever I’ve been in that mode, I always burn out. It’s not sustainable, nor is it God-honoring.
Davis unpacks each of these concepts in greater detail in chapters five and six. Particularly poignant for me in chapter five is the reminder that God has already provided every opportunity I need to serve Him in every sphere of my life–I just need to be considering and anticipating the needs of others, be willing to serve and welcoming of those opportunities. Again, this is something that is so easy for us all to forget; it’s easy to get caught up in the details of our own lives that we ignore everything around us.
But the cruciform life is others-centered; our attitude is to be “you first,” rather than “me first.” Paul wrote that we are to “count others more significant than yourselves. Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:3b-5a). Jesus was and is the greatest example of an others-mindset. Rather than counting equality with God a thing to be grasped, he emptied Himself took the form of a servant, humbling himself “to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8).
The final two chapters of the book deal with embracing and expressing the gospel. Davis reminds us that our pursuit of spiritual disciplines–reading the Bible, praying, fasting, corporate worship–all of these are things we get to do, rather than things we “have” to do. The former brings life, making room for us to repent and believe the gospel; the latter leaves us spiritually exhausted as the mindset is that if I do XYZ, then God will approve of me. Instead, we need to get that God does approve of us in Christ, freeing us to do XYZ. I particularly appreciated Davis’ point that corporate worship is a discipline. It requires intentionality and a willingness to make ourselves vulnerable in community, to come under authority and to partake of the sacraments. Because many of us, particularly in my generation, are so jaded when it comes to authority, this is an important challenge.
In the final chapter of the book, “Expressing the Gospel,” Davis shares a traumatic season of suffering in his and his wife’s lives together after she suffered serious burns across 38 percent of her body in a cooking related accident. Davis explains that this was a severe test of his faith–but ultimately one that solidified and gave both him and his wife opportunities to live truly cross-shaped lives. And that, ultimately, is the purpose of suffering, isn’t it? Despite how trite it can sound, especially in the moment, God is never absent in those moments; He is always intentionally doing something for our good and His glory. I know this from first-hand experience. And of all the ways that Davis could have ended _Cruciform_, this was the best way to do so.
If we follow Christ, we are not signing up for an easy life. We will suffer. We will face hardship. We will face devastating loss. But we will never be overcome—because God is working through all things for His purposes. While we should never be glib about pain, Romans 8:18 holds out a great promise, as “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Cruciform is a great encouragement and a bold challenge to believers to examine their lives, to create space for repentance and to live in such a way that, in word and deed, we are able to communicate the message of the cross. I would highly encourage you to read the book and see how God might use it to open your eyes to the opportunities He has already placed in your life.
Aaron Armstrong, Blogging Theologically
Blog Review –
I cannot urge you enough to read this simple, short, Gospel-saturated book.
What I love about this book is that it does not leave us with some Theological truth, but meets us where we are daily living, giving practical applications of those Theological truths. In the same way that many Cathedrals in the Middle Ages were made into the shape of the cross, so our lives should be lived out in the shape of a cross—”the Cruciform Life.”
Imagine the simple shape of a cross. Picture the intersection point of the horizontal and vertical pieces as a nucleus from which all (now four) of the pieces of the cross originate. We were designed, in all of our actions, to worship God and exalt His name (the upward section of the cross), and point all people with whom we interact, and all of creation to worship Him as well (both the horizontal pieces and the downward piece).
When I understand that no matter what I do, think, say, or what others do, think, or say to me, I still have God’s total acceptance and affection, I am totally free to lay down my life – I have nothing to lose. Now I can live my life to show others how they too can experience this kind of freedom. However, I must continually come back to the cross to be reminded of who God is, who I am, and what Jesus has done for me. Then I go back into the world with new love and passion to serve others with. This cyclical life is the Cruciform Life.
The truths of the Gospel combined with Jimmy Davis’ personal experiences are sure to impact your heart and mind, compelling you to begin living the Cruciform Life. I cannot urge you enough to read this simple, short, Gospel-saturated book.
