Jan 17, 2012

How Tullian Tchividjian wants to change the way you think, act and preach the gospel

Tullian Tchividjian explores the enormous possibilities for Christians who grasp the reality of justification by Christ through faith.

Here are 10 top take-homes for me from Jesus + Nothing = Everything

1. Functionally, living out the gospel does not come naturally, even for Christians

Obviously, before we were Christians, it was never our natural bent to seek all our satisfaction in Christ and the gospel; but even after God saves us, that isn’t where we naturally turn.

2. Therefore our Christian lives become focused on what we are doing rather than on what Christ has done. The results are disastrous.

Our rules become our substitute savior, and keeping those rules becomes our self-salvation project, with Jesus safely outside the picture. With enough rules and regulations set up, we don’t need Jesus.

3. Church makes things worse!

To make this situation worse, our idolatrous self-focus is only intensified by what is typically taught and preached in our churches. The fact is, a lot of preaching these days has been unwittingly unconsciously seduced by moralism. Moralistic preaching only reinforces our inner assumption that our performance for God will impress him to the point of blessing us.

4. The message we communicate is a denial of the gospel and a disincentive to non-Christians

Millions of people, both inside and outside the church, believe that the essential message of Christianity is, “If you behave, then you belong.” From a human standpoint, that’s why most people reject Christianity.

5. The truth of the gospel is that Jesus + nothing really does = everything. If only we would believe it.

If we are in Christ , then everything we need, we already possess…approved by God, accepted by God, redeemed by God, forgiven by God, and transferred from darkness to light by God.

6. Believing the gospel of justification deep down alone has the power to sanctify.

The gospel transforms us precisely because  it’s not itself a message about our internal transformation but about Christ’s external substitution…Sanctification is the daily hard work of going back to the reality of our justification.

7. All of our teaching and preaching must be an exposition of the gospel of justification

All theology is an exposition of the gospel, a further articulation of the gospel in all its facets, meticulously unfolding all its liberating implications and empowering benefits.

8. The gospel not only has the power to change us but to set us free to serve our neighbours

God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbour does – Martin Luther

9. Now you can spend your life giving up your place for others instead of guarding it from others, because your identity is in Christ.

10. It is hard work to keep the gospel central to our thinking, living, and preaching. Unless we persevere in doing so we will naturally revert to a life of self-justification.

I’m always amazed at how hard it is for my heart to embrace what my head affirms.

The evangelical orientation is inward and subjective. We are far better at looking inward than we are at looking outward. Instead, we need to expend our energies admiring, exploring, expositing, and extolling Jesus Christ. – Sinclair Ferguson



  • I believe that all writing has a scent. Or you could say a sound. These points have a scent that doesn’t match the scent I find the New Testament. Or it doesn’t hold the tension that is found everywhere in the New Testament. I fear this teaching because it becomes a framework on how to read everything else. For example, I am thinking of what Paul said, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” How would you arrive at that position from the doctrine of justification? The points above teach that you already have everything. And yes that it true, but… The big conjunction is missing, and therefore the tension is missing. Moreover, sanctification is looking further at justification? Actually, sanctification is beholding Jesus, not justification. Jesus is the living god-man, justification is a doctrine. Thinking now of Philippians 2:5, he says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God ra thing to be grasped” Therefore, it’s beholding Jesus in his humility that makes us humble. Justification doesn’t get me there. In further thinking it’s the mystery of our union with Christ that brings about our sanctification. To me, from your outline alone, this writer seems to have focused on one idea and carried it to it’s logical conclusions. That’s not how the Bible works. That’s not how God works. Maybe that’s the reason I always prefer Biblical Theology to Systematic Theology. It feels like everyone thinks in terms of concatenated doctrine rather than New Testament writing. Need System Theology? Yes. Can misuse it? Yes. Is the teaching of Justification crucial? Absolutely. Is that the framework for understanding everything? No way! Remembering that disciple means a follower of Jesus. We are followers of a Person not a Doctrine.

  • p.s. I forgot to end by saying that I really like your writings and this site. I don’t mean to come across to harsh or infallible because I am a Pilgrim too. So please, see this as one brother having a conversation with another over a well cooked and shared meal.

  • Buddy, I read the book, and the “scent” of that book is not that sanctification comes by our looking more at justification. The “scent” of the book is that Christians as they seek to grow in the Lord, and preachers as they preach for spiritual maturity, should never leave justification behind or religate basic gospel to evangelism and conversion. Tullian’s book is about the centrality of the gospel, which includes justification but is not limited to justification, and he says in 15 different ways that the basic elements of the gospel, which include justification, are central to all sanctification and Christian growth. He does not emphasize that sanctification comes from looking more at justification rather than Jesus– remember the book’s title, Jesus+Nothing=Everything. The scent of the book is that sanctification and everything else comes from looking more at Jesus, but that we humans cannot effectively look at Jesus at ANY stage of our spiritual journey unless we do so through the prism of the gospel (and justification is always part of the core of the gospel).

    • Charlotte, thanks for responding. I appreciate your feedback. It’s helpful also that you read the book are more fit to comment on it’s contents. I am trying to think through the distinctions in this conversation. I hope to ask you a couple of clarify questions. When you say “the gospel” and “Jesus”, do these terms mean the same to you? So for example, gospel centrality, does that mean Jesus centrality? Given that we are commanded to look to Jesus, why do you say we can’t we do this effectively? It seems to new that new birth makes this possible without a rehearsal of justification?

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