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Is God Really Gentle and Lowly?

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
November 29, 2021 1:00 am

Is God Really Gentle and Lowly?

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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November 29, 2021 1:00 am

Dane speaks about how the theology of God being Gentle and Lowly and refers to 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. God is gentle and lowly, he is way down next to me at my worst and gentle in his heart. How can we translate the same gentleness and lowliness in our families, get in the word of God and spend time with him, get to truly know him and let him change you.

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Okay, here you go. I'm going to give you five seconds. You got to give me three words that describe the heart of Jesus. Go. Perfect.

Five seconds done. Redeemer grace. Perfect redeemer grace. I guess that's not the heart. I was just describing Jesus. Yeah, but that's your heart as you think about Jesus.

You know, what's really interesting is a lot of us don't know this. Jesus actually described his heart with two words that we're going to talk about today. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson.

And I'm Dave Wilson. And you can find us at or on our Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. Jesus actually described his heart with two words that we're going to talk about today. But before we get there, we've got to talk about something else that's critically important for family life right now as we're rolling into December.

This is our December match. And this is important. Yeah, which means our ministry is funded by listeners like you that listen, that appreciate what we do, that value what we do and share it with others, supporting us financially. We need your prayers, and we love that. But we also are funded by you deciding God's leading you to give a gift financially to family life, and that's what makes this all happen. And so we're really depending on you, especially this Christmas season, and asking you, would you consider giving us a gift because we are changing families, legacies, marriages, and really parenting even. And that gift, which is amazing, is doubled because we've had some generous donors give up to $1.5 million. Which is amazing. Yeah, so every dollar that is given is matched dollar for dollar, and so whatever you give is doubled today. So if you want to do that, go to or you could go dial us up on 1-800-FL-TODAY and give your gift even as you're listening to this program. So we've got Dane Ortlund in the studio with us today.

He wrote a book about the two words that define the heart of Jesus. Dane, welcome to Family Life Today. It's great to be talking with you guys today. So you got the fly down. I know you're a pastor of Naperville Presbyterian up in the Chicago suburbs. You flew down here with your wife Stacy to Orlando, and I didn't know this until you got here and had lunch that you just left five kids at home.

We did. How's that feel? It feels great. We're going to miss them terribly tonight, but for now we're going to enjoy 24 hours of calm. You're going out to dinner tonight all by yourselves.

You can actually talk without interruption. That's right. And you know what? I shouldn't even bring this up, but you shared something at lunch that was precious.

You've got four boys and a little girl. Do you remember what she wrote to you? She gave you a card yesterday. She did. She wrote us a card and she had about 30 little clipped, I love you, exclamation, exclamation, tucked into a taped on gaudy, taped on colored pocket. It was the back of one of their homework sheets.

That was just her her own little heart pouring out. That's precious. And what did you get from the boys? That's a very short answer, Dave. See you, Dad.

See you later. Well, because we had three boys, I knew what that answer is going to be. That's right.

They didn't give us anything. Anyway, we are talking about a book that you wrote, actually more than the book, the whole idea of the heart of Jesus. I got your book from our son, Austin, when it came out. And it was one of these books.

And, you know, as a pastor and even as an author, there's a lot of books written about a lot of things. And you pick them up and you read. This was one of these. I don't think anybody's ever felt this about our books. Like, I can't put this down.

This is a life changing truth that I've got to read. But when I picked up Gentlemen Lowly, it's one of those things I ran down to the kitchen and said, Ann, you have to read. And so, Dave, I pick up your book and I start underlining.

And I thought, OK, this is ridiculous. Underlining everything. Every page, every sentence is underlined. I need to at least highlight. But it felt like all of it needed to be highlighted because I need it.

I think we all need it. And as listeners, you're going to love this because we're really getting to the heart of who Jesus is. Amen. And we're getting to the heart of how he feels about us. And I tell you, we were praying before we even began.

And I was teary because I need this. And Dane, you even start the book. And this this caught me from the beginning. You say this book is written for the discouraged, the frustrated, the weary, the disenchanted, the cynical, the empty, those running on fumes. Those whose Christian lives feel like constantly running up a descending escalator. And I just I read that and I thought, yes, yes, yes.

Check, check, check. Yeah, I think so many of us feel like that and we want this overwhelming love for Jesus. But I I think certain personalities especially feel like we're continually failing. And so this book is a breath of fresh air and a great reminder of who God is, who Jesus is. So talk about how you started understanding it. And I already mentioned that there's two words that sort of Jesus use.

So tell us about the whole genesis of this this concept. Well, I feel like I'm a toddler in it, Dave. I'm still learning.

This is like an ocean I'm ankle deep in wading out into. But Christ himself in the one place where he tells us what his heart is when he is setting the terms. This is not one of the apostles talking about him. This is not one of the letters in the New Testament. He says the most astonishing thing.

