Spring Run Presbyterian Church

GUEST: John Kirwan links book with Sermon Series

This past weekend John Kirwan shared with me some quotes from a book he is reading.  He relayed that the quotes and our current sermon series seemed to fit together really well.  We are greatly encouraged when folks like John share what they are learning and how they are growing in the gospel of grace.  We always invite you to share with us what God has been teaching you.

John Kirwan’s Highlights From Jesus + Nothing = Everything, By Tullian Tchividjian

All too often I’ve wrongly concluded that the only way to keep licentious people in line is to give them more rules—to lay down the law. The fact is, however, the only way licentious people start to obey is when they get a taste of God’s radical, unconditional acceptance of sinners.  (p. 51)

In Desiring God, John Piper writes, “I know of no other way to triumph over sin long-term than . . . to gain a distaste for it because of a superior satisfaction in God.” (p. 63) Edition.

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at the sea. (p. 70)

A restored relationship with God never happens by our climbing up to him; it happens only in Jesus, who came down to us. p.84

we’re suddenly freed and empowered to live a life of outrageous generosity, unrestrained sacrifice, uncommon boldness, and unbounded nerve. p.92

The hard work of Christian growth, therefore, is to think less of ourselves and our performance and more of Jesus and his performance for us. Ironically, when we focus mostly on our need to get better, we actually get worse. We become neurotic and self-absorbed. Preoccupation with our effort instead of with God’s effort for us makes us increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective. Again, think of it this way: sanctification is the daily hard work of going back to the reality of our justification. It’s going back to the certainty of our objectively secured pardon in Christ and hitting the refresh button a thousand times a day. Or, as Martin Luther so aptly put it in his Lectures on Romans, “To progress is always to begin again.”  Real spiritual progress, in other words, requires a daily going backwards.  pp. 95-96

the antidote to lawlessness isn’t more rules but a deeper grasp of God’s grace.  p. 101

We tend to think of the gospel as God’s program to make bad people good, not dead people alive.  p. 116

True spirituality is not introverted, but extroverted. It doesn’t take us deeper into ourselves; it sends us further out. It doesn’t make us more introspective but more extrospective—looking outward. In fact, real spiritual growth happens as we look up to Christ and what he did, out to our neighbors and what they need, not in to ourselves and how we’re doing.  p. 122

The world isn’t captivated by people trying to give the impression they have it all together. That’s not what draws them. What captures their attention is the sight of humble, desperate, dependent people who acknowledge their sin and who point to their Savior as the only one who can rescue us. The world, in other words, needs our confession, not our competence. Tragically, moralism is what people most outside the church think we’re talking about when we say gospel or Christianity. That’s what enters their minds. Most people inside the church give most people outside the church the impression that Christianity is all about observing certain codes of behavior and abstaining from others. It’s all about rules and standards and good behavior and cleaning up your act. We’re really good at communicating that to the world. The only way we’ll be able to reach people for Christ is to differentiate legalism from the gospel. From a human standpoint, we have to help them understand that rules and regulations and standards and behavior modification are not the heart of Christianity. We have to show them that the gospel is radically different. We need to somehow make it clear that Jesus came first not to make bad people good, but to make dead people alive;  pp124-125

“The gospel doesn’t just free you from what other people think about you; it frees you from what you think about yourself.” You’re free! Now you can spend your life giving up your place for others instead of guarding it from others, because your identity is in Christ, not in your place. Now you can spend your energy going to the back instead of getting to the front, because your identity is in Christ, not in your position. You can also spend your life giving, not taking, because your identity is in Christ, not in your possessions.  p. 133

Christ himself said that he had come “not to abolish the law but to fulfill it”—not for himself, but for us.  p. 144

when God’s amazing grace in the gospel grips our hearts, the motivational structure of our hearts is radically changed, and we begin to obey out of faith not fear, gratitude not guilt.  p. 153

We spend more time asking what would Jesus do instead of what did Jesus do.  p. 154

Christian growth doesn’t happen by working hard to get something you don’t have, but rather it happens by working hard to live in the reality of what you already have,  p. 170

So, instead of trying to fix one another, why don’t we “stir one another up to love and good deeds” by daily reminding one another, in humble love, of the riches we already possess in Christ?  p. 182

every time I sin, I’m momentarily suffering from an identity crisis: forgetting who I actually belong to,  pp. 181-182

The gospel’s secret of maturity is this: we become more spiritually mature when we focus less on what we need to do for God and focus more on all that God has already done for us.  p. 185

As John Bunyan memorably put it: “Run, John, run,” the law demands, but gives me neither feet nor hands. Better news the Gospel brings, It bids me fly and gives me wings.  p. 191

Spurgeon wrote, “When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so, and sought my good.”  p. 191

IT IS FINISHED To close this book, let me retell a story that my friend Steve Brown tells that illustrates well how God deals with us according to the finished work of Christ. He says that one time his daughter Robin found herself in a very difficult English literature course that she desperately wanted to get out of. She sat there on her first day and thought, “If I don’t transfer out of this class, I’m going to fail. The other people in this class are much smarter than me. I can’t do this.” She came home with tears in her eyes and begged her dad to help her get out of the class so she could take a regular English course. Steve said, “Of course.” So the next day he took her down to the school, and they went to the head of the English department, who was a Jewish woman and a great teacher. Steve remembers the event in these words: She (the head of the English department) looked up and saw me standing there by my daughter and could tell that Robin was about to cry. There were some students standing around and, because the teacher didn’t want Robin to be embarrassed, she dismissed the students saying, “I want to talk to these people alone.” As soon as the students left and the door was closed, Robin began to cry. I said, “I’m here to get my daughter out of that English class. It’s too difficult for her. The problem with my daughter is that she’s too conscientious. So, can you put her into a regular English class?” The teacher said, “Mr. Brown, I understand.” Then she looked at Robin and said, “Can I talk to Robin for a minute?” I said, “Sure.” She said, “Robin, I know how you feel. What if I promised you an A no matter what you did in the class? If I gave you an A before you even started, would you be willing to take the class?” My daughter is not dumb! She started sniffling and said, “Well, I think I could do that.” The teacher said, “I’m going to give you an A in the class. You already have an A, so you can go to class. Later the teacher explained to Steve what she had done. She explained how she took away the threat of a bad grade so that Robin could learn English literature. Robin ended up making straight A’s on her own in that class.2 That’s how God deals with us. Because of Christ’s finished work, Christians already have an A. The threat of failure, judgment, and condemnation has been removed. We’re in—forever!

Tullian Tchividjian (2011-10-03). Jesus + Nothing = Everything (pp. 204-205). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

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