Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for sinners and sufferers
This is an amazing book. It is written ‘for the discouraged, the frustrated, the weary, the disenchanted, the cynical, the empty. Those running on fumes. Those whose Christian lives feel constantly running up a descending escalator’.
Ortlund writes: ‘Ten years ago I had sound theology but I did not yet see how Jesus actually felt about weak, sinful me’. He credits the turnaround to God sending the writings of Thomas Goodwin into his life. This isn’t the case where you have to worry about whether you can justify reading something newly-released rather than an old classic. Ortlund draws most heavily on Goodwin (particularly his Heart of Christ), but he also on Sibbes, Flavel, Bunyan and Owen and Calvin.
As Tozer once said ‘What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us’. However the problem, as Calvin put it, is ‘Nothing that troubles our consciences more than when we think God is like ourselves’.
A potential problem with a book like this would be a lack of balance, but Ortlund does also talk about God’s wrath – and yet shows why the Puritans described that as his ‘strange’ work and mercy as his ‘natural’ work.
This is a book for those burned by legalism and exposed to a harsh, angry version of Christianity.
This is a book for everyone – seasoned preachers and new Christians alike. However, frustratingly it suffers from the problem many recently published Reformed books do – unnecessary use of language beyond the person in the pew. For example, the very first page contains this direct quote ‘…parsimonious. It is written, in other words for normal Christians’. But how many ‘normal Christians’ know what ‘parsimonious’ means?! Or ‘epistemology’. Also for something that deserves as wide a readership as possible, the cost is prohibitive – an RRP of £15.99 for a book that’s barely 200 pages. It’s partly a result of Crossway’s insistence in only publishing a hardcover and an ebook version. There really needs to be a paperback at half the price.
Still, read it, preach it, buy it for people. I can’t think of such a (largely) accessible book that could transform the lives of more people I know. And for those that never read it, we need to believe and preach these things.
‘Perhaps Satan’s greatest victory in your life today is not the sin in which you regularly indulge but the dark thoughts of God’s heart that cause you to go there in the first place and keep you cool toward him in the wake of it’.
Thanks to Crossway for a complimentary copy of this book through their Beyond the Page review programme.