Jesus + Nothing = Everything is written by Tullian Tchividjian, Senior Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Jesus + Nothing = Everything explores what implications the sufficiency of Christ has on the everyday life of believers. In this book, Pastor Tullian shares how during a very difficult year; he discovered the power of the Gospel. During this year the Lord led him to read and study the book of Colossians; a book which he then preached to the congregation at Coral Ridge, and upon which this book is based.
While much has been written and said about the current “Gospel-centered” movement, I believe that this book significantly advances that conversation by taking it deeper into the fullness of the Gospel. Tullian in this book bears all the marks of a man who has truly experienced the power of God in the Gospel, which is why throughout the book he demonstrates what it means to be a man on fire for the Gospel. Throughout church history the men and women that God has used the most to advance the Gospel have been believers who have understood their identity in Christ. Many believers often wonder what “secret” these great saints discovered in order to experience the level of effectiveness they enjoyed in there ministries. The fact that so many Christian books written on the Christian life today focus solely on what it means to be successful for God is an indictment on contemporary evangelical theology. This book unlike those books focuses not on what it means to be successful for God, but rather on what Christ has already accomplished in His death, burial and resurrection. Pastor Tullian skillfully guides his readers deeper into the fundamentals of the faith by explaining how the Gospel frees the people of God to be who they really are in Him by His grace for His glory.
This book contains a message that needs to be preached from every rooftop and in every pulpit; every single week of the year. The implications of Christ’s sufficiency are many and they all take the believer to the end of themselves in order to grow deeper and wider in the finished work of Christ in everyday life. Many contemporary theologians have written that evangelical Christianity is a mile wide and an inch deep. The message Tullian delivers here rightly diagnoses that problem as moralism, legalism and idolatry, but doesn’t stop at just explaining what these are or how Christians fall into these traps, but rather skillfully as a surgeon gets to the root of the problem by exposing these isms for what they are; a lack of confidence in the finished work Jesus Christ.
Jesus + Nothing = Everything is confessed as truth by nearly every evangelical, and yet many evangelicals do not appropriate this truth into their everyday lives. By this I mean, and Tullian explains so well that many evangelicals focus on their problems rather than on Jesus Christ. The believer who focuses solely on their problems demonstrates a lack of confidence in the power of the Gospel. Tullian calls believers away from being introspective about their sin by reorienting them to the truth of what Christ has done for them in the work of the Cross and Resurrection.
This is a book that challenges many contemporary evangelical ideas about accountability, spiritual growth, and ministry. Reading this book will change many believers’ lives by turning them upside-down and inside-out for the sake of His Gospel. Tullian rightly notes that the Gospel that saves and sanctifies provides the fuel to do good, which flows from the fount of what’s already been done by Christ. The truth that this book contains is the power of God to wreck your life in order to free you from hypocrisy, legalism and addictions, so that you will be who you are in Him by the grace of God. I recommend you pick up this book to be reminded and wrecked afresh by the precious truth that the Gospel that saves and sanctifies is indeed the power of God.
Title: Jesus + Nothing = Everything
Author: Tullian Tchividjian
Publisher: Crossway (2011)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Crossway as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
In John 15:1 Christ gives his seventh and final great “I am”: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” To Christian believers this is wonderfully deep and mystic parable. Christ is the vine (the trunk), we are the branches, and God the Father is the Gardener. The picture taken together is that of a vineyard with true believers organically related to Christ (the sap that runs in his veins runs in ours) and of the Father walking among the vines lovingly caring for them so they will bring forth fruit.
The overriding emphasis of the passage is fruit bearing, as we see from verse 2, 4, 5, and 8:
Vs.2, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
Vs.4, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”
Vs.5, “ I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
Vs.8, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
Not only is fruit-bearing the main emphasis, but our Lord makes it the identifying mark of true believers. “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit” (v.2). Some claim to be in the Vine, but the absence of fruit disqualifies them. If there is no fruit in our life, we had better reconsider the authenticity of our Christianity.
We need to make a careful examination of our own lives as to fruit-bearing. Most of us immediately think about what we have done for the Lord— how many people we have won to Christ or what ministry achievements we have. The backdrop of Jesus thinking here is Isaiah 5:1-2, “Let me sing for my beloved
my love song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
2He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;
and he looked for it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes.”
The fruits Jesus was looking for were the qualities of justice and righteousness which are inner qualities.
