Do you ever feel like your Christian life is an endless cycle of sinful stumbling and redoubled efforts? Are you beginning to suspect that God’s patience with you must be wearing thin? At the very least, his love must come with a deep sense of disappointment. For the discouraged, exhausted and burnt out; this book is written for you.
1. What is the book about?
Senior Pastor of Naperville Presbyterian Church and author Dane Ortland wastes no time clarifying that this book is primarily about the heart of Christ towards sinners and sufferers. Gentle and Lowly draws its name from Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11, “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”.
Ortland seeks to understand Jesus’ character as he himself described it in the Gospels. He helpfully explores how the compassionate heart of Christ radically shapes how we deal with sin, how we view the Trinity and how we see God’s grace consistently throughout the whole Bible. This book is an exploration into the depths of God’s heart as revealed most clearly in the person of Jesus Christ.
2. What did I learn?
One resounding theme that stood out from ‘Gentle and Lowly’ is the tender affection of Christ, which is laid out for believers in the gospel. Whereas our natural inclination is to withdraw from the undeserving and unclean, Jesus’s gut response is to draw near. His delight is in healing the broken and pardoning sin. It is the very reason he came; so that we might be made clean. Christ’s compassionate heart enables him to deal gently with our sinful hearts and offer out forgiveness in limitless supply. In addition to remembering what Christ has done, we must not forget who He is!
Another lesson that I learned was recognising our own chronic tendency to doubt God’s gracious character. Without God’s Word to continually align our hearts with the gospel, we quickly descend into moral performance and transactional works. To combat this, Ortland highlights for us God’s identity as the Father of mercies through his intimate relationship with Israel. Countless times in the Old Testament, we’re given accounts of God being slow to anger, reluctant in judgement and ever ready to redeem his chosen people. In Christ, all our stubborn resistance to grace is met with rich mercy and enduring love.
3. What did I enjoy?
Gentle and Lowly really stands out for it’s pastoral approach whilst handling serious theological topics. Ortland offers heartfelt encouragement to his readers without departing from Scripture or watering down doctrine. Each chapter is rooted in a verse related to Christ’s heart, which is expertly unpacked for us, at times diving into the Greek language as well as external sources. I particularly appreciated Ortland’s references to the historic teachings of the Puritans, borrowing from the works of Goodwin, Sibbes and Bunyan.
4. Why should other people read it?
For anyone serving in ministry, struggling in their faith or suffering in their circumstances, this book is a must-read. I would recommend this book to any Christian believer seeking to grow deeper in the gospel. So often we don’t turn to God because we forget who He truly is. Gentle and Lowly reminds us that Jesus knows our sinful hearts yet invites us to be comforted with his compassionate heart. He loved us while we were dead in our sins and will continue to love us to the very end.
Reading this book has left me with a stronger realisation of who Jesus is and a greater love for the beautiful gospel of grace. It will undoubtedly be one that I come back to regularly for deeper reflection and heartfelt encouragement. Whatever distress and anxiety you may encounter in life, know that you can find your joy and comfort in the gentle heart of Christ.