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Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers Hardcover – April 7, 2020
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Pastor Dane Ortlund Explores Jesus’s Heart to Reveal His Tender Love for Sinners and Suffers
Christians know that God loves them, but can easily feel that he is perpetually disappointed and frustrated, maybe even close to giving up on them. As a result, they focus a lot―and rightly so―on what Jesus has done to appease God’s wrath for sin. But how does Jesus Christ actually feel about his people amid all their sins and failures?
This book draws us to Matthew 11, where Jesus describes himself as “gentle and lowly in heart,” longing for his people to find rest in him. The gospel flows from God’s deepest heart for his people, a heart of tender love for the sinful and suffering.
These chapters take us into the depths of Christ’s very heart for sinners, diving deep into Bible passages that speak of who Christ is and encouraging readers with the affections of Christ for his people. His longing heart for sinners comforts and sustains readers in their up-and-down lives.
- Draws on Writings from the Puritans: Including Thomas Goodwin, Richard Sibbes, John Bunyan, John Owen, and others
- Provides a Unique Perspective: Confronts readers’ typical thoughts on God’s heart
- Scripture-Based: Explores passages throughout the whole Bible to get a full picture of God’s heart for sinners
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“Gentle and Lowly comes from the pen of someone who has not just profited from reading the Puritans―but who, more importantly, has read the Bible under their tutelage. One short book can never be enough to convey all the glory of the character of Christ, but this book deftly unpacks something we often overlook: Christ is meek and lowly in heart and gives rest to those who labor and are burdened. Written with pastoral gentleness and quiet beauty, it teases out what twenty biblical texts contribute to this portrait of the heart of Christ, all of it brought together to bring comfort, strength, and rest to believers.”
―D. A. Carson, Cofounder and Theologian-at-Large, The Gospel Coalition
“In this timely work, Dane Ortlund directs our attention back to the person of Jesus. Centered on the Scriptures and drawing upon the best of the Puritan tradition, Ortlund helps us see the heart of God as it is revealed to us in Christ. He reminds us not only of Jesus’s promises of rest and comfort, but of the Bible’s vision of Jesus: a kind and gracious King.”
―Russell Moore, Editor in Chief, Christianity Today
“The title of this book immediately evoked within me a sense of longing, hope, and gratitude. The message it contains is a balm for every heart that feels pierced by sin or sorrow―whether from within or without. It is an invitation to experience the sweet consolations of a Savior who moves toward us with tenderness and grace, when we know we deserve just the opposite from him.”
―Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author; Founder, Revive Our Hearts and True Woman
“On the rough, rocky, and often dark path between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet,’ there is nothing your weary heart needs more than to know the beauty of the heart of Jesus. It is that beauty that alone has the power to overwhelm all the ugly you will encounter along the way. I have read no book that more carefully, thoroughly, and tenderly displays Christ’s heart than what Dane Ortlund has written. As if I was listening to a great symphony, I was moved in different ways in different passages but left each feeling hugely blessed to know that what was being described was the heart of my Savior, my Lord, my Friend, and my Redeemer. I can’t think of anyone in the family of God who wouldn’t be greatly helped by spending time seeing the heart of Jesus through the eyes of such a gifted guide as Ortlund.”
―Paul David Tripp, author, New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional
“The Puritans breathed Christ-centered practices: they embraced the Bible as a lifeline, exercised it like a muscle, and relied upon it like a bulletproof vest. They knew how to hate their sin without hating themselves because they understood that Christ’s grace is an ever-present Person, a Person who understands our situation and our needs better than we do. They understood that we suffer because of sin. Dane Ortlund masterfully handles a treasure trove of Puritan wisdom and deftly presents it to the Christian reader. Read this book and pray that the Holy Spirit reveals Christ to you as the Puritans understood him, and you will be refreshed to understand God’s grace in a whole new way.”
―Rosaria Butterfield, Former Professor of English, Syracuse University; author, Five Lies of Our Anti-Christian Age
“‘He is so strong that he can afford to be gentle.’ That old movie line is more than a throwaway sentiment when we consider the theological precision and pastoral heart of Dane Ortlund describing God’s heart toward those who are weak, weary, sin-sick, and despairing. The insights of Gentle and Lowly are truly a river of mercy flowing from the throne of God, through great pastors of the past, and into precious and powerful ministry for today.”
