Author: Dane Ortlund
Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020
If there were a contest for the best evangelical book so far in the decade of the 2020s, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinner and Sufferers by Pastor Dane Ortlund of Naperville, Illinois might well get my vote. This well written work on the heart of our Lord Jesus is both theological and devotional. Its theme is best summarized by Matthew 11:28-29, 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
What a beautiful study of a somewhat neglected subject, the merciful heart of God and His Son Jesus Christ! Yes, Dr. Ortlund acknowledges that there are many other attributes of God, for example, His holiness, His justice, and His wrath. However, the author believes that at the very center of God’s nature, as seen in the life and ministry of Jesus, is gentleness and kindness towards lost sinners and hurting believers. Frankly, this book really ministered to me personally because sometimes I can look at all my sins and shortcomings and think, “How could God ever love me?!” Of course, Satan uses that thought to discourage me and occasionally almost make me doubt my salvation.
Here are the twenty-three chapters of the book with a key Scripture verse for each one:
- His Very Heart
Matthew 11:29 I am gentle and lowly in heart.
- His Heart in Action
Matthew 14:14 And he had compassion on them.
- The Happiness of Christ
Hebrews 12:2 For the joy that was set before him.
- Able to Sympathize
Hebrews 4:15 We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness.
- He Can Deal Gently
Hebrews 5:2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward.
- I Will Never Cast Out
John 6:37 Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
- What Our Sins Evoke
Hosea 11:8 My heart recoils within me.
- To the Uttermost
Hebrews 7:25 He always lives to make intercession for them.
- An Advocate
1 John 2:1 We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
- The Beauty of the Heart of Christ
Matthew 10:37 Whoever loves father of mother more than me is not worthy of me.
- The Emotional Life of Christ
John 11:33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled
- A Tender Friend
Matthew 11:19 … a friend of tax collectors and sinners!
- Why the Spirit?
John 14:16 I will ask the Father and he will give you another Helper.
- Father of Mercies
1 Corinthians 1:3 … the father of mercies and God of all comfort.
- His “Natural” Work and His “Strange” Work
Lamentations 3:33 He does not afflict from his heart.
- The Lord, the Lord
Exodus 34:6 A God merciful and gracious, slow to anger …
- His Ways Are Not Our Ways
Isaiah 55:8 My thoughts are not your thoughts.
- Yearning Bowels
Jeremiah 31:20 My heart yearns for him.
- Rich in Mercy
Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy …
- Our Law-ish Hearts, His Lavish Heart
Galatians 2:20 The Son of God, who loved me …
- He Loved Us Then; He’ll Love Us Now
Romans 5:8 God shows his love for us …
- To the End
John 13:1 Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
- Buried in His Heart Forevermore
Ephesians 2:7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us.
Here is a wonderful quote from the last chapter of the book, “Buried in His Heart Forevermore”:
“So that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7) – what does that mean, for those in Christ? It means that one day God is going to walk us through the wardrobe into Narnia, and we will stand there paralyzed with joy, wonder, astonishment, and relief.
It means that as we stand there, we will never be scolded for the sins of this life, never looked at askance, and never told, “Enjoy this, but remember you don’t deserve this.” The very point of heaven and eternity is to enjoy his “grace in kindness.” And if the point of heaven is to show “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness,” then we are safe, because the one thing we fear will keep us out – our sin – can only heighten the spectacle of God’s grace and kindness.
I especially appreciate that Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers includes many quotes on the subject of Jesus’ gentle heart by Puritans writers, such as Thomas Goodwin, John Owen, John Flavel, John Bunyan, Richard Stibbes, Jonathan Edwards, and John Newton. In addition there are many quotes of other notable Christians who have been a blessing to me personally over the years – John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis, B.B. Warfield, A.W. Tozer, Martyn-Lloyd Jones, James I. Packer, etc.
Some of God’s contemporary servants who have endorsed this book include D. A. Carson, Russel Moore, Paul David Tripp, Rosaria Butterfield, Bryan Chapell, and Michael Horton. I’ll conclude with a fine endorsement by Dr. Michael Reeves, President and Professor of Theology at Union School of Theology, Oxford, UK.
My life has been transformed by the beautiful, staggering truths in this book. Dane Orlund 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.