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Surprised by Grace [Paperback]

Tullian Tchividjian
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Book Description

28 Feb 2014
A wicked city, a rebellious prophet, and one really big fish. Most people are familiar with the story of Jonah. Unfortunately, the Sunday school version we remember from childhood often misses the narratives true emphasis: the totally unexpected and utterly shocking love of God. In this fresh retelling of Jonah, Tullian Tchividjian highlights the reality of Gods surprising grace, exploring how a careful re-reading of this incredible book informs the way Christians should view and interact with those around them. Drawing from the powerful imagery within the biblical narrative itself, this book recaptures the shocking effect Jonahs story undoubtedly had on the people who first heard itthe same shock thats desperately needed today among those who claim to know Gods heart. Now available in paperback.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway Books; Reprint edition (28 Feb 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 143354136X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1433541360
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 13.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 639,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good study of the book of Jonah 21 Sep 2010
By Essey
Good study of the book of Jonah. Provides insights into how people can run away from God by obeying and disobeying. The author provides essential basis for finding security and learning to give your love away without expecting anything in return. However some thoughts like "while our desire to sin reaches far, God's love reaches further", 'running away from God in legalism and licentiousness' are repeated throughout several chapters and make the revelation repetitive. But again the book is worth reading because it transforms, reminds and refreshes the understanding of God's unending mercy.
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68 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Gospel for Christians 2 May 2010
By Mondok - Published on
"The gospel doesn't just ignite the Christian life; it's the fuel that keeps the Christian going every day."

Tullian Tchividjian brings fresh perspective to the Old Testament story of Jonah in his new book Surprised by Grace; God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels. The book is scheduled for release on May 31, 2010 by Crossway.

The central character in Tchividjian's book is Jonah the prophet. The story does not begin with Jonah as a hero nor does it end that way. In fact, the Jonah's story ends rather abruptly as Tchividjian points out a little more than half-way through his book. Jonah is a runner and a complainer. Jonah has the right religion and proper politics; he serves the true God and hates the worst sinners. But, as Tchividjian so skillfully explains, Jonah needs the gospel. "He sounds like a lot of people in the church... despite his pedigree and profile, Jonah's still running from God. His morality and correct religion have brought him no closer to God..."

Tchividjian says that there are two ways to run from God. And both of them are "self-salvation projects". "Immoral people try to save themselves through licentious living - liberally and lawlessly. Moral people try to save themselves through legalistic living. The immoral try to save themselves by breaking the law; the moral try to save themselves by keeping it.

Tchividjian argues compellingly. He shows that the rule keepers need the gospel just as badly as the rule breakers. The reader learns that Jonah is good at being religious and knows it and expects God to move on his behalf because of it. Like the older brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (another "rule keeper"), Jonah is baffled that God would show such compassion to such horrible sinners. Tchividjian skillfully links the Old Testament narrative of Jonah to New Testament principles of grace and new beginnings.

Why is God so persistent about Jonah seeing this assignment through to its conclusion? Why doesn't God employ someone more willing and more passionate about the souls of sinners? Tchividjian explains that God pursues religious "rule keepers" with grace. He pursues them even if it hurts.

"The fish's belly was not Jonah's prison or death chamber," explains Tchividjian, "but only a temporary hospital for his soul and a protection for his body from the ocean depths. It's good for Jonah to be here. God ensures that his unworthy servant is made fully aware of this undeserved deliverance." God is much more interested in the person than the project. We think we're replaceable, but God makes it obvious that Jonah is the project.
Tchividjian includes plates from world renowned artists, samples from Raphael, Dennis McGeary, Phillip Ratner, and Salvador Dali, to name a few. The works of art displayed in the books pages are incredible visual aids for the reader. Jonah thrown overboard and then swallowed to stew in the digestive system of a large fish are horrors that defy description. With great talent, the artists illustrate their disgust as Tchividjian vividly contrasts it against the backdrop of God's grace. "As a storied presentation of the gospel, it especially reveals the expansiveness of three things - our sin, God's grace, and God's mission. There's nothing small about any of them."

This book is written for any of us that tend to minimize these three. I can't decide which is worst to minimize; my sin, God's grace or God's mission. Your eyes will be opened to corners of the Jonah story that will look familiarly like dark corners of your own heart. You'll lie awake at night comparing your heart to Jonah's.

It's interesting that God doesn't hold grudges against Jonah, but Jonah begrudges everything and everyone including God. A worldly boss would simply replace Jonah. Why doesn't God?

"Once God rescues sinners, his plan isn't to steer them beyond the gospel but to move them more deeply into it."
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Gospel of Jesus in the Story of Jonah 25 May 2010
By Andrea Schultz - Published on
One of the stories in the Bible that has always been very intriguing to me is the story of the prophet Jonah. And, in the last few years, the Lord has been having me embark on a long-lasting study of grace. The latest book by Tullian Tchividjian, `Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels' uses Jonah as an example of God's amazing grace.

Here is the synopsis of the book from the dust sleeve cover:

Many of us think we know God's heart better than we do. We think we have a good handle on what should and should not be acceptable to God. But God has never conformed to our faulty assumptions about his character. Indeed, his compassion and pardon are utterly shocking in their lavish abundance - a lesson learned the hard way by one man who kept resisting God's grace in whatever way he could.
The man's name isn't new. It's Jonah, the famous Old Testament prophet. We find his story compelling because all of us hesitate to follow God from time to time; Jonah's story has been our own. However, Tullian Tchividjian shows that the emphasis of our story is not on our disobedience, but on God's persistent grace.
This powerful journey through unforgettable events and imagery reveals how God relentlessly pursues rebels, a category that ultimately includes everyone, though he has every right and plenty of reasons to give up on us all.
Encounter the story of Jonah in a gripping presentation that will open your eyes wider than ever to God's relentless, purposeful, and inexhaustible grace.

And here is the biography of the author:

Tullian Tchividjian (MDiv, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando) is pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church ([...]) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Tullian ([...]) is a dynamic communicator who is well-known for his ability to passionately present God's deep, unchanging truth to our changing world in a fresh and compelling way. He is a contributing editor of Leadership Journal ([...]) and the author of Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different and Do I Know God? Finding Uncertainty in Life's Most Important Relationships. His sermons are broadcast daily on the radio program Godward Living ([...] An avid surfer, he and his wife Kim are the proud parents of Gabe, Nate, and Genna.

He also happens to be the grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham.

Pastor Tullian reviews the book of Jonah, verse by verse. He compares Jonah's story with that of Jesus. Here he states his case:

For good reason, Christian people love the word gospel. Tragically, however, multitudes of Christians fail to grasp what the gospel fully is. In fact, I'm convinced there's just as much confusion inside the church as there is outside it regarding the gospel's true meaning - sometimes even in churches where the gospel is regularly preached and taught.
To get a better grip on the gospel, maybe what we need most is to be startled...surprised...even shocked by it.
That's exactly what I believe our situation calls for. And one of the best books in the Bible for delivering such a jolt has to be Jonah - a story full of "shocking surprises and sensational elements," as one commentary puts it.
And now, already, you're surprised. You're astonished that any author would offer a book-length look at Jonah for a popular audience. But for me, it was through probing the story of Jonah that I came face-to-face with one of the most life-changing truths in my experience. I came to grips with the fact that the gospel is not just for non-Christians but also for Christian. (p. 15)

Pastor Tchividjian explains why he thinks the two stories are similar:

...Jonah is a storied presentation of the gospel, a story of sin and grace, of desperation and deliverance. It reveals the fact that while you and I are great sinners, God is a great Savior, and that while our sin reaches far, his grace reaches farther. This story shows that God is in the business of relentlessly pursuing rebels like us and that he comes after us not to angrily strip away our freedom but to affectionately strip away our slavery so we might become truly free. (pp. 18-19)

When taking a look at the possible reason why Jonah ran in the other direction when God called him to ministry in Nineveh, Pastor Tullian ([...]) makes this assertion:

Do you know what would happen if every human being concluded that God's way was the right way and God's call the right call? Every human problem would come to an end. The root of every human problem is our desire to be our own god and to carry out justice in the way we ourselves are sure is best.
In all of human history, there has been only One who concluded - at every point, and in every way - that God's way is always best and God's call is always right. Because of him, every human problem will someday come to an end. In the meantime, we'll never see the end of our own misery if we do not recognize Jesus, this one who so perfectly submitted to God's way and God's call. (pp. 33-34)

Jesus is indeed the only Way - and the only solution to human problems!

