Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Its a simple equation really. Similar to the mathematical equation 1 +1 = 2. But as simple as it looks and sounds it is so hard to live out. This is what Tullian Tchividjian discovered in his first year as senior pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
Tchividjian begins by explaining the inner struggle he had over his own identity during his first year at Coral Ridge:
I’d never realized before how dependent I’d become on human approval and acceptance until so much of it was taken away in the rolling controversy at Coral Ridge. Before, in every church I’d been a part of, I was widely accepted and approved an appreciated. Now, for the first time, I found myself in the uncomfortable position of being deeply disliked and distrusted, and by more than a few people. Now I realized just how much I’d been relying on something other than – something more than – the approval and acceptance and love that were already mine in Jesus (p. 22).”
What Tchividjian recounts for the reader here is not something unique to him. No, desire for the approval, acceptance and appreciation of others is something that strikes at the heart of everyone. We have an addiction to being liked and we desire what he hope others think about us more than what we have in Christ. We have a gospel problem.
The solution to this problem is found in the gospel and for Tchividjian much of this gospel truth was found in the book of Colossians. It is here that Tchividjian discovered the gospel truth that Jesus + nothing else = everything because everything we have in Christ is all we need to shape and find our identity. The growing truth that is set forth in this book is that though we need to gospel to get saved we need it just as much after we are saved. The gospel not only “ignites the Christian life” but is also “the fuel that keeps it going (p. 37).” This is a book about helping us to find and remove the idols in our lives that our hearts seek to build our identity around.
The greatest threat to the believer finding satisfaction in their identity is Christ is legalism. “Legalism happens when what we need to do, not what Jesus has already done, becomes the end game (p. 46).” It is because these self-imposed structures seem so right that makes them so dangerous. “Our rules become our substitute savior, and keeping those rules becomes our self-salvation project (p. 48).” It “preserves our illusion that we can do this (p. 49).” This legalism is a double edged sword and so cuts both ways. First, there is “front-door legalism.” This says that “I can find freedom and fullness of life if I keep the rules (p. 51).” Second, there is “back-door legalism.” This says that “I can find freedom and fullness if I break all the rules (p. 51).” But both sides of the coin mean I am trying to save myself and neither is the gospel.
The freeing message of the gospel from legalism is that in Christ we are free from the law and its desire to enslave us to the double edged sword of legalism. We need to bask in the reality that Christ has freed us from the demands of the law for he has met them because we cannot. Our self-imposed legalism cannot help us fulfill the law. We were never intended to and God does not expect us to. Our attempts are displeasing to him and they diminish the law fulfilling work of Christ that has already been accomplished on the cross.
Page after page Tchividjian lays out for us the freeing truth of the gospel. It is this gospel truth that we need to run to everyday. It is this gospel truth that keeps us day by day. It is the gospel truth of what Christ has already done for us in Christ that enables us to stand before almighty God because he has freed us from sin and covered us in himself.
This is a book that every believer needs to read and digest. This is probably the most encouraging book I have read all year and one I will return to for years to come. Jesus + Nothing = Everything is a freeing gospel truth!