Tullian Tchividjian|8:19 am CT

Preachers Should Be Like Naughty Kids

Jonas-Steur-feat.-Jennifer-Rene-Still-I-Wait-294x300Some of the best, mind-blowing paragraphs I’ve ever read on grace come from Robert Capon. The following sentences on preaching made me sing:

I think good preachers should be like bad kids. They ought to be naughty enough to tiptoe up on dozing congregations, steal their bottles of religion pills…and flush them all down the drain. The church, by and large, has drugged itself into thinking that proper human behavior is the key to its relationship with God. What preachers need to do is force it to go cold turkey with nothing but the word of the cross–and then be brave enough to stick around while [the congregation] goes through the inevitable withdrawal symptoms.

But preachers can’t be that naughty or brave unless they’re free from their own need for the dope of acceptance. And they wont be free of their need until they can trust the God who has already accepted them, in advance and dead as door-nails, in Jesus. Ergo, the absolute indispensability of trust in Jesus’ passion. Unless the faith of preachers is in that alone-and not in any other person, ecclesiastical institution, theological system, moral prescription, or master recipe for human loveliness–they will be of very little use in the pulpit.

Amen…and Amen!

There are way too many “good, religious kids” in the pulpit these days pushing the idea that is most naturally comfortable to all of us: “proper human behavior is key to [our] relationship with God.” May God raise up a generation of preachers who fearlessly storm the gates of “just do it” religion with the jaw-dropping, chain-breaking, cage-rattling, freedom-inducing words of our Savior from the cross: “It is finished.” I pray everyday for God to unleash desperate preachers who are bold enough to push the irrational logic of His grace in the face of enslaved people.

So…go on preachers, I dare you. In fact, I double-dog dare you. There’s no better time to abandon your preaching to those three game-changing, paradigm-shattering words than today–Good Friday!





Tullian Tchividjian|1:02 am CT

Monday Morning Music

Anything I could or would say about the experience you’re about to have would simply take away from its pure perfection.

So…sit back, relax, and “dream on little dreamers.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls…I give you trance at its finest.





Tullian Tchividjian|8:44 am CT

Reader’s Digest Christianity

the-kingston-trio-desert-pete-capitolFor a while, my parents were getting Reader’s Digest every month while I was growing up. Because they were stored in the bathrooms, they were widely read. In each and every issue there was an interview with some celebrity, usually an actor or an athlete. Reader’s Digest’s favorite kind of celebrity was the “self-made” variety: someone who had come from nothing, preferably a broken home in which the single mother had to work multiple jobs to afford the windows that protected the family from the ceaseless gunfire outside. The interviewers inevitably ended their pieces by asking the celebrity something like, “If you could offer one piece of advice to our readers, what would it be?” (In fact, this makes up the bulk of Reader’s Digest…the part that isn’t ads. It’s full of pithy little pieces of advice for an improved life: “For a fun afternoon with the kids, try making caramel apples! To sleep better, try eating more blueberries! For a more fulfilling marriage, try going camping together!”) The celebrity would always say something like, “The one thing I would like to tell your readers is that you can’t let anyone tell you that you can’t accomplish your dreams. I’m walking evidence of that. If you want something badly enough, and work at it hard enough, you can accomplish anything at all.”

So much Christianity has become Reader’s Digest Christianity: “Jesus can help you achieve your dreams. He’ll go ninety-nine yards if you just go one. Do a little and he’ll do a lot. God helps those who help themselves.”

The Kingston Trio has a great song called “Desert Pete” about a man crawling through the desert, dying of thirst, who comes upon a decrepit old water pump. Next to the pump he finds a bottle of water. There’s a note, too. The note next to the bottle says that he has to use the water to prime the pump before he can drink any. Here’s part of the chorus:

You’ve got to prime the pump. You must have faith and believe.
You’ve got to give of yourself ‘fore you’re worthy to receive.
You’ve got to give before you get.

That sounds like a lot of preaching these days. “Do for God and then he’ll do for you”, “Do your best and then God will do the rest.” It’s Reader’s Digest Christianity.

I’ve said before that for every good story in the Old Testament, there is a bad children’s song. Perhaps one of the most well-known is “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho.” You know the one:

Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho;
Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, And the walls came tumbling down!
You may talk about your men of Gideon,
You may talk about your men of Saul;
But there’s none like good old Joshua and the battle of Jericho.

I know what you’re thinking: “C’mon, Tullian. Don’t be such a cynic. It’s just a cute, harmless way of helping children remember the story.” Ok, ok. I’m not saying that knowing, liking, or even singing that song is bad. But the song doesn’t really tell the story. Or, more accurately, it leaves out the most important part of the story.

But it’s not only the children’s song that leaves out the most important part of the story. More concerning to me is the fact that most sermons and Sunday School lessons do too.

You remember the story, don’t you? Joshua comes up against the city of Jericho. The people of Jericho built huge walls around their city because they wanted to protect themselves from this “God” they had heard so much about—a God who split the Red Sea in half for his people. Verse 1 says that the inhabitants of Jericho hid behind those walls, “not going out and not coming in.” And God’s big plan was to have Joshua’s army walk around the city for six days and then on the seventh day, walk around the city seven times concluding with a huge shout from God’s people. When the walls of Jericho “come tumbling down,” it seems as though Joshua’s faithfulness (and willingness to follow through on this ridiculous plan) is being rewarded. So this Joshua-at-Jericho story seems, at first glance, to fit perfectly with Reader’s Digest Christianity.

artworks-000007527658-smjpzh-originalWe read the story (or hear the sermons) and sing the song and make this whole account about Joshua and how he bravely fought the battle of Jericho and how as a result of his great faith, the walls came tumbling down and he led his people into the Promised Land. And then we turn it into nothing more than a moral lesson: “If we, like Joshua, have great faith and bravely fight the battles in our lives, we will see our personal walls of sin come tumbling down and enter into the Promised Land of spiritual maturity.”

When we read the story of Joshua this way, we demonstrate that we’ve completely missed the hinge on which this story turns. This whole story hinges on the placement of one verse: “See, I have handed Jericho over to you, along with its king and soldiers” (Joshua 6:2). The key point is that God hands Jericho over to Joshua BEFORE Joshua does what God wants! We expect God to say something more like, “If you do this crazy thing—if you prove your faith to me—I’ll reward your faithfulness by being faithful in return.” But in God’s economy, his promise precedes our faith! In fact, his promise CAUSES our faith. So, as it turns out, this story completely breaks down Reader’s Digest Christianity. It’s like a wrecking ball. God’s economy is the opposite of Desert Pete’s: you get before you give!

God’s word is creative (his words “let there be light” actually create light): when he calls someone “faithful” they become so. When he declares someone “righteous,” they are righteous. God makes his pronouncements at the BEGINNING, before any improvement or qualification occurs—before any conditions are met. God decides the outcome of Joshua’s battle before anyone straps on a shield or picks up a sword. And he not only decides to deliver unconditionally; he does so single-handedly. No one lifts a finger to dismantle the wall—the promised victory is received, not achieved. So, in the end, the seemingly harmless song is wrong and misleading because Joshua did NOT fight the Battle of Jericho. God did. Joshua and the Israelites simply received the victory that God secured.

Of course, this battle points us to another battle that God unconditionally and singlehandedly fought for us. It points us to another victory that God achieves and that we receive. We are the ones trapped inside the fortified walls of sin and death—of fear and anxiety and insecurity and self-salvation—and Jesus’ “It is finished” shout from the cross alone causes the walls of our self-induced slavery to come tumbling down. Real freedom, in other words, comes as a result of his performance, not yours; his accomplishment, not yours; his strength, not yours; his victory, not yours.

That’s good news!





Tullian Tchividjian|10:22 am CT

Monday Morning Music

A few weeks ago I publicly confessed my two decade long addiction to EDM. And since then I have been posting weekly installments of this type of music to hopefully convert some and rally others. As I said to a friend via email yesterday, no music uncovers and explores the longing for love and the deep emotions tucked down inside me like EDM.

As I said in my original post a few weeks ago, the way that the best of these DJ’s/Producers are able to create moods and take the listener deep is nothing short of brilliant. They are maestros of emotion. The complexity and chemistry of sounds is magical, poetic, romantic and powerful. I know, it’s not for everybody (what kind of music is, after all?). I’m fully aware that growing up in South Florida where this music totally “fits” the sights, sounds, and smells may be part of the reason it is so ingrained in my heart and head. But try it. You may like it. It may loosen you up, chill you out, and make you dream of rooftops, ocean breezes, palm trees, city lights, and losing yourself in the one you love.

And there may be no one who does this better than my man, Kaskade (Ryan Raddon). He just “gets it.” He’s a clean-cut, non-drinking, non-drug using, husband and father of three who looks just like my boy Ben Peays (Executive Director of The Gospel Coalition. Of course, Ben is slightly better looking, but I say that only because I promised Ben I’d say that today). Kaskade is a minister of moods. He’s been at it for a long time and is in many ways, THE leader in the industry. I call his sound “happy house.”

There’s a lot more where this came from and I encourage you to look him up and try him out. It’ll do your heart good. Trust me.

So…without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I give you…Kaskade.





Tullian Tchividjian|6:14 am CT

Love For The Weary And Heavy Laden

plurA couple weeks ago my good friend Jean Larroux, senior pastor of Southwood Church in Huntsville, AL interviewed me about LIBERATE and the gospel. Jean has taken it on the chin (and in the groin) for preaching the gospel of grace without qualifications and footnotes…and I love him for it. I cheer him on from a distance and am happy and honored to be on his team. Semper Reformanda, amigo!

What is LIBERATE all about? Is it just a conference or something more?

Back in 2010 I was traveling around the country speaking about God’s grace and the radical truth that Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Regardless of where I was people would come up to me and ask two questions (often through tears): 1. Is what you just said true? and 2. If it is, why have I been in church my whole life and never heard this before?

They were trapped in a checklist version of the Christian faith where they heard 100 sermons about how to live the Christian life but precious few on the Christ who lived and died for us. As a result, they were weighed down and burdened by the mistaken notion that the focus of the Christian faith is the life of the Christian. I knew the church needed to get back to the robust and liberating doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone and what that actually means for life and relationships. We came up with “Liberate” which started as a conference but has now grown to much more—it is now an annual conference, a well-resourced website, publishing projects, a pastors network, partnerships with churches and a lot more. It’s growing faster than we know what to do. There are a lot of people out there (especially pastors) who are being awakened to the radicality of the gospel of grace and rethinking everything as a result. We want to resource the church universal in any and every way that we can. I feel like a paradigm shift back to grace alone is happening and I’m just happy that Liberate has been positioned by God to help lead that charge.

Isn’t all this emphasis on grace going to make Christians lazy and ignore holiness?

[Laughs] We hear that all the time, don’t we? I always want to ask people who say that, “So are you saying that love does not produce love?” Their question assumes that the law (instruction, rebuke, exhortation) has the power to produce love. But the Bible says just the opposite. Paul makes it clear in Romans 7 that the law shows you what love looks like but has no power to actually make you loving. It can show you what to do and what you’re not doing but it can’t stimulate loving action.

Think about it—what does it do to your heart when you’re persistently criticized for failing to do something? Does that criticism make you want to do it? Does judgment engender loyalty and love? Or does it produce relational distance and frustration? The only thing that produces true love and heart-driven loyalty is love. Sanctification is nothing more and nothing less than love for God and love for others (it is the life long process of being compelled by Christ’s love) and 1 John tells us how love happens— “we love Him because He first loved us.” It is right and it is our duty to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, but the command itself doesn’t produce the love that is commanded. The only thing that produces love for God and love for others is love from God.

Is LIBERATE just for professional Christians or can “normal” people go too? How do we connect?

Liberate is connecting God’s inexhaustible grace to an exhausted world. I’ve never met anyone who is not exhausted. I’m not talking about exhausted because we’re too busy raising children and trying to pay the bills. I’m talking about emotional exhaustion, relational exhaustion and living on a treadmill of performance to ensure that our lives are meaningful. All of those things are just our own frantic attempts at self-justification. Liberate is for weary and heavy-laden people like that. Therefore this message is not just for professional Christians or pastors. It is not just for old people, young people, married people or single people—it literally is for humans. All of us, every human being who needs the rest that only Jesus offers.

If you had to condense the Gospel into an “elevator pitch” how would you describe it?

The gospel is the good news that Jesus has come to do and secure for you and me what we could never do or secure for ourselves. And He has come to freely give to you and me what we could never get for ourselves. No one wants to live a meaningless life. Everyone wants to matter. Most of our pursuits are fueled by this thirst—this longing to validate our existence. To justify ourselves. To rescue ourselves. To set ourselves free. And the gospel is the good news that Jesus has come to set the captives free. The gospel is an announcement, a declaration that One has lived for us and died for us.

At Southwood we often talk about the Gospel redefining our identity. You are Billy Graham’s grandson. How does the Gospel free you to rightly rejoice in who you were born to be and concurrently reject some persona that people would falsely expect you to be?

Trying to do it all will cause an inevitable crash and burn. That happened to me just after coming to Coral Ridge. When you are flat on your back, you finally get honest with God and yourself. One of the greatest gifts that come when you reach the end of yourself is the fresh realization that your identity—who you are—is ultimately anchored in Christ’s performance not your own—His obedience, not mine. I am defined by His work for me, not my work for Him. So who we really are in Christ has absolutely nothing to do with us. It has nothing to do with our behavior (good or bad), or our family background. What relieves me of the pressure to perform is the realization that I wake up every morning with something infinitely better than a clean slate. I wake up perfectly loved and perfectly accepted despite my unclean slate.





Tullian Tchividjian|12:17 am CT

Monday Morning Music

For EDM lovers like me, Miami was the place to be this weekend. The City of Sound played host to the Ultra Music Festival, an annual event every March that started back in 1999. Every year it gets better and better. There is no way I could possibly explain the experience.

The best set of the whole festival (in my opinion) was played by Above & Beyond. A three man British DJ team consisting of Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness, and Paavo Siljamäki, Above & Beyond formed in 2000. They started the London-based electronic dance music labels Anjunabeats and Anjunadeep, and they also host a weekly radio show called Group Therapy Radio. I call their genre of EDM “emotional trance.” They are flat-out masters of moods. The way they blend sounds, beats, and vocals is emotionally spell-binding. Their set at Ultra this year was musically mesmerizing.

They played a song I hadn’t heard before and it immediately swept me off my feet.

So…without further ado here’s “You Got to Believe” by Above & Beyond featuring Zoë Johnston.





Tullian Tchividjian|8:57 am CT

March Madness And The Mathematics of Grace

Kaskade-feat.-Skylar-Grey-Room-For-Happiness-RemixesBy instinct I feel I must do something in order to be accepted. Grace sounds a startling note of contradiction, of liberation, and every day I must pray anew for the ability to hear its message.

Eugene Peterson draws a contrast between Augustine and Pelagius, two fourth-century theological opponents. Pelagius was urbane, courteous, convincing, and liked by everyone. Augustine squandered away his youth in immorality, had a strange relationship with his mother, and made many enemies. Yet Augustine started from God’s grace and got it right, whereas Pelagius started from human effort and got it wrong. Augustine passionately pursued God; Pelagius methodically worked to please God. Peterson goes on to say that Christians tend to be Augustinian in theory but Pelagian in practice. They work obsessively to please other people and even God.

Each year in spring, I fall victim to what the sports announcers diagnose as “March Madness.” I cannot resist the temptation to tune in to the final basketball game, in which the sole survivors of a sixty-four-team tournament meet for the NCAA championship. That most important game always seems to come down to one eighteen-year-old kid standing on a freethrow line with one second left on the clock. He dribbles nervously. If he misses these two foul shots, he knows, he will be the goat of his campus, the goat of his state. Twenty years from now he’ll be in counseling, reliving this moment. If he makes these shots, he’ll be a hero. His picture will be on the front page. He could probably run for governor. He takes another dribble and the other team calls time, to rattle him. He stands on the sideline, weighing his entire future. Everything depends on him. His teammates pat him encouragingly, but say nothing.

One year, I remember, I left the room to answer a phone call just as the kid was setting himself to shoot. Worry lines creased his forehead. He was biting his lower lip. His left leg quivered at the knee. Twenty thousand fans were yelling, waving banners and handkerchiefs to distract him. The phone call took longer than expected, and when I returned I saw a new sight. This same kid, his hair drenched with Gatorade, was now riding atop the shoulders of his teammates, cutting the cords of a basketball net. He had not a care in the world. His grin filled the entire screen.

