Patrick Schreiner

Jesus + Nothing = Everything Review

In Book Reviews on 01/04/2012 at 8:08 PM

A Man Enflamed

There is more to like about Tullian Tchividjian’s newest book than a sleek, simple, and smooth cover and design.

Most importantly, this is a man who bears all the stripes of someone who has rediscovered the all sufficiency of Jesus.

Tchividjian in Jesus + Nothing = Everything shares some of his personal experiences with rediscovering that all we need is Jesus. He does this primarily through expositing Colossians 1, taking a deeper look at the supremacy of Christ in all things. The book is easy to follow, he takes the equation in reverse and then forward again, in a chiastic pattern. He reveals how we all try to add to Jesus, but this is nothing more than setting up idols alongside Jesus.

He wants Jesus alone, nothing else. He wants this for you, for me, and he is learning it afresh through trying circumstances at his church.

Wanting More Story

But this brings me to something that I thought the book was lacking, more of his story.

In reality his story framed this book, but ninety-five percent of the book is exposition and explanation. I longed to hear specific examples of how this equation was crystallized as his car was getting keyed, as blogs were being birthed, spreading hateful words about him. I needed more practical examples, and the reason I needed more of his personal story is that there are so many good books that pretty much say the same thing (such as Elyse Fitzpatrick’s Because He Loves Me and Tim Keller’s Counterfeit Gods).

I was hoping this would be the personal story of him rediscovering it, not the sermons that came out of his rediscovery. Some of this could be explained by his desire not focus on his persecution, or the churches failings. However, by so doing, I sensed that some of the power was squeezed from the book. He experienced it, but he stops us from experiencing it with him.

Gospel Centered Reality Check

Finally, a word about the danger of this “gospel-centered” hit list.

Sometimes I feel as if it takes the teeth out of the imperatives in the Bible. Yes, I agree that the imperatives are fueled by the indicatives. Yes, I agree that if we give imperatives without grace they will never take root. Yes, I agree that we are saved not by what we do, but by Jesus alone.

However…there are roughly 550 imperatives in the Epistles, and therefore it is right and good for our pastors to give imperatives, and us not scream legalism. Tchividjian does put on his helmet, but it is more a protective helmet, in that he gives a nod of approval to the imperatives because he knows it is the right thing to do, but it is only a nod.

In addition, justification is only one of the the many images for our salvation, and as others have pointed out, when this doctrine gets elevated, sanctification gets the burnt edges.

But I do not want to end on a negative note, and there is still much to appreciate about this book. Like I said at the beginning, if you are looking for a man who is “red bulled” to re-awaken within you the all sufficiency of Christ, this your book.

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  1. How is justification a metaphor?

  2. Hmmm…maybe image is a better word for it. I was meaning that it is just one “picture” of what happened to us when we were saved. We were reconciled, adopted, made one with Christ, justified, etc…

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