Individual and cosmic

Jesus is the divine curse-remover and creation-renewer. Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross broke the curse of sin and death brought on by Adam’s cosmic rebellion. His bodily resurrection from the dead three days later dealt death its final blow, guaranteeing the eventual renewal of all things ‘in Christ.’ The dimensions of Christ’s finished work are both individual and cosmic. They range from personal pardon for sin and individual forgiveness to the final resurrection of our bodies and the restoration of the whole world. Now that’s good news—gospel—isn’t it? If we place our trust in the finished work of Christ, sin’s curse will lose its grip on us individually and we will one day be given a renewed creation. The gospel isn’t only about reestablishing a two-way relationship between God and us; it also restores a three-way relationship among God, his people, and the created order. Through Christ’s work, our relationship with God is restored while creation itself is renewed.

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Two favoured sons and how to read the Old Testament

Tullian Tchividjian: Want to know how to read the Old Testament? Here’s a quick primer: Martin Luther said that everything bad in the Old Testament (and there’s a lot) is there to point out our sin, while everything good in the Old Testament is there to point us to our Savior. Remember this pithy little couplet, and you’ll be well on your way to understanding what can often seem to be an intimidating and inscrutable collection of books. Consider Joseph, for example. His life, like all of ours, is a mixed bag: some bad, some good. There’s no question that we can learn a lot of good from reading about Joseph’s life. His refusal to sleep with Potiphar’s wife stands out. The Bible never tells us that, after all Joseph had been through, his faith in God wavered. In fact, it tells us just the opposite. When he finally encounters his brothers years after they sold him into slavery and

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Reading The Bible Narcissistically

Tullian Tchividjian: We often read the Bible as if it were fundamentally about us: our improvement, our life, our triumph, our victory, our faith, our holiness, our godliness. We treat it like a book of timeless principles that will give us our best life now if we simply apply those principles. We treat it, in other words, like it’s a heaven-sent self-help manual. But by looking at the Bible as if it were fundamentally about us, we totally miss the Point–like the two on the road to Emmaus. As Luke 24 shows, it’s possible to read the Bible, study the Bible, and memorize large portions of the Bible, while missing the whole point of the Bible. It’s entirely possible, in other words, to read the stories and miss the Story. In fact, unless we go to the Bible to see Jesus and his work for us, even our devout Bible reading can become fuel for our own narcissistic self-improvement plans,

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God’s grace in Les Mis

Tullian Tchividjian on the depiction of grace in Les Miserables: One of the most enduring works of art over the past two hundred years is Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Rarely does a decade go by without a fresh film adaptation or staging of the classic musical it inspired. Les Mis has stood the test of time for good reason; it is an incredibly moving story of redemption, one that deals with the deepest themes of human life: mercy and guilt, justice and inequality, God and man, men and women, parents and children, forgiveness and punishment, and yes, the relationship of grace and law. It is also a notorious tearjerker. Like a true artist, Hugo burrows inside the ribcage and plays a symphony on our heartstrings. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the entire story hinges on a stunning act of one-way love. Out on parole after nineteen years in a French prison, protagonist Jean Valjean is denied shelter at several respectable

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Does Grace Make You Lazy?

Tullian Tchividjian: The gospel doxologically declares that because of Christ’s finished work for you, you already have all of the justification, approval, security, love, worth, meaning, and rescue you long for and look for in a thousand different people and places smaller than Jesus. The gospel announces that God doesn’t relate to us based on our feats for Jesus but Jesus’ feats for us. Because Jesus came to secure for us what we could never secure for ourselves, life doesn’t have to be a tireless effort to establish ourselves, justify ourselves, validate ourselves. He came to rescue us from the slavish need to be right, rewarded, regarded, and respected. He came to relieve us of the burden we inherently feel “to get it done.” The gospel announces that it’s not on me to ensure that the ultimate verdict on my life is pass and not fail. This means you don’t have to transform the world to matter, you don’t have

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What Does It Mean To Be Biblically Balanced?

By Tullian Tchividjian: I increasingly hear people talking about the need to be “Biblically balanced” and I think I’m starting to understand what they mean. As I talk to people who speak about the need for our theology and preaching to be “balanced”, they mean that we need to spend the same amount of time talking about everything the Bible talks about. So, for example, since the Bible talks about what God in Christ has done and also what we ought to do in light of what Christ has done, to be balanced we need to give both themes equal airtime. Since the Bible talks about Jesus and it talks about us, to be balanced we need to spend the same amount of time talking about both. The list could go on: since the Bible talks about x and y, to be balanced we need to talk about x and y the same amount. But, this is NOT the balance

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This Is The Year?