―Bryan Chapell, Stated Clerk, Presbyterian Church in America
“My life has been transformed by the beautiful, staggering truths in this book. Dane Ortlund lifts our eyes to see Christ’s compassion-filled heart for sinners and sufferers, proving that Jesus is no reluctant savior but one who delights in showing his mercy. For any feeling bruised, weary, or empty, this is the balm for you.”
―Michael Reeves, President and Professor of Theology, Union School of Theology
“Only a few pages in I started to realize how unusual and essential this book is―it is an exposition of the very heart of Christ. The result is a book that astonishes us with the sheer abundance and capacity of his love for us. Breathtaking and healing in equal measure, it is already one of the best books I’ve read.”
―Sam Allberry, pastor; author, 7 Myths about Singleness
“Dane Ortlund writes about what seems too good to be true―the Lord delights to show mercy to you and to me―so he works very carefully through key texts and enlists the help of saints past. I was persuaded, and I look forward to being persuaded again and again.”
―Edward T. Welch, Counselor and Faculty Member, Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation; author, I Have a Psychiatric Diagnosis: What Does the Bible Say?
“Dane Ortlund leads us into the very heart of God incarnate―not only what Jesus did for us, but how he feels toward us. That’s right: feels toward us. Anchored in Scripture and drawing on the Puritan Thomas Goodwin, this book is medicine for broken hearts.”
―Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California
“Dane Ortlund helps us rediscover the heart of Jesus that is the very heart of the gospel. This delightful book opens up the sheer immensity of Jesus’s tender love for us. As you immerse yourself in Christ’s very heart, you’ll find your own heart warmed at the fire of the love of God. Ortlund opens up a neglected theme among the Puritans (in bite-sized chunks that won’t overwhelm you), where you’ll discover their grasp of the beauty of Jesus’s love. Your soul needs this book. I highly recommend it.”
―Paul E. Miller, author, A Praying Life and J-Curve: Dying and Rising with Jesus in Everyday Life
“Gentle and Lowly is drawing me to the heart of Christ. It is helping me to draw the hearts of my counselees to Christ. Gentle and Lowly is the best book of the twenty-first century.”
―Bob Kellemen, Academic Dean and Professor of Biblical Counseling, Faith Bible Seminary; author, Grief: Walking with Jesus
About the Author
Dane C. Ortlund (PhD, Wheaton College) serves as senior pastor of Naperville Presbyterian Church in Naperville, Illinois. He is the author of Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers and Deeper: Real Change for Real Sinners. Dane and his wife, Stacey, have five children.
Executive Vice President of Bible Publishing and Bible Publisher, Crossway
- Publisher : Crossway (April 7, 2020)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 224 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1433566133
- ISBN-13 : 978-1433566134
- Item Weight : 13.5 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on December 21, 2022
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With excellent word studies and apt illustrations this book draws on many passages of Scripture that teach these precious truths. When properly understood and appreciated they correct our natural misconceptions of God’s attitude toward His children when they sin or suffer. Rather than confronting his readers with the need to persevere as saints to prove their faith in Christ is real, as might be expected of a Calvinist, Ortlund calls us to look beyond our sin and revel in the willing perseverance of our Savior. Amen! “If we are faithless, He remains faithful for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). He does this skillfully and convincingly. But, despite its strengths, I reject the premise on which the book is founded and by which it is structured.
Throughout “Gentle and Lowly” the author contends that these words, spoken by Jesus in Matthew 11:29, were intended to reveal His truest identity, who He actually is. What’s more, that text is held to be the only place in the 89 chapters of the four Gospels where Jesus allows us to peer into the very depths of His personality and see these qualities that govern all that He says and does.
At least 125 times Ortlund uses the words “deep,” deeply,” or “deepest” to describe gentle and lowly as core traits of the incarnate Son of God. It seems that the concept of depth, suggested by the word “heart,” is leveraged beyond measure to make gentle and lowly comprise a comprehensive statement of the Lord’s person, overriding all else.
But did our Lord intend to define Himself by the way He described His heart in relation to all the weary and heavy laden who accept His invitation and come to Him? Or is this an unwarranted assumption that results in too limited a characterization of Christ?
Within the tradition of the Puritans and the Covenant Theology of Ortlund and others he quotes, his view does not appear to be limiting at all. It fits well with a focus on God’s program to redeem sinners and comfort suffering saints. The author states his worldview as follows:
“The point of all human history and eternity itself is to show what cannot be fully shown. To demonstrate what cannot be adequately demonstrated. In the coming age we will descend ever deeper into God’s grace in kindness, into his very heart, and the more we understand of it, the more we will see it to be beyond understanding. It is immeasurable.”
Others would say that the point of history is the glory of God through His salvation of sinners, the punishment the wicked and the reign of Christ overall creation. To be fair, Ortlund’s worldview does not deny that God will punish the wicked forever. Indeed, this is the dark backdrop against which the kindness of His mercy toward the elect is even more attractively displayed. But how God is glorified in the eternal punishment of the wicked; how that aspect of His program demonstrates the gentleness and lowliness of Christ toward them, is nowhere stated. Nor is there any mention of God’s program to reclaim His kingdom on the earth through the future reign of His Son with followers whose loyalty to Him will have been tested and proven through their faithfulness now.
Ortlund knew that some of his readers would object to the phrase “gentle and lowly” as inadequate to describe the heart of Christ in relation to all of His thoughts, words and actions revealed in Scripture. As if to preempt that critique, he acknowledged that “a half-truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth,” quoting J. I. Packer. Then, to assure his readers that he avoided this error in zeroing in on “the affectionate heart of Christ,” he offered three comments.
First, he denied that the wrath and mercy of Christ are in opposition. The Lord has wrath toward the unrepentant sinner and mercy toward the repentant sinner simultaneously. In fact, the intensity of His wrath only magnifies His richness of His mercy toward those who come to Him for it. But true as these statements may be, they fail to take into consideration the Lord’s discipline of His own children when they persist in sin, and the rod of Iron with which He will reign upon the earth.
Second, the author says that the relationship between these and other attributes of Christ is not what his book is about. Rather, it is about His heart, explained as “who he most deeply is,” or “what pours out of him most naturally.”
Third, against the charge that his view of Christ is lop-sided, the author states his willingness to be lop-sided rather than “balanced” if that is the testimony of Scripture. Thus, to challenge his judgment of what is most central to who Jesus really is argues with the Bible.
Ortlund finally defends his thesis by telling us, “…it is impossible for the affectionate heart of Christ to be overcelebrated, made too much of, exaggerated.” However, the question is not whether the attributes of Christ are infinite, or can be over emphasized, but whether gentle and lowly were meant to describe everything that is true about His person and work. This is a question of adequate breadth, not unfathomable depth.
In addition to the author’s failure to account for God’s earthly kingdom program as well as His redemptive program, he fails to properly distinguish the believer’s experience from his position in Christ. What is true of the believer’s positional standing with God does not mitigate the harsh temporal consequences of his sins—especially if persisted in without repentance. Nor does certainty of heaven as one’s final destiny prevent the eternal loss of rewards for failure in discipleship. Some will be “saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Cor. 3:10-15; 2 Cor. 5:10).
Believers are to be pleasing Christ (2 Cor. 5:9). This indicates that we can displease Him. In His displeasure He does not forsake us or love us less (Heb. 13:5). He remains the same, faithful (Heb. 13:8; 2 Tim. 2:13). But when we are not faithful, He disapproves of our misbehavior. It grieves His Spirit (Eph. 4:30) and disrupts our fellowship with Him (2 Cor. 6:14). When believers sin, their wages are death—temporary separation from fellowship with God (Rom. 6:23). They bring themselves under His discipline which can be lethal physically (Acts 5:3-4; 1 John 5: 16). Sinning saints who repent and come to Him for forgiveness, restoration, and rest, find that He is gentle and lowly in heart (Matt. 11:29; 1 Jn. 1:9). But, until they come to Him, they experience aspects of His personality that are neither gentle nor lowly.
