Tullian Tchividjian, in this book, wrestles with a concept in Christianity that is familiar to most Christians. This is the need to always do, according to what is depicted in the word, with the aim of impressing Christ. He goes deeper to question why we always have this need to constantly put our actions forth in hopes that it portrays a better image to Christ of who we are as his people, when in reality, he loves us regardless. He wrestles with this concept from the moment he takes over as senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church from the previous pastor, Dr James Kennedy, who was the only pastor the church had known. The results of his reflection are what make the foundation for this book.
He recounts his initial experience after being named senior pastor. The resistance he received and the battles he faced. His temptation to escape and desperate pleading with God to return his old life back to him. In this encounter, he reveals a deep connection with God when he says that while reading the book of Colossians, he received the answer. The answer invokes a lot of reflection from me as the reader because I feel that it applies to the life of each Christian. He says God’s answer was, “It is not your old life you want back: its your old idols you want back, and I love you too much to give them back to you.” This triggered a response in me, as a Christian, because I can recount the numerous times I have found myself in the same situation and reflect on how that answer was applicable in each one.
He challenges our need for affirmation and living under the shadow of needing to measure up. It is illuminating and refreshing to view the matter from his perspective which is the fact that the gospel can free us from these bondages which only serve to hinder us from truly enjoying God. To marvel at the grace which we have received without having to do or become anything just so we can keep it.
He reiterates what Jesus says about living under the law. He expresses his view that the enemy of the good news is legalism, which in today’s time can also be termed as moralism. He says that, “Legalism happens when our actions instead of Christ’s actions, becomes the end game.” This is a struggle we face as Christians, to understand the relationship between our justification and our sanctification. We fail to see how central grace is to both these aspects. That not only does it Justify our right to be Christians, but it also cleanses us of our shortcomings in this human existence.
He laments that, “Sermons today provide nothing more than a to-do list, strengthening our bondage to a performance- driven approach to the Christian life.” Indeed, this is something that not many Christians would like to hear as it directly takes a jab at the worldly standard that we have set. A myopic view of God’s love, I could argue. “It’s all law (which focuses on what we must do), and no gospel (which focuses on what Jesus has done).” This is what is at the heart of legalism, or performancism, as Tchividjian calls it.
He then proceeds to give a new perspective to what progress looks like. He says, “Progress in obedience happens only when our hearts realize that God’s love for us does not depend on our progress in obedience… Whatever progress we make in our Christian lives- whatever going onward- whatever pressing forward- the direction will always be deeper into the gospel, not apart from it or aside from it.” This is the main point being emphasized in the book. He arrives at it early and gives off the impression of repetition for emphasis as he repeats it all through the book.
Truly, this is a point which every Christian needs to be hammered into them each time. That no matter how mature we perceive ourselves to be in our faith as Christians, we can never really grasp the fullness of the grace of God. That there is nothing we can do to separate ourselves from the love of God. This is as reassuring as it is refreshing. Because in our daily lives as humans, we find our worth in our abilities and actions. Reading this book gives a feeling of weightlessness, an uplifting effect. The reassurance that an obedience to Christ is more than enough to cover our greatest failures and weaknesses and our automatic response as human beings to need control over situations which we are unable to change or influence. This book arouses the desire to fully surrender to Christ as it minimizes the importance of our actions in both the sanctification and justification process. It invokes the desire to be obedient to Christ after learning from this new perspective which is rarely talked of today.
Abible at hand will prove to be valuable when reading this book as it takes more of a sermon-like approach. It is truly what we all as Christians need to hear. To be reminded of the overwhelming freedom of God’s grace. It is both a source of great comfort and a challenging rebuke to Christians depending on perception and beliefs. This makes the book applicable to both Christians and unbelievers as well as it goes back to the very foundation of what the gospel is and what the message in it implies.
Tchividjian, as an author, communicates with great zeal and passion for this message. He comes across as a teacher to me, taking more of a teaching approach in trying to put his point across. He uses scripture to justify his teaching which shows a great deal of spiritual maturity. His message is not very common in today’s Christian settings. When you look critically at the book, you realize that he is really focusing on the basic points, the fundamentals, and drawing us back to God. He communicates these basic points in a very engaging manner, keeping the reader interested. It becomes evident that these, to him, aren’t just passing thoughts. They are a way of life which he is trying to incorporate into his daily living. He works out a basic formula, mixing it with several biblical concepts and definitions as he progresses.
He emphasizes on the importance of the grace of God in our daily lives, and rememberingthe victory Christ has acquired for us through his death. Thisgives us enough security for us to live fulfilling lives. Certainly, we can never comprehend the depth of God’s grace and his love. Neither can it ever be enough to speak of it because there will never come a time when enough has been said on the matter.
The spiritual truth we can all apply into our lives from this book is that the true essence of Christian living is to always focus on what Christ did and gave for us by dying on the cross. Still, there can be a contradiction as to how to apply his lesson from this book into our daily lives. To me, it begs the question, “Is the remembrance or focus on what Christ did for us, enough to justify Christian living?” Because certainly, as humans, when we are tempted, we may not remember this fact. How does this apply in our behavior and how we conduct ourselves as Christians? How do we as Christians find a balance between this focus on grace and the proper way to live our lives as Christians, in a way that truly glorifies God in our lives?
I found a part of the answer as I read more. In the Scripture, Philippians 2:12, says that we should work out our own salvation now much more in his absence. This reveals that when we reflect on the grace of God, it draws us closer to him and to his presence. We find not only a nourishing for our restless souls, but also a desire to live in obedience to Christ. Does this mean that if we do not do it, then we fail to live rightly as Christians? In my opinion, this only serves to emphasize the importance of making time for God in our daily lives. When we seek His presence, we find nourishment. When we seek His presence, it covers our longing and desires. We are able to find our purpose in Christ and make our faith our foundation.
“Because in Christ, God has done you right… It’s always the gospel of God’s free grace that should motivate our right doing.” This shows that our motivation and source of obedience, is our gratitude. But gratitude is not the only source for our motivation. In his presence, God reveals himself to us. We can never deny His power. Welcoming Him into our daily lives, means welcoming His Spirit, to come dwell in us, and in so doing, He is able to work in us everyday to bring His perfect plan of salvation in Christ to completion. Daily prayer and meditation of the word is therefore an integral aspect of our day to day lives.
I believe that Tchividjian’s aim was not to say that Grace is the only thing we need to guide our Christian living, but it was to emphasize on grace as a concept and what it truly means, or should mean, to us as Christians. It is not a commonly talked about concept, because most people only see it as the obvious. That “Yes we all know Christ died on the cross for us and yes, that is why we are called Christians”, but we fail to go deeper, to the fundamentals of the concept of Grace. We fail to appreciate the depth of it and of the sacrifice that was made for us. We fail to reflect on it so that God can reveal spiritual truths to us. Tchividjian brings this out articulately, citing scripture and showing us without a doubt, that a focus on grace is integral to our daily lives. It helps set the base for all other things to be put in motion. The main point that explains the title is that Jesus should be our everything. Just as the scripture says in Colossians 3:11 “Christ is all…”, He truly is all that we need and nothing else.