In John 15 the fruit Jesus speaks of is not primarily evangelism but the reproduction of the life of the Vine in the branch. Jesus is looking for the fruit of His life in us. If the inward graces of the Holy Spirit are not present in our lives (“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control,” Gal. 5:22-23), if they qualities are not present (not perfected but present) in our lives, we must face the fact that we may not be true believers. There must be something of the life of the Vine in us if we belong to God. In other words there must be Christlikeness. This is a tougher test than outward fruit such as the number of souls saved, people influenced or money collected. It is possible to have the outward signs without having the life of Christ within. Furthermore, the inward graces of the Holy Spirit will in time bring forth the outward fruit. The fruit Christ looks for is His own life in us.
“Every branch that does not bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful” (v.2b). The branches that are doing well, those that best convey the life of the vine get the knife. What is involved in pruning? Pain, and pruning always hurts. David said in Psalm 119:67, “Before I was afflicted I went astray.” Psalm 119:71 says, “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.”
Sometimes the pain of pruning comes because of our sins. Other times it is simply because we are bearing abundant fruit and God wants us to bear more. Whatever the reason for pruning, our natural selves always want to escape it. No one naturally wants the knife. Nevertheless, the result of God’s pruning will be beneficial for us and for him.
Often Christians are subject to the “When syndrome.” “When I get spiritually mature these things won’t happen to me. ” “When I get married, I will not struggle this way anymore.” “When I retire my life will be easier.” Afflictions would only stop if they were useless, and that is why they never stop. Without pruning, a vineyard would never be in full bloom. John 15 clearly teaches that pruning is always good for us.
We would rather do the pruning ourselves, but we cannot, and if we could, we would not remove what really has to go. The truth is what is noble and attractive in us has come from the cutting we would have avoided. “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your words” (Psalm 119:67). “It was good for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn from your decrees” (Psalm 119:71). James experience taught this truth as well. James 1:2, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.”
What else do we need to know about pruning? God’s hand is never closer than when He prunes the Vine. During those times of severest cutting when, to us, He may seem to have departed, He is the closest. His pruning may pain us, but it will never harm us. When the gardener does his pruning well, he leaves little more than the vine. Similarly, the more we are pruned, the more of Christ there is in our lives. Also, the branches does not bear fruit for itself but for others. The life that has been trimmed by the hand of God sustains others.
What does Jesus mean by abiding or remaining in Him in John 15:4-5? Remaining or abiding is parallel to being filled with the Holy Spirit. Abiding in Christ produces the fruit of the Holy Spirit. We must set aside everything from which we might derive our own strength and merit and draw all from Christ.
Jesus says that abiding in Him involves the belief that “apart from me you can do nothing” (v.5b). There are many things we can do without Christ. We can earn a living, raise a family, and practice generosity. It is possible to pastor a church without abiding in Christ. It is possible to counsel people without abiding in Christ. What does Christ mean here? He means that we cannot bear spiritual fruit without Him. We can tie fruit onto our lives like ornaments on a Christmas tree, but the real fruit of His character comes from the Vine itself. We can do nothing without Him. We cannot be loving or patient or faithful, or holy. That is why God does not shield us from the assaults of life, but rather exposes us to them so we will learn to hold him fast. Jesus taught, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Abiding in Christ involves a growing sense of weakness.
Along with this realization we are to consciously and deliberately depend upon Christ. Those who learn to abide stay put for the pruning. We must choose to abide by getting into the Word, associating with others who are remaining in Christ in order to keep growing in the grace of God.
What fruit was Jesus speaking about in John 15:6-11? “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (v.7). Jesus teaching His disciples about an empowered prayer life. As we pray, we abide. As we abide, we pray more, and more deeply. “This is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (v.8). The Father is glorified. Verses 9-10 add, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his life.” Love will fill our lives! “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (v.11). The joy of Jesus in us is the gigantic secret of the Christian life. Peter called it “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). Joy to the max.
Jesus is the Vine, we are the branches, The Father is the Gardener. Everything the Father and Son do is geared to enhance our abiding and our fruitfulness. With each trimming in our Christian lives; may there be more of Christ in us, for God’s glory and blessing others.
Recently I’ve been reading Jesus + Nothing = Everything ( Jesus + Nothing = Everything )by Pastor Tullian Tchividjian in preparation to review his book, and wanted to offer a book giveaway (my first ever!) to the readers of Servantsofgrace. There are two books available for this book giveaway. I want to sincerely thank Crossway for providing the two books to the readers of Servantsofgrace. This book giveaway is only available for those living in the USA and Canada.
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