In his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Jonathan Edwards applied the warning of Hebrews 10:31 to the unsaved. But it was to, and about, the writer’s own regenerate brethren that he wrote: “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).
Earlier in that chapter, the writer said that God “scourges every son whom He receives.” It is profoundly encouraging that the believer’s sonship is certified, not revoked, by divine discipline or the sin that made it necessary. Even the harsh and potentially lethal administration of the scourge reflects the love of God in Christ because His design is restoration to fellowship and useful service. But there is nothing about that form of God’s love that is remotely gentle or lowly. The same is true of the Lord’s harsh denunciation of His servants whose unfaithfulness in this life disqualifies them for positions of honor during Christ’s millennial reign (see Psalm 2:8-9; Matthew 25:29-30; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:26-28; 20:4-6), when He will rule with a rod of iron (Rev. 2:27; 12:5; 19:15).
The book contains much helpful content but ignores God’s kingdom program and warnings to sinning Christians. God is not just saving people to enjoy His fathomless kindness in heaven. He is reclaiming His rule of this earth, and after that, the new heavens and new earth. He is training saints in the faithful service now that will be the basis for their reigning with Him forever. But not everyone who goes to heaven will have been an overcomer or hear His “Well done.” As a result, Ortlund’s thesis, that “gentle and lowly” define all that Jesus is, is inadequate at best, and misleading at worst. It does little to discourage a Christian from saying, “Let us do evil that good may come” (Rom. 3:8).
Con: In order to prove his point, the author takes the most extreme interpretation of various words. The author's point could have been made with standard definitions and interpretations (and so not technically "wrong" in application).
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However, the author does something more. He simplifies those Puritanical musings with an almost contemplative study of an incredible attribute as declared by Christ Himself (Matthew 11:29) that of His Heart of gentleness and humility. An important fact the Christian Church has overlooked for centuries. Yet at the same time this astonishing statement by Christ is balanced with the necessity for God’s anger and punishment of Sin. All is beautifully brought together by the undeniable proof of scripture tying in with the gleanings of those early Christian thinkers. There’s lots of nutritious ‘soul food’ to muse and meditate upon in here and it’s a book I will read time and again.
One dropped star because it can feel a little repetitive at times, but there is much that is still worth chewing over which will be of great benefit to every Christian.
There have been times reading this book when I've found myself wondering if I really dare to believe that God is this good. And yet I have been deep-diving into the love of God for the past ten years, reading many a great book, hearing many an inspiring speaker. Yet that's how good this book is - it takes many of us beyond even the high places of our familiar understanding of God's love and challenges us to a different way of seeing Him that is well beyond what we might have imagined. Even if we've heard it all before, Dane Ortland nevertheless presents it in such a fresh way that it really is a pleasure to read. And gazing again upon Him can only be good for us.
Some of the author's phrasing is quite delightful too. I don't have any quotes to hand but I've been impressed with his great command of the English language, and the imaginative imagery he uses. He cites an old author Thomas Goodwin on many occasions, who clearly had a great understanding of the amazing humble and selfless love of Jesus. Yet Dane's ability to summarize these inspired texts in punchy and catchy sentences make's his commentary of these inspired writers significantly inspired in itself.
I'm going to enjoy reading the rest this book, and enjoy the ride with Jesus. And I really hope it never ends, I'm enjoying the journey too much.
It shows us the level of bounteous love which God has for us and that we do not need to strive for this love, yet merely go to Christ and it will be given to us. He is waiting for us. All sins will be forgiven as they were when Christ died upon the cross at Calvary.
You will be moved to tears of joy and relief as you read of the immense love which Christ holds ready for you, should you just offer yourself to Him with an open heart.
The challenge for me (and I could be mistaken in how I have read between the line) was in the authors allusion to predestination, and election. I am not a learned theologian, or scholar, but found the references to Calvin a further confirmation of a theological stance I do not agree with. That said, I think this is a book where those who have different theological understandings of Biblical principles, can come together in agreement about how we view God's love for his people and his creation.
This book, for me is a refreshing reminder of the great love that God has for me, and all he has created. For this I am willing to put aside the differences in theological understanding so that I can receive the primary message of God's love.