Gentle and Lowly – Dane Ortlund

This is a great book that I highly recommend. Below are some excerpts to give you a taste of the book and whet your appetite, or – if you’re a little more of a SparkNotes type – allow you to say you’ve read it without actually having to take the time.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt 11:28-30)

In the one place in the Bible where the Son of God pulls back the veil and lets us peer way down into the core of who he is, we are not told that he is “austere and demanding in heart.”  We are not told that he is “exalted and dignified in heart.”  We are not even told that he is “joyful and generous in heart.”  Letting Jesus set the terms, his surprising claim is that he is “gentle and lowly in heart.”  (p 18)

The Jesus given to us in the Gospels is not simply one who loves, but one who is love; merciful affections stream from his innermost heart as rays from the sun.  (p 27)

Here we remember that the testimony of the New Testament is that “Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 13:8).  The same Christ who wept at the tomb of Lazarus weeps with us in our lonely despair.  The same one who reached out and touched lepers puts his arm around us today when we feel misunderstood and sidelined.  The Jesus who reached out and cleansed messy sinners reaches into our souls and answers our half-hearted plea for mercy with the mighty invincible cleansing of one who cannot bear to do otherwise.  (p 32)

The New Testament teaches that we are united to Christ, a union so intimate that whatever our own body parts do, Christ’s body can be said to do (I Cor 6:15-16).  Jesus Christ is closer to you today than he was to the sinners and sufferers he spoke with and touched in his earthly ministry.  Through his Spirit, Christ’s own heart envelops his people with an embrace nearer and tighter than any physical embrace could ever achieve.  His actions on earth in a body reflected his heart; the same heart now acts in the same ways toward us, for WE are now his body.  (p 33)

Jesus does not get flustered and frustrated when we come to him for fresh forgiveness, for renewed pardon, with distress and need and emptiness.  That’s the whole point.  It’s what he came to heal.  He went down into the horror of death and plunged out through the other side in order to provide a limitless supply of mercy and grace to his people.  (p 37)

Look to Christ.  He deals gently with you.  It’s the only way he knows how to be.  He is the high priest to end all high priests.  As long as you fix your attention on your sin, you will fail to see how you can be safe.  But as long as you look to this high priest, you will fail to see how you can be in danger.  Looking inside ourselves, we can anticipate only harshness from heaven.  Looking out to Christ, we can anticipate only gentleness.  (p 57)

“No, wait” – we say, cautiously approaching Jesus – “you don’t understand.  I’ve REALLY messed up, in all kinds of ways.”
I know, he responds.
“You know most of it, sure.  Certainly more than what others see.  But there’s perversity down inside me that is hidden from everyone.”
I know it all.
“Well – the thing is, it isn’t just my past.  It’s my present too.”
I understand.
“But I don’t know if I can break free of this any time soon.”
That’s the only kind of person I’m here to help.
“The burden is heavy – and heavier all the time.”
Then let me carry it.
“It’s too much to bear.”
Not for me.
“You don’t get it.  My offenses aren’t directed toward others.  They’re against you.”
Then I am the one most suited to forgive them.
“But the more of the ugliness in me you discover, the sooner you’ll get fed up with me.”
Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  (p 64)

We cannot present a reason for Christ to finally close off his heart to his own sheep.  No such reason exists.  Every human friend has a limit.  If we offend enough, if a relationship gets damaged enough, if we betray enough times, we are cast out.  The walls go up.  With Christ, our sins and weaknesses are the very resume items that qualify us to approach him.  Nothing but coming to him is required – first at conversion and a thousand times thereafter until we are with him upon death.  (p 64)

Consider the words of Exodus 34:6-7.
“Merciful and gracious.”  These are the first words out of God’s own mouth after proclaiming his name.  THE FIRST WORDS.  The only two words Jesus will use to describe his own heart are gentle and lowly (Matt 11:29).  And the first two words God uses to describe who he is are merciful and gracious.  God does not reveal his glory as, “The Lord, the Lord, exacting and precise,” or, “The Lord, the Lord, tolerant and overlooking,” or, “The Lord, the Lord, disappointed and frustrated.”  His highest priority and deepest delight and first reaction – his heart – is merciful and gracious.  He gently accommodates himself to our terms rather than overwhelming us with his.  (p 148)

Who do you perceive him to be, IN your sin and your suffering?  Who do you think God is – not just on paper but in the kind of person you believe is hearing you when you pray?  How does he feel about you?  His saving of us is not cool and calculating.  It is a matter of yearning – not yearning for the Facebook you, the you that you project to everyone around you.  Not the you that you wish you were.  Yearning for the real you.  The you underneath everything you present to others.  (p 166)

Mercy is who he is.  If mercy was something he simply had, while his deepest nature was something different, there would be a limit on how much mercy he could dole out.  But if he is essentially merciful, then for him to pour out mercy is for him to act in accord with who he is.  It is simply for him to be God.  When God shows mercy, he is acting in a way that is true to himself.  Once again, this does not mean he is ONLY merciful.  He is also perfectly just and holy.  He is rightly wrathful against sin and sinners.  Following Scripture’s lead in how it talks about God, however, these attributes of moral standards do not reflect his deepest heart.  (p 173)

To you I say, do you know what Jesus does with those who squander his mercy?  He pours out more mercy.  God is rich in mercy.  That’s the whole point.
Whether we have been sinned against or have sinned ourselves into misery, the Bible says God is not tightfisted with mercy but openhanded, not frugal but lavish, not poor but rich.
That God is rich in mercy means that your regions of deepest shame and regret are not hotels through which divine mercy passes but homes in which divine mercy abides.
It means the things about you that make you cringe most, make him hug hardest.
It means his mercy is not calculating and cautious, like ours.  It is unrestrained, flood-like, sweeping, magnanimous.  (p 179)

When you sin, do a thorough job of repenting.  Re-hate sin all over again.  Consecrate yourself afresh to the Holy Spirit and his pure ways.  But reject the devil’s whisper that God’s tender heart for you has grown a little colder, a little stiffer.  He is not flustered by your sinfulness.  His deepest disappointment is with your tepid thoughts of his heart.  (p 194)

The creation of the world was to give vent to the gracious heart of Christ.  And the joy of heaven is that we will enjoy that unfettered and undiluted heart forevermore.  (p 208)

Whatever is crumbling all around you in your life, wherever you feel stuck, this remains, undeflectable: his heart for you, the real you, is gentle and lowly.  So go to him.  That place in your life where you feel most defeated, he is there; he lives there, right there, and his heart for you, not on the other side of it but in that darkness, is gentle and lowly.  Your anguish is his home.  Go to him.  If you knew his heart, you would.  (p 216)

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