This is what God's restoration of one heart at a time looks like in real life lived in the light of the Gospel! Tullian's story is the story of many ministry families without the same public visibility but this same formula is true over and over again in life and ministry when we live and walk as sons and daughters of the Most High God. Then truly Jesus + Nothing = Everything!
How can someone live without depending upon the approval of others?
This is something that we as sinful people will struggle with for the rest of our lives. None of us will ever come to a place where what people think about us (good or bad) doesn't matter to us at all. But a deep grasp of the gospel does help us to become less dependent on the approval of others because the gospel announces that all of the approval we long for and need, Christ has already secured for us. We no longer need to live under the slavish pressure of trying to earn the approval of others because Jesus has already earned God's approval for us.
In the book [Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, recent author of Jesus + Nothing = Everything] I tell the story of how this became real to me.
With the merger of the church I planted and Coral Ridge back in 2009 and the leadership transition that accompanied it, a small but vocal group of long-time Coral Ridge members immediately began voicing opposition to practically any and every change we initiated. Blogs were posted, letters were circulated--some anonymously--with false accusations about me. Just three months after I arrived, a vigorous petition drive was started to get me removed. Battle lines were drawn, rumors raced. There was a crescendo of misunderstandings, frustration, and pain. Just three months in, I was ready to call it quits.
About that time, I opened up my Bible and in the reading plan I was following, it so happened that the day's passages included the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Colossians.
Desperate for help from God, I read those verses and my eyes were opened to see the incredible sufficiency of Jesus with greater clarity than I'd ever experienced. In my misery I told God that I wanted my old life back. The answer from God that I received from Colossians that morning was simple--but sobering: "It's not your old life you want back; it's your old idols you want back, and I love you too much to give them back to you."
You see, I never realized how dependent I'd become on human approval and acceptance until it was taken away. For the first time, I found myself in the uncomfortable position of being deeply disliked and distrusted. I was realizing just how much I'd been relying on the endorsement of others to validate me--to make me feel like I mattered. In and of itself, human approval and acceptance are not bad things. They are, in fact, a gift from God. But I had turned them into idols by making them my primary source of meaning and value and worth and significance, so that without them I was miserable and depressed.
The verses that set me free, specifically, were Colossians 1:9-14. In those verses the Apostle Paul says (my summary): You will grow in your understanding of God's will, be filled with spiritual wisdom and understanding, increase in your knowledge of God, be strengthened with God's power which will produce joy filled patience and endurance (v.9-12a) as you come to a greater realization that you've already been qualified, delivered, transferred, redeemed, and forgiven (v.12b-14).
What those verses liberatingly taught me was that because of Jesus' finished work for me, I already had the justification, approval, acceptance, security, freedom, affection, cleansing, new beginning, righteousness, and rescue I was longing for. I started to see the many-faceted dimensions of the gospel in a more dazzling way. I was realizing in a fresh way the now-power of the gospel--that the gospel doesn't simply rescue us from the past and rescue us for the future. It also rescues us in the present from being enslaved to things like fear, insecurity, anger, self-reliance, bitterness, entitlement, and insignificance.
It was on that day that Jesus plus nothing equals everything became for me more than a preachable tagline. It became my functional lifeline!
It was rediscovering the gospel that enabled me to see that,
Because Jesus was strong for me, I was free to be weak;
Because Jesus won for me, I was free to lose;
Because Jesus was Someone, I was free to be no one;
Because Jesus was extraordinary, I was free to be ordinary;
Because Jesus succeeded for me, I was free to fail.
-- Ed Stetzer's blog 11/08/2011, interview with Tullian Tchividjian