This is the last of three interviews by Matt Johnson with Tullian Tchividjian about his new book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything. This interview is posted on the Resurgence web site and is so good on so many levels that I wanted to share it with you here. The link to the original blog is below. Enjoy!
IN CHRIST ALONE—BUT I’VE GOT A FEW THINGS TO ADD
Matt: So how did Christians become legalists about the whole idea of sanctification, where did we get it wrong do you think?
Tullian: I think since Genesis 3, we have all been prone towards works righteousness. Our heart is bent to do it on our own and that doesn’t go away after we become Christians. We still drift into what Jerry Bridges calls the “performance treadmill.”
For instance, none of us has a problem saying that our good works don’t get us in. We know our good works don’t get us in. Any good works are as filthy rags because we’re justified by grace alone through faith alone and the finished work of Christ alone. We acknowledge that.
But once God saves us it gets weird because we start thinking, OK, my good works do keep God’s favor. My good works may have not earned God’s favor, but it’s up to me to keep God’s favor. As a result, we become the hero of the story. We become the centerpiece of our own narrative, and Jesus is sitting on the sidelines and we’re on the field and he’s like, “Put me in, coach,” and we’re like, “No. We got it. Thanks for getting us on the field, but we’ll take it from here.” And we add all sorts of things.
When we think about legalism we think about, Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t—whatever. That, however, is not the subtle kind of legalism that Christians like me are prone towards. Christians like me are prone towards the kind of legalism that says God is angry with me if I don’t read my Bible today. And if I want to be sure God loves me, I have to make sure that I dot the i’s and cross the t’s. And if I’m not nice to my wife, one day God is going to shut me out.
The good news of the gospel is that my standing with God is not dependent on my obedience but Christ’s obedience for me. People will say, “Well, you can’t say that because then what impetus will you have to get people to do what they need to do?” and I simply go back and give them an illustration and say, “Listen: if I know that my wife loves me unconditionally—whether I’m being nice or whether I’m being a jerk—does that make me want to be more of a jerk?” [Laughing] It actually makes me want to be nicer. The thing that makes me want to love my wife more is when she loves me when I’m not being nice.
That’s the kindness of the Lord that Paul says leads to repentance. It’s the amazing grace of God, the unconditional favor of God given to us because of what Christ has done that transforms the human heart and turns us into the kind of people the Bible describes.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU HAVE NOTHING TO DO
Matt: Aw man, I love it. Yeah! That’s good stuff. I think, so often, we get that backwards. It’s very subtle. As you said, we have these things on our radar of what the Christian life is like: don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t cuss, and we subtly fall into these patterns of works righteousness. It’s tricky and it’s hard to really see in the day-in and day-out.
So what’s the big idea you’re hoping readers are going to come away with after they read Jesus + Nothing = Everything?
Tullian: My hope and prayer is that this book will set people free, that it will cause them to relax and rejoice because we live our lives under a banner that reads, “It is finished.”
The question I ask throughout the book is this: “In light of Christ’s finished work and the imputed righteousness that we possess, what are we going to do now that we don’t have to do anything?” That’s a scandalous question to ask people because they think, “Wait a minute . . . we have to do this and we have to do that.”
It reminds me of Jesus’ disciples in John 6 when they said, “What must we be doing to be doing the works of God?” And it’s like they got their pad and pen out and they’re all ready to take notes and make a checklist to do those things Jesus tells them to do. And Jesus says, “You want to know what you need to be doing to be doing the works of God? Believe in the one whom God has sent.” And they’re like, “That’s too good to be true. What are you talking about?”
We have a ton of things we think we need to do. We have to change the world and we’ve got to fix problems and we’ve got to fix people, and I’ve got to fix my wife and make sure my kids turn out OK. I need to make sure people are obeying God. These are things people, pastors specifically, fall into and Jesus is like, “Just trust me. Trust me. I’ve done it and it is finished. It’s a done deal. Just rest.”
Here’s a link to the original article: