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We habitually look to something or someone smaller than Jesus for the things we crave and need. And none of it is ever enough to fill the void. – Tullian Tchividjian, “Jesus + Nothing = Everything”

Jesus + Nothing = Everything

I love Mr. Tchividjian’s blog, I’ve probably read it all over the past year. It’s been a great encouragement to me and God has used it to stir me in the Gospel. He has such a strong grasp of the heart of grace and why understanding grace is crucial to running this race hard for Jesus. His talk from last year’s DG conference still sticks with me. In the message, he essentially expressed the foundation of “Jesus + Nothing = Everything.”

The Blog Revealed the Book

Saying all that, I struggled with the book. Don’t get me wrong, it is a fire hose of the Gospel. He bleeds grace and does everything he can to communicate it. The problem is that I felt like I had already read the book through his blog. Chapter 12 is a profound close to the book, easily my favorite chapter. But I had already read most of it through Mr. Tchividjian’s blog! I even wrote a blog highlighting the key illustration about the daughter who is given an A by the professor.

We All Need the Fire Hose

All idolatry heads us down this path to no-nameness. And Jesus’s story reminds us that far from being some vague, painless, amorphous existence, that ultimate condition of nothingness is acutely painful in every way. Inwardly and outwardly, it brings us anguish and torment. That’s the tragic destiny Jesus wants us to connect with idolatry in our understanding of it.

Because I’ve read his blog religiously, don’t mistake my thoughts for saying this book is not worth reading. We need this fire hose. We need to swim in everything he expresses. Though I was dying for a few more illustrations, he hammered me with the Word. It would be hard to read Colossians and not see what he sees after reading “Jesus + Nothing = Everything.”

The gospel liberates us to be okay with not being okay. We know we’re not – though we try very hard to convince other people we are. But the gospel tells us, “Relax, it is finished.”

My greatest need and yours is to look at Christ more than we look at ourselves. The gospel empowers us to escape our predicament of being curved in on ourselves. In the gospel, God comes after us because we need him, not because he needs us.

His key point is this: Our problem is not that we take advantage of grace but that we don’t understand the grace of God in the Gospel well enough. In fact, most of us just don’t get it. We express a mild form of grace while clinging to our own efforts and façade. Mr. Tchividjian simply destroys the Pharisee and the sulker. There are many idols, but self-righteousness is what he guns for and continually moves to crush.

Summary

"Jesus + Nothing = Everything” is a continual tour of the equation in the name and I promise that it will be worth your time. I struggled only because I had seen much of the material in his blog so it was not as fresh as I wanted it to be. But that reveals our problem – we want something complex and new but what we need is the gospel. What I need is grace. Over and over and over again until it stirs me to look more at Christ and less of myself.

Real slavery is self-reliance, self-dependence. Real slavery is a life spent trying to become someone. But the gospel comes in and says we already have in Christ all that we crave, so we’re free to live a life of sacrifice, courageously and boldly.

This week: The gospel and enjoyment of life, an interesting breakfast account, and doubting yourself is good.

The Gospel and It-ness (by Jared Wilson, Between 2 Worlds)

If coffee or chocolate or anything else other than God is the highlight of my day or the ultimate joy of my heart, my joy is temporary, hollow, thin.

But if I believe in the gospel, I can finally enjoy the chocolate-ness of chocolate and the coffee-ness of coffee. Only the gospel frees me to enjoy things as they truly are and as they someday will be.

Breakfast and Honesty (by Brant Hansen, Air1)

I asked him if he would do the same thing.  I told him I knew – it ? would be much, much harder for him.  But IF he were completely convinced that this was not what God wanted for his sexuality, that it was actually hindering him from being who God wants him to be, if he were somehow convinced…

Would he change?  Would he submit that aspect of his life to God?

He paused and said…no.

Do You Doubt Yourself? Good (by Tullian Tchividjian, The Resurgence)

The more I look into my own heart for peace, the less I find. On the other hand, the more I look to Christ and his promises for peace, the more I find.

Update (9/28/11): September and October DVD releases offer a plethora of film goodness between X-Men, Thor, Tree of Life, and Captain America. Be sure to read my full reviews of each. Remember: don’t simply veg out but watch to be stirred to worship the One whose story is the only one that ultimately matters.

X-Men: First Class (September 9)

X-Men-First-Class-Quad-Poster

Apart from Tree of Life, this was easily my favorite movie of the summer. James McAvoy is tremendous as Charles and Michael Fassbender plays a very good Erik. This movie works because of those two and the man that Charles is and becomes. Read the rest of my thoughts here. This was definitely the X-Men movie I’ve thought this series could be. It’s not a perfect movie but the character of Charles is worth the watch.

Thor (September 13)

MANHATTAN

Cheesy at times and predictable, this movie actually works because of the charisma and humor of Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and the genuineness of Tim Hiddleston as Loki. By the way, while writing this I just realized that Hemsworth also played Captain Kirk’s dad in that powerful scene at the beginning of the latest Star Trek. Read more of my thoughts on Loki here.

Update (9/17/11)

Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon (September 30)

This film was a complete waste other than the incredible special effects. The slow motion transformation sequences, the destruction of the skyscraper, and the battle sequences were phenomenal. That’s about all the good I can say. The flaws are comical. Megatron gets seduced by the token girlfriend. The Decepticons lay siege to Chicago and lock down the city. Then they somehow forget what cars the Autobots are, who very easily sneak into the city. The film attempts to make the humans more important and is laughable. You can only threaten to destroy the whole world so many times and be taken seriously. Would we really believe that the Autobots would leave? That Bumblebee would die? Also, if less than 10 or so Autobots can take on over 200 Decepticons, how did they lose the battle of Cybertron? Seriously, Optimus Prime probably waxes 50 Decepticons by himself! On top of all that comedy, the movie is absurdly long.

Update (8/31/11)

Tree of Life (October 11)

This is without question my favorite movie of the summer and 2011 [update: Warrior beats it out slightly…], for that matter. It’s such a profound movie experience that you have to just immerse yourself in and then engage with the world and imagery Terrence Malick presents. Grace versus the Law. Our deeply flawed sinful nature. Our loneliness. Eternity. Beauty. Many people have hated this film because it’s so different and non-escapist but I hope this type of film is the direction of movies, it’s a work of art that will move you if you let it. You can check out more of my thoughts here: the experience and sin & family.

Update (9/28/11)

Captain America: The First Avenger (October 25)

captain-america-movie-bucky

This movie was better than I expected, especially the first half of the film. The set up to the transformation and then to the initial battle is simply fantastic. I love how Steve Rogers emulates Jonathan of 1Samuel in his humility and friendship. Read my original thoughts here: Captain America: Steve Rogers is the Jonathan of the OT

A few other intriguing movies coming out:

Hanna (September 6): The dangers of homeschool? Training children to be assassins!

Fast Five (October 5): The dangers of 1000 foot cliff diving? None!

Update (9/28/11)

Winnie the Pooh (October 25): The dangers of honey? Obesity!

This week: eroding continents, design in trees, grace in the gospel, and more on the twin reduction issue.

Continents Should Have Eroded Long Ago (by Brian Thomas, ICR)

A new study indicates that the earth’s overall erosion rate, although slow, would have leveled the continents at least 70 times over if they are as old as the evolutionary claim maintains!

13-Year-Old Makes Solar Breakthrough Based on the Fibonacci Sequence (by Molly Cotter)

“The tree design takes up less room than flat-panel arrays and works in spots that don’t have a full southern view. It collects more sunlight in winter. Shade and bad weather like snow don’t hurt it because the panels are not flat. It even looks nicer because it looks like a tree. A design like this may work better in urban areas where space and direct sunlight can be hard to find.”

