Monday, December 5, 2011

Repost | "Jesus + Nothing = Everything" by Tullian Tchividjian

I have read a lot of good books this year, but without a doubt, the best book I have read all year is Tullian Tchividjian's new book Jesus + Nothing + Everything.  The context of the book is Tchividjian's struggle as a pastor to wade through the storms of ministry.  After merging his church with the late Dr. D. James Kennedy's church, Tchividjian ran into serious struggles and hardships that almost led to his firing.  Once he went on vacation one summer, he was ready to quit until he started to read Paul's letter to the Colossians and was gripped by the gospel.  He writes:

His good news met me in my dark place, at my deepest need.  Through his liberating word, I was being transformed, freed, refreshed.

I started learning to see the many-faceted dimensions of the gospel in a more dazzling way.  it's almost as if, for me, the gospel changed from something hazy and monochromatic to something richly multicolored, vivid, and vibrant.  I was realizing in a fresh way the now-power of the gospel - that the gospel doesn't simply rescue us from the past and rescue us for the future; it also rescues us in the present from being enslaved to things like fear, insecurity, anger, self-reliance, bitterness, entitlement, and insignificance . . . Through my pain, I was being convinced all over again that the power of the gospel is just as necessary and relevant after you become a Christian as it is before.

Tchividjian sings my tune.  This is a book about the gospel, pure and simple.  The title summarizes it all.  Wherever we may be, whatever we may be struggling with, Jesus is enough.  Jesus equals everything.  We need nothing else.  The gospel is just as much for the redeemed as it is for the lost.  The gospel not only tackles our past and assures us of our future, but meets us where we are in the present.

Yet the problem in all of us is idolatry and legalism.  All of us have idols that we worship and through is experience at his church, the author came to realize this.  What mattered most to him was being loved by his congregation and followed by his church.  Thus when he was attacked and challenged, his world was falling apart.  Yet he learned, through the power of the gospel, that Jesus was enough.

But maybe our idol is very different.  The author walks the reader through various idols and how the gospel is better than them.  The problem with idolatry is that it implies that we need Jesus and something else in order to be happy, contentment, and at peace.  Legalism does the same thing.  Tchividjian offers some sharp critique of these two demons.  He writes, for example:

So if we aren't naturally prone to look to the finished work of Jesus for us as it's presented in the gospel for the 'everything' - where are we looking?

Typically, it's not that Christians seek to blatantly replaced the gospel.  What we try to do is simply add to it.

He then goes on to elaborate CS Lewis' argument in Screwtape Letters that a Satanic strategy against the Christian is "Christianity And."  It is the opposite of what Tchividjian argues in this book.  Christianity And Vegetarianism.  Christianity and Faith Healing.  Christianity And the New Psychology.  Christianity And . . . Such a mindset, which haunts us all, destroys the gospel and prevents the gospel from truly ministering to us. This is all idol worship.  Jesus + X is idolatry and not the gospel.

In fact, idolatry and legalism hold us in bondage.  They make us slaves.  Finally someone of prominence other than John MacArthur is speaking the language of slavery when describing sin and its hold on us.  The gospel frees us from the bondage of sin, idolatry, and religion.  Such things convince us that without them and their control on us, we will not be content or happy.  But the gospel says otherwise. All we need is Christ and nothing else.  That is true freedom.  No need to satisfy these false gods anymore.  He writes:

For each of us, the "everything" that Jesus can represent in our lives is always linked, directly and inescapably, to our most basic need - a rescuer to free us form our slavery to sin, from our bondage to self-reliance, and from the burden of our idols.  It's a need we never grow out of.

He's right.  The gospel is constantly freeing us from slavery when we see our redemption and hope in Jesus Christ - past, future, and yes, present.

I could say more about this book, but you get the point.  It is a book about the gospel.  The sweet, liberating gospel.  A gospel that meets us where we are, brings us to the Savior, and calls us to leave everything behind because we need nothing else but Him.  No more chasing after the wind, worshiping non-existent, false idols.  No more religion.  No more legalism.  No more hypocrisy. Just Jesus.

I cannot recommend this book enough.  Every pastor ought to read it and shape their ministry around the gospel.  Not religion, ritual, or church politics, but on the gospel.  Every struggle needs the gospel.  Every moment of bliss and rejoicing needs the gospel.  Every sermon needs the gospel.  Every prayer needs the gospel.  And every book - and here we have one - needs the gospel.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything: Intro from Crossway on Vimeo.

This book was given to me free of charge for the purpose of this review.

For more:
Reviews - "Life's Biggest Questions" by Erik Thoennes
Reviews - "Welcome to the Story: Reading, Loving, and Living God's Word" by Stephen J Nichols  
Reviews - "King Solomon" by Philip Graham Ryken 
Reviews - "Am I Really a Christian?" by Mike McKinley
Reviews - The Beginning and End of Wisdom" by Douglas Sean O'Donnell
Reviews - "Thinking. Loving. Doing." by John Piper & David Mathis

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