Jesus + Nothing = Everything
by Tullian Tchividjian
Simple three-word review: Read this book.
I was at Northwestern Publishing House, my church’s, well, publishing house, when my wife spotted this book. It’s got a nice glossy black cover and the title just pops. Well, that certainly looks nice, and it trumpets the Gospel pretty darn effectively. I flip through, trying to find out more about the author.
He’s a Presbyterian guy and apparently head pastor at a mega-church. These things do not produce brownie points for me. Ah! He’s Billy Graham’s grandson. Well, that makes me think that I can expect certain things wrong.
In the back, I discover an appendix: Twenty-Six Books on the Gospel. Looking through this little section should tell me a lot about this book. So, I look through. I recognize a few names. Christless Christianity by Michael Horton, for example, sits on my shelf, though I’ve not yet read it. Wait a second – could it be? That’s not possible! He recommends God’s No and God’s Yes: The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel by C. F. W. Walther, a classic in my own little corner of confessional Lutheranism! Did anyone even know such a book existed outside our circles? Apparently!
And then the recommendation from Gene Edward Veith, another name I know and respect: “This book shows how the good news of free forgiveness in the cross of Jesus Christ is the driving energy that makes the Christian life possible.”
All right, Tchividjian (or however you pronounce your name), you’ve got my attention. With my wife’s monetary blessing, I purchased the book.
Wow. I am glad I did.
You know how I can tell the book’s affected me? Good books that express the deep truths of God in gripping ways always leak into my sermons. It took half the book before some of the phraseology made its way into my Sunday morning sermon. I have no doubt it will continue.
All right. I’ve told you why I picked it up. I’ve told you it’s greatly affected me. Wanna hear about the book itself now?
Tchividjian takes us on a walk through his life. He shows how he had everything, and then he seemed to lose it all. And while he was in that danger zone, he read through the book of Colossians, which told him: Christ is sufficient. He realized he had turned praise and acceptance from others into false gods. He was worshipping them. And he didn’t need more false gods. He needed Jesus.
And suddenly… Gospel! In his words:
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.
The book goes on to explain just how much Jesus is everything we need – not simply for conversion, but every day. Tchividjian does a fantastic job showing the power of the Gospel.
I should note: This book is written for Christians. It assumes basic knowledge. He never goes through the plan of salvation – at least not the history of Jesus. I suppose it’s like a fairly typical Sunday sermon: preaching to Christians, though trying to make it accessible for guests. This is not a weakness of the book; far from it. Tchividjian knows his target audience well and speaks to them. It’s just something to keep in mind.
That is not to say that Tchividjian ignores Jesus on a book about the Gospel. Far from it. He delves deeply into what Christ has done for us. Let me put up a few quotes that impressed me:
When we succumb to temptation, we are failing to believe in that moment that everything we need, in Christ we already have. Real freedom happens when the rich resources of the gospel smash any sense of need to secure for ourselves beyond what Christ has already secured for us. …
A church that is deeply aware of its misery and nakedness before a holy God will cling tenaciously to an all-sufficient Savior, while one that is self-confident and relatively unaware of its inherent sinfulness will reach for religion and morality whenever it seems convenient. …
When it comes to drawing near to God and pleasing him, legalism insists that obedience precedes acceptance – that it’s all up to us. But the fresh breeze of gospel freedom announces that acceptance precedes obedience – that once we’re already approved and already accepted by God in Christ, we can freely follow God’s lead and grow in doing his will out of genuine gratitude for his amazing grace and without any fear of judgment or condemnation when we fail.
Tchividjian is really focusing on churches that talk about becoming better people and leave out the Gospel. In doing that, though, he convicted me. He reminded me that all too often in my preaching Christ died to forgive sins – now it’s up to us to get to work. He points out that sanctification without the gospel is merely legalism.
And he focuses on the sufficiency of Christ. Christ is everything – over and over. It’s a refrain that is glorious throughout the book. The title really says it all: Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Tchividjian takes each part of the equation and examines them one at a time. Jesus. Nothing. Everything.
Seriously, just go read the book and find a new appreciation of this Gospel thing. Read something truly refreshing – and shockingly avoids the major heresies like decision theology! Go read, and bask in the glory that is the Gospel.