Ep. 17: Reflections on Gentle and Lowly Chapter 1 (with attached journaling questions)
May 26, 2020 Speaker: Jeff Brewer
Topic: Encouragement Passage: Matthew 11:28–11:30
Hello, Hope Fellowship! Welcome to our podcast “Full of Hope: Encouraging One Another with the Word of God,” where we seek to regularly equip the people of Hope Fellowship with truth from Scripture in order to help us cling to our Savior during troubled times.
Today, I want to share with you some reflections on the first chapter of Dane Ortlund’s new book, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers. If you’ve been around Hope Fellowship for a while, you’ve probably been present when Dane Ortlund came and preached on a Sunday morning. Some at Hope work with Dane at Crossway Books where he serves as the Chief Publishing Officer and Bible Publisher.
Dane is a good friend, so when I heard the title of his book as I was heading out on Sabbatical last winter, I asked him for a PDF of it so I could read it. It was just what I needed. It is full of gospel truths about the heart of Jesus, and so I recently went back to the first chapter and wrote some journaling questions about the first chapter. Those journaling questions are linked with the podcast in the show notes.
This week, a pastor friend wrote to me, “The Lord continues to sustain me (and my wife) primarily through drawing close to us and giving us the right perspective. Perspective has been hard to come by, but I feel like the Lord has been shifting things a bit. We’re reading the new book by Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly, about the heart of Christ. That’s been immensely helpful.”
That’s the right word—perspective. Gentle and Lowly should help us to see the heart of Christ from God’s perspective, not our man-centered, worldly-influenced perspectives.
Read Matthew 11:28–30:
“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.”
Here’s what Dane writes about God’s heart and our heart:
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.
When the Bible speaks of the heart, whether Old Testament or New, it is not speaking of our emotional life only but of the central animating center of all we do. It is what gets us out of bed in the morning and what we daydream about as we drift off to sleep. It is our motivation headquarters. The heart, in biblical terms, is not part of who we are but the center of who we are. Our heart is what defines and directs us. (p.18)
We are complex—if you think about your life and motivations, what motivates you to go to work? To care for responsibilities around the house? To learn new things? To love your spouse? We’re complex because, in part, sin dilutes pure motivations to do good, or muddies our motives into a soup of pure and impure motives. We don’t always know why we do what we do to begin with!
But not so with God—he is simple in the sense that he is holy and pure. No one can plumb the depths of his thoughts, but we can know, as John wrote, “God is light and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)
Since everyone has a variety of heart-level motivations, some good and some bad, this affects how we think about Christ’s heart toward us. We wonder how he could possibly love us.
Dane’s whole book helps to show us how Jesus reveals his heart and how he acts toward his people—that he is gentle and lowly in heart.
Gentle is the same word that’s translated meek in Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” One theological dictionary defines a person who is meek as “one who feels that he is a servant in relationship to God and who subjects himself to Him quietly and without resistance.”1
Jesus humbled himself in the incarnation when he took on flesh. He demonstrated meekness.
Dane writes about Jesus’s meekness, or, gentleness:
The point in saying that Jesus is lowly is that he is accessible. For all his resplendent glory and dazzling holiness, his supreme uniqueness and otherness, no one in human history has ever been more approachable than Jesus Christ. No prerequisites. No hoops to jump through.
Do you ever feel that your burdens and difficulties repel you from Christ and cause him to turn his face away from you? Here’s how Dane calls us to come to Christ:
You don’t need to unburden or collect yourself and then come to Jesus. Your very burden is what qualifies you to come. No payment is required; he says, “I will give you rest.” His rest is gift, not transaction. Whether you are actively working hard to crowbar your life into smoothness (“labor”) or passively finding yourself weighed down by something outside your control (“heavy laden”), Jesus Christ’s desire that you find rest, that you come in out of the storm, outstrips even your own. (p. 20–21)
He astounds and sustains us with his endless kindness. Only as we walk ever deeper into this tender kindness can we live the Christian life as the New Testament calls us to.
If you have a chance to reflect on the first chapter of Gentle and Lowly, take some time to journal about these amazing truths with the attached questions.
Because, remember, Hope Fellowship: we should be increasingly astounded by his endless kindness—and this kindness, as we walk in it, will do good to us, and also through us as we reflect the heart of Christ to a broken and sinful world. We’ll see you next time.
Interested in ordering Dane's Book, Gentle and Lowly? You can find it here.
Music by Joseph McDade. https://josephmcdade.com. Used with permission.