Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Warning Against Letting Legalism in the Backdoor Labeled Sanctification

Jesus + Nothing =Everything Tullian Tchividjian gets the gospel. I’m normally skeptical when I here reports of people in the reformed camps (as a Lutheran, the distinction between Arminian and Reformed mean next to nothing to me. I throw up a lower case r, those who deny the sacraments get called reformed. Though I know Tullian is Reformed) getting the gospel. I have been a little suspicious concerning leaks concerning Tullian. My problem is that normally they are good when talking about justification, and mess everything up with sanctification, letting legalism through the back door, and taking with the left the gospel they gave with the right. Sometimes they aren’t even good when it comes to justification. Gospel means good news folks, it has to be news to be gospel, good news at that. A list of rules is not news, it does not fit the genre. Tullian, gets it. The Gospel, the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection, the forgiveness of sins, it’s not for converting unbelievers, it does that, but it is for Christians, it is for their salvation! The Gospel is for disciples. The gospel is for young and old, mature and immature believers. This is what Tullian preaches over and over again in this book. And if it is repetitive as some people complain, that is because repetition is the mother of all learning, and it needs to be repeated lest we rob ourselves of the gospel. Too often the gospel gets replaced with a list of rules, and what is begun in the spirit, Christians are urged to finish in the flesh. It’s an exercise in futility! And every once in a while, one subjected to this futility, opens up God’s word, and finally gets it. That is what this book is about. After years of spiritual masochism, after years of robbing himself of the gospel, at the virge of breakdown, Pastor Tchividjian went on vacation, opened up Colossians and had his whole life reoriented. All the pious idols of the Christian, were shattered, Jesus alone, Jesus only remained, he began to understand grace is for Christians even as it is for those yet unconverted. This book is an adaptation of many sermons he wrote upon returning from that vacation. It is the zealous joy of a grace filled inkwell overflowing and drenching the page. And he won’t let the pursuit of sanctification ruin what Christ has accomplished. It is shouting from the rooftops, what he learned in secret. He explicates the way in which the gospel is now, forgiveness cleans up the inside, and the love of Jesus pours out of the Christian into good works, good works are not done, or should not be done by the Christian trying to win the love of Christ. “outside cleanup” never leads to “inside cleanup” it’s the other way around. For the Lutheran this explication of the gospel is a little lacking in an explication of the sacraments, something curious given the focus of Colossians chapter 2, the book that inspired these sermons. Though towards the end, I began to see a few hints towards baptism as Tullian starts talking about swimming in grace and so on. One wonders if he hasn’t actually read Senkbeil’s “Dying to Live”, which he recommends in the back. Sasse warns that the gospel doesn’t last where the sacraments are neglected, Something Luther himself understood quite well. But it is hard to critique a book for what it doesn’t cover. But if I were to critique it, that’s where I’d critique it. In the end though I found the book delightful to read, and highly recommend it.

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