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
Bloggers love to make lists and blog-readers love to read them. It would be easy (and probably helpful) to create a list of the biggest battles Christians face in being the Christians they want to be. Battles with pride, lust, materialism. etc. but there is something that such an approach would actually mask and it’s this; there is only one problem Christians face and that is the struggle to believe the gospel. At the heart of all issues of sanctification is the battle to believe.
Tim Keller highlights what Martin Luther describes below when Keller says the problem with Christians is that we believe and yet don’t believe the gospel at the same time. The goal of Christian thinking and living is to work out the gospel in all of its dimensions. That is Paul’s message in Romans 12v1-2. Here is Luther from his Preface to Galatians commentary;
There is a righteousness that Paul calls “the righteousness of faith”. God imputes it to us apart from our works–in other words, it is passive righteousness…So then, have we nothing to do to obtain this righteousness? No, nothing at all! For this righteousness comes by doing nothing, hearing nothing, knowing nothing, but rather in knowing and believing this only–that Christ has gone to the right hand of the Father, not to become our judge, but to become for us our wisdom, our righteousness, our holiness, our salvation! Now God sees no sin in us, for in this heavenly righteousness sin has no place. So now we may certainly think, “Although I still sin, I don’t despair, because Christ lives, who is both my righteousness and my eternal life.” In that righteousness I have no sin, no fear, no guilty conscience, no fear of death. I am indeed a sinner in this life of mine and in my own righteousness, but I have another life, another righteousness above this life, which is in Christ, the Son of God.
Christians never completely understand [this] themselves, and thus do not take advantage of it when they are troubled and tempted. So we have to constantly teach it, repeat it, and work it out in practice. Anyone who does not understand this righteousness or cherish it in the heart and conscience will continually be buffeted by fears and depression. Nothing gives peace like this passive righteousness. The troubled conscience has no cure for its desperation and feeling of unworthiness unless it takes hold of the forgiveness of sins by grace, offered free of charge in Jesus Christ, which is this passive or Christian righteousness….Once you are in Christ, the Law is the greatest guide for your life, but until you have Christian righteousness, all the law can do is to show you how sinful and condemned you are. But if we first receive Christian righteousness, then we can use the law, not for our salvation, but for his honor and glory, and to lovingly show our gratitude.
It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business in the morning and the last in the evening. Guard yourself against such false and deceitful thoughts that keep whispering: Wait a while. In an hour or so I will pray. I must first finish this or that. Thinking such thoughts we get away from prayer into other things that will hold us and involve us till the prayer of the day comes to naught.
Don Carson has said ‘we don’t pray because we don’t plan to pray’. The same can be said of reading. In a culture saturated with more immediate forms of amusement we find it so much easier to be entertained than educated. Reading takes effort, reading requires energy,reading means discipline, reading is never achieved without organisation. But reading is essential to our spiritual lives.
In a short series of posts I want to ask Why read? What to read? How to read?
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15
The number of theological books should…be reduced, and a selection should be made of the best of them; for many books do not make men learned, nor does much reading. But reading something good, and reading it frequently, however little it may be, is the practice that makes men learned in the Scripture and makes them pious besides.
Just think how reading can change you!
- Read to be inspired Continue reading »
the sin that hides itself – part 2
‘I have no vices. I am a hero. Go and look it up in the dictionary and you will find a picture of me.’ That at least is what Chris Eubank told me. But Chris was wrong for he was overlooking one crucial truth; pride is the greatest vice of all.
CS Lewis, who died this day 47 years ago, observes that pride is ‘ruthless, sleepless, unsmiling, concentration on the self’ and we surely as the ‘Hello’, ‘OK’, and Facebook generation are the generation most at ease with our pride. We love life centred on ourselves.
And for those of us who doubt that pride has yet to infect us Lewis suggests a test. ‘If you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronize me, or show off?’
The virus that infects everything
Pride is so dangerous because it turns everything I do, the good as well as the bad, into sin. It takes a great act of kindness and Continue reading »
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