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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Book Review: Jesus + Nothing = Everything



I first heard about Tullian Tchividjian (pronounced "cha-vi-jin") a few year ago when I was introduced to the, then, new pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian church; I had been watching their show "The Coral Ridge Hour" (now "Truth In Action Ministries") every Saturday night and I enjoyed hearing what founder Dr. D. James Kennedy had to say. I particularly enjoyed his take on Christian apologetics. When Dr. Kennedy passed away, I heard that there was a new pastor coming in, but that there was some schism in the church over his "newer" approach to things as he began to merge his church with Coral Ridge's. In the book "Jesus + Nothing = Everything," pastor Tullian takes you on his spiritual journey into the Word of God; the book is an exposé of the book of Colossians, the portion of the Bible that God used to set this pastor free from the bondage that threatened to keep him hostage during that troubling time in his life.

The main point of the book is this: If Jesus is our everything, why are we settling for so many smaller things to try to fill the void? The author puts it this way: "... we're trying to find our rest in something smaller than Jesus. And the more closely we examine those points of restlessness -- the more light we shed on them -- the quicker we realize, 'On this particular issue, in this particular part of my life, I'm looking to something or someone smaller than Jesus to be for me what only Jesus can be.'"

This theme can be seen throughout the book as Tullian centers on the "everything" of Christ, first by examining our "nothingness" without Christ and then our fullness with Him. He draws a lot from the book of Colossians, as he emphasizes "the fullness of Him who fills all in all." He states, "For Christians, Christ's fullness means everything for everyone. As the apostle John expressed it in introducting us to Christ in his Gospel, 'From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace' (John 1:16)." A few pages later, this point is driven home more substantially: "Christ is all [see Colossians 3:11] -- and all we need. After seeing and hearing these things about Christ and how praiseworthy He is, to turn and live our lives for anything smaller than Jesus is the height of foolishness. No created thing could ever be for us what the Creator Himself alone can be" (words in brackets mine).

The book demonstrates clearly and effectively that Christ is everything we need to break free from our bondage -- and, in particular, the bondage of self-reliance (chapter 6). "The Father... has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light" (Col. 1:12). With this verse, pastor Tullian shares a personal revelation from God that I could appreciate: "Tullian," He [God] was telling me, "You're already qualified! You don't have to make the grade on your own or seek more approval from anyone. In Christ, you're in!" He shares that "God was assuring me that my identity, worth, and value had nothing to do with me at all. It had everything to do with the finished work of Jesus for me." While reading this, I was reminded of this truth: Philippians 4:13, a very well-known and often-quoted Scripture, states, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me" -- it is not in our own power or strength, but entirely through Him that we overcome! This chapter also talks more about Tullian's struggle to merge the two churches and what God revealed to him through that incident; I was particularly happy to see more of his story brought out in this chapter, and this chapter -- as well as many others -- contained so many wonderful gems of wisdom and encouragement.

The Cons and Pros of this book:
There were a few things that I did not appreciate about this book. Personally, in a book filled with teaching and not many illustrations, it's easy to get lost as to what the author is trying to convey. This happened multiple times throughout the book (and especially near the beginning). It took me a while to read through this book so that I could slowly digest what the author was saying; that is to say that this is not the type of book that one can sit down and read like a novel. I was also a little disappointed that the author did not talk more about the experiences behind his teaching; this would have made it an easier read in my opinion. (However, it is understandable, considering that it was a very personal experience, and I am grateful for what the author did share as it is very encouraging.) Lastly, I may have detected a bit of Calvinist teaching sprinkled here and there in this book (the author does quote from Calvin a few times), and there were a few times when I found myself disagreeing with the author on minor points (while I agreed with his overall conclusions).

That said, however, I highly recommend this book for personal use and Bible studies. Throughout, I found that I could identify with much of the author's points. There were so many "nuggets" of wisdom, that if I allowed myself to highlight those portions that spoke to me, the book would be all marred up! The book is very encouraging for anyone who struggles with focusing so much on "performance" rather than on the finished work of Christ. For Tullian -- and for every Chrstian -- herein lies the answer: "I'd come to believe my identity was directly tied to what I could achieve, to who I could become, and to how well people thought of me. It was slavery.... Colossians 1:12 opened my eyes: 'The Father... has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.' Tullian, you're one of the saints in light. You've been united to Him... Because Jesus was someone, you're free to be no one. Here was my identity." Overall, this was a very good book filled with solid Biblical teaching.

For supplemental videos and to hear pastor Tullian's thoughts on this book, visit http://www.crossway.org/group/jesusplusnothing.

This book was provided free in exchange for a review, courtesy of Crossway. All opinions are soley mine and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publisher or author.

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