Tullian makes the important point - which many don't consider - that Jesus is in the Bible throughout, not just in the New Testament:

...We make a huge mistake if we think we don't really come across Jesus in the Bible until we reach the New Testament and the Gospels. We encounter him in Genesis 1, when God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit come together for the purpose of creating everything out of nothing. Then we see Jesus again in Genesis 3, when God promises that a seed from the woman will crush the serpent's head. All the rest of the Old Testament - including the book of Jonah - continues to build on that promise. (p. 34)

In reviewing Jonah verse by verse, the author shows that God often handles our rebellion this way:

When we run from God, his response is more likely to be stormy and upsetting than quiet and subtle. He knows how to make us miserable. And it makes those around us miserable as well:

Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. (Jonah 1:5) (p. 41)

That is a pretty good incentive to not run away from God.

I was intrigued by this perspective about what happens to us with regard to how close to or far away we are from God:

We see that those who flee from God become increasingly thin and insubstantial and see-through, while those who pursue him become progressively more real and intense and solid. Those running from God become less human the farther they run; those running toward him become more human the closer they get. The more human we are, the more we become what God wants us to become, and the better it is for those around us. The less human we are, the worse it is for those around us. (p. 43)

I had never thought of it that way, but the truth of that statement is apparent when you look at those who are obedient to God's direction versus those who aren't.

Throughout the book, Tullian reviews different depictions of Jonah by artists in different media through history (reprints of the artwork is included in the book as well). The one that most touched me was `Jonah' by David Sharir. Tullian describes it this way:

Many artists in recent times have continued turning to Jonah as a favorite biblical subject. One of the most memorable portraits of the prophet is by the Israeli artist David Sharir done in 1971. In the upper right corner is a simple, stylized cargo ship, its hold filled with wares. On deck stands the solitary figure of Jonah, carrying luggage in each hand. His wide eyes look forward. What destiny awaits him? He looks unsure.
Behind and below him, a bordered box across the bottom of the artwork encloses an ancient city packed tightly with building, roofs, archways. The city looks sizable and cosmopolitan. Is this the seaport Joppa from which Jonah departs? Or rather, could it represent Nineveh - from which the prophet wants to be as far away as possible? Meanwhile, between Jonah's boat in the upper corner and the crowded city down below, the biggest part of the painting is taken up with the blue immensity of the sea, as if it's waiting to play a much bigger part in Jonah's story. (p. 37)

One of the lessons we learn from the book of Jonah is that God's mercy is massive:

The supreme example of this massive mercy is Jesus. The incarnation of Christ tells us most emphatically how God spares nothing in going after those who run away. God's becoming man is anything but a quiet and subtle response from God to our running from him. It's a huge and loud statement. It shows to us that God confronts human flight in the most outspoken, powerful way. (p. 52)

I really was comforted by this observation:

Submitting self to God is the only real freedom- because the deepest slavery is self-dependence, self-reliance. When you live your life believing that everything (family, finances, relationships, career) depend primarily on you, you're enslaved to your strengths and weaknesses. You're trying to be your own savior. Freedom comes when we start trusting in God's abilities and wisdom instead of our own. Real life begins when we transfer our trust from our own efforts to the efforts of Christ. (p. 53)

That concept, in my opinion, is one of the hardest for those of us in the USA to grasp. We are taught from birth - or so it seems - that everything depends on our efforts. What a relief to accept that that is not the case!

Tullian shares with us this truth:

...I've recognized this: the gospel shows us how to find two things in Christ that most of us long for more than anything else - acceptance and affection. I've discovered that God, in Jesus, has richly provided me with these two things - both of which I was created for, wired for, and designed to experience. They are, in fact, two fundamental marks of what it means to be human. (p. 157)

I was greatly encouraged by this book. I have always been intrigued by the story of Jonah, and how his story is a foreshadowing of the resurrection of Jesus. It was interesting for Pastor Tullian to bring in information from other theologians, authors, etc... - Charles Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis, Francis Thompson (author of the poem `The Hound of Heaven' ([...] John Piper, etc..., as well as provide his commentary for each verse of Jonah. I appreciate what I learned from this very valuable book, and am happy to see that the legacy of Billy Graham continues in this wonderful man.

Provided by Crossway ([...]) for review and giveaway purposes.

Reviewed by Andrea Schultz - Ponderings by Andrea - [...]
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Grace in Jonah 19 Dec 2011
By Dr. David Steele - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The primary objective of Tullian Tchividjian is clear in his book, Surprised by Grace. His aim is to celebrate, delight in, and magnify of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grace 31 May 2010
By Shelly L. Duffer - Published on
Tchividjian examines the story of Jonah with a microscope, with words that in turn causes the reader to examine their own heart, their own soul with an equally strong microscope. Grace, which the author proclaims is the bottom line for the story of Jonah, is a difficult concept to understand. Yet in this relatively short book, grace is not only defined in words that provide a framework for a deeper awareness of that grace, it also encourages an acceptance of the truth that there really is not human explanation for grace. Without grace, our existence would merely be mechanical and worthless. With grace, genuine worship of our God and our Jesus, becomes not just an act that we perform out of duty, but it becomes our lifeline and the central purpose for our lives.

