Tullian Tchividjian's inspirational book Jesus + Nothing = Everything could very well play a pivotal role in a spiritual paradigm shift in your life. I could not recommend this book more.
Tullian shares his story of how in the midst of his greatest time of brokenness and pain as a Pastor recently transitioning to a new ministry, God revealed a deep penetrating truth to him as he was studying the book of Philippians. Tullian describes his personal brokenness in this way, "He had stripped me downâ€”wrecked me afresh! And when he does that to a personâ€”when you actually feel like you have nothingâ€”Jesus becomes more to you than you ever could have hoped or imagined." Have you been there? Have seen your true emptiness apart from Christ? Tullian goes on to say, "When we're captured and captivated by who Jesus is, we'll be empowered and equipped to resist the constant temptations to settle for anything less." The rest of this book puts forth the unique formula Jesus + Nothing = Everything. In other words Christ is fully sufficient for all joy, all satisfaction, and all truth. More than that, all of Christ's sufficiency is found in the gospel.
Tullian goes on to argue that the gospel is not just for non-Christians, it is for Christians too. The gospels transformative power does not end at our conversion/justification. The gospel has a powerful outworking in our daily spiritual living. There is not a day that passes that we do not need to cling to the treasurable truth of the gospel. How did Tullian make this personal discovery? He was studying in the book of Philippians. Here he describes how this truth took full bearing in his life, "Early in this letter, Paul mentions â€˜the word of the truth, the gospel,' and he then adds this: â€˜which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growingâ€”as it also does among you' (1:6). He's speaking to Christians, and he tells them the gospel is not only fruitful and growing around the world, but in them as well. It was these verses, specifically, that first convinced me long ago that the gospel is not just for non-Christians. It's bigger than that; it's for Christians, too. The gospel represents both the nature of Christian growth and the basis for it." In other words, our personal holiness is found in resting in Christ, not adhering to a law through works.
Coming to terms with our great need of the gospel depends on us fully understanding our depravity, our rebellion against God, that is completely helpless because of our identity in Adam. Tullian succinctly communicates this present truth, "You and I will never know Christ to be a great Savior unless we first understand ourselves to be great sinners. We'll never really feel deliverance if we don't first feel desperation. We'll never experience the glory of real freedom if we don't first experience the grief of our own slavery." Whether pre-conversion or post-conversion, each of us should be driven to the cross and broken over our struggle against the flesh. We deceive ourselves when we think that we have some hidden power to resist sin apart from Christ. Tullian writes, "Since the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart, rules and regulations are never the solution. Jesus is. Behavior modification cannot change the human heart. You and I need this reminder all the time, and that's why we turn to the gospel." This is precisely why Tullian earlier says, "Jesus is everything, and, therefore, for mankind the gospel is everything."
The gospel is built not just upon Jesus death but also His resurrection. Christ did not come to bring us merely a moral example to follow but to take the dead and give them life. "We have to keep remembering that the reason Christ came was first of all not to make bad people good but to make dead people alive. If we forget that, our Christianity will turn out to be Christless." Tullian refreshes our minds with the message of the gospel and encourages us to constantly look outward from ourselves and look to Christ. "The more I look into my own heart for peace, the less I find. On the other hand, the more I look to Christ and his promises for peace, the more I find," he remarks.
I will close this review with on of the most startling and beautiful statements that Tullian writes, "Because Jesus was someone, we're free to be no one. Because Jesus was extraordinary, we're free to be ordinary. Real slavery is self-reliance, self-dependence. Real slavery is a life spent trying to become someone. But the gospel comes in and says we already have in Christ all that we crave, so we're free to live a life of sacrifice, courageously and boldly." Tullian's writing will startle you into some deep reflection. You will be compelled to examine not merely how you apply and live the gospel but also how you communicate the gospel. If the gospel is for us daily, then are we satisfied with hearing it daily? Do we tire of hearing the gospel? Does it ever become used up like an old t-shirt that needs to be retired from our dresser drawer? Surely not, the gospel ought to be like the whitest, purest, t-shirt that comes out clean, fresh, and new to be don and worn joyfully every day.
This book comes heartily recommended. You will have trouble putting it down!
View more book reviews by Joey Cochran at jtcochran.com.
I was intrigued by the title to this book. I thought the author focused on the issue previlant in today's spiritual culture. Too many believers are wrapped up in man made rules as to what constitutes a truly "spiritual" individual and what does not. Good for him.