Who would have guessed that in the one place where he opens up his heart, he doesn't say I'm joyful and exalted in heart or any 100 other true things. Yeah. Yeah. He says, I am way down low and extremely accessible. I'm gentle and lowly in art. That's the savior we can enjoy being disciples to. Well, you know, it's interesting when I that's the name of the book. I don't think we said, did we say the name of the book? That's the name of the book.

Gentle and lowly. I mean, it's interesting when I read that in your first chapter. I'm like, how many times have I read Matthew 11? Read these words and miss that. Yeah.

I mean, it's something you shouldn't miss. And I preached on that passage and I've missed it. So I think we know what that means. That's the next question is, is explain gentle and lowly. Well, he said he's gentle in heart. What he's saying, guys, is he is the most tender and non-manipulative, non-abrasive, approachable person in the universe, the high and holy Christ, the resurrected Christ, the one who in Revelation one, the apostle John sees and falls down as if dead. The one who the impenitent Revelation six want the mountains to fall on them so they don't have to face his wrath. That Christ most deeply, by his own testimony, is gentle. And he says he's lowly.

This is almost more wonderful. You don't have to go through security to get to him. You don't have to take a ticket and get in line. He's not going to put you on hold. You don't have to raise your voice. That divine and holy, eternally existing Son of God is way down low next to me in my worst, not waiting for me to get my act together.

And then he'll open the door to me. This is so profound and wonderful, guys, because we deeply resist this. We do not believe this. We hold it at arm's length. I very much resonate with what you said earlier, and we stiff arm this reflexively. So the three of us and our listeners are taking a lifetime to unlearn the bad theology that Jesus is not gentle and lowly in heart.

Yeah. And why do we resist it? Because you're so right. It's like that isn't who I've always believed Jesus to be. And I'm not saying my beliefs are right.

They're actually inaccurate. But we've carried that our whole lives. And in some ways, we even resist hearing this. We do. I do.

Yeah, I do. I'm going to roll out of bed tomorrow morning, and I will not believe that. I mean, I'll believe it on paper. But the Christ that I believe I'm approaching when I roll out of bed in the morning is not gentle and lowly in heart. He is looking at his watch, tapping his foot, loves me and likes me. But, Dain, doofus, come on, dude.

How long is it going to take? You're 42. You're a pastor. Why are you so weird, selfish and proud and sinful? I don't know why we resist it, Dave, to answer your question. I don't know the answer, except that we are sinners. And I believe that what we do without realizing it is we project Christ. We think the Christ who is there is a bigger, better, smiley version of us. We are not gentle and lowly in our deepest heart.

The heart is your motivation headquarters. It's what pours out of you. We're not that way. So we think that Jesus is just a better version of us.

And the scripture is defying us at that point, correcting us. What prompted you to write this? Like, this has to be I can tell this is from a fire within you.

So what made you think this is this is what we need? It's not the Jesus that I have been walking with most of my life. I was raised in a great family and I've been in great churches. I've been surrounded by great books, godly people.

But I was confronted with the writings of an old, dead theologian named Thomas Goodwin, who lived 400 years ago in England. And he put my face in the scriptures. Old Testament and new Matthew 11 29 is the tip of the iceberg. But the whole is just consistent with the whole testimony of scripture. And he said, Hey, Dane, I want you to see what Christ's heart is. He wrote a book called The Heart of Christ Who is in Heaven for Sinners Who are on Earth, in which he is trying to say, you think you disciples of Christ, you think in this modern time that because Jesus is way up high now, he's a little more distant, cool, calculating and removed. And he just says, don't you dare go through life believing that. So it was Goodwin, along with a few others who said, you can actually believe the whole Bible and be kind of I'm pretty conservative in my theology, guys. And you can talk about the effusive flood like love of God that soaks, irrigates us at our worst, more strongly than any other place in my life.

That's too good to be true almost. And it's so compelling, like that love, that description of what you just painted of our savior, that makes us run to him. Yeah, I remember I grew up in a single parent home with my mom. Oh, you're going to talk about your picture. Yeah, I have mentioned this in years. But when, Dane, when you're talking, I was remembering this picture my mom used to have over our fireplace. This is the 50s, 60s Jesus image of a praying hands Jesus. So some of our listeners will remember this. It was pretty popular, but it's sort of an oil painting. He's got the hands and he's got sort of a halo effect on his very solemn, long hair. And I remember, you know, I didn't go to church much, but when I did, I never saw a Jesus like you're talking about, Dane.

I always saw a judging, holy, wrathful God, which he's holy and there is a wrath. And so I would walk, I remember as a teenager and I'm not making very good life choices as a teenager. And I know it. I know I'm not doing what my mom wants.

