Tullian Tchividjian|9:39 am CT

The Burned Over Place

One of the best books I’ve read in years is a short book originally published in 1983 by Paul Zahl entitled Who Will Deliver Us? The Present Power of the Death of Christ. Dr. Zahl plumbs the depths of the Gospel for everyday life in a paradigm shifting way.

Of the book, J.I. Packer writes:

Zahl knows the authentic gospel and the 20th Century human heart and probes deeply into both.

And John Stott wrote:

A brave and honest book. An unusual combination of pastoral compassion and theological integrity.

His grasp of the demands of God’s Law and the deliverance of God’s Gospel is both deep and wide. But what makes this book a cut above the rest is Zahl’s ability to connect the Law and the Gospel to our everyday fears, expectations, relationships, shattered dreams, and insecurities.

Speaking of Law and Gospel, Zahl paints a vivid picture that reveals our helplessness before the devastation and comprehensiveness of Divine expectation and how that helplessness creates the space for God’s amazing grace and the freedom it produces:

I’m a little like the duck hunter who was hunting with his friend in a wide-open barren of land in southeastern Georgia. Far away on the horizon he noticed a cloud of smoke. Soon, he could hear the sound of crackling. A wind came up and he realized the terrible truth: a brush-fire was advancing his way. It was moving so fast that he and his friend could not outrun it. The hunter began to rifle through his pockets. Then he emptied all the contents of his knapsack. He soon found what he was looking for-a book of matches. To his friend’s amazement, he pulled out a match and struck it. He lit a small fire around the two of them. Soon they were standing in a circle of blackened earth, waiting for the brush fire to come. They did not have to wait long. They covered their mouths with their handkerchiefs and braced themselves. The fire came near-and swept over them. But they were completely unhurt. They weren’t even touched. Fire would not burn the place where fire had already burned.

The law is like the brush-fire. I cannot escape it. But if I stand in the burned-over place, where law has already burned its way through, then I will not get hurt. Not a hair of my head will be singed. The death of Christ is the burned-over place. There I huddle, hardly believing yet relieved. Christ’s death has disarmed the law. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Who Will Deliver Us? The Present Power of the Death of Christ (pg. 42-43)


  1. [...] Here is a great illustration of what Jesus accomplished on the cross. It is short and well worth the time. [...]

  2. EXCELLENT illustration to which THIS Christian, outdoors-woman, rancher, and nurse can relate! Thank you!

  3. Destinations post on how to know you are saved: “Of course, this does not mean that you become immediately perfect, or that you no longer struggle with sin. But you stop engaging in sin willfully and defiantly. You cannot love God and love the things that grieve him. You cannot have a mouth that sings praise to Jesus with a life that openly crucifies him. It is not your mouth that best reflects your love for God; it is your life”.

    Just wanted to see how this part of the illustration you posted would play on this web site. Brother, here’s Jesus’s response to the above. “BE PERFECT” God Bless.

  4. that was awesome!

    what a brilliant example.

    i am going to check that book out post haste!


  5. that was awesome!

    i have never heard of Zahl of this book, but look forward to getting acquainted with both soon.

  6. Very good example… “Christ’s death has disarmed the law. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”! I love it! Thank you for sharing!

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *