I do not think there has been an author that has impacted me more in the previous few years than Tullian Tchvidjian. The emphasis he places on God's amazing grace has been a needed source of nutrition for my soul. I have read just about every new book he writes and am usually blessed by each of them. And it remains true of his new book, One Way Love.
In many ways, his books all hit on the same theme; God's grace in our salvation. But as I continue to read them, I haven't grown weary of this message. Honestly. He often writes that the Christian life does not move on from the gospel but it should dive deeper into it. The more you grow in your faith, the more deeply the gospel and God's grace should be impacting you. And that is what he does in each of his books, this one in particular. He exposes the joy of grace and the folly of performance. It is a reminder, no matter how old I get in my faith, that I need to hear over and over again.
What Is Performancism?
From the beginning of this book to the end, Tullian tries to show how performance is draining, exhausting, and anti-gospel. He defines performance as "the mindset that equates our identity and value directly to our performance and accomplishments. Performancism casts achievement not as something we do or don't do but as something we are or aren't" (20). This is the message of the world, and unfortunately, often the church. "The underlying message is always the same: accomplishment precedes acceptance; achievement precedes approval" (29).
Applied to Christianity, it is the mindset that we will be accepted by God based on something we do or don't do. Nothing could be further from the gospel. The gospel and God's grace is one way love. It is not based upon what we do but upon what Christ has done. Understanding this is relieving for the soul.
Fully Known and Fully Loved
We live in a this for that world. And it is so easy for us as Christians to fall into the same trap as everyone else. Tullian points out how the gospel is God's way of solving the demands He has placed on us. This for that, but He supplies them both.
"As much as we might wish the world--and we ourselves--didn't operate according to debits and credits, there is always a cost to what we do. We are conditional beings living in a conditional universe. 'I called you last time, now it's your turn to call me.' 'If you lie to me, there must be an apology before we're good again.' The condition must be met, the cost must be paid--'either I swallow my pride, you say you're sorry, or we never talk to each other again.' But the debt has to go somewhere. Christianity alone affirms that the God who makes the demands also met those demands for us in the person of Jesus . . .We are both fully known and fully loved" (95-96).
I'm not sure I have fully grasped what it means that He fully knows me and fully loves me. That's humbling and radical.
What's the Problem with Tullian's Writings?
The circles in which I have been part of struggle with these thoughts. The problem that many people bring up is that if you focus so much on grace, then people will inevitably not pursue holiness. And he has often been accused of this. In One Way Love, Tullian takes added time to address these accusations.
"Christians often speak about grace with a thousand qualifications. They add all sorts of buts and brakes. Listen for them! Our greatest concern, it seems, is that people will take advantage of grace and use it as a justification to live licentiously. Sadly, while attacks on morality typically come from outside the church, attacks on grace typically come from inside the church. The reason is because somewhere along the way, we've come to believe that this whole enterprise is about behavioral modification, and grace just doesn't possess the teeth to scare us into changing, so we end up hearing more about what grace isn't than we do about what grace is . . . Where disobedience flourishes, it is not the fault of too much grace but rather of our failure to grasp the depth of God's one-way love for us in the midst of our transgressions and greed. Grace and obedience are not enemies, not by a long shot" (129).
He continues . . .
"Even those of us who have tasted the radical saving grace of God find it intuitively difficult not to put conditions on it when we try to communicate it to others--'Dont' take it too far; keep it balanced.' As understandable as this hedging tendency may be, a 'yes grace, but' posture perpetuates slavery in our lives and in the church. Grace is radically unbalanced. It contains no but: it is unconditional, uncontrollable, unpredictable, and undomesticated--or else it is not grace" (179-180).
Now, I agree with some people that say the NT gives us imperatives. Yes. It does. But those imperatives are not the basis of our salvation or acceptance, but the fruit of it. Everyone I know that struggles with Tullian's writings agree with that. But they are still uncomfortable with a message so firmly promoting grace as grace.
I don't obey because I have to. I obey because I have been so radically impacted by grace. And if anyone ever gets to the point of saying that they are saved and can do whatever they want, they have never understood grace. Or as Tullian says,
"I've never actually met anyone who has been truly gripped by God's amazing grace in the Gospel who is then so ungrateful that they don't care about respecting or obeying Him" (195).
I couldn't say it any better! I loved this book. And I think you will as well.