I found this book very insightful and thought-provoking. So often, we think that the gospel is just to get us into the "Christian club" then it's up to us to maintain our membership. This book reminds us that the gospel is for daily living. I need Christ's saving power in my life as much today as when I first believed. This book also reminds us that it is God's power in us that makes us like him, not our own efforts. I need to continue to come to Him, confessing, repenting and acting in faith to how He would have me to live. When I act in faith contrary to what my heart wants to do, I glorify God.
Isn't it interesting how when reading a book it speaks to us differently than the next reader. Books are personal. A book meets us just where we are: intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and even meets us at our prejudices and fears.
This book addressed a problem I've had all of my life, wanting approval. How did it all begin? It began as a little girl because I feared punishment. I'll not rattle you with giving uncomfortable information, and it's not necessary. But that type of thinking became a habit, wanting approval. Another habit I've had is in wanting to be perfect, because if I'm perfect then maybe I won't fail or get in trouble. Ridiculous. But, not ridiculous to a small child. At 47 years of age it was time for me to stop this: to be aware of it and acknowledge it, to be convicted of it, to ask forgiveness of it, and to surrender it all over to Jesus. Let it go.
For the above reasons Jesus+Nothing=Everything was just what I needed to read. I have high regards for this book, I loved it!
Tullian Tchividjian believes that "what we are missing is the gospel-a fuller, more powerful understanding of Jesus and what his finished work means for everyday life."
The author believes that "we are looking to something else other than Jesus to be what only He can be."
In Jesus+Nothing=Everything Tchividjian points out that we are trying to attain by works, our own works, affirmation, which we already have in Jesus Christ. "Performancism leads to pride when we succeed and to despair when we fail. Slavery either way."
"We are justified by grace alone, we're glorified by grace alone." See Ephesians 2:8-9.
Tchividjian states that even though we know in our minds what is the truth, we still seek approval from others.
In summing up this brief summary---and in my words and my interpretation. Let go of our need for approval and rest--be at peace in what Jesus did on the cross. Jesus shed His blood so that we would have eternal life. And in that we also might have "real life." Not some messed up warped thinking about things that do not matter or cannot be achieved or does not satisfy, but real soul quenching life.
A few more things I liked about the book:
It is a thinking book, a book to ponder over and over again. Days later I'm still thinking about this book.
I loved the questions from the book and I wrote down on a large index card most of them, for example:
1. Who am I trying to please?
2. What are you living for?
3. What are you depending on to provide the freedom, worth, and value you crave?
4. Am I working hard to perform? Or am I working hard to rest in Christ's performance for us?
5. How is your present disappointment, discouragement or grief a window on what has actually captured your heart?
This book directed me to where I needed to refocus, the Gospel message.
What I disliked about the book:
On page 22 the author states, "the glorious message of which we'll investigate together in the pages to come" in his statement he was referring to being enlightened by the message of the New Testament book of Colossians. I thought that when he referred to this book in the opening chapter and to a few of the verses from this book, Jesus+Nothing=Everything would be more guided by this NT book. It is not. Another words it is not a book on Colossians.
I do believe that the author used too many quotes, especially from the same people over and over again.
I do believe that the author could have used a different word instead of "relax" page 206. I think peace would have been a better word, explaining more accurately what Jesus has done for us. We are at peace with God because of what Jesus did on the cross.
The word "works" has been a burr in most Christian's saddle for centuries. Even in explaining the book of James against what Paul wrote. We're uncomfortable with that word, and don't know what to do with it. I state this because the author used the word "works" several times and I feel another word could have been used, especially in light of the theme of this book.
I'm always saddened by what Christians do in the name of "their belief" etc., etc. What Tullian Tchividjian encountered at his new church (which is the basis of what led him to write this book) was disheartening and I have great empathy for him. I have been him, not to that large of scale, but I had a bad encounter with a class I had taught....it was reminiscent of the gunfight at the O.K Corral. Instead of reflecting on what "they" did wrong (which I might add is easier to do). I have decided to look at what I needed to learn from this, because there is always a lesson to be learned.
Thank you to Crossway for my free review copy in order that I would write an honest review!
My Rating: 5 out of 5 (1 meaning I hated the book, 5 meaning I loved the book)
Normally when I write a book review, I have a firm opinion of whether or not I liked the book. However, this book still has me puzzled and thinking. I guess you could take that as the sign of a good book. One thing is for sure, Tullian Tchividjian is an excellent writer. In this book, Pastor Tullian weaves the story of his difficult times at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church (and his near ouster as pastor) together with a running commentary on the book of Colossians. Whether you agree with his theological conclusions or not, all must agree his keeps it interesting and thought-provoking all at the same time. This is not a book you will get bored with.
