This is a follow-on to the previous post You’re Doing Holiness Wrong about the debate surrounding Tulian Tchividjian about living a holy life. That post presented the history of the discussion. This is my take on the matter.
Tchividjian’s Critics Are Missing His Point
It seems to me that some of Tchividjian’s critics believe he is teaching that obedience is unnecessary since Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. That’s not the case.
Tchividjian’s point is this: We should obey God. The way we get the strength to obey God is by reflecting on the amazing grace of our justification.
In other words, we are empowered to obey God by the Spirit-induced realization that all our obedience was bought for us at the cross.
What’s Right, What’s Wrong
Tchividjian is correct: He is correct that the glory of the gospel gives amazes us and gives us strength to live holy lives.
Tchividjian is wrong: He is incorrect in saying that this is the only way God has provided for us to live holy lives.
Christians have more inspirations than justification.
There is more to sanctification than simply looking to the cross. Here is a partial list of the glories we look to to inspire our holiness:
- Gazing on the glory of the cross empowers us.
- Gazing on the glory of the empty tomb empowers us.
- Gazing on the glory of our future heavenly home empowers us.
- Gazing on the glory of Jesus himself empowers us.
- Gazing on the glory of the mystery of the Trinity empowers us.
- Gazing on the glory of Christ’s victory over Satan empowers us.
- Gazing on the glory of Christ’s body, the Church, empowers us.
Christians have more empowerment than inspiration.
But we aren’t empowered only by looking at glorious things and feeling inspired. God has given us other strength in the fight:
- We have power from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
- We have a new nature that is no longer enslaved to sin.
- We have encouragement from our brothers and sisters in the Church.
- We have the instruction of the Bible.
- We have the strength of our own striving. (Yes, it’s okay to work hard at your sanctification, just not your justification.)
In the end, Tchividjian has hit on one facet of one part of our strength for holy living. His answer is correct as far as it goes but it’s simply incomplete. By hanging onto a doctrine of “empowerment by a single inspiration” he has:
- missed many other inspirations within the same category and…
- he has missed other categories of empowerment altogether.
I would be remiss to say that Tchividjian’s critics get him completely wrong. Two of DeYoung’s questions address the center of the issue:
2. Is there more than one motivation for holiness? Is preaching our acceptance in Christ and God’s free grace for sinners the only way to produce change in the Christian? Or are there many medicines for our motivation in godliness and many precious remedies against Satan’s devices?
6. Is sanctification by faith alone? We know that work has no place in justification, but what about in sanctification? Should we say that sanctification is monergistic or synergistic, or are these the wrong categories altogether? How are justification and sanctification different?
This is an ongoing conversation so don’t expect it to go away anytime soon.
So now it’s your turn: What other things has God given us to empower us to live holy lives pleasing to him?
Update: Tchividjian claims to have been kicked off the Gospel Coalition website and is now blogging elsewhere.