William Graham Tullian Tchividjian is the Senior Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. A Florida native, he is a visiting professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and a grandson of Billy Graham. Tullian was the founding pastor of the former New City Church, which merged with Coral Ridge in April of 2009. Jesus + Nothing = Everything (Crossway 2011) is his first book since his devastating year of losing his father and being called for a congregational vote of confidence at Coral Ridge.
Sometimes you have to go through hard times to discover what, or who, you are anchored to. Sounds like this is what this book came out of.
You admit that you are "addicted" to the gospel. What does that mean?
It burns inside of me. And it seems to get hotter every day. I can't stop thinking about it, talking about it, writing about it, reading about it, wrestling with it, reveling in it, standing on it, and thanking God for it. For better of for worse, my focus has become myopic. Lesser things don't distract me as easily. What others think of me (either good or bad) doesn't matter as much as it used to. I'm enjoying life more. The pressure is off. I'm beginning to realize that the gospel is way more radical, offensive, liberating, shocking, and counterintuitive than any of us realize. And that's beginning to be okay with me.
What drew you to the book of Colossians, which your book is based on?
On our first morning away on vacation in June 2009, I woke up still saturated with the misery that had been intensifying for so many weeks. I opened up my Bible; in the reading plan I was following, it so happened that the day's passages included the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Colossians. As I read those verses my eyes were opened. God's Holy Spirit helped me see the incredible sufficiency of Christ and the gospel. I could see it with greater clarity and deeper personal application than I'd ever experienced. I sensed my miserable chains falling away. My true situation came into focus. I'd never realized before how dependent I'd become on human approval and acceptance until so much of it was taken away. Before, in every church I'd been a part of, I was widely accepted and approved and appreciated. I'd always felt loved in church. Now, for the first time, I found myself in the uncomfortable position of being deeply disliked and distrusted, and by more than a few people. Now I realized just how much I'd been relying on something other than--something more than--the approval and acceptance and love that were already mine in Jesus.
What do you believe was Paul's goal in writing the book of Colossians?
Paul knew that the diminishing of Christ, this depreciation of God's Son, was the most dangerous and destructive heresy the Colossian believers could possibly encounter. So he wrote them this epistle to show the superiority of Christ over all human philosophies and traditions, all human opinions and preferences and personalities and accomplishments. It was a superiority so overwhelming, so vastly devastating, so infinite.
So you came up with the simple equation, Jesus + Nothing = Everything.
Yes. God had stripped me down--wrecked me afresh! And when he does that to a person--when you actually feel like you have nothing--Jesus becomes more to you than you ever could have hoped or imagined. That June morning was when Jesus plus nothing equals everything--the gospel--became for me more than a theological passion, more than a cognitive catch-phrase. It became my functional lifeline. Rediscovering the gospel enabled me to see: that because Jesus was strong for me, I was free to be weak; because Jesus won for me, I was free to lose; because Jesus was someone, I was free to be no one; because Jesus was extraordinary, I was free to be ordinary; because Jesus succeeded for me, I was free to fail. This began to define my life anew in bright and liberating ways.