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A "Gospel-Centered" Reading of Jonah 26 May 2010
By James - Published on
One of the benefits of the current "gospel-centered" movement is a realization that the Old Testament proclaims the gospel. It is crucial for the church, and for her ministers, to preach and teach the stories of the Old Testament from the perspective of the good news that runs as a stream throughout the Scriptures all the way to the cross and then throughout the world. I am thankful for the work of writers, preachers, and teachers who have been witnesses of this model of interpretation, such as Edmund Clowney, Sydney Greidanus, Graeme Goldsworthy, Bryan Chapell, and Tim Keller to name a few.

Tullian Tchividjian's book Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels joins this movement of gospel-centered interpretation of the Old Testament by examining the Book of Jonah. The structure of Tullian's book reads like a play with individual parts and scenes. "Part One: A Deadly Plunge" examines the beginning of the story in Jonah 1-2. Instead of chapters, we have an introduction and two scenes. "Part Two: Hearts Exposed" covers the new beginning that takes place after Jonah's encounter with the great fish. Again, we have an introduction with three scenes, each covering major narrative sections of Jonah 3-4. In "Part Three: Never-Ending Surprise," Tullian backs up and examines the big picture of the book of Jonah. These two final sections are titled, "The Larger Scene: The Gospel According to Jonah," and "The Later Scenes: Something Greater than Jonah." The titles themselves help you to see how Tullian is trying to draw the story forward toward Jesus Christ and the full revelation of the gospel in the New Testament.

A few prominent features of this book stand out as Tullian is able to combine them in the process of telling the story of Jonah. First, he explains and exegetes important parts of the text. He is sensitive to the narrative flow, highlighting wordplay and narrative detail. Second, he does not lose the forest for the trees. In other words, as he examines the individual details of the text, he continues to step back and ask larger biblical and theological questions about the story and about the gospel. Third, he weaves into the story contemporary elements from art and literature, making applications to our world. In fact, a prominent feature of the book includes plates from various works of art that depict the story of Jonah by artists and sculptors (to mention a few: Raphael, David Sharir, Dennis McGeary, Peter Lastman, Salvador Dali, and Abraham van Linge's "Jonah Window" at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford). The plates are located near the center of the book, are in color, and are aesthetically appealing. Tullian weaves these works of art into his story, using vivid descriptions of these pieces and referencing them so we can see what he is describing.

Although a minister can use Surprised by Grace to shed light on the story of Jonah and glean several good illustrations for sermon preparation, I would encourage church leaders to use this tool in small group settings. Tullian's writing style is on a popular level, and he is able to take some of the difficult concepts in Jonah and apply them to our current situation. A small group setting would also bring the added benefit of talking through the many ways Tullian applies the gospel to the Christian life through the life of Jonah.

If you use the book in a small group setting, be aware that Tullian doesn't address the sticky problem of God's "relenting" in Jonah 3:10. He reads it in light of his main theme in that chapter: a picture of abundant grace and pardon. That is precisely right, but if you use the book in a discussion format, be prepared to discuss that issue. It would also be nice to see Crossway produce a study guide for the book that contains some basic questions about the flow of the narrative and the application, but you could do that on your own. Neither one of these issues, however, take away from the strength of the book and its particular intention.

Overall, Tullian has provided a good, popular level introduction to the Old Testament prophet of Jonah. The story of Jonah covers the big areas of the Christian faith: our sin, God's grace, and God's mission (144). But Tullian has brought these themes to bear on a broad range of concerns for the church today: the need for the gospel for both Christian and non-Christian, rebellion and sin, repentance and idolatry, grace and mercy, compassion and love, and the importance of being missional as opposed to tribal. Tullian understands that these themes play out primarily in the life of Jonah himself. In other words, Jonah's life is the message (143). This is similar to the way God uses all of the prophets and us too. Tullian points out that this is precisely why the book ends in its unusual way. God's question about pity is not only a question for Jonah, but a question for us. Ultimately, the story of Jonah is a story about you and me, and Tullian's retelling of this story helps us see our own need for God's boundless grace, as well as our responsibility to love those that have not yet received this freedom.
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