Each month, you’ll hear from one of us on what we’re reading and a little bit about the book. This month we’re sharing book notes on Dane Ortlund’s Gentle and Lowly. Enjoy!
What is the heart of Christ?
In Gentle and Lowly, author Dane Ortlund directly sets out to explore this, diving into what Christ’s heart is for the sinners and sufferers of the world. A good read for believers in all stages of faith, Gentle and Lowly notes it is specifically “for the discouraged, the frustrated, the weary, the disenchanted, the cynical, the empty. … For those of us who know God loves us but suspect we have deeply disappointed him. … in other words, for normal Christians.”1
Opening with Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:29—“I am gentle and lowly in heart”—Ortlund recalls that this is the only place in Scripture where Jesus Himself openly tells us about His own heart. Throughout Scripture, we are given glimpses of His habits, His prophetic fulfillments, His speech and actions to others, but in this verse, we receive a clear statement identifying two essential characteristics of the heart of our Savior—gentle and lowly. And, “the heart, in biblical terms, is not part of who we are but the center of who we are.”2 With this in mind, we can better understand how the heart should be regarded as such a central part of our being. Christ’s heart is for us, with no possibility of Him abandoning His bride or ceasing to love us.
Each of the twenty-three chapters in the book is filled with a simple breakdown of an aspect of Jesus’ heart toward sinners and sufferers. The concise chapters can be read similar to a short devotional before bed each night or could be read together in a few brief sittings. A calming reassurance for those who may be feeling distant from Him or lacking in faith of His loving-kindness toward us, the book shows a clear path to Christ’s heart, which is remarkably and unmistakably steadfast, promising to never cast out sinners who come to Him (John 6:37).
By identifying and examining Christ’s heart, Ortlund leads readers along a path toward spiritual growth to rediscover the heart of the gospel message. He starts each chapter with a beautiful verse that encompasses the core of the message—for example, chapter twelve, titled “A Tender Friend” opens with Matthew 11:19 (… a friend of tax collectors and sinners!”) Throughout, Ortlund additionally intersperses Puritanical wisdom from writers Thomas Goodwin, John Bunyan, and Richard Sibbes.
Primarily, the book focuses on God’s love and mercy, without failing to remind us of our need to repent when we do inevitably sin. In fact, we need to do a thorough job of repenting, and we are reminded that, in our repentance, we actually will draw closer to Christ. When we find ourselves in darkness and despair, we must seek out Jesus, “in all his brightness and sufficiency” since He advocates for us “on the basis of his own wounds.”3 He is not caught off guard or surprised at our sinfulness. We can “reject the devil’s whisper that God’s tender heart … has grown a little colder, a little stiffer” because those of us in Christ are eternally secure.4
Although God is a perfect Judge, His longing is to redeem us by showing mercy and love. We must learn that God’s desire of redeeming love does not compromise His justice and wrath but rather “beautifully satisfies” it.5 He does not find it difficult to love you.
The purpose of Gentle and Lowly is clear: to take the reader on a journey that will console and comfort the soul with an invitation to simply go to Christ. Ortlund sums up the goal by repeatedly noting Christ’s welcoming invitation for us all to come to Him: “Whatever is crumbling all around you in your life, wherever you feel stuck, this remains, un-deflectable: his heart for you, the real you, is gentle and lowly.”6
Read Gentle and Lowly to be reminded just how good and loving our God is.
1. Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 13–14
2. Ibid, 18.
3. Ibid, 94.
4. Ibid, 194–195.
5. Ibid, 131.
6. Ibid, 216.