Liberate

Freedom In Smallness

The world tells us in a thousand different ways that the bigger we become, the freer we will be. The richer, the more beautiful, and the more powerful we grow, the more security, liberty, and happiness we will experience. And yet, the gospel tells us just the opposite, that the smaller we become, the freer we will be. This may sound at first like bad news, but it could not be better news!

In the Bible, slavery is equated with self-reliance. Self dependence, the burden of depending on yourself and controlling your circumstances to ensure meaning and security, safety and significance. But as we know, the burden of self-determination is enormous. When your meaning, your significance, your security, your protection, your safety are all riding on you, it actually feels like slavery. People seldom “choose” to embezzle money; they feel like they have to if they are to uphold whatever law they live under. That is, they equate their value with some attribute or ability—what others think of them, how much is in their bank account, their relative stature in their community—and without that attribute or ability, they cease to matter. There is no “them” without “that,” and so they do whatever they can to ensure they don’t lose it!

This is a burden we were never meant to bear, and yet after the fall, self-reliance became our default mode of operation. Mine as well as yours. You might even call it our inheritance. In our exile from Eden, we naturally tend toward self-reliance.

Fortunately, God does not leave us there. God wants to free us from ourselves, and there’s nothing like suffering to show us that we need something bigger than our abilities and our strength and our explanations. There’s nothing like suffering to remind us how not in control we actually are, how little power we ultimately have, and how much we ultimately need God. In other words, suffering reveals to us the things that ultimately matter, which also happens to be the warp and woof of Christianity: who we are and who God is.

In 1990, media mogul Ted Turner announced to an audience at the American Humanist Association that “Christianity is a religion for losers.” Instead of humbly and heartily affirming Turner’s sentiment and perhaps using it as a potential springboard for evangelism, the Christian community got angry. Even now, Turner’s judgment causes some people to bristle.

But Turner was exactly right!

The gospel is for the defeated, not the dominant. But his self-righteous tone was 100 percent wrong. That is, he was saying something true about God, but his success had clearly buffered him from understanding himself honestly and accurately. In view of God’s holiness, we are all losers (Rom. 3:23). We are all sufferers. We are all sinners. The distinction between winners and losers is irrelevant when no one can claim victory.

Instead, the gospel is for those who have realized that they can’t carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. Only when God drives us to the end of ourselves do we begin to see life in the gospel. Which is another way of saying that only those who stand in need of a savior will look for or recognize a savior. Fortunately, Christianity in its original, most authentic expression understands God chiefly as savior and human beings chiefly as those in need of being saved.

(Excerpted from my new book Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free)

14 Comments
  • Steve Martin says:

    Good job, Pastor T..

    The gospel is not for the proud. But the brokenhearted.

  • […] Tullian wrestles with Ted Turner’s famous pronouncement: Christianity is the Religion for losers. Yep, Ted was right. […]

  • […] Links I Like Aaron Armstrong —  October 9, 2012 — Leave a comment Links I Like | Blogging TheologicallyHello there! If you are new here, you might want to subscribe to the RSS feed for updates on this topic.Freedom In Smallness […]

  • Tad Caldwell says:

    Arrogant Christian should be an oxymoron, we are saved solely by grace, we are sanctified solely by grace, why then do we (myself included) so often look down on others Like we (I) am better?

  • Steve Martin says:

    Tad,

    Because that old sinner in us just won’t let go.

    So we continually need to hear the law…and the gospel…for a lifetime.

  • […] Freedom in Smallness –  Tullian Tchividjian discusses the idea that God uses weakness for his glory. It is a good thing for us to be dependent on God. “In 1990, media mogul Ted Turner announced to an audience at the American Humanist Association that “Christianity is a religion for losers.” Instead of humbly and heartily affirming Turner’s sentiment and perhaps using it as a potential springboard for evangelism, the Christian community got angry. Even now, Turner’s judgment causes some people to bristle. But Turner was exactly right!” […]

  • James says:

