The Gospel Coalition

I hope and pray that today is a day of restful reorientation for those of you who are being crushed under the weight of trying to make it on your own.

For those who feel the acute pressure of thinking you have to change your spouse if you're going to be happy, you have to be on top of everything if you're going to make it, you have to infallibly protect your kids if they're going to turn out OK, you have to control what others think about you if you're going to feel important, you have to be the best if your life is going to count, you have to be successful if you're ever going to satisfy the deep desire for parental approval, and so on and so forth...Christmas is for you.

The Incarnation frees us from what Paul Zahl calls "the law of capability"---the law, he says, "that judges us wanting if we are not capable, if we cannot handle it all, if we are not competent to balance our diverse commitments without a slip." Because of Christmas, we are now endowed with the strength to admit that we can't make it on our own--that we're weak and needy and restless. Since our identity is now anchored in Jesus' strength, our weaknesses don't threaten our sense of worth and significance--our security. We're now free to admit our faults and failures without feeling like our flesh is being ripped off our bones.

The Incarnation of Christ serves as a glorious reminder that God's willingness to clean things up is infinitely bigger than our willingness to mess things up. The arrival of God Himself in the flesh sets us free from the pressure we feel to save ourselves from loneliness and lostness, despair and dejection.

In short, Christmas is God's answer to the slavery of self-salvation.

Whether it's by trying harder or giving up, being good or bad, pursuing wisdom or foolishness, sacrificially giving or selfishly taking, we suffer under the weight of looking to ourselves for life's answer.

Christmas celebrates the glorious truth that no matter how hard we try, we can't do it. Apart from the Incarnation we are left to our own devices. But Jesus came to liberate us from the pressure of having to fix ourselves, find ourselves, and free ourselves. He came to rescue us from the slavish need to be right, rewarded, regarded, and respected. He came to relieve us of the burden we inherently feel to trust in ourselves in order "to get it done." Because Jesus came to secure for us what we could never secure for ourselves, life ceases to be a tireless effort to establish ourselves, justify ourselves, validate ourselves.

Because of Christmas, we have nothing to prove or protect. We can stop pretending. We can take off our masks and be real. We hold the wining hand. We have nothing to lose.

The liberating power of Christmas frees us from trying to impress people, appease people, measure up for people, or prove ourselves to people. The Incarnation frees us from the burden of trying to control what other people think about us. It frees us from the miserable, unquenchable pursuit to make something of ourselves by using others.

The Incarnation is God's shout: "You're free!"

As Everything, he became nothing so that you--as nothing--could have everything.

Merry Christmas, everyone!


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January 2, 2012 at 08:31 PM

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January 1, 2012 at 02:43 PM

Appreciate the commentary - Indeed Jesus came so that we may be FREE - that is if we follow in the WAY . "O dealy , dearly has he loved / and we must love him too / and trust in His Redeeming Blood / and try His works to do." (Cecil Frances (Fanny) Alexander (1818-1895)based on Mark 15:22-24)


December 30, 2011 at 11:01 AM

Mr. Tchividjian,

You quote from (page 6) and recommend freely in interviews Paul Zahl's book, but have you in fact read it all the way through to, say, page 59, where begins a chapter that addresses theodicy in a most unbiblical fashion. It is, at the very least, unorthodox, if not outright heresy.


December 29, 2011 at 12:03 AM

thanx pt for ur amzing book and browns book scandalous freedom these are not tgc teachings. mike

[...] Tullian Tchividjian writes about how Christmas frees us from the pressure to perform. [...]

The Results of Christmas |

December 27, 2011 at 05:38 PM

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He Came…You’re Free « The Edwards' Fam

December 27, 2011 at 05:24 PM

[...] Tullian Tchividjian wrote a book called Jesus + Nothing = Everything! This is an excerpt from the book! I hope and pray that today is a day of restful reorientation for those of you who are being crushed under the weight of trying to make it on your own. [...]

paul st.

December 27, 2011 at 05:04 AM

Merry Christamas to Y'all

Susanne Schuberth

December 26, 2011 at 04:42 PM


I guess you made up a short and catchy version of the Gospel by writing

"Christmas is God's answer to the slavery of self-salvation. [..]
The Incarnation is God's shout: You're free!"

Awesome! It's a true ear catcher though I didn't hear your voice.

Danny Prada

December 25, 2011 at 12:19 PM

Powerful. The world needs to hear this!

Steve Martin

December 25, 2011 at 10:33 AM

Thanks, Pastor Tullian!

Merry Christmas to you and your family, and to all your readers on this site!


December 25, 2011 at 08:34 PM

Oh, how I needed to be reminded of this today. Thank you!

christmas wisdom. | indomitable faith.

December 25, 2011 at 06:29 PM

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December 25, 2011 at 01:35 PM

just finished my first read through of the Hammer of God based on your recommendation. I want to read it again, I feel like I'm on the verge of seeing something huge and life changing - and after 21 years as a professing Christian I need to see this so badly.

Thank you for your grace in using your blog to see people set free