Monday, 18 March 2013

Jesus + Nothing = Everything

I asked for this book as a present because I was blown away by two of Tullian's talks at a Resurgence conference on the some topic (Talk 1- audio video. Talk 2 - audio video). From those talks Tullian sounded to me like a modern day Luther or Bunyan who had discovered the grace of God and argues that is all you need. IF someone is sinning, tell them about the grace God has shown them. If someone is trying to please God, tell them about the grace God has shown them. If someone is carefully avoiding doing anything that looks like they are not earning their salvation, tell them about the grace of God.

Tullian tells of a very hard year where he oversaw the merging two churches. When his holiday time came up he took it and was spent, to the point where he didn't care if the church worked out or not. Over that break he read Colossians and that changed everything. Tullian knew about been saved by grace alone, but only when things had hit the fan did he really grasp what that meant. Because Jesus had succeeded, he has permission to fail. Because Jesus was someone, he could be no one. This was freeing for him. Tullian could put off everything and just look to Jesus. The equation he came up with was Jesus + Nothing = Everything, and the rest of the book is sets out and explains each element in that equation.

The main thrust of the book is to get you to think outside yourself and who you think you are, and to consider your identity in Jesus. We are to remove all forms of "functional saviors"  (idols) which we think will give us a better life and instead focus on Jesus and what He has done for us. The real truth is that we are worst than we think we are, but we should be happy for God is more gracious than we know.

In order to get true freedom we shouldn't listen to the world that tells us to go out and achieve something or to become more independent. It may seem backward, but the smaller we think we are and the more dependent we are on God, the freer we can actually live. Our whole life should be conducted under the banner of "It is finished", as God has done everything for us. This frees us to live our lives without concern for our own introspection and worry about how we think we are going in life. We don't have to do anything to earn God's favor.

The objection with this is then there is no motivation for Christians to do good. If Jesus has done everything, and there is now no longer guilt or fear from God about our conduct, then isn't a Christian free to live anyway they want? They don't have to help the poor, they don't have to go to Church, they don't have to drive carefully through school zones or even go to work. But Tullian's counter-intuitive point is that the more you focus on Christ and really understand what He has done for you, the more you will be motivated to do good. God cares about our motives for doing things, and guilt and fear should never be a motivation for a Christian. Once a Christian really gets it, that Jesus is enough and that they can rest in, then their life will be propelled by that motivation to love God and to love others.

This book was easy to read, and in some respects simple and a bit repetitive  Jesus is all you need. I found myself asking a few times in the book, "Ok, I get it, Jesus is enough  What now? What does the Christian life practically look like?" and the book doesn't answer that, it never moves off it's main point. And the question I was asking also goes against the whole book. There is now nothing more. Your identity is in Christ. You are accepted and so live in response to that, not to earn acceptance, but because it has already been done. The Gospel is not just for people who need to be saved, it is for the Christian to rest in their entire life.

Related links
The books website has a some short clips for each chapter
At Tullian's church he gave a 22 part sermon on Colossians on this topic that you can listen to


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