I'm sort of copying the sins of my father, who is an alcoholic and a womanizer. And here I am, 17 years. I would walk through the living room by myself, especially as it was like twilight, six, seven o'clock at night. I look over and I swear the eyes were just following me through the living room.

And I remember feeling fear. I look up. It's like, and here's what I thought. He's watching me and he's really disappointed. Just like you said, like, you know better, dude.

What are you doing? And that was my view of Jesus and God. It was like, that's who he is. You also described him as the game whack-a-mole.

You remember whack-a-mole? Oh, sure. Yeah, that's what I just thought. God just sits up there and he waits for you to enjoy life and say, stop it. So this image, and it's so beautiful because then you said Jesus uses these words about his own heart. It isn't somebody else talking about himself. He uses these words, I'm guessing, because he's like, this is what you need to know about me.

Of all the things I could tell you, you need to understand this. If nothing else, everything is footnotes to that. I believe that Jesus Christ is holy. The wrath of the Lamb will be experienced one day by all the impenitent. He is all-seeing. He is the ruler of the cosmos.

And a hundred other truths in that direction. And it's that Christ who, oh, we are hard-wired to be whack-a-mole theologians for sure, including me, Dave. I mean, we have Matthew 11 there where he says that, but then on every page of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we don't see that kind of Jesus on your living room wall as you were growing up, Dave. It's someone who actually, he apparently is drawn like a magnet to the distressed, the kind of people you quoted earlier, and the frustrated, the disenchanted, i.e. all of us. This is all of us all the time in some degree. That's not the periphery of believers.

That's what we're all navigating all the time. Well, you even say when you come to Christ for mercy and love and help, you are cooperating with his deepest heart's desire. And this brings him joy.

It doesn't bother him or drain or irritate him. He wants us to come to him. He lives for this, the joy of seeing his people forgiven. What a different picture. Oh, it's so different, isn't it?

I mean, Adrian and the Puritans and others, they would talk like this. It is Jesus Christ's own deepest comfort when you draw from the riches of his atoning blood. In other words, when I sin, I'm feeling guilty, I'm feeling ashamed, and I'm cowering. I'm lurking and withdrawing. We're hiding. Hiding. I'll give it a week, and then, you know, if I have a good week, then I'll approach him. But actually, that is what saddens Christ's heart, what he wants. The whole reason he came is so that we could come to him when we are at our deepest point of need, not once we're all cleaned up.

Let me ask you, I mean, this gets into a practical question. How has this changed your parenting? How do you relay this on to your kids? Oh, man, I want it to change my parenting more than it is. And we have five little ones ages 15 to five in the home. I wrote this book to me because I'm type A, judgmental, opinionated, harsh, impatient. Get your act together.

And I'm unlearning this myself. So what I long to do is to gently give my kids a picture of Jesus and of the Heavenly Father such that when they leave the home at age 18, they can't ever believe that Jesus is going to hold them at arm's length when they are in sin. I want them to never be able to believe that finally.

When they're really young, I want to give them a picture of the Father's heart as their dad. When the kids are in the crib, we are God to them. They have no category abstractly for God. We are shaping what they believe God is like. And then as they grow through my words and through my actions, and I'm failing all the time. One reason I need a gentle and lowly Savior is my bad fathering. But what I want them to do is through my words and through my actions, I want them to know that Jesus is holy, but he's not that framed picture on Dave's wall.

Well, what about as a husband? You know, as you think about this, I'm immediately thinking, OK, how do I treat Anne based on this theology proper of who Jesus is? We can bring Stacey in here and ask her. But, you know, she was wondering on the plane, is she going to get someone in here? Don't worry, we won't do that. Well, here's my prayer and longing, Dave.

I can speak at that level more easily, perhaps. Our marriage will flourish. We're 20 years in, so I'm just learning.

Our marriage will flourish, I believe, not as either of us seeks to crowbar change into the other person or ourselves, but as as we deal gently and tenderly with one another. Dane, I've tried the crowbar. It doesn't work. It doesn't, does it?

She's still trying, I think, actually. It comes very naturally to me, Anne. Seems so simple. It does, doesn't it? Come on. Grow up. I've heard that one before. Yeah. So if you don't do the crowbar.

Well, what if, as dads and husbands, what if we were making a pattern by the grace of God in the power of the Holy Spirit to constantly surprise our kids and our wives with non-combatting, non-locking-horns ways of dealing with them? The chessboard got sprayed all over the floor. It's happened yesterday.

And it's not picked up. Did you do it? No. Did you do it? No. Did you do it?

No. All right, everyone in here. What if I surprise them with patient gentleness? This doesn't mean we don't discipline our kids. Actually, Proverbs teaches that's to hate them if we don't discipline them.