The premise of the book is that the Christian does not find security in his performance or perceived performance by others, but the Christian is to rest in the finished work of Christ on our behalf. Our life of obedience and good works is not founded on the notion that such things must be done to gain God's favor and acceptance rather such things flow from a heart of gratitude because we already are favored and accepted by God. In other words, works are the result of God's favor, not the basis of it.
Now, if you are like me, my first reaction was, "Won't that just lead to antinomianism? Won't that just allow people to be as sinful as they want?" This sounds great, but there's that voice in the back of my head that wants to temper such ideas with just a little bit of law, to keep us honest. However, Pastor Tullian counters that reaction with this thought, "The biggest lie about grace that Satan wants the church to buy is the idea that it's dangerous and therefore needs to be kept in check." - page 44 (page numbers on my Nook e-pub may differ from other versions)
He also adds, "When it comes to drawing near to God and pleasing him, legalism insists that obedience precedes acceptance - that's it's all up to us. But the fresh breeze of the gospel freedom announces that acceptance precedes obedience - that once we're already approved and already accepted by God in Christ, we can freely follow God's lead and grow in his will out of genuine gratitude for his amazing grace and without any fear of judgment or condemnation when we fall_ C.S. Lewis observed that what most distinguishes the gospel from legalism is that legalism says God loves if we are good, while the gospel tell us God will make us good because he loves us." - page 77
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, there are still parts of this book I am working through. There are still issues I am struggling to justify. For example, one wonders where the imperatives of Scripture come in. In other words, there are commands all throughout Scripture. If we were to break one of these commands, our relationship with Christ would suffer to some degree. While I certainly agree that our acceptance is not found in works but in Christ - doesn't my sinful disobedience disrupt (but not break) that relationship?
This is radical. However, I am convicted by the constant reminder of grace. My temptation is always to add to grace, a sort of "grace, but_" of some sort. How can I add to Christ's work? How can my meager attempts at holiness somehow garner the favor of the one who is infinitely holy and perfect? Again, still issues I am working through. This book has been a tremendous aid in this thought-process.
Here are just a few quotes I thought were worthy of your attention:
"In fact, when it comes to Christian life and experience, many of us have understood the gospel as the thing that gets us in, while then the thing that then keeps up in (we assume) is our own effort and performance." - page 34
"In our bones, we know that God hates unrighteous â€˜bad' works; we're not nearly so convinced that he hates self-righteous â€˜good' works just as much, if not more. In fact, the most dangerous thing that can happen to you is that you become proud of your obedience." - page 40
"I believe it's more theologically accurate to say that there is one primary enemy of the gospel - legalism - but it comes in two forms. Some people avoid the gospel and try to â€˜save' themselves by keeping the rules, doing what they're told, maintaining the standards, and so on. (I call this â€˜front-door legalism'). Other people avoid the gospel and try to â€˜save' themselves by breaking the rules, doing whatever they want, developing their own autonomous standards, and so on (â€˜back-door legalism')_There are two â€˜laws' we can choose to live by apart from Christ: the law that says, â€˜I can find freedom and fullness of life if I keep the rules," and the law that says, â€˜I can find freedom and fullness of life if I break the rules." Either way, you're trying to â€˜save' yourself, which means both are legalistic because both are self-salvation projects." - page 43
"Idolatry, according to John Piper, â€˜is a suicidal exchange of infinite value and beauty for some fleeting, inferior substitute." - page 64
"Luther said, "God doesn't need our good works, but our neighbor does." - page 97
"Paul says that when we divorce obligations from gospel declarations, then our obedience becomes nothing more than behavioral compliance to rules without heart change. But when God's amazing grace in the gospel grips out hearts the motivational structure of our hearts is radically changed, and we begin to obey out of faith, not fear, gratitude not guilt_ When I begin analyzing and evaluating my own heart and the motivations behind what I do, I begin to discover a lot of moralistic tendencies. That's why, as I've said so often, we need to be making a beeline for the finished work of Christ every day, because only the gospel can crush the moralistic tendencies that are the natural default mode of our hearts." - page 117
"Only after he makes that huge point does Paul say, â€˜Therefore walk in him. [Colossians 2:6-7]' Notice, he doesn't say â€˜walk to him' - as if we were on our own, separated from him and needing somehow to get to him by way of our own obedience. He says we're to walk in him - to walk in Christ, in his strength." - page 119
"I'm not saying the Christian life is effortless; the real question is Where are we focusing our efforts? Are we working hard to perform? Or are we working hard to rest in Christ's performance for us?" - page 129
The only real negative aspect I thought I should mention is an over-reliance on the works of Michael Horton. I love Horton. I own several of his books and frequently listen to the White Horse Inn. However, Pastor Tullian seems to quote him on ever other page of this book. Gets a little old_
In short, buy this book. Begin your own theological quest to grapple with these great struggles! What I appreciate most in these pages is the constant reminder of God's grace and work on our behalf. You will walk away glorying in the Lord and revealing in HIS righteousness. No wonder the last chapter is just one praise after another_ You won't want to skip the end, trust me!
Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.
Tullian is passionate about the gospel. "I'm beginning to realize," he writes, "that the gospel is way more radical, offensive, liberating, shocking, and counterintuitive than any of us realize. And that's beginning to be okay with me." (11)
How he got there is told in this book.
Tullian was pastoring New City Church in Fort Lauderdale, a thriving church he had started five years before. To the south was Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, founded fifty years before by D. James Kennedy. It had once been thriving but attendance was in decline and then Kennedy died in 2007.
Leaders at Coral Ridge asked Tullian about the possibility of a call but he was not interested. Months later a new idea surfaced - combining the congregations, and Tullian sensed God was in it. The congregations began worshiping together on East Sunday, 2009 and he was installed as pastor in May. "Although I'd expected some tough times to crop up as two very different congregations merged into one, I had no idea how ugly and messy it would become." (21)
With this introduction, Tullian tells of the pain. Within three months, false accusations and a petition to get him removed. He agonized with God and realized his addiction to human approval. The gospel became his lifeline.
Tullian focuses in on the human hunger for everything. Is it true that only God alone can satisfy that desire? Tullian reminds us of our restless hearts, our tendency to idolatry. He wonders if our "good works" give us comfort or a feeling of self-righteousness. Are we "demonstrating that we believe in ourselves much more than we do in Jesus"? (49) He challenges us, "What are you looking to (instead of Jesus) for meaning in life, for purpose, significance, security, direction, acceptance, approval?" (55)
Tullian had read Colossians when he was on his vacation in the early summer of 2009. Paul's emphasis on the completeness of Christ moved him. Tullian spends some time reviewing Colossians and the fullness of Christ inn this book. He shares how he was confronted by the truths contained in that book and was reoriented back to the gospel.
He addresses idols. "What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God..." (89)
He had thought that becoming mature meant, "...I needed to find a way to get more joy, more patience, more faithfulness, and so on." (94) He realized that was not what the Bible taught. "What the Bible teaches is that we mature as we come to a greater realization of what we already have in Christ." (94) Tullian also helps us identify the counterfeit gods we create. He helps us identify legalism.
We avoid the gospel because then it is no longer about us. We are no longer the point. We must understand it is all about God. We need to understand that Jesus did not come to make bad people good, but to make dead people alive.
For Christians, who you are really has nothing to do with you. "Your identity is firmly anchored in Christ's accomplishment, not yours..." (132)
Tullian admits it was easy to affirm all the truths from Colossians in his brain. The past few years of difficulty helped him understand deeply what it meant to be accepted , approved, redeemed, forgiven by God and transferred from darkness to light. He came to see that Christian growth was "working hard to live in the reality of what you already have" rather than working hard to get something you don't have. That radically transformed his life. The secret of maturity, he says, "we become more spiritually mature when we focus less on what we need to do for God and focus more on all that God has already done for us." (185) All of that, and the best is yet to come!
Tullian Tchividjian is glad to report that the gospel is active at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, where is pastor.
I received a complimentary egalley from Crossway for the purpose of this review.
"I used to think that growing as a Christian meant I had to somehow go out and obtain the qualities and attitudes I was lacking. To really mature, I needed to find a way to get more joy, more patience, more faithfulness, and so on.
Then I came to the shattering realization that this isn't what the Bible teaches, and it isn't the gospel. What the Bible teaches is that we mature as we come to a greater realization of what we already have in Christ." --Tullian Tchividjian, Jesus+Nothing=Everything
There is a subtle, yet dangerous doctrine that is everywhere in our churches today: Jesus+trying hard to live a good life=being a successful Christian.
Instead, let us consider a different way of living:
"...the banner under which Christians live reads, "It is finished." So relax, and rejoice. Jesus plus nothing equals everything; everything minus Jesus equals nothing." --Tullian Tchividjian, Jesus+Nothing=Everything
This doctrine is so extremely important. It affects my everyday living and decisions. It needs to permeate my parenting. Oh, I hope it shows up through my teaching and writing! The last thing I want for YOU to hear from ME is that you need to go out and try harder to be a good Christian.
Christianity is all about what has already been done for us, NOT what we need to do for God.
The hard work of Christian growth, therefore, is to think less of ourselves and our performance and more of Jesus and his performance for us. Ironically, when we focus mostly on our need to get better, we actually get worse." --Tullian Tchividjian, Jesus+Nothing=Everything
I loved reading this book. I found myself nodding my head in agreement over and over. What we believe about the doctrine of the gospel is so very, very important.
The gospel--the good news about Jesus--is not just about how to become a Christian. It is by the gospel that we continue in Christ, everyday of our life. We must get this right.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book to every one of you!