Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels Hardcover – April 23, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
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“Tullian’s masterful retelling of this familiar story will do just as it promises. It will surprise you—shock you even—as you hear the story of Jonah as if for the first time. And it will fill you with awe and wonder at God’s startling grace and his tender heart toward us, his lost and rebellious children. I loved it.”
—Sally Lloyd-Jones, author, The Jesus Story-Book Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name
“The book of Jonah is more than the story of a prophet who ran from God. It is actually the story of the grace of God that overcomes Jonah’s stubborn rebellion. In this outstanding book Tullian Tchividjian helps us see that there is something of Jonah in all of us and that we stand in need of the same grace of God every day. I was both convicted and encouraged by this book and highly recommend it to every Christian.”
—Jerry Bridges, author, The Pursuit of Holiness
“Surprised by Grace is a much-needed reminder that we should never get over the gospel, or try to move beyond it. The grace that saves is the grace that satisfies and empowers. Tullian’s book is gospel-saturated, Christ-exalting, and soul-refreshing.”
—Randy Alcorn, Founder and Director, Eternal Perspectives Ministries; author, Heaven, If God Is Good and Money, Possessions & Eternity
“Twenty years ago Tullian was the wild, rebellious black sheep among Billy Graham’s grandchildren. Today he follows in his grandfather’s steps as a powerful preacher of the cross of Christ. As he retells the Old Testament story of Jonah he shows that while sin reaches far, God’s grace reaches farther. Tullian’s heart to see rebels—as well as cold-hearted Pharisees—transformed by the gospel of grace shines through on every page.”
—Joshua Harris, Senior Pastor, Covenant Life Church, Gaithersburg, Maryland; author, Dug Down Deep
“A well-written, exegetically careful, pastorally sensitive journey through a familiar yet surprising book. Tullian mines the world of literature, art, and theology to bring out the abiding significance of this beloved story. Oh, and he also wonderfully points us to Christ.”
—Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor, University Reformed Church, East Lansing, Michigan
“In this wonderful book Tullian creatively and clearly does with the story of Jonah what the Bible was designed to do. He helps you see yourself and weep and see your God and rejoice. Read. It will deepen your sense of need and your affection for the God who meets you in the middle of it.”
—Paul David Tripp, President, Paul Tripp Ministries; author, What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage
“Surprised by Grace fishes the gospel from the storms of Jonah’s life and conscience with wonderful images from art history, beautiful words from classic literature, and deep insight from the biblical record. The ways Pastor Tullian shows how the gospel spouts from so ancient—and resistant—a prophet is truly a surprising grace.”
—Bryan Chapell, President Emeritus, Covenant Theological Seminary; Senior Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Peoria, Illinois
“If you’ve been struggling with the Christian faith because it started with the gospel and moved quickly into the “elbow grease” of hard work, guilt, and rules, this book will change your life. The gospel isn’t just where we begin; it’s where we Christians live. If we aren’t surprised by grace, it isn’t grace. Read this book, and you’ll rise up and call me blessed for recommending it to you.”
—Steve Brown, Host, Key Life Radio Program; author, Three Free Sins: God Isn't Mad At You
“Tullian has given us a crash course on the outrageous mathematics of God’s mercy and grace. The same God who pursues violent pagan kings also pursues his smug, self-righteous sons and daughters. Indeed, the God who bids us count stars, sand, and dust is actively redeeming a pan-national family of rebels, idolaters, and broken people just like me . . . and you! Thanks, Tullian, for helping me to see that the gospel is always bigger than I realized, or even wanted it to be!”
—Scotty Smith, Teacher in Residence, West End Community Church, Nashville, Tennessee
“Surprised by Grace will delight many, and it will disturb some. The gospel does that. Tullian Tchividjian helps us all, as sinners, move the gospel down into our hearts, where we actually change. Thank you, Tullian. I need it. Every one on the face of the earth needs it.”
—Raymond C. Ortlund Jr., Lead Pastor, Immanuel Church, Nashville, Tennessee
“As one who is both self-righteously religious and rebelliously irreligious (and sometimes on the same day!), I am repeatedly surprised by God’s relentless pursuit of my heart and his overwhelming grace. I’m sure that Tchividjian’s transparent interaction with a heartless prophet who is nevertheless an instrument of mercy to a wicked, godless nation will both convict and comfort you as it did me. In this wonderful book you’ll learn that Jonah’s story is not so much the story of a runaway prophet, a fish, a vine, and a repenting nation as it is a story of God’s persistent purpose to bless people he chooses to bless no matter the cost. If you need to remember that God is greater than your sin, that his purpose to bless isn’t really dependent upon your goodness, and that he will accomplish all his purposes no matter what, this Christ-exalting book will serve you well. It’s just splendid.”
—Elyse M. Fitzpatrick, counselor; speaker; author, Found in Him
“Calvin called Scripture a “mirror of the soul.” Tullian Tchividjian’s insightful guidance through the book of Jonah not only clearly explains the meaning of the book but helps us see ourselves in the reluctant prophet, sinners who are the recipients of God’s loving grace. I highly recommend Surprised by Grace for all Christians, young in the faith as well as mature, laypeople as well as pastors.”
—Tremper Longman III, Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies, Westmont College
“Grace is one of those words we use so much in the church that it’s easy to take for granted. It becomes ordinary. However, in this book grace shines in its biblical luster. Whether a new believer or a lifelong Christian, prepare to be surprised by grace!”
—Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California; author, Calvin on the Christian Life
“The gospel is a surprising message of news seemingly too good to be true. Tullian shocks us with the gospel as he retells the story of Jonah, the story of a God who pursues, rescues, and even uses people who run away from him. What makes this book stand out is how Tullian presents the gospel in story form, carving deep grooves in one’s memory. I will not forget this book, and I will recommend it to all the “Jonahs” in my life, which is most everybody I know.”
—Justin Buzzard, Lead Pastor, Garden City Church, Silicon Valley; author, Date Your Wife and The Big Story
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Being a strong-willed person my whole life, I've had to learn (and am still learning) the balance of this stubborn nature and to use it correctly. It helps to have reminders about what I should and should not stand against. Page 32, Tullian says "To flee from God is to rise against God. It is stand-up, straight-out, in-your-face defiance agasint the One to whom we owe all loyalty and love. It means insisting that our way of doing things is better than God's way...When we sin, that something which we choose to believe in is not no God, but ourselves as god....there is nothing more eternally dangerous than becoming our own god."
There's also a ripple effect to be aware of. Our actions, our disobedience can also place others in danger - as we see when Jonah jumps on the ship with the sailors and the storm comes and threatens the life of everyone on board...all because of Jonah. Also, we can't bless others as we might be called to: Page 44 - "Running from God keeps you from `breathing' and living the life he intends you to live. You therby rob other people of the blessing God intends to give them through you, because you're less than you're meant to be."
After Jonah's disobedience, he is given a second chance. Our second, third, forth, etc. chances aren't guaranteed and I know I can take them for granted. And Jonah goes...it's his "belated obedience" but is done begrudgingly. He later goes above the city to sit in comfort while waiting to see if God destroys Ninevah (so he can jump for joy, I'm assuming?). Why wasn't he praying for their repentance? God had plans and still used Jonah's minimalist propheteering to restore Ninevah.
Jonah felt that Ninevah deserved to be destroyed and judged their sins. Page 87 "By holding grudges, we count other's sins against them...Everyone/everything in this world that you might give yourself to..will eventually hold grudges against you...your sins will be counted against you...Through the gospel God counts your sins against Christ, not against you." But part of the reason (or the whole reason, I can't be sure) that Jonah did not want to fulfill God's request to warn Ninevah is because he KNEW God's grace. Page 112 "he knew God well enough to realize the Lord's compassion toward Ninevah would trigger her repentance and allow her to escape his wrath." And on 115, it goes further with "Now we can better understand why we haven't heard any confession of wrongdoing from Jonah about his going AWOL from God. Jonah has always felt totally justified in having run away from this assignment - more justified now than ever, it seems. See! I've been right all along!" So this can't be a heart of true repentance when you aren't sorry for having disobeyed in the first place - when you still feel that those actions were necessary and you try to prove to God your justification. Wow, how prideful can we be?
"And yet, although Jonah's obedience was so flawed, God still used him to accomplish his purpose in Ninevah. That should continue to encourage us." Page 123.
Another big piece that I took from this book was when he addressed the issue of idolatry in our lives and the pain when God begins to take them away. Page 120 "Worship is a posture of the heart. It is an attitude of loyalty and trust toward something - someone - in your life that your believe makes life worth living...our non-negotiable. It is that thing, should we lose it...would bring both devastation and hopelessness." Idolatry is a Christian and non-Christian issue. And idols are always smaller than God. Page 137-138 "God is working on us, teaching us to trust him - specifically in those areas where it's so very, very hard to discern what he's doing and why. And it hurts...He's pushing us, prodding us to give up our worthless idols, those things we've become so accustomed to that we actually think we can't live without. We've depended on them so long that we're afraid to release them...but they are actually enslaving us, and by holding onto them, we're blocking what God wants to give us. The pain we're experiencing is God prying open our hands to take back all the gifts we're holding onto more tightly than to him." (In my book I wrote the words "Oh crap" next to this).
I completely enjoyed this book and it was totally applicable for me today. There were about 3 parts that I disagreed with, but that's actually pretty minimal for me in a book I'm reading. I could write more, but I don't want my review to be longer than the actual book. I think you should read it. I will begin to close with a quote from page 149 - "If you allow [God] to pin you down, it will be the most magnificent defeat you've ever experienced." I think my favorite part of the book comes after a CS Lewis quote on page 51 where Tchividjian simply says: "But God interfered." But. God. Interfered. Thank the LORD for that.
Some readers might be caught by surprise in this little book that chronicles the story of Jonah but places the lion's share of attention on Christ. For this reason, Tchividjian's work should be applauded for rightly emphasizing the gospel in Jonah - the same way the gospel should be mined in every Old Testament book.
The author notes, "Only the gospel can truly save you. The gospel doesn't make bad people good; it makes dead people alive (emphasis mine). That's the difference between the gospel of Jesus Christ and every other world religion. All the others exhort their followers to save themselves by being good, by conforming their lives to whatever their worshiped deity is. But the gospel is God's acceptance of us based on what Christ has done, not on what we can do."
Surprised by Grace is a remarkable book that stands out and exalts Christ and is a vivid reminder that God is on mission purposed to send Christ to rescue sinners and shower his mercy upon everyone who believes.