Those two freeze-frames—the same kid crouching at the free throw line and then celebrating on his friends’ shoulders—came to symbolize for me the difference between ungrace and grace.

The world runs by ungrace. Everything depends on what I do. I have to make the shot.

Jesus calls us to another way, one that depends not on our performance but his own. We do not have to achieve but merely receive. He has already earned for us the costly victory of God’s acceptance.

Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?





Tullian Tchividjian|9:39 am CT

Monday Morning Music

Last Monday I confessed my addiction to House Music and all of its genres–an addiction I’ve been nurturing since I was 19. I also promised you that each Monday I would introduce you to a different song with the hope that you too might develop a taste for the sound and the emotion that it elicits.

Meet Eric Prydz–the Swedish DJ who has been creating delectable moods with his music for a long time now. His first break-through track “Call on Me” (which sampled Steve Winwood’s hit “Valerie”) came out in 2004. I’ll never forget first hearing it and being drawn in immediately. Well, since then he has become quite the trendsetter in the industry and last week he released his newest track called (drumroll please….) “Liberate”! I’d like to think I had something to do with the naming of the song :) Technically, this song would be considered “progressive house”, but I call it “happy house.”

I hope you like it as much as I do…





Tullian Tchividjian|9:33 am CT

Two Favored Sons

Above-and-Beyond-Thing-Called-LoveWant to know how to read the Old Testament? Here’s a quick primer: Martin Luther said that everything bad in the Old Testament (and there’s a lot) is there to point out our sin, while everything good in the Old Testament is there to point us to our Savior. Remember this pithy little couplet, and you’ll be well on your way to understanding what can often seem to be an intimidating and inscrutable collection of books.

Consider Joseph, for example. His life, like all of ours, is a mixed bag: some bad, some good. There’s no question that we can learn a lot of good from reading about Joseph’s life. His refusal to sleep with Potiphar’s wife stands out. The Bible never tells us that, after all Joseph had been through, his faith in God wavered. In fact, it tells us just the opposite. When he finally encounters his brothers years after they sold him into slavery and lied to their father about him dying—and he now has the power and the authority to enact some serious vengeance—he extends tremendous grace saying, “What you intended for evil, God intended for good.” Amazing.

But Joseph wasn’t always gracious and humble. In fact, when we first meet Joseph, he’s a spoiled brat. He was his father’s favorite son, and he knew it. While his older brothers had to break their backs toiling in the fields, Joseph got to stay at home. When Joseph has two separate dreams which imply that his brothers (and even his mother and father!) will eventually bow down to him, he doesn’t hesitate to go out into the fields to share the dreams with his family. It’s no wonder that the Bible says his brothers “hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him” (Genesis 37:4). I certainly know what I would have done if my youngest brother had been so impertinent.

What Joseph’s brothers do is well-known: they drag him away, strip him of his clothes (a many-colored robe that his father had given him), and sell him into slavery. They dip the robe in animal blood and tell their father that they’ve found it, and fear that Joseph is dead.

Joseph’s brashness testifies to the fact he had built his identity on being his father’s favored son. To be the Patriarch’s favorite son was a big deal and Joseph derived his worth from it. It led him to believe he was better than his brothers and that gave him a sense of significance and pride. As long as he was the favorite, he was somebody: he mattered.

In this way, we are exactly like Joseph.

What are you building your identity on? Think of it this way: what do you wake up in the middle of the night worrying about? For many people, it’s their careers. If they’re not an adequate provider for their family, or a pillar of their community, they feel that they have no identity at all. For some, it’s their children. How well their children “turn out” (the grades they get, the college they get into, the career they choose) defines them as a person. Maybe it’s the way you look, or your reputation. Maybe it’s your marriage or the dream of one day getting married. Maybe it’s your health. We long to have meaning and purpose and lasting stability but so often we try standing on an endless catalog of God-replacements that end up sinking us into slavery like it did for Joseph. For example, I never realized how much I was depending on my kids for happiness until we had a difficult year with one of our sons last year. What’s that thing or who’s that person in your life that if taken from you would make you feel like life’s not worth living?

