JESUS+NOTHING=EVERYTHING By Tullian Tchividjian
This simple little review must begin with a confession. First, I confess that this is not going to be a typical bloggers book review. It is going to be a review of my experience as I walked through this book over the last two months (yes, you read it correctly two months). If you read my first post, when I first received this book and began to read it, you’ll remember that I was desperate for this book. I was desperate for a personal read from someone who was like me (a rule-keeper and steeped in legalism ), who had come from where I stood but had crossed over to a mighty truth, a mighty freedom. I now blog from my personal experience as I have made it to the other side and I am still reeling and dripping in the awesome.
I must also ask for your forgiveness. I have sat in front of this computer for over a week, trying to figure out how to explain just how this book has been used in my life. So I ramble quite a bit in this article and I am sorry for that.
Jesus+Nothing=Everything has a 3 fold theme. First it is Pastor Tullians account of his personal journey and revival in the saving grace of the gospel during a very hard time in his life. Second it is a deep and revealing study into the book of Colossians and lastly, it is an identifying look at the law; at the “why” of our own hearts, and it is a guide to grace for those of us who have fallen into the bondage of moralism, performanceism and idol worship. This is not all that this book is, there is more, but if I stated it all, then I would be writing a book instead of a blog.
Me? I’m a rule-keeper as confessed, also a performer, a people-pleaser, a legalist, and as naive as I am, I have come to discover that I am an idol worshiper. “Lemme esplain, no - lemme sum up” (for those of you who don’t get it, it’s a Princess Bride quote).
This past summer I found myself in a cycle of self-condemnation that I could not get out of. I studied the Word, I memorized scripture, I prayed. But no matter what I did I could not live up to my own expectations as a good little Christian girl, nor could I change myself and make it all better. I kept failing and failing and failing… and ultimately I became shackled to the notion that I would never measure up, that shame would always have its rule over me, that I would never be in ministry again, nor would I have an abundant life that so many Christian women authors were so wildly talking about.
What did I forget? Where did I go wrong?
I forgot the FINISHED work of Jesus for me. Yes, for me personally. I was however certain, that the Gospel was still well and alive for my non-believing friends. However, I took my eyes off the cross of my Savior and had them focused in all the wrong places for a very long time. That focus was on me…
On page 76 of this book… truth, perspective and revelation came freshly once again: “And God said Tullian, in my beloved Son, you stand before me this very moment as cleansed, forgiven, purified. Therefore, I will never, ever deal with you on the basis of your cleanliness or dirtiness – your goodness or badness – but on the basis of my Son’s FINISHED work on your behalf.”
I had forgotten the TRANSFER! Colossians 1:12-14 “giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed [us] into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, [fn] the forgiveness of sins”. (blueletterbible.com)
The Greek word for “conveyed” is “methistēmi.” It means: “to transpose”, “TRANSFER”, “remove from one place to another”.
I had forgotten that the Gospel of grace was for me, today – and everyday. That I had already been transferred from darkness to light, from bad to good, from condemned to justified. That I could do nothing in and of myself, that there no longer needed to be any “add-ons” to my faith as Pastor Tullian puts it. There is no system of rules or laws that I could implement or follow to change the shame I had been shackled to. In the words of Jesus “It is finished”. I had already been transferred by the precious blood sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus. I NOW stand JUSTIFIED before God’s judgements through Him.
Somehow I had gotten lost in my own “self-established standards and rules” during my walk. I had become a legalist. And why not? As Pastor Tullian puts it “Legalism feeds our natural pride – and it’s attractive because it becomes all about us”.
I had fed myself daily on pastors and teachers that taught a “Christian moral renovation”. Teachers of the “self-help” world. And those teachings were putting all the burden for change on me - “and not teaching what Christ had already done”. Pastor Tullian states this: “To focus on how I’m doing, more than on what Christ has already done, is Christian narcissism – the poison of self-absorption which undermines the power of the gospel in our lives”.
I am not slamming these pastors or teachers. I am merely explaining how I got off the path of the gospel and became a prisoner of shame, self-absorption and ultimately legalism. I realize now that the Christian “self-help” teachers I was listening to, became the tone of my own Bible reading as well. When I was reading Paul’s instructions to the church, my focus was not reading through the lens of the grace of the Gospel, but through the lens of legalism. My focus of the scripture was all steeped in my own power for change, dependant on my own strength and not in the power of the Holy Spirit. It was also steeped in fear, for not measuring up.
The truth is, I was never good. I never have been. But I was trying to be good in my own strength. I was born with the cancer of sin just like everyone else and only Jesus holds the cure. Not only does Jesus hold the cure, but He has already imparted His strength and power and His goodness to me so that I may live and walk in this life.
It was not as if I completely strayed from the Gospel of Jesus’ grace. I did pull it out every once in a while, I did stand on it every once in a while. My problem was that I didn’t see the Gospel as “everything”. It was not big enough, deep enough and constant enough in my sight and mind. The Gospel is God’s crescendo in His symphonic masterpiece of this planet’s song. I just got lost and distracted in the “add-0ns” while I was looking at myself to perform the right way. In adding on to the gospel in my own walk, I became a prisoner.
I have spent just over two months with this book. I have sipped it slowly, allowing God to work grace back in to me. It has helped me become more free. The shackles of shame have fallen off, self-condemnation has been replaced with celebration. I am along with Pastor Tullian celebrating the gift of grace and the amazing depth of the gospel. I have re-read chapters of this book, I have been spurred on to study Colossians again with brand new, grace filled eyes. My worship has changed and my prayer life has changed dramatically as well. I feel as if I have received new eyes and had one huge grace awakening like never before. The word “justified” has become my new favorite word.
“The word “Justified” in Paul’s usage means to be counted righteous by God. “Therefore when Christ lived a perfect life, in God’s sight we lived a perfect life. When Christ died on the cross to pay for our sins we died on the cross… we are forever right with God”, states Pastor Tullian.
The vast reaches of justification through the shed blood and resurrection of Jesus to me at this point are unfathomable. This deep mystery before me is once again brand new and the excitement I feel about the new discoveries that lie ahead, has me reeling with anticipation.
Also, I am feeling a bit naked these days. I am daily being stripped of thought patterns and self-talk that has caused self-focused, self-worshipping behaviors that are just ugly. Even though I am naked, I am certainly not ashamed. I am learning to love that I am weak, because in my weakness, He is strong. My self-imposed rules and regulations are daily being exposed and dealt with by my loving Lord.
A silly little example of my stripping is this: One of my idols is safety. Safety for myself, my daughter and my family in general. I worship it, I desire it (and yes, even more than I desire God, which makes it an idol). Yes, I want it, bad. And throughout my day I catch myself directing God to keep us all safe. I want my daughter safe while she is walking to her friends house, to keep us safe in our travels, to keep our home safe from predators, - I mean it goes on and on ALL day! I caught myself the other day while we were traveling home to New York from California. We were about to hit a snow storm and the thought entered my mind “I better get my life right with God before we hit the road, so we can be safe”. – THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS WRONG WITH THAT THOUGHT! I won’t over analyze for you – but immediately the Holy Spirit corrected me and a new thought came “I am justified by Christ. I am right before the Father, because of Christ here and now”. No matter how much I repent (though repentance is good), no matter how good I try to make myself look to God – my life is in Christ’s grip. He holds my future, my past and no matter how many pissy moments I have had in that last hour prior to driving in that snow storm, would not have changed how He loves me, how He sees me or how secure we would be on that drive home.
I am so grateful for this book. God used it to open my eyes, to free me and I am being changed…
My prayer is that the Holy Spirit constantly reminds me of this precious equation: Jesus + Nothing = Everything.
Just Jesus. Just the Gospel. No “add-ons”, no Jesus plus Christian “self-help” tactics, no rules, no regulations that manipulate God to give me safety.
Because He is the Everything.