But I want them to be constantly melted and lifted into an experience of what the love of God is like, not berated and pep-talked. I was good at those pep-talks. You and me both! It's still so natural.

Yeah, me too. Tell us how we get that inside of us. You know, we have a couple minutes left. So how do we take that view?

This is who he is. Now we're learning it. It's starting to sink in. How do we begin living it?

I have absolutely nothing new for us or for anyone listening in, guys. The answer is you get up in the morning, you set your alarm. You get up in the morning, get your coffee, favorite chair. You open up this book that we call the Bible and you open up your heart. And then you do that the rest of your life. You inhale the scripture.

You exhale it. That's what we call prayer. So you're breathing and you're communing with God. And you won't notice changes day to day, week to week, but actually God himself is shaping you into the likeness of Christ. Reading the scripture and praying, and then here's one other piece of counsel.

What if we all had one person in our lives of the same gender who could ask us anything and who we didn't filter, but knew what was really going on behind all of our painted smiles? That's what the Bible calls walking in the light, 1 John 1. That kills these perverse, bizarre, lawful, harsh, berating, judgmental ways that we will all, because of the flesh, naturally work otherwise. Scripture, prayer, a friend, be part of a good local church that preaches the gospel. There's nothing secret or clever here.

It's just the basic disciplines of the Christian life. So you've got that guy? I do, yes. What's that look like?

It looks like phone calls and texts. We no longer live in the same town, but he knows my weak spots. Actually, we get together for a fire two or three times a year and just enjoy fellowship and brotherhood for about eight hours and open our hearts to one another. And I don't do this with every man. Actually, that would be unhealthy. I want to be honest, but in varying levels of depth with the men in my life. And I don't want to go through my life preening and parading and pretending my whole life long.

That's an exhausting and miserable way to live. I'm just thinking, our listener, if there's anything you take home, that's it. If you want to understand the gentle, lowly heart of God, you've got to be in his word to see it. That's right. Because every time I open it, it's almost like, oh, I forgot. Me too. There it is again. Oh, my goodness, I forgot.

To look at Jesus and to watch his interactions with people, all different people. And we're going to talk about that next. I know, and I can't wait. But I mean, I agree, the longer I'm in the word and you think, oh, I'm just reading the word. No, it changes us. The more we're in prayer, like the exhaling, we're in prayer and we're talking to God continually throughout the day. It changes us.

And as Dane said, you need a brother, you need a sister that you can take off the covering and be real with. And they will remind you who you are and who he is. It is interesting as we enter into a season where we are to reflect on the coming of Christ, his birth.

It's fascinating how many things will distract us from focusing on the coming of Christ over the next several weeks. And what Dane Ortlund has been talking with Dave and Ann Wilson about today is the importance of what theologians often refer to as the ordinary means of grace. The regular way that we can meet with God and connect with him and understand his heart for us and draw strength from that. Dane's book on this subject is called Gentle and Lowly. It's a book we've got in our Family Life Today Resource Center. You can go to to request your copy or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the title of the book is Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund. You'll find the book online at or call 1-800-358-6329.

That's 1-800-F as in Family, L as in Life, and then the word Today. And you can order Dane's book from us by phone. By the way, Dane has written a devotional on the Book of Psalms called In the Lord I Take Refuge. And we want to make that book available to you as a special year-end gift. In fact, we're coming to Family Life Today listeners here as we approach the end of 2021 and asking you to consider making a year-end contribution to help support the ongoing work of this ministry in the year ahead. The mission of Family Life to effectively develop godly marriages and families, that mission isn't going to go away. The need is greater today than it has ever been.

And in Family Life, our goal is to effectively develop godly marriages and families. You help make that happen with your donations. Right now, if you make a donation, whatever donation you make is going to be matched dollar for dollar up to a total of $1.5 million. We are so excited about this opportunity, but we're going to need all of our Family Life Today friends to join us so that we can take full advantage of this $1.5 million matching gift. When you make your donation, not only will it be matched dollar for dollar, we'll send you a copy of Dane Ortlund's book, In the Lord I Take Refuge, a devotional from the book of Psalms, and we'll send you a deck of playing cards.

Each one has a conversation starter question on it so that as you play games, you can have some meaningful interaction as a family as well. Make your donation online at or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate by phone. Please pray for us between now and year end that we'll be able to meet this matching gift. And whatever you can do to help us do that, we are so grateful. We look forward to hearing from you. And we hope you can join us again tomorrow when we're going to talk about how we are called to be ambassadors for Christ, which means we have to be gentle and lowly of heart.

What does that mean for us? Dane Ortlund will be here to talk about that with us tomorrow. Hope you can be here as well. On behalf of our hosts Dave and Anne Wilson, I'm Bob Lapine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry, helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-16 10:55:25 / 2023-07-16 11:05:58 / 11

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