As I read this book, I found myself convicted and reassured. As someone who struggles with doubt, fear, and failure, this book has given me the encouragement I needed. This is a message I was desperate to hear. God pursues all those who call upon His name. I found myself weeping over the grace I have received. And when I got to the last page, the message was clear, Jesus has set me free. I dont have to follow Christ, I WANT to follow Him! READ THIS GOD EXALTING BOOK! You will be changed.
Surprised By Grace subtitled God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels is an in depth look at the short prophetical book of Jonah. Drawing heavily from Calvin's classic commentary on the book as well as artistic attempts to portray the miraculous events it contains, Tchividjian seeks to put the reader in the place of Jonah and in doing so show our need for grace.
I read through this book differently than I do most. Most books I read I start and finish in the same day or in two to three days at most. However since I was reading this book while preaching through the book of Jonah I read a chapter a week for almost 2 months. I must say that I never felt lost when picking the book back up after a week. Tchividjian does an excellent job of making the book very readable.
Tchividjian seeks to point all the events of Jonah to the cross and show the reader that the ultimate fulfilling of Jonah is found in Jesus. He also shows that our need for grace is only fulfilled in the cross of Jesus. Tchividjian also points out that the cross is not just a one-time decision for Christians, but one we must go back to daily to live a life dead to sin.
As I flipped back through the book this morning to write this review I found very few pages did not have passages underlined, highlighted, noted or marked in some way. I would highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to better understand their salvation and the mystery of Grace.
Surprised by Grace begins with an extended treatment of the book of Jonah, and it ends with some discussion of what Jonah says about the Gospel. I have tried to say what I'm about to say in four other ways, but the most direct route is probably best. The first half of this book is not helpful. I guess I'll start by stating what I didn't like before moving on to what I liked.
What I Didn't Like
Tchividjian opens by stating that Jonah teaches clearly, "The gospel is not just for non-Christians but also for Christians." I agree with him. He then goes through a study of the events in Jonah, which often reads like a collection of illustrations. The illustrations aren't always particularly helpful. A lot of times, the chapters feel wildly unfocused-wandering from an early discussion of Jonah's rebellion into side discussions on definitions of grace or repentance. The author says in the acknowledgements that this book came out of a series of sermons; this might explain the wandering, illustration-heavy style, but I'm not a fan of it.
What I Liked
I liked that the author included and referred to a number of artistic representations of Jonah. I haven't seen this in many books, but I found that it was a nice way to increase our understanding of the text. As I mentioned above, I found the second half of the book to be more helpful. Some thoughts:
- I like Tchividjian's description of the difference between Jonah's tribal mindset, and God's missional mindset. I recently argued at my site that there are churches who are going to die out because they are more concerned with the preservation of a culture than the proclamation of the Gospel. Tchividjian catches this theme in Jonah and writes, "The highest value of a community with a tribal mindset is self-preservation...But in a missional-minded community, the highest value isn't self-preservation but self-sacrifice." (p. 135)
- He does a good job of pointing out the dangers of irreligious anti-legalism as a subtle way to slide into self-righteousness and legalism all over again. (pp. 145-148) As Luther is often accused of saying, "Satan doesn't care which side of the horse we fall off, as long as we don't stay in the saddle."
- Tchividjian draws a nice line down the middle of the question on worship (Is it geared towards encouraging Christians or attracting non-believers?): "The truth is that our worship services should be geared to sinners in need of God's rescue-and that includes both Christians and non-Christians." (p. 155)
In The End
In the end, I won't recommend this book to many people. I don't think it's very helpful as far as an exposition of Jonah goes, and the helpful material near the end is limited.
Tullian Tchividjian has written an easy-to-read work that causes the reader to look in the mirror and see in the reflection a picture of the prophet Jonah within our own heart. Adapted from a sermon series preached at his church, this work examines the biblical story of Jonah with fresh eyes and a clear focus of seeing God's pursuit of rebels and ultimately pointing those rebels to Jesus.Utilizing the biblical text of Jonah, as well as additional Old and New Testament passages, artwork through the centuries, and supporting quotes from other authors and pastors, a portrait of Jonah emerges that every man can identify with. Tchividjian does an excellent job of combining three themes (the depth of man's sin, the magnificent grace of God, and the call He places on our lives) throughout the book. Surprised by Grace is a great reminder that God continues to pursue rebels, and by His grace transform us for His purpose. An enjoyable book that not only gives an overview of the book of Jonah but convicts and challenges as well.Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Crossway book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 : Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
I received a complimentary copy of Tullian Tchividjians book Surprised by Grace from Crossway. This short book uses the "surprising" story of Jonah to display the awe-inspiring gospel with clarity. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.Tchividjian demonstrates that Jonah isnt just for children as he walks through the story, focusing on how God sovereignly pursues sinners to show them grace. He picks up on themes within the narrative, such as idolatry and the repeated use of "great". He pointed out frequently overlooked details and their significance.One thing I enjoyed about this book was the incorporation of other works. Within the Bible, Tchividjian drew parallels to other passages; according to the Scripture Index, he refers to 34 books besides Jonah. He refers to other literature from sources such as C. S. Lewis, Robert Frost, and Herman Melville. Descriptions of artistic depictions added a bit of color.I also appreciated the open style as Tchividjian relates how studying Jonah impacted his own life, especially concerning the centrality of the gospel. Early in the book he says "it was through probing this story of Jonah that I came face-to-face with one of the most life-changing truths in my experience. I came to grips with the fact that the gospel is not just for non-Christians but also for Christians" (page 15). Later he makes it more personal: "For me, this truth has been revolutionary. In studying and teaching this book of Jonah, there have been times when Ive felt as if Id become a Christian for the first time. God saved me when I was twenty-one, and that experience was genuine and effectivethe deal was done. But Ive come to see that I still need to experience the ongoing, liberating power of the gospel in a new way every day" (page 156).I found it well-written, and the content was excellent. It was both exciting and edifying. I would highly recommend Surprised by Grace.