Tullian is passionate about the gospel. “I'm beginning to realize,” he writes, “that the gospel is way more radical, offensive, liberating, shocking, and counterintuitive than any of us realize. And that's beginning to be okay with me.” (11)
How he got there is told in this book.
Tullian was pastoring New City Church in Fort Lauderdale, a thriving church he had started five years before. To the south was Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, founded fifty years before by D. James Kennedy. It had once been thriving but attendance was in decline and then Kennedy died in 2007.
Leaders at Coral Ridge asked Tullian about the possibility of a call but he was not interested. Months later a new idea surfaced – combining the congregations, and Tullian sensed God was in it. The congregations began worshiping together on East Sunday, 2009 and he was installed as pastor in May. “Although I'd expected some tough times to crop up as two very different congregations merged into one, I had no idea how ugly and messy it would become.” (21)
With this introduction, Tullian tells of the pain. Within three months, false accusations and a petition to get him removed. He agonized with God and realized his addiction to human approval. The gospel became his lifeline.
Tullian focuses in on the human hunger for everything. Is it true that only God alone can satisfy that desire? Tullian reminds us of our restless hearts, our tendency to idolatry. He wonders if our “good works” give us comfort or a feeling of self-righteousness. Are we “demonstrating that we believe in ourselves much more than we do in Jesus”? (49) He challenges us, “What are you looking to (instead of Jesus) for meaning in life, for purpose, significance, security, direction, acceptance, approval?” (55)
Tullian had read Colossians when he was on his vacation in the early summer of 2009. Paul's emphasis on the completeness of Christ moved him. Tullian spends some time reviewing Colossians and the fullness of Christ inn this book. He shares how he was confronted by the truths contained in that book and was reoriented back to the gospel.
He addresses idols. “What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God...” (89)
He had thought that becoming mature meant, “...I needed to find a way to get more joy, more patience, more faithfulness, and so on.” (94) He realized that was not what the Bible taught. “What the Bible teaches is that we mature as we come to a greater realization of what we already have in Christ.” (94) Tullian also helps us identify the counterfeit gods we create. He helps us identify legalism.
We avoid the gospel because then it is no longer about us. We are no longer the point. We must understand it is all about God. We need to understand that Jesus did not come to make bad people good, but to make dead people alive.
For Christians, who you are really has nothing to do with you. “Your identity is firmly anchored in Christ's accomplishment, not yours...” (132)
Tullian admits it was easy to affirm all the truths from Colossians in his brain. The past few years of difficulty helped him understand deeply what it meant to be accepted , approved, redeemed, forgiven by God and transferred from darkness to light. He came to see that Christian growth was “working hard to live in the reality of what you already have” rather than working hard to get something you don't have. That radically transformed his life. The secret of maturity, he says, “we become more spiritually mature when we focus less on what we need to do for God and focus more on all that God has already done for us.” (185) All of that, and the best is yet to come!
Tullian Tchividjian is glad to report that the gospel is active at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, where is pastor.
Crossway 224 pages. Publisher information.
I received a complimentary egalley from Crossway for the purpose of this review.