Friday, February 8, 2013

Book Review: Jesus +Nothing = Everything (2011)

 Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Tullian Tchividjian. 2011. Crossway. 220 pages.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything is an amazing book by Tullian Tchividjian. This is my second time to read this one, and I still love it and would recommend it to ANYONE. It's an essential book about the gospel, the gospel of grace. It's a message-driven book with an important--an essential--message for every believer.

In the first chapter, Tchividjian hints at how embracing the grace of the gospel has freed him and changed his life dramatically:
Rediscovering the gospel enabled me to see that:
because Jesus was strong for me, I was free to be weak;
because Jesus won for me, I was free to lose;
because Jesus was someone, I was free to be no one;
because Jesus was extraordinary, I was free to be ordinary;
because Jesus succeeded for me, I was free to fail. (24)
(His struggle was with wanting--needing--approval from others in order to feel happy, successful, loved.) Your struggle might be in another area, of course, but there's something magnificent about the message itself that could change your life.

Favorite quotes:
Jesus plus X. The formula looks so innocent and harmless, even commendable (we're helping Jesus out!) But no such equation can ever lead anywhere good. Ultimately there can be only one equation--Jesus plus nothing. Anything we try to add to Christ ultimately results in what Michael Horton calls "Christless Christianity." John Calvin famously said that all our hearts are idol-making factories. He understood how all of us are drawn down this idolatry track every day. Christian people and non-Christian people, in-church people and out-of-church people. We habitually look to something or someone smaller than Jesus for the things we crave and need. And none of it is ever large enough to fill the void. Idolatry is simply trying to build our identity on something besides God. (40)
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. By believing that lie, we not only prove we don't understand grace, but we violate gospel advancement in our lives and in the church by perpetuating our own slavery. The truth is, disobedience happens not when we think too much of grace, but when we think too little of it. (51)
To reach people in our day, the gospel will have to be distinguished from moralism, because moralism is what most people outside the church think Christianity is all about--rules and standards and behavior and cleaning yourself up. Millions of people, both inside and outside the church, believe that the essential message of Christianity is, "If you behave, then you belong." (53)
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. The gospel, in fact, transforms us precisely because it's not itself a message about our internal transformation but about Christ's external substitution. We desperately need an advocate, mediator, and friend. But what we need most is a substitute--someone who has done for us and secured for us what we could never do and secure for ourselves. 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. We become neurotic and self-absorbed. Preoccupation with our effort instead of with God's effort for us makes us increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective. (94-95)
Think of what Paul tells us in Philippians 2:12: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." We've got work to do--but what exactly is it? Get better? Try harder? Pray more? Get more involved in church? Read the Bible longer? What precisely is Paul exhorting us to do? He goes on to explain, "For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13). God works his work in you, which is the work already accomplished by Christ. Our hard work, therefore, means coming to a greater understanding of his work. And so it is that we move further into the gospel, into a deeper, bigger, brighter understanding of all that God has already achieved for us in Christ. By continuing to place your trust in Christ's finished work, and by learning to do this more and more, all that he's secured for sinners--all that is your possession already in fact--now becomes increasingly yours in experience. You keep savoring the riches of God's pardon and power as your heritage forever in Christ. (96)
By daily preaching this gospel to ourselves, we can more readily see and confront all the idols in our lives--including those we may not be quite as aware of. We will be able to recognize that every temptation to sin is a temptation to not believe the gospel... when we succumb to temptation, we are failing to believe in that moment that everything we need, in Christ we already have. (96)
Expanding on a famous line from William Temple in the nineteenth century, I like to remind myself and others that the only thing you contribute to your salvation and to your sanctification is the sin that makes them necessary. (103)
Sanctification consists of the daily realization that in Christ we have died and in Christ we have been raised. Life change happens as the heart daily grasps death and life. Daily reformation is the fruit of daily resurrection. (117)
Martin Luther noted that "the sin underneath all our sins is the lie of the serpent that we cannot trust the love and grace of Christ and that we must take matters into our own hands." (118)
Perhaps the biggest difference between the practical effect of sin and the practical effect of the gospel is that sin turns us inward and the gospel turns us outward. The gospel causes us to look up and out, away from ourselves. It turns our gaze upward to God and outward to others, both to those inside the church and to those outside of it. The gospel causes us to love God and to love others, which of course is how Jesus summed up the entirety of the law. (122)
Our natural tendency is to focus on ourselves--on our obedience (or lack thereof), on our performance (good or bad), on our holiness--instead of on Christ and his obedience, his performance, and his holiness for us. We all possess a natural proclivity to turn God's good news announcement that we've been set free into a narcissistic program of self-improvement. When we do this, we fail to see the needs of our neighbors and serve them. After all, as Martin Luther said, "God doesn't need our good works, but our neighbor does." My greatest need and yours is to look at Christ more than we look at ourselves. (123)
The only antidote to sin is the gospel--always has been, always will be. And since Christians remain sinners even after they've converted, the gospel must be the medicine a Christian takes every day. We can think of it this way: since we never leave off sinning, we can never leave off the gospel. (129)
The gospel doesn't just free you from what other people think about you; it frees you from what you think about yourself. (133)
The determining factor in my relationship to God is not my past or my present, but Christ's past and his present. (139)
Real slavery is living your life trying to gain favor; real freedom is knowing you already have favor--the difference is huge. The gospel frees us to work and live from the secure basis of faith, not fear. (141)
Jesus fulfilled all of God's conditions on our behalf so that our relationship with God could be unconditional. Christianity is the only faith system where God both makes the demands and meets them. (143)
It's much more theologically accurate to say that Christ himself is the center of the gospel. He lived the life we couldn't live and died the death we should have died. And this happens all of grace. (144)
We fail in our doing because we fail to grasp first what Christ has already done. (156)
The hard work is not what you think it is--your personal improvement and moral progress. The hard work is washing your hands of you and resting in Christ's finished work for you, which will inevitably produce personal improvement and moral progress. Progress in obedience happens when our hearts realize that God's love for us does not depend on our progress in obedience. Martin Luther had a point when he said, "It is not imitation that makes sons; it is sonship that makes imitators." (175)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

1 comment:

hopeinbrazil said...

Thank you for sharing these amazing quotes.