  Promises, promises! I’m grateful to Tullian Tchividjian for this: Today is the very first day of a brand new year. And for many that means a fresh start. This is the year. It all starts now. We resolve to turn over a new leaf–and this time we’re serious. This time we’re really going to try, we’re not going to quit. We promise ourselves that we’re going to quit bad habits and start good ones. We’re going to be better husbands, wives, fathers, mothers. We’re going to pray more, serve more, give more, and read the Bible more. We’re going to finally be all that we can be. No more messing around. Well, I say try. Seriously try. You might make some great strides this year. I’m hoping to. But don’t be surprised a year from now when you realize that you’ve fallen short…again. For those who try and try, year after year, again and again, to get better and

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Does Grace Produce Disobedience?

. Tullian Tchividjian writes: There seems to be a fear out there that the preaching of grace produces serial killers. Or, to put it in more theological terms, too much emphasis on the indicatives of the gospel leads to antinomianism (a heretical version of Christianity that believes there is no place for God’s law in the life of a Christian). My problem with this fear is that I’ve never actually met anyone who has been truly gripped by God’s amazing grace in the gospel who then doesn’t care about obeying him. When our hearts are genuinely grasped by God’s unconditional love, the last thing we want to ask is, “What can I get away with?” Those who conclude, “Goody, I can now continue in sin til my heart’s content” prove that they don’t get grace. As I’ve said before: antinomianism happens not when we think too much of grace. Just the opposite, actually. Antinomianism happens when we think too little of grace.

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Justification and sanctification in union with Christ

Tullian Tchividjian has posted a series of stimulating blogs (Part One ,Two, Three, and Four), where he is in conversation with Michael Horton. I particularly liked this interaction on Union with Christ from the third blog post of the interview: Tullian – Some say that union with Christ is the integrating structure for both justification and sanctification. In other words, we’re justified “in Christ” AND we’re sanctified “in Christ.”  Sanctification doesn’t depend on justification, but both depend on union with Christ. How would you respond? Michael – There’s a long and noble history of “the marvelous exchange” in patristic and medieval theology that the Reformers picked up. Bernard of Clairvaux had an especially significant impact on Luther and Calvin, and both Reformers gave a lot of space to this theme of union with Christ as an analogy not only for justification but for all of the saving benefits we have in Christ. Like Paul (think especially of the transition from Romans 6 to 7), Calvin emphasized

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The Slavery of Performancism

From Tullian Tchividjian’s forthcoming book Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Here’s a great quote from a chapter on the dangers of legalism, or what Tullian likes to call “performancism.” “Legalism traps you in slavery and despair. To define ourselves by what we must do, what we must accomplish, and who we must become–that’s the epitome of slavery. When we believe, deep down, that God’s blessing depends on how well we’re behaving, we wither and groan under the heavy burden of self-reliance. In this ‘performancism,’ we eventually figure out that being the star of our own show actually makes life a tragedy. When life is all about us–what we can do, how we perform–our world becomes small and smothering; we shrink. To have everything riding on ourselves leads to despair not deliverance. When we’re living by this legalism–trusting in our rule-keeping, our abilities, our performance–to sustain our little safe and controllable world that we’re addicted to, someday it will all start to crumble. Our kids

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Gospel, Grace, and Effort

My thanks to Justin Taylor for compiling these links: Tullian Tchividjian and Kevin DeYoung have been having a good dialogue online about the role and focus of effort in the Christian life as it relates to justification and sanctification. Kevin, “Make Every Effort“ Tullian, “Work Hard! But in Which Direction?“ Kevin, “Gospel-Driven Effort“ One summary from Kevin: “Tullian’s point is that sanctification requires the hard work of fighting to believe that we are justified by faith alone apart from anything good do or could possible contribute. I agree sanctification requires the fight of faith to believe this scandalous good news of the gospel of justification. I disagree that this is the only kind of effort required in sanctification.”