I’ve told the people at Coral Ridge this before (and it’s embarrassing to admit) but one of the reasons I work so hard in preparing sermons is because at some level I need them to think I’m a good preacher to feel like I matter. When I feel like I haven’t preached a good sermon it cuts me to the heart—because who am I if I’m not good at what I do? You ever feel like this? About anything? Anyone?

But the story of Joseph doesn’t end there. While the bad stuff in his life points out our sin, the good stuff points out our Savior—and how he works to rescue sinners out of slavery and death. Within the story of Joseph, we hear whispers and see snippets of a new and better Joseph. Over and over again Joseph’s story illustrates that life comes out of death. He gets thrown in a pit to die but comes out and is spared, rising through the ranks of Potiphar’s household. He gets thrown into prison—is forgotten and forsaken—but is eventually rescued by the King and put in a place of power and honor. He relives the pain of his brothers’ betrayal when they come to him for food years later, but uses his new power to save them rather than kill them—assuring them that what they meant for evil God meant for good. And as a result of his mediation, a world on the brink of death is saved. All of this points us to Jesus.

Years later, another favored son would be betrayed, sold, and mistreated by his brothers. He too would be falsely accused, thrown into captivity—the captivity of the cross—paying the price for sins he did not commit. And in the prison of that cross, he too was forsaken (“My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me”)—but like Joseph, he didn’t stay imprisoned. Jesus did not get out of prison by interpreting the dream of God; his death and resurrection was the interpretation of God’s dream—a dream dreamt before the foundation of the world to do and be for us what we could never do and be for ourselves.

Like Joseph, Jesus was brought to life out of death and now sits at the right hand of King, forgiving those who betrayed him (all of us), and using his power to save rather than kill. By the time his brothers come to see Joseph, he is so powerful that there is nothing at all his family can do for him: his love is completely one-way. Rather than punishment, they get nourishment. Our new and better—and final—Joseph does the same. Jesus sits at the right hand of God, and when we come before the judgment seat, faces to the floor, expecting our richly deserved death sentence, he steps in. He was punished, not just for crimes he didn’t commit, but for our crimes. Our sins were placed on his shoulders and his righteousness was given to us. We, his hateful brothers and sisters, are welcomed home for safe-keeping. Just as in Joseph’s story, through one man’s mediation many are saved from starvation, so through the mediation of Jesus many are forever saved from a hunger we could never satisfy ourselves.

That’s good news.





Tullian Tchividjian|8:04 am CT

Monday Morning Music

So…I’m starting a new weekly feature here that is intended to introduce you to my not-so-secret addiction–an addiction I’ve been nurturing since I was 19.

I’m an avid music listener. Music hits me in ways that I can’t fully explain. It unlocks chambers inside me that I didn’t know existed. And while I love almost all kinds of music (except Country, Death Metal, and “Christian contemporary”) my drug of choice is EDM (electronic dance music, for the uninitiated). EDM has a variety of different genres (house, techno, trance, dubstep…to name a few) and I pretty much like them all, depending on what I’m doing or the kind of mood I’m in. I can’t really explain why this music grips me the way that it does, but I’m a “junky” for sure.

The way that the best of these DJ’s/Producers are able to create moods and take the listener deep is nothing short of brilliant. They are maestros of emotion. The complexity and chemistry of sounds is magical, poetic, romantic and powerful. I know, it’s not for everybody (what kind of music is, after all?). I’m fully aware that growing up in South Florida where this music totally “fits” the sights, sounds, and smells may be part of the reason it is so ingrained in my heart and head. But try it. You may like it. It may loosen you up, chill you out, and make you dream of rooftops, ocean breezes, palm trees, city lights, and losing yourself in the one you love.

I often say about EDM, it’s kind of like the gospel in the sense that you either “get it” or you don’t. If you don’t “get it” that’s fine. You’re missing out, but that’s fine. If you do “get it”…welcome to the deep end of the pool.

Entry No. 1: The Maya Jane Cole Remix of Rudimental‘s song “Free” featuring Emile Sande. This would be considered “house music.” I’ve had this track on repeat for the better part of the last month. I hope you like it as much as I do. And make sure you come back next Monday for more.

Bioluminescently Yours,