Tim Keller Striking the Note of Grace, Grace, Grace (by David Zahl)

Non-Christians will always automatically hear gospel presentations as appeals to become moral and religious, unless in your preaching you use the good news of grace to deconstruct legalism. Only if you show them there’s a difference–that what they really rejected wasn’t real Christianity at all–will they even begin to consider Christianity.

Half-Aborted: Why do "reductions" of twin pregnancies trouble pro-choicers? (By William Saletan, Slate)

Reduction destroys this distinction. It combines, in a single pregnancy, a wanted and an unwanted fetus. In the case of identical twins, even their genomes are indistinguishable. You can’t pretend that one is precious and the other is just tissue. You’re killing the same creature to which you’re dedicating your life.

Spoiler Alert! The end of the Harry Potter series is so beautiful and such an awesome picture of what Jesus walked through for us. This is what Jerram Barrs will talk about very eloquently in the video below.

 

The final walk of Harry once he leaves the dock was very moving for me in the film. It was almost exactly as I pictured it. The choice he makes to give his life. The ache. The seeming victory for evil. It’s tremendous. But it’s all set up by the revelation about Snape.

Being Willing to Be Hated for the Sake of Something Greater

Snape is the mystery character throughout almost the entire series. You get glimpses of good in him but he seems tortured and absolutely appears to hate Harry. You wonder why Dumbledore trusts him so implicitly and then when Snape kills him at the end of “The Half-Blood Prince” you think Dumbledore was wrong and that he failed.

In “The Deathly Hallows,” we find out the truth about Snape and realize that he has just as much been the key to defeating Voldemort as Dumbledore was. Snape more than lays down his life, he lets himself be hated for the sake of Harry and defeating Voldemort. He lets his reputation and his name be nothing for the sake of the cause. He lets himself look like a fool and counts himself nothing. His death and the memories he passes on to Harry are so stirring in the book and the final film. His courage. His laying down of his life. His discipline to carry it all the way to the end. I want that kind of courage and that kind of disregard for my own life. It’s not common.

Video HT: Vitamin Z

I think Harry Potter’s metanarrative will allow Harry to stand the test of time. However, what I loved most about the series is the fog of war.

What do I mean by “fog of war?” I mean a war that is underground, a war that is happening but somewhat hidden and under the surface of normal life. It is a war of truth or simply an underground war against oppressive forces. It is a war denied by most but, nevertheless, is happening.

“You have been told that a certain Dark wizard has returned from the dead – “

“He wasn’t dead,” said Harry angrily, “but yeah, he’s returned!”

“Mr.-Potter-you-have-already-lost-your-House-ten-points-do-not-make-matters-worse-for-yourself,” said Professor Umbridge in one breath without looking at him. “As I was saying, you have been informed that a certain Dark wizard is at large once again. This is a lie.

“It is NOT a lie!” said Harry. “I saw him, I fought him!”

“Detention, Mr. Potter!” said Professor Umbridge triumphantly. “Tomorrow evening. Five o’clock. My office. I repeat, this is a lie.”

The Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix

After the first 3 books of the Harry Potter series, you’re still not sure where it’s all going. After the end of Book 4, “The Goblet of Fire,” when the evil Voldemort finally returns in the flesh, you know that this is all going to come down to who wins the war. I love the conflict that follows – the Ministry of Magic denies Voldemort is back and very few believe Harry and Dumbledore. The majority of people and students just want to believe everything is ok, that Harry is lying and just wants attention. The Ministry is clouded by pride and fear and therefore just views the Voldemort return story as a political power play by Dumbledore. Only the Order believes and knows Voldemort is back. And so begins the fog of war – a war that is propelled by recruiting on each side, battles, and schemes, but a war that is predominantly about truth. Once the end of “The Goblet of Fire” happens and the story amps up in “The Order of the Phoenix,” this theme drives much of the tension and the lead up to the end.

