“This whole place is filled with losers because your
Pastor is a loser!” Tullian Tchividjian, former Pastor of Coral Ridge
Presbyterian Church once said in a sermon. Tullain never
delivered a sermon
without emphasizing the fact that “we are sinners, in a sinful world, with
other sinful people”, and then he went on to deliver the bullet, “God saves
sinners because sinners are all that there are!”
I was greatly disturbed by the events of his
resignation as Pastor of Coral Ridge two weeks ago and greatly so by the
subsequent events following his resignation. Because I was 22 years old, fresh
from finishing my last semester papers at Makerere University when one evening,
while flipping through channels, I landed on TBN. There was this tattooed guy,
who apparently is Billy Graham’s grandson. Two things I noticed about Tullian
were first, he looked nothing like a Pastor but more like a gym instructor! I mean
pastors don’t dress like Tullian does, I thought. The other thing was his
message. Boy, oh boy! This was my first encounter with God’s radical grace.
Tullian said it with genuineness, finesse, accuracy
and in a language I understood. He always made the gospel so real and
liberating. I had myself been preaching since the age of 19 majorly to a
congregation of about 300 but had never encountered the radicality of God’s
amazing grace until the Lord placed Tullian in my path.
“If God unconditionally loves this guy”, I thought, “then
He loves me too.” Coming from Africa where superstition has no boundaries, I
grew up being told that tattoos are evil. And that if you got one, it was the
quickest route to hell. But there was something about this grace of God that it
smashed all that conditionality and kept on shouting “You are loved, not
because of what you do or not do, but because of what My son Jesus has done for
It is three years now and am still learning about
this AMAZING GRACE. I get blown away every morning because my standing with God
is not dependent on me. That is huge; I can never take it in but distribute it
to other train wrecks like me.
Wrecks are all that there are
It is in the book of Genesis that God tells what we
really are. Moses writes, “And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and
begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth (Gen.
5:3).” All through Sunday school we were told the beautiful story of how we
were created in the image of God and not how we had inherited the likeness or
image of Adam. We have to go to Genesis 6 to find out what Adam’s image (which
we all took on) was like. “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his
heart was only evil continually (v. 6).” So our wickedness is not just
great, but every one of the imagination of our thoughts is also evil…not just evil
but continually evil. This is who we are.
Tullian never misses to say it. That we are all
broken, him inclusive. Genesis 6:6 is testimony our messed-upness. This includes
everyone from the pastor to that guy who has just convicted of masterminding a
genocide. All of us. The glorious truth is that, as Tullian always put it: “The
grace of God flows through the cracks of our imperfection.” It’s those people
who know that they are sinners that understand this stuff. And we learn God’s
grace the most from moral failures who have accepted that they are indeed
failures and have abandoned the huge bag of self-righteousness at the foot of
So God used failures like Peter so that Paul could experience
and understand grace. Paul was used by God so that Timothy and early Church could
experience grace. God used failures like Martin Luther so that failures like
Robert Capon could experience this amazing grace. God used failures like Capon
so that failures like Tullian Tchividjian could experience God’s grace. God
uses failures like Tullian so that you and I could experience God’s grace. And so
God continues to use failures like Tullian, you and me so that the world could
experience God’s radical and amazing grace.
If this is true, that we are all failures, then that
makes us a huge bunch of failures showing other failures where we found the
spring of living water.
and be Acquitted
We can never be forgiven if all we do is hiding
behind our supposed ‘goodness.’ This was Jesus’ point in the Parable of the
Wedding banquet (Matt. 22:1-14). That one guy who thought “Ah…am pretty good in
my own robe, guess I don’t need yours” was thrown out. This man’s robe of
righteousness was not good (Isaiah 64:6); he needed Jesus’ robe of
righteousness like the other guys at the party so that he would enjoy the
presence of the King (Jesus).
We need to renounce our goodness and admit that we
are failures in ourselves who can only be saved by God’s amazing grace. And if
we are all sinners, then there is only one who is sinless—Jesus. It’s Him alone
that can acquit us.
This has always been Tullian’s message—exposing the
sinners that we all are—and then exposing the Savior that God is.
Then Liberate.org was shut down, the Liberate
Conference cancelled because of one moral failure. What the bible teaches us is
that there has been only one moral success—Jesus—the rest of us from Adam to
that child being born at this moment is born a moral failure because of what
happened in Genesis 3. If we therefore went on pulling down stuff written, or said
by moral failures, am afraid we would have nothing left on the internet and in
bookstores around the world.
The law just exposes us. Under the law all of us
crash and burn, because the law is no respecter of persons. If the best like
David crashed, what about us? Jesus in the sermon of the mount just shows how the
law, as a way to earn God’s love, can never be trusted. The one who says “You fool!”
is guilty of murder (Matt. 5:22) and the one who looks at a person of the
opposite sex lustfully is guilty of adultery (Matt. 5:28). Now who is not a
The difference is that Tullian admitted to failing as
he has always done. That is why God will use his rather terrible experience to
teach many about grace and the free forgiveness of sins. That is why we need
Tullian’s books, blog posts, podcasts, and videos more than ever before. Because
this guy has renounced his robe of righteousness for Jesus’ blemish-free robe
This applies to all of us: that in our failing, our hope
is not in covering up our failures but rather having them exposed to the One
True Savior who is not ashamed to die naked on the cross so that we can forever
be united with the Father who so much loves us. Because of this: “there is no
condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans. 8:1).” We are free to fail;
we do all fail all the time after all.