Our New And Exalted Identity

From Tullian Tchividjian: When most of us stop long enough to consider what establishes our identity, what really makes us who we are, many of us act as if the answer to this consideration is “our performance.” In Who Will Deliver Us, Paul Zahl expands on this: If I can do enough of the right things, I will have established my worth. Identity is the sum of my achievements. Hence, if I can satisfy the boss, meet the needs of my spouse and children, and still do justice to my inner aspirations, then I will have proven my worth. There are infinite ways to prove our worth along these lines. The basic equation is this: I am what I do. It is a religious position in life because it tries to answer in practical terms the question, Who am I and what is my niche in the universe? On this reading, my niche is in proportion to my deeds. In Christian

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What To Preach To Yourself Everyday

From Tullian Tchividjian: Because we are so naturally prone to look at ourselves and our performance more than we do to Christ and his performance, we need constant reminders of the gospel. If we’re supposed to preach the gospel to ourselves everyday—what’s the actual content of that message? What is it exactly that I need to keep reminding myself of? If God has saved you—if he’s given you the faith to believe, and you’re now a Christian; if you’ve transferred trust from your own accomplishments and abilities to Christ’saccomplishment on behalf of sinners—then here’s the good news. In the phraseology of Colossians 1, it’s simply this: You’ve already been qualified, you’ve already been delivered, you’ve already been transferred, you’ve already been redeemed, you’vealready been forgiven. It’s been widely accepted that in the original language of Greek, Ephesians 1:3-14 is one long sentence. Paul becomes so overwhelmed by the sheer greatness and immensity and size and sweetness of God’s amazing grace, that he doesn’t even take

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Remember The Duck

From Tullian Tchividjian: This story told by my friend and former professor, Steve Brown, illustrates well the radical discrepancy between the ways in which we hold other people hostage in their sin and the unconditional forgiveness that God offers to us in Christ. Do you remember the story about the little boy who killed his grandmother’s pet duck? He accidentally hit the duck with a rock from his slingshot. The boy didn’t think anybody saw the foul deed, so he buried the duck in the backyard and didn’t tell a soul. Later, the boy found out that his sister had seen it all. Not only that, she now had the leverage of his secret and used it. Whenever it was the sister’s turn to wash the dishes, take out the garbage or wash the car, she would whisper in his ear, “Remember the duck.” And then the little boy would do what his sister should have done. There is always

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The Primary Enemy Of The Gospel: Two Forms Of Legalism

This is excellent from Tullian Tchividjian: Legalism, they say, happens when you focus too much on law, or rules. Lawlessness, they say, happens when you focus too much on grace. Therefore, in order to maintain spiritual equilibrium, you have to balance law and grace. Sometimes, legalism and lawlessness are presented as two ditches on either side of the gospel that we must avoid. If you start getting too much law, you need to balance it with grace. If you start getting too much grace, you need to balance it with law. But I’ve come to believe that this “balanced” way of framing the issue can unwittingly keep us from really understanding the gospel of grace in all of its radical depth and beauty. It’s more theologically accurate to say that there is one primary enemy of the gospel—legalism—but it comes in two forms. Some people avoid the gospel and try to “save” themselves by keeping the rules, doing what they’re told, maintaining the

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We Are One: the gospel-driven worship experience

I love this from Tullian Tchividjian: Today was a monumental, historic day at Coral Ridge. For many years Coral Ridge had two very distinct worship services–one contemporary and one traditional. The result was the unintentional development of two different churches under one roof. It wasn’t healthy. So back at the end of Spring we started talking about what we could do to unify our one large church. Given our desire to re-plant Coral Ridge around a holistic and comprehensive understanding of the gospel we concluded that we needed to make a change. After all, since the gospel is the good news that God reconciles us not only to himself but also to one another, the church should be breaking down walls, not erecting them. God intends the church to be demonstrating what community looks like when God’s reconciling power is at work. Most churches would agree that any segregation arising from racial or economic bigotry runs contrary to the nature

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Theology Destroys Small Thoughts Of God

From Tullian Tchividjian: I love these lines from Mike Horton’s excellent little book, Too Good To Be True: Finding Hope in a World of Hype: Christian theology is specifically charged with the task of making problematic our relationship with God, of presenting God to ourselves and others in such a way as to be confronted with a person who cannot be conformed to the narrow and sinful precincts of our own longings, expectations, and concepts. The God who comes to us in revelation is not a projection, but a person. He wrestles us to the ground, takes away our pride, and leaves us walking away from the match with a limp so that we will never forget the encounter. Mike’s profound point is that, far from putting God into a box, theology done right actually destroys our little boxes, showing us that God is God and we are not; He is big and we are small. Theology reminds us that there is

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