This is exactly how the New Testament paints the war we are in and it’s the temptation we are easily lulled into – just relax and be comfortable, it’s all good, no need to fight. In Harry Potter, the truth becomes very clear to all (much too late) once the Ministry of Magic falls in the final book, but we are in a fog of war that will last until the end.

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6 ESV)

The Half-Blood Prince and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter Vs Voldemort

In the “Half-Blood Prince,” everyone knows Voldemort is back, but he has become too powerful and still is content to lurk in the shadows, building his forces without direct confrontation. Even in all the conflict and tension of these 6 books, there are really only 2 outright battles: at the end of the “Order of the Phoenix” and, of course, the Battle of Hogwarts at the end of the “Deathly Hallows.” I love that. This is not a war that will be one by power or simple battle strategy. There is only one way: by sacrifice, death and perseverance. The key to victory is not just a search for and destruction of the horcruxes but the willingness of at least 3 key characters to die and give their lives that evil would be defeated. If any of those characters cling to their own life, the war is lost. No mere confrontation of Voldemort will do until these sacrifices have happened. They have no power to face Voldemort otherwise.

We have no power to face Satan or fight sin apart from the death of Jesus. We are just slaves apart from Jesus just as Voldemort would make everyone if he wins. Voldemort cherishes his worldly life, power and control, while Harry and his friends cherish love, sacrifice, and not their own lives. The film versions actually do a beautiful job with this in the last 3 books. The Battle of Hogwarts is the culmination of all of it. Those against Voldemort know the stakes and know they will not be powerful enough to win, they know something else has to happen and Harry has to come through. Does Harry come in with a secret weapon, having attained a power greater than Voldemort? You’ll have to check it out yourself.

This Life is Not a Pleasure Cruise but a War

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8 ESV)

The Harry Potter series is a profound picture of an underground war that hardly anyone believes in. I love the concept of the Order of the Phoenix, this band of brothers and sisters who resolve to fight for good in the fog, who know what is at stake, who know this life is not fun and games, and who commit their very lives to be laid down if necessary. It’s convicting. Am I simply strolling through life as a believer in Jesus or am I jumping in the fray to see the gospel moved forward and people rescued from slavery and a death that will simply be a door to more misery?

And how disastrous for us is the continual remembrance of death which war enforces. One of our best weapons, contented worldliness, is rendered useless. In wartime not even a human can believe that he is going to live forever. – Screwtape (“The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis)

This week: twin pregnancy reductions, Christianity and the Crusades, spiritual entropy and big oil.

my twin girls

As a dad of 2 sets of twin girls, none of whom I could imagine my life without, it’s discouraging that this is where we’re at now:

The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy (by Ruth Padawer, NY Times)

What is it about terminating half a twin pregnancy that seems more controversial than reducing triplets to twins or aborting a single fetus? After all, the math’s the same either way: one fewer fetus. Perhaps it’s because twin reduction (unlike abortion) involves selecting one fetus over another, when either one is equally wanted.

Was Christianity responsible for the crusades? (by David Murray)

It is very easy to fingerpoint at Christians of another generation. If the crusading Christians could see how self-serving, worldly, inconsiderate, gender-confused, lazy, and demanding the Christians of today are, I certainly hope that they would not think that our "Christianity" is responsible for that!

Spiritual Entropy, or: The Second Law of Thermodynamics and the Fallacy of Self-Help Christianity
(by Mockingbird)

Trying to ‘will’ ourselves to spirituality by adhering to some form of law will always fail–we will tend to either stay the same or get worse, but certainly no better. Willpower is insufficient to overcome the natural decay of life. If we are left to our own devices, we tend to degenerate.

On Feeling Sorry for Exxon (by Doug Wilson)

For every gallon of gas that is sold in the United States, on average, the local, state and federal taxes come out to 48 cents. The average profit taken away from every gallon of gas by Exxon is –brace yourselves for unsavory news about the oil buccaneers — 2 cents.