Tullian, I hear you’re making a comeback.
It’s been a whole year since you married one of the four to seven women you allegedly either sexually abused or groomed while you were married to your first wife. And now you have a new blog to tell us that your scandalous sin is the very reason you’re qualified to preach, and “the world needs Tullian.”
You got me pondering about one of your mottos:
Jesus + Nothing = Everything
Like “let go and let God,” it’s one of those sayings I think some people may have used without really thinking about what they mean.
But it’s easy to find out what you mean by it. I read the interview in Decision magazine in 2011, a couple of years before the first known case of clergy sexual abuse allegedly began, when you were promoting your book of the same name. You said:
- Because Jesus is strong for me, I am free to be weak.
- Because Jesus wins for me, I am free to lose.
- Because Jesus is Someone, I am free to be no one.
- Because Jesus is extraordinary, I am free to be ordinary.
- Because Jesus succeeds for me, I am free to fail.
I can see how that kind of thinking could lead to where you ended up.
But ummm . . . just no.
That is not what the Scriptures teach.
Here are a few things the Bible says about those thoughts, in numbered order. . . .
#1. But [the Lord] said to me [Paul], “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (II Cor 12:9-10)
#2. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Rom 8:35-37)
In #3 and #4 I agree that Jesus is rightly the one to be exalted, not us—though I would argue that no one is a “no one.” But if you’re happy to broadcast on your own website that “the world needs Tullian,” it seems you aren’t yet feeling free to be “ordinary.”
So then that leads to . . .
#5. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but I’ve gotten the impression from your life that “free to fail” has really meant “free to sin.”
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Rom 6:12-14)
Awake to righteousness, and do not sin. (I Cor 15:34)
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Gal. 5:16)
Whoever abides in Him does not sin. (I John 3:6)
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (I Cor 10:13)
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Eph 6:13)
I agree with you, Tullian, that God’s grace is lavish. It makes sinners into saints. But whatever “Jesus + Nothing = Everything” means, it isn’t what you’ve said it means. In fact, you’re preaching a truncated gospel, emphasizing the forgiveness while ignoring the power.
Charles Spurgeon wrote about “the checkbook of faith,” using a “bank” metaphor for the Christian life:
If you have millions of dollars in the bank, you are truly a rich person. But if you never withdraw any of the funds, you’ll still live like a pauper.
The Christian life you’re describing is a life of living with millions of dollars in your bank—indicated by the first half of each of your five sentences above. But Tullian, it looks like you never “withdrew” the empowering and life-changing aspects of who Jesus Christ is right now, to you, for you, in you, and through you—never really appropriated it by faith. So I get the impression you thought it would be normal to live like a spiritual pauper, weak, losing, and failing.
Bizarrely, you even seem to think that living like a spiritual pauper is something to be celebrated.
Jesus + Nothing = Everything is true in the same way it’s true to say “Millions of dollars in the bank makes me a wealthy person.” But when you don’t appropriate those funds it results in the sad life: “I live like a pauper.”
What if our God gave you a set of armor, really awesome armor (in all the truest sense of the word “awesome”). You can say, “Wow! Thank you, God, for this amazing armor! I’m going to keep it in a stack over here, and I’ll look at it occasionally and thank you for it, and tell others how awesome it is!”
But God says, “Put it on. Put it on!”
Otherwise, the fiery darts of the wicked one; the roaring lion who wants to devour you through pride, discouragement, lust, or any of a score of other means; the adversaries who want to steal, kill, and destroy, they will seek and find you as their target. (Seems like maybe they already did.)
Jesus + Nothing = Everything is true in the same way it’s true to say “God gave me a set of armor, so that makes me a warrior.” But when you don’t appropriate that armor, you’ll end up living the sad life: “I am completely defeated.”
Jesus (+ Nothing) is all you need . . .
to be strong
to win your battles
to be victorious over sin
to live for God and others
But Tullian, don’t keep making the mistake that simply acknowledging that you have Jesus—like the money in the bank or the armor in the corner—is going to mean you don’t need to live the Christian life God has called us to live.
By faith, draw on those funds. By faith, put on that armor. By faith, through the written Word, get to know the Living Word, Jesus Christ, as your All in All, apart from dead works. And as you do, expect to live with the riches of God’s grace making a practical difference in your daily life. As you do, expect the living fruit to be manifested through your transformed life.
You don’t need to be famous. (The world doesn’t need you.) But be faithful.
Tullian, Jesus + Nothing = Everything you need to win all your battles in the spirit realm and live as He has called men of God to live.
Do you understand what that means?
Go here to download your free Guide, How to Enjoy the Bible Again (when you’re ready) After Spiritual Abuse (without feeling guilty or getting triggered out of your mind). You’ll receive access to both print and audio versions of the Guide (audio read by me). I’m praying it will be helpful.