Tuesday, April 23, 2013

LHP Review: Jesus and the Gospel


Tchividjian, Tullian. Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011. Cloth. $18.99. http://www.crossway.org.(LHP)

Chandler, Matt. With Jared Wilson. The Explicit Gospel. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012. 237 Pages. Cloth. $17.99. www.crossway.org (LHP)

I waited a long time to read the following two titles (because of my reading list backlog). Both were worth my time and should be worth yours.


It's so easy to forget what the Christian faith is all about. We struggle so much, work so hard, and fail so often that we frequently sense something in the equation of life must be missing.

Tullian Tchividjian argues that what we are missing is the gospel—a fuller, more powerful understanding of Jesus and what his finished work means for everyday life.
During a year of great turmoil, Pastor Tchividjian discovered the power of the gospel in his own life. Sharing his story of how Jesus became more real to him, Tchividjian delves deeply into the fundamentals of the faith, explaining the implications of Christ's sufficiency—a revelation that sets us free and keeps us anchored through life's storms.

Ultimately, Tchividjian reminds us that Jesus is the whole of the equation as he boldly proclaims that Jesus plus nothing really is everything. (publisher's website)

Autobiographical in structure and content, Tchividjian's tome teaches us how a grandson of Billy Graham came to occupy the former pulpit of D. James Kennedy. It is the story of how a thriving mission start merged with an established congregation and how a theology of the cross helped pastor, leaders, and congregants to comfort, direction, and sufficiency in Christ alone.

The author is learning and beginning to practice a proper distinction between law and gospel and is a reader and student of Martin Luther. His book recommendations are encouraging, including titles by C. F. W Walther and Harold Senkbeil, in addition fo Gerhard Forde and the Reformer himself.

Going through a rough patch of ministry yourself? Get a copy of Jesus + Nothing = Everything from Crossway.

TULLIAN TCHIVIDJIAN is pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the author of Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different, Do I Know God? Finding Certainty in Life's Most Important Relationship, Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels, and Jesus + Nothing = Everything. (publisher's website)

A second Crossway title by Matt Chandler also got our attention.

Matt Chandler is the lead pastor of The Village Church, a multi-campus church in the Dallas metroplex of over 10,000 people. His sermons are among the topselling (free) podcasts on itunes and he speaks at conferences worldwide. Prior to accepting the pastorate at The Village, Matt had a vibrant itinerant ministry for over ten years where he spoke to hundreds of thousands of people in America and abroad about the glory of God and beauty of Jesus. He lives in Texas with his wife, Lauren, and their three children: Audrey, Reid and Norah. (publisher's website)



Even if you go to church, it doesn't mean that you are being exposed (or exposing others) to the gospel explicitly. Sure, most people talk about Jesus, and about being good and avoiding bad, but the gospel message simply isn't there—at least not in its specificity and its fullness.

Inspired by the needs of both the overchurched and the unchurched, and bolstered by the common neglect of the explicit gospel within Christianity, popular pastor Matt Chandler writes this punchy treatise to remind us what is of first and utmost importance—the gospel.

Here is a call to true Christianity, to know the gospel explicitly, and to unite the church on the amazing grounds of the good news of Jesus! (publisher's website)

There is a lot to critique here from a Lutheran perspective, from growing up in the church but saying "No one ever taught me that" (12), to a Calvinist bias (53), buzzwords (145), unexplained rapture references (160), and the CCM "sound-alike" band Christian "ghetto" (204).

There is more worthy of praise. As I have noted in other reviews of books with authors of an American Evangelical background, I do not believe myself as a liturgical confessional Lutheran to be Chandler's intended audience. I do see, from my Lutheran perspective, reason to rejoice in an intentional emphasis on the explicit Gospel (passim), distinguishing between the Gospel and the response to the Gospel (82, et al), a warning against syncretism (190ff), clear teachings on grace (210ff), and this concluding paragraph of an appendix by Josh Patterson:

I want to encourage you to begin, and with some of you, continue to make the gospel explicit in your relationships. Don't waste life by living an assumed gospel; rather, flesh it out and connect the dots for yourself and those around you. Talke with your spouse how Christ's person and work relates to everything. Pass this on to your kids. Mention Christ. Talk about Christ. Point to Christ. Relate to Christ. Oftentimes where the gospel is assumed, it is quickly lost (224).

There is still a distance between this reviewer (and most of our readers) and these two authors when it comes to the Sacraments as where the Gospel is delivered here and now, but I am encouraged by a growing emphasis thanks to these two authors on the theology of the cross, a (more) proper distinguishing between law and Gospel, and an encouragement for the Gospel to predominate and be explicity believed, taught, and confessed.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Yellowstone Circuit Visitor (LCMS Wyoming District), a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.

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