Scott Holcombe, Disciples in Our Generation
Blog Review –
Stirred by both the depth of his insight and his exceptional ability to craft a literary soundbite…
OK, I’m just going to say it. Jimmy Davis used to live down the road from me in Knoxville, he seems like a really nice guy, and he took the time to send me a hardcopy of his new book, Cruciform: Living the Cross Shaped Life. But his book landed on my computer table at just the right time—digestive troubles, end-of-semester stresses, weariness from blogging, and general exhaustion—that I was more or less determined not to like it. It’s not that I have anything against Jimmy or his writing (please see sentence #2 above). It’s just that Jimmy somehow found the time and energy to write a book, and I didn’t even have time and energy to read one.
So, as I took to reading the first chapter of Cruciform, I grabbed a pen and filled the marginal white spaces with notes: “Tone reads much like Christian NA Zeitgeist,” “Tired of seeing this guy’s [Tullian Tchividjian’s] name.” So far so good—plenty of little things to pick at in the opening pages.
But, as I was actually reading Jimmy’s writing, I began to be stirred by both the depth of his insight and his exceptional ability to craft a literary soundbite. By p. 13 the marginal notes had begun to morph: “good point,” “yes,” and finally, on p. 21, “Yes!” (to Jimmy’s insight that “Elvis is still in the building.” Read the book and you’ll understand). Chapter Two begins in East Tennessee with an extended picture of Neyland Stadium, complete with the Pride of the Southland Marching Band belting out “Rocky Top” to 100k fans. That did it; I was hooked. Anyone who can use UT football to illustrate the Kingdom of God (and not fall into I-Volatry) is a writer I want to read. From that point on the margins are all stars, triple-verticle lines and “Yes!”
Jimmy does so many things well in this book: provides an overview of the Bible story, explains the glory of God, and demonstrates how the cross is stitched into the very fabric of creation. Don’t let Cruciform‘s very readable style obscure its theological depth. Whether you’re a seeker, one new to the faith, or a mature Christian, Cruciform shines a lot of light on a lot of life.
Milton Stanley, Transforming Sermons
Blog Review –
Possibly the best under-the-radar, Christian Living book this year.
Jesus calls us to take up our cross daily, and in doing so, our lives will take the shape of His cross. Jimmy Davis describes such a life in his book, Cruciform: Living the Cross-Shaped Life, possibly the best under-the-radar, Christian Living book this year. He writes, “We are shaped by the cross into the shape of the cross,” and thus are transformed to fulfill roles of seeker, shepherd, sower and steward.
I will summarize these points.
As children of God, we seek his kingdom and his righteousness first (Matthew 6:33). We desire to act like him, to love and think like him. We look to Jesus as our example for living well.
“In relationship to other disciples,” Davis writes, “the servant is a shepherd, one who encourages brothers and sisters in Christ, who loves and labors with them” for the kingdom (Colossians 3:12-16). There are caveats with this point, but generally speaking we love and work with each other keeping the abundant life of Christ in mind.
To those who aren’t disciples, we sow the gospel through actions and conversation. We have compassion for the crowds, like Jesus does (Matthew 9:37), praying for them and serving them for the sake of His kingdom.
For everything in God’s creation, we are stewards on His behalf of all the resources God has given us: “body, time, talents/gifts, money, head/heart/hands, words, work, creation” (Matthew 24:45-51).
We do this due to a focus on Christ’s life, which is essentially cross-shaped, and out of the source of our spiritual strength, which is a cross-shaped spirit. Each of these roles intermingles with the community in which they serve, a give-and-take that makes Jesus’ disciples interdependent. Davis carries these concepts through the end of the book as he describes that cross-shaped source of our spiritual lives.
Each chapter opens with a well-written, personal example of that chapter’s theme, showing how he has learned and continues to learn the principles he has written here. Perhaps the most difficult of these principles is the overcoming of sin by faith, not by effort (Galatians 3:1-5), which is the reason Davis builds his book on it. His constant refrain throughout the book sings of the grace by which we were saved being the same grace through which we obey and are made holy. Even in the worst situations (the last chapter begins with one), our Heavenly Father’s grace gives us the strength to persevere.
I look forward to living perpetually in that grace. Sometimes I think I’ve learned that lesson, and then I discover I haven’t. I want to make space in my daily routine to hear the gospel, to dwell on the Father’s love, as Davis describes it, because that cross-shaped song is where the abundant life is.
Philip Wade at Brandywine Books