    I just so happened to visit Coral Ridge when Pastor T. on that particular morning was addressing the body on how many friends of the norm most people had. (I’ll never forget this)(a point in his message)long story short…very interesting to me especially because it is so contrary to my life. Even my own wife of 5 years has asked me why is it you have no friends at all! not a single person you can call for anything. you have proven you are a loner and an out cast to all and all who knows you for over 15 years. Tullian says it’s not possible not to have a single friend (that is in the flesh)but when your own wife questions you “why” don’t you have any friends and why in five years we’ve been married you’ve never introduced me to anybody you know, I’m a recent immigrant working in a nail salon an have more friends in the first year I’ve been in the U.S. then you have in all of our 5 years of marriage. How come you have no friends especially at least 1 christian friend and you can’t even prove that. How is it possible your a good strong Christian(alone) and has proven to Tullian and your wife your a loner 1st class. How can this be so and yet is. you can’t talk to any body I’ve proven that on various blogs and it’s all poor baby and the like, it all falls back on vanity it’s all vanity and vexation of spirit and that’s not the 1/3 of it… so how’s that in freedom of smallness and who really cares.

  • Rick says:

    James, freedom in smallness doesn’t mean we are free because we have no friends and it doesn’t mean we are any less in Gods eyes either. It means we are set free when Christ is seen for who He is (BIG) and we see ourselves for who we are (small) in regard to our prideful condition. I would suggest that you become a member of a church and start making friends within the church who you and your wife can grow with.

    with love,
    Rick

  • […] (Excerpted from my new book Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free) Originally posted on thegospelcoalition.org […]

  • Chuck Tiedje says:

    There was an interesting post by a Liberty U prof today, in response to Donald Trump’s “Don’t let people take advantage, get even!” comment in his speech there. I’ve included it below – I’m interested in your response, Tullian.

    Trump right about getting even?
    Business mogul Donald Trump’s recent convocation speech at Liberty University caused a stir, especially when he recommended, “Don’t let people take advantage; get even!” But in a new op-ed piece, a Liberty University professor says Trump’s theology has some merit.
    Moore
    In his editorial titled “It’s true, Christians should be tough — like Jesus,” Johnnie Moore, vice president for executive projects and professor of religion at Liberty University, writes, “…in its greater oratorical context, ‘Be tough. In the end — win.'”
    “At least, that’s how I and lots of other people took it,” he continues. “I didn’t assume that ‘getting even’ had to imply mal intent; I interpreted the phrase through my own evangelical worldview, and I understood that within the dog-eat-dog world of corporate America, you have to be fiercely determined and competitive to be successful.”
    Moore maintains the blue-eyed, blond-hair Jesus is a lopsided portrayal.
    “There’s this tougher side of Jesus, this Jesus that wasn’t fearful to call the Pharisees hypocrites and snakes and sons of Satan (Matthew 23:15),” he notes. “There’s the Jesus that has dirt under his fingernails and callouses on his hands. That Jesus is someone who had a lot of love to give to the world, and he had just buckets and buckets of grace.
    “But he also had a tough side, too, and it seems … that in modern American Christianity, we are disproportionally in favor of Jesus the self-help teacher as opposed the truth bearer.”
    The university professor says he has received positive feedback from Christians all across the world who understand the tension between the grace-giving message of Jesus and the tougher Jesus who preaches truth.
    “A lot of the problems we face in our culture and in our families and in the church are problems because lots of Christians believe one thing — but when it’s all said and done, they’re nervous to speak up about what they believe,” Moore explains. “It was the apostle Paul that told us that we shouldn’t be ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16).”
    Moore concludes his article by stating, “Jesus might have been meek, but he sure wasn’t weak. He had a steel spine; He spoke boldly and strongly. In the end, he had lots of enemies who nailed him to a tree to shut him up. Then, Christians believe, Jesus just raised himself from the dead — showing that he was in control of everything, anyhow. I might just call that more than ‘getting even.'”

  • Elizabeth says:

    So wonderfully spoken. There is ultimate freedom in realizing that God is enough and we can’t do anything more to complete joy into our lives like Jesus does. Thank you for this.

  • Paul ST Jean says:

    Pastor
    a co-worker made a mistake by giving out the wrong information and someone made a big deal about it. and she was reprimanded and some of her responsibilities were taken away.
    I gave her a copy of this blog and it really impacted her life thank you for really making a difference in some of us who are underdogs.

  • Matt Troupe says:

    Great stuff, I am so encouraged. Though I am pretty sure that Tullian and Ted Turner mean different things by the word “loser.”

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