Listening to Tullian Tchividjian at the Jacksonville Pastor's Conference

I'm blogging semi-live live from the Jacksonville Pastor's Conference and it's the first time I've heard Tullian Tchividjian speak. Here's one thing for certain about Tullian: he's passionate and clear about one thing—the gospel. And for Tullian the good news isn't first and foremost about what we do; it's about what Christ has already done for us. It's not about trying harder and doing more; it's about trusting Jesus who already told us, "It is finished!"

It's easy to track with Tullian because he leads the major leagues of preaching with more tweetable quotes per minute than any other preacher. (That's not a criticism or a compliment; it's just the way Tullian communicates. On the plus side, it sure makes his messages comprehensible and memorable.) For instance, consider these quotable, tweetable Tullian-statements:

• "The fire to do for Jesus comes from being soaked in the fuel of what's been done [by Christ]."

• "The only way to set our people free is if we [the preachers] have already been set free."

• "For far too long preachers have been addicted to moral renovation."

• "Based on a lot of American preaching you'd think God's primary goal is not worship but behavior modification."

• "Antinomianism doesn't flow from too much grace, but from too little grace."

• "The evangelical church is filled with a ton of Christless Christianity."

•And my favorite: "Preachers have become prodigious in providing practical to-do lists instead of lifting up Christ's finished work."

I was personally stirred by Tullian's clear focus on grace. Like Tullian, I could go back through my sermon archives and find example after depressing example of graceless, moralistic, try-harder-you-spiritual-sluggard messages. I get tired just thinking about all the pressure I put on people, including myself! Tullian is right about this: if we really get grace, if we really preach grace, it will revolutionize our own lives and our churches. Grace is dangerous and intoxicating, but it will always set you free.

But having said that, I did miss something in his message—and by "miss" I mean that I was left longing and thirsting for something. I wanted to know this: okay, I see what I'm set free from (the Law, judgment, insecurity, condemnation), but what am I set free for? I agree that preachers are way too addicted to moral renovation. But on the other hand, I still want and need Jesus to do a work of moral renovation in my heart. I also want Jesus to do a work of cultural, social renovation in my neighborhood and in the world around me. How does grace lead to all of that? I know Tullian wants all that stuff too; I just wanted him to spell it out (or at least drop some clues)—even in one 40 minute talk.

January 26, 2012

Displaying 1–6 of 6 comments

Steve Cooper

January 30, 2012  5:17am

With grace in your life you are set free to do what Jesus bids: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself, which is the foundation of going to make disciples and baptizing them in His name. Without the love afforded by grace, you and I are clanging cymbals and noisy gongs.

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January 28, 2012  2:39pm

It is true that we need to know both what we are set free from and what we are set free for. I think that many in our churches today, though, confuse Christianity as just another means to an end–with the end being to behave well and, perhaps, serve others. Certain types of Christians know a lot about being "Jesus with skin on"–helping in soup kitchens, volunteering for the Sunday School–but little about the grace of the Jesus they claim to imitate. Many of us are intimately famililiar with the law. But grace is a delightful surprise. We want to be good, we want to make a difference. We want to love. But grace provides the "ah-ha" moment. It lifts the weight off of the shoulders, setting people free to be who they, often times, have already longed to be. While it would have been nice if Tullian addressed what grace sets us free for, perhaps the reason he chose not to is because many of us have become distracted with our need for transformed hearts, renewed minds, wanting to live missionally for those around us. Some of us fall so easily into the trap of behavior-based religion, rather than walking in the grace of our Lord.

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January 27, 2012  11:04am

"I also want Jesus to do a work of cultural, social renovation in my neighborhood and in the world around me. How does grace lead to all of that?" DING! DING! DING! You just won the Spiritual Internet award for best question e'vah! How does grace lead to all that? Through you, me, and everyone else who says Y'shua is G-d in the flesh, and died for my sins. Which, oddly enough, also answers your other question... "...but what am I set free for?" That's right, you, me, and everyone else who says, "I believe, without proof other than some scribblings in a book, that Y'shua, aka Jesus, real name Joshua, died a horrible death to free me from sin because he's G-d in the flesh. And the only thing I have to show for it is because now, I have hope in this messed up world that through Y'shua I am secured in the good graces of G-d." You see, though, when it comes to moralism, doing good, being good, recognizing right from wrong the problem between the world and the follower of Y'shua is that we, the followers of Y'shua, think that all of us, us being the followers of Y'shua and the non-followers of Y'shua, are all on the same page of "Yes, there is a G-d." So, herein is the problem that we, followers of G-d, and the world, who don't know G-d, have... "I agree that preachers are way too addicted to moral renovation." Right there. Moral renovation cannot occur without Y'shua.period.end.of.sentence. And yet, not just the preachers, but far too many Christians think moral renovation can occur without Y'shua...all the fallen, hedonotistic heathen has to do is "act" good. Which, really, won't work.ever. Thus, the reason why the American church is a failure in America...they're too lazy to affluent, and too much invested in the comforts of benefits of the "American Way of Life" to bother rocking the boat with "Jesus." All the American Church does is tell everyone, "be good!" and "or else we'll legislate that goodness, and then you'll have to be good!" No moral renovation, no Jesus, no salvation, just legislative writ that fades with time. Perhaps, it's time we all got a good healthy dose of "Pull it together people!" and actually get out there and act like Christ showing grace...which, I can guarantee you one thing...if there is something missing from this world en masse it is this...grace and mercy. Start showing that...and start watching those neighorhoods change.

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Dan Jr.

January 27, 2012  8:44am

I relish grace as well. God's generous self-sacrificing posture towards me is something I need to marinade in and let saturate into who I'm becoming. It needs to be my spring board for worship. But what is often missing in the conversation around what Christ has done (the Cross) is the Resurrection. It is God's commitment to move into the dark, dysfunctional, impoverished places in my soul and in our streets. The Cross is essential but only half the story. I think when the Cross is primarily the only part of the story we talk about the story becomes extremely static. But the story is intended to move forward because of the Resurrection victory of Jesus. In Col 1:15-20 we see the threads of creation being renewed, evil empires being confronted and the all-consuming love of God flooding into our world.

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January 27, 2012  8:29am

"I still want and need Jesus to do a work of moral renovation in my heart. I also want Jesus to do a work of cultural, social renovation in my neighborhood and in the world around me. How does grace lead to all of that?" God did give us His Word in the Bible. If we truly want Jesus to do a work and we really love him as we say, we will keep His commandments. There are lots of them! We have the ability to read and search for 'sound doctrine'. We must depend on the work of the Holy Spirit to change us and our neighborhood. But if we try to do those things in our own strength we are doomed to fail. When we truly understand grace (we must understand our complete sinfulness and in ability please God) then we will want to be obedient to all of God's word. He has certainly used believers throughout history to change the world, why can't He do that today?

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K.W. Leslie

January 27, 2012  7:57am

The Law is grace. Without it, we wouldn't know God's will for us. We wouldn't know that God is slow to anger, and merciful to those who love him; that he wants to arrange things so that he can be our God and we can be his people. We instead focus on how sin manipulates the Law to make us sinners, and how the blood of Jesus is necessary to save us from that.

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