Jesus + Nothing = Everything

November 1, 2011 — Leave a comment

An alternate title for this book could have been “Gospel Mathematics” but then I bet few people would have wanted to read it (I probably would have still anyway). The premise is fairly simple:

  • Jesus…
  • plus nothing…
  • equals everything.

Tchividjian explains:

It’s a statement that’s set up as an equation, of course, but what this expression leads to at the end is not so much a sum as an attainment, a destination, a realization – an experience.

In other words, letting the truth of this statement sink into your heart immediately changes not just how you view life, but how you do life. In this book, Tullian Tchividjian sets out to bring the truth of the gospel to bear on your everyday life. His main focus in on an exposition of Colossians, since as he recounts in the opening chapter, this was the part of Scripture that God used to draw him further up and further in.

Part one covers Everything from the vantage point of our own longing for it. Part two then shifts gears to explain how our misplaced longings for Everything actually leave us empty-handed. Or, as we might say, looking for Everything in the wrong places leads to Nothing.

Starting in part three, Tullian begins leading the reader on a journey through the book of Colossians. This section he has labelled “Jesus.” The two chapters in this section are the central part of the book. This gives his book a structure similar to the epistles, except with an extended introduction (Part 1-2) drawing out the need we all have for the gospel and a Savior. These chapters are the gospel indicatives (Part 3) to which the rest of the book unpacks not only gospel imperatives, but more gospel truth (Part 4, 5). Just like any good chiastically structured book, this book packs the most important truth in the middle section.

The last two sections (and 6 chapters) make up the bulk of the book. It is here that Tullian really drives his point home, and to just give a sampling, here are some tweetables:

  • “Christian growth doesn’t happen by first behaving better, but by believing better.” (p. 95)
  • “In the light of gospel grace, we’re liberated by the recognition that God loves us in order to make us lovely, not because we are lovely.” (p. 97)
  • “We morph Christianity into something that focuses exclusively on externals and behavior—which is not Christianity and not the gospel.” (p. 99)
  • “The only reason Christians raise the why-not-keep-on-sinning question is that they don’t fully understand the gospel.” (p. 100)
  •  “What licentious people need is a greater understanding of grace, not a governor on grace.” (p. 100)
  • “From deadness to aliveness, and from saturation in trespasses to immersion in forgiveness—that’s our journey in the gospel.” (p. 111)
  • “True spirituality is not introverted, but extroverted. It doesn’t take us deeper into ourselves; it sends us further out.” (p. 122)
  • “We need to somehow make it clear that Jesus came first not to make bad people good, but to make dead people alive.” (p. 124)
  • “The primary goal of the gospel is to bring about mortal resurrection, not moral reformation.” (p. 124)
  • “Christianity is not the move from vice to virtue, but rather the move from virtue to grace.” (p. 124)
  • Grace is the root of the gospel; peace is the fruit of the gospel.” (p. 142)
  • “Nowhere does the Bible promise that we’ll have our best life now—nowhere.” (p. 166)

In some ways, as you go through this list of quotables, you might sense the counter-intuitive nature of Tullian’s proposal. Depending on your church background and how much “do better, try harder” you’ve heard growing up, this book might just be the bit of fresh air you need breathed into your life. If there were such a thing as gospel flavored water, then this book might just be it, and is what souls parched by years of legalistic thinking need poured in.

If we could boil down the paradigm shift that Tullian is proposing, it’s that living the Christian life is not so much about what you do, but about resting in what Christ has already done. While this doesn’t cancel out your need as a Christian to show the fruit of the Spirit, it completely changes your motivation from one of duty to one of gratitude. Because of what Jesus has already done for you, you are now free to live in that reality of grace.

I would encourage you to check this book out. Its a short read, but it has the potential to completely reframe the way you view the Christian life and how you understand the gospel of Jesus Christ to reshape your present day to day life. Personally, I’m probable going to spend some more time soaking in the final chapters. Like Tullian, I had my world blown away by the truth of Colossians and it is probably my favorite epistle. This book was an encouragement to me to go book myself to the Scriptures and start seeking to see more of Jesus there. If you are also looking to grow in your understanding of who Jesus is and how that changes everything (and your search for everything!) then this book is definitely for you!

Thanks to Crossway for providing a review copy of this book!


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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

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