January 26, 2012
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.
And I know that I’m set free from the crushing demands of the Law, but I still long for that “Old Covenant” delight in God’s Law. I mean, in Psalm 119 those guys pant, and yearn, and get up seven times in the middle of the night because they’ve been pierced with longing for God’s Law. To them, at least one aspect of the Law represented something beautiful about God’s presence. I want to know how that dimension of the Law fits into my desperate need for grace.