Surprised by Tchividjian

Three syllables: Chi-vi-jin. 

Practice it.

Enunciate.

Spell it phonetically.

Speak it slowly.  (It rhymes with religion.)

Chi- VI-jan!

I’m practicing my pronunciation because I expect to be quoting Tullian Tchividjian for years to come!  It’s likely that I will refer back to this book frequently when dealing with matters of grace and redemption, particularly from the Old Testament text.

Yesterday morning, when I picked up my new copy of his book, Surprised by Grace:  God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels, it had the pleasing rigidity of tight bindings and crisp white printed pages.  When I set it down this afternoon, it looked like an old familiar friend (dog-eared, well-marked, full paragraphs underlined, notes in the margins) what you’d expect from a book you’ll turn to again and again.   Going in, I was concerned that the publishers may have oversold by giving this book such a title.  Then I read it.  And I was, well, surprised.  Surprised by Grace is a Gospel-centered, Christ-exalting examination of the book of Jonah.  The author treats the Old Testament text with the kind of Christocentric hermeneutic that our Lord called for in Luke 24:26-27.  Throughout the book, Tchividijian makes a point of returning to the life-giving, hope-producing work of Christ on the cross.  And that is the strength of this work.  Rather than a Christless morality tale, the author uses the familiar (at least I thought it was familiar) story of Jonah’s flight from Nineveh to expose our need for a Savior.  It’s application is broad and convicting.  He deals with difficult themes.  He addresses seldom-broached issues that can hardly be stressed too much:  pettiness, sinful anger and idolatry.  But Tchividjian is always careful to point us back to the true and better prophet Who extends mercy to heartless pagans (and heartless preachers.)  And in that way, he serves the church — by handling the Old Testament in a way that is hope-producing.  Romans 15:4 give us the reason for Old Testament narrative.  Hope.  These stories were given to us “for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. ”  And only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can bring hope to the sadistic, cruel Ninevite or the proud, nationalistic prophet whose confidence is in his ethnicity.  D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, the surgeon-turned-preacher whose writings and preaching were so influential in the last century, knew well the preacher’s task.  He said, “I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God…and the magnificence of the Gospel.”  This book (originally a series of sermons) is worthy of recommendation for a number of reasons.  It’s theologically sound.  (I particularly appreciated his treatment of repentance.)  It’s beautifully-packaged.  It’s  well-written and insightful —  pithy and quotable — devotional and thorough.  But the primary reason I will refer back often to this fine work is that it passes the Lloyd-Jones test:  It “gives me a sense of God and the